From Dusk to Dawn [RanixAurus x Peaches]

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by Ranix Aurus, May 20, 2015.

  1. Hiii~ Hooo~ Hiii~ Hooo~

    Tharin's pickaxe pierced the rocky wall of his tunnel with each swing. Each hii and hoo alternated with the sound of metal breaking through rocks, producing a weirdly satisfying melody. Tharin's tunnel was one of the longest among his peers; not that it was a compliment. Tharin was a weird kind of Dwarf. While his race loves to dig tunnels through the northern mountain of Dragnir, they did that for the sake of taking out the metals lying deep within. Tharin's motivation was a bit...different.

    Hiii~ Hooo~ Hiii~ Hooo~

    He just love to dig tunnels. Through and through and through. His goal? To see the end of this tunnel, to see where this long, claustrophobic corridor leads to. At first, he would finish his job around the clock and go back to his settlement. As the tunnel grew longer, Tharin decided that he would rather bring more supply and keep on working until his supply depleted. And thus the frequency of Tharin returning to the settlement grew less and less. At this point, he had brought the largest amount of supply yet and had continuing his work non-stop for a week. As dwarven food were processed so they decay slower, he should not worry about supply for at least another week.

    Hiii~ Hooo~ Hiii~ Hooo~

    Not that he would need it, since he could feel it right now. The rocks were weaker, they break faster, as if not made from dirt. This is it. The moment that he was waiting for. He had finally reached the end of his journey.


    One final swing broke the thin layer of rock in front of him, and light burst forth into his eyes, replacing the dim light of his makeshift lantern.
  2. Ilphril wasn't sure she'd ever get used to surface supplies.

    The dark-skinned elf sat around her makeshift camp, a stick between her teeth. A needle and thread was being pushed and pulled into her skin, stitching up a deep slit in her forearm. It seemed that her people were still trying to hunt her down for her role in assisting a fugitive in escaping their massive, sprawling underground home known as the Underdark. The dark elves - the Drow - hadn't tried to hunt her down themselves, oh no. The Drow weapons and armors, crafted deep in the vicious and wicked caverns that they called home, disintegrated upon being touched by sunlight. They had instead hired some surface assassins and the wound had resulted from their battle.

    It was so primitive, using this needle and the thread. Back home she would just visit a healing cavern and her skin would have been sealed with magic. It might not have even left a scar. But this... this was going to scar and it was going to be ugly. A skilled archer had fired a arrow at her and the sizzle as it grazed her arm had made her sure it had been loaded with some kind of poison and acid. The acid had cauterized the wound, sealing the poison inside, so she had been forced to open her own forearm to fish out the poison.

    It was a bad day so far.

    Ilphril finished stitching up her arm, scowling at her rough handiwork. What she wouldn't give for some healing magic... or some enchanted Drow armor or even her original scimitars that had turned into black dust when she had originally first come to the surface.

    Now she was stuck with her clunky human-made scimitars and some kind of ugly leather armor made from a cow or something. Who had ever heard of using a mammal to make armor? Back home they had used skin from the giant lizards that roamed underground.

    "I need to stop being so damn nostalgic," she muttered under her breath, standing and stretching. Her white hair fell over her bare purple-gray shoulder; while stitching up her wound she had stripped her arm from the pauldron to the gauntlet on her left side in order to access the wound.

    Ilphril had just begun to reattach her armor when she heard a noise. Not more assassins, she mentally begged. She didn't want to kill anymore hired men and women. She honestly just wanted to go take a bath in one of the hot springs nearby and find something good to eat since her stomach was rumbling.

    Luckily, it wasn't more assassins. It was... a pickaxe? Were the Drow finally trying to tunnel up to her? It had been clever as hell - distracting her with assassins while they tunneled their way to the surface. But would they go through all that trouble? Especially when there wasn't a Drow city underground anywhere near where she had been camping...

    "I thought you would have given up the chase by now," she said in Drow tongue, snatching her scimitars from where she had set them down earlier. Ilphril switched to the common tongue as she took a defensive stance, ignoring the tug of the stitches as she moved. "Relentless, aren't you?"
  3. "Whooo!"

    The sunray hitting his eyes was not comfortable, to say the least. Dwarves were not averse to sunlight, but the sudden change from dimly-lit corridor to full-blown world of light knocked him out senseless. Still standing wobbly within his corridor, Tharin rapidly blinked, hoping that the gesture would help his eyes adjust faster.

    It was within this confused moment that he heard grumbles from outside the tunnel, where the light was coming from. The voice sounds...angry? Tired, wary...but mostly full of hatred. For Great Delanor's sake, did he just broke through someone's house or something? He didn't give his tunnel any plan initially so the chance of him stumbling upon someone else's abode is highly likely.

    "Eeeey! Sorry, sorry! I wasn't trying to crash through your place or something! 'Tis just a random tunnel that I dug for fun, so I meant no harm..."

    Still partially blinded from the sunlight, Tharin stepped out into the world. A midget by human standard like all the other dwarves out there, Tharin only need a small hole the size of a child's to exit his tunnel. His golden locks reaching his back shone under the sunlight, as well as his tan skin glistened with sweat from the entire hard work of digging. Actually, it would have been quite funny to see the small guy swinging his pickaxe around, wobbly from the blindness.

    A few seconds later his eyes finally adjust. He finally opened his eyes, half-expecting to see an angry house owner whose wall he had pierced through. Instead he was greeted with quite a sight. Seeing an elf was a rarity enough, but to see a dark elf was something outside of his dream.

    Also to note, it was not in someone's house but actually a clearing close to a cliff. Exactly how far had he went from his Fourth Settlement in Dragnir?

    "Uh..." He return back his focus to the person now in front of him, clearly as confused as he is. "H-Hi?"
  4. It was... a dwarf.

    "This is... unexpected," Ilphril said, raising an amused eyebrow as the dwarf wheeled around. He was clearly not used to the sunlight, something she could understand. That first burst of bright light had been painful on her eyes all those months ago, too. Her armor and weapons crumbling into dark ash had also been equally surprising, but it seemed like his pickaxe was fine.

    "It is not my place," she said, a silvery blush rising to her cheeks. The clearing was fine (disregarding the three dead bodies that had been piled behind a large fallen tree trunk a few yards away), but she didn't want to claim it as her place of residence. "Simply a place I am staying for the moment..."

    She had decided he was not a threat. Not a big one, anyway. He was smaller than she; though she was shorter than a human and slighter, Ilphie wasn't nearly as small as this dwarf. She could definitely take him in a fight if it turned out he was some clever assassin in disguise as a confused dwarf.

    "Ah - hello. I apologize for the rude welcome," she said, loosely gripping the hilts of her scimitars. "I was expecting... someone else. Clearly. Are you a runaway? Some kind of dwarven fugitive? Why do you vacate your underground realm armed with nothing but a pickaxe? Very unprepared, even if you were just excavating for fun."

    How odd. She had never met a dwarf before. Was this normal behavior for them? Digging tunnels just for amusement? Ilphril eyed him warily, not quite sure whether or not she should lower her weapons. "Is there a dwarven settlement nearby? Is that where you came from?"

    Truthfully, she was relived. If there was a dwarven city beneath her feet then that meant there wouldn't be Drow anywhere nearby. The dark elves liked their privacy and were honestly a bit elitist and racist when it came to other humanoids, so they wouldn't be trading with the city.
  5. He couldn't believe himself, even with the dark elf herself standing right in front of him. Her speak was fluent, articulated in the Common Language every race generally understand, although Tharin recognized the tingling accent different from other races within her words. It was the same as dwarves, whereas humans would say that dwarves' words were "rough, unrefined, like the sound of dust paper on metalic surface". The dark elf accent was, at least for him, soothing. Sad, but beautiful nonetheless.

    Stories of the Drows, Dark Elves, in his people's lore weren't the best there was, you can even say that Dwarves treated Dark Elves with caution and disgust worse than their worst behavior reserved for humans. Being both races that lives within the confines of earth's underground world, Dwarves did their best to avert themselves from Dark Elves' presence. And the Drows likewise. While their reason could be different, separation was the choice both race silently chose to retain their relative peace among each other.

    Therefore for Tharin, to be standing here now and even talk in the presence of this dark elf was an experience of his lifetime. The problem with such encounter was that tongue tend to lock and body tend to shiver out of nervousness.

    "He-hello, ah, where's my ma-manner. I-I-I...AHEM," he coughed, trying to regain back his composure. It worked somehow.

    "I am Tharin, son of Thearon. And no, I am not a fugitive. I am a proud member of the Fourth Settlement of Dragnir. My presence here is actually for important business! Yes, an important business! I was...err...uh..."

    He sighed.

    "Okay, I was just having fun. Digging tunnel is my hobby, ya know. This tunnel here, it leads to my settlement. Although I'm not sure that it's still true since I dug without thinking about making proper supporting pillars...but if things come to worst I can just dug the way again."

    Tharin eyed his tunnel entrance with pride as if it's the most beautiful thing in the world. As if suddenly remembering something, he dashed back into the tunnel only to pull out a large bag clearly stuffed with various...things.

    "I almost forgot about my supplies. I wouldn't want the tunnel to cave in and buried them whole...ah yeah! Speaking of which!"

    With serious face he turned back to the dark elf and asked,

    "Where...the hell is this actually? How far is this place from Mount Dragnir?"
  6. Ilphril forced herself to keep a straight face as he spluttered around for his words and finally introduced himself as Tharin, son of Thearon. She rubbed the back of her neck awkwardly. "Is... is that someone important?" she wondered aloud. "Should I perhaps be bowing to you, son of Thearon?"

    Honestly, she didn't keep up with the royals and other dwarven cultures. Did they even have kings? Maybe they were on an elected system... she didn't remember. The Drow focused on their own society first and foremost and any other culture she had picked up over the years would have trickled down in the gossip vine or from unreliable sources.

    Oh, no - he said he was there for important business. He was definitely a royal or a son of a politician or someone equally important. Ilphie knew she should have bowed. Her mouth opened to issue some kind of apology, but it took him only a few seconds to sigh and then let the truth come out.

    He just liked digging. She smiled slightly. "You had me worried, Tharin."

    He disappeared with a surprising amount of energy and swiftness, only to reappear with a large bag that looked like it was stuffed full of his supplies. "Mount Dragnir?" she echoed, a blank look on her face. "Is that... near here? I am not used to surface geography, truth be told."

    She briefly eyed his sack of things, wondering if there was some kind of poisonous weapon inside or a magic scepter that would freeze her into stone for eternity. Could dwarves do magic? Why hadn't she listened to the gossiping merchants more when she still lived underground?

    "Where are my manners?" she said suddenly, her maroon eyes snapping to his face as she realized she had been awkwardly staring at his sack of goodies. "I'm Capt -" Ilphril caught herself. She was no longer captain of the guard. "I'm Ilphril Torana."
  7. "Ah...I see, it's the same as me then. I also don't keep up much with places outside my settlement. Oh, also nice to meet you, lady Ilphril,"

    Tharin gave her a slight bow. He reckon this kind of gesture was the normal manners in the outside world.

    "Thearon? No no, he was not some important stuff or something, my father was a stonesmith like my uncles and great-parents. Me myself was not interested in doing that kind of job. I'm more interested was here i guess..."

    He opened the bag and searched inside. After a few swear here and there he finally pulled out a parchment made from cow's hide. This kind of material was better for writings when living in the depth of a mountain. Human's so-called "paper" disintegrated too quickly due to the damp environment. On the parchment was drawn the shape of the continent complete with names inscribed on each area.

    "Neat, is it not? It is a map that I found in the old grandma's shop. According to this map, mount Dragnir is located in the northern part of the continent."

    He showed the map to Ilphril, pointing toward the upper part of the drawing covered with pointy shapes annotating mountainous region. On the area was inscribed the name "Dragnir". Then he pointed to a place in the center of the mountain, then dragged his finger to the left.

    "This here is the Fourth Settlement. I was digging westward, so if we are somewhere in this map it should be i don't know how far I've gone is the problem."
  8. She snorted. "It's just Ilphril," she insisted, watching him bow. Nobody had ever bowed to her before. At least not upon the surface. People here seemed wary of her, like they were sure that she was up to no good because dark elves were so rarely seen outside of their homes. "No need to bow. Below I was captain of the guards. Here I am just Ilphril, neither a lady or a captain anymore."

    It had sure been a hard change. She had been used to having people at her command and guards to order. She had organized raids, defended her city, and patrolled at night to solve crimes. Up here she was just wandering around in search of... she wasn't sure what she was in search of. Somewhere that felt like home, maybe, somewhere she wouldn't be looked at twice.

    "Ah, a stonesmith," she said, carefully watching him search inside his bag. "More interested in digging?"

    Now this was a map. Ilphril stepped closer, hovering over his shoulder as she gazed down at the map. This was made out of cowhide, something she still didn't quite understand, but at least it would last longer than the flimsy paper parchment she had seen before. "So you're trying to reach Mount Dragnir?"
    She looked up from the map, squinting as she looked in the distance. "Well, there are certainly mountains everywhere. Is it the highest one? Or... there's an oddly shaped one over there..."

    She shrugged, aware she was pure rubbish at this. Everything was different up here. "If you need help finding it, I'll escort you there if you'd like. You are unarmed and this is dangerous territory. Monsters and assassins, not to mention steep cliffs. I have some climbing equipment and I know how to defend myself - and you, if you need defending on your way to this place."

    Truthfully, she wanted to get out of this place. Her battle with the assassins had set her on edge and she had been wondering if there were more nearby.
  9. Tharin let out a hearty laugh, dismissing her rather gloomy concern. "Nah, it's okay, my fair lady. Dwarves are not known for our adherence to protocol. You are a lady enough for this crass peasant, that's fer sure. As for my home, I don't know what the shape of it is, but no need to worry too much. I was just interested to know where my tunnel led to. I can always just go home by following this tunnel, see." He lifted his bag with an oomph, then slowly moving toward the opening in the rocky wall. Seeing that his tunnel managed to reach the outside world was good enough for him, even though he was oblivious to where this really was. Not to mention that he could meet Ilphril. This is enough adventure for now.

    "Actually, how about you follow me through my tunnel? The Dark Elves' abodes are underground too, right? I can make a detour dig to your home if you need..."

    Thump. Thump. Thump.

    Tharin couldn't finish his words. Just when he stepped inside the tunnel, a loud grumbling noise echoed inside the tight corridor. He knew the sound more than anything else in the world, and the sight in front of him confirmed it immediately.

    Thump. Thump. Thump.

    The tunnel's ceiling was collapsing!

    Thump. Thump. Thump.

    Darn it, he knew that the tunnel would collapse sooner or later without proper support, but he didn't expect it to be this fast! What should he do now? This tunnel is the only direction that he know leads to his home. Without it, how can he find his way back?

    Thump. Thump. Thump.

    Digging back the tunnel is out of the option, since he would just make blind guesses on where to go. Not to mention his supplies wouldn't last for another three or four days, there is no way that he could...


    Nonono, to start with, isn't this location kind of dangerous?

    "GAAAAAAH!" Snapping his sense back to reality, Tharin jumped backward with all his might. Just in the nick of time, he managed to get out from the tunnel right as the ceiling of the entrance caved in. There goes his way back home. He is now stranded in the outside world.
    Laying on his back, looking at the floating cloud on the sky lazily moving along without care in the world, Tharin laughed nervously. His eyes peered back to the Dark Elf. Guess there is no choice.

    "Say, Lady Ilphril...can I still take your offer, by the way...?"
  10. "True enough," she agreed as he mentioned he could just follow the tunnel back to his home. How on earth he had managed to dig a tunnel large enough for himself to pass through (it was true he wasn't very large, but it still would have been an immense amount of work) she didn't quite understand. Initially she had buried the bodies of her would-be killers, but it had been a lot of work and a lot of sweat in the surface sun. Not to mention it was a lot of work for people she didn't know - and the people that had just tried to kill her! Now she tended to just leave them where they fell or move them behind bushes.

    He was suggesting that she follow him into his tunnel. Ilphril blushed lightly again, shaking her head. "Not necessary, I... ah...." She wasn't sure how to phrase it. She technically wasn't banished. Nobody had said those words to her. But she had assisted a criminal in escaping, assisted him to the surface, and that was surely something that would lead to banishment (or worse!) if she had stuck around to see the outcome. "I have no interest in returning."

    Ilphril finally sheathed her scimitars, contemplating elaborating upon her reasons for not returning. But there seemed to be a bigger, more pressing matter: his tunnel was apparently collapsing.

    And he... wasn't moving out of the way.

    Ilphril realized that he wasn't moving just as he came to his senses. She had reached out slender fingers to grab at the back of his clothing, but he was already shooting himself backward with a mighty jump. "Let's not do that again," she said, extending a hand to offer to help him up.

    It seemed he was going to accept her offer. Not that he had any choice, really - his path had collapsed and he would have to either spend time digging a new tunnel or find another way back to his home. It didn't seem like he had enough supplies in his sack for the days it would take him to make the tunnel again, so that left him with one option. "Only if you just call me Ilphril," she insisted, going back to where she had left her shoulder armor and gauntlets. She reattached them, buckling them down and then picking up her own large pack of various supplies and tools. "Or I'll start calling you Lord Tharin, son of Thearon, Official Digger of Tunnels. It's certainly a mouthful."
  11. Tharin's face flashed red hearing her called his name like that. Okay, being called like that was way embarassing...he noted that to himself. He accepted the hand outstretched to him and, using it as balance, jumped back to his feet. His supply bag seems to be okay, so that was a good thing amidst this chaos. Although he couldn't help but stared longingly on the once-entrance of his tunnel. It was a work of love, even if it didn't live for long. Well, it was fun while it lasted.

    "'Kay then, La...I mean Ilphril. Just Ilphril," he quickly corrected himself. "Now that we have a united view of this situation, let's start on the journey. I wonder what our next plan should be though. The trees seems to be going on and on...actually, is this what they called a forest? We don't have this kind of thing in Dragnir."

    He stared into the layers of trees surrounding the clearing, thick enough to obstruct visions ahead. With the harsh condition of mount Dragnir, no large patch of trees could grow, not even to say large-trunk kind of trees like the ones in this area. Tharin couldn't help but become mesmerized by how high the trees grew, the awe augmented by his already-low body height. He rubbed his stubbled chin out of habit, the golden beard which Dwarves were famous to had not apparent on his face. Beard was in the way of his work, was his way of thinking.

    "Oh," he snapped, "darn, I keep on getting distracted here in the surface. La...Ilphril, Ilph. I think you better lead the way. I'm really clueless about directions. Here,"

    He threw the map to Ilphril.

    "This might be useful."
  12. She laughed as his face turned red. A taste of his own medicine seemed to get the point across about using a more formal name and she helped him to his feet as he accepted her help. "There will be other tunnels," she promised as she caught him looking at the rubble where his tunnel used to be. "Besides, this one came with a great story, so I think it didn't go to waste."

    At least, it was a great story for her. She had never met a dwarf before and certainly had never had anyone appear out of a mountainside near her camp.

    "Ilphril," she confirmed, gripping the straps of her pack as she watched him stare at the trees. She smiled again, remembering her own experience on the surface. The sun had been insanely bright, the wind a bit spooky, and the absence of a ceiling had shaken her a bit. "My friends called me Ilphie, if that's better."

    It was a childish nickname, one spawned by her younger brother who had been unable to properly pronounce her full name in his younger years. "Yes, this is a forest," she said, nodding. "Isn't it strange how there's nothing above you? It's just air for forever. No cave top, no stalactites. Just emptiness."

    She didn't interrupt him as he was utterly absorbed in thought and awe, just stood silent and stared off into the distance so he wouldn't feel too awkward. "Not a problem, I felt the same way," Ilphril assured him, taking the map from him. "Alright, but if we get lost and eaten by beasts or walk off a cliff, remember you chose me to read the map."

    The Drow paused for a moment, before reaching down to the side of her boot and pulling out a large dagger. "And you might find this useful," she said, flipping it so she held the blade and offered him the hilt. "Hopefully you won't need to use it, but just in case."

    She looked at the map once more, glancing back at their surroundings. She had been near some small village a few days ago and she was fairly sure it was in... that direction? "I think this way is east," she pointed back down the path that she had come from.

    "So if you wish to go back in the direction of your settlement - or did you want to go to another mountain? Is there another entrance to some... dwarven tunnels that lead you home? Ack, everything up here is so confusing. I miss having three tunnels to choose from and hoping you'd get to your destination..."
  13. The Dwarf laughed from her jokes. "It'll be fine. We Dwarves are used to smack away our problems rather than thinking around it. If any beast spring up on us we'll make it our dinner instead." While saying that, he gestured a refusal to her dagger. Instead he put back the pickaxe dangling on his hand into the sack, and in return pulled out a hammer.

    It wasn't the type used for smithing works. The handle boasts intricate ornaments, and its head was made from sturdy obsidian stone, fragmented in wavy pattern to ease the process of smashing it to whatever target Tharin wants it to go. It was not stone and its kin for sure. Whatever the thing was designed to bash would bleed and keel over.

    "I prefer to do things the rough way," said the Dwarf with smug grin on his face, the hammer being toyed around on his right hand. From the way he swung it around with ease, Tharin should've had at least basic proficiency using it.

    "What's with da three tunnels ya talking about? That sounds interesting," his eyes glittered upon the mention of tunnels, such afficionado. "Ah but we're getting off-track again, forgive me. Let's see...I do want to return home a.s.a.p., but to do it we need to be sure of our direction. Hmm...oh yeah, you seems to have stayed in the surface for quite a while. Do you know someone or someplace where we can confirm our location or something?"
  14. "You're very confident," she observed as he refused her dagger because he sure that they could take on any beast and eat it for dinner instead. Ilphril flipped the dagger in her hand again, catching the hilt and putting it back into her boot. "Either way, I am sure we'll be just fine."

    The idea of eating whatever attacked them made her a little queasy. In the Underdark they ate mostly the creatures that lived under there with them - giant lizards, sometimes snakes, some giant blind cave fish that swam in the expansive lake on the edge of her former home. Mammals were rare unless someone had specifically brought some down from the surface to raise in the damp underground. Those were meals for the richer Drow, not for her. She had respect as she was captain of the city guards, but respect didn't mean pockets overflowing with coin and beef.

    "I'll let you make a snack of it. I don't like these surface animals. They taste... odd," she finally settled for the word after a moment of struggling to find the right descriptor. "I miss lizard stew and cave fish."

    She was a little jealous as he pulled out his hammer. It was beautiful, perhaps crafted by his own people and it looked perfectly deadly. "Tenderize and kill all in one stroke?" Ilphril smiled, making sure he knew she was joking.

    "Our cities are mostly located in big caverns, built on platforms and such, but sometimes people live outside of the caverns. There are tunnels that lead to other caverns or other paths and you can get mostly everywhere with just a few tunnels. Everything is a path. Not like this out here, where you can walk in any direction and go anywhere as long as you have the right equipment," she explained. No wonder it was so easy to get lost up here.

    "There's a town a ways back," Ilphril pointed down the mountain path. "It's clear that way. I was there a few days ago but it won't take days to get there, since I was lingering and camping for a few nights."

    She hesitated. Should she tell him that she was technically a wanted fugitive? In all honestly it probably wouldn't come up in their time together... she had just dispatched those assassins and it seemed unlikely that they would try again so soon. Ilphril decided not to. They would be safe enough.
  15. Tharin nodded approvingly when she mentioned about cave fish. There are plenty in Dragnir, especially in the Fourth Settlement with its underground rivers. Lizard stew wasn't really the best option for a meal though. "Eh, surface animals are nice. Those little furry horned ones humans called lambs, they have tender flesh when you bite into them. The meat is sweet and juicy. We grew those things underground. Turns out those creatures are resilient enough to live without sunlight." What Tharin referred to as lambs were actually mountain goats overpriced by a few shady human merchants. For Dwarves' strong teeth, goat meat wouldn't be a problem to chew on so they didn't know the difference anyway.

    Ilph's description about her home was actually not that far off from Dwarves' abodes. Tharin could imagine it clearly in his mind. "It's similar to us then. Only that our place was not a cavern per se. We kind of broke a hole through the entire mountain to make our settlement. You can call it Dwarves-made cavern if you would like to. Also, we don't have much tunnels going outside. The only entrance is located in the First Settlement. If you want to go outside from other exit, you dig it yourself. But of course nobody is diligent enough to dig in the first place. I think I am the first Dwarf ever in my generation that managed to do that, ho ho ho~"

    Tharin stopped his steps as Ilphril pointed toward the path downward. A town, eh? A surface town. This would be the first time he ever saw a settlement in the outside world. This adventure keeps on giving him firsts on everything.

    "Sounds good to me. We just need to follow this path, right? Not even good ol' me would get lost that way, heh heh. Let's go."

    He lead the way down the mountain path, humming an upbeat yodel, the kind that miners liked to sing when they're working. The large sack on his back swung left and right with each step that he took.
  16. "To sweet and tender for me. I'm used to stringy texture. Stringy snakes, stringy lizards, stringy cave fish, stringy root vegetables," Ilphril said, speaking not with disgust but with a wistful longing. The humans didn't understand why she didn't like their food. It was too soft, too mushy. Stringy and tough food was what she had been raised on, so it was what she thought was good. "They've got some good lizards and snakes, but they're tiny... and I don't know which ones are venomous, so it's a little scary."

    Dwarf-made caverns sounded odd. They had forced their way into the mountains and broken holes and made caverns and tunnels, whereas Drow used whatever was already there and made it suit their purposes and styles. "You dig it yourself? That's not at all like us," she hesitated, trying to not sound offending in what she was about to say next. "Drow think that digging is... for dwarves. And therefore it's below us, apparently, so we only use what's already there. Congratulations on being the only dwarf to tunnel to the outside. Will the other dwarves be happy about that?"

    If he had been a Drow, his non-conformity probably wouldn't have been well-received. But maybe all dwarves were like this. Maybe they all broke boundaries and were innovative and weird like Tharin.

    And then he began to... sing? Yodel? Yell in some kind of pain? Ilphril frowned, starting down after him with the rocks being kicked up under her thick boots. "Listen, maybe we shouldn't make too much noise. I don't want to attract attention."
  17. Tharin kept up a few good miles of walking while still humming his song. The path was a dirt road, clearly not a natural one at that. The clearing must've been a resting place for hunters in the area, where they can stop to rest for a bit or even camped out the night. As such, there's no really danger of beast coming to intercept them, since they would know better than going to the place where hunters are more likely to appear.

    "Eh? It should be fine, Ilph. I don't think wild beast would dare to come out in the middle of the road such as this one. Those giant lizards in the caverns also stayed clear of the paths us Dwarves took. We'd only be in trouble if we dared to enter the forest. Or maybe if there's a beast or two who are frenzied enough to try and attack us, only then would we be in, but what are the chances?"
    He laughed, and then hummed another song. The bright sunlight basking them seemed to make the Dwarf's mood better than before, as he was practically skipping.

    And then he suddenly grew silent and stopped dead on his track.

    "D-Did you hear that...?"

    Aside from the silence of the world around them, there is a rustling sound as branches and leaves were shaken off. The sound came from the forest to his right, and it come. Closer and closer.

    Rustle. Rustle.

    "I-it comes! I was just joking, you know! What should we do, Ilph?"


    The sound was practically just a few inches away from them now. "Aaaah, damn it!" Tharin put down his sack and then readied his hammer. If they need to fight, let it be. There was not enough time to escape anyway. Rather than die like a coward, it's better to face death right on his face...and smack 'im whole! "Come at me you beast! I'll give you a make over...!"

    From the bushes right in front of him bursted out...a small creature, similar to his height but a bit smaller. No no, it was not a creature. A...human? It was a human child! Tharin was so taken aback that the child and him crashed on each other, sending the Dwarf down to his back with the child atop him.


    The human child blinked, adrenaline clearly slowing down thought process. Her eyes darted from Tharin to Ilphril and then to Tharin again and back to Ilphril. " papa and mama..." she managed to say those words between her sobs.
  18. "I'm truly not worried so much about the beats as I am, ah," she searched for a word that was better than 'people trying to kill me.' "Highwaymen? Thieves? Muggers?"

    He seemed awfully sure of himself for someone who had spent only a half hour up on the surface. She shrugged as he continued, humming a song and looking quite pleased with their current situation. "The surface isn't like down below, Tharin. Giant lizards aren't the only thing to worry about out here. It's not good to be caught unaware-"

    There was a noise. Ilphril stopped just as Tharin did, pulling her scimitars from her sheath with surprising elven speed. "I heard it," she confirmed, her dark red eyes focused and quickly scanning the treeline to the right of her new dwarven friend. "Ready yourself."

    It seemed they would not have to fight. At least, not have a fight for very long. The thing that appeared from the trees was... "A human?" she questioned, not putting down her scimitars. The child seemed in distress, but Ilphril wasn't so quick to lower her guard. Child assassins were not unheard of in the Drow - rare, but not unknown. Perhaps the humans did something similar. "Get off of him."

    Her tone was cold as she pointed her scimitar in their general direction. "What happened to your supposed parents?"
  19. The child shuddered upon seeing the blade Ilphril held toward her, her eyes widened. "Whoa, wait Ilph, this is just a little kid. No need to point your weapon on her," Tharin lifted the child with ease and put her on the ground. For Dwarves' natural strength, a human child weighed almost nothing. "Okay kid, what the heck happened? You need to tell us more clearly."

    She eyed Tharin with fearful eyes, but seemed to decide that he was nicer than the lady holding the blade, so she hid behind him. Her action prompted Tharin to let out a small laugh. "You might want to put that thing back, Ilph," he pulled the girl from her 'hiding place'. "Here, kid, the lady is nice, ya know? Just...explain things to us, so we can help your parents, okay?"

    She was still sobbing, but Tharin's coaxing words seemed to have calmed her down a bit. "Some...some blue people with long nose came...the blue people are bad. They have that thing and make the neighbors angry..." she pointed at Ilphril's scimitar.

    Blue...people? Long nose?

    "Err...are you talking about a dream you're having?" Tharin scratched his head. That sounds like the thing people would rant about after having a late night's drink.

    "Papa told me to run to the forest, he told me not to look back," she looked down at the ground. "Papa seemed scared, I don't like it..."


    Something moved in the forest. The sound wasn't like the one this girl had made before. It sounded more...organized, as if the source was trying to make as few sounds as they could. Tharin felt danger this time, like the times when he was hunting cave lizards. He instinctively raised his hammer. Pulling along the girl, he moved closer to Ilphril.

    "Ilph, you know those cave lizards, right? They made lots of noises when they moved leisurely. However, they would suddenly grew as silent as possible only on one occassion...It's when they hunt."
  20. "You'd be surprised at what simple children could do, Tharin," Ilphril said with a small scowl. Who was this dwarf to give her lessons about what was or was not dangerous upon the surface? She bit back a scathing comment and chided herself. No, Ilphril, this is a new start. Don't be like your old self.

    Under the surface, in the home of the Drow, she had been considerably less nice than she was upon the surface. That had been the Drow way, after all. Think of yourself first and foremost, be ruthless, and you'd get what you wanted in life. That was how she had landed her job as captain of the guards. She had a reputation for being ruthless, for doing what needed to be done and making the hard decisions. She hadn't been popular among the common folk, but the nobles had adored her for her efficiency.

    "Fine," she said, with a little bit more venom than she intended. She put her scimitars away and crossed her arms over her chest sullenly. "If we get killed, I am blaming you and your overly-trusting nature for it."

    Blue things? Long noses? Ilphril was a little skeptical. This seemed like the kind of vague information that would come out if there was a trap. "Are you-"

    She stopped, head snapping in the direction of the forest. Her silvery white hair whipped against her face and she drew her scimitars again. "Yes," she murmured in agreement as Tharin mentioned that they were being hunted. "You are right, I think."

    Whatever the blue things were, they were apparently very real. And they were also apparently very, very close. "You," she nodded toward the direction of the girl, but did not move to look at her. Ilphril's red eyes stayed trained on the edge of the forest. "Stay behind us. I will protect you."

    I will protect you.

    Her thoughts went to her childhood friend, whom she had helped escape the Underdark after he had saved a slave from certain death. She had told him the same thing, hadn't she? That she'd protect him... and now she had no idea where he was. Lost on the surface, maybe dead, maybe captured, maybe back in the Underdark rotting for eternity in a too-small cage swinging above a dark abyss.

    "I will protect you," she repeated more firmly, her grip on her twin scimitars tightening. "Tharin, are you ready for whatever comes from the trees?"