“Okay,” He breathed, still being careful to keep his voice low. “We are in. You have an idea of where the treasury is right?”
Kara shook here head. “No. Where would the fun in that be?”
He stifled a groan.
“Don’t worry.” She went on. “We will find it. It will be where the most guards are.”
Stark sighed. They kept their ears open and strolled through the passage. It opened abruptly onto a rather large cavern which had been fashioned into a training yard. Barracks and what appeared to be the armoury was embedded in two of the three walls that faced them and a gate dominated the third.
There was considerably more light here as well. The flickering gaslights and torches of the city were gone. In their place were bright glowing orbs. They filled the empty space with eerie blue and green, unwavering light.
“We can’t stay here.” Kara murmured. “There is no cover. That gate must lead into the palace proper, but where are the guards?”
“I don’t know.” Snark replied. “And I don’t care. It’s bad luck to look too closely at found coin. Let’s go.”
The pair dashed across the open space to the gate. Even here, there were very few shadows. The gate had been cut into the wall seamlessly and all the stone had been polished to a mirror shine. All the better for maximizing what little light there is underground. In all of the known world, there was no one better at stonework than a dwarf, and it seamed that only the best laid hands on this gate and the palace beyond.
Their luck was holding. Not only were there no guards stationed at this gate, it had also been left open. Snark followed Kara through and gently closed the gate behind them. Open gates, especially those leading into the homes of kings, had away of drawing unwanted attention. He didn’t pull the bar down though. It was always best to leave possible escape routes open. One never knew when one was going to be needed.
They kept to the shadows as best they could. It wasn’t long until they found their way into the palace proper, and the place was filled with more of that eerie blue and green light. There was far more light here than Snark had expected, and it was quiet. It would have been easy to avoid any patrolling dwarves because they would have heard them coming. The average dwarf wouldn’t be able to sneak up on a man if his life depended on it. Dwarves simply just didn’t know how to move quietly.
Which made the silence of the palace corridors grate on Snark’s nerve all the more. Where were the courtiers? The dukes? The earls? Or whatever passed as nobility here in this nation? And the servants, where were they?
This is wrong. Kara signed. It feels too easy. There is no way these halls should be empty like this. We should have seen someone by now.
Agreed. He replied. Let’s just find that treasury and get out of here. I don’t want to get caught up in whatever is going on here.
The layout of this place is starting to feel familiar to me. Her fingers twitched as her she looked around. I think that the treasury should be close to the royal apartments.
Just lead the way to the gold. He winked. I will follow.
Snark followed her as she lead him through the grand halls of the palace. If there was one thing that he could appreciate about dwarves, it was this. They liked to build in a nice ordered fashion. This made it difficult to get lost and much easier to find what one was looking for. They kept off the main corridors as best they could. Kara had a good sense of direction and a almost supernatural knack of ending up exactly where she wanted to be. Snark, well, he did get lost in his own house once. In his defence, he was awfully drunk at the time.
They came to a junction where several corridors came together and it was here that their luck gave out. Heavy footsteps bounced off the marble walls, making it impossible to determine the direction that they were coming from.
“Crap.” Kara swore. “Where are they coming from? They are coming closer.”
“Damned if I know.” Snark replied. “I have an idea.”
He ran to nearest lamp and blew it out. Kara, following his lead did the same and the pair of them crowded into the shadows behind one of the columns. Snark hoped whomever it was would pass by without noticing them.
A pair of kolbolds rounded the corner, followed by another pair. Snark wasn’t up on kolbold livery, however he could guess that the over large goblinoid creature that loomed over the rest was a person of importance, a chieftain or maybe a shaman perhaps.
Next came the dwarven king. He was paced by two kolbold warriors, one on either side of him. He still held the emblems of kingship, the jagged crown that shown from his brow, and a sceptre which was heavy and little more than a heavy mace. It was quite clear that the king was no longer running the kingdom. His once proud head hung and his gaze rarely left the polished floor. Lines of magic threaded themselves through the dwarven king’s aura and seemed to be feeding from him.
The entire procession marched pasted Kara and Snark and didn’t seem to notice anything at all amiss.
Kolbolds! Her fingers quickly flashed in front of his face. What the hell are kolbolds doing here?
He shrugged. How the hell am I supposed to know? He signed. I think the better question would be, what are they up to and how can we get in on the action?
Kara crossed her arms and glared at him.
Isn’t it obvious?
Okay, dumb ass. Her fingers flashed. Explain.
Snark sighed. Dwarves in general do tend to have a lot of coin. While it is true that they don’t mine a lot of it, they do mine a lot of other metals. Iron, copper, silver and of course mithril. Mithril is worth more than gold. We shouldn’t forget that people pay a hell of a lot for dwarven crafted weapons. Even the stuff that the dwarves throw away as junk is far better than what the most skilled blacksmith can make.
Her eyes went back to the scaly bat like creatures. So, she replied. They are here for pretty much the same reason we are.
Pretty much. He agreed. But hey. This doesn’t change anything. We are still trapped here. The entire dwarven nation is still hunting the city and the countryside for us. That hasn’t changed, though I suspect that we had disrupted their plans by swiping the idol.
What are we going to do now?
Snark grinned. Did you see the size of that diamond?
Kara’s sudden grin matched his own. And that crown looked pretty shiny too. I don’t think that the king really needs it anymore now that the kolbolds are running things.
They took extra care as they moved away from the door. Kolbolds in more civilized lands are seen as brutish creatures, and for the most part that was true, it was never a good idea to underestimate them, or dismiss them as purely vermin. Those ears of theirs could hear almost as well as the bats that they resembled and they were known to have powerful shaman’s among them.
Snark knew for a fact that there was one close by. He didn’t know the purpose of the lines of energy that snaked through the stone around them; there was no way for him to know, but it was a good solid guess that it wasn’t anything good.
Shuffling steps echoed from the stone around them. Snark grabbed Kara and pulled her with him through the nearest door.
“Mine!” A high pitched squeaky voice protested.
They slowly turned around.
A short kolbold stood in the centre of the room with a dwarven child dangling from his arms. Blood pooled around the creature’s feet and soaked into the rug. Small limbs and the occasional torso were piled high off to one side. In the farthest corner from the grim scene, a dwarven woman was bound hand and foot. She struggled fiercely against the ropes that bound her while a small group of children cowered behind her.
The kolbold dropped the corpse. Snark flinched. “They were given to me,” The kolbold pounded on his chest. “Grimloch. Grimloch the bold. Grimloch the sneaky. You no take them.”
The Grimloch creature pulled a squealing infant from the arms of its sibling and cooed as he caressed the child’s head. He opened his mouth wide revealing jagged teeth and moved to pierce the baby’s skull.
Kara let fly. Her dagger buried itself to the hilt in the kolbold’s eye. Instantly Snark rush forward and caught the babe before the body could hit the floor. He breathed a sigh of relief as he cradled it in his arms and looked the little one over.
“I bloody well hate kolbolds,” Kara muttered under her breath. She plucked her blade from the cooling body and wiped it clean on it’s rags.
Snark looked up from the baby in his arms and glanced at the group of dwarves. “So much for not being seen. What should we do about them?”
Kara shrugged. “Leave them as they are. We can’t take them with us and we can’t let them roam about on their own. They would just raise the alarm to our presence and they probably would just get eaten by the kolbolds out there.”
The dwarf maid squealed and shook her head vigorously. She tried to tell them something around the gag that was clenched between her teeth.
Snark blinked. “I think that she can understand us.” He stepped closer to get a better look at her. “You know, this might be the queen.”
“Really?” Kara went over to stand beside him. “Are you sure?”
“I am pretty sure.” He replied. “No servant or underling would wear any of those jewels. That ruby is flawless. I think that is diamond dust in the grooves of those hair things that she is wearing.”
“Clips.” Kara corrected him. “They are called hair clips.”
“Whatever.” Snark brushed the hair from the dwarf’s eyes. “That is a royal circlet. If that isn’t a sign of royalty them I am a orcish bard.”
Kara snickered. “You are an orcish thief. That is almost the same thing.”
Snark leaned over the queen and examined the ropes that bound her. He adjusted them, making them both more comfortable for the dwarf and more secure at the same time.
“It’s too bad that we have to leave them here.” Snark said. “We can’t afford to get caught and between the kolbolds and the children, she is going to have more than enough to worry about than what we are up to.”
“What are we going to do with this little guy?” Kara waved her hand at the baby in his arms.
Snark looked around the room. “Give me a few moments.”
It didn’t take long for the pair of them to scrap together a make shift bed for the babe. They placed it next to the queen and placed the now drowsy child within it.
After that was done, Snark pulled a spare dagger from his boot and thrust it into a near by table. One that was just out of the queen’s reach. Kara arched a brow. “Are you sure that you are not going to need that?”
“No.” He replied. “But she is going to need something in case one of those kolbolds wander in here looking for their buddy over there. If she is smart, she will get herself and those children some where safe as soon as she manages to get herself free, and forget that we were here at all. I don’t want to leave her defenceless. I am just buying us some time. We should be long gone before she has managed to cut herself free.”
“Makes sense.” Kara shrugged.
He turned towards the door, then stopped. “Just one more thing before we go.” Snark smiled at the queen and her eyes narrowed. “I think that we should take our reward for saving them now. Since, we have no intention of ever coming back this way.”
Kara nodded and went to listen at the door. Snark’s slender fingers plucked the circlet from the queen’s brow. He held it up to admire it a moment before adding it to the idol that was stowed in his bag. Her rings and the golden chain that held the ruby quickly followed. The worry and desperation in the dwarf’s eyes quickly turned to astonishment, then rage.
Snark merely shrugged at her expression. “Nothing is free in this world. This is a small price to pay for the life of the little one. Don’t you think so?”
The dwarven queen snarled at him.
“Are you done yet?” Kara asked. “I can hear movement in the corridor. We have to get our asses out of here before we get pinned down.”
“All done.” Snark saluted the queen and turned away. “Time to move on.”
The dwarf screeched at him as he silently slipped through the door leaving her and the children behind.