Garren led them away from the camp, taking everything they had brought with them- including the dead weight known as Danyel- they had no reason to return there.
“Why keep this thing such a secret?” Nerui asked.
“There is no honor among thieves, my dear,” Garren explained, “I don’t doubt most of my lads have considered mutiny. They continue to follow me because with more of your own kind around you, your payload increases. If they found a quick exit, they would have no qualms of stealing whatever they could and disappearing into the night,”
They came to a stop around an odd gathering of rocks and moss- they looked like someone had purposefully placed them together.
“This is it,” Garren said. He began pulling the gathering away, to reveal a dark break in the wall.
“It’s very small,” Bruad said. He was right, it was more of a crawl space than a tunnel.
“It widens as it begins to climb,” Garren explained.
“How long will it take to get to the surface?” Deadrick asked.
“I’ve only used it once. In the rock there’s areas of tough rock that I suppose the diggers were unable to penetrate, so the damn thing zig-zags around them. It took me a fair while to get through,” Replied Garren.
Deadrick growled again. Danyel’s foolishness had cost them a lot of time. Two days they had been stuck down the canyon, Juhra could have done anything in the time that they had been down there.
“There’s goblins in some of the other tunnels round here- there's a chance that they might have spilt into this one,”
“Compared to what I have had to endure these past few days, a few goblins is no challenge,” Deadrick chuckled.
Garren handed them a torch.
He shook Garren’s hand and they parted ways. They wasted no time in climbing into the damp cavern. The air was thick and close, and having to carry Danyel didn’t make their task any easier.
They each forced themselves in, and began to pull themselves on their hands and knees through the enclosed space.
The crawl space became a tunnel after about an hour. Deadrick climbed to his feet and dusted himself off.
Bruad and Nerui followed suit, and Bruad once again heaved him onto his shoulder. He had been dragged most of the way since they had entered the cave.
“This place has a rather pungent odor,” Bruad said. He was right- the place stank of damp and rotting moss. But there was something else; strong and intense. Deadrick was sure he had smelt it before… somewhere, but once again, his need to get to the surface overpowered any sort of sense in him.
They slowly climbed the tunnels, often on all fours, trying to grip onto the steep surface.
Once they entered an even tunnel, Bruad lowered Danyel to the floor.
“We can’t stop now, we’re almost there,” Deadrick told them. He was sure of that, the air was becoming thinner, and a small draft was emanating from further up.
“We’ve been moving non stop for hours, do you never rest?” Bruad moaned. Deadrick growled and sat down.
Nerui dropped to the floor and opened her bag, taking out the scraps of food they had picked up in Garren’s camp. She made a small noise of distaste.
“I don’t know whether I can eat this… not with that smell lingering in the air,” She said, the corners of her mouth turning up.
Deadrick could smell it. It had always been there since the moment they had entered the tunnels.
There came a small grunting noise from the darkness. Deadrick glanced round to see an ugly creature crawl from the shadows. It was only knee high, with stubby horns and pin like claws. It hissed, revealing fangs.
It was a goblin. Deadrick almost laughed, drawing his gun and pointing it towards the little beast. Before he could fire, he noticed another goblin appear behind it.
He lowered it all together when he realized that they were all around him.
“Deadrick…” Whispered Nerui.
“I know…” Deadrick replied. Goblins were irritating little creatures. They usually lived alone, or in small families of three or four. But they were surrounded by at least a few dozen.
But Deadrick was sure they would scatter when they realized the size of the party they were taking on. But they didn’t.
They kept slowly coming forward, some snarling and growling, licking their lips and wrinkling their snouts.
Then Deadrick noticed something. Their eyes, usually brown like mud, were alive in a bright neon colour.
He could only watch in awe, as one seemed to grow before his eyes. Getting larger and larger. Then another began to deform, then another, then another.
Deadrick glanced around; they were covered on all sides
Then it hit him. The smell, he knew he had experienced it before- so many times. Whenever he dug his blade into a witch, or cut a vampire in two.
He leant past Nerui, and swept his hand across the wall- through a gathering of moss and loose stone. They fell to the floor, revealing a vein of bright green that seemed to flow through the rock, it lit up the tunnel, sending the Goblins into frenzy. They howled and snarled, inhuman noises echoing around the tunnel.
One launched forward, testing the water for the others. Deadrick pulled his gun and shot it. As it fell to the ground, two more dived for them.
He barely managed to fend the now man-sized beasts off, as a wave of them seemed to crash down upon them.
Ecrid was a form of naturally dark magic. One of the Five Kinds that naturally manifested itself in the core of Kandrakah, forcing its way to the surface through veins like the one that ran through the tunnel.
It had corrupted the Goblins- deformed them. Made them extremely powerful, and as the crowd amassed, Deadrick realized something.
They had no chance.