Sword & Sorcery Volume 1 – Chapter 6

Thakeo popped his out of the bushes and looked left and right in rapid succession but did not spot anyone of the road, at least for the time being.

“Okay, it is clear! Now, slowly let us… Guhah!” Began Thakeo to say, but stopped as Tia gave him a resounding slap at the back of the head with her left hand.

“Are you a complete moron? You look like an idiot sitting there!” Said Tia, standing out in the open with her arms crossed, unlike Thakeo who had decided that stealth was the way to go.

“Wh-why are you so violent? Are you an ogre?” Growled Thakeo, rubbing his sore neck.

“Have you seen yourself and how you act? This would make mothers want to hide their children, you stalker-wannabe!” Replied Tia with poison in every word.

“I am just using caution!” Retaliated Thakeo, who had apparently become paranoid due to the events in the past few days but he was not aware of how this affected him nor the world around him.

“Caution? There is no one around here!” Said Tia and gestured to the empty road.

“Hey! Just because you don’t see or hear anyone, does not mean they are not there!” Said Thakeo, who felt like he was being accused for something he did not do.

“That may be true but… Have you ever met a dwarf you didn’t hear from a mile away?” Asked Tia with a devious smile.

To this statement, Thakeo had no other choice but to agree as dwarves was a loud and rowdy bunch and they were not a people who liked to hide away nor keep quiet as Thragoth had demonstrated so elegantly a few days ago in town.

Tia as an Elf did have some sort of superficial grudge towards the dwarves but that was more of a cultural thing where they would insult each other but despite of that, there had never been any major conflicts between the various Elven Enclaves or the major Dwarven Clans.

Instead, it appears as if the two sides just tossed insults at each other, seeing the others as being weird or under developed. It could be because Elves preferred to live on top of the world where as dwarves preferred to live underneath it in their giant fortified cities. Thus, one could claim that the difference between these two races were like heaven and earth.

Of cause, this was but a minor issue at the moment as Thakeo had noticed that while there were no guards on the road then there should at least be some kind of activity yet there was none.

Even if the relations between the dwarves and the Kaincoy group was bad there should still be a lot of humans and others working for the dwarves in one way or another and if something had happened to them, the dwarves would defend them, after all this was their territory so them not even patrolling could not be good so he could only conclude that something had or was about to happen.

Thakeo sighed as he thought as this and once again, he looked at Tia who did not seem too happy but hopefully, it would not affect her to much when it came to dealing with the dwarves.

Of cause, he knew why Tia was so upset and he was kind of sorry of falling into the lake as she was taking a bath but still, that could not be all there was to it, as it had been her actions which had caused Koh to be accused of being a criminal as well as Thragoth becoming involved in a duel.

As such, she carried a direct responsibility to correct this and that was likely the true cause of her annoyance as elves by nature had a high amount of pride which at times could be mistaken for arrogance but in this case, Thakeo did not believe it was so, as Tia did seem somewhat remorseful about her actions, even if he had told her very little other than their current destination.

As Thakeo thought these thoughts a gently breeze picked up, causing Tia’s hair to move, revealing that underneath all the elven pride and words of gossip, she was just a girl and a rather beautiful one at that. As such Thakeo could not help but blush a bit as their eyes briefly met. She would have likely have been a perfect partner for any man if not…

“What the hell are you looking at you pervert?” Asked Tia with a stern voice, cracking her knuckles at the same time.

…For her personality which could use some serious work.

“No-nothing! Now, let us go. The dwarves are waiting!” Replied Thakeo and picked up the pace.

“Tsch! What need do we have for those creatures? They vile, loud and smell.” Growled Tia.

“I will tell you more once the dwarves agree but we must hurry, now come!” Said Thakeo and started to move up the mountain road, heading directly towards to the dwarven mines as that, and not the city itself, was their first destination of the day.

The information that Thakeo had told Tia was that he had a way to prove what was going on in the region but that they had to get visit the dwarves to set things in motion. He had of cause not mentioned that it was in fact Thragoth who had to fight the duel with Lord Oink or whatever his name was.

If she knew, she would likely demand that they settle the matter of the bath incident right there and then and it was not something they could afford to spend time on nor did he want to take a direct hit from her fireballs.

“I wonder if water would help her keep her cool?” Mumbled Thakeo to himself.

“What did you say?” Asked Tia with a snappy voice from behind.

“Eh? Ah, no-nothing important…” Replied Thakeo quickly in a defensive manner.

“Good! Then shut up and walk!” Said Tia next and increased her speed, quickly walking past Thakeo.

“Haah… Why me?” Mumbled Thakeo and sighed out loud as the two of them walked up the mountain road with Thakeo cursed his rotten luck.

Soon thereafter, Tia and Thakeo reached the end of the road and now stood before what appeared to be a small guard post or maybe a trade post alongside some other smaller shacks and houses.

It was likely meant to be the arrival area for goods as dwarves seldom let traders take their carts inside without inspection so it would make sense to do such outside and also allow the traders to catch up with others like them.

The buildings themselves were surrounded by a tall wall but it was nothing like a fortress wall but rather a regular stone and wood wall which surrounded the building on 3 sides, with the last side being covered by the tall cliff face, which was also where the entrance to the mines themselves would be located.

He had seen a few dwarven structures but all of them was already finished and while they were beautiful structures they did not show the construction process which is what he wanted to observe so this rather new mine would have been perfect for that.

“Hey! Snap out of it!” Growled Tia suddenly as she slapped Thakeo on the back of the head.

“Eh? What?…. Oh, right! This way.” Mumbled Thakeo confused but quickly realized that he had been drifting off again as he walked towards the gatehouse.

“Ex-excuse me? Is anyone there?” Yelled Thakeo out loud.

“Who goes there? State ya name!” Yelled a deep voice from above, clearly slightly agitated.

“My name is Thakeo, I am a friend of Thragoth, son of Thormiir of the House of Ghalenmar, whom I believe should still be inside. I wish to meet with him.” Yelled Thakeo back.

“Who is the elf?” Yelled the guard next.

“This is Tia, a Fire Elf. She has information which may be of interest to you regarding the recent trouble you have been having.” Yelled Thakeo next and gestured towards Tia who just stood there observing the conversation.

“Oh? And how do I know that this ain’t some sort of trick?” Yelled the guard next.

“Well I…” Stated Thakeo but Tia interrupted him.

“List here Dwarf! There is no way this pathetic excuse for a human would have the guts or brains to plot something like that. Seriously, look at him! What part of him looks like a threat to you?” Yelled Tia.

“H-hey! Don’t call me pathetic!” Complained Thakeo but Tia ignored him.

“You know our names and who we are. Now, ask yourself; do you want the poachers gone or not?” Yelled Tia next.

“Hmm… Please wait a while.” Yelled the guard back.

An awkward silence soon followed for a while but it did not last long before the door in front of them was opened up and a middle aged dwarf appeared, fully armed and dressed in heavy chainmail armor, quite an unusual sight when it was supposed to be peaceful around here.

“Well, don’t just stand there! Get ya arse’s inside already!” Growled the old guard.

“Ri-right!” Said Thakeo as he bowed quickly before proceeding inside, with Tia following soon after as the guard took a quick look around the area for some reason.

“They seem to be on edge for some reason.” Mumbled Tia.

“True… I wonder if things changed since I left town?” Replied Thakeo, mumbling the latter part.

However, this time they did not get any response from the guard. Instead the wooden door in front of them slowly opened up and a rather young looking, for a dwarf, male, dressed in what appeared to be commoner clothing yet still of high quality.

“So, I hear ya claim to know Thragoth and can get rid of those pesky bandits? Quite a bold claim.” Asked the dwarf while stroking his beard, clearly not believing it fully.

“Well… That is the plan or at least we can give the information we have found so your lord may have all the facts before something regrettable happens.” Replied Thakeo with a polite voice.

“Hmm? Really?” Asked the dwarf once again.

“Of cause! I know that Thragoth can vouch for me, we do have a business arrangement.” Said Thakeo next.

“And the elf girl? What is her involvement in this?” Asked the guard next, looking at Tia.

“Hmm? Is there something on my face, dwarf?” Asked Tia with a stern voice, ready to crack the knuckles.

“An-anyway… I think that is something I have to advise your lord about, but first I must meet up with Thragoth.” Stuttered Thakeo desperately.

“Hmm? Alrighty! Follow me, I will take you to Thragoth.” Said the dwarf with a sigh, signaling them to come along.

“Tia, please?” Said Thakeo and gestured towards to door.

“What is that supposed to mean?” Asked Tia as she looked at Thakeo’s gesture.

“Erm? I am trying to be a gentleman? You know, ladies first and such?” Replied Thakeo confused.

“Gentle? Hah! You are nothing of the sort and you can hardly call yourself a man.” Growled Tia as she pushed him out of the way and followed the dwarf.

“And here I am trying to be nice…” Mumbled Thakeo frustrated.

He just could not understand done wrong. Of cause anyone might take offence to being peeked at but that was clearly an accident so why Tia was being so sensitive was unknown but it was starting to get on his nerves. Thakeo shrugged his head over this and followed Tia and the dwarf inside the courtyard.

“Please wait over there while I go get Thragoth.” Said the dwarf from before, pointing towards a nearby set of benches, likely part of a local tavern.

With little left to do, Thakeo and Tia sat down as instructed and waited however once they were waiting, Tia became slightly uneasy and gestured towards the nearby dwarves.

“Hey, what are they preparing for?” Asked Tia confused and pointed towards the nearby dwarves.

“Huh? Eh?” Mumbled Thakeo confused as he saw that all of the dwarves were looking at them.

The glare, however, was not the usual curious glares but more like they were being seeing as potential targets, something enforced by the fact that everyone inside was carrying armor and weapons, like they were preparing for an attack.

“I don’t know exactly what but dwarves usually go with an ‘open door’ policy but… I don’t have any idea to be honest.” Replied Thakeo.

“So… They got scared and decided to hole up inside? What would cause them to do such a thing?” Asked Tia next.

“More or less but I would be very interested in learning the reason they did so as it might be related to our issue and thus could affect my plan.” Said Thakeo and nodded to himself.

“You mean the ‘plan’ to which you refuse share details?” Said Tia next, this time it was her turn to be sarcastic.

“Yep, more or less. The reason I have not said anything is because I need to confirm other stuff first. If that pans out, I should be able to deduce the hidden variables and come up with a final version.” Explained Thakeo.

“Hidden variables? Is that not more of a math issue? What does that have to do with this case?” Asked Tia next.

“Well, you are not wrong but in this case it refers to the unknown events happening to which we were not involved but maybe that is the wrong way to explain it?” Replied Thakeo.

“Well, do explain why you won’t explain me your plan.” Said Tia, her arms still crossed.

“Eh? You want me to explain why I can’t explain my plan to you?” Asked Thakeo confused.

“Mhm!” Said Tia and nodded.

“Huh… Well… If all of these seemingly small events we have been involved with and look at it like a painting or puzzle if you will. The poachers, the smuggling and those coat wearing cultists or whatever they were. All of these events can seem unrelated but if you take a step backwards, you begin to see the whole picture as a pattern emerges, but not the whole picture as we need more information, correct? ” Started Thakeo to explain.

“If you put it like that, it seems simple enough to grasp your idea.” Said Tia and nodded.

“Right?! Now, if my friend or the dwarves has more information that might just be the key to understanding the cause of this incident. So, once we get that information…” Explained Thakeo, but it was Tia who finished the sentence.

“…We can view the whole picture and thereby figure out how to act on it, right?” Said Tia and looked at Thakeo.

“Correct. Someone once told me that the key to a battle, any battle, is information. Without information you can be as just in your course as you want or field a large army but if you do not know or understand what moves your enemy is making, you increase the risk of failure of the entire campaign.” Said Thakeo.

“Hmm? Interesting way to put it but… Who told you about that military strategy? I thought you were a mage so you using such metaphors… Seems strange indeed.” Said Tia with a little smile.

“Huh? Eh? Ah! Well… Erm… let us just say that I know a member of the Imperial Guard who in my youth hammered such stuff inside my skull, even if I didn’t want to.” Explained Thakeo while scratching his neck.

“Hmm? A magic school, knowing various dwarves and imperial commanders. Just who are you?” Asked Tia as she tilted her head, closing her eyes slightly like she was thinking about something.

“I-I erm… How to…” Stuttered Thakeo but just then, a loud bang of a door being kicked open could be heard across the courtyard.

Thakeo turned his head and quickly saw a dwarf with a large red beard and hair appeared, briefly blinded in the sunlight

“By grandma’s beard, that sun is really annoying.” Growled Thragoth as he shielded himself from the light.

“Hmm, is that him?” Asked Tia confused.

“Yep, that would be the one. Hey Thragoth! Over here! Long time no see!” Yelled Thakeo with a smile and waved his hand.

“What sort of bullocks is that? I saw ya a few days ago ya nitwit. What brings you here… Say… Is that an elf?” Asked Thragoth midsentence and pointed towards Tia with a surprised look on his face.

“Yea… Some stuff happened…” Replied Thakeo, unsure where to start.

“An elf… A female… Elf… Laddy, I know ya went into them woods to find a magic beast but kidnapping an elf girl just because ya failed, that is a bit extreme.” Said Thragoth.

“Huh? I-I did not kidnap her! She came… Well… She came along but she is not kidnapped nor a prisoner.” Explained Thakeo.

“Ho? I am surprised that anyone, let alone a female, would actually follow you. I mean normally girls run away from you, what did you do to her?” Asked Thragoth next, clearly fishing for gossip.

“I didn’t do anything! Wait… Well… I did do something… But that was accidental.” Replied Thakeo, trying to defend himself.

“Oi! You two! I am standing right here!” Said Tia who clearly knew that they were talking about her.

“Ri-right… We are not here about that. Now listen…” Started Thakeo, but Thragoth interrupted him again.

Did ya knock her up or something?” Asked Thragoth next, this time displaying a devilish smile.

“I DID NOT SUCH THING!” Proclaimed Thakeo desperately, causing other dwarves nearby to look in their direction, to see what is going on.

“Hmm? Knock me out? Is that a human saying or something or is the dwarf just mumbling words?” Asked Tia confused, having luckily not caught on to what Thragoth was meaning.

Just this once Thakeo was glad that Tia’s exposure to humans was limited as it could otherwise cause havoc. Of cause this joy was short lived as Thragoth started to laugh.

“This lass is brilliant! She does not even know? Well, then I shall explain for ya!” Knocking someone up means that…” Started Thragoth to say with great enthusiasm however Thakeo quickly jumped the dwarf and covered up his mouth.

“Th-that is enough! We did not come here for that… Sort of teachings.” Said Thakeo desperately, leaving Tia to simply tilt her head, confused as to what was going on.

“Ah! Ya no fun at all!” Growled Thragoth displeased.

“It’s my neck which is on the line. Don’t give her another reason to attack me!” Whispered Thakeo with a desperate voice.

“Well… It is not important so ya can fill me in on the details later. Now, why did you drop by here? I thought we were meeting in town.” Asked Thragoth.

“N-not important? That is a matter of interpretation! Hey human, is this the dwarf you mentioned could help? If so, why is he yapping about useless stuff all the time?” Asked Tia with a stern voice.

“Oooh? Seems this one has a mouth on her, let is test that out, shall we?” Said Thragoth with a smile.

“Eh? N-no! Don’t go there!” Stuttered Thakeo desperately but Thragoth merely pushed him aside, leaving Thakeo with nothing to do but watch as Thragoth walked closer to the elf, preparing for his usual shenanigans.

“Lass, you are coming here as a guest so would it not be prudent to not insult ya host?” Asked Thragoth and looked firmly at Tia.

“Well, is that your land?” Replied Tia, her arms still crossed in defiance.

“Eh? No but…” Started Thragoth but Tia quickly interrupted him.

“If it is not your land then you are not the host and as such, I did not insult the host, only you.” Said Tia.

“That is true but…” Started Thragoth but once more, Tia interrupted him.

“I only came along because that fool over there said that you could help us out. So, if you can that would be great, but if you can’t, too bad. However, I don’t have time to waste on useless chatter so if you want to talk then go find some village women and talk about the weather or something.” Finished Tia with a smirk.

“Eh? Ba…Bwahahahaha! I like this one, she’s not bad! But I can keep going myself!” Said Thragoth happily and was about to start a new round of insults but Thakeo put his hand on the dwarf’s shoulder.

“That can wait, we have some important business to take care of first. I will need to meet with the one in charge of your sanitation system, specifically the old aqueduct system which run beneath the mountain. Is there anyone like that here?” Asked Thakeo.

“Oh? Why do ya have a sudden interest in the local waste system? Ya planning to start a farm?” Asked Thragoth with a smile.

“Well no but I think that whatever is going on in this town is tied directly to it, as well as your current predicament.” Replied Thakeo, gesturing towards the armed guards.

“Hmm, ya noticed that? Well, it is hard to overlook but it is not something which we should speak of in the open. Come with me inside.” Said Thragoth before he turned around and headed towards the main entrance into the mountain itself.

“Inside? Might be prudent.” Mumbled Thakeo and quickly followed Thragoth.

“Why can’t we just talk outside?” Asked Tia who followed from behind, unable to follow the hidden meanings these two were using.

“Security reasons lass, security.” Replied Thragoth.

“Mmhm… I don’t like being underground.” Mumbled Tia.

“Did you say anything?” Asked Thakeo who didn’t hear what she was saying.

“N-no, nothing…” Replied Tia and looked away.

“Don’t worry, is hall protect ya from the claws of this fiendish man!” Proclaimed Thragoth and laughed.

“St-stop joking about that already!” Stuttered Thakeo.

“I don’t find it funny either! But… The thought of seeing you get pummeled by a dwarf… Now that I would find funny.” Said Tia with a devilish smile.

“By the gods these two.” Mumbled Thakeo and sighed.

While Thakeo did find it slightly annoying then as long as Tia was talking to Thragoth, she would not be talking to him which at least would let him recover from her constant abuse. Thakeo could just not understand her hostility towards him.

If just seeing her covered in water would result in such a reaction, what would she do if he had done even worse? Not that he would ever do such a thing but it still got him thinking but he could not find any reason which would explain it so maybe it was just an elf thing or a girl thing, or a combination of both.

It did not matter right about now as they would soon be busy and the best indication for that was when the heavy stone wall behind them closed shut with a solid thump.

“Come on now, no need to dilly dally back there.” Said Thragoth as he continued to walk down the long corridor.

“R-right.” Mumbled Thakeo who was a bit shocked over what he was seeing inside this dwarven mountain.

Thakeo had been to several dwarven strongholds before, some of which was centuries old and highly decorated, however this outpost was very new, which could be seen by the lack of decorations and only basic construction having been done to support the ongoing work.

However, that was not what was shocking. No, it was the fact that there seemed to be very few dwarves around the area and those who were there were wearing full armor and weaponry and it was very quiet, especially for a dwarven home.

The entire hallway gave up a creepy feeling. Even all the guards they passed were looking at the new arrivals with their eyes but it was not the eyes of curious onlookers but more that of a seasoned soldier, almost like they were choosing targets, just like the dwarves outside had done.

“This place… Is not what I imagined…” Mumbled Tia suddenly as she looked around. Even she seemed surprised about the current state.

“Well, what were ya expecting? A fancy-dancy party with flowers and food?” Replied Thragoth with a smile.

“Well… Something more than this. From what I know about dwarves there should be a lot more stuff going on but this place… It kind of feels like…” Continued Tia but Thragoth interrupted her.

“… Like a tomb? Ya not be wrong about that lass. Most of my kin are on the other side of the mountain so this area would seem quite empty.” Explained Thragoth.

“The other end? Does that have something to do with all this increased security?” Asked Thakeo next.

“Increased security? What is that supposed to mean?” Replied Tia, seemingly misunderstanding something.

“Huh? Ah! No it is not due to us, so just, don’t overact okay? No need to panic!” Said Thakeo quickly while looking back and forth between the various guards.

“Huh? Why would I panic?” Asked Tia confused.

“Bwahahaha! Seems like the lad is the one panicking instead.” Said Thragoth with a thunderous laugh.

“Well, sorry for trying to keep things calm.” Said Thakeo and sighed.

“Well that is fine, but to answer your question lad then yes, the lord has ordered the security level to be raised to the maximum, just as a precaution of cause.” Explained Thragoth.

“To the maximum? But is that not only done if there is a threat of war?” Asked Thakeo surprised.

“That is exactly the problem as if the current situation keeps deteriorating it may lead to war.” Replied Thragoth.

“What is going on? Did something happen?” Asked Thakeo concerned.

“Well, not yet but… Two days ago, some of our scouts spotted a large contingent of around 100 or Alliance Soldiers along with twice as many civilians setting up camp in the old fort just across the border. They have already begun to expand the camp and are hauling in construction materials as well.” Explained Thragoth.

“Wh-what? Alliance Troops?” Yelled Thakeo, clearly surprised.

“Aye, that is about the reaction we had so the lord took no chances and sealed up the mountain, just in case they plan on hitting this place.” Said Thragoth with a smile.

“Oi! Slow down kid. We don’t know that yet but so far all they seem to be doing is setting up camps.” Replied Thragoth.

“Why is that relevant to us? Just ignore them and let’s settle our own affairs.” Growled Tia.

“Do you have any details as to what they are building? Was is just civilians or was it civilian workers? Were they craftsmen or just peasants?” Asked Thakeo next, once more ignoring Tia.

“Well… Now that you mention it then I heard that they brought a lot of digging equipment, maybe they are building a tower?” Replied Thragoth and shrugged.

“Hmm… Seems odd for that to happen now, could it be related to everything else?” Mumbled Thakeo and stopped walking forward, but instead started to walk back and forth between the two sides of the long hallway, leaving Thragoth and Tia standing.

“Oh great… This thing again?” Mumbled Tia and sighed as she watched Thakeo moved around like he had done earlier and once again he did not seem to notice anything but his own train of thoughts.

“Eh? Ah! He is thinking again, he does that quite often. Just leave him be and he will turn back to normal soon enough.” Said Thragoth and shrugged when he noticed that Thakeo was doing.

“Huh? He does this often?” Asked Tia surprised.

“That he does. I ain’t going to pretend to know why he does that but that kid is quite smart and does have keen insight into various things despite an erm… Condition? Could you call it that?” Replied Thragoth as he stroked his beard.

“Co-condition? Oh, like him not being able to control magic despite being a mage?” Asked Tia next.

“Oh? He told ya did he? But aye, that be his issue. Despite his brain not being too bad and him getting good ideas then just like usual, his lack of ability to control magic does make the other students at his school look down on him and call him a failure. Of cause, him blowing up half a classroom didn’t help much either in that aspect! Bwahahaha!” Said Thragoth and laughed out loud.

“Tch! So he was actually telling the truth when we were attacked by that bear.” Growled Tia with a dissatisfied look on her face.

“A bear? By the gods! What has he been doing for the past few days I wonder?” Asked Thragoth confused.

“More than that! He is perverted peeper! A creepy looking thug with unnatural carnal desires! A molesting, smelly, good for nothing lowlife who will soon get what is due to him!” Cried Tia out loud as she cracked her knuckles.

“Huh, what? Thakeo? A pervert? Bwahahahaha!” Said Thragoth with a laugh.

“What’s so funny? Do you have any idea what he did to me?” Growled Tia.

“Haha no, I can’t say I do but I highly doubt that anything he did was intended. Between the two of us, that kid has no luck with members of the opposite gender. That is why I was so surprised earlier when he showed up with you in tow. Thought he might finally have ended his… Dry season. Bwahahaha!” Said Thragoth and laughed out loud once more.

“Dr-dry season… DRY SEASON? Just who do you think I am? There is no way in any of the seven hells that I would ever do ANYTHING like THAT with him!” Yelled Tia out loud, however unlike before her shouting this time was accompanied by a bright red face.

“You won’t do what with me?” Asked Thakeo suddenly, having seemingly awoken from his train of thought.

“KYAAH! NO-NOTHING AT ALL! GET AWAY FROM ME PERVERT!” Yelled Tia surprised, waving her hands in front of herself as she quickly walked away from the two of them but still within viewing distance.

“Eh? Well… Okay? What did you do to her?” Asked Thakeo and looked at Thragoth.

“Oh, I just told the lass a joke. Didn’t think she would react that strongly. What did you do to this poor girl?” Replied Thragoth.

“Th-that is not important right now we… Erm… Stuff happened.” Said Thakeo and sighed.

“What? Ya walk in on her in the shower or something?” Asked Thragoth with a smile, seemingly amused, however the teasing he thought would be fun had a reaction he did not expect.

“Erk!” Cried Tia surprised, quickly covering her body as if by reaction.

“Guh! Tha-tha-that might have… Happened.” Stuttered Thakeo, unsure how to respond to that.

“Wait what? Ya did walk in on her talking a bath?” Asked Thragoth surprised, however neither of the two wanted to give a definitive answer.

“Oh boy… You are in serious trouble laddie.” Said Thragoth and shook his head in disbelief.

“Huh? Ju-just because of that? It was an accident!” Asked Thakeo confused.

“Well, I cannot be entirely sure, me not being a scholar or something fancy like that, but I did hear that them fire elf laws are quite strict and complex but to sum it up this case… Well, if a fire elven female is seen naked by man other than kin, the law states that she will have to marry them or….” Started Thragoth but did not get a chance to finish before Thakeo jumped to his feet.

“M-MARRY HER?” Yelled Thakeo out loud as it was now his turn to be surprised and slowly he turned his head and looked towards Tia, who on the other hand merely looked away.

“I was not finished… Of cause, if an elven female does not want to do so, she has the option to ‘bury’ the man who saw her and clearly the girl is likely to choose the second option.” Said Thragoth as he placed his hand across his throat.


“Oh? You would not want to marry her? I find that surprising, you might not find another.” Said Thragoth with a smile.

“Wh-who would want to marry that!” Yelled Tia from afar and pointed at Thakeo.

“For once we agree! Sure, she is beautiful, strong and have a good sense for magic…” Started Thakeo to say.

“…eh? Beautiful? Me?” Mumbled Tia surprised, growing slight red faced but that ended soon enough.

“…But besides that she is violent, unpredictable and reckless! If anyone was to marry someone like that, they would end up dead anyway! Thus, I thankfully decline either option!” Finished Thakeo, crossing his arms while standing, trying to make himself to be a bastion of confidence.

However, said bastion and confidence was immediately shattered as Tia jumped from far away and landed directly in front of Thakeo, seriously angry.

“WHO ARE YOU CALLING VIOLENT?” Yelled Tia as she sent her fist into Thakeo’s stomach, causing him to collapse on the floor.

“Se-see my point?” Stuttered Thakeo while on his knees, gasping for air.

“Bwahahah! Nice hit lass! That really hit the spot.” Said Thragoth and laughed out loud.

“Yo-you are supposed to be my friend…” Grumbled Thakeo from the floor.

“Well, that one was your own fault. I ain’t going to help ya out of this mess.” Said Thragoth and smiled, seemingly quite amused.

“Hah! See that you filthy creep, even this short runt dwarf knows what sort of dishonor your actions have caused me so I am fully entitled to challenge you to a duel.” Said Tia next as she crossed her arms with a self-satisfied smile on her lips.

“Oh? A dual you say? Well that would make sense in this case. I have one myself or at least I was supposed to but me and the kid plan to skip town, or had that been changed too?” Asked Thragoth and looked at Thakeo.

“You have a dual as well?” Asked Tia surprised.

“Yes, now that is one…” Started Thragoth, but Thakeo quickly covered the dwarf’s loud mouth.

“Th-that can wait! We got business to attend to! Now, Thragoth, can you get me a meeting with the lord of the hold?” Asked Thakeo.

“Mmmphhmpm!” Replied Thragoth but he did not make any sense.

“Waah! Sorry about that!” Cried Thakeo desperately when he realized that Thragoth’s face was slowly turning blue and quickly removed his hand.

“Puuuhaah! Ya trying to kill me lad?” Growled Thragoth, gasping for air.

“So-sorry about that… But… We don’t have time for that right now. Can you get me a meeting with the lord?” Asked Thakeo again.

“The lord? What for? As I told ya just a bit ago, this hold is currently in a crisis so I doubt the lord would receive anyone at this point.” Replied Thragoth.

“Well, I can… no, me and the elf girl can help with that! I believe that those troops you mentioned might be related to what we found out on our end as well as my own assumptions.” Explained Thakeo.

“Making assumptions is bad! You might as well just guess.” Said Tia, full of spite.

“Well lass, we will see. I do know someone who might be able to help. He is a steward to the lord and he is also my cousin and in charge of various engineering projects as well but I can’t say whatever or not he will go to the lord with it.” Replied Thragoth.

“Guess it is finally time for you to reveal your plan to us then.” Said Tia sarcastically.

“Not yet, I still need more information but I will tell you what I know.” Said Thakeo and the three of them resumed walking down the hallway.

– ₪ –

A while later, after walking around various corridors and stairs, the trio finally found themselves placed at a corner table in the mess hall which was full of loud mouthed dwarves.

It seemed that even the current situation did not ruin their mood for food with the exception of the two dwarves who were sitting with them, one of them being Thragoth, the other one being the steward of the hold, named Honmar who both had a brooding look on their faces.

Thakeo had explained what he and Tia had found out and how it might be connect to the dwarves, however even now both of them seemed suspicious but the evidence, even if circumstantial, could not be ignored.

“So you are sure that it’s that sock puppet Kaincry, kree, coyote or whatever is behind all of this?” Asked Thragoth.

“It’s Kaincoy and I am quite sure it is him. Even if I could not recognize anyone at the poacher’s camp then that infernal whining I heard was definitely him.” Replied Thakeo.

“I see… And that poor beast girl was the blamed form something this she elf did?” Said Thragoth and looked at Tia with a stern look.

“Th-that was an accident! I am truly sorry!” said Tia and bowed slightly to the dwarf in front of her.

“Oh I don’t blame ya lass. You could not have known that but I do believe that you should help correct it.” Said Thragoth.

“That is why I am here, to make up for my mistake and to beat this creep to a pulp.” Said Tia and nodded towards Thakeo.

“I am so happy you got your priorities sorted out.” Mumbled Thakeo with a depressed look on his face.

“Hmm… So this alliance human is using poachers to well, poach animals and then use these illegally obtained goods as trade?” Asked Honmar, who unlike Thragoth, seemed to think before he spoke.

“Well, if my theory is correct then yes, but… With the arrival of alliance soldiers at the border it might just be something bigger.” Replied Thakeo.

“Could they be preparing an armed incursion?” Asked Thragoth and looked at Honmar.

“It is possible they could pull a move like that, but unlikely, at least as this point in time as they do not have the manpower in place for such a move and besides, we would know if they tried something like that.” Replied Honmar with a nod.

“Only if you see them coming.” Said Thakeo suddenly.

“What is that supposed to mean? You can’t march an army through the air so of cause we would see them coming.” Said Honmar confused.

“If they move above ground that is. Tia experienced the same when she was tracking the poacher’s carts did you not?” Said Thakeo next, looking at Tia.

“Ah! The carts! Yea, it seemed like they just vanished when I tried to track them.” Said Tia, having finally understood where Thakeo was going.

“We still don’t know how but based on what Tia has told me then she lost track of the poacher’s carts somewhere between here and the town.” Said Thakeo.

“What? Their carts vanished? How is that possible with an elf on their tail?” Asked Thragoth confused.

“That is what I want to know. It is possible to hide them with magic but I don’t know how they could hide so many carts as fast like they did.” Explained Tia.

“I don’t they used magic.” Said Thakeo suddenly.

“What do you mean? You know something I don’t?” Asked Tia.

“I know a lot you don’t but this is related to you. Remember when you drop kicked me and stole my map back in town?” Replied Thakeo.

“Heh, yea… The feeling warms my heart. What about it?” Said Tia sarcastically.

“Well, before I found that map, I walked into the wrong section. There I had a look at the old sewer system beneath the town.” Said Thakeo.

“So? How does that help us? I doubt the sewers reach all the way out here.” Asked Tia next.

“True but, the old sewers were built on top of many previous waterworks which again is built on others and so on. It has been going on for many centuries.” Explained Thakeo.

“I still don’t get it.” Said Tia and shook her head.

“Well, I can’t blame you. Human construction are different from elves, however, all that ancient construction was not removed but merely closed off with new stuff taking their place. It is a maze down there, so one could easily setup a smuggling route there.” Explained Thakeo.

“So… you think that noble nutjob is running his stuff via the sewers? But I lost them in the forest.” Said Tia next.

“Yes, but remember the dam to the north of this mountain? It is centuries old and while hardly in use anymore it does still have a spillway system, used by the ancient sewers so…” Started Thakeo but Tia and Thragoth both interrupted him at the same time.

“The Old aqueduct!” Proclaimed the two of them at the same time where as Honmar nearly fell of his seat due to the shock.

“Exactly! Using those tunnels, these smugglers could easily move the illegal goods or stuff like that underground, straight past outposts, towns and whatnot, even this mountain has those old tunnels.” Said Thakeo, finishing up with a smile.

“Blasted Alliance Filth! If they can their stolen goods like that, they can move an army the other way!” Growled Thragoth and hammered his fist into the table.

“This is quite the predicament even if it is just speculation. We knew they were planning something but why are they going so far?” Mumbled Honmar as he stroked his beard.

“Likely because of this.” Said Thakeo and put one of his bracelets on the table for everyone to see.

“Why are you flashing your jewelry?” Asked Tia.

“Not the bracelet itself but…” Started Thakeo but Thragoth interrupted him.

“…The Thunderstones! Blast! They are after the mine itself.” Said Thragoth and cursed out loud.

“Huh? How would you know that?” Asked Tia surprised as she looked at the dwarf.

“Why not? I am the one who made them bracelets, well me and a gnome alchemist.” Replied Thragoth with a smile, clearly proud of himself for some reason.

“Speaking of which I have… Ideas for them but… Back to the issue at hand.” Said Thakeo.

“Hmm this is still just circumstantial but… You make good points. What do you need to confirm this?” Asked Honmar, still rubbing his beard.

“Well, as far as I was told then Kaincoy and his men came here for some construction work of sorts so we would need to access the same areas they did to see if we can find any traces of wrongdoings.” Explained Thakeo.

“Hmm, so we will need to access the lower levels? I can take you there but I will need to inform the lord first about this and see what he thinks about it. Thragoth, if you can take them there then I will come as soon as I can.” Said Honmar as he quickly stood up.

“Righty on cousin.” Replied Thragoth with a smile as Honmar left the mess hall.

“Now, while we go there then I have a job for you as well Thragoth.” Said Thakeo.

“No problem! I will gladly help to up that snobby snake twice over!” Proclaimed Thragoth, followed by a laugh.

“Good, because I am going to need you to help me fight in the duel tomorrow but… I also need a discretion in town for tonight and you are perfect for that.” Said Thakeo with a smile.

“Oh? We are really doing the duel? I thought ya wanted to run off?” Asked Thragoth next.

“So you can fight a duel when it is convenient for you but you still refuse to fight me?” Interrupted Tia.

“Circumstances change.” Replied Thakeo, directed at the both of them.

“Hey that is unfair!” Cried Tia both the others ignored her.

“So, what do I need to tonight?” Asked Thragoth.

Thakeo did not reply right away but merely placed his hand on the dwarf’s shoulder.

“I need you to go into town… And get drunk!” Said Thakeo with a smile.

“Re-Really? I can get drunk and that stuff? Without reservations?” Asked Thragoth next, now beaming with delight.

“Of cause! That is the plan. I need you to head to town right away, gather the dwarves at the workshop and have fun at the pub at the central square. Draw as much attention as you can without starting any fights and don’t go overboard with the boasting and also, you must be… Well, if not clear headed then at least able to stand tomorrow around noon. We do have duel tomorrow and I need you to be there.” Said Thakeo.

“Oh! So drinking and fighting! Bwahahaha! That makes this entire trip worth it! I better go get my axe! I will be right back!” Said Thragoth and stormed off to parts unknown.

“Why would he need an axe to go drinking?” Asked Thakeo with a mumble.

However, Tia on the other merely watched until Thragoth had vanished from sight however as soon he had, Tia lowered her head for a moment before she quickly turned around and looked at Thakeo with an intense gaze.

“Wh-what?” Asked Thakeo confused, still not used to her glare.

“I still don’t get what your plan is but at least it appears that your head is not as empty as I thought it was.” Replied Tia.

“Eh? Oh! Thank you.” Said Thakeo, surprised to get a compliment from her.

“Oh, don’t get me wrong. I am still going to pound you into the ground with my fireballs!” Said Tia, showing a devilish smile.

“Eh? C-can a fireball really do that?” Mumbled Thakeo to himself.

“Want to find out?” Asked Tia casually.

“Whatever, what is the next step after this? Assuming the dwarf lord will allow you to talk to him, that is.” Asked Tia.

“Well, I doubt he would allow me to do so under these circumstances but all we need to do is to confirm why the noble wants the mountain itself.” Replied Tia.

“Oh? I would assume it’s because he don’t like non-humans or maybe he is just a greedy pig? Didn’t you just flash those stones in the bracelet?” Asked Tia, pointing at the bracelet which was still on the table.

“He’s likely both but he is also calculating. Even so, for alliance troops to show up at the border, he is likely planning to intervene in one manner or another but I cannot say just what he is plotting and that is the dangerous part.” Replied Thakeo.

“I get that he and those alliance troops is troublesome if they turn out to be hostile but did they not only bring a hundred or so? How much damage could they do?” Asked Tia.

Thakeo was surprised that Tia actually showed an interest in this but he assumed that it was because the alliance had a very bad reputation so the fire elves surely would not want them anywhere near their lands.

“Well, a hundred soldiers or so would not be too much trouble but if they were to attack with surprise, even a small number can be dangerous.” Replied Thakeo.

“A surprise attack? You don’t think they would be that stupid? There are more dwarves then they have troops and this place is clearly fortified.” Said Tia next.

“Yes but if they were to use the old waterways to enter the mountain and attack from within they could easily win. At least that is what I would do.” Explained Thakeo.

“Hmm? You plan many surprise attacks at that magic school of yours?” Asked Tia next, with a slight smile.

“Eh? Erm no? It was just part of my childhood education.” Replied Thakeo without further thought.

“Oh? And what sort of parents would let their children study such a thing?” Asked Tia next, slowly moving closer.

“Huh? Erm… Mine would… They are freaking weird. You have no idea just how much I had to suffer due to their opinions.” Replied Thakeo with a sigh.

“So, you know planning, architecture, magic designs and the like and on top of that you know military tactics, especially the underhanded ones and finally, you participate in duels and plan to run away just like that. Who are you? And where is the fool who peeked on me while I was bathing?” Asked Tia and grabbed Thakeo by the collar of his jacket.

“I-I am still the same and that peeking incident was an accident!” Relied Thakeo desperately, unsure

“That may be so, but that does not change the fact that you did break my people’s laws!” Said Tia.

“In-inside human territory! Can’t we reach a settlement on this?” Replied Thakeo.

“Oh, we will settle this once this case is over and if you refuse, well… I might just sell this necklace of yours. Should fetch a decent price since it is an artifact.” Said Tia and let go of Thakeo while she pulled out the necklace from within her clothing with her left hand.

“Ah! That is unfair! I just got that from my father!” Whined Thakeo.

“Oh? Well in that case, would you like this fireball instead?” Asked Tia as she tilted her head slightly and quickly formed a fireball in her right hand which quickly lit up the area they were in.

“Oi! Oi! You should not be using magic inside!” Replied Thakeo

“Oh? Or what are you going to do? You seem like a person who won’t make a choice unless it is forced upon you so that is what I am doing! Either promise to fight me in a duel or I will get even on my own terms!” Proclaimed Tia.

Thakeo looked back and forth between the necklace and the fireball however his attention was quickly drawn elsewhere as besides the fireball and necklace, he also saw the round shapes of… Something else not appropriate for children.

“T-Tia… This angle is bad! I can see them… Both of them!” Said Thakeo and quickly averted his gaze.

“See what?” Asked Tia confused before she realized what Thakeo was referring to.

“Not my fault!” Said Thakeo before Tia had even raised her voice.

“Y-YO-YOU FREAKING PERVERT! I WILL BURN YOU TO A CRISP!” Yelled Tia out loud, causing the nearby dwarves to turn around to see what is going on.

“Not my fault! I said that! This one was on you!” Cried Thakeo.

However it had little on Tia who was utterly red faced with anger. She quickly raised her right hand and put more power into the fireball, clearly intending to strike him.

Thakeo reached out for her hand but could not reach it, instead only managing to grab hold of the necklace instead, however as soon as he did, Tia’s fireball instantly grew to ten times the size of her regular one.

“Woa! St-stop it!” Said Thakeo surprised as he saw the gigantic fireball in Tia’s hand.

“Wh-what is going on? What did you do?” Cried Tia out loud, unaware of what to do.

“Turn it off! Turn it off!” Cried Thakeo.

“Ho-how do I do that?” Asked Tia confused.

However before anyone could do anything, Thakeo was suddenly lifted up and moved out of the way with tremendous force, losing his grip on the necklace at the same time.

Instantly, the fireball turn back into its normal size, before quickly dissipating into the thin air at the same time that Thakeo hit the floor.

“By the gods! I leave ya two alone for a short while and your fighting nearly put the entire room on fire!” Yelled Thragoth as he looked at Tia, sitting on the bench, while Thakeo was on the floor.

“This is her fault!” Cried Thakeo from the floor.

“H-he started it!” Tried Tia but Thragoth once more hammered his fist into the table again, nearly splitting it in two.

“ENOUGH! Look around you!” Yelled Thragoth, gesturing to the room.

Both of them slowly looked around the room however neither of them could see anyone else in the room.

“Hey… Where did the other dwarves go?” Asked Thakeo confused.

“I-is it over?” Asked a dwarf from somewhere in the room.

“Aye! I put the brats in their place.” Replied Thragoth.

Once that was said from everywhere the dwarves who had been there before the incident slowly came out from their cover and hiding holes, which neither Thakeo nor Tia had noticed.

“By the gods… I will get a heart attack before the duel… You, fire elf! You are hereby forbidden from using your magic inside these halls. It is clearly too powerful!” Said Thragoth.

“Im-impossible! I don’t have the magic power to produce a fireball that big! It’s this human’s fault!” Said Tia and pointed at Thakeo.

“I can’t control magic so how am I supposed to interfere with your magic?” Asked Thakeo desperately.

“I don’t know how but you did touch me and this happen when you did, thus, your fault!” Replied Tia, blazingly ignoring common sense.

“Eh? This lad don’t have any such powers.” Said Thragoth with a puzzled look on his face.

“Hey! I only did that to fend you off and the only thing I touched was… Ah! The necklace!” Started Thakeo but quickly interrupted himself.

“Necklace? What necklace?” Asked Tia confused.

“The one you are holding in your left hand.” Replied Thakeo and pointed at Tia’s hands.

“Eh? Ah… Master did say something about it… What was it again?” Said Tia confused.

“Necklace? What is this about a necklace?” Asked Thragoth, unaware of the details about the necklace.

“It was the necklace I got from my dad, remember?” Replied Thakeo.

“No… I don’t remember the details but… Care to explain how that is related to this girl creating a massive fireball?” Asked Thragoth next, with a stern look on his face.

“Well erm… Kelrick explained that this necklace reacts to magic, making him think that it might be a locator tool of sorts but according to Tia’s Master that was not the case but rather a Connector or something like that.” Replied Thakeo.

“Connector? Locator? What is the difference?” Asked Thragoth confused.

“Well, apparently the locator can locate magic beasts but the connector supposedly works but transferring magic power from one person to another, boosting the receiver’s power or something like that.” Replied Thakeo as he scratched his head.

“See! I told you it was your fault!” Growled Tia with a dissatisfied look on her face.

“You were about to burn me! I had to defend myself!” Protested Thakeo.

“Irrelevant! You transferred power to me and affected my magic!” Said Tia next, still clutching the necklace in her hand.

“I can’t control my magic! How can I transfer power if I don’t know how?” Retaliated Thakeo.

“Okay, okay! Stop your flirting already I get it. The necklace is magic and does weird stuff. I don’t care about that but don’t do it again, at least not inside here. After all, ya used my name to get here so my reputation would suffer if someone got hurt.” Said Thragoth with a firm voice.

“Hah! Like your reputation could get any lower.” Said a voice form behind.

The trio turned their heads and saw that Honmar had returned.

“Oh? Ya back already? That was fast.” Said Thragoth.

“Of cause! I am not as slow as you.” Replied Honmar with a smile.

“So, what is the word? Can we go downstairs?” Asked Thakeo.

“Hmm? Oh that… Well the lord was busy so I could not get in touch with him but… I do trust Thragoth and thus, trust you so I will bring you there on my own. I will update the lord when we are done but I honestly hope that we do not find anything down there. The ramifications of that…” Said Honmar but stopped before finishing, instead he just shuddered meaning it would not get good.

“I hope so as well… Tia, we good for now?” Asked Thakeo and looked back at Tia who still seemed agitated.

“I am fine! Just don’t get in my way again.” Replied Tia with a stern voice and got up standing.

“Well then let us go ahead then. Please follow me.” Said Honmar and headed towards the door, quickly followed by Tia.

“Understood! I shall go to town to drink, I mean… cause a distraction.” Said Thragoth, with a big smile as he stroked his beard.

Thakeo also got on his feet and brushed off the dust from his clothing, however as he did, Thragoth leaned closer with a concerned look on his face

“Ya sure that girl is okay? She seems very aggressive, even for an elf.” Whispered Thragoth suddenly.

“I know right. It seems that she becomes more and more aggressive the more time we spend together.” Whispered Thakeo back.

“Hmm, well do watch out, we don’t want another… Incident right?” Asked Thragoth to confirm.

“What incident are you… Oh… That one… Yea that would be bad.” Replied Thakeo, who now remembered what Thragoth was referring to.

However it was not the incident with Thakeo falling into to lake and seeing Tia in a compromising position. No, it was referring to an event from his childhood itself, the same he had remembered when he had asked that Top hat man, Zidynas about the necklace and it had roughly around ten years earlier or so.

At the time he had been playing with a childhood friend back home but somehow the two of them had ended up in a coma of sorts and had to be admitted to a hospital for more than a week.

Thakeo did not remember what had happened to him nor his friend, in fact, he could not even remember his friend’s name nor how that kid looked like.

The only thing he did remember from back then was that he had woken up on the ground just as someone had picked him up. That someone had been Thragoth and that was how the two of them met.

Apparently, Thragoth had been traveling with his band of dwarven soldiers when they had sensed a massive energy wave and then headed there, thinking it was an enemy but it had instead turned out to have been two small kids which they promptly brought back to town.

There, it was discovered that somehow, both Thakeo and his Friend’s mana had been sucked out, leaving the kids in a dire state.

Thakeo’s parents were not angry but they were surprised but of cause, had to teach their kid about right and wrong, at least normal parents was like that, but sadly, Thakeo’s were not like normal people.

His parents had, in their own eccentric way, punished him by hiring Thragoth to learn ‘the young man some responsibility’ and thus, Thragoth had stuck around for a few months, teaching Thakeo about the dwarves and how they were as a people, as well as emptying the majority of the liquor in town at the same time.

However, Thragoth had also shown Thakeo how to work metal which he had found fascinating so one could say that this was how his obsession with making new stuff came into being.

A few years later, Thakeo had learned about the event in school. It was a state called acute mana deficiency and while it was nothing new then it was normally caused by a sudden use of nearly all the magic power within a body, allowing the mage to use more power than they have but it won’t last for long before the mage collapses.

This, survival mode could generally be triggered when a mage panicked, similar to how a scared man can run faster for a while but other emotions such as anger could also cause it and that is what Thragoth was referring to.

Magic was by some people considered to be alive and could fed on emotions if the mage was inexperienced. The effects emotions had on magic could even depend on the element the mage wielded. Thus, a fire mage like Tia fed on ‘hot’ emotions such as anger and more aggressive emotions.

However, if she did not relax a bit then before long she might just blow up in an inferno of flames, before being reduced to a state of near death or worse, end up hurting herself an others.

Of cause, asking her to calm down would be like tossing more wood on the fire, so maybe it was better to just to let her relax a bit on her own but sadly they did not have time for that now.

“Hey! Pervert! You still there?” Asked Tia suddenly from the doorway leading out of the mess hall.

“Eh, ugh… Waaaah!” Cried Thakeo out loud, having once again been caught up in his own thoughts.

“Are you…” Began Tai but quickly, Thakeo got on his feet.

“No! Nothing bad… I was… Caught up in a childhood memory of sorts…” Explained Thakeo.

“Well, stop doing that and let’s go, unless you want to hang around here all day.” Said Tia next.

“Oh right… Sorry about that.” Said Thakeo as Tia turned around.

Why was she so aggressive? Thragoth had been right and it did seem to become worse but as for the cause, Thakeo could not be sure but if she became a danger to others, would be able to handle it? That was his primary concern as he finally left the mess hall, following the others.

– ₪ –

“Are we there yet?” Mumbled Tia with a slightly agitated voice.

“No… Still, only darkness.” Replied Thakeo and yawned.

“Don’t talk to me human! I asked the dwarf!” Growled Tia.

“Well, excuse me for being friendly!” Retaliated Thakeo.

“By the gods… You two are too much. Why did I ever agree to help?” Mumbled the sturdy dwarf who was walking in front of them, holding a torch to light the way as they walked.

It had been a while since they had met this dwarf, whose name was Honmar and was Thragoth’s cousin, three times removed on his mother’s side or something like that.

Honmar was leading them towards the depths of the mountain via tunnels and crawlspaces which seemed to go on forever.

That was a common issue for unfinished dwarven cities or fortresses as only a dwarf would be able to navigate without any map but for outsiders they could easily get lost without a guide, yet no one knew how they did it so people generally assumed it was a racial trait but no one knew for sure.

“I must admit that when Thragoth asked for my help I was a bit intrigued about you.” Said Honmar suddenly.

“Eh? Me? Why?” Asked Thakeo confused.

“Well, it is not often that one comes cross a human with interest in dwarven engineering and being able to construct something like those bracelets.” Said Honmar, nodding towards Thakeo’s bracelets.

“Eh? Ah… Well, I didn’t build them, I just came up with the idea to help with… Well, an issue with my magic”. Explained Thakeo.

“Oh, I heard about that too but that aside, it is quite an accomplishment to combine mage script with runes. You should be proud.” Said Honmar with a smile.

“Ge-getting praise from a master crafter is quite an honor but my involvement was minimal.” Said Thakeo with an awkward smile.

“Oh, I ain’t no master crafter, I just gave my cousin some thunderstones for his experiments but he only mentioned it briefly but never did explain exactly how they work.” Said Honmar, seemingly fishing for something.

Doing so was not unknown between craftsmen and engineers to wanting to learn more about new inventions or contraptions.

However, for humans the desire to know more about such were often caused by monetary interest and more often than not, one inventor might find their designs copied or sometimes even stolen by another mage.

Amongst the dwarven craftsmen such a thing was virtually unheard of as they had too much pride to steal someone else’s invention and it came more from curiosity than monetary greed.

As such, Thakeo had no problems with discussing in detail how his bracelets worked with Honmar as the trio walked deeper and deeper beneath the earth.

However as the two of them were happily chatting away Tia was walking closely behind, uninterested in their talk as she had her own concerns.

Tia had noticed that her anger had somehow grown stronger but she could not understand why. Sadly, she had to admit that the recent incidents that feeble human male had involved her most likely was accidental but she was still angry but the sensations she had surpassed the normal feeling of anger.

In fact, it felt more like hatred but it was not like she hated him so what could be the cause of it?

Tia looked closer at Thakeo from behind to try and figure out her mindset however no matter how she looked at him, he did not come across as being a threat at all.

He was rather plain, even for a human, had rough looks and overall seemed more like a fool than a magic student and had even admitted to not having any control over his own magic power.

Yet, despite of that he still had the audacity to comment on her magic abilities like he knew anything about her skills nor the amount of training she had put into mastering it.

“How can one control magic too much?” Mumbled Tia to herself.

“Ya ask something Lass?” Asked Honmar, having seemingly heard her.

“Eh? Ah… No…” Replied Tia as she quickly turned her head away as to avoid looking at Thakeo who was also looking at her.

It was really annoying when he did that as every time he looked at her, she felt like she was back at the scene at the lake where he had seen her in her birthday suit, however that was not the main source of her anger.

Ever since early childhood Tia had lower than average magic power, at least amongst her kin but to humans it might be her levels would seem normal but it was something which was frown upon as it was a sign of weakness amongst the fire elves.

Even her own parents had misgivings about her magic power and thus had sent her to Zidiynas to train her in controlling her magic, something which quickly came naturally to her and it had allowed her to use her fire magic.

Yet, despite of that, she was still looked upon as an outsider by her kin and many refused to interact with her if they could avoid it. That alone she could handle but then this foolish human had come along and dared to suggest that her magic was incomplete and that was what annoyed her.

She had spent years learning to control what little magic she had and then this human came along without any respect or magic control what so ever and yet… He had such an amazing magic level, much higher than anything she had sensed, even higher than Master Zidiynas.

In fact, this human’s magic power was so great that she could feel it leaking from him, like his body could not contain all the power and that was the main source of her anger, that he was not even taking his magic training seriously.

Of cause, the fact that he had seen her naked also played a major part but Tia was sure that she would get even with him for that at some point and the sooner the better!

“Ah! Here we are!” Proclaimed Honmar as he held up the torch to illuminate the nearby area.

Right in front of the trio was another massive door, way larger than was really necessary, however unlike the other ones this one was boarded up here and there with a sign in dwarfish banning entry due to danger but it did not specify what danger.

“So, is the entrance to the old aqueduct is in there?” Asked Thakeo and took a peek through the dark hole in the doorway.

“Aye, it is but I have to disappoint you boy, but we cannot go much further than past the door.” Replied Honmar.

“Eh? How come? Did it collapse?” Asked Thakeo next, confused as dwarven building techniques were the best in the world.

“Nothing as bad as that. No, sadly it is flooded beyond this point, so we cannot really go any further.” Replied Honmar.

“Flooded? So we can this way for noting?” Asked Tia with a growl.

“Hmm? Is that so? Who told you it was flooded, Kaincoy?” Asked Thakeo and looked at Honmar.

“No, I saw it myself. We can’t go lower.” Replied Honmar.

“Can we go take a look?” Asked Thakeo next, seemingly not concerned about the dire news he had just been told.

Tia could not fathom how a flooded aqueduct would help them now but decided to remain quiet about the matter.

“Well, if ya want to then yes.” Said Honmar and shrugged as he opened the giant door with ease, something Thakeo was sure he himself would not be able to do.

It did not take long before they had arrived at their final destination beyond the door and what awaited them there was a wide, empty open room with an another stairway in the middle leading further down, however this one was clearly full of water which reflected in the light from the torch.

“Told ya boy, this is clearly not the way go.” Said Honmar and gestured to the water filled stairway.

“Hmm? Say, what height are we at? Are we at sea level?” Asked Thakeo as he looked closer at the water.

“Huh? What does that have to do with anything?” Asked Tia surprised.

“It’s basic physics. Free running water will always head towards the ocean level, meaning down and out the mountain via the old aqueducts.” Explained Thakeo.

“I know that you idiot! But clearly, the water is still there!” Growled Tia.

“Indeed. Say Honmar, did Kainsoya or whatever his name is, come down here?” asked Thakeo next, not retaliating to Tia’s insult.

“Hmm… I don’t really know but it is possible that he did. After all, we did hire him to help with the water works, before things went sour.” Replied Honmar.

“Hmm? Exactly when did things go bad between you and him?” Asked Thakeo next, looking at the dwarf.

“I would say about a week after he came here, he returned with more experts and did another review of the waterways but said that they could not be repaired easily, however he did offer to buy the mountain. Of cause we refused and that was when he stored out little a little brat who had lost a toy.” Said Honmar and let out a small laugh.

“Hmm… How did he act prior to that, when you met him the first time?” Asked Thakeo as he nodded his head.

“Well, he was a bit stern and resentful towards us but acted like a business man now does. I don’t know much as I was busy with my own work, sorry.” Replied Honmar and shook his head.

“It’s okay… So he was hired to remove the water but failed to do so and yet still wanted to buy the mountain? Strange… Say Tia, can you hit me up with me a fireball?” Asked Thakeo and looked at Tia.

“I would be delighted to do so!” Replied Tia and immediately began to form a fireball and prepared to toss it at Thakeo.

“Eh? Waaah! No! Not hit me! I said hit me up, like… Help me out! Please throw the fireball at the water!” Cried Thakeo, having already regretted his bad wording earlier.

“Tsk! How lame… It won’t do anything.” Replied Tia, clearly annoyed.

“Please… Humor me.” Said Thakeo, showing a devious smile.

“Whatever…” Mumbled Tia and threw her fireball at the water where it vanished upon contact.

“Just as she said, nothing happened lad.” Said Honmar and shook his head again.

“Exactly… Nothing happened… Nothing at all and that is the problem.” Said Thakeo and turned around with a big smile, which could only be described as being creepy.

“How is that a problem?” Asked Honmar confused.

“Tia, what happens if you toss water on a fire?” Replied Thakeo.

“It goes out with… Sizzle… The sound! By the gods you’re not a complete retard!” Uttered Tia surprised.

“Well thank you for that!” Growled Thakeo, a bit dissatisfied that she fi

“Eh? Wha?” Mumbled Honmar who seemed confused.

“I asked Tia to hit the water but there is no steam, no bubbles nor any other sounds at all form the impact.” Said Thakeo.

“It’s a fake!” Said Tia, having finally fully caught on what was going on.

“Fa-fake? How can water be fake?” Asked Honmar, even more confused than before.

“Tia you know more about the workings of spells than I do. I know the theory but you know the practical steps. How would you achieve this result?” Asked Thakeo and looked at Tia.

“No. A magic circle would not work for long. I think it is a talisman or something which draws on the natural magic in the air, otherwise it can’t sustain itself for so long.” Replied Tia.

“Makes sense… Can you make a crawling fire to get rid of it?” Asked Thakeo next.

“Oh? You want to burn it off? Well, I can’t do a crawling fire, but a flash fire spell should world just the same.” Replied Tia to which Thakeo nodded.

“Crawling? What? Oi! Tell me what is going on!” Said Honmar.

“I will explain in a second, Tia, please.” Said Thakeo and gestured towards the watery stairway while he himself got out of harm’s way, just in case Tia decided to adjust her aim.

Slowly, Tia moved her hands around and began to summon some dark red flames however unlike her fireballs these were much less refined than her fireballs.

It did make sense as a fireball was a condensed orb of magic flames whereas Flash Fire was the opposite where one tried to expand the flames as much as possible in order cover a larger area, in this case, the entire stairway and it would do so at quite the speed where as a crawling fire was a slow burning flame.

Thakeo could not help but feel a little envious about Tia’s ability to use flash fire and fireballs. Those spells were quite high level, especially for someone her age. They were part of the combat spell series which were aimed for magic battle.

“Step back!” Commanded Tia suddenly and raised her arms above her head where she finished focusing the flames before finally slamming the spell into the watery void where it exploded in a bright flash which blinded everyone in the room.

“Waah! A dwarf could go blind from such bright light!.. What the…” Said Honmar as he covered his eyes, but quickly stopped and rubbed his eyes an extra time as the water was now gone.

“…By my mother’s beard, what does this mean?” Asked Honmar, sound equally surprised an angry at the same time as he starred into the stairway which was now clear of water.

“It means that Crygoon has been lying to you all along. He removed the water but then added a spell to make it appears that he did not.” Explained Thakeo.

“I knew the alliance was bad news but why would he do that?” Asked Honmar next.

“Only one way to find out right? You guys coming?” Asked Thakeo as he proceeded towards the previously blocked stairway.

“Hey! Don’t go deciding that on your own!” Growled Tia but her comment was ignored and she had no other choice but to follow as Honmar still held the torch

Not long after, the trio arrived at the bottom of the stairs and squeezed their way through a rather narrow corridor which seemed to have been cut out from the bedrock a long time ago.

Thakeo was not sure what is was but it clearly older than any dwarven buildings in the region which could only be traced a few hundred years back.

Yet, any marks which might have been left behind by the builders had long since eroded away due to the water which was still flowing down the walls, making their travel through the corridor a rather wet experience.

However despite of this causing all three of them grievances, especially Honmar as he got stuck, none of them could say a word as they reached the other side of the rock wall, but could only stare at the sight before them.

“By the beards of all my ancestors… What is this…” Mumbled Honmar in utter surprise.

“This is… incredible…” Said Tia, who was likewise stunned.

“Waah…” Mumbled Thakeo, with a very weak voice as he had no clue what to say.

While they could not really make out the details due to the darkness then the rocks seemed to hold some sort of magic ore as there was a weak blue glow across the area, making it possible to outline the shape of the area, showing clear signs of ancient construction works having taken place.

However it was not long before Thakeo noticed that the necklace Tia had stolen was now shining again, much stronger than ever before yet she had not seen it herself.

“Oi! T-Tia your chest!” Said Thakeo, however Tia was clearly still a bit overwhelmed by the ancient ruins before them.

“Huh? My breasts? WHY ARE YOU LOOKING AT MY BREASTS YOU PERVERT!” Yelled Tia, while covering up her body, fully red in the face and clearly, she had not heard what Thakeo had said.

“I said chest! Not breast! Nothing everything is about your body you sex fixated elf!” Growled Thakeo back.

“Se-sex fixated… Who are you calling sex fixated? I’ll fry you…” Began Tia but Honmar got between the two of them.

“Now, now, enough of that. I believe he’s referring to that shiny necklace.” Said Honmar and pointed to the necklace beneath Tia’s shirt.

“Eh? Wh-why is it shining like that?!” Cried Tia desperately as she fumbled with the chain, trying to take the necklace out, however as soon as she touched the chain, her entire body became jiggly making her like a rabbit with hiccups.

“It reacts to magic, and the stronger the magic is the stronger the reaction.” Said Thakeo and walked closer to Tia.

“Th-then turn it off!” Cried Tia desperately as she finally caught the chain and pulled the necklace out.

“Give me that.” Said Thakeo who had now reached Tia.

“No! Don’t touch me! I’ll burn you!” Cried Tia and lighted a fireball in her other hand however it was not a very good fireball as it was clearly out of control.

“Let go of the necklace!” Said Thakeo.

“I-I can’t! I can’t open my hand.” Said Tia, clearly concerned about what was going on.

“Huh? You can’t let go? What sort of nonsense is that! Just give me that!” Said Thakeo and reached for the necklace.

“Eh? No!… Eh? Kyah!” Cried Tia and tried to secure the necklace at the same time as Thakeo grabbed hold of it.

However, Tia did not scream due to that but rather because as soon as he touched it, the entire necklace lighted up like never before. But, while the necklace was shining strongly it was in fact Tia’s fireball which took the price as it grew into ten times the normal size, bathing the entire area in bright light just as it had done inside the mess hall.

“Waaah! Turn it off! Turn it off!” Cried Thakeo desperately as he waved his one free hand.

“I-I can’t!” Replied Tia, just as desperately, also waving her hand with the giant fireball in it.

“Th-then throw it away!” Whined Thakeo.

“Where? Throw it where?” Yelled Tia.

“Oh no ya don’t! Let go of that thing!” Yelled Honmar suddenly and grabbed both of their hands holding the necklace and using all of his strength forced them apart.

Instantly, the fireball lost power and faded back to its original state before vanishing soon thereafter as Tia was no longer molding the spell as for the necklace itself it stopped glowing altogether and was now just dormant once more.

“Would either of you mind explaining what just happened?” Asked Honmar as he looked back and forth between the two, however as neither of them held that answer they could only look at each other in confusion, causing Honmar to shake his head in disbelief.

“I… I don’t know… it was just like before… My spell somehow… Increased in power…” Mumbled Tia as she looked at her hand which had formed the fireball.

“But why? It was just like before… I touched you and it went berserk but… I can’t use magic…” Said Thakeo, just as confused as Tia.

“Yea… And last time you also touched me…” Said Tia with a weak voice, using her hands to cover her body for some reason.

“Yes, yes, you two make a lovely couple… What do we do now? About that?” Asked Honmar as gestured to the massive cave in front of them.

“Eh? Ah… Th-the important thing is that we found what we were looking for!” Said Thakeo with an awkward voice

“But what is it?” Asked Tia, a bit shaken over everything that had happened.

“No idea but… Given the amount of work involved the alliance seems to want it really badly and that is reason enough to be concerned.” Replied Thakeo.

“Erm… okay? So you dragged us down here to view this and now I guess we will head back up?” Asked Tia next, clearly trained of motivation.

“More or less but first then I think that Honmar here would want to talk to his lord or am I wrong?” Replied Thakeo and looked at Honmar.

“Ya can be damn right about that one. If what you said is true and that swine is running a campaign against us to get his hands on this… It will mean retaliation!” Said Honmar who once again looked at the massive cave scape before him.

“Not just you, the dwarves, but also the Empire itself will get drawn in.” Said Thakeo.

“Oh? You seem quite sure of that but even so, do you think they will get here before it is over? We dwarves are not known for beating around the bush.” Said Honmar with a smile.

Thakeo did not reply but merely nodded as he knew very will that dwarves did not have the discipline to hold back when they had been tricked like this.

“Should not be a problem. I contacted a friend several days ago about the issue with Koh. They should be here by noon tomorrow or so.

“Woah! What are you two saying?” Asked Tia, clearly concerned.

“Quite simple… The alliance has crossed the line, crossed it too far. If this does not end soon…” Started Honmar, but stopped and looked at Thakeo.

“Then what?” Asked Tia next.

“War… It will mean war between the dwarves and the alliance and as we are friendly with the dwarves and this is technically within the empire their acts can only be seen as an act of war.” Replied Thakeo and sighed.

“WAR? Because of this? Is that not a bit extreme?” Asked Tia next.

“No, it is not. Their actions is in clear violation of several treaties but… We can prevent a war if we can provide proof. We need to get Koh and get to the aqueducts as soon possible.” Replied Thakeo.

“Can ya really do it?” Asked Honmar, a bit skeptical.

“Well, can you talk to your lord about that and try and delay them until after noon tomorrow?” Asked Thakeo.

“Well, I can at least try. It will take time to get everything ready after all.” Replied Honmar.

“That is all everyone can ever do. Now, let’s get back to town.” Said Thakeo and quickly turned around and headed up the stairwell at great speed, followed by Honmar.

“Eh? Hey wait for me!” Yelled Tia who suddenly found herself alone in the darkness.