Part 7: The Nest
There are at least a dozen vague forms dancing by the dim light produced by our daggers. Probably more. But we're not surrounded. Yet.
Giggling, gibbering, jabbering...tiny death, all around us. Again! No, don't panic, don't panic, don't panic. Eric waves his sword at them. I do a quick inventory as we slowly back towards the gap behind us. I have a glowing dagger, a pistol with one shot, gold coins, 12 bullets. And a horn full of gunpowder. If I had a way of sparking it, I could do something. But I have no...wait. Yes, I have flint. It's in the gun.
Their voices blend into each other. "We's so mighty, mighty teeth..."
"Nip and rip and nip and tear..."
They're certainly taking their time. They can afford to. Even if we make it to the gap, they know these tunnels better. Running won't get us far.
"Back, devils!" Eric shouts. He stabs with a flourish at one of the goblins, who laughs as it dodges away. Where did he learn to fight? Huh. More clever than I thought. The sweep made sure the goblin couldn't strike him effectively and opens up a path to the gap. Clever. I take the opportunity.
"Eric! I have a plan! Keep them back for a bit!" I shout. He nods and moves between me and the goblins. I get working. I pull the pistol, work the flint from the hammer, and unscrew the top of the powder horn. I pack in all the bullets into the horn.
The goblins leap. Only three of them can get at him...lucky. He strikes one away, dodges another, but a third manages to spear his side. Still lucky. It's only a flesh wound. But these are bad odds. Oh, please let the saint still be watching over us...Eric leaps at them. Scat!
I can see he's giving me another chance to get further away. He cleaves into one of the goblins. It squeals as the blade sinks in its face. "For Miir! Flee black to the Shadows you came from, curs!" he shouts. It's oddly heartening, but he can't fight them all by himself.
I unscrew the cap where the powder pours out. This is awkward. I aim the huge end of the horn, the one packed with powder and shot. I aim.
"You are going to want to duck!" I shout.
I hold the only steel I have, the frizzan of the pistol, next to the small end of the powderhorn. Holding the pan closed so the gun doesn't fire in my hands, I strike. And strike. And strike. And strike. And...
Ow. Ow. Ow. I do not recommend holding a half-full powder horn and lighting one end. The force of the blast knocks me ass over teakettle. Eric heeded me. He sprawled on the ground. The goblins, however, are caught completely by surprise at the ball of fire and lead and light.
I'm lucky I wasn't blinded by the flash. I'm lucky the Dragon-taken thing didn't explode into a million fragments and shred me to bits. But the goblins are squealing in pain and surprise. Some have dropped and may be dead.
Time to go! I stand, grab my things together, nudge Eric, and run forward. TOWARDS the goblins. Past the goblins. Deeper into the tunnel. I hear Eric behind me.
"Where are we going?" Eric asks. He's calm. He must think I'm insane. I wonder myself. But we need to keep moving.
And there's warmth ahead. Warmth means heat and light. Which means fire, or an exit. You don't light fires underground unless you want to poison yourself with smoke. Or you have a way of venting it. I want out of here. I want out of these caves. I'll take my chances in the city above.
"We're leaving. There has to be an exit nearby--I can feel warmth in these tunnels. They must have a big fire going, and venting the smoke somewhere."
"Good thinking." He says. "One problem. These are volcanic tunnels. It could be a lava flow."
Dragon take it!
I hear scrabbling and cursing behind us. Well, too late to go back now. We run through the tunnel. It open into a wide cavern. There's a seam of fireglass in the ceiling, illuminating a collection of rude huts. A village. goblin women hold children close as we run. This just keeps getting better and better. The goblin women don't seem to be rushing to pick up spears, but I'd rather keep moving anyway.
We pass by the stone huts and surprised goblins, but I see some Redcaps rushing to catch up with us. Ahead, a few Redcaps wave spears at us. goblins behind us, goblins up ahead...and here I am, stuck in the middle with Eric.
"Got any bright ideas?" I mutter to him. He looks up.
"Manny-Man made a dumb move, coming into powrie's home." One of the goblins giggles as he and his buddies advance. "Soon do de dead waltz!"
"Gaven, take this." Eric mumbles. He hands his sword to me. What am I going to do with this? I've never had sword training! I prefer knives. "Say something impressive, then strike the sword against the ceiling." He says. Has he gone insane? "Trust me! Do what you do best!"
"FOOLS!" I boom in my best stage voice. What in the boil am I doing? "I AM GAVEN MORREN, LORD OF FIRE AND SHADOWS! BOW BEFORE MEEEEEE!”
The roof is just high enough to reach if I leap, so I jump and whack at the roof of the cave. A shower of sparks flies as I scrape the fireglass. The goblins immediately begin to cower and bow. Which is good, because I'm utterly shocked by the rain of sparks. I'm glad my cloak's wet.
A babble of voices erupts."Don't hurt poor powrie, Lord Gravymourn!"
"No! No! The Shadow Lords! We all do de dead waltz!"
I whip off the bloody cap and hold it theatrically at the closest one. "Pay for your trespass against me!" I yell. "Pay in kroovy!" Why? I don't know. It just seemed like the right thing to say. The Redcap jams his spear into his hand and drips blood into the cap. Ew. "Now, you will let us pass, and I will forget this insolence!" I intone. This is fun. I point to one of the redcaps. "You! Lead us to the exit! I wish to see the stars!"
"Yes shadowlord sir! Anything! Anything!" it grovels. It starts moving away and we follow.
"That was impressive." Eric grunts. I try. We put a nice bit of distance between us and the village. Eric stops to bind his wound. I let our guide go on ahead so I can talk to him.
"That was clever. I didn't know fireglass would spark on steel like that." I fiddle with the gun, replacing the flint. I have one shot left.
"It's one of the first things the tribes who settled Miir used it for. Flint is more common, but fireglass seems to set iron off better."
"Well, you saved our bacon. I guess I owe you." Though I wish I'd known that before. I could have saved us some time with the powder bomb if I'd known that.
"Hardly.” he scoffs. “You saved me from the Bullyboys with your scare before. We're even."
"What made you think of trying that?"
"That fireball you shot before. Also, with that nasty hat you wear you kind of look like a big Redcap. I figured you might have them thinking the same.”
Our guide comes back. "This way! hurry! Way to outside!" it jabbers. I shrug and follow it. The air is getting warmer, and there's a glow. Is it dawn already? I didn't think we were down here that long. We leave the tunnel, and I gasp.
There's no sun ahead. Only lava.