Chapter Thirty-three: Adventurers in the Hills
“Are you sure we should be doing this?” Ered asked nervously.
His palpable fear caused a few in the party to shoot him disdainful looks. This, in turn, caused him to blush in embarrassment and shut his mouth. However, he was not the only one with such thoughts as proved by the next person to speak.
“The brat has a point”, a swordsman said. “The Galronde Forest is classed as a C rank zone for a reason. No offence, Coenbert, but not even you are a match for the things in there.”
Coenbert nodded, unconsciously accepting this fact. He was a rank four Guardian just some distance away from rank five but not even his defences would amount to much against something C ranked. Thankfully, they were not going into the forest. He turned to the ranger beside him to explain.
Seig stepped up to play his role.
“We will not go into The Galronde, Ryan!” he said to the swordsman. “We’ll skirt it, keeping to the hills and the feet of the Battlehammer Mountains.”
The swordsman, now identified as Ryan, turned to glance at the two dwarfs in their company. Rather than be assured he grew even more agitated.
“You said this was going to be a simple gathering expedition, Coenbert. The dwarves don’t take kindly to trespassers in their mountains. Bringing those two will change nothing. I’m not about to get myself killed by snooping in some abandoned mine!”
Despite the fact that there were no people besides their group in the area, Coenbert could not help but shoot quick glances around at that cry. Grabbing Ryan by the front of his shirt, he pulled him in close and snarled.
“Would you shut up and listen first? Are you stupid? What if someone heard that? Who said anything about sneaking into dwarven mines?”
Spooked, their entire party, a troop of eighteen adventurers glanced at each other warily. A few of Ryan’s friends gripped their swords tersely but a startled Ryan waved them off. Being a rank four Guardian made Coenbert the most powerful person in the party. His strength and Vitality were greater than any of them could hope to match and his class skills put him in an overwhelming advantage in terms of defence. None here possessed the power to breach them.
Looking at them coolly, Coenbert let Ryan go. He had brought the swordsman on this mission because he was the best choice at the time but they were barely into the expedition and that already seemed like a bad decision. They had worked well in their previous dealing but it seemed the swordsman cautious and cowardly nature was going to a bother this time around.
“Shut up and let the ranger speak!” he warned before stepping backwards.
The dwarves exchanged looks. Whiles, it felt good that the humans both respected their people’s wishes or at least understood the consequences of not doing so, they had come on Coenbert’s request. That meant they were on his side. If the party was really going to split over this issue…
“No one is going into dwarven territory!” Seig said seriously.
“The BattleHammer Mountains might be the sovereign land of the dwarves but the Galronde Forest and the land surrounding it is still Basilean. So long as we do not climb the mountains or go into the deep caverns we will not be in violation of the accords”, he added, glancing towards the dwarves. They nodded to confirm his words.
Continuing, the ranger explained, “Like we said, this is simple gathering mission. We are going to skirt the forest and keep to the foot of the mountain. The idea is to avoid as much trouble as possible, getting what we came for without hassle as well as not alerting anyone or anything to our activities.
“And what are we here for?” someone on Ryan’s side asked.
“Gemstones and precious ores”, Sieg said truthfully.
“You’ve got to be kidding me!” Ryan spat. Turning to glare at Coenbert, he asked angrily. “That’s the big payday you promised? Prospecting? Do you think diamonds just spout like geysers?”
Coenbert ground his teeth but said nothing. This truly was a bad idea.
“No not diamonds, rubies!” Sieg revealed.
“Look”, he entreated. “Just listen to what I have to say and then you can choose to believe me or not.”
His choice of words was the right one because by this point there was grumbling on both sides. With the exception of Coenbert, the five in his personal team and the dwarves, Sieg was the only one who actually knew what their mission was. The others had only come because the guardian had called on them and for the rewards he promised. They had no idea that they will be getting so close to restricted territory or that their gathering mission involved prospecting. The ranger stood the chance of losing them if he failed to mollify them. Thankfully, he was fully prepared for this and remained unflustered.
“Two moons ago, I accepted a contract that brought me to the exact same area that we will be going to”, he revealed in a conspiratory whisper. “The client was a mage, a definite master, fifth-ranked… maybe even sixth. Later, I would come to find that he was also a geomancer. He created the mission, with the exact same aim we have only… his was a party of three. It was just me, him and a burly guardian.”
“Bullshit!” someone immediately called out. Theirs was a party of eighteen and not even they were confident in exploring the place. Who would believe that only three did what they could not or would not?
“Please”, Sieg implored calmly. “Let me finish.”
Trivia Question Four: How do the daemons in HoGW communicate?
Clearly, this is targetted at those who familiar with my entire body of work. It is not necessary to answer the question. This is merely one of the extra questions required to obtain a beta copy of HoGW BK II, Nestling.