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Chapter 9: The Caves of the Krantle
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JezSharp



Joined: 18 Jul 2006
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Posted: Sat Oct 14, 2006 12:46 am    Post subject:  

Chapter 9: The Caves of the Krantle

Both Elvendor and Alex thought long and hard as to a solution to the problem...

"There must be some way to ensure our freedom," Alex finally blurted out, "perhaps there is a task we can do to prove that we are trustworthy of bearing such an important and grave secret?" Elvendor translated his words to the Queen who considered the request, her head tilted slightly to one side.

"Yes," she finally replied, "there may be a way to ensure your release through performing a task of service to us, but I make no promises. I will adjourn to talk to the Council and see what their views are. In the meantime follow me and I will show you our City, The City of Haven." Turning she beckoned the pair to follow her, which both did, through the left hand door in the room. They entered the quadrilateral room, Alex last, shutting the door softly behind him.

The room was partitioned both by the stone wall that they had passed through, and a similar wall on the right, separating this room from the one Remera had entered into the main Chamber from earlier. In the very centre of the curved room stood a large square slab, amongst the smaller stone tiles, that would easily be able to accommodate half a dozen people standing. Beyond it, an imposing pine table curved around the edge of room, following the curvature of the wall behind. Plush wooden seating had been set behind it. There were seven seats, three either side of an impressively carved middle seat that sat slightly taller than the rest. Remera noticed Elvendor's enquiring glances and briefly replied as she moved to the centre of the large stone square,

"Yes, this is where the Council sits. Obviously I head the Council, then there are six respected leprechaun elders, all voted for by the people who sit with me...Now can both of you move onto the square please?" Elvendor and Alex slowly moved onto the square - made from a light grey polished slab of rock that sparkled from the sunlight above. Remera quickly bent down and flicked a small stone lever that lay embedded within a dark grey tile on the far side of the square. "Hold on," she whispered as she straightened up, "you probably won't be used to this from where you've come, but then I've only ever heard tales of the outside world from Simeon - and they were limited to say the least." As she spoke a hissing noise reverberated from deep below and before she had finished speaking the slab that they stood upon dropped away from the room, deep into the heart of the hill. Elvendor watched the perfectly smooth, vertical sides of the earthen shaft fall by as they descended at a fairly sedate pace downwards.

There is something indefinably strange about this place, he wondered to himself, they appear to have objects that are scarily advanced, yet for the most part their society is no more advanced than anywhere else... He yawned as tiredness tried to wrap itself about his mind but then light flooded down a narrow tunnel that appeared in front of him, causing him to blink, keeping his sleepiness at bay. The slab gently came to a rest with another violent hiss. Remera once again stepped in to explain the phenomenon as she strode off the rock towards the tunnel exit,

"We don't know quite why or how we came to have such stuff," she said, "the revolvers that I carried upstairs were built from crudely copying a metal original, using the same compression techniques. A few of our scientists then started working on ways to improve the mechanism even further, so adapted it to pushing that slab of rock up and down the shaft." As she said this she strode forward and out past the two guards’ who stood just outside the arched exit, looking up at the passing figures with no little curiosity...guarding a throne room within a hidden city isn't the most exciting career path at the best of times.

"All the people already know that you’re here, so your appearance shouldn't be too much of a shock," she added to them. "Most will just be intensely curious as to what you look like and what you have to say. Anyway feel free to wander around the place and explore whilst I summon the members of the Council to my quarters." The City itself had extended to within meters of the hillside and so already they were passing by the outskirts of housing. Remera reached into a pocket in her tunic, pulling out and giving them several small grey pebbles, a crude portrait of her head stamped upon them. Pressing them into Elvendor's hand she smiled and said, "have fun, I'll ensure someone summons you to the meeting later," before slipping away amongst the crowds.


The City of Haven was a fantastic place to view; it was mostly comprised of simple clay and cement rectangular housing arranged in a circular pattern about the centre. The buildings generally had a couple of square glass windows and an open doorway covered with a grassy curtain, with a stone lintel step, probably to minimize the effects of flooding. The houses were all similar and stretched out around a few central stone buildings. The central building, a large circular domed structure, could be seen from the edge of the city by looking down one of four main streets that arrowed into the centre. Clearly the City was running out of room though, the rectangular houses were coming close to being right up against the sides of the hills in some places. Elvendor estimated that thousands of leprechauns must live within the city itself, let alone those who lived within the hills surrounding. Rectangular glass windows faced out upon the valley - but all sat beneath the hazy, and from the underside, transparent cloaking shield that overhung the City, giving it the appearance of a normal empty valley from above.

Both strolled towards the centre, as the Sun's heat moved high overhead, aggravating the stench from their clothes and causing beads of sweat to form upon their brows. Occasionally they would accidentally bump into a passing leprechaun, one or two of whom started to retort angrily before seeing who they had bumped into. The horrified look of shock that spread over their faces was mildly comical. Most though, especially the children, couldn't see enough of them, following them about and whispering amongst themselves. Eventually a young kid caught hold of Elvendor's tunic and pulled slightly. Elvendor turned to observe the young leprechaun, dressed in a plain red top and shorts, whose pale blue eyes stared back evenly at Elvendor. In the background his friends stood a few meters away, giggling within their group.

"Hi, I'm Strit and I'm seven...how old are you?" he asked in a childish, fast, but quite calm tone of voice. Elvendor crouched down upon one knee and, unsure how exactly to respond, replied,

"I'm Elvendor and I'm twenty four, pleased to meet you Strit." Strit smiled, then said,

"Do you want me to show you around?" Elvendor considered the offer and replied,

"Yes that would be great," slowly he rose to standing position again and filled Alex in on the details. Alex is looking more frustrated than usual though, he thought, it must be because he can't understand what is going on around him, I know how that feels...perhaps I should give him the earpiece for a while...but then I'd be unable to hear and I need to be in control... They continued walking on, Elvendor eventually suppressing any conscientious thoughts that he was having, as his father had said the gift of language is worth more than gold' and those words had never felt so relevant as of now.

Strit eagerly ran on ahead, occasionally pointing out the odd clothing store, it seemed there were no food stores as each house contained it's own patch of land and was self sufficient. The whole community formed a simple yet effective system, everywhere they went they met friendly faces, occasionally one or two of the men and women would stop them and ask questions - a complete contrast to Timburton. Elvendor didn't talk with them for as long as he'd have wanted to however, as he sensed Alex's restlessness in addition to Strit's eagerness to show them the City, tugging at him in the background.

It seemed to take forever for them to eventually reach the centre, here six larger stone houses surrounded the central building in the centre of the City. The walls of the main building were made from the grey stone found in the area, the domed roof however was made from plates of sheeted bronze metal. Upon the ground surrounding the building there was no stone paving but just grass, as was the case for all the City’s streets. Within this forecourt many green canopied stalls were laid out selling clothing, gardening tools and so forth. There were some small crowds milling about the area but the market place wasn't overly crowded. Out of the corner of his eye as he climbed the steps leading up to the building’s entrance he saw the door of one of the stone houses nearby open and an elderly leprechaun in flowing robes of green step out and stride purposively in the direction they had just come from. I guess then that the stone houses are those of the elders, he speculated, a wave of nervousness sweeping over him as he tried to think what they might have them do...or not do in the worst case scenario.

They were now stepping through the open iron doors into the main building, the central room was again walled and floored with grey stone and formed a small circular chamber with artifacts hidden within glass boxes. The rest of the rooms were hidden from sight, placed between this room and the outer walls. Presumably you got to them from the far double doors, however Elvendor instinctively knew that they were the type of doors that were always locked to the ordinary citizen. Sprit saw where he looked and said,

"All the clever people work through there so we are not allowed to disturb them...I don't think that's fair."

"Hmmm," agreed Elvendor passively as he turned his eye to the room they were now in, a leprechaun guard sat on a chair to the right, keeping an eagle eye upon them. "So...what is this room then?"

"This is where all the ancient artifacts are kept," Sprit replied, "apparently they are ever so old...older than the elders anyway and they’re ancient." Elvendor suppressed a wry smile as Alex started to wander off round the room examining the few displayed artifacts more closely.

At the very centre of the room stood another clock, this one had a stone base and iron hands, positioned horizontally facing the centre of the domed roof. Again Alex paused to watch the thin hand steadily move around the circle, continually traveling back to where it had started from. Why, he thought, what is the point of these hands that move around in circles and yet produce no end result? He continued to puzzle over this for several minutes before examining another case, this one containing the same earpiece that Elvendor wore - except no light was present upon it - presumably it had stopped working a long time ago. He was joined by Elvendor who had finished observing the strange metallic 'revolver' that the leprechauns had based their own weapons on. There were various other objects, often silver, that gleamed and sparkled, but attempting to work out what they did was way beyond Elvendor or Alex.

"Odd isn't it," whispered Alex as Elvendor's eyebrows rose slightly as he observed the earpiece..."I've never seen such a strange collection of stuff, I wonder how it got here?" Elvendor didn't reply, his mind working over this new information, slowly he moved over to the guard and asked him,

"Excuse me but can you tell me where all this stuff came from?" The middle aged, guard eyed him closely then answered,

"Truth be told, none of us really know - it was handed down to us from our ancestors, except for the clock - that was built replicating a smaller one. Legend has it that they were carried here from afar but little else is known about that stuff there." Elvendor nodded his thanks to the guard and then returned to Alex and Sprit.

"I show you my home now," Sprit stated in some excitement and so Elvendor and Alex followed him back out into the vast maze of housing outside.

Sprit's parents were Klast and Menan, both incredibly welcoming of the pair when they entered in behind the excited Sprit who loudly proclaimed, "Brought visitors for tea Mommy." Klast was farming outside at the time but came in and greeted them both with a handshake, whilst Menan put on some more food to cook. Elvendor and Alex seated themselves cross - legged upon the solid clay floor as the leprechaun chairs were too small to properly sit on. The room was fairly plain, a reasonably small cauldron sat in the far corner, suspended above a simmering fire. Menan stood nearby, adding the occasional ingredients that she had chopped up upon the rough wooden table next to it. A narrow double bed and a smaller bed also lay against the wall opposite the cauldron, beneath the window that looked out upon the regulation grassy street in front of the house. Soon the appetizing smell of vegetable soup rose with the steam and wafted about the kitchen, and although the leprechaun bowls were smaller than either Elvendor and Alex were used to, they could have no complaints about the quality of the food. Both refused seconds out of politeness, knowing that they had probably already eaten as much as the family could afford and not wanting to seem greedy. Over lunch Elvendor conversed lightly about their way of life, discovering that they received water from various pumping stations about the valley and that for most citizens money was raised from harvesting extra crops and selling them to the State with the spare food distributed to the starving.

After lunch Sprit dragged Alex outside to play a leprechaun street game, similar to football, and Elvendor settled down to chat with the brown haired and blue eyed pair.

"You seem to be quite content in your life here..." he said. It was the mud stained face of Klast replied,

"Yes I believe we are, we are able to appreciate the beauty that surrounds us and the friendliness of the community about us, and in addition we're blessed with a wonderful child as well..." His diminutive but kind faced wife nodded in agreement before continuing,

"Yes we have a wonderful place here, although I sometimes wonder what life is like out there, won't you perhaps tell us?" Elvendor readily filled them in, describing in detail the land of the elves and of the humans, knowing that what he passed on to them would be invaluable information for a community that continued to live in secluded isolation. Finally he asked,

"How come no-one has ever left here to see for themselves what lies out there?" he asked in some puzzlement as shouts of triumph came up from outside as a pinochet (equivalent of a goal) was scored. Klast considered the question then replied evenly,

"I guess partly because everyone here is fairly contented with the life we have, partly because none of us wants to let down the community by allowing a flux of other species in and mainly because we still fear, though to a lesser extent than our forefathers, the coming of a terrifying power upon the land. No - one wants to be the one to disturb any of this and so ultimately no-one has ever left over the many hundreds of years that we've been here.” It was clear to Elvendor from observing the pair though that behind their contented life they too wished to see more of the world around and wondered how many others within the community actually felt the same.

The curtains rustled in the entrance and Remera stepped through causing Klast and Menan to stand and bow respectfully, Elvendor rose and gave a stiff half bow whilst blushing - still a little unused to being subservient to the Queen. Remera gave a short laugh as she replied merrily,

"Thank you, well done Klast and Sprit, your hospitality to our guests is commendable and won't be overlooked. Elvendor the time has come for the Council to give its verdict so will you now come." With that she slipped out of the door into the street where Alex was waiting. As they approached the tunnel one of the guards handed Remera an ornamental green and gold embroidered gown which she slipped on as they stepped onto the square. Then she turned, stooped and flicked another stone switch and the square began to rise.

When it stopped Elvendor observed the six seats filled with the six elders, Remera briskly strode commandingly behind the seated elders to the large seventh seat where she gracefully sat. Elvendor and Alex stood side by side and fully upright as they faced the Council, determined not to show any signs of weakness. The elders too sat with blank faces, their eyes carefully scrutinising the pair.

"Let it be known then Elvendor and Alex," spoke Remera gravely, "that the Council decrees that you may go free should you fulfill the task that it proposes to set you now. That task concerns a problem we have had for a long while and one which I shall seek to explain without further delay.

Long ago some of our ancestors when digging out the tunnels for the hills came across passageways already dug and looked to expand into them. However they were surprised by the appearance of several large red insect like creatures, whom we later gave the name Krantle, with big pincers and insect like features. Rather hastily our ancestors fired several shots at them, killing three and severely injuring one of them, after that any further attempts to move down these tunnels was met with fierce resistance. So much so that we eventually blocked up the original tunnel our forefathers had dug. I for one feel that we acted irrationally in this matter and would like to restore a peaceful relationship with them if possible - your role will be to act as mediators as currently sending an envoy compromised purely of leprechauns would most likely be met with hostility." Elvendor thought over what had been said and filled Alex in on the choice, it didn't take them long to reach a decision.

"Then we accept the Council's decision Your Highness, but what of weaponry and assistance should we be attacked. I at least ask that we are allowed to take Simeon along to provide us with cover and relief should we so need it." There was much muttering from the Council over this point with the younger members on the outside conferring with those next to them and then that decision being conferred along to the next until the Queen received two informed judgments.

"It seems that that would be acceptable in the circumstances," Remera said, "and we'll provide you with one leprechaun guard armed with a revolver - although he will be ordered not to use it unless the circumstances are drastic enough to justify its use, as its use will almost certainly indicate failure of the mission. So, if you're ready then you can start the mission tomorrow, if you succeed then you will be released…as long as you promise under oath by your race that you will not reveal anything about this place that you find yourself in." Elvendor nodded his assent and Remera rose saying "Council dismissed."

* * *

The next morning, having slept on two mattresses laid out within a store room inside the hill Elvendor and Alex were led down to the lower tunnels within the hill where they met with Simeon and the leprechaun who'd been assigned to the task. The leprechaun gave them a big grin,

"Hi again guys, looks like we're fated to keep running into each other."

"Mike," replied Elvendor in a pleased tone, accepting the handshake offered, then continuing in a more formal tone, "nice to see you again." Simeon was looking less happy about having been brought along and gave a kind of grimaced smile at the appearance of Elvendor and Alex. Without further ado Mike led the four down a seemingly endless tunnel that seemed to head South - West. Eventually it stopped at a rock blockade, but a freshly dug tunnel had been made round it, all four were able to squeeze through the tight gap and into the silent musty tunnels beyond. Simeon chose to mutter the occasional disparaging phrases under his breath as they went along,

"Not sure heavy magic will even work down here...Travellers, all they bring is trouble...come along and suddenly I'm prowling tunnels filled with vicious monsters...It's not fair..."

It was all Elvendor could do not to get annoyed by his commentary, inside he could empathize with the mage who'd had his life disrupted, but it wasn't helping with his concentration for the mission ahead. Mike was less patient and finally said in a sharp voice,

"Be quiet Simeon, your mutterings may draw attention to us!" Simeon saw the sense in his words and so did stop his muttered grumblings - instead resorting to banging the odd tunnel wall with his foot in frustration. Gradually Elvendor moved into the lead of the group, following the right hand wall so as to avoid getting lost. They continued going for what seemed like days, following earthen tunnels lit only by the flickering glow from Mike's continually replenished oil lamp. The silence was creepy, no water seemed to run down here, the tunnel walls becoming slowly redder and more solid.

As they moved on Elvendor began to sense the presence of fresher air emanating from the tunnels ahead, giving him the sudden new hope of escape. It was not long after he began to entertain such thoughts that the tunnel bent round into a bigger tunnel that he could actually stand up tall within (although his head was brushing the ceiling). As they moved forwards they came upon a crossroad, ahead the large tunnel ran on inwards, presumably to the main part of their dwellings, he decided. To the right was a much more neglected passageway, from which the fresh air resounded more clearly than ever, stinging Elvendor's natural senses. He looked around, surprised to see the others hadn't noticed. Alex though did have his head on one side, a look of consternation upon his face. He whispered urgently into the group whilst pointing to the left,

"I think something's coming from that passageway." Elvendor looked to the left hand passageway and listened hard... Nothing , nothing...no wait a scrabbling noise, the sound of legs crunching on loose soil, probably no more than one being but hard to tell...

"Make us invisible," he commanded Simeon who reluctantly obeyed, drawing on the heavy energy that had seeped below the ground to change their appearance as the Krantle rounded the corner. Mike had doused the oil lamp, so only Elvendor could see the creature with his elfin ability of night vision. The creature slowly poked its rounded head around the corner of the passageway, its antennae feeling the sides of the wall as its long, stick like legs stepped gingerly and nimbly forward. The two swaying jaw like claws that advanced ahead of its body were clearly its main weapon and tool. We could easily dispatch it swiftly, but that would have a rather destructive effect on diplomacy, perhaps we should talk to it... or slip off towards the centre of the base rather than confronting one out here...or we could always slip away up the right hand tunnel, to potential freedom. The last thought kept cropping up persuasively, Elvendor tried to quash it repeatedly, after all Mike would be difficult to handle and he owed some loyalty to the leprechauns - and running off now would make him their permanent enemy. With a sudden shock he then realized that the Krantle would rely more on its senses than smell - already one of its antlers was waving in a puzzled fashion, they would have to decide what to do and quickly before it advanced much further...
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Mother Goose



Joined: 09 May 2004
Posts: 511
Location: Connecticut

Posted: Sat Oct 14, 2006 9:02 am    Post subject:  

First post!

Speak to it - who could resist a "Take me to your leader" request? Be prepared to defend yourselves just in case, but here's your chance to begin the mission you came for.

I'm really enjoying this story. Tech point - nodded assent not ascent.
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juggernaut
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Posted: Sat Oct 14, 2006 9:18 am    Post subject:  

I think that they should confront the lone krantle. At this junction if the krantle is aggressive they have the best chance of escape. If they continue into the krantles' lair and Simeon can no longer sustain the invisiblity then they will be in possible danger. They need to discover if the beast is civil.
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Chinaren
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Posted: Sat Oct 14, 2006 3:56 pm    Post subject:  

I am tempted to retreat and see where it goes, but I don't think that is practical. Hence I f5 MGoose!

A nice chapter J.

Quote: The horrified look of shock that spread over their faces was mildly comical. Most though, especially the children, couldn't see enough of them, following them about and whispering amongst themselves .

This is a bit like living in China sometimes. :)
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LordoftheNight
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Posted: Sat Oct 14, 2006 5:32 pm    Post subject:  

Shoot it down, then run away.

Well, don't do that, but I felt I had to suggest it at the very least. Sensiblely however, can Elvendor be certain his earpiece will allow him to communicate with the Krantle? For all he knows they - being insects (or similar at any rate) - will 'talk' via pheromones as opposed to sound, or through the use of gestures.

If his earpiece proves unable to translate, then attempting to speak to the Krantle could well be seen as an aggressive attack. How would you feel if a group of strange creatures appeared in your tunnel, and started screaming at you in a foreign language, especially one you can't recognise as speech at all.

Appear before the creature at any rate, but allow it to make the first move - let it at least try to talk first. Don't simply engage it, or request to visit their leader, emphasize first that you have no hostile intentions.
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solus.serpen
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Joined: 21 Jul 2006
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Posted: Sun Oct 15, 2006 8:08 am    Post subject:  

Ah! Great new chapter, Jez!
I think they should make themselves visable again then make mike slowly put the revolver on the floor as a sign of peace provided that the krantle doesn't attack straight away when it realises they are there.
I agree trying to speak to it might muck things up even more, but it should know that the revolvers cause harm, and putting it down should indicate peace - if we can't speak their language thats probably best idea.
I'll look forward to the next chapter ;) .
Oh, and by the way, Welcome to mayordom Chinaren.
I know thats a bit late - but i havn't been on for a few months :shock: .
see you all around :D .

Solus.
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JezSharp
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Posted: Tue Oct 17, 2006 11:00 am    Post subject:  

Ok Poll is up, will probably run for about a week and a half.

Lordy said:
Quote: Sensiblely however, can Elvendor be certain his earpiece will allow him to communicate with the Krantle? For all he knows they - being insects (or similar at any rate) - will 'talk' via pheromones as opposed to sound, or through the use of gestures.

A good spot Lordy :goodpost: , and even if they did 'talk' it is far from certain that the earpiece (as vast as its linguistic knowledge seems to be) contains the language codes of such a relatively unknown species.
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dinranwen
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Posted: Tue Oct 17, 2006 12:38 pm    Post subject:  

Sorry I've missed so much of your work Jez. I enjoyed your new chapter and look forward to fully catching up with the next wonderful edition of this lovely storygame. Until then, I'll go lurk somewhere.
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solus.serpen
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Joined: 21 Jul 2006
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Posted: Tue Oct 17, 2006 12:40 pm    Post subject:  

Bagged first vote :D .

and...oooohh! I've just seen the index!
lol, thats probably months old - but I like it ;).

solus.
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JezSharp
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Posted: Wed Oct 25, 2006 1:42 pm    Post subject:  

Ok, the poll will be up until tomorrow evening (GB Time), about 24 hours from when I posted this thread any other time :) . The new Chapter should then be out soon afterwards so last chance to get votes in.
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dragon_fire372
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Posted: Wed Oct 25, 2006 8:30 pm    Post subject:  

Nice chapter Jez! Voted to let the bug make the first move.
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