This is an off the cuff story with little to no outlining. I came up with the idea, wrote 1500ish words on Wed. Not sure if I’ll get to finish it before it’s scheduled to publish
It was dark and cold, with dry dusty air, despite wetness on the stone making it’s smooth surface almost to slick to walk on. There was a flicker of dull red light ahead, not enough air to give it the yellow tint and full illumination that normally comes with an ever burning torch. It was a misnomer that most people didn’t know, but not by much. It would keep burning long after it used up everything worth breathing in the tunnel. However it would go out eventually. It needs something to consume for fuel and it runs out. Takes about 1 hour to run out if swallowed by a giant. Don’t ask me how I know and definitely don’t ask what the giants insides looks like after.
I’d been following the noble elf through these passages on smell alone and this was the first time I’d seen any light. The damned leaf dancer must have been using some sort of spell to give him perfect vision in the dark because he hadn’t stumbled once. Once again I curse whatever god saw fit to prevent Goblins from using magic. Luckily I hadn’t let my natural talents fall to shit like so many of my brethren and could still track him easily by the overly perfumed scent he left all over the rocks. I could even judge basic layout based on how the smell stuck to various surfaces. It helped that I was familiar with these tunnels having written a feature detailing their historic use as a Kobold ghetto before the ruling body had declared living underground was unfit for sentient lifeforms. However I was not prepared for the stench of blood, sweat, urine, and puke that hung in the air as I made around the final bend and saw the light.
I wasn’t sure what I was about to find here but I doubted it was the erotic tryst I’d been paid to capture via scrying stone. The job seemed simple enough, they always do. Follow Star Speaker Arivel Elessar to where ever he had been meeting his secret paramour, place the stone inside any wards he had hidden, drop a little blood from the vial I was given to activate the rituatl and viola, the whole act would be displayed on Speaking Floor for every politically minded noble or merchant to see, in full magicolored excellence. However this did not to seem to be the be the proper setting for a night of grinding the mortar and pestle. Not even the few Kobold’s who remained in the city sewers hiding from the sun that painfully seared their light sensitive scales would pick this as choice getaway for a few hours of romantic alone time.
I wondered if I’d get paid regardless if I dropped the stone and set the trigger for the spell if he wasn’t mid coitus. Technically all I was requested to do was follow him and set up the artifact so it could cast his actions for the world to see. It wasn’t really my fault if the actions weren’t the ones my client hoped for. It would probably hold up in court and she’d be forced to give me my fee. She’d be pissed though. Images ran through me head of all the things an Archmage of the Eleven Orders could do to a goblin body if she was angry. I was already walking far to fine a line with her as it was. Better safe and poor than paid and cooked well done. I put the rock back in my pouch. Looked liked I’d have to find another time to catch Speaker Elessar with his mistress(or was it a mister?).
I was about to turn and head back to the surface when an unmistakable sound floated up. The jingle of coins in a pouch. Alot of coins. If this was a business deal, one that required so much secrecy, there was probably some profit in it for a quick thinking green skinned rogue. At the very least if I snatched the purse I could squeeze into one of the side tunnels far too small for an elf and make it out unmolested.
Now I’m not a greedy Goblin by any means, but my job at the paper barely covered my rent and food and it looked like I wouldn’t be getting paid for this little mission wasn’t going to get me any Archmage gold. And It wasn’t like the Speaker couldn’t afford it. Besides I knew for a fact he avoided paying his share of monster welfare tax by donating to the Grumpsh temple, which at this point did nothing more than support those Orcs willing to serve as shock troops in the Empires war against their people. So in a way I was just collecting for the under privileged that he had pledged to uplift.
I inched closer to where the elf had disappeared and where the light was now shining. As I got close I realized I couldn’t hear anything else. Then there was a single clang of steel on steel, almost like a sword hitting a shield or armor before quite. I peek around the corner to see what was there.
An empty hallway that ended in a large wooden door, the stone here carved, the ground made rough for traction and the sides smooth and full of details. Faux columns had been chiseled out with dwarven perfection. There were painted and raised scenes of revelry and slaughter, the “goodly” races triumphing over us monsters. I walked to the illumnated passage, my footfalls sounding loud despite my care and soft slippers. I ran my hands along imagery. Some rock shaping was clearly used. There was no mark of chisel, nor the smoothness of polishing. I’d guess a mid-range art sharper as some of the details were off, an eye to large here or a mixed perspective there. It had a Gnomish flair, an over exaggeration of each racial trait and color that spoke of there lack of subtly. It was new too. The spell to get the blue used in the lake there had only been discovered a few years ago.
I realized suddenly I was out in the open and had spent at least 15 minutes analyzing the art. Damn you Nivyean, your habbits are still stuck in my head, even after all this time. I prepared to duck and run but I was still alone. There was still no noise beyond the occasional clang of steel on steel. I was sure it was sword fighting now but where were the shouts, grunts of exertion, and screams of pain? Something wasn’t right.
I reached into my pouch and pulled out a blank piece of parchment. I couldn’t cast spells, but I had learned how to use premade ones. I walked over to the door and listened to it. The fighting was louder but that was still all I could hear. I placed the parchment on the door with one hand, unstopped my bottle of human blood I carry everywhere, and poured a good finger of the liquid onto the paper. I’d have to get some more soon I noted as the bottle was nearing the bottom. It was a task I didn’t relish. But that would be a tunnel to dig another day, now the blood had spread out and was beginning to form runes. A spell had been cast here alright and I was about to find out what it was.
They revealed themselves to be the dead draconic language, but the script was shaky. Whoever cast it didn’t know the language very well. Some the words were spelled wrong, a phonetic representation of how the caster had had pronounced the words, his failing neatly copied for me. It seemed like a simple spell of which there were hundreds of easier versions in more precise and still living languages. It was supposed to prevent all sound from traveling from the people inside to those outside. It seemed the magic had been cast literally and didn’t prevent the sound of objects. Odd they’d use such an old spell risky failures like this.
I could guess what was going on behind the door now. One of the arena’s that had been shut down a few years ago because it “promoted an energy of violence” that was interfering with the Order of Enchantment Academy’s research into magical weapon tech. I was never able to find any evidence to that effect and even wrote a scathing article about the OoE using the arena games as an excuse for why they couldn’t finish their promised Orc slaying wand’s for the army. That one did not earn me any friends.
So I supposed behind here they would have brave fools and hero’s fighting against captured Owlbears, Bullete’s, Hydra’s and other unintelligent monstrous races. It would be enough to bury Ellesar politically being caught here, especially gambling, but in addition to anger whatever criminal origination was running this, turning them against both him and the client, he was pretty sure his patron wanted something that would cause societal trouble for Ellesar, forcing him out of power as a noble backer, not just as a Speaker for the Stars.
Dropping the stone was out but I could still probably get some black mail information. I’d need to figure out who else was down here and who could be bribed or threatened into co-operation so it’s time to turn on the smooth. I pulled the paper off the door, drew myself up to my full 3 feet and knocked loudly.
The door opened and the stony face of city dwarf looked down on me. I could tell he was from the dockside district cause he was rocking a large spiral mustache with no beard. “Ah, Another one for the pit eh? Lotta volunteers lately.”
I should have known then that something was wrong as there was nothing about my frame or dress that should have hinted at gladiator but I was just too happy that he gave me a ready made lie.
“Ah yes Master doordwarf, I’m here for the glory fame and money. Please let me try my hand at this bloodsport.” So I lay it on abit thick sometimes. Nothing wrong with that.
The dwarf laughed as if I’d made some huge joke and pulled me in by the vest. His calloused hand was strong as a vice and I had no choice but to come along.