"Rogello, I can't believe I let you talk me into this," said Wendy, pulling her blade from the body of another goblin. The foul little creatures were truly infesting the old labyrithine catacombs beneath Vilders.
The wiry young man who had brought her here smiled at her, his face streaked with green blood. "You love it, and you know it," he said. With a grunt, he rolled over another body, looking down at the misshapen face. "Ugly little buggers, aren't they?"
The young lady nodded, cleaning her sword on the hem of her cloak. "If they were any brighter, though, we'd be in trouble," she said.
Goblins were almost sentient, she knew, close enough that they could use clubs and wore something akin to clothes. However, they operated mostly on instinct. That instinct drove them to kill and eat pretty much anything that did not kill and eat them.
They had been prowling the catacombs for hours. Unlike the catacombs under most cities, Vilders' was devoid of most corpses. It was formed by the sinking action of the city upon the rather marshy land it was built upon. As the city sank, new structures were built atop the old, and the old ones were abandoned. The process took centuries, and Wendy had no idea how deep they were now, nor how old these places they were exploring were.
Beside the constant threat of cave-ins, they had to watch out for the denizens of this subterranean maze. Goblins, for one. Another possibility was rumored to be orcs. Those caused her much more pause. Orcs were dangerous in a fight, unlike the insane, but weak, goblins.
Wendy knelt and slit the right ear off the goblin she had just slain. That was the money maker, she knew. She dropped the lobe into a pouch containing nearly a half dozen others. That made for three marks so far, not a bad haul, but more would be better.
At seventeen, Wendy was one of the youngest spelunker of the Varminter's Guild of Vilders. There were many sub-guilds of the Varminters, but her branch was the one who specialized in relatively dangerous vermin, short of actual monsters. Those were a truly specialized crowd, whose ranks she wished to join eventually.
Rogello liked working with Wendy, she was petite, and could get into tight places with ease. She was also virtually fearless, he had watched her recklessly charge five goblins at one time. By the time green arms and legs quit flying, she had slain them all before he could even get there. Her light brown hair was matted with dirt and goblin blood, but she was still quite sexy to his eyes, as well. In truth, it was her attractiveness that led him to want to work with her more than anything else.
She turned her blue eyes toward him. "You wish to keep going?" she asked, obviously wanting to, herself.
He looked at his pouch of four ears. "Hell, yes," he said, grinning. We've not even taken a wound yet, and what good is a dive if you don't have a harrowing story to tell of?"
The young woman stood up and cinched her belt. She picked up the light-bar from the ledge on the wall. The chamber they were in looked to be an old section of streetfront, many small doorways led off into side chambers or even whole sunken homes. Rogello recovered his bar and aimed it down the long axis of the chamber, where it receded into the distance. "Not many open areas this big down here," he said into the echoing darkness, his light piercing a ways, but not to the end of the long room.
Rogello was three years her senior, and her senior in the guild as well. He was very nearly a master varminter, whereas Wendy was barely a journeyman. A distant yammering came to their ears, telling them that more goblins were about, and more than one.
"So, why do you think this was a bad idea?" asked Rogello.
She shrugged. "I could be drinking right now, and eyeing that new dancer at the Wench," she said. Wendy spoke of the Wanton Wench, a tavern specializing in dancing girls and otherlandish music. That Wendy liked the company of both men and women was known to Rogello, having benefitted from her penchant more than once.
"It takes you so long to let a girl know you're interested, Wendy," he said. "She'll be an old maid by the time you approach her."
Wendy batted his arm with her light-bar. "I can't help it I'm shy," she said. Her voice dropped off and she murmured. "Being demur isn't easy, you know."
Rogello laughed. "Shy, yes, demur, I seriously doubt," he said. "Remember, I saw you headbutt that Coghlander last week. I've never seen anyone climb someone else to do that."
"He pinched my rump, HARD," she said, grinning. "I was just defending my honor."
The pair began walking down the old street, toward the sound of the goblins. As they came to a corner, where the street proceeded ahead, but another street came in from the right side, they were nearly surprised by a small band of the filthy creatures.
Six of them came charging out of the shadows of some pillars. Only three had clubs, but one managed to land a blow on Rogello's arm, and he dropped his short sword from fingers struck numb by the injury.
"Damn," he yelled, swinging his light bar at the goblin. It connected, but did little harm to the creature, and bent the light-bar in the bargain. The alchemical mixture within sprayed out in a fountain of bright, glowing fluid.
Wendy sliced one nearly in half, watching Rogello's situation from the corner of her eye. The creature squawked and fell to the floor. With only one light bar now working, she could not afford to risk dropping hers, nor breaking it. One day she would invest in one of those elven light-stones, as they were more reliable, but they cost a small fortune.
Two goblins jumped on Rogello's back, and one grabbed his uninjured arm. Wendy still had two to deal with, both wielding clubs. "Hang on Rogello," she said, her voice now tinged with worry.
The older spelunker smashed his numb fist into one of the creatures, and it stumbled back, yammering curses in it's primitive language and spitting blood.
The two she was fighting sprang at her, by sheer coincidence, timing their attack perfectly. She batted one club aside, but the other hit her hand, the one holding the light bar.
With a terrible, sinking feeling, she watched the bar fall to the chamber floor and snap open. A moment later, they were in pitch darkness. A heartbeat after that, she saw a flare of stars before her eyes, and then remembered nothing.
Wendy awoke with a throbbing headache and the smell of incense in her nose. Her eyes pried themselves open painfully and she regarded a ornately-painted ceiling over her head. The light was very dim, almost not enough to allow vision.
"Don't try to move," said a mild, masculine voice from the direction of her feet. Naturally, she tried to lift her head to look that direction. She was rewarded for this effort by a spike of intense agony through her skull. Her head fell back and she moaned.
An edge of humor came to the voice. "Why do folk always do that?" he asked.
The young woman's voice sounded dry and sandy as she croaked out, "Where am I?"
"You're in my home," said the soft voice of the man. "I managed to rescue you from the goblins before they could make a dinner of you."
"Rogello?" she asked, suddenly very worried.
There was a telling pause, then the man said, "He didn't make it, I fear, they set upon him first, thinking the male the more serious threat."
Tears sprang to Wendy's dry eyes. She was not in love with Rogello, but he was a friend.
"He died fighting, if that helps any," said the mild-voiced man.
Wendy shrugged. "A little, I suppose," she said.
A shape moved into her vision, cloaked and hooded. "Here, drink this," the mild voice said and she felt a cup touch her lips. She drank. It was wine, and burned a little on her dry throat, but also moistened it. "You almost had your brains dashed out, I fear your skull was cracked a bit."
"Thank you for helping," said Wendy. "My name is Wendy."
The man lifted the empty cup from her and she thought she saw a smile within the hood. "I am Neritos," he said.
Wendy wondered about the hood, but decided not to question someone who saved her life so soon after finding out that life was still available. Her hands moved down her sides, and she realized she had no clothes on. "You stripped me?" she asked, suddenly full of more pressing questions.
The man drew back a little at the accusing tone in her voice. "Your clothes were filthy, and that is MY bed," said the man, putting some defense in his voice. "I took no liberties, I swear it."
She nodded, another motion she soon regretted. "I'm sorry, I should not accuse one who rescued me. I owe you my life," she said. Her hand moved to her hair, which had been washed and combed. "You cleaned me, thank you."
The man nodded. "It was the least I could do, I had plenty of time," he said. "You've been unconscious for four days."
She blinked at that. "So long?" she said.
"I feared you would die," said Neritos. "And you are far from well, even now."
"I can tell," she said, wincing as she found the wound on her head. It felt massively swollen, and was incredibly painful to touch.
"You are a very tough young woman," he said, nodding.
Wendy smiled at that. "I have to be," she said. "Spelunking isn't for everyone."
"Even spelunkers, as you have found," said Neritos, another smile flashing from beneath his hood.
"You never answered my question as to where I am, though," said Wendy.
"I said my home," said Neritos, "under the city, near where the goblins attacked you."
"We're still underground?" asked Wendy.
.... There is more of this story ...