Dreamweaver Chapter 42
Above us the rocks continued to pound in fury, but because the ceiling was so thick it only came through as dull faint thumps. Sometimes the ceiling had sonic tremors from the sound but it remained solid.
Something really angry is above us on the other side of the thick layer of rock and earth. But it’s amazing that we’re not above ground on that hill anymore exposed to orcs!
Temporarily of course...
Although the seal had been closed for awhile we were now spotting it to be safe and sure nothing was able to re-open it.
“Was that one of the ogres above us trying to break through?” Asakura grabbed my arm in fright. She was latched on like a leach on a swimmer.
It was scary thinking about it.
“Those ogres had been so freaking strong,” Akira whispered in the dark.
“Yeah tell me about,” I said.
“How many orcs were up there? Could they dig in here?” Asakura had clamped onto me again.
“Shun, I’m scared,” Rina said, grabbing my other arm.
“Hey how come you don’t grab me? I like you more than he does,” Yumi pouted.
Rina stuck her tongue out at her.
“Stupid,” Yumi growled. Then she looked like she was offended.
“I’m so glad we’re not up top right now,” Asakura said.
“Yeah, I definitely agree,” I replied.
The uncertainty felt uneasy, even though all of us had gotten inside in time before they swarmed the hill outside.
The light down here was pretty dim. So it was harder to see how sturdy the walls and roof were in here. This seemed to be the heart of the hill in a cozy main chamber. Our eyes were also not used to what it looked like down here.
The gnomes already had informed us not to use fire down here without letting them know and working out which spots. It turns out that the gnomes have to regulate the air flow and oxygen level in their underground warren to be able to live here. Living underground is actually extraordinarily super complex to be managed! They monitor it like farmers watch for rain and storms. And agriculture is another thing entirely! The other thing we also learned is this isn’t a cave; it’s a warren, which is basically a series of interconnecting caves that they use as a den.
Still, this is so cool really!
I didn’t want to offend them and they were pretty sensitive about it, so we listened carefully.
Gnomes apparently live in warrens, which basically look like really cool, clean, and pretty sparkly rock caves. A lot of the rocks look like glitter, though there supposedly isn’t really much monetary value to these rocks.
But it’s absolutely stunning to look at. I realized I was holding my breath as we took it all in.
Everything around us was built to reflect and regulate light reflection, so above us the stone and the wall work was polished so smoothly it was like glass in most of the caverns, in addition to the sparkly effect. Then when they put a light globe of some kind in the middle of the room, it makes the whole place take on a cool sparkly shiny glow like starlight.
Although one of the students in our group has a light skill, and strangely the gnome’s version of light is slightly different from that one! I couldn’t help but think this is interesting!
People were staring at the light globe in the center of the room too. I’m sure they all wondered if it was magic of some kind. It probably was. Plus it was like a whole different world in an underground gnome realm. It was kind of an eerie beauty that seemed alien but still pretty in a dark way.
I’d never seen anything like it. This middle room was right underneath the crown of the hill and was a sort of gathering room of sorts for them. It had tons of other tunnels all leading into this one huge room, which had glyph writing of some kind all over the place much like an Egyptian temple. The writing gave it a kind of cool important feel as we studied it. This was obvious a special place for them to have decorated it this way.
However unlike an Egyptian temple there was no Egyptian writing here.
It seems the gnomes have their own writing system from my opinion of the observations we’d made of all the carved writing they’d done in the place and into the solid rock walls. Even while looking around it seems that one of the gnomes was gently and carefully carving writing in the wall with a hammer and chisel. It seemed to be some kind of runic type script but it was hard to see from here and in the dark.
I wish I could read their script! Languages are the key to being able to interact with a society.
How interesting. I remember also their gnome elder can talk to us. That meant they may know how to deal with the Egyptian writing problem or know contacts that deal with it for them. I would be sure to ask them…
But unfortunately we had to deal with the wounded and the grievously wounded first and get everyone food. Then we’d have to get people settled and worry about food and shelter. I was surprised to also find out there were people here who hadn’t eaten in nearly two days on the verge of collapse. I was grateful that we’d made it this far.
The sleep a few hours earlier had been necessary too, but was a big risk even though we’d had the escape plan.
“Eh? Do the orcs know we’re not in a regular cave but with you guys? Do they know about gnomes or about this hidden warren?” Akira asked in surprise to the gnomes next to us.
“They must have an idea we’d gone somewhere and by the pounding they are searching for us. Does that answer your question?” I said. “What do you think that pounding was earlier?” I said.
He sighed, “I was just having wishful thinking I guess.”
“Well it could have been just random searching over all the area,” Asakura said.
“Oh that is an option too, I guess,” I said.
“So you think they are hitting everything, rocks, trees, looking in the river even, and anything that can be searched?” Yumi asked.
“Could be? I’ve never been to a real war, this is my first. I just wish to hell that I could figure out if we’re safe yet or not,” Akira reasoned.
“Yeah, I guess we should think we’re never safe maybe?” I said but wished I didn’t have to say it.
“Ah, Shun you think we still need to be ready?” Asakura wondered.
“We should always be ready,” I countered.
“Yeah in theory, but people get tired. They have to rest Shun. We’re not robots,” Rina was upset.
Coming from her I could feel the anguish when she said it. She didn’t like being dead weight after all.
Sometimes dust shook from the ceiling as the tremors continued. We’d been here staying quiet for a long time. Even though it was safe the gnomes cautioned us to stay quiet, since they were afraid too. It turns out gnomes also don’t like noise either I learned.
Our gnome savior turned out to be quite annoyed when the others had swamped him with questions. He got mad and told a few people they’d be kicked back out if they didn’t stay quiet as mice. They have a noise phobia? He seemed disturbed at the slightest amount of sound.
Then after people calmed down a bit more he began to speak with us again, but it was like the patient grandfather around immature children kind of attitude. I couldn’t blame him though because so many people were trying to swamp him with requests for food, what to do about lodging, and water.
But first, we confined our questions to basic safety…
“Now about the roof…” Akira started to say.
“They have an idea you are here, but that’s pretty solid rock and too thick to get through even if they stay there for weeks. Not even a troll will get through here the way this is built. We’ve had dwarven engineers reinforce this place to make sure nothing gets in. If a dwarven engineer says they can’t get in then they won’t,” Steve said.
“Shit. Trolls are real and in this world too?” Akira seemed flabbergasted.
“There are many kinds of strange and monstrous creatures in this world,” Steve said seriously.
“Ah fudge, that’s …that is so not fair. Can’t we like protest to God or something?” Yumi wondered. “Who the hell would allow trolls?”
“But what do trolls even look like? Are they supposed to be weak or strong?” Asakura asked.
“Let’s please not talk about stressful stuff right now,” I exclaimed with my hands on my head.
“I agree with Shun,” Rina toned musically.
We paused to listen some more. It seemed the pounding was going away.
“Will they try to find another route by digging in somewhere? Like near the hill base and tunnel in?” I asked.
Steve nodded, “that would be the most likely scenario if they believed we were really here or if they had a chance. That won’t happen I believe. We’ve been really careful to keep our base a secret though. We’ve taken a lot of precautions to make this place safe and not let people know how many of us there are.”
“Even if they do know where we are, which we aren’t sure about, they won’t get in. We still will keep double watch just in case with extra patrols throughout the warren,” another elderly gnome said. If he hadn’t spoken I might have missed him there, because he’d blended in with the rock so well right next to some of the rock pillar formations.
Hm, this is the second one with the language magic skill!
Oh wait…what was that next to him? Was that another one hiding there watching us? I didn’t realize how good they were with camouflage with earth and rock material.
In fact there were others just like him. Some of the older gnomes could blend in so well with the rock that unless they moved I wouldn’t even notice they were there. Some of them even chuckled once we spotted them. It seemed like a game to them to hide.
“But the earth manipulator girl got through. Does that mean the orcs can use magic to open up the rock too? Can’t they just open up that spot?” Asakura asked not believing in the gnomes’ confidence. She seemed intently studying the spot where we’d come through that had already been sealed, not trusting their word for it. Although she had voiced this concern, I had also wondered the same thing.
People that had just barely escaped genocide tend to be paranoid after all.
“We put a special earth seal over the hole the young earth child opened. Plus orcs have witch doctors but don’t have earth manipulators or earth children. Its a different element entirely. They won’t be able to open it again,” gnome said.
“You are sure about that?” I asked wanting confirmation.
The gnome pointed above. Like the others, the older they were the more likely their beards touched the floor. Their beards also looked kind of fluffy and I was tempted to touch them, except it would probably make them mad by the look they gave one girl who had the same idea. They weren’t pets after all.
Gnomes are interesting.
They aren’t the best looking of creatures. But I can’t help but want to study them more. They have interesting clothes, using a lot of vests and earth colored clothes. They wear funny hats that cover their skulls and also protect them, and they often have the same styles of long beards combed the same way with large flaring eyebrow hair that sticks out much longer than human eyebrows would to the side.
We’d all come through the hole above, but now it was gone. It was like there was never a hole to begin with and no marks whatsoever. How had they made the seam of the rock so perfectly flawless? You couldn’t tell that was the spot we’d had everyone climbing down through less than an hour before. It was simply unbelievable.
“I forgot earlier that only an earth child could puncture a hole like that through the dwarven stonework. I should have realized it but when you get old you forget stuff more often,” the gnome said cheekily looking at gangster girl.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to! I’m terribly sorry, master,” she bowed. She knew we had to be careful with the gnomes. Strangely enough she seemed to like almost worship the older one and be following him around. Was that because she was an earth element and they were also closely related? I wondered if she realized how she’d been influenced. It was amusing when you remembered she’d been kind of like a gangster before.
It seems that Steve enjoys flattery. Calling him master, seemed to soften him up a lot.
“Actually we’re pretty happy to have an earth child here. We don’t get them often as visitors from other races,” Steve said with delight.
The other gnomes also nodded. They seemed to be regarding Saiya in particular with a lot of interest and curiosity. Some of the gnome children came close and would touch her before scampering away like it was a secret game of tag. Some of them were staring at us, but I’m sure we were staring at them too.
Wow gnome children are so small!
“Earth child is what you mean for like an earth manipulator or someone with earth magic?” I guessed.
He then confirmed it.
I couldn’t help but also notice that the gnomes were all armed to the teeth now. Even while feeding us and helping us they gave us strange soup bowls with a foul smelling brew inside but stayed armed. We were too hungry from days of malnutrition to complain much.
Somehow I had the feeling they weren’t just armed against the orcs. They are bound to help us from the deal we made, and because we have an earth element person with us. But they do look worried over certain aggressive behaviors they see such as Akimoto. And it doesn’t help that Akira just looks scary, even if he’s not really bad.
This will have to be carefully managed, I realized.
And I also wasn’t sure if their soup was trying to kill us or actually healthy. Gnomes and humans don’t have the same taste buds I confirmed while eating it. We also might even use different things for nutrition? If I hadn’t been starving I might have vomited it back up. But I did plug my nose while eating the soup. I tried to drink it fast and then tried to do like air pressure in my mouth to force it down all the way.
It was probably similar to how a small child might react trying to drink vodka, except it wasn’t alcohol.
I hoped I could get used to their soup, because it seems that’s all they had. Their food was harvested from their mushroom warrens which were their food crops. They also had to stretch it to feed their families, in the form of mixing it with water and fish taken from underground lakes. Then they cooked it all together in the soup.
They assured us it was healthy. Of course they had to promise us that many times. I found out they had a sense of humor for other folk trying out their food, which was good because otherwise we would have insulted them many times over. I don’t think gnomes even have taste buds is what I thought while eating it.
Rina puked half of hers back up.
The gnomes said sorry many times, but were oddly smiling.
“If the orcs don’t kill us their bad food will,” Akira gasped in pain. It was worse for him because he had a big stomach and needed more food to live, so he was suffering more too.
“Wimp,” Yuriko said. But then she choked on the soup too.
But there were new things to go over and I was working against the clock. We would have to sort out things here and get people settled. There’s too many of us, and we need them organized, so chaos doesn’t happen.
“Where do we even start?” I sighed at Asakura.
Akimoto and the others were pretty selfish though..so how was this going to work out with us living down here? My mind kept telling me the math equation of selfish humans like Akimoto and his people + peaceful gnomes equals, not end smoothly. I tried to ignore it at first but it was like an ache that didn’t go away.
The gnomes wouldn’t take bad behavior sitting down without a fight, I think. They weren’t stupid either. And they were really strong even with their small size.
Despite being dead tired I had to work that out with gnome elder Steve in private without the others knowing all the details. Thankfully he had the common sense to notice me when he asked to talk to our leader.
That meant both Akira and Akimoto raised their hand to go talk to him. But then I held up a small bag of change and he ignored them completely to talk to me, while they scowled. They had to wait away from the gnome elder’s campfire circle.
It meant losing sleep as we had a powwow around the elder’s gather circle and fire, so that we could talk about and just present the terms already agreed upon before people could try to change things around or get pushy. I had to get gnome to agree to forgive us if some of the humans were stupid and selfish, but that was assuming the damage was within reason and he could make the culprits work to compensate for any trouble beyond what was already required. I had him also limit our access to not being alone with gnomes, particularly the small younger gnomes and to maybe suggest chaperons and keeping us in certain spots.
It was for fear of violence to the smaller gnomes that we were worried, not for fear of immorality…someone would have to be pretty desperate to be tempted to be immoral with a gnome. They’d also have to have been stone dead drunk and blind in both eyes. I worried what some of the desperate might do if the gnomes were really trusting. With absolutely nothing, some of them would be tempted to rob and plunder.
We’d have to be tricky about the wording and the reasons for that.
Then we had to discuss property management too. We didn’t get through all the issues but made some head start.
Gnome was willing to sell us dwarven armor and weapons that they’d bought from them. However, the prices weren’t something we could deal with yet and terribly inflated. He suggested waiting until we got to human lands before getting equipment besides food. But he did tell us dwarven weapons were without equal and easily accepting enchants. He also couldn’t lower the price even though he wanted too because the high price represented the cost of the roaming dwarven caravans that traveled throughout the underground dwarven kingdom. Apparently it takes a lot of good high class guards to do such activities that enable places like this to be able to hold out against the dark.
I made a note to ask him more later on about the dwarven kingdoms.
They also didn’t realize that none of us had money except for possibly me and a few of the rangers who had discovered orcs had money on their bodies.
The gnomes also lived very simple lives too so they couldn’t just dish out resources for free like it was easy pudding. Steve reminded me they liked us but weren’t running a charity. He wasn’t greedy either so we made some progress.
This was my first time hearing about weapon enchants. I would have to ask the others later on. Sunghee and Fox Girl would know.
It seems they lived here in a type of communal cooperative system with everyone supporting each other. The others might not mix very well with that and are used to every man for himself. That would be like the hardest obstacle to fight against. Was it even possible for us to work together? Since our culture is very cooperative we have a chance…but…to be converted overnight to a communal system?
It was better than a feudal system though. Feudal systems were terrible.
I also couldn’t help but notice the gnomes seemed pretty happy and everyone was fed and clothed and in a fairly safe environment. So I couldn’t argue. But the others would they reject that from wanting to be rich?
They also have to produce enough goods and food to take care of their own colony which isn’t strictly part of the dwarven kingdom but something like on the edge of it, but they cooperate with them somehow.
Gnome elder Steve and I also weren’t able to tell exactly how long we’d stay with them. That was going to be a potential trouble issue too. We both knew humans and gnomes didn’t live like each other, so there’s a possibility for misunderstandings to occur. That meant the longer we were around each other the higher the chance of something happening would occur.
But it would be a good few weeks before another dwarven caravan was set to arrive or roam around this area and only then could we consider other options. That would give us the chance to get to a proper dwarf community and look for work and the chance to move on to other things.
Would the dwarf community even be better, or would it be harder, I wondered secretly.
And naturally part of not being able to stay there long term was that the gnomes weren’t doing all of this for free. The longer we stayed the sooner the money I’d brought from the demon box would run out.
But I could rest for awhile.
Despite having woken up recently all the terror and hell we’d been through plus the non-stop action and movement had left me really exhausted. I felt like I could sleep for three days straight. Others also had the same idea.
“Finally we can rest!” Yuriko cried out.
“We’re safe! Damn I love gnomes so much!” Akira started bawling like a little kid. He then grabbed one of the gnome elders and hugged him and gave him a kiss while the gnome looked totally scandalized like he’d be raped at any second. Finally he got away while Akira was really confused. They all wouldn’t get too close to Akira after that.
“I-I’m a clan elder! You can’t do that. No touching!” he held up his fingers in a curse mark stance.
Some of the gnome kids were afraid he’d step on them.
“Ah but we love you guys. You saved us as if we’re your brethren, *hic*” Akira was crying some more. It was weird seeing a big ass satyr get all emotional.
Oh now I get it. He’s drunk.
But then I noticed many of the others were also emotional and giving the gnomes hugs. But the gnomes looked at us like we were ugly and filthy. Maybe gnome hormones made them think humans were ugly? I didn’t get it but they clearly were looking at us like we were inferior goods.
“OK, first rule for you humans…no hugging the gnomes!” Steve said angrily. He appeared to be trying to dust off Akira cooties from his clothes.
“That’s easily solved, just don’t give them any alcohol,” I countered.
Steve ironically laughed about that.
“I don’t know Shun. We can’t really believe this is safe can we?” Rina asked.
Now back to what he said about weapon enchants. How do I get access to that?