Chapter 6: The Delicate Art of Conversation with Ogres
Stymied by ogres;
Statue: nowhere to be found;
Goblins are my hope.
~ Miyara Miwa
Since Ash's best attribute is not speaking, I asked the physician to write a short note for the Druidess, explaining to her what had happened to the expedition she sent out, and asking if Og could perhaps be restored to life, as had the small elf.
We proceeded to the tower to wait for Ash and Jeisan to appear. It took only a few days, which I felt was worthwhile. The ancient warrior-scholar Miyara Sakura wrote that when planning on entering battle with an enemy of unknown strength, it was best to ensure one's army is as strong as possible. While we waited, I began to teach Sun to fight with a short club. At the least, he had a better chance of keeping himself alive until I could help him in a battle. Mongo spent the time repairing armor. He asked if Kyosuke wished him to make some leather armor for him, but Kyosuke refused. He explained to me that the techniques used in clown-fighting were for both offense and defense, and that armor, in fact, hampered the movements, much like any other unarmed combat techniques of our people.
As soon as Ash and Jeisan joined us, we proceeded to the shrine. We made it halfway before nightfall, and we set a watch pattern:
- First Watch: Sutoiko, Ash, the White Faerie
- Second Watch: Kyosuke, Jeisan, Res Li
- Third Watch: Mongo, Caramela, Myself
When he wishes, Sun joins me on watch. Shan and Ravena do not take watches, of course.
That night we slept quietly, and reached the shrine by afternoon. Kyosuke asked me if the ogres could see in the dark. We decided they could, so we would be better off attacking them in the daylight, when we could all see. We set camp above the gorge, and most of the night passed quietly.
Late in my watch, we heard a hostile, booming voice echoing all around us. In the common language used here, with what I presumed to be a heavy ogrish accent, the voice said, "Slims! Why have you returned?" With the echoes, it was impossible to detect where the voice came from.
We ignored the question, and Mongo went around nudging everyone awake. Kyosuke asked what was going on, and Mongo answered him, with me translating, of course. Kyosuke prowled around the perimeter of the camp, very stealthily, looking for any dangers.
The ogre only waited a minute, then repeated the question. Kyosuke returned and told me the voice was above us, and Jeisan pointed his sword in that direction as well. I told him where Kyosuke said the voice was, and Jeisan agreed. We worried for a moment that they might throw rocks down on us, but then remembered that the dwarves had been very careful: we could not find any rocks to throw down, so neither could the ogres. What had worked against us before now worked in our favour.
Mongo wondered what we should answer, since apparently the ogre was just going to keep asking. I said, "We are here to recover what belongs to us." Mongo answered for us, as his voice carries quite well.
As the echoes of Mongo's words faded, I heard something large moving away from us quickly, from where the voice had been coming from. We quickly decided to attack immediately, before that one returned to the shrine and warned the others that we were on our way. Assuming they had not heard the entire exchange anyway.
Kyosuke disappeared, following the sounds through the dark while the rest of us prepared for battle. The non-combatants carried the lanterns so we could all see. We left without Kyosuke, who had not returned. I hoped he could take care of himself, and had to assume that he could. He is certainly not as untrained as I had thought.
Res Li, holding a lantern, and the White Faerie beside him, maul in hands, led the way. Jeisan and Sutoiko, with his bow ready to fire above their heads, followed. Then Ash and myself, then Caramela and Ravena (who carried a lantern). Next, Mongo (who carried a lantern for the time being), and Shan, led by Sun. Shan tried to use the box, but it did not actually give out much light, and it sloshed around when he ran. He closed it back up and put it away.
We hurried, but did not run. There was no point in arriving too tired to fight. It took us about five minutes to get down the mountain, then another three or so back up the trail to the gorge, then finally another 200 yards to the shrine. By the time we reached the gorge, Res Li and Caramela were slowing down. We all stayed together, matching our pace to the slowest among us. We saw nothing along the way.
At the gate, Res Li stopped, and looked for any traps the ogres might have set while we were gone. The faerie greeting boomed out again, and we answered it: "We are here to kill ogres!" Res Li found no signs of a trap, so we walked inside.
About 20 feet in, the entrance tunnel widened. A large bench made of a black rock sat against one wall. Those who had been here before said the ogres were to the east, so that was where we headed. The passage curved to the north, and we entered the store room, where they had rescued the other group. Res Li used his strange powers to look through the doors they had not been through before. He said the eastern door led into an area larger than he could see. There were tables in the middle, piles of stuff at the walls, and no ogres immediately visible. In the west, there was a hallway which was blocked down some stairs by a cave-in. Ash sniffed the air and said we should go through the east door, where they were last time.
Res Li and the White Faerie moved back, and Jeisan and Ash opened the door. Sutoiko and I entered after them, then someone with lanterns. I thought briefly of Kyosuke, then put him from my mind: I had to concentrate on what I was doing.
This room was empty of ogres. It was about 20 feet by 30 feet. As Res Li had said, there were piles of fur and other stuff around the edge of the room. It looked like they had been used as beds. We entered from the west, and there was another door next to it. The prisoners had been behind the south door, and there was also a door to the north. The tables in the center held plates and utensils, and half-eaten food.
Ash pointed to the other west door, and Res Li looked through it. It was merely a passage. Ash and Res Li entered first, followed by Jeisan and the White Faerie, Sutoiko and me, Caramela and Ravena. Sun led Shan next, with Mongo guarding the rear.
The tunnel was squared off, with faerie-worked walls. We came across an odd intersection. It looked as though some had drilled a tube, smooth as glass, about three feet in diameter. It slanted vertically across, and looked too small for ogres to fit into. Mongo looked up and down it. He saw nothing upwards, but down, just at the limits of his vision, he said he thought he was something. Perhaps another passage intersection. The tube seemed to continue past it as well.
We walked by it, and in another 15 to 20 feet, the passage widened into round room, about 20 feet in diameter. Res Li stepped aside to allow the fighters through first: Ash, Jeisan, and the White Faerie entered first, then Res Li, Sutoiko, and me. The non-combatants followed us, with Mongo last.
The passage just beyond the round room was blocked by a portcullis, dark behind it. The hallway between us and the portcullis was piled with flammable stuff which smelled strongly of oil. An ogre voice boomed out, telling us, "Stop slims, we do not have what you want".
Jeisan argued back and forth with the ogre. They said the items they took were hidden outside the shrine somewhere, and they would fight to defend the shrine, which was special in some way to them. In unison, Jeisan and I invited them to come out to do so, but they declined. For some reason, they wanted us to go find the statue I wanted and show it to them, after which they would tell us where "our stuff" was. That made no sense to us, but they said if we showed them the statue, it would prove that we had killed the goblins for them.
We asked ourselves if we really wanted to work for the ogres, even slantwise like that. We did not, of course. Res Li looked more closely at the portcullis, to see how it worked. It was made of wood and metal, and was quite primitive: apparently there had never been any counterweights. It was just lifted and lowered by brute strength. We wondered if it were stuck, so there had to be another way in, or if they just lifted and lowered it themselves. Res Li looked carefully, and said it looked like it had been moved recently, so they must just open it by brute force. He said it looked like it was usually held open with spikes in the wall. Jeisan guessed it would take between three and six of him to lift the thing.
We decided to go back and look through everything we had skipped to get here. The ogres felt safe and probably were not going anywhere for a while. As we turned and left, Jeisan told the ogres, "We will be back later."
Returning to the room with many doors, we tried them all out. We all wanted to make sure there was not anything to attack us from behind on our way down to the goblins.
Through one door, we found a 15 x 10 foot room, with no other doors and a large chest and a pile of fur in it. Res Li looked in the chest before we entered the room, and saw some money and a brass, or at least metal, figurine inside. We entered the room and also saw a 2 foot wide well with a bucket. Res Li checked the chest for traps, then opened it. We quickly counted up the coins and found 17 crowns, 35 shillings, over a hundred pennies. The figurine was solid and gold-coloured, of a small winged humanoid. We closed up the chest again and took it with us.
The next door led us up some steep stairs with a door at the top. Res Li was going to go look through it, but that proved unnecessary, as the door had a three foot hole in it, about five feet up. Of course, he could not see through the hole, as it was far above his eye level, so he looked through it and told us what was inside: a chest of drawers, which were all out and empty, a table, and a skeleton sitting in a chair at the table. The table held parchments, candle stubs, and figurines. Res Li checked the door for some kind of trap, but found none. The door was locked and barred on the other side. Jeisan simply reached in through the hole and lifted the bar. Res Li moved back, out of the way. Jeisan pushed the door, and it did not open. He pulled it, and it did not open. He leaned hard against it, and the door still did not open. He said it seemed to squish a little. There are not any locks: the door is apparently held shut with magic.
But there was the hole. Res Li and I crawled into the room through it, and the magic holding the door closed did not seem to notice. There was a set of shelves, with rusty utensils on them. From inside, I tried to open the door, but it did not open that way, either. Res Li gathered the parchments: he could not read them, so he passed them on to Caramela, who also could not read them. The skeleton looked human, and it was holding a small bottle. The four wax figurines were humanoid and quite rough looking. Certainly no great artist had fashioned them.
Res Li picked them up anyway. The others wanted me to get the bottle, but I would absolutely not take anything from the dead. I was brought up properly. He said the bottle was very slippery, but he held it carefully and delivered it to Ravena on the other side of the door.
The other items Res Li carried were placed into the chest. Ravena examined the bottle while we climbed back through the door. She guessed it was either poison or a healing potion. I will not be drinking out of it, ever.
Having seen all the rooms there were to see, we inspected the piles of rubbish the ogres left in the room with many doors. We found some completely worthless coins, trinkets, and baubles they collected. The others found most of their belongings, except, of course, those that they most wanted back: no weapons, none of the healer's medical bags, not the rock that Caramela mutters about continuously. Even I found something: Kyosuke returned and was waiting for us there.
After collecting what we wanted, only the stairs to the goblins was left. The steep stairs were very narrow and became also very short. We rearranged ourselves into a single file formation, because it was far too narrow to fight two abreast.
Kyosuke led, then Res Li, me, Ash, Jeisan, Sutoiko, Ravena, Caramela, Sun, Shan, Mongo, the White Faerie.