Dreamweaver Chapter 128
We’re now in the Ever dungeon and have just popped through harshly onto our buts in the middle of a random tunnel somewhere that’s pretty dark and hard to see in.
“Where the hell are we?” Jimmy grumbled as he looked around holding up a torch.
He’s searching the corridor around us which is now dark. The air is a bit musty and almost like you can smell a mild feeling of wetness in the air that is completely on a different level from the chamber above. But there aren’t any other markings to tell that anyone else has been here even though the other teams went in ahead of us.
Quickly Jimmy moves about studying the lay of the cave while Moose is carefully watching him.
“Can you tell anything yet?” he asked.
“Just that I think we landed in a different spot than the other teams. There’s no landing markers or footprints,” Jimmy replies.
“That’s how this dungeon is. It’s spooky as hell,” Moose said.
Sure enough behind us there isn’t even the exit there. It’s like we got stranded in nowhere land.
“Why is that? Shouldn’t they have landed in the same place?” a newbie asked.
“Like I said, this dungeon changes daily. It’s also deadly. It’s not surprising it would also dump us at a different spot than the other teams. But we might run into signs of them at least later on if we keep moving,” the dwarf shrugged.
“Of course that makes my job tougher too but more important. If you know what to look for you can find the way quicker than normal,” the dwarf added.
“Let’s get moving. I don’t like staying in one place too long,” Jimmy said.
“You guys are using torches? Isn’t that primitive?” one of the little ex cons asks.
“Don’t you need a torch?” one of the guys asked.
He pointed to his eyes, “dwarves have night vision. It’s not perfect though.”
But I knew that.
“There’s a reason we like torches, even though we could get disposable spelled light items,” Jimmy said, giving him a stupid look and shaking his head.
The dwarf glared back in response. “I see.” I did notice the dwarf had some kind of device he carried on a necklace to track air flow. So he’s thought of that himself but in a different way.
Jimmy has some kind of magic inventory too and it’s full of torches, which he showed to him and us. But his inventory has way fewer slots than mine does.
“Wow, nice. Can I have one too?” one of the others says seeing him open it.
He was about to walk forward but Moose’s huge arm grabbed his face with a terribly powerful grip and pushed him back away.
“Guess that’s a no?” the ex-farmer said.
“But why not use a light spell or something else?” one guy asked.
It’s a valid question. Dwarves also don’t use torches much because of their dark vision. He might not have had to think about it previously because of their unique underground abilities.
“The torches can help you spot changes in the air. If there are gases or something like a drop in oxygen the torch will flicker which can tell you another tunnel system is nearby,” he shrugged.
“Really? I didn’t know that,” I said.
The dwarf is also surprised by his answer but didn’t say anything probably due to his dwarven pride. They are supposed to already know that sort of thing, I think.
“Duh, you’re a newb. Of course you wouldn’t know,” Moose said. He’s up at the front too.
“Which way do we go?” a scared guy asked.
“Just shut up for a minute and keep walking or I’ll bash your head in,” Moose said.
Nobody responded to that comment for obvious reasons. But I wonder if he’d really do it.
“We follow the air flow,” the dwarf answered back while taking the lead jointly with Jimmy.
“Don’t go too far ahead of me dwarf. I don’t want my investment bleeding out from a sneak attack,” Jimmy said.
“Should we stop to get our bearings?” Moose asked.
“Won’t do any good until we have other positions of reference,” Jimmy replied.
“You guys know what you are doing right?” one of the homeless redneck fodder guys asked. He’s got broken teeth and a big bald shiny head while carrying what looks like a rusty machete.
The dwarf takes a temperature reading. He’s got some kind of thermometer. “Hmm that’s interesting.”
“What is?” Jimmy asked.
“The airflow in here is colder than outside. So the cold air in here will flow down,” the dwarf said.
“What’s that mean exactly? Is that important?” Jimmy asked.
“It means it depends on if the entrance or exit is above or below the main level for us to be able to tell if the air flow is going out or in. If it’s cold inside the cave and if the entrance is down below then of course we go down. But if the main level is below the entrance it can mean the air is flowing away from the entrance. There are other things to work into it too, so we still won’t know the location for awhile. Also avoid breathing next to bat shit and you’ll want to cover your mouths and noses if we come across such places because of disease,” the dwarf answered.
“Wow, I should have thought of that,” Jimmy said while nearly tripping over a rock as we all are moving forward. Sometimes the tunnel veers left or right and with root like rock formations that bust into the trail unexpectedly. Any of us could be tripped at any time by changes in the tunnel and it’s not a straight, quick easy to navigate system.
I noticed Jimmy keeps his weapons out like he’s ready to be attacked at any minute. He would be pretty reliable if he wasn’t a crook. I make sure he’s ahead of me and not behind me.
Near him the dwarf is also using a wet finger to feel the air now while explaining it to us.
“I thought you could find the exit quickly,” Moose said angrily.
“That depends. I’m doing pretty well and we’re making good pace. There aren’t any obstacles so far so we’re on our way. We’ve already determined the air flow through this cavern system so we’re doing better than we might have been. We need to find where the tunnels join each other in a cross section or T sections. Then we make adjustments at each to follow the changed flows. Then we’ll be able to make a lot eliminating unnecessary tunnels quickly,” the dwarf replied smoothly.
He’s good. He managed Moose well without offending him.
“Just keep moving,” Moose interrupts us to prod us to move faster.
“But how long do your torches last?” I asked Jimmy.
“Not long enough. Carrying them is like burning money,” Jimmy frowned. He pointed to the current torch. Already it had lost a little size. But it was at least built with some types of other materials involved to last longer than a burning piece of wood. It seemed to also have some kind of wax casing of some kind. In a way it looked like a fancy candle.
“Are those Durahan’s torches?” The dwarf chuckled while asking.
“What is that a brand name or something?” I asked.
“It’s the standard,” Jimmy replied.
“Yes they are, they are now get moving and cut the chatter,” Moose pushed the dwarf harshly. The dwarf flinched because Moose is so strong he didn’t realized how hard he’d pushed him…or did he?
“Don’t you have a spell or something to help us out?” Jimmy asked me pointedly while we’re moving.
“Fine…” I replied.
I cast a light spell on stuck it floating in the air by mixing it with a telekinesis spell adjoining it. It’s more impressive than a normal spell because it’s hanging in the air nicely and I can move it around if I want too, almost like a rubber band attachment. The light spells can’t feel air flow though.
But they wouldn’t know that I think. They haven’t thought of the fact that a lot of mages would have to attach the light to something.
“Nice,” Jimmy said. “Now I can put away the torches!”
“Actually you may want the torches still,” both the dwarf and I said at once.
“But they cost money!” Jimmy wined.
“You were right that the torches show air flow. It’s good to have them out. At least one please,” the dwarf said.
I think Jimmy knew that deep inside, but it shows his cheapskate greed is more over powered than his reasoning where money is concerned.
“And what if we get separated or I take a hit and my spell goes out. Then the whole team would be blind,” I explained.
“That’s…a very good point,” Moose said. Despite being a bully he doesn’t like being blind like anyone else. It means also that he’s got vulnerabilities that I should look for just in case. Moose looked angry at me for being right.
We keep going down the corridor. Surprisingly the tunnel is fairly big, enough that Moose could use his long handled weapon easily here. The corridors in the dungeon are big enough even wagons could get through them, which is odd. That’s worrisome in many ways though because it means more enemies could reach us at once in a bigger tunnel.
“So how’s this work? We’re supposed to farm food down here for the town?” one of the prison redneck wannabe adventurers’s asked. I found out right after that his name is Pete. He’s a straw headed gangly fellow with knobby knees and elbows.
“Shut up Pete. We’re trying to think,” Moose’s voice bellowed.
“OK…” came back the reply. Pete is really nervous anytime he sees how big Moose is, which is funny considering Pete is covered in homemade prison tattoos to look like a tough guy himself.
“We’re basically killing anything that moves. Then we pick up the pieces and drops. Some of it will be food and some of you will be their food if you aren’t careful,” Jimmy explained tiredly like he was placating a young teenager.
“OK, got it,” Pete said.
“So how do you know it’s edible though? Are they like monster parts or what?” Pete suddenly asked again.
“Shut up Pete,” Moose said.
“Well actually I was wondering that too,” a guy named Bill said.
“Yeah me too,” the bald guy said.
“Be quiet you idiots! We need stealth and to not make noise! Things live in these tunnels! They hunt you when you are noisy!” the dwarf hissed.
“Yeah this place is dangerous. But just so you know somehow dungeons purify the drops through burning up the bodies of whatever is killed. So you don’t have to worry about it. That is, unless it’s a poison beast, or if it’s been diseased. Now shut up numb nuts,” Jimmy said.
“But…” Pete wanted to ask another question but was cut off by Jimmy again.
“Are we there yet?” Pete asked less than a minute later.
“Shut up Pete,” Jimmy warned him.
“You know I got ten kids. Being such a good father I’m pouring out all my guts to raise them. My wife wants me to survive and come back home alive. Jimmy, will you protect my kids’ dream of having their dad come home alive?” Pete asked.
“Fuck you Pete,” Jimmy said while shaking his head.
“You don’t really have ten kids. You don’t even have a wife,” his friend said.
“Sh-shut up dude. I was creating insurance!” came the reply.
I heard and saw heavy steps from Moose, who stopped right in front of him. Then he punched him in the face. I heard that punch a mile away. Getting punched by Moose could kill someone.
Pete was quiet after that, partly because his nose is broken and the force of the punch has already started to give him black eyes on both sides. Somehow he lived through the punch although we thought he was going to pass out for awhile because he was reeling to and fro while he stumbled about for about ten seconds.
Shortly after that we hit the first group of kobolds.
I didn’t like kobolds before and that hasn’t changed. But this is a good chance to study them. But these are tougher than I’d thought. They are half our size, with light builds, but can fight us man to man. They probably grow up in a life of violence from the day they were born.
We stumbled upon a group of like eight of them going down the first wide tunnel in a patrol formation that we were in together. Then both groups got instantly quiet when we came around a bend and are less than ten feet from them.
Both teams have half the team start squealing or screaming like little girls. Both our newbies and the kobolds sound like a bunch of scared women until their patrol leader squeaks them into attack formation.
The kobold language sounds squeaky and rough like squeaking seals almost, mixed with clicks. They also tend to hop around a lot in the dark. We can also make out how they try to stay in the darkest parts of the caverns. When we turn our lights at them to look at them better they move again to the darkest parts while trying to circle us.
Before we can react Pete is dead with a kobold spear in his eye. The fellow that had used it had come in from behind with some sneaky moves and is already trying to get back into the dark areas of the tunnel.
Pete’s body hits the middle of the ground. Now we have to dodge the blood flow that’s rapidly making the tunnel full of muck, since stepping in it can make us slip and slide all over the place. Within a good ten seconds his blood has made a huge puddle.
Our side probably would have laughed at them, if they hadn’t killed Pete before we’d even had a chance to react.
Wow, that was unexpected. The little buggers have pretty good aim. I blocked several strikes aimed at me.
Then some of them throw all kinds of shit at Moose like daggers, broken glass, bits of metal and stuff like that.
He dodges better than you’d think for someone his size.
But in retaliation Moose has pulled out a huge long handled mallet and has killed three in one swing. The bodies hit the side of the tunnel wall harshly before dropping to the floor. The problem is his swing was so wild and strong those of us behind him also had to dodge. He has area effect swings that we were lucky to dodge.
Even I had to back up to avoid having the heavy end of the mallet pass in front of my face.
The rest of the kobolds are tearing into us. I dodged one’s blades and then kicked one but he’s still fighting me hard.
Jimmy has also thrown three throwing daggers into one to keep them from doing a group take down dog pile on Moose. All with direct hits and it goes down but he has to in turn dodge two more. The fact that they targeted Moose as the biggest threat means they are pretty smart…or suicidal, whichever way you want to take it.
I turn back to my kobold who picked me thinking I was easy meat and then blocked two quick strikes, then a third underhand chop. They are fast and fearless while their patrol leader is screaming profanity at us while he’s throwing some kind of homemade javelins. He tosses javelins while he screams at them to attack.
Two of his javelins hit Moose but don’t seem to do any damage. I can’t tell why right now.
The rest of the kobolds have changed targets from Moose and now are all dog piles onto Bill and are trying to eat him alive with sheer tenacity and clawing him with their claws and mangy dirty knives made of bone. I didn’t know they can easily slash and tear with just their claws alone, and Bill is being filleted alive with blood spatter flying everywhere. With several kobolds on him, he’s dead quickly before we can get them off.
I then blocked a few more attacks from my opponent.
I could have ended it quickly but I’m afraid of letting Jimmy and Moose see my skills. I’m considering if I should ditch this team entirely and find my own way out.
It takes us a few more minutes but then soon the other kobolds are dead. Moose actually killed one by stepping on it entirely cracking its chest and spine. Then he kicked its head so hard the neck separated from the spine and head in a twisted fashion that makes you nauseated to look at while stretching the skin out.
I did kill my own kobold right after that.
“The kobolds don’t have the food?” One of the surviving new guys asked for us. The bodies have already started to evaporate since they are part of the dungeon or have joined sides with it for benefits.
“No. What we’re looking for is the lake at the center of the maze. It has a nice river that has a magic enchantment that swarms fish breeding all over the place. You can find more fish here than any other place within hundreds of miles. We get as much fish as we can and then get the hell out,” Jimmy explained.
“Oh, now I remember hearing about this place. It’s jokingly called Lake Unlimited because it seems like there’s no end to the fish,” the dwarf said excitedly. He seems to like the idea now.
I wonder where he gets his lore? I could ask him after this.
“If you can only get past the kobold clans that are multiplying around it because of its benefits. But if you can think about it, and endless free food source brings its own problems in other ways since the kobolds use it to reproduce with no end,” Moose said in a hushed serious tone.
“Damn. We lost two already and it’s just our first skirmish,” one of the other guys said. He’s knees and hands are shaking. Come to think of it, so are the hands of the other new people with him.
At this point they are dropping so fast that it’s better to not know their names.
The dwarf seems serious and unaffected but he’s studying the kobolds tracks. He now looks up and his eyes are wide. “Guys, these aren’t just kobold clans anymore. If I’m reading this right, they’ve got enough tracks down here that they might just have their own city now. Look how much track is down here and they even have what look like road markers. It’s literally everywhere since that last small cross section met with this tunnel. You can also see defecation marks here and there because they are too lazy to build field latrines.”
“Dammit,” Jimmy said.
Already he’s retrieved his knives.
Moose and the others sure enough pick up the drops.
“These look like scraps of leather?” one of them said, while studying it. Each of the kobolds has dropped a piece.
“Kobold skin leather is worthless. It isn’t malleable enough, breaks easy and is stringy with a lot of imperfections and breaks from the many skin diseases kobolds get, therefore doesn’t last. It’s also believed to make someone vulnerable to disease so you don’t want to touch it too much. It’s only value is that somehow a dwarf managed to find out a way to convert large bundles of them into firewood bundles by drying them out a little bit more after they are collected and using big crushers to put them in compact bundles,” the dwarf answered back.
Kobold skin leather is used for fire wood? Wow…
“Oh really? I didn’t know that. I thought it was trash,” Moose shrugged.
“Well…almost trash is pretty much the same as trash. I guess it would make sense someone would find a use for it somewhere,” Jimmy answered mockingly.
“So they can convert it to firewood?” the same guy confirmed.
“Not worth really explaining over its low resell value, but if we get enough of it gathered up, then it might make a difference in paying for our meals today,” Jimmy shrugged.
“But they do drop obsidian bits and sometimes about one in ten of them drop a bit of cheap copper ore,” the dwarf said.
“What are you a sage?” Moose is irritated.
The dwarf stops momentarily. “I am in training for becoming a scholar’s assistant. I have done a lot of research already. The name’s Gyle by the way. I just need to take the licensing exam next month. I have a lot of information stored in my head about the dungeons in this area and the uses of their products and drops.”
I sure hoped Gyle is tough enough to endure now that I’ve bothered to learn his name.
He sounds useful. Since I’m from another world, having someone like him around would be perfect to make some money.
Is it just me or Moose purposefully avoiding giving out his name? That could mean something too.
“Damn. We have ourselves a real find!” Jimmy said to Moose.
“If only our lowbie mage was useful too,” Moose is glaring at me.
They clearly have no idea…
I want them to think I’m a lowbie mage.
Go ahead punk…
“A light spell is still useful,” the dwarf said dejectedly trying to defend me with a shrug, hoping to relieve some of the heat off me from Moose’s temper. I guess the dwarf is an OK guy to do that. He didn’t seem too committed to me which is fine.
“But no fireballs? What the hell,” Moose trudged on further.
“Fireballs can be messy in a tight small tunnel if we get to any,” the dwarf warned.
We turned out to only get one bit of copper ore. It’s a pretty small piece if that even.
We keep trying to go further while we have to memorize the way we’ve came.
“Theoretically someone could get lost in here for months just trying to find their way out,” the dwarf said, accidentally scaring the crap out of some of the newbies that are walking behind me.
One of them accidentally poked another guy in the back with a rusty spear. He wasn’t watching where he was going. The others laugh at it, but he’s bleeding. He’d gotten scared when and accidentally did it when he heard the dwarf say someone could get lost in here for months.
I shook my head….jeez…newbies like this don’t stand a chance.
But Svinn warned me to not let them know I was a healer…do I risk it? He was worried I might get targeted for slavery or worse. It’s tempting to want to heal some of the kobold slashes the newbs have, but not if it gives me more problems.
“I’ll take rear guard. I don’t want to die from friendly fire,” I said.
“Wish I’d thought of that,” one of the other new people said.
Moose and Jimmy were about to say something but Gyle responded first, “that might be a good idea. Your light spell is so flashy it could give away our position if you are in the front or middle.”
“Yeah I guess that’s true,” Jimmy nodded.
But to be fair as we kept moving, being the rear guard wasn’t all fun and games. I had to constantly worry about if stuff was sneaking up on us or coming in from behind. They also sometimes check to make sure I’m paying attention, which is a valid response.
I also had to sometimes look behind us to check if we’d missed tunnels that were hidden from the view we had been using before.
Then we stumbled upon three kobold scouts after that. They screamed so freaking loud as Moose threw them off a cliff that was winding next to our trail. I hadn’t been watching for a cliff under the edge of the trail but dungeons do have them. It was an easy fifty foot drop onto solid rock that looked awfully sharp. They were knocked unconscious or dead when they literally splattered on the rocks below to die by horrible bleeding and trauma from the fall.
I saw little puffs of smoke as I used the light to make sure they were dead while seeing their bodies vaporize. Things had been happening so fast that on the previous skirmish I hadn’t gotten a chance to watch their bodies evaporate clearly, but this time I did.
Moose scares the shit out of me. He’s so damn violent and wicked mean. I’m more worried about him than I am the kobolds. More than once he’s hit one of the other new people so hard they fall flat on their back.
Can I really trust being around someone like this?
We still haven’t gotten to the lake yet.
After another hour we managed kill about thirty more kobolds in five skirmishes each more desperate than the last since a lot of our people are getting scared. One of the groups was big, and the others were small. We now have two wounded newbies that are trying to not cry audibly since Moose will hit them if they do.
But again Svinn’s warning echoes in my mind. He seems to think I’ll get swarmed if people know I’m a healer.
What would Moose and Jimmy’s reaction be?
Is it worth trying to save these guys? They really shouldn’t be adventurers even if I did and would just get killed somewhere else. I might even give them false hope instead of them taking the hint of this being not the right career for them when they get out of this dungeon.