The lift creaked and popped as it lowered from the surface of Moonsong City. Haloisi had felt this feeling before, when once she was rolled under by an unexpected wave without a breath. She stilled herself by humming, but she could not quite reach the correct tonal qualities that made the song special, as Cassile had taught her to do years ago. She stopped humming and sighed a breath, focusing and humming it properly, using subtle water-like motion with her left hand to increase the effect. Much better. She already felt as though… The lift banged as a rope slipped far above. Haloisi hiccuped the last note and grasped the rail with both hands in silence once more.
Some of her companions were at least a little apprehensive, but none matched her for pure fish on shore helplessness. Each was a trained adventurer. Haloisi had no illusions, despite having received incidental training of her own from Cassile back in Bydune, that she was going to be of any use. Her resolve was to merely stay out of everyone else’s way, and not touch anything. Except any books they found. Or grave markers. Or bodies. Or anything academically interesting.
This was a lot to go through, with long odds of success. This adventure with their guide might gain her an adventuring license below the city, and she might find a library on a second journey once she had said license, and she might find the lore there that might answer her questions. And after she used up all of that currency of good fortune required to achieve all of that, she might live to enjoy the achievement. Haloisi was no gambler. The data and subsequent logical conclusion made her for the fool she was, but she would not back away now.
Her companions rode in silence. Their guide, Giles, who had secured their access to the Undercity and the adventurer’s services to find his lost friends, made Haloisi uneasy. Something was off about him. Haloisi had heard no few stories from Cassile regarding the shifty sorts that might secure adventuring work, and he made her feel like her skin was covered in algae and slick mud every time he looked Haloisi up and down. She shuddered in time with the lift.
The party reached their destination sooner than Haloisi would have thought. Torches lit the immediate area, but she could see naught but darkness a few dozen feet away. The air was close and had a dry taste. She breathed through her nose so that she might not end up in a fit of coughing. By the sea, the wind and water allowed nothing to stand in unmaintained permanence. The closest Haloisi could parallel the environment here would be to compare it to an unlived in shanty, if shanties were made of rock and were dry as sun bleached driftwood.
Axiomus anxiously leapt ahead. Haloisi might have cautioned him, but did not want to immediately label herself a coward. That label would be correctly applied in short order once they met with the sorts of traps, monsters and undead that the tales all said so often frequented the ill used halls of millennia past. Axiomus made Haloisi feel safe after a fashion, but only when the human magus was reasonably proximate. Haloisi hastened after the party with an arrow knocked in her shortbow.
She had taken fewer than a dozen steps when she heard the chittering noises and percussive sounds of a hundred legs pounding the dust covered floor. Lorran and Thifal charged forth with great delight. Lyra joined the attack on the shadowed insects, each looming hugely in the dim light. Haloisi quaked. She had never seen insects so large, so horrifyingly repulsive. One of Nisa’s arrows streaked by Haloisi’s ear. Haloisi bit back a shriek, dropping her shortbow and running back towards the lift before realizing it wasn’t going to take her anywhere. The flagstone seal up top was already covered, the lift men likely gone. She huddled beside a torch and did the only thing that seemed natural to her in this unnatural place. She sang.
Old days of pain, that was once new
Faded they are, like sun warm’d dew
Cheer steel you child, your faith renew
Turn to the sun, embrace the light
Come my brothers, it is the day
Fear not the night, it holds no sway
Evil hand moves, it must be stayed
Turn on the foe, prepare to fight!
Armor so bright, shield arms do brace
Blades razor sharp, bow strings are laced
Magic called forth, faith in gods’ grace
Long will our song outlast this night!
Sing of the vict’ry, it is foretold
Stab, slash, and loose, foes fear the bold!
Fight for your life, your lands and gold!
Down fall they now, Evil put to flight!
Her companions made short work of the creatures. of them all, Giles came back to help her to her feet. Haloisi shook off his offer and pulled free a torch; she had other sources of light, but she might as well use what was at hand. Embarrassed, she retrieved her shortbow and a few moments later found the dropped arrow. Then she scurried after the party into the dark of the undercity, using chalk to mark the walls every thirty feet or so with proprietary runes indicating time, direction, and other information that Cassile had developed and taught Haloisi in secret. She would be useful when the party needed to find their way back.
After some time, Lyra stumbled over a loose flagstone. It was not like the agile half-elf to misplace a foot. Soon she was scrambling to remove the stone. A curious Lorran helped her shift the slab, revealing a small cache. Haloisi felt dread coming from the small hole.
“Look at the gems!” Lyra exclaimed, holding aloft an ornate dagger. Haloisi fought the impulse to knock it out of her hand. The part of Haloisi’s mind that enabled her to use magic recoiled at the thought of that dagger.
“Drop that.” Haloisi implored. “Right now.”
Several of her other companions felt Haloisi’s unease as well, urging Lyra to use caution. But Lyra would not be dissuaded. Before Haloisi could press the matter a voice cut the darkness, silencing the party.
“Give it back, it is mine!” The voice demanded, before falling into Goblin sputters that Haloisi imagined were curses. “Leave the dagger or I gets other goblins!”
“Goblin!” Thifal muttered, a dangerous fire in his dwarven eyes. Several party members, including Axiomus, charged into the darkness towards the voice. Thifal, Nissa and Giles stood their ground with Haloisi. Haloisi suspected this was because the former two were wise enough not to charge off, and the latter was a coward. Not that Haloisi had much advantage on Giles in terms of raw nerve in this place.
The goblin taunted them with verses of goblin songs from the recesses of the labyrinthine halls of this area. He persisted in threatening to call ‘others’ but no Goblins materialized. He moved quickly and stealthily; one moment he seemed East, the next South. Axiomus and Lyra gave fruitless pursuit. An idea struck Haloisi then, a story that Cassile had told her about an orc horde. The lesson of that story was that monsters most oft hide in the dark because they are afraid.
“Stop where you are this instant, or my Snarfblaster Spell will magic your head into your stomach!” Haloisi intoned as regally and intimidatingly as she could.
“Me no like pinkie magic!” The goblin wailed.
“Well, mine is the pinkest!” Haloisi declared. “Come to me and make your claim for the dagger. I will mediate, and if your claim is valid, I will see it returned to you.”
Haloisi thought she was getting the matter in hand, but apparently the party did not agree. The party continued their pursuit, and as a result, the goblin resisted Haloisi’s urgings. Nissa spotted the creature and loosed an arrow, catching it cleanly. The rest of the party butchered it over Haloisi’s urgings to stop. Haloisi looked on in disgust, but with academic interest. She had never seen the insides of a goblin before. Do they really have green blood? It was hard to tell in the light. She would have to inspect closer once the butchers were done.
Haloisi became frustrated, but likely the party knew best. They were professional adventurers after all, and the world was well rid of a Goblin. But she wished she could have had an opportunity to ask the creature about the dagger, perhaps find out why it made her so uneasy. Or, if luck held, maybe even gain knowledge of the undercity, including the location of the library rumored to be in its depths. Alas, dead Golblins tell no tales.
The party continued in silence. Haloisi tried to stay reasonably close to Axiomus, but he was in his element with a fever for the adventure so they spoke little. Eventually they came upon a widening in the hall. Haloisi nervously glanced at a wooden Goblin fetish attached to an ancient sconce, a warning for trespassers such as her party. The hall widened here into a courtyard full of rubble. Haloisi imagined she heard the clatter of a rock, then she was certain they were not alone.
“Go away!” A Goblin demanded from the far recesses of the courtyard. “Pinkies have top, under is Goblin!”
Once more, Haloisi attempted to be diplomatic with the Goblins, but unfortunately Tifal caught their attention and the Goblins became fixated on eating the dwarf, effectively ending the negotiations. Crude arrows filled the air. Haloisi was uncertain how many there were, or where, so she hid and sang once more her song of courage to block out the sounds. She tried not to think of what she would do if the party were overwhelmed and Haloisi was the last one standing. Her song faltered, and the skirmish continued.
Axiomus slumped and fell for no readily apparent reason. Haloisi realized that one of the Goblins used a sleep spell; she could sense the residue. She steeled herself, then scrambled from cover to him to shake him awake. The combatants had moved almost out of eyesight. Haloisi tried to peer into every corner to make sure a Goblin rogue didn’t take them unaware.
Axiomus groggily regained his senses. Haloisi used one of her tricks, mixing a few droplets of oil and water from a special container in her pouch, singing to the droplets as they fell at Axiomus’ feet.
“Move swiftly, fight bravely!” Haloisi said. Axiomus struggled to his feet and tried to attack the Goblins from the extreme range and failed.
“Go!” Haloisi said. Axiomus slipped the first few steps as the magical speed hastened the Magus along but quickly became accustomed and charged into the fray. Haloisi sang once more her song of courage and hid from the arrows.
Lorran was injured, and badly. Haloisi plead for help, but the party continued their relentless pursuit of the Goblins, including Lorran himself, to Haloisi’s concern and annoyance. One of the wounded Goblins ran straight towards Haloisi. She reflexively summoned water, blasting it into the Goblin’s face, but not before the creature slashed her. It was a minor wound but burned like fire.
At last, only one Goblin remained. Haloisi plead that they keep this one alive, but her bloodlusting party heard none of it. Once again, valuable information was foregone in favor of immediate bloodthirst. Goblins were not good or naturally kind creatures, but then neither were sharks. That did not make it wise to kill every shark on principle, and unlike sharks, the Goblins might be able to provide information.
Haloisi was realizing fairly quickly that this party and its tactics were more discordant to Haloisi’s goals than their underground environment. She would simply have to form another party when she returned. As if it were so simple; adventurers cost coin.
Haloisi realized then that one of the Goblins had escaped. Drums sounded in the deep.
“It is time to go. Now.” Haloisi demanded.
The party agreed, and the party hastily retreated the way they had come. The drums rescinded into the distance, then were silent.
As they walked, Haloisi reflected on the Sea to relieve her mind of this awful, dry, dusty place rife with vermin and Goblins. Rivers, lakes, ponds and streams all made her feel at home, but the Sea was the most beautiful and inspiring of them all. The sea had three lovers: The Current, the Wind, and the Moon. The Current was deep, steady and strong. The winds were fickle and came and went as they pleased. The Moon was a powerful, reliable, and constant lover with a slow hand.
The Moon. Haloisi thought to herself, and wondered. What was the Moonsong?