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Long Roads Ahead (Back to Square One)

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The battle was hard-fought. One by one the salamanders fell. Their numerical superiority and having three specialists on board helped to whittle down their scaly opponents' strength. Finally, the last salamander fell and the kobolds cheered in victory. 

On 11/8/2019 at 12:26 PM, Venus Sprite said:

“Come on. There’s still a bit more than all of these to go. We need to burst the water table, and quickly!”

Torie, however, was not in a mood for celebration. Aaric quickly fell behind the tigress as she made her way into the cave. The rest of the party followed suit, even as some of the kobolds had suffered some light to moderate injuries themselves. The group trudged forward in the darkness, trusting Torie's senses to guide them. 

Eventually they came to a stop and Torie turned towards the wayfarer.

On 11/8/2019 at 12:26 PM, Venus Sprite said:

“Take the dynamite up that path. Go to the very end and you’ll come across a dark granite wall. Shove it in the biggest crack, light the fuse and run back here.

On 11/8/2019 at 12:26 PM, Venus Sprite said:

“The rest of us will hold here until you get back.”

"Sure thing." Aaric nodded. 

But before he could leave, loud hisses and the sound of slithering bodies on soil echoed from behind them. Multitudes of salamanders appeared before them, ready to eliminate the intruders of their home. Aaric cursed.

On 11/8/2019 at 12:26 PM, Venus Sprite said:

“Priscilla, I hope you have plenty of crossbow bolts left,” she said, breathing so hard her belly pressed against the earth of the cave with each gasp.

Thinking quickly, the wayfarer fished through his utility pouch and took out a shiny metal capsule no bigger than a small tomato and pressed it into Priscilla's hand. 

"Take this!" Aaric explained loud enough for everyone to hear. "Throw it on the ground when the time is right and it'll explode with a bright flash and a loud bang. Get everyone to close their eyes and ears! The Salamander's won't know what hit 'em. I'll be back before you know it!"

With that, the former assassin sped off, melding into the shadows and racing towards the end of the wall. 

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On 11/7/2019 at 9:26 PM, Venus Sprite said:

Thanks,” Torie said, eyes glittering behind a mask of blood at her little companions. She turned to the others. “Come on. There’s still a bit more than all of these to go. We need to burst the water table, and quickly!”

Priscilla grabbed a few bolts on her way in. She hadn't fired much, and the bolts she'd fired were mostly intact, save for a few that had missed. If she could find them at all, they were shattered, blasted to pieces upon impact with the walls close by. She gathered the bolt tips anyway, and followed behind. Her quiver rattled in a melancholy way, tragically less than full. Ahead of her, the kobolds surged behind Torie, flanking her as they charged deeper into the mine. 

Aaric and Priscilla followed at their own pace close by, following the tigress through the dark. 

On 11/7/2019 at 9:26 PM, Venus Sprite said:

“They’re all down that way, I think,” she said, pointing to the right tunnel. A breeze blew up from there, carrying with it smells of scorch and sweat, and a sibilant hiss at the edge of her hearing. It was quite steep too, the path being cut into steps to aid travelers, but the dirt and dust lined with the tracks of snakes.

To Aaric she said, “Take the dynamite up that path. Go to the very end and you’ll come across a dark granite wall. Shove it in the biggest crack, light the fuse and run back here.

But before he could sprint off, the sudden arrival of more Salamanders demanded their attention. Priscilla spun in the dark, hopefully in the direction of their intruders. She racked the bolt on her crossbow, aiming at the eyes lingering just out of vision. She only barely saw them this deep into the mine. It'd be difficult to make the shots on her own.

On 11/7/2019 at 9:26 PM, Venus Sprite said:

“Priscilla, I hope you have plenty of crossbow bolts left,” she said, breathing so hard her belly pressed against the earth of the cave with each gasp.

Torie seemed frightened, which didn't help the runesmith at all. She reached for her quiver, and brushed her fingertips over the ends of them. 

"Oh! Yeah, totally. Plenty of bolts!" She lied.

Aaric prepared to disembark, but not before handing her something. It felt cold and smooth in her hand. Priscilla glanced down.

Quote

"Take this!" Aaric explained loud enough for everyone to hear. "Throw it on the ground when the time is right and it'll explode with a bright flash and a loud bang. Get everyone to close their eyes and ears! The Salamander's won't know what hit 'em. I'll be back before you know it!"

"What?" She hissed. "Why would you say that loud enough for them to hear?" But he was already off on his own mission. 

The runesmith groaned in frustration. At this rate, it wasn't likely they'd escape unscathed. Still, she had her knife, and she had her bow. That had to count for something, right?

Runes floated menacingly into view, obscuring her vision for a second. Great.

Out of annoyance, mostly, she pointed the crossbow towards where she thought the enemy was and let the bolt fly. It struck the wall above their heads instead, and clattered off into the dark.

"I hate this." She announced. "I've decided I really hate this."

Edited by Jotnotes

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On 11/13/2019 at 7:12 AM, Jotnotes said:

"I hate this." She announced. "I've decided I really hate this."

"Are you kidding? This is fantastic. What a story to tell our children! Are you planning to have children? Don't answer that, if you don't want."

The salamanders slithered closer up the rocky slope, spears at the ready, waiting at the last minute to thrust. With her foothold on higher ground Torie found them easy to dissuade. Wait for them to get close and bat their spears aside, bat them across the head if they were close enough. Snake tails were grippy but once she got their heavy torsos unbalanced, they fell away easily into their comrades.

More concerning was a sibilant chanting from further down the tunnel, behind the salamanders. Like whispering but too loud to be whispering. An eerie red glow outlined the salamanders, like fire, so that it wasn’t just the red glint in their eyes she could see.

“Aaric, hurry up with that boom!” she said, as the chanting climaxed in a whispered shout. Torie swatted away one more spear head, looked about for more, but found none.

All the salamanders were waiting at the bottom of the rockfall. The light behind them was getting brighter, as if a bonfire was crawling up the tunnel. Then, slithering into view was a huge, smoking salamander. Between his scales glowed the brightness of fire. Smoke and ash issued from his snout, his eyes, his ears, crowning his head and rolling off the roof of the cave. The salamander opened its mouth and roared.

“Look at that!” Torie said to Priscilla, pointing with her claw. “Have you ever seen anything like it! I love travelling, and adventure. Stuff like this makes it all worth it. I’m never going home!”

"Pretender!" Shank screeched. "False, tricksy salamanders. You must die."

The salamander raised his spear, chanting, and the spear began to glow red. Then the redness flicked forward, shooting out the way the spear was pointing in a fireball.

Torie was too slow.

It didn’t explode, but hit her centre of her chest and sizzled. Torie roared, and stepped back in pain.

The salamanders slithered forwards up the slope.

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On 11/30/2019 at 6:05 AM, Venus Sprite said:

"Are you kidding? This is fantastic. What a story to tell our children! Are you planning to have children? Don't answer that, if you don't want."

Priscilla fired wide again. This time, she still heard a shriek of pain as her bolt found purchase, but it was still a glancing blow. It wouldn't slow them down, let alone kill them. The runesmith struggled to load another, and racked the slide. A spear was hurled from the gloom, forcing her to abandon the task and dive out of the way. Nearby, Torie and the kobolds nearby were still holding their own, thankfully. Hopefully they were faring better than her.

The runesmith glanced towards her crossbow and cursed. It was a little far away, and the salamanders were almost upon them. One of them crept close, and lunged at her. 

Priscilla pretended to go for her bolt, then pulled her knife free, jabbing it at the incoming monster. It sunk to the hilt, into the salamander's squishy chest, but it still had its spear. Crying out in pain, it made another stab at her, jabbing her in the thigh.

She screamed and pulled the knife free, striking the salamander in the face to knock it back. The spear came free and she pulled herself to her feet. It hurt too much to put much weight on her one leg, now. She struggled to get back up, and the salamander stepped in again, jabbing towards her. Instead of dodging away, she grabbed the spear and jerked it upwards, away from her and pulled on it. The salamander held tight, and that's exactly what she'd hoped for, letting the salamander's firm grasp allow her to pull them closer together. She pulled herself towards it, and plunged the dagger into its belly again, splitting it open.

"Aaaaaagh! Fuck you!" She shouted at it as the two of them fell over. From her position on the ground, next to the slowly dying salamander, she could still see Shank and Torie putting up a fight, alongside the other 'bolds.

On 11/30/2019 at 6:05 AM, Venus Sprite said:

“Look at that!” Torie said to Priscilla, pointing with her claw. “Have you ever seen anything like it! I love travelling, and adventure. Stuff like this makes it all worth it. I’m never going home!”

 

 

"Pretender!" Shank screeched. "False, tricksy salamanders. You must die."

"I'm glad you're having a good time," She huffed, pushing herself onto her rump. The wound in her hip still hurt like hell, and she doubted she'd be able to walk until she got some sort of medical attention. The crossbow was still close by, thankfully. She dragged herself over to it. 

The din of battle behind her continued to build, before reaching a blistering crescendo. One of the salamanders uttered a dark, ancient enchantment while Priscilla's back was turned, and she spun around with her crossbow in her hands again in time to see the firebolt fly past, striking the tigress in the chest.

"Torie!" Priscilla reached for her, in a sort of meddling gesture, knowing full well that she couldn't get there easily. The salamander appeared triumphant; the others, what few still rushed them, were beginning to wear down Shank and his fellows. Priscilla gritted her teeth, and racked another bolt, letting it fly quickly. It struck the salamander that had summoned the bolt squarely between the eyes. It stumbled, gave a small eep, and dropped dead.

"Should have landed that shot three or four bolts ago," She muttered. Despite the bitterness in her voice, there was a growing unease there. Torie; was she okay? Shank had noted that she'd fallen, but hadn't had a chance to move yet. The other kobolds were beginning to slip, and Shank couldn't be everywhere at once. Each time the Salamanders made it past their shields, swung for their legs, slashed at their tails and shoulders, their grip on life weakened. She could see it, in the way his eyes narrowed, but darted towards them constantly; Shank was losing his composure, terrified of losing his companions. It was making him clumsy too.

Priscilla slung the bow over her shoulder, and crawled across the ground towards the Tigress. It was slow-going and painful, but she got there eventually, poring over her body.

"Can you move?" She asked through gritted teeth. "We either need to bug out, or clear these things out, fast."

She glanced over her shoulder. Shank managed to outmaneuver one of them, and stabbed one salamander over a dozen times in the chest. Nearby, one of the kobolds was laying down on the ground, breathing, but in pain. The others didn't have much in them, either, but gave a weak celebration as Shank put the salamander down.

She looked back to Torie, mind racing. The throbbing in her hip was growing unbearable.

"Listen to me, listen to me." She slapped the Tigress upside the head. "We need to figure our shit out now. We can die later, but not here and not now. On your feet." She racked the slide on her heavy bow, and slung it backwards over her shoulder, firing blindly in the direction of the salamanders. 

There was a cry of pain, and through her own agony Priscilla groaned. "Seriously?"

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Torie gritted her teeth and growled at the salamanders swarming out of the cave, climbing over the lip of the slope. The kobolds had given up the edge; now they had lost the high ground.

On 12/17/2019 at 3:56 PM, Jotnotes said:

"Listen to me, listen to me." She slapped the Tigress upside the head. "We need to figure our shit out now. We can die later, but not here and not now. On your feet."

“Yeah,” Torie said, a little disappointed but recognising the wisdom of retreat. “Maybe we should retreat, for now, though it pains me to-“

There was a boom, so loud it made her skull rattle, and a blast of air hit them so fast it nearly bowled her over. The poor kobolds fared worse. One of them was thrown bodily down the slope, out of sight. Rocks clattered down from the roof’s ceiling.

There was a screaming in her head like an injured seal pup, so high and so loud she didn’t hear the rushing water until it was flowing about her feet. Then her wrists, then her elbows and knees. She tried to turn, to check on Priscilla, but the flow of muddy water pushed into her flank and she was bowled over sideways, down over the slope from which the kobolds had come.

Tumbling, tumbling, unable to gain purchase on the rocks which knocked into her ribs and joints. She scrambled at them but they just tore her claws, causing more pain, until she decided it was better just to let the water carry her where it will.

Go with the flow. Roll with it. She was doing both.

When she finally stopped tumbling she was in a large room, more of a cellar than a cave, the stone walls being carved and shaped to create a more inviting space. There were lights overhead – lanterns, still swinging with the shock of the explosion. Water was still gushing around her but no longer deep enough to carry her along. It still pushed at wooden tables and lapped at the base of book cases, or pushed wooden chests aside. Glassware fell and clinked and crackled, and salamanders hissed.

Dominating the room was a man-sized loop of sharp, mithril steel, intertwined like thorny vines, sliding through one another as if alive. Inside the loop was a scene of hell: a land of fire and smoke, stretching into the distance over burning ruins and into towering volcanoes.

“The portal,” she said, to nobody in particular.

Aching all over, Torie nevertheless forced herself to her feet, water still lapping about her low-slung stomach. It felt strange. Beside her a salamander writhed and slithered towards the tables, steam rising off its scales and erupting out of where the water had hit its open wounds.

“Oh no you don’t,” Torie said, grabbing it by the tail as she had the others and pulling it back towards herself before biting down into the back of its neck. Delicious. She turned and looked this way and that, but there were no signs of the others. Perhaps they had been washed into another cavern. Behind her, the water still gushed through a narrow arch, perhaps over a flight of stairs. With so much water it was hard to tell. On the other side of the cellar-cave it gurgled and groaned as it swirled down a hole in the floor. Perhaps another passage, leading deeper.

“Priscilla? Aaric?” she said, her voice ringing deep and true even over the rush of the water, which didn’t look to be letting up soon. Behind her one of the book cases fell over with a wet splosh, scattering scrolls and documents into the torrent, soon to be swallowed by the gaping hole into which the water swirled.

“Shank? Kissit? Come on, everyone. This is no fun on my own.” She tried to keep the tone of nervousness out of her voice.

Torie heard more hissing, and looked up at the portal. It was hard to make out through the rippling heat, but she thought she could see many pairs of eyes looking back at her. The ring of twisting, turning metal that sustained the portal floated above the ground, so no water had flowed through yet, but the salamanders on the other side didn’t look happy.

Then she had an idea.

Torie bound over the water like a bear after fish, towards the fallen book shelf, and pushed it on its back over the opening on the floor. Too big to pass through, it was sucked down onto the hole, blocking off the water’s escape channel. Slowly the room began to fill, towards the lip of the portal.

“It looks a little dry in there,” Torie said to the waiting salamanders, and gave them a toothy grin.

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On 12/28/2019 at 11:23 PM, Venus Sprite said:

“Yeah,” Torie said, a little disappointed but recognising the wisdom of retreat. “Maybe we should retreat, for now, though it pains me to-“

An earth-shattering explosion rocked the cave. Priscilla stumbled, the blast of air buffeting her onto her heels. She gripped her knife tightly, gritting her teeth as she fought to keep her balance. Torie was on her feet, but nearly bowled over again after the blast, and the runesmith wondered only briefly what the hell happened.

She wasn't looking at them when it happened, but when she glanced towards the Kobolds, she realized they'd been hit. Thrown askance, tossed asunder, broken. She didn't see where they landed; didn't see if they were okay. That's because shortly afterward, she saw the water coming, and her heart stopped cold.

The sudden surge of water was visible from several meters away, and she had time, eventually, to spin and attempt to flee; but the water had already blocked her way out of the cave, and there was no where else to go. Out of impulse, she looked around, and grabbed the nearest support. She wrapped her hands around the buttress, knife still clutched in her hands. She glanced back towards Torie, who scrambled towards her, trying to reach the pole as well. Priscilla reached for her with one hand, but the water struck them both then. Priscilla managed to keep her grip on the pole at first, managing to overcome the shock of the cold water blasting her down. This wasn't a mere deluge, however--metric tonnes of water overtook them all, threatening to pull them down deeper into the cave. Eventually, her fingers grew numb, and she too was pulled free from her safe place.

Immediately after letting go, Priscilla was plunged beneath the water. Although there was much to push them by, it wasn't deep, and more than once she struck her elbow, and then her hip, on the walls and ground as she struggled to remain above water.It took her some doing, but she managed to pull herself to the surface of the roaring water, gasping for breath, only to be pushed below again.

Then, freefall. For a few moments.

Shortly afterward, she crashed onto the loose gravel floor, knocking the air out of her. She swore she felt a rib crack.

"Fuck me," She wheezed, before falling into a coughing fit. The water surrounding her continued to crash for a while thereafter. Eventually, she got to her feet--slipped once--and moved away from the rolling waters.

She blinked; her vision was blurry, with runes dashing around in her vision again, making it even harder to see. Assuming she could see afterward, which she couldn't.

Wherever she was, there was no sunlight, or any visible light close by. Beyond the sound of water, and the crunching of gravel underfoot, she couldn't see anything of note, at all.

She was cold. 

Was Torie okay?

Aaric? Did he escape the blast?

"Torie! Aaric!" She shouted, glancing around. Her jacket was soaked through and through, but there was no wind to chill her. She took it off anyway, but it didn't do much for her; her clothes were all soggy. She glanced around, looking for any sign of the tigress, or the little ninja boy.

Or the kobolds!

"Torie! Shank!" Where were they? Her voice bounced off the walls, and reverberated down halls she couldn't see.

She frowned. She could hear, at least. She started walking, uncertainly, towards where her echoes had traveled. Her feet shuffled against the gravel, and she paused, and frowned. Then, she ducked down and grabbed a few pebbles. She chucked one in front of her.

It clacked against the gravel. 

Great. She proceeded forward, then paused to throw another pebble. Again and again, hoping to avoid falling to her death.

"Torie? Aaric!" She cried again. "I can't see in the dark, you guys!"

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On 1/5/2020 at 3:45 PM, Jotnotes said:

"Torie? Aaric!" She cried again. "I can't see in the dark, you guys!"

Torie’s ears swivelled. She thought she could hear a woman’s voice, but among the roaring of the water coming down the stairs and the hiss of the panicking salamanders beyond the portal gate, it was hard to tell.

Water lapped higher and higher. The flow had slowed a little but certainly hadn’t stopped. It occurred to her she might drown here. But then the water reached the edge of the portal and slipped over, into the world of fire.

Then there was a different kind of hissing.

Steam blocked out most of her view as the water entering the portal gate hit the magical fire beyond and vaporised. She could see the salamanders shrinking back in horror, but only their silhouettes now.

“Ha! Serves you right, ugly snakes! Water beats fire every time,” she roared, slapping the water beneath her with an enormous paw. More and more water poured over the portal threshold into the realm of fire, but then her ears twitched again.

That was definitely Priscilla.

“I’m here,” she shouted, as loud as she could – which was very loud indeed. “Pris?... I can’t see a way to get to you right now. Are you alright?”

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On 1/6/2020 at 3:17 PM, Venus Sprite said:

“I’m here,” she shouted, as loud as she could – which was very loud indeed. “Pris?... I can’t see a way to get to you right now. Are you alright?”

Torie's voice was clear and distinct, even in the dark although it was likely because she was shouting. Priscilla jammed her pinkie in one ear and twisted it back and forth, gritting her teeth as she attempted to rub the grating on her eardrums. 

"I'm fine, I think!" She called back, glancing down at the body she couldn't see. "I think I lost..." She glanced around in the dark, and groaned in frustration. "I lost my knife, I think. I can't see it here, anywhere." 

Her voice still bounced down the walls. There was no kind of light to speak of. She may as well have been dead. However, Torie seemed to be okay. That counted for something, right?

She remembered that her friend was injured before they fell down.

"Are you okay? What about the kobolds? Are they...." She paused, and  stopped speaking. They were thrown all over the place when the wave came crashing through. They were hurt before. It was best not to ask. 

"What about Aaric? Have you seen 'em?" She tossed a stone forward. It clacked against the stones again, bouncing down the cave. She shuffled forward.

"I think I'll be able to reach you if I keep going this way," She called, hopefully. "Just stay put, and I'll find my way towards you. Stay safe!" She added, under her breath. "...and don't leave me here alone, please."

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Torie’s ears swivelled left and right. Was the water getting louder, or Priscilla’s voice getting quieter?

 

On 1/12/2020 at 3:44 PM, Jotnotes said:

"I lost my knife, I think. I can't see it here, anywhere." 

“What can you see?” she said, sniffing around the walls, pushing on natural knobs and cracks for signs of a secret passage. Nothing.

The salamanders on the other side of the portal were shouting, but she could only just hear them above the roar of the steam. Water poured through the portal, into the land of fire. It was up to her elbows now, which meant it was almost three feet deep.

“I can’t see how to get to you,” she said, “But keep talking, loudly. She looked up, at the cavern’s roof, but couldn’t see past the slab of grey-red stone.

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On 1/18/2020 at 3:13 AM, Venus Sprite said:

What can you see?” she said, sniffing around the walls, pushing on natural knobs and cracks for signs of a secret passage. Nothing.

“I can’t see how to get to you,” she said, “But keep talking, loudly. She looked up, at the cavern’s roof, but couldn’t see past the slab of grey-red stone.

"Keep talking..." Priscilla muttered, then said again, louder. "Keep talking? If you're sure it's safe to do so!" 

Her eyes were adjusting to the lack of light, but there still wasn't any visible light to help her look around. She tossed another stone; it clacked off a wall pretty close by. She groaned in frustration, already annoyed with the effort.

"I can't see anything over here!" She called, clearly annoyed with her predicament. "I fell down...somewhere, and there's no natural light to be found."

She tossed another rock, and another, and another, walking wherever her voice continued to travel. She thought, for a moment, that she heard some other noise far off, like moving water. She guessed that made sense; the water that carried her down here had to be going somewhere, right?

She chucked another rock. Ping!

She paused, and walked towards the source of the sound slowly. Even here, in the dark, the runes swirled annoyingly in her vision. She wondered if that was even possible, if the runes were visible in such low light. Now she knew.

Approaching the source of the noise, Priscilla's movement was immediately halted as she collided with something roughly abdomen-high, made of metal. She stopped dead in her tracks, but almost pitched forward for a second, and she gave an involuntary cry of surprise.

"Aiiiie!"

She gripped the edge of it, and leaned back, breathing heavily until her heart stopped stomping. Her breathing slowed again, and she sighed, relieved.

"I-I'm okay, Torie! I just crashed into...what is this, anyway?" She gave it a shake, felt along it. It seemed heavy, somewhat rusted and box-shaped. She experimentally reached over it and down, revealing the unidentified object had volume, too. She gave it a kick; one of her boots bounced off an iron wheel, where it met the track beneath it.

"Oh! I found a cart!" She announced into the darkness. She continued holding on to it while moving around it in a clockwise fashion, stepping over the tracks on either end of the vehicle, and trying to get her bearings. If she found a cart on the rails, then she needed only to follow the cart in either direction to get to Torie, presumably. She gave the vehicle a push, only for it to farcically remain in place, unfazed by her physique.

Another groan of frustration.

"Great. Well, if I can get this to move, maybe we'll see results." She huffed. It was still too dark to see anything, so she had no idea if there were nearby tools or some kind of station she could check out first. With no other options, she climbed into the cart. It wasn't empty--it was filled with a large number of featureless stones that she couldn't see in the dark. They weren't terribly comfortable to sit on, but there was room for Priscilla at least. 

Once seated, she began shifting her weight forwards and backwards. The cart made a horrible noise in protest, but didn't move.

She sighed, annoyed.

"Well, Torie, I hope you're doing better than me!" She shouted again. "I might be here for another minute..." The runes in her eyes were beginning to infuriate her, persistent and annoying as they were. Still seated in her cart, she reached down and grabbed a few rocks, feeling them all over as she did so. Eventually, she found a few she could work with--one of them was long and spindly, like a very crude knife and the other had a long and flat edge, broken off neatly somehow. In order to keep herself occupied, she applied the sharper stone to the other, idly tracing the first rune to come to mind: Fire.

It was slow and painful going, just like Priscilla wanted. Holding the flat rock was difficult, so she set it on her knees and leaned back against the edge of the cart. The other, jagged piece was quite hard to hold comfortably, and she felt as though she might cut herself if she weren't careful. Yet, the soothing action calmed her temper somewhat, and she finished the rune easily.

Then the rock burst into flame, causing Priscilla to screech in shock, dropping it into the bottom of the cart.

Fire bloomed forth from the rune etched into the stone, illuminating everything inside the cart. Priscilla gazed upon stone after precious stone of--dare she even say it out loud-- Runeite. Runeite of varying sizes, shapes and pieces, some broken into rubble, others smooth and long. She stared in awe at the glowing rock, enraptured.

"Torie?" She remembered to call out again. "I'm okay! You've gotta see this, though! You gotta--" Priscilla realized she could look around, at last, and noticed a lever on the edge of the cart. A brake probably. 

She shrugged, and pulled it. With a horrible groan, the vehicle began to pitch forward, its burning cargo still crackling with energy.

"Nevermind!" She yelled. "I'll come to you!" Her voice was barely audible to herself, over the trundling of the little cart.

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On 1/28/2020 at 7:02 AM, Jotnotes said:

"Nevermind!" She yelled. "I'll come to you!"

“Sure,” Torie said, just as a boom sounded from the portal and the coiling metal making up its border disintegrated. They pinged off the stone walls of the room. Torie flinched backwards and blinked.

The portal was gone.

“I think we beat the salamanders,” she said, though now the water was up to her chin. Being a big round lioness, she was quite buoyant, but the fact that the water was still pouring into the room with nowhere to go wasn’t lost on her.

Torie sloshed over to the hole in the floor, currently blocked by the heavy wooden book case. She tried to shift it but it was stuck fast, and with the rising water, it was beginning to get hard to leverage.

Water was still pouring down the stairs, though not as strongly as it was before. Torie moved towards it with difficulty, half swimming, half walking.

Dragging herself up the staircase was even harder. She placed each foot carefully on the stone, making sure she had a firm grip against the current before stepping upwards. Her broad flanks pressed against the wall on either side, though thankfully, she was squishy enough to be able to pull herself between them.

But it was slow going.

“Pris?” she said, trying not to panic, feeling her strength failing, the water rising about her. “You nearly here? I could really use some…” she paused, thinking about how the little lady could help pull a one-ton tiger out of a flooding stairwell, and not thinking of anything at all. “… moral support!”

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The cart rattled and rocked as it thundered down the rail into the all-devouring dark. Just once, it popped audibly as it rolled over a stone and crushed it into sand. Safely interred within, Priscilla clutched the edge of the cart while she used her single glowing piece of runeite to investigate the contents of the cart.

The flaring light of the runeite cast a yellow-red glow over the various stones underneath her. The runesmith shoved several out of the way immediately, before grabbing from those a bit deeper in the pile. She could plainly see that although some definitely were runeite, many more were not. Where the light of her singular, fragile piece could not reach, she had a harder time sorting them at a glance. She plucked one free, and examined it, before tossing it from the moving cart.

"Hang on, Torie! I'll get to you, eventually!" She hollered, while picking up another piece of stone. This one had a smooth side to it, which gleamed in the firelight, flawless and sheer. She stuck it back into the cart and picked up another one.

She barely paid attention to the cart as it careened into the dark ahead, shifting and bouncing on the rails, heading ever downward as it descended however deeper into the tunnels.

On 2/1/2020 at 1:10 AM, Venus Sprite said:

“Pris?” she said, trying not to panic, feeling her strength failing, the water rising about her. “You nearly here? I could really use some…” she paused, thinking about how the little lady could help pull a one-ton tiger out of a flooding stairwell, and not thinking of anything at all. “… moral support!”

She tossed another rock out of the cart, and stood up. She cast firelight across the pathway ahead of her as the cart raced forward into darkness, but she couldn't see the tigress, despite how close she sounded.

"Torie?" She called out, glancing into the dark. "Torie, keep talking! I think I'm headed your --whoa!" She didn't see the glint of water before the cart struck it, and all of her momentum was stolen immediately as the cart splashed into water deep enough to halt its forward movement. It was heavy enough, thankfully, not to float off the rails. Priscilla reflexively yanked the brake, keeping both her and the cart from being dragged into the water. As the cart was silenced, the rumbling of the wheels was replaced by the low roar of rushing water not too far away, and the lapping of waves as water was tossed against makeshift shores. She held her single piece of runeite up high, glancing around the water-filled chamber. She was on the far side of whatever this chamber was, where the rail led ever deeper into the mine. Beyond the surface of the water, she couldn't see much, even with her fire lighting up the space around her.

Somewhere close by, the water suddenly agitated, and Priscilla leapt back from the water's edge. 

"W-whoa!" She cried in alarm, holding her bit of fire before her. Ahead of her, deep in the water, she watched something thrash around beneath the surface. She glanced around for something to clobbering the unexpected sea beast, and found only a heavy-looking rock. The splashing grew louder, and closer, and she spun around, ready to hurl the stone into the depths, only to see a familiar paw lashing out of the water. 

"Torie!" Priscilla yelped. She discarded her rock, and set her runeite down before surging into the water, grabbing the tigress by one of her toes, before grasping the rest of the paw. She wasn't necessarily weak, but lately her exploits hadn't prepared her for hauling such a heavy catch. It took a great amount of effort, but she eventually pulled the tiger towards her 'shore' and out of the water. By the time Torie's face came above the surface, gasping for air, Priscilla was exhausted, and released the tiger, dropping onto her rump and taking a seat next to her chunk of glowing rock. Half of her was totally soaked again, while her upper body was only somewhat damp. 

"Well!" She huffed, hugging her knees to her chest. "I heard that tigers can swim upriver in the jungles around Fracture. I guess those were lies, huh?"

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1 hour ago, Jotnotes said:

"Well!" She huffed, hugging her knees to her chest. "I heard that tigers can swim upriver in the jungles around Fracture. I guess those were lies, huh?"

“Not lies,” Torie said, thoughtfully, between gasps for air. “But swimming up twisting staircases only half your width is another matter. Plus, wild tigers are fitter than me."

She was content to just sit at the shoreline for a moment, letting the water run off her fur, gazing about at the chamber they now found themselves in. Her tiger eyes could see well even in the low light. It was artificial like the entrance of the cave, wooden beams overhead, crumbling stone all around. Metal tracks ran into the darkness. She was grateful for the low light. Wet Torie was much less an impressive sight than dry, fluffy Torie. The water highlighted the rolls of fat behind her ears and the big one just in front of her rear legs.

“I hope there’s some salamanders left around,” she said. “I’m famished.” Feeling guilty, she added, “I hope Aaric and the kobolds are alright too.” She sniffed the air, but got no hint of them.

Then she turned to Priscilla and pulled her into a big, wet, squishy hug. “It’s really good to see you! Thanks for saving my life, by the way,” she said, releasing her. “We should wait for the water to subside, then look for Aaric and the kobolds. There’s a whole chamber below here that-“

There was a deep rumble beneath them, as if something had given way, and the water over the staircase began swirling downwards.

“Oh, the book case must have given way,” Torie said, heaving herself to her feet. “That’s good! We can start looking for Aaric and the others, and I’ll show you the portal. It was made out of mithril. The pieces of it might be really valuable!”

By the end of her talk she was yelling, as the water level receded and swirled down into darkness with a roar almost as loud as Torie’s best. But a few moments later only a trickle remained, as if the source of the water had exhausted itself.

Torie looked down at the winding staircase cut into the stone floor with apprehension. “Actually, maybe you should go have a look down there yourself. I don’t think I really want to go down and then back up again. But there were book shelves and scrolls and all kinds of things down there. Maybe stuff a wizard would buy?” She grinned hopefully. “Also the cave goes on below the chamber, so maybe the kobolds got washed down the hole before the book case fell over it.”

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On 2/4/2020 at 7:58 PM, Venus Sprite said:

“Not lies,” Torie said, thoughtfully, between gasps for air. “But swimming up twisting staircases only half your width is another matter. Plus, wild tigers are fitter than me."

She was content to just sit at the shoreline for a moment, letting the water run off her fur, gazing about at the chamber they now found themselves in. Her tiger eyes could see well even in the low light. It was artificial like the entrance of the cave, wooden beams overhead, crumbling stone all around. Metal tracks ran into the darkness. She was grateful for the low light. Wet Torie was much less an impressive sight than dry, fluffy Torie. The water highlighted the rolls of fat behind her ears and the big one just in front of her rear legs.

Priscilla sat on her duff next to the tigress, and stared into the water. Earlier it had continued to rise, or at least remain level, but now it was noticably moving again, in a long, slow swirl around the outskirts of the pool. She stared at it, amused for a while. Somewhere far away, rocks crumbled off an unstable wall. Next to them the cart remained immobile.

On 2/4/2020 at 7:58 PM, Venus Sprite said:

“I hope there’s some salamanders left around,” she said. “I’m famished.” Feeling guilty, she added, “I hope Aaric and the kobolds are alright too.” She sniffed the air, but got no hint of them.

Then the tigress turned to her, and wrapped her clumsy paws around her. Priscilla smiled, and hugged the tigress close. She smelled not unlike a wet cat, with various smells clinging to her wet outer hairs. It was unpleasant, but her warmth was nice and comfortable. 

On 2/4/2020 at 7:58 PM, Venus Sprite said:

“It’s really good to see you! Thanks for saving my life, by the way,” she said, releasing her.

 

On 2/4/2020 at 7:58 PM, Venus Sprite said:

“We should wait for the water to subside, then look for Aaric and the kobolds. There’s a whole chamber below here that-“

 

There was a deep rumble beneath them, as if something had given way, and the water over the staircase began swirling downwards.

Priscilla got up along with her, and watched as the water began to vanish. As it drained away, there was an audible, groaning sound like a massive drain sucking noisily at the air above it. Priscilla swatted herself clean, and picked up her singular piece of runeite.

On 2/4/2020 at 7:58 PM, Venus Sprite said:

“Oh, the book case must have given way,” Torie said, heaving herself to her feet. “That’s good! We can start looking for Aaric and the others, and I’ll show you the portal. It was made out of mithril. The pieces of it might be really valuable!”

 

By the end of her talk she was yelling, as the water level receded and swirled down into darkness with a roar almost as loud as Torie’s best. But a few moments later only a trickle remained, as if the source of the water had exhausted itself.

 

Torie looked down at the winding staircase cut into the stone floor with apprehension. “Actually, maybe you should go have a look down there yourself. I don’t think I really want to go down and then back up again. But there were book shelves and scrolls and all kinds of things down there. Maybe stuff a wizard would buy?” She grinned hopefully. “Also the cave goes on below the chamber, so maybe the kobolds got washed down the hole before the book case fell over it.”

"Jeez, this thing just keeps going on and on, huh?" She stepped down the stone stairs towards the hole in the earth slowly. The steps were still slick with water, and she was careful not to lose her grip.

"Wonder if the mine cart heads down here, too." She stepped down another step, and then another. The hole below seemed almost to eye her as she stepped towards it. "Or maybe the folks in this cave dug too deep, into something else entirely." 

Eventually, she reached the bottom of the steps. The hole in the ground wasn't terribly big--roughly large enough that if Priscilla were to lean forward off her boots, she would bonk her head on the other side before falling in to her presumed death. She crouched down, amid the soggy books and scorched wood, and investigated the hole. The ring of mithril around the hole was dense and widespread. She brushed a few layers of loose stone aside, and found more underneath. Sticking her head and runeite into the hole and glancing around, she found that the vein stretched some distance in two directions in a long, jagged gash-like shape. 

However, more pressing was the cave below. Specifically how it wasn't actually a cave, but actually appeared to be a long, narrow tunnel made of volcanic rock. As far as she could look in either direction, the cave system went on and on and on, occasionally flecked with smouldering magma, and the rare glint of precious metals, hewn away to make room for something to move. The ground was particularly smooth directly where she guessed that she would fall, as if heavily worn by footfalls.

Very curious.

Priscilla ignored the books for now, and instead climbed back up the steps. She slipped once, and bit her tongue in the process, but ignored the pain and moved to the top to talk with Torie.

"It looks like whoever owned the mine before us found an underground volcano." She piped up once she was at the top of the stairs. Priscilla pointed down into the hole. "That leads into long, narrow tunnels made of volcanic rock, with some lava here and there. That explains the mithril, too; I'm guessing there's tonnes of valuable ore below this mine. Probably runeite, too."

However, this didn't answer the question on both of their minds. "As for the salamanders? They probably don't live down in the volcano, but maybe this hole the miners dug was able to act as a sort of portal for them. They must've come from somewhere else."

She didn't say anything about Aaric, or the kobolds to Torie. She didn't see anything, and couldn't venture a guess, either. She did offer her a pat on the shoulder, though.

"Well, mighty Trashkill. Let's hope your faithful subjects are waiting for us on the surface. We gotta go."

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On 2/11/2020 at 1:13 PM, Jotnotes said:

"Well, mighty Trashkill. Let's hope your faithful subjects are waiting for us on the surface. We gotta go."

Torie hoped against hope to see someone when they exited the cave, especially Aaric. It was she who had sent him off to detonate the dynamite. It had exploded very quickly after he had left. Had he been caught in the blast? If so, surely she would have smelled something of him coming from the tunnel, but the trickle of water seemed clean. No sign of blood or guts.

She approached the exit gladly, wearily, squinting as her eyes adjusted. It was full day outside, mid morning, perhaps. Their cart still sat nearby, though the salamander carcasses had been moved. Their mithril armor was stacked neatly near the wagon.

The cauldron was also set up, tended by small, scaly figures. A pleasant smell hit her in the face.

“Salamander stew!” Torie said, running forwards.

“For you, mighty Trashkill,” Shank said, stepping down from his ladder to reach the top of the cauldron and bowing. Inside a salamander body sat bubbling away. That was the good thing about salamanders. Throw them into water and they cook themselves.

“Shank! Are you alright?” Torie said, stepping forward quickly to sniff the kobold all over. He was battered, but his wounds had been patched with some degree of skill. She counted the others: one, two, three four… and then a fifth stepped out of the wagon.

“Excellent work,” she added, before Shank could speak. Two kobolds skewered the salamander through its neck and then worked together to heave it out of the cauldron, onto a patch of stone rinsed for the very purpose.

“Eat, mighty Trashkill. Regain your strength.”

Torie only then rembered she was injured – the burn in the centre of her chest. “I have not lost my strength,” she said bossily, though felt herself salivate at the sight of the salamander. “Though I will eat. You’ve done a fine job. Take an arm. Share it among your comrades.”

Shank did so, bending over gingerly and separating it from the shoulder with his knife. Torie dug into the rest, a look of bliss on her face as she crunched through boiled bone and tender flesh. She sent the kobolds back to the cart for the seasoning and showed them how to cook the next and improve the flavour.

Only after she was thoroughly stuffed did she notice Priscilla staring, a look of horror on her face. Perhaps it was her lack of manners. Torie swallowed and cleared her throat.

“Did you want some, too? You really should try it.” She tore off a strip of muscle from the outer thigh, or what would have been the outer thigh if the snake people had thighs, and held it out to Priscilla.

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