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Old 06-20-2018, 01:01 AM   #1
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An Unlikely Alliance (Closed for CoSurvivor)

The Kingdom in the Trees

Lariana’s slippered feet barely made a sound upon the wooden pathway beneath them as she hurried back to her chambers, their steps as nimble and sure footed as a doe bounding through the forest as she ascended the stairway. The sound of her doors shutting soon resonated loudly however as she slammed them behind her upon entering.

Her pale silvery blonde hair shined like moonlight as it fell in gentle waves to the small of her back, yet her naturally fair skin was lightly tanned and had clearly been touched by the sun. If one looked closely there was even the faintest dusting of freckles upon the bridge of her nose and the tops of her high cheekbones, evidence of her great love of hunting and being outdoors. At present she wore a long flowing gown of glimmering purple cloth that swirled around her and brought out the violet in her dark-lashed and slightly upturned eyes, her delicate brow currently furrowed in obvious anger and frustration.

“So how did the talk with your father go?” Evaleen, her lady’s maid and closest friend, asked in a sarcastic tone.

While Lariana appreciated her friend’s attempt to lighten the mood, it didn’t help any.

“Not well,” she replied with a frown.

“But you said in your latest vision you saw-“

“He wouldn’t even listen to it!” Lariana replied, cutting her friend off, “Every time I try to speak to him about what I’ve seen in my visions it’s another excuse not to get involved: First he insisted that they weren’t visions, merely nightmares. Then he said that if I had developed the gift of sight that some of our people possess and was truly having visions I must be misinterpreting what I saw. Now he says that even if I am correct in my interpretations the elves shouldn’t get involved, we should just let the humans deal with it since the tunnels are part of their kingdom, and that it isn’t our problem to worry about…but it is.”

Lariana sighed, her expression somber as she moved across the room to walk out onto her private balcony, Evaleen following behind her. All around her in the evening shadows beneath the thick canopy of the Elder Trees shone Meldamiriel, the capital city of the elvish kingdom. Built by her ancestors before her, the city had been crafted into the very trees themselves; countless homes, businesses, and other buildings nestled within the very branches of the giant trees and extending out from them on platforms while others had been carved into the very trees themselves. All of them connected by various intricately carved walkways and platforms. She looked out at the city around her, so vast that even her keen elven eyes could not take it all in.

“Something is happening within the tunnels Evaleen, and whatever it is exactly that my visions are warning me of I can sense that it is something that will affect all of us, both elf and human kingdoms alike. If my father will not send anyone to investigate then I am forced to do so myself…but how would I even begin? Without a guide where would I even start?!” she cried out in exasperation.

“Kanark.”

“Excuse me?”

“The Neutral city of Kanark,” Evaleen replied, “My elder brother Almon recently returned from a trading trip there and mentioned that while he’d been in a tavern one night during his stay a man names Voltaire had tried to recruit him for an expedition that he was leading deep within the tunnels. Said he planned to go deeper than anyone had ever gone before and was in need of able bodied people to join his crew. Apparently he’d really wanted some elves to join as well, likely due to the fact that our senses are naturally sharper than humans, but that he’d been having problems getting any to enlist. Naturally Almon turned him down as well…but if you were going to join his crew you’d have to leave quickly, the day Almon mentioned the man was planning on leaving for the expedition is only a fortnight from now, and you know your father doesn’t like you leaving the palace without an escort. How exactly do you plan on getting there in the first place?”

“You just leave that up to me,” Lariana told her friend as a bright smile suddenly spread across her face.

“Now…did your brother happen to mention where the meeting point for the expedition crew was supposed to be?”

-----------------------------------------------

TWO WEEKS LATER

Lariana walked briskly through the markets of Kanark, headed in the direction that she had been told she would find the tavern called The Wooden Bastard, and there the man called Voltaire and his crew that her friend Evaleen had told her of. She was attired in her friend Evaleen’s own hunting garb that she wore whenever accompanying Lariana on one of her many excursions, a quiver of arrows strapped to her back with her own bow and fighting knifes stored securely inside. Luckily the two women were both of similar height and build, though while Lariana’s locks shone light and silver Evaleen’s were glossy and dark like a raven’s wings, so Lariana had braided back her hair to keep the long strands tucked away and then been careful to keep the green hood pulled up to conceal it and the rest of her features while slipping out first from the palace, then the city of Meldamiriel, and then from her father’s kingdom all together. Even now in Kanark, far away from anyone that might recognize her, she hesitated to lower it.

It was difficult not to allow herself to become distracted by all of the strange and exciting sights, sounds, and smells surrounding her. It was rare that she was able to travel outside of her own city and she had certainly never been allowed outside of her father’s kingdom before, not even to one of the Neutral cities like this one. As such it was her first time ever being in a city where humans also dwelled. The stories that her father and others had told her about the wars between their two races had always made them sound like such a crude and brutish lot, but elves here in Kanark seemed to be getting along with them well enough.

At last she reached the tavern and at once spotted a group of men loading up a wooden cart with supplies out front. One of the men she noted seemed to be in charge of the others, looking off of a sheet of paper in his hands and occasionally giving an order to one of the others. She wondered if this might be the man that she was looking for.

“Excuse me,” she called out as she approached him, “Are you the man called Voltaire? He is to be leading an expedition and I would like to join his crew. I was told that he was in need of elves to enlist.”

For the first time since leaving the palace she pulled back her hood in the presence of others, revealing herself to the man’s gaze.
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Old 06-21-2018, 01:24 AM   #2
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It had been an uneventful twenty minutes down through the halls of widows, past the entrance to the grand owls cavern and finally to the secluded spot where he could see the entrance to the tunnel he was looking for. Anyone else might miss it, but the tunnel entrance was marked by carvings at the top left of the entrance which said it would a dead end. It wasn't. It did make a straight drop down, ten feet from where the entrance appeared to be and this muffled any sound that came from this secluded, supposedly dead end location. It worked well for why they'd sought out this little hiding spot. Their carnal activities were at first limited over the first few weeks, until they were sure they would be safe. he'd try hard not to make her scream out in pleasure, try to muffle the sounds of her orgasm with sensual kisses, but damn if Chance didn't enjoy listening to the sound of his sister's first handmaiden letting lose. She'd pull his hair, and grind into his mouth. This time, Janesse had beat him down there, and as he slipped down the tunnel entrance assisted by grooves in the walls that acted as a sort of ladder, he turned to face her and there she was, laying back on the patch of rugs they'd brought down there months ago. She must have heard him as he could see her left hand subtly snake it's way under her skirts, into the small patch of downy hair that was above her pussy, drifting one slim finger over her clit.

As his eyes bulged and his cock hardened, he mouthed the words.. “Couldn't wait for me hm?”

With a wry smile Janesse replied with a subtle shake of her head, bringing her right hand up, beckoning him to her with a curl of her finger. Chance stripped off his shirt and quickly got between her legs, swiftly licking her pussy as if his life depended on it. The echos of her voice, the moans of ecstasy reverberated along the cylindrical walls of the long tunnel they were in. The needs they had, the words they spoke filled the air just as the smell of sex filled the air. Grinding against each other, they expelled every ounce of pent up passion and lust that existed within their bones. Time escaped them, and as Chance sat up to put his shirt back on, he glancing over at the small hour glass that rested on a small out cropping. He figured they had maybe ten minutes before she needed to get back. In his heart he knew days like this would become far fewer than they'd both like. Eventually he'd be forced to marry, take a wife he didn't love and as much as he could 'want' for Janesse to be his bride, his queen it was not meant to be. Which meant he'd savor these moments all the more.

She'd dressed before he did, her flowing dress an appropriate light sand color, dyed from the sands in the cavern of the owls. The light fabric of her dress billowed around her legs and the simplicity of the design only accentuated her elegance. Janesse was a handmaiden to the Princess, She was supposed to look the part, but she didn't need the jewels and trappings that her position required to look truly amazing. The two of them talked about how they'd try to meet here again tomorrow, carve out more time and fuck till they couldn't breathe anymore. They'd both started moving toward the entrance to the tunnel, and Chance took one last look at the hourglass watching the last few grains of sand swirl, then drop into the lower chamber. Something was off, the sands were shifting in the hourglass and then stopped. It was at this point that Chance felt the hair on the back of his neck tingle, a personal sign to himself that something wasn't right. Summoning Janesse with a quick wave of his hand, he tried to act calm, but his heart started racing.

“Come on.. Let's get out of here..”

Taking a few steps toward the entrance to the tunnel, Chance felt a subtle shift under his feet, a few pebbles moved, and he watched as the hour glass slowly began to rumble to the edge of the shelf and fall off. The sound of the glass shattering against the tunnel floor accentuated the urgency that they needed to get out of there. Looking at the floor Chance could see it, a fissure, a small crack that hadn't been there seconds before.

Janesse face grew worried, a look of concern grew to near full blown fright. She took too steps toward him within arms reach, he could have scooped her up in his arms and rushed to the ladder, up and to safety, but she turned back. Looking across the tunnel to the bag she'd left on the floor on the other side of the rugs they'd laid out long ago.

“Let me get my bag..” She said those words.. took three steps across the patchwork and he watched as Janesse, the love of his life disappeared through a massive hole hidden beneath.

“NO!!! JANESSE!” He screamed, staring down into the expanse, the dark bowls of the world below had swallowed her. He grasped a glow stone, one of ten that lit the space and tossed it into the hole. Maybe he could find the bottom and get her. But the glow stone disappeared not long after he dropped it, no echo returned signaling that it had hit the bottom. Chance knelt and wept. Sitting there he looked into the expanse, seeking an answer that would never come. Another tremor occurred, and a piece of the tunnel ceiling started to collapse as rock and dirt filled the space. Quickly he rushed to the ladder as the floor gave out, the tunnel became a gaping maw of darkness. Slowly pulling himself up and out he headed back to the main hallways of the castle. He'd eventually seek his father's chambers.. he had explaining to do.


*** 3 years later. ***

Vance woke from his nightmare, pushing away from his desk where he'd fallen sleep the night before. The nightmares stayed the same, Janesse was always lost to him, always just an inch away. He could have caught her.. he SHOULD have caught her but he didn't. Many days had come and went sense then but his love, Janesse was the first known victim of the quakes. The random tremors that claimed as many as 150 in the last 3 years, some had gone exploring further below the cities of man, others were victims of their homes caving in, crushing them within the walls. Their homes, becoming their tomb. Vance had promised himself, he'd find the why and at least then he'd be able to live with himself. The answers were short in coming, he'd hoped his next excursion into the depths would give him some answers. He'd left his home long ago now living on the surface. His personal mission was to find something that could prove his case to his father and save his people. What he suspected was a long held secret down there. Fighting it's way to the surface, tearing apart the world below on it's way out of it's prison.

“Falling asleep like that isn't good for your back young man, you've got quite a trip ahead of you..”

Vance rubbed the sleep from his eyes and looked over at his old friend Sullivan. The man had excellent timing, since Vance had left the castle and taken on an assumed name above ground, he'd had few visitors, well, any that he could call welcome visitors anyway.

“How long have you been here?” Vance mumbled, as he staggered to his feet, walked across the small front room of his home and into the mess that could be considered his bedroom.

“Mmmm, not long, I let myself in after I'd knocked and you didn't answer. Figured after the last trip you made down below it would be best to check on you.”

Rummaging around his room Vance came back to the small living area that doubled as his study, greeting area and well.. his kitchen carrying a few books, a long case and some rumpled clothes in his arms.

“Yes well that was worth it, the map will be helpful, and the fragment. Speaking of which, what did you find out from the archives?

With an arched eyebrow, Sullivan looked at the young man, less than a third his age and spoke calmly.
“You mean the royal archives, the ones that your ancestors accumulated, the ones that you could just waltz into and… “

“Yes.. those..” Vance interrupted. He'd been reminded more than a few times that this whole 'assumed identity' was unnecessary, he should come back home, share what he'd found out.

“What did you find?” Vance spoke impatiently, hoping the old man wouldn't drag this out and make him feel worse for getting him involved.

Clearing his throat, Sully cleared off one of the chairs next to what at one time had been a kitchen table. Now stacked with books, diagrams and notebooks it had no place for someone to eat.

“It's old, hundreds if not a thousand years old, at one time it might have been part of an amulet that a queen wore at one time. Possibly one given to them by elves if the text is to be believed.”

“Elves…..” Vance let the word drop from his lips with all the dread that went with it. He'd hoped to avoid any such entanglement with elves.

Sully pulled out a small leather coin purse, and placed it on the table. “Yes.. elves, what it means I don't know. But I'm sure you intend to find out.”

“I do.. and I better get moving, Voltaire is heading deep inside the tunnels this time, he's after something and wants experienced climbers. I think with my known reputation he wants me there. Which works profoundly to our advantage.”

“Whoa.. wait.. 'our' advantage? Since when did I get dragged into your mess?” Sully knew the answer, knew it before he said it but the young man in front of him had become more of a son to him than his own father.

“Since you told me about this place. Since you've been sneaking in to the archives and finding stuff for me for the last three years. I owe you much..” Vance said it with a sense of finality, as if this next dig into the tunnels might be his last.

Standing abruptly, the old man turned to face him and clasped Vance's hand in his own. “Just remember my young prince, one day you may be king, what kind of council would I be if I didn't help you now.”

With a subtle sigh, Vance returned the man's heartfelt exchange, gripping his hand a bit tighter than he might have intended. Then clasping his arms around the old man, as a son would hug his father.

“Thanks Sully..”

Ending the hug, Sully looked over the mess on the table, and said “Lets get you out of here.. the road is long to Kanark.”

**24 hours and 2 weeks later**

That morning he'd gathered what he'd needed from the room he'd rented over night and headed to The Wooden Bastard. Why Voltaire continued to choose this place to hold his meeting was beyond him. He thought it might be the meed, no, The Crooked Nail just two doors down had better meed, better food and.. better company. Whatever Voltaire's reasons were he'd likely never find out as he hoped to split from the expedition not long after they got to where Voltaire was heading.

Vance stood a muscular 6'1” and with short cropped brown hair, sky blue eyes and a dark skin he didn't look the part of someone who grew up below ground. Thanks to the time he'd spent on the surface, the pale white skin of a royal was long gone, the only real evidence that he might be more than he seemed was his sword. But he'd blacked out with coal and wrapped the hilt tightly in bound leather. Three years going nobody had ever questioned the quality of it. Or.. what qualities it might be imbued with. Vance looked more the part of a traveler, his sword in a scabbard over his shoulder, a few pouches along his belt, the long coat of someone who's traveled the roads for a time, and well.. his boots well loved and weathered. The dark tans and earth tones of what he was wearing gave him a natural camouflage if he was hiding from other bands of treasure hunters. The one thing that did set him apart was the long coil of rope that was draped over his shoulder and rested against his hip, right next to his traveling bag.

Voltaire was hard to miss, the man was loud, but when he caught sight of Vance, his smile grew into a wide grin.

“Vance! Glad you made it. I was sure that once word got to you, you'd be all in on my latest expedition.”

With as much of a smile as Vance could muster, he suppressed his urge to laugh in the man's face. True, he needed Voltaire to get down there, but he'd been crossed by the man once before.

“Yea I wouldn't miss it. You've got my help, but you know what I'm after.”

With a wave of his hand, Voltaire brushed off Vance's concerns. “None to worry.. you'll have your chance. I must tell you...” His words were cut off as Voltaire noticed a woman grow closer to the group. She spoke politely, and pulled the hood back from her head, Vance's eyes narrowed as he mumbled under his breath…

“She's Elven..This is going to be interesting.”

Vance stepped back and just watch the two of them converse in more quiet tones. Voltaire, probably trying his charms on her. Vance was doubtful that it worked on the elven woman but he wasn't going to stop Voltaire from making a complete ass out of himself. Kanark was different from most cities, as it was, humans and elves coexisted here. If one wasn't aware of the many long years of war between the two races, one might think that Kanark was normal. It wasn't, but that was what made the place so special. In the three years he'd been on the surface he'd talked to a handful of elves who lived here, and came away with the impression that the tales he'd been read as a child were just that, stories to strike fear in your children to make sure they behaved.

Vance had never been shy, and always one to try and find out about who he'd be working with, he stepped forward, smiled and greeted her.

“I know I'm full blown nuts for following Voltaire down into the unknown, but I thought elves had more sense. What brings you on this insane endeavor of his?”
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Old 06-23-2018, 11:27 PM   #3
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“She's Elven..This is going to be interesting.”

Even though the words had been mumbled Lariana had caught them none-the-less, her senses as an elf being sharper than of a human's. She glanced over at the man who had made the comment out of the corner of her eye for a moment but then quickly dismissed him as he stepped back, focusing her attention on the conversation at hand with the man she'd presumed to be Voltaire.

She was pleased to discover that her assumption had been correct, and the conversation seemed to go well enough. Though she'd been a little surprised at the man's not very subtle attempts to charm her, Voltaire had been all to happy to agree to her joining on as part of their crew, and in the end that was all that mattered in her mind.

As the two ended their conversation and parted ways, she pulled up her hood again to cover her pointed Elven ears and distinct silvery hair. She was still a little wary of leaving it down for too long out here in the open for fear that some other traveler from her kingdom, such as her friends brother who had visited there just recently for trade, might spot her and recognize her. She was about to head inside the tavern to await the time of their departure when she was suddenly intercepted by none other than the man who had made the mumbled remark about her being Eleven before.

“I know I'm full blown nuts for following Voltaire down into the unknown, but I thought elves had more sense. What brings you on this insane endeavor of his?”

Well at least he seemed more friendly now than what her initial impression of him had implied. Still, she was wary. Before this trip she had never even set eyes on a human before, though she had heard a lot of stories about them from her father over the years and she had overheard his generals telling tales of their many battles against them. Her father didn't think very highly of humans at all. According to him they were a brash, brutish and greedy race, always scheming and making up excuses to attack their people and invade their forests to try to steal their land and resources for themselves. Never satisfied with what they already had, always wanting more. Still, it wouldn't have been the first time that her father had been wrong about something.

She did her best to return his smile with one of our own as she quickly responded with the answer she had decided upon for such a question while making her journey to Kanark.

"Curiosity I suppose," she replied with a shrug of her shoulders, "I wish to explore the ruins of the deeper tunnels and ... see what I may find there."
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Old 06-27-2018, 01:30 AM   #4
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"Just curious?" Vance replied with a bit of a raised brow. Everyone had their reasons, but curiosity was about the most ridiculous reason to go down there. He only hoped her real reasons would be come apparent before she endangered any of the more experienced climbers.

"Where we’re headed is an old gold mine that dried up about a decade ago. It’s still in relatively good condition, well despite the tremors causing one of the main shafts to collapse. We should be fine though the mine, but once we get beyond it, it’s gonna get dangerous. There are things down there that call the tunnels home, and… they don’t take kindly to visitors. I don’t want to impose, but since this is your first time down in the tunnels, you might want to stick close to one of the more experienced guys. I’d suggest me, but that’d be presumptuous, and maybe a little…. awkward.”

Vance wasn’t one to be put out by a situation like this, he’d been around a few elves but none quite like her. She had a bit of an aura about her, a sort of presence that he couldn’t quite put his finger on. She was stunning, well all elves were, it was just part of their race, well from his point of view. But to him, she was… different, despite her attempt to appear ordinary, for an elf.

Voltaire must have heard his comments as he looked over at the two of them. “Do I hear you offering to show her the ropes Vance? By all means, it would probably be a good idea if the two of you were scouting ahead, with her ears and your map, we shouldn’t run into any issues.”

Vance sighed, he didn’t want to make the young woman feel like he’d volunteered her to work with him, it did make sense, Voltaire was right, but it didn’t mean they had to force her to work with him.

Trying to sound reassuring, Vance asked, “Will that be alright?”
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Old 06-27-2018, 11:51 PM   #5
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Lariana could not help but catch the tone of Vance's voice and his raised eyebrow that he gave her. Apparently he didn't think much of the reason she had given for wanting to join the group in their expedition. Oh well, she supposed it couldn't be helped. Maybe she should have made up some story about how she was going along in search of gold or hidden treasures in the ruins of the tunnels, but she'd never really enjoyed lying to others and didn't think she was particularly good at it. This was the closest thing she'd been able to come up to the truth that would still keep secret her true reason for being there. She doubted it really even mattered. If he got suspicious she could just avoid him, right?

She listened carefully to his explanation of the entrance they would be taking and the dangers that lied beyond. She didn't find his advice imposing, if fact she thought that it made good sense. He was right, she might be able to take care of herself well enough above ground but she had no idea what kind of things to expect once they were below. Sticking with someone who had been before was a good idea... just maybe not him exactly.

Then Voltaire spoke up, suggesting the very thing she'd thought to avoid, and even she had to admit that it did make sense. Wait?... Had he said that Vance had a map of the tunnels? She looked over at him as he spoke to her again, her interest peaked. She wondered where he had gotten such a thing. It must be incredibly old.

"Yes, of course. Why wouldn't it be?" she said in response to his question, trying to brush it off like it was no big deal, "Voltaire is right, it does make sense for us to scout ahead for the others, and you were right as well in saying that I should stick close to someone more experienced since I'm new."

"Are you sure you'll be alright with it though?" she asked him, adding more quietly, "You won't mind having someone new... an elf... tagging along with you?"
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Old 07-02-2018, 12:21 AM   #6
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Vance gave her a bit of a surprised look. "Honestly, I welcome the idea of working with you. Your company over the company of those hooligans especially Voltaire is highly preferred." Voltaire chimed up "I heard that Vance!" He was about fifteen feet away, and the two men exchanged knowing glances.

Vance raised his hands over his head he waved them a little. "This city, Kanark.. this place is like no other, Elves and Humans live together, in relative peace, or at least that's what the locals are saying. I think we could all learn a thing or two from this city. " He gave her a wide smile and grinned. "Besides, you could teach me a few things, what to listen for, things you pick up on that I can't see. I might be able to learn while I'm teaching you the ropes, pardon the expression of course."

Vance had no fear of her, it was in the catacombs that worried him, specifically what was beyond the mine deep down below. Having her along would help, maybe she'd catch a tremor before he did. But only time would tell. Adjusting his travel bag over his left shoulder, Vance looked at where Voltaire was finishing things up the wagon and hitching up one of the horses. In the best oratory voice Voltaire could muster he collected the ten people going on the trip, most of whom Vance knew but couldn't remember their names. Voltaire made comments about being careful of the rock slides in the area near the mine entrance, and to be careful to stay out of shaft three. Once he was done the group separated and gathered their horses.

The rest of the afternoon was uneventful, the group paired off and followed Voltaire as he lead the way toward the mine. Vance took the opportunity to finally ask a long over due question.

"You know, if we're gonna be down there in the dark together I should probably know your name. Voltaire cheated told you mine but I never did catch your name?
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Old 07-05-2018, 05:30 PM   #7
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Lariana had found Vance's wide smile contagious as he'd spoken to her of the uniqueness of Kanark and how he hoped they might learn something from it, and from one another. She had just nodded her agreement, a smile appearing on her own face in return when Voltaire had called them all to attention so that he might make his announcements, and then the two of them had parted ways so that they may each gather their horses and supplies.

So far the situation was not too far out of her comfort level. Aside from the fact that she was surrounded by humans, she could almost pretend that she was about to head out on a longer hunting excursion back home. It was down in the tunnels, out of her element, that she was concerned about. She found that she was glad now at the idea of being paired with Vance, as he seemed to be one of the most experienced of the bunch. She gathered her mount, checked her supplies, and then fell in line with the others behind Voltaire, smiling over at Vance as he joined her.

"You know, if we're gonna be down there in the dark together I should probably know your name. Voltaire cheated told you mine but I never did catch your name?"

"Oh, you are quite right! I'm so sorry, please excuse my bad manners!" she told him as she grasped her reins with one hand while extending the other to him in official greeting.

"My name is Ana," she told him as she inclined her head to him slightly and smiled again, giving him the nickname that she had decided upon as her alias while traveling to Kanark, "It's a pleasure to meet you Vance."
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Old 07-08-2018, 06:36 PM   #8
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Vance shook her hand and smiled, "Pleasure to meet you Ana." Leaning back into his saddle, he saved that name in the back of his mind. Was it a nickname? He figured it might be, but decided he could care less if it was. He'd been going by an assumed name for years now, who's to say she wasn't entitled to do the very same thing. As they continued, Vance took the time to try and give her an idea of what to expect from the mine itself.

"We are probably another few hours away from the mine entrance. Once we get in, you'll want to keep a light orb on you. The mine is abandoned, and we really are not allowed to go in there but that doesn't stop the treasure seekers from trying to explore the old place hoping to find an available vein of gold that they can carve out and drag out of there. If you've never seen a light orb, the human kingdom pretty much has a monopoly on the things. since they create them in order to light their cities. Each orb is in an metal container that's attached to your belt. in the container is this little stone cover with an light emitting paint. Depending on how big the stone or how much of the stone is exposed, the area around is cast in near full daylight. It can be helpful. Especially in scaring off creatures that dwell down there an d don't like daylight, but it can certainly put a target on your back for creatures who intend to extinguish it. You may not need one, but keep one on you just in case.

Vance spent a bit more time going over some of the details regarding what they'd be doing at the front. looking for tracks of dive spiders, boor worms and anyone else that might be down there as well. He could see a familiar peak coming into sight and stood up in his stirrups as they approached a large over grown grove of trees.

"We're here.."

They passed through the grove of trees, using what had been a deep rooted wagon trail hidden by the over growth. The area was wide and flattened as if there had been a lot of activity here when the mine was in full use. Deep grooves still remained in the ground where tracks had once been laid that wound through the area. in the middle of the open ground was a massive sign in clear red ink reading:


SHEPARDS MINE
CLOSED
ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK.

A massive two story building which was mostly collapsed upon itself was off to the right of the main entrance of the mine itself. Letters on the building had been removed, but the wood of the building had been marked by their absence. The wood underneath once exposed was not as heavily aged as that of the rest of the building. Clearly over what remained of a two door entrance remained the words "Shepards Keep" The ground however, was clean, picked clean by scavengers, thieves or treasure hunters trying to take whatever remained, or whatever the mining company hadn't removed to begin with.

The mine entrance was massive. Two large iron doors guarded the mine entrance, both were closed, an inscription had been melted into the face of the doors as a warning.

"DO NOT ENTER, MINE SHAFTS UNSTABLE"

Voltaire took one look at it, looked back at the group and said "Looks like they rolled out the welcome mat for us. Take the horses over beyond the grove of trees there where the owners shack used to be. They'll be safe there."

After the horses had been lead out of sight the group gathered at the massive iron doors. Vance staying close to Ana while they left their horses, collected their gear and headed to the entrance of the mine.

Waving over Vance, Voltaire said "Ok, do your thing, lets crack the doors and be on our way."

Vance left Ana where they'd been standing and approached the doors. Pulling his travel bag to the front he opened the wide flap and reached into it's contents, pulling out a white stone cut in the shape of a cube which fit easily in the palm of his hand. Walking to the closed doors Vance slipped the square shaped indentation where both doors met. The while stone turned the same color as the rest of the door, but threads of blue light stretched along the edges of the doors. Vance then turned the cube in a combination of left and right turns eventually stopping and pushing the cube completely flush with the rest of the door. The rest of the party had fallen silent at this point watching what was going on, and when Vance pushed the cube flush, they could hear a near silent 'click' as if a doorknob had been turned.

Voltaire approached, and at once both men pushed on the right side door. Quietly, it swung into the mine.

"Shall we?" Voltaire waved the rest of the group in to the mine.
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Old 07-16-2018, 07:35 PM   #9
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Lariana had listened carefully to Vance as he'd explained to her the purpose of the light orbs and how to use them and then continued to do so as he talked about what they would be doing at the front, her eyebrows arching with interest as he talked about the different creatures they might come across, all of which would be brand new to her. She had confidence in her abilities with both her knives and her bow, but she would have been lying if she didn't admit that his talk made her a little nervous.

At his announcement that they'd arrived at the mines, she'd noted the amount of overgrowth on the trail and the pitiful shape of the building that they passed that she could only assume had once been the mining company. It was obvious that the place had not been in use for quite some time. After the group had put away their horses as Voltaire had instructed and returned to the entrance of the mine shaft she'd looked at Vance with interest as Voltaire had called him over, curious as to how he planned to open the doors.

She'd been more than a little surprised when he'd pulled out the small, unassuming cube of white stone, though realization had quickly dawned on her expression when he'd placed the cube up to the doors and the blue light had begun to stretch along their edges. It must be a magical item of some kind. She couldn't help but wonder how he had come to possess it. She herself had brought a couple enchanted items with her from home also, just in case, though she was reluctant to use their magical abilities in the presence of the others.

She paused to take one final look up above her at the blue sky as Voltaire waved them in, not certain when the next time she would get to see it again might be, and then followed the rest of the group into the mine. She stuck close to Vance, walking along side him as the team set out through the abandoned mine shaft.

"That certainly is an interesting little tool," she said, commenting on his stone cube, "Can it open any kind of lock then?"
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Old 07-18-2018, 01:57 PM   #10
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As the rest of the party entered into the main gallery of the mine, Vance pushed on the small cube and it came lose, sliding out without sound and dropping into his hand. The blue light faded, and the cube resumed it's appearance as a small white cube about the size of a building block to a child's play set. Slipping it into one of his inner pockets, Vance turned to Ana and spoke.

"It's really nothing special, it's a skeleton key to the mining system down here, I won it off one of the retired supervisors who used to work down here, The old guy was down on his luck, and lost it in a card game to me. He refused to give me details on it's powers really, and believe me he was NOT happy to see it leave his possession. But, I'll tell you this, it's opened more than a few doors down here. that's for sure. "

Vance's explanation was a bold faced lie. He couldn't tell her the truth that he'd had this little item since his youth. The kingdom of men created them as a sort of master key, a skeleton key yes that will take on any shape and unlock any door in the caverns of the world. If the world below the surface was truly supposed to be the kingdom of men, then the royal family was supposed to have access to anywhere, any place they needed to go. The fact that she was inquiring about it made Vance cautious to use the thing again in her presence. If she noticed one of the carvings on it then he was truly screwed. of course she'd have to understand and read the royal language, but she'd have to get it out of his possession.

Once Vance had closed the doors behind them, Shadows from each member of the group cascaded down three long tunnels, Above each one, a number was marked out 1, 2, 3 over each. Off to the far right, about twenty feet away from the entrance to the tunnel three was a massive work table, Voltaire called everyone over and he pulled out a large map from leather cylinder case he had over his shoulder. Laying out the map, he pointed at the three shafts. Two shafts (shafts 1 and 2) eventually stopped far below at equal length but the third shaft, Shaft 3, hit the same position and continued farther below, The map showed a few short tunnels branching off the lowest point of Shaft 3, one was marked with a circle.

Pointing to the bottom of shafts 1 and 2, Voltaire gave instructions that they'd take shafts 1 and 2 down to their end point. Due to the quakes, Shaft 3 had collapsed half way through it's primary shaft closing it off to access all the way down. The quake took crashed the walls in, taking out about eighty percent of it's extending mine shafts. Finally, he pointed at the circled mine tunnel that branched off Shaft 3 at the bottom of the map.

"This right here is where we go off the map, and where Vance leads the way." We'll meet down at the bottom in about three hours, explore shafts one and two, I'm expecting them to be picked clean already but there could be some hidden treasures that the quake stirred up. Also, be on your guard for cave spiders. the things are at least as tall as we are, and they don't like company. The light from your orb should scare them off, but if you get close to a nest, they could attack anyway. So be aware. Also, if you run into one, call out so we know where you are."

Vance stepped back at this point and pulled Ana with him "We are going to take Shaft one, and head down to that spot at the bottom of Shaft three. there's a few things around there that I'm expecting might not want us to be there. So, we'll need your bow, and we'll need a little bit of fire."

Looking over at Voltaire, Vance nodded at him and spoke loud enough for everyone to hear him. "Ana and I are going to scout ahead at the bottom. We'll clear it and make sure it's safe for everyone to gather there. Have fun everybody." Voltaire nodded and got back to chatting with the rest of his explorers, while Vance guided Lariana down the entrance of Shaft one.

Vance opened the windows on the chamber to his light orb to it's maximum exposure, he could see down the carved out tunnel nearly to it's end. It access tunnel to Shaft One was massive, in height and width, at Ten feet wide and Ten Feet high the walls were smooth, as if someone had sliced this tunnel clean with a knife. The farther they went in, the air began to get musty, a damp smell came up out of the bottom of the shaft, and as they reached actual entrance to the shaft itself, the enormity of it began to appear. The hole, the actual shaft itself, was massive. at least a good 60 feet across, not a distance that you could safely jump, but there were a number of access ladders, at least three that went down the sides of the shaft at equal points. Off to the right side of the shaft, was the old mining elevator, looking at the massive mechanism there were four gears that worked along massive teeth which the mechanism used to lower and rise through the shaft. A tall leaver sat in the middle of the floor deck which could control if the elevator depending which way the operator wanted to go. Off to the side, attached to massive anchors in the rock, Vance pointed to two large sturdy ropes. He smiled at Ana and said. "We will rappel down, I don't trust the elevator, it'll make too much noise.and the ladder system..It hasn't been kept up so while it might support you and me I'd prefer not to chance it.

Looking over the rope he noticed new wear marks. "Hm... looks like someone else had the same idea we did.."

Kneeling he pulled off the pack he'd carried in, and pulled out two small light orbs placing them in light fixtures on each side of the wall fully illuminating the workspace, and making the hole, the shaft, actually appear darker..something about the fading light above the long dormant mine shaft gave it an ominous presence. Next, Vance pulled out two climbing harnesses and a second light lamp. Vance opened a hatch in the base of the elevator and set the lamp on a hook underneath.The gaping mouth of the shaft didn't look quite so omnious now, still black as could be but not so mysterious.


Holding up one of the climbing harnesses, Vance commented, "Have you ever tried on one of these?" He motioned her over and knelt in front of her. Vance face was at waist level, he didn't look directly at her crotch, but he did gently touch the back of her thighs and made sure the leg rigging was solid and secure. He didn't touch her anymore than he really had to, as they didn't know each other. He tried to be as professional about it as possible, Vance might have the rep of being a bit rough around the edges, but he still knew how to respect a woman. Human or Elf she deserved some natural courtesy. Next he cinched in the waist belt and made sure it was tight. "I know, probably tighter than you'd like but you don't want this loose." Getting set up in his own rigging he took the rope he'd brought in and went over a tutorial on how to rappel.

Once they'd gone over it a few times he checked her gear one last time and put his hands on her shoulders, speaking to her reassuringly.

"You'll be on your own rope, but I'll be right next to you the whole way. If you get nervous or need to stop, just say so, we're not in a rush to get down there." He honestly doubted that she'd ever been nervous in her life, and since Elves lived five times longer than humans did, he was sure she'd grown out of that phase long ago. Still, this was new and he wanted to treat her with respect.

Gathering the rope he'd brought, his pack and verfying the rest of his gear was secure Vance then hooked Lariana up to the main rope first, then himself. Vance started down the sheer wall, finding a good spot about 5 feet down so he could advise her with her foot steps, and her pacing. looking up, he couldn't help but notice that she did have a cute butt. He'd have plenty of opportunities to admire the view on the way down, but decided to keep those thoughts to himself.

As they rappelled, farther down the light of their light orbs kept them out of the darkness, but the farther they went down, the more the lamp he'd placed on the bottom of the elevator began to grow smaller. "Doing alright Ana??" he asked. Hoping he wasn't breaking her concentration.
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Old 07-24-2018, 02:19 PM   #11
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Lariana, or simply "Ana" as she was now going by, listened carefully to Vance as he explained his plan for how the two of them would rappel down to the bottom of the shaft to scout the way for the others. She agreed with his reasoning that it seemed the safest out of their options for reaching the bottom.

"Have you ever tried on one of these?"

Having grown up in a city located high up within the great forest's canopy she obviously had no fear of heights and had experience climbing, though she personally had never rappelled or used a climbing harness like the one he held up and showed her. She shook her head in reply to his question and then moved over when he motioned for her and allowed him to put one of the harnesses on for her.

She noted with gratitude that he was very courteous about the potentially awkward situation, only touching her where necessary to ensure that the harness was secure and not using it as an excuse to let his touch linger any longer than need be as far as she could tell. Still, she couldn't help but feel a little bit of heat rise to her cheeks as she felt his hands move over the backs of her thighs and then her waist as he tightened the belt securely around her. She laughed softly at his comment about the importance of safety over comfort and nodded in agreement, listening carefully as he then explained to her the logistics of what they would be doing.

Soon they were on their way, him going first and repelling down to a spot a few feet bellow to watch her form and make sure she was alright before they continued further. It was all fairly simple enough, and it wasn't long before she got the hang of it, though she had to admit it was a strange feeling to be putting her trust into ropes and harnesses instead of her own hands and feet as she was used to while climbing down something.

"Doing alright Ana??"

"Yes, I'm fine." she assured him, but then just at that moment something down in the darkness below them caught her ear and she paused, stopping her decent as she cocked her head slightly to the side and listened.

"There's something down below us crawling about," she warned him, stopping and listening for a moment longer before adding, "Make that a few somethings."
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Old 07-25-2018, 04:19 PM   #12
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Vance stopped as soon as he heard Ana's comments he listened himself... Taking in a deep breath he could smell the damp air from below and something else, decay... after a few moments he was certain he could hear something else, a slight rustle, and movement. Quickly Vance pointed to the wall and found one of the ladders, hooking in his feet to keep hold and motioned for Ana to take up a spot on the wall of her own. From one of the pouches on his belt Vance pulled small vile of glowing liquid and placed it in a small sack. He mimed as if he'd shake the small bag then drop it. Pointing to her, Vance mimed again as if she'd fire an arrow at it.

Waiting for Ana to notch an arrow and be ready, Vance continued listening with his ears. The noise wasn't getting closer, but he didn't like the fact that it the noise involved more than one or even two creatures dwon below. Nodding at Ana in complete silence, Vance then held up three fingers and started mouthing the words.. "One.... Two.... Three...."

Taking careful aim of where he'd drop the sack, he hoped it would fall closer to the center of the deep shaft, illuminating it. As the light orb droped, he could see it create a ring of light as it tracked down. It hit something... and shook. Looking at Ana his eyes grew a little wide as the arrow shot down the mine shaft hitting the small sack with pinpoint accuracy. The results.. were startling.. and unnerving..

When the vile exploded from the hit, glowing fluid spashed outward across the entire width of the mine shaft. A massive web, stretching it's width came into full view as well as the creatures that resided below.

Vance let out a sigh. "Damn cave spiders.... looks like we are going to have to fight our way through. Vance could see three of the nasty things crawling up the width of the mine shaft heading their direction. Vance looked at Ana and said, "Ok M'lady... now's the time to prove how good you are with that bow of yours... "
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Old 07-25-2018, 05:10 PM   #13
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Upon Vance's gesture Ana followed his lead and lowered herself to a small ledge jutting out of the rock a little below her so that she might have her hands free. Noting his mimed instructions about the vile and her firing an arrow at it she nodded in understanding and readied her bow before drawing an arrow from her quiver and notching it so that she would be ready when he dropped it.

"One.... Two.... Three...."

Her lavender eyes zeroed in on the glow of the sack. She watched as he dropped it and it fell down the length of the cave, pulling her arrow back and getting ready to fire as soon as it landed. She saw the motion of the light stop and then shake as if it had landed on something alive. Instantly she released her arrow, sending it shooting down the shaft until it reached its target with a sudden burst of fluid light as the liquid inside illuminated the large web... and equally large spiders... to their view.

"Damn cave spiders.... looks like we are going to have to fight our way through."

Ana nodded in agreement. Spotting the three spiders beginning to crawl up towards them at the same time that Vance did, she reached for another arrow.

"Ok M'lady... now's the time to prove how good you are with that bow of yours... "

Despite the somewhat hairy situation they were currently in a smirk appeared upon her lips in response to his comment as she notched the arrow.

"I thought I already had," she told him as she glanced over at him with amusement before turning her attention back below and aiming at one of the spiders, "But I guess if you'd like another demonstration..."

She released the arrow, sending it shooting down into the shaft and directly into one of the glistening eyes of the spider drawing nearest to them so that it lodged itself in the beasts skull and the entire animal fell limp. Wasting no time she quickly drew another arrow, and then another, as she repeated the process with the other two spiders that had started to climb their way.
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Old 07-30-2018, 06:39 PM   #14
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Vance couldn't help but give an approving nod toward Ana, "Not bad.." He playfully joked, "Now, if you'd made a blind shot in the dark with only the sound of their skittering as your guide, maybe... maybe I'd take it as a demonstration." He was kidding really, her shots were impressive. Watching the body of the 3rd spider hit the web and bounce, Vance took out a second vile from his belt. shaking it, he dropped it at a practiced arch aiming for it's body..

When the vile broke, the liquid inside became flammable, esscentially lighting the spider, the web and anything it hit on fire. The fire moved quickly, leaving long threads of webbing to burn out and flutter away down the shaft. An additional result, the burning spider and the two others Ana killed, fell down the mine shaft. Their massive bodies careened off the walls, eventually crashing together at the bottom. With all three spiders alight at the bottom two additional spiders who had been hiding below the web above were now in full view. Screeching from the sudden light, their legs curling over their eyes trying to protect themselves from the sudden invasion of light upon their dark world. Seeing an opportunity, Vance moved quickly.

With a sideways smile, Vance pushed hard off the ladder, released the break on the repelling rope and pulled his sword from the scabbard over his shoulder. As he quickly descended, Vance slashed at one, then stabbed the other before the spiders had a chance to react. Both spiders fell, each hit the floor of the mine shaft below joining the other three in a mess of flaming corpses. The smell was putrid, but surely effective, anything that was alive down there would surely skitter away, seeking refugee in the darkness.

Satisfied with his work, Vance looked up, giving Ana a thumbs up to continue her decent before slowly rappelling the rest of the way down the shaft to wait for her. When he reached the bottom, Vance noticed the entire floor of the mine shaft had been covered with a thick viscus sludge, the blood from all five spiders now covered the floor. In the mess, Vance could see activity where there shouldn't be any and called up to Ana.

"Come down, but don't touch the floor..."

Looking at the floor Vance pointed to a few spots which looked to be slowly moving. "See that, those are boor worms, scavengers, they eat the dead, and the living if given a chance."
Next, he pointed at the open corridor which joined the primary mine shafts that Voltaire had mentioned. Vance commented, "We'll have to swing ourselves in there, careful to stay away from the sludge. Once we're down and safe we can dispatch the lot of them."

Finding purchase on a ladder, Vance swung in and down on to solid ground, then waited for Ana to make her way down in any way she wanted to. Taking a few minutes, Vance tied off the rappelling ropes to a light fixture, securing them.

Over the next two hours the two of them cleared out any remaining spiders, as well as killing off a great number of boor worms who'd been attracted by the fallen spiders as well as making sure Voltaire and the rest of the crew could get down safely. Working together they lit the full length corridor from Shaft one through three. All the old lamps had been re-lit, for the rest of the party to eventually join them below. With the corridor safe, Vance took the opportunity to take a look up at the damage above in mine shaft three.

He could see where the primary mine shaft had collapsed due to the original quake that closed the mine. All he could see from below appeared to be a massive wedge of the shaft wall that had broken loose and cut off access to the primary mine shaft. He could see no light from above, nor could he tell how much of the mine shaft above it was accessible. What was easily apparent was; when another quake hit, and it was only a matter of time before that happened, the wedge would shake lose and take out the entire corridor below. A cascade effect would soon follow, making at least shaft two unusable, and possibly shaft one as well. Anyone down here would be doomed, cut off from the world above. However, the quake which closed the mine had a second effect, and that was their final destination.

Vance waited for Ana to finish what she was doing and made a motion over to the extension of shaft 3. Looking for a few minutes, Vance finally found what he was looking for and pointed one hundred feet below. "That's our way in, or out depending on your point of view..." The crack, or gap in the shaft wall was wide enough for a man of Vance's size to slip through, but some of the larger brutes Voltaire had brought with him would be playing guard duty, or simply have to go home. Using natural foot holds in the rock, Vance made his way down to the crack in the wall and peered through. Taking the lantern of his belt, Vance shined it through the opening, the air was damp as it had been in the mine, but now it had the smell of something else. The smells of the past, not easily described but it was the smell of age. By gone eras and an age that had been lost within the folds of the world. As if the world below held secrets from long ago waiting to be found. It made Vance's stomach tighten, he'd been here before, the memories were enticing but also frightening at the same time. Stepping through the gap, the area around wasn't much to see, the walls of were high and the natural crack they'd stepped into was hard stone. looking into the void of blackness he could see nothing. Helping Ana through the gap he smiled "Well, welcome to the beginning, so to speak. We'll wait for Voltaire to get here before pressing on."

As if on queue, Vance could hear foot steps and voices coming from the corridor above.

"Looks like someone else made it, and from the sound of it Voltaire is with them."

Vance could see the shadows above, could see the silhouettes of three people coming down the corridor toward them. He was about to call out, when he looked up to see the flame on one of the torches in the corridor give a slight flutter.. His stomach sank, he'd seen this before... Yelling at anyone who could hear him, Vance shouted.

"GET BACK!!! QUAKE!!!!"

Vance could hear the rumble begin below his feet, it started as a slight tremble and quickly grew into a full blown quake. Vance could see the look on Ana's face, she'd felt it too, possibly before he did but may not have been certain enough to shout as he did... Pulling her with him, Vance manically raced down the natural corridor they'd just entered as quickly as he could. The sound of the ground around them cracking, and shaking was deafening. Natural instinct to protect Ana kicked in, he'd failed the last time to protect someone he loved and while he barely knew Ana, he would not allow the same fate to befall her. He pulled her to a much wider, area that lead off in three different directions he looked back down the corridor they'd just ran through, toward the gap. Would anyone try to follow them? He could hear another great crash followed by a massive plume of dust, dirt and rocks spit out the corridor. Pulling Ana to the floor Vance covered her with his own body, curling over her tried to protect her from any falling rocks. The quake continued for what felt like an hour but was possibly only five minutes.

When the dust settled, Vance finally moved and looked at Ana, a look of genuine concern across his face. The light orb at Ana's waist lit the space between them as Vance finally spoke..

"Are you ok? Are you hurt?"
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Old 08-03-2018, 06:02 PM   #15
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Ana laughed lightly at Vance's teasing and then watched with curiosity as he used the vile of liquid fire to finish off the web and the bodies of the spiders, which then fell down to brightly light to the two other ones waiting further down the mine shaft that she'd not heard before since they'd not been moving around like the others. She had to admit that she was more than a little impressed as she watched how quickly he was able to repel down and dispatch of them both with his sword. Clearly he had a great deal of expertise with both.

At his signal she lowered herself from the little ledge she'd been balancing on and began to repel down again, careful to heed his warning about the boor worms and not touching the ground where the sludge was. Following his lead she swung herself down into the corridor and landed beside him. Once she was free of her rope she set to work helping him clear the corridor to make sure it would be safe for the others to pass through and lit the torches with him as well, then followed him to what seemed to the remnants of shaft three.

"That's our way in, or out depending on your point of view..."

She noted the crack he pointed to and nodded in understanding, then climbed down after him until they'd reached the opening in the rock. Even before he helped her inside she'd noted the slight difference in the air that was seeping out from the crack. She couldn't put her finger on it, but something about the smell made her want to press forward and turn back all at the same time.

"Well, welcome to the beginning, so to speak. We'll wait for Voltaire to get here before pressing on."

She returned Vance's smile, but on the inside she couldn't help but wonder what on earth she was getting herself into. The beginning... the beginning of what exactly? She knew that something dark was at work deep within the tunnels and ruins of this long forgotten underground kingdom, but her dreams had been vague and she was still rather uncertain of what exactly she would find. If and when she was able to find this mysterious threat, would she be able to stop it? All she knew was that she had to try.

It was then that she heard something and paused to listen.

"Looks like someone else made it, and from the sound of it Voltaire is with them."

The sound of footsteps and the voices of some of the others were clearly audible now, but that had not been what she had heard. The sound had not been coming from the corridor... it was coming from below them. She looked down at the dirt beneath her feet and was just about to say something to Vance when he suddenly shouted out.

"GET BACK!!! QUAKE!!!!"

Her eyes went wide as she heard the rumbling noise grow, paired now with a slight but quickly growing tremor that she could feel coming up from deep within the earth. She felt Vance's hand clamp tight around hers as he began to pull and race with her down the length of the corridor they had just entered. She'd never experienced a quake before and for the first time since leaving her home she felt true fear well up inside her as the sound of the ground and stone walls cracking and shaking around them filled her ears, then a sudden crashing noise just as they'd passed the threshold into a wider area that she barely had time to register before Vance was pulling her down to the floor as a great cloud of dirt and rocks spewed from the mouth of the corridor they'd just come through.

She landed on her back, his body coming down upon her and shielding her protectively as the debris fell around them. Terrified, she wrapped her arms around him and clung to him tightly as the world shook around them for what seemed like an eternity. Eventually though the quake subsided and the rumbling noise that had surrounded them stopped, and she felt Vance shift above her.

"Are you ok? Are you hurt?"

She looked up at him, her eyes meeting his and seeing the look of concern clearly visible by the light of the orb still attached to her waist. Strands of dust lit by the orb swirled softly in the air around them, twisting and curling like ribbons of smoke as they settled to the ground. Her chest rose and fell heavily in the aftermath of her fear as she took him in and gradually began to calm as she realized with a surge of relief that the quake was over and they had survived.

"I'm ok," she assured him, a look of embarrassment coming over her as she suddenly realized that she'd still had her arms around him and quickly released her hold.

"Are you alright?" she asked, her worried eyes searching over him for any sign of injury.
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Old 08-05-2018, 06:34 PM   #16
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Vance tried to get up and winced, he heard her words and jokingly replied “save for the world coming down around our ears I’m fine...” He stared into her eyes, beautiful deep eyes that he could get lost in and leaned into in order to move off Ana. Grimacing, Vance spoke, “My… my feet are stuck..” Vance moved his feet, he could feel some rubble over his ankles, start to move and with a few adjustments, he was free. His movements though brought him closer to Ana, even with her hands on him. But as he moved, Vance got off balance and shifted his weight forward. As he did this moving his arms, his face grew closer to hers, his cheek touching hers as he was finally able to move and get off her. Sitting up he surveyed the area, Got up and reached to help her up with his right hand. He held hers for a moment longer than it would have if it had been anyone else he was helping to their feet. His left hand took quickly to her side, pulling her up and into his arms.

“Sorry about that, I hope.. I hope I didn't... I'm glad you're alright."

For some reason he was feeling rather awkward being so close to Ana. It probably was the fact that she'd given no signs of attraction toward him, and after he'd lost Janesse, he was a bit reluctant to allow any woman to get too close to him emotionally. It didn't stop his own natural attraction to Ana. She was beautiful by anyone's standards, Elven or otherwise. But it wasn't that, in the last day that he'd known her he was completely impressed by how capable she was. Vance had always had a quick attraction to a woman who could hold her own, Elven or human, it didn't matter. Now that they were cut off from the group, they'd both be finding out just how much they could depend on one another. Before that could happen, Vance had to find out if the way in was truly gone.

Turning toward the way they'd come in, Vance could see his glow orb laying against the floor of the corridor they'd just run through. Vance could see the far wall and he could see the lantern he'd placed the orb in, a rock had smashed it allowing the orb to roll free. Vance looked at Ana and said "Well let's see if we can even get out of here, back the way we came.."

Letting go of Ana, he walked back, picked up the orb in his hand and raised it high over his head. He surveyed the way in. The gap had been blocked, not only that; but it had collapsed partially upon itself. A part of the stone wall had broken and wedged itself leaving maybe a quarter of the gap open. Reaching his hand through he pushed on what was on the other side, it wouldn't budge.

Vance yelled through what was left of the gap, hoping that someone has survived on the other side.

"Voltaire! Can you hear me?"

Vance waited for few moments, then heard a muffled response.

"Yea..I can hear you Vance. Both of you ok?"

The knot in the pit of his stomach released, at least he knew Voltaire was alive. Looking back at Ana he passed on the good news. Vance spoke again, hoping Voltaire could hear him alright.

"How's it look on your end? Anyway we can get out that way?"

Vance heard nothing for a few seconds, then heard Voltaire's voice a bit closer than previously.

"No way.. Unless you've got a cave troll you can call on, or a levitation spell, there's no way. Shaft three has nearly completely caved in, and.. I can't see the gap. It's covered by rubble."

Vance's stomach knotted again.

"Guess you don't have one in your back pocket either do you?"

"No.. Sorry Vance, but the corridor looks like it's about to collapse. We are getting out of here. Anyone you want me to tell that you're down here?"

Vance actually thought to tell the truth for a moment, then resolved to continue his lie.

"No, I'll look at my map and see if I can plot Ana and I a way out."

Vance didn't have to look at his map to know the answer to that question, but he didn't have to tell Voltaire that. He'd given Voltaire an old copy of the map, before his last venture in. The closest exit was at least three days travel.

"I know which way to go. Good luck Voltaire."

Voltaire replied, his voice sounded as if he'd moved again.

"Good Luck to you too kid.."

Turning back and walking down the corridor to Ana, he updated her on Voltaire. His next words were filled with concern and inquiry.

"Well, Voltaire is going back out, the mine is too unstable. The closest exit that I know is about a days travel, in another direction. We can go that way. Or... we can do what we set out to. I'd planned on splitting from Voltaire after we'd made it a bit farther in. Don't worry I wasn't going to strand him, he has an older copy of the map, one that's not as extensive so he wouldn't have been lost. So, you have a choice. I can get you out, or... you can come with me. What do you wanna do Ana?"
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Old 08-06-2018, 03:59 PM   #17
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Ana could feel a blush forming in her cheeks as Vance had to shift forward and press against her in order to free his feet from the fallen rubble they'd gotten trapped under, his positioning allowing her to feel the hard planes of his muscled body as it leaned into her own. The feel of his slightly stubbled cheek brushing against her softer one sent a tingle down her spine that gave her goosebumps in response.

All of this was obviously accidental on his part however, though the way in which his hand lingered a fraction as it gripped hers to help her up didn't seem to be. She felt her blush deepen slightly as he pulled her up and into his arms to help her to her feet.

“Sorry about that, I hope.. I hope I didn't... I'm glad you're alright."

She noted the way in which he stumbled over his words and wondered if he might be feeling as flustered by their closeness as she was. She would be lying if she said she didn't find Vance attractive. Her eyes stayed on him as he kept her in his arms and turned his head and towards the way they had just come from. Not only was he handsome but his actions that day had shown him to be kind and brave as well, but she was trying very hard not to let her attraction show. It was more than just the fact that they had just met and she was trying to keep things professional between them, though there was that, but it was also because of who she was.

After this quest of hers was completed, assuming she was somehow able to complete it and made it out alive, she would need to return to her own kingdom and the duties of being a princess. Of course as the kings only child and heir to the kingdom one of those duties would most definitely include being wed to a suitor that her family deemed a suitable match, and then continuing on the family line. While she didn't think her father so cruel as to force her into a marriage with someone that she completely despised, and he very well may allow her input on who she would prefer when the time came, there were certain traits that she knew without a doubt would be demanded of any man that she wished to wed. Namely that they be of a noble bloodline, and that they be Elven... neither of which Vance was of course. Why risk beginning something that was already doomed from the start by letting her attraction show? No, much better to just keep it to herself.

"Well let's see if we can even get out of here, back the way we came.."

He released her then and she watched as he made his way over to retrieve his fallen orb and then over to examine the gap. She felt her stomach clench as he began to push and test some of the rock.

"Be careful!" she breathed, worried that the rock might shift and crush his arm, though she wasn't certain if he heard as he began to call out for Voltaire.

She could barely make out that there had been a reply, though it was too muffled for her to make out who was speaking or what they were saying exactly, though apparently Vance could from his position as he turned back and let her know that it was Voltaire. A conversation then ensued, and while she could only hear Vance's shouted replies, from what she gathered it didn't look good.

She watched with bated breath as he made his way back to her and listened as he explained to her the status of their situation. For a moment when he explained that the rest of the team would not be able to join them an then began to talk about their closest exit she was worried that their journey had ended before it had even begun. No! This could not be! She couldn't turn back now! She had to find a way to journey deeper into the tunnels and find a way to stop whatever it was that her visions had been warning her of!

"Or..."

Her breathing stilled as hope sparked within her, waiting to see what he would say.

... we can do what we set out to. I'd planned on splitting from Voltaire after we'd made it a bit farther in. Don't worry I wasn't going to strand him, he has an older copy of the map, one that's not as extensive so he wouldn't have been lost. So, you have a choice. I can get you out, or... you can come with me. What do you wanna do Ana?"

Relief flooded her and she released the breath that she'd been holding.

"I want to come with you," she replied without hesitation.

She didn't care at the moment why Vance had been planning to split off from the group, though she did wonder about that, all she cared about was that she still had a chance of getting to travel down further into the tunnels!
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Old 08-08-2018, 01:20 PM   #18
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Vance gave her a sincere smile at her answer, "Good!, Because this isn't a treasure hunt. Well it is, but not the kind of treasure Voltaire was looking for. I'm not looking for King Robert's treasure, or the lost chalase of pick your dead relative, this is something much bigger than any of those. I wanna know what's down under our feet."

Pulling his travel bag around in front of him, Vance reached in, and pulled out a long slim sack, possibly two feet long by six inches wide, he untied the mouth of the bag and pulled out three long sticks that were connected by one long cord that ran through them. Vance connected one to the other creating a staff, pulling the cord tight creating at six foot tall staff. Vance wrapped the cord around his glow orb, then wrapped the remainder at the top, tying it tight. Returning the small sack into his bag, Vance Looked at Ana, smiled and pointed the staff in front of them down the long corridor.

"This will go on for a little while, when we stop next, you might very well love what you see."

Vance lead the way, for a few moments then stopped, got down on one knee and studied a foot print on the dirt floor.

"They look fresh...someone else came down here, the long ropes that we used to get down to the access corridor, the people who put them there must have used them to get down here and made their way into the gap we did, we might have company."

Following the tracks for awhile longer he stopped at a fork, two paths lead in different directions, One, almost a natural staircase that lead up and off into darkness above. That's where the foot prints went. slight scuff marks against the walls, and the foot prints grew rapid. "Looks like whoever they were, they were in a rush."

The other direction, took a dramatic turn off to their right. Vance took a moment and reached again into his bag and knelt on the stairs.

Pulling out a large leather bound book from his travel bag, he thumbed through a number of pages, some diagrams of the mine that they'd been in, one page appeared to have scribbles of an amulet, a stone encased in ornate metal, a crisscrossed metal wrap around it's center with another much smaller stone at it's center. Vance quickly paged past it, reaching what appeared to be a much larger map, the first area at the top right appeared to be the entrance from shaft three, and his finger pointed to the fork.

"We are right here.." His fingers traced the corridor to a much longer corridor with a few X's along it's path, eventually coming to an open space. Vance hadn't been must of an illustrator, but it looked like a river was running through it. "We'll stop here." tapping his finger on the map.

The rest of the way was mostly in silence, Vance listened to his own breathing, trying to hear with his ears, trying to sense if they'd have any boor worms or spiders down here. The corridor kept on for a pace, and Vance closed his eyes and took in a deep breath.

"You probably smelled the flowers long before I did.."

Smiling, Vance lead the way to a the corridor's end, a wide expansive area maybe one two acres in size, lush, green, and wild. the area was covered in numerous flowers, a natural oasis in the depths of the earth. A natural spring could be heard, water was running through the room. Far off the spring went through a gap in the wall, leading off. away from them. The ceiling above them was open. The walls of the massive cave stretched high, sheer walls as if someone took a spoon and scooped out this cave. Far above the sky was clear to see and shown down upon them. It was still day time, but night would be approaching soon.

"I don't know about you, but does this place give off a magical feel to it? I know the spring is natural, but to see such lush green here, flowers blooming this deep? I've been here only twice, and each time it makes me wonder who helped this? My ancestors? Yours? Possibly both?"

Vance lead the way, finally reaching the spring, a natural river had carved it's way through here. The water was crystal clear, and at the bottom the bed of the river was smooth stone. He sat down near the water's edge and Invited Ana to sit with him, pulling out a small water skin that he'd folded within his travel bag. slipping it into the spring water he fillled it and drank, the cool water relaxing, easing his mind. Handing the water skin to Ana, he offered it to her.

"It's about as pure, and clean as I've ever tasted..."

Taking his Travel bag and climbing rope off he pulled out another small sack of dried fruit and nuts. taking some, then offering them to Ana. He smiled, and his voice spoke with seriousness and inquiry.

"Ana, your reasons for being down here are your own, possibly the same as mine, but if we are going to be down here together we need to trust each other. I'm not asking for a heart to heart talk, I'm not asking for your life story, but I'm asking for the 'why' you came down here."

Vance spoke further, trying to make eye contact with her and as he spoke he hid his face finding a spot far off across the cave.

"My reasons of being down here are personal. That quake, it wasn't the first one I've felt, nor was it the first one that's occurred. Long ago, I lost someone I cared deeply about. the world below opened a hole and swallowed up everything. Ever since, I've been trying to find out why these quakes have been occurring. In the three years since the first one I felt about one hundred fifty people have lost their lives, either due to cave ins, homes collapsing, or.. other means. Each time, each one seems to be more than it is. I can feel it. and there's something down here causing it I think."

"That's my story Ana, that's my 'Why"... Can you tell me 'why' you're here?"
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Old 08-13-2018, 09:58 PM   #19
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"You probably smelled the flowers long before I did.."

She had of course. As they'd walked down the corridor the scent of flowers and fresh air had begun to gently waft towards her from up ahead, but she'd thought for sure that it must have been some figment of her imagination seeing as how they were currently so deep underground. Was she already having daydreams of the surface after not even a full day of being down below and being deprived of the sunshine and greenery that she loved so dearly? She looked over to Vance with confusion at his words, curiosity and excitement stirring within her now as he lead her to the end of the corridor.

Her eyes went wide with wonder at the beautiful, lush oasis before her. She stepped out into it, taking it all in and smiling at the beauty around her and at the warm feel of the sunlight on her face. She nodded in agreement with his comment about the place being magic as she followed him towards the stream, sitting down beside it with him when he invited her.

She watched as he filled the water skin and drank, taking a drink of her own with thanks when he offered it to her and sighing with satisfaction at the cool, clean taste. She smiled and politely thanked him again when he offered her some of the dried fruit and nuts and took a few to snack upon with him. When he spoke again however, the serious tone of his voice made her pause.

"Ana, your reasons for being down here are your own, possibly the same as mine, but if we are going to be down here together we need to trust each other. I'm not asking for a heart to heart talk, I'm not asking for your life story, but I'm asking for the 'why' you came down here."

She grew still, the last piece of dried fruit remaining uneaten in her hand resting upon her lap as she noted the way he his his face from her while he spoke of the past and how he'd lost someone in a quake, how it had spurred him to find out why they were happening. Her heart clenched in her chest as he told her about the other lives that had been lost since then. So her visions had been correct then. Her heart went out to the loved ones of the lost, and to him. She could not help but wonder who it was exactly that he had lost. Someone in his family?... A lover? He had not specified other than to say it was someone he'd cared deeply about.

"That's my story Ana, that's my 'Why"... Can you tell me 'why' you're here?"

She paused, uncertain about what exactly she should share with him, if she should share anything with him. She didn't want to lie. She too wanted them to be able to trust one another, and like he'd said she didn't need to share everything with him, just the 'why' he'd asked for. She looked down at her hands in contemplation, fiddling with the last piece of fruit nervously for a moment.

"You might have heard before that sometimes my kind are gifted with special intuitive abilities..."

She looked up at him finally, hoping he wouldn't think her crazy and change his mind about allowing her to come with him as she continued.

"I've lived my whole life on the surface so I've never personally encountered a quake before today, but I was aware that they were happening... even before the news of them began to reach the Elven kingdom. I've been having visions of them for years now, but not only that... I've had a vision of what's causing them," she explained, "You're right something is down there, Vance. Something that is waking up, that wants out, and if it succeeds it won't just be human lives at stake, it will be everyone!"

"That's why I've come," she told him, "To find out what exactly is causing the tremors... and to stop it."
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Old 08-14-2018, 08:46 PM   #20
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"The truth is always the truth, no matter how much it hurts."

Vance remembered the quote from Sully, he'd said it to him when he'd first left the royal palace and started living in the small cabin he'd been calling home for the last 3 years. Now, Vance was staring at the truth right in his face. He'd wanted to run from the idea that there was something horrific waiting for them down there. All the books he'd been studying had said something about about a "Great Terror" that had been buried beneath the world.

Vance now had so many questions to ask her, he didn't know where to start.

"Ana, I don't think you are crazy, not even close... I think you are on to something.. You said your visions.. you've had them for years, how many now? Three? Maybe four years? And... there's something down there that want's to get out? Has your visions given you a clue as to what it might be?"

Vance pulled out the book he'd been hauling around in his pack, opened it up to one of the first pages and read through a list of occurrences. "The quakes have been getting progressively worse, The first...the one...The first one that I know of was huge, it buckled buildings and caused all sorts of tremors across the Human Kingdom underground and above. The loss of life however was minimal, but each quake since then has been underground. and everything I've found from archives tells me there's a place down there, that was called 'The Melding Peak'. What's so odd about the name is, it's farther underground than any other location I've read about. So if you think you are crazy, then I'm completely nuts, because not only do I believe you, but I think... and you can correct me on this, but I think humans and elves are at fault for this. I can't completely prove it, but there are a few places that I've seen from a distance that leads me to believe that Humans an Elves didn't always hate each other, That at one time both races lived above and below ground together. And one more thing, I think..I think there was a murder, or someone within the royal family died.. But I can't be sure."

Vance flipped a few more pages, coming to the massive map he'd originally showed her. Pointing to the bottom where it ends. "I think this is where it is, I could only glimpse the spot, but it seemed to be a spire, some sort of tower that is cylindrical in shape. I had to stop as I had no way of getting over to it. I was also looking for something else when I it."

Pointing to another spot on the map, one that looked like a crudely drawn castle, Vance spoke again. " This here.. this is possibly where the murder occurred, old text refer to an old keep but there's no name that I can read on the walls. There are markings and paintings, that I swear are in elvish. But, of course I don't know what they mean since I can't read it Elvish. But... you can." With a smile Vance reached out and grasped her hand gently, his face showing true joy. "I think... fortune shines upon us. There's a reason we were brought together you and I. I'm not sure of the why at the moment but I think both of us being down here might give us a better chance than anyone of figuring out the who or what is trying to get out.. That's where we need to go first, and I think that's where we'll find some certain answers.."
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