Sword & Sorcery Volume 1 – Chapter 7

“So, this is the place?” Asked Tia herself as she looked at the house in front of her.

The two of them had finally arrived back to town after their long walk from the Dwarven outpost. It was well into the evening and yet they were still not even close to being done as they still had to visit the Aqueducts.

However to do that they would need some items, which Thakeo had run off into town to get before the store closed but as usual he had not been very forth coming with information but instead asked Tia to simply enter the house and wait for him to return but that was where the issue arose.

How was she going to explain her purpose for being there to the owners, whom she did not even know? She could hardly explain the details as she was not sure of them herself and most certainly she would not reveal what Thakeo had done to her.

“Argh! To hell with it! Here we go….Eh?” Growled Tia and took the last few steps towards the door.

However, just as she was about to knock on the door it was opened up from the inside, leaving Tia standing confused as right in front of her was a little white haired girl with fluffy ears.

This had to be the beast girl Thakeo had mentioned however Tia was not even prepared to meet this girl, in fact she had not even considered or thought about what to say when she met her.

“Erm… Hi I am…” Started Tia but immediately the door girl slammed the door shut.

“We don’t… Require any special… Offers.” Said the girl form behind the door.

“Huh? Oi! Wait… I am not a traveling merchant or something.” Said Tia confused and instantly the girl opened the door again.

“State you’re… Business then.” Said the girl, clearly trying to puff herself up.

“Eh? Erm… I wish to speak to the owners of the house.” Said Tia next.

“We don’t need… Any goods…” Said the girl and began to close the door again, however this time, Tia managed to put her foot in the door.

“Enough of that! I am a… Friend… of Thakeo. He told me to wait here.” Said Tia.

“Friend… Of Thakeo?” Asked the girl confused, peeking out from the narrow space caused by Tia’s foot being in the door.

“Friend… Kind of… Are you… The girl he help in town?” Asked Tia back, even though she already knew the answer, however the girl completely ignored Tia’s quest.

“Are you… Thakeo’s… Girl… Friend?” Asked the little beast girl next, with a seemingly displeased look on her face.

“IT’S NOTE LIKE THAT!” Cried Tia out loud as she blushed slightly just being asked that question.

“Really?” Asked the girl next, still starring at Tia like she was a potential enemy.

Tia could not help but be surprised as she had never encountered this sort of pressure before and certainly not on this sort of topic.

“Really! I have no such interests in him, in fact I want nothing to do with him if I could avoid it!” Proclaimed Tia.

“Who has no interest in who?” Asked a female voice all of a sudden from behind.

“Eh? Who are you?” Asked Tia surprised.

“I should that of you, after all you are standing next to my house.” Said the women.

“She is… Suspicious… A female… An elf… A female elf… She is trying to… Seduce Thakeo… Rival!” Said the beast girl suddenly, clearly intent on making a mess of things.

“I AM NOT! I just… Argh! Why is everyone he knows so weird?” Cried Tia in desperation.

“No need to shout that loud.” Said Thakeo suddenly from behind.

“Big Bro!” Yelled the beast girl, immediately opening the door and running out to greet him.

“Oh, you back already Thakeo?” Asked the woman with a smile.

“Hi Auntie Kacie and hi Koh, you still up at this time?” Asked Thakeo with a smile as he gently ruffled Koh’s hair.

“I am!… Auntie Kacie said… We were having steak… Tonight.” Replied Koh with a smile.

“Oh? You are?” Asked Thakeo, looking at Kacie.

“Indeed. Do you plan to stay for dinner… The both of you?” asked Kacie back, nodding towards Tia.

“We don’t… Need that elf…” Said Koh next.

“Seriously this little girl!” Growled Tia, clutching her fist while a demonic aura seemed to be emanating from her entire body.

“Now, now Koh. In this case we do need the elf and your help as well.” Said Thakeo as he slowly kneeled down so he could see Koh with ease.

“Big Bro… Need Koh’s… Help?” Asked Koh confused.

“Yep, but before that I need to speak to Auntie Kacie, so if you can go inside and wait I will explain soon okay?” Said Thakeo, still smiling.

“Okay!” Said Koh with a smile before she ran back inside the house.

“Seriously, that kid…” Said Tia and sighed.

“She has a name and she is the one you caused issues for.” Said Thakeo as he stood up again.

“I know that! But… She is plain rude!” Growled Tia.

“Well you are the last…” Started Thakeo but Kacie stopped him.

“That is enough you two. It seems that you encountered something… Special during your trip, but I don’t hope this is a case where I need to inform your mother is it?” Asked Kacie, gesturing towards Tia.

“His mother? Why would you…” Asked Tia confused but was immediately interrupted by Thakeo.

“N-NO NEED FOR THAT! It is… Nothing she needs to worry about!” Said Thakeo desperately.

“But… You brought a girl home when you were supposed to bring a beast?” Asked Kacie confused.

“I don’t see the difference between the two of them.” Replied Thakeo.

“WHAT IS THAT SUPPOSED TO MEAN?” Yelled Tia with a stern voice, having just been compared to a beast.

“Now, now you two… it seems that this will be a long story. Hasti will be home soon as well so you can explain it all then. For now, please come inside.” Said Kacie as she clapped her hands.

“But she…” Started Thakeo but immediately stopped talking as Kacie send him a deadly glare.

“Get… Inside… Now…” Said Kacie with a tone as cold as ice, grabbed Thakeo and more or less dragged him inside the house, leaving Tia utterly speechless.

– ₪ –

Thakeo looked around the dimly lighted room in order to gauge some sort of reaction however the only response he got was utter silence.

However, neither Hasti nor Kacie who were sitting opposite him and Tia had any immediate reaction but merely sat there, with stern faces, seemingly absorbing what he had just told about the alliance nobles, the duo’s findings with the dwarves and overall summery of the events in town.

“Did you explain it correctly?” Whispered Tia with a slight hint of concern.

“Of cause I did! I am not stupid.” Whispered Thakeo back.

“That is debatable!” Retaliated Tia soon after.

The only who did not seem to care about that at all was Koh, who had for some reason decided to stick close to Thakeo the moment he and Tia had returned, seemingly rather hostile towards Tia but Thakeo could not blame her, after all, Tia was the one who had caused her to suffer at the hands of the alliance nobles.

“So… Let me be sure I get this straight…” Started Hasti and took a zip of his wine.

“Seriously…” Mumbled Kacie but did not say anything else, seeming still very surprised over everything.

“So… You go to the forest to get a beast but instead is found by a giant bear which chases you across the woods where you then encounter poachers who then chase you next and run into this lovely young lady who, due to reasons you won’t disclose, decide to hunt you down, before leading into a four way battle as the bear returned, is that right?” Said Hasti.

“That is correct.” Said Thakeo with a nod.

“After that, you somehow find yourself with a strange mage named Zidiynas who reveals that your necklace is in fact an ancient relic of unknown power, before finally ending up with the dwarves where you find some sort of ancient ruins the alliance wants and that they may even have begun gathering troops just across the border.” Said Hasti next.

“That is also correct.” Said Thakeo next.

“Finally, you return home and tell us that one of the biggest investors in the town is in fact a criminal master mind, hell-bent on obtaining the dwarves lands to get their hands on the ruins, does that about sum up everything.” Said Hasti finally.

“Yep, that more or less sums up what has happened in the past few days.” Said Thakeo.

“This is too much…” Said Hasti as he leaned back in his chair.

“I know that but if I am right… It will be bad.” Said Thakeo.

“Bad does not describe what would happen if this is true, but for me to act…” Said Hasti next but it was Thakeo who finished the sentence.

“…You need evidence, I know that and that is why we need Koh’s help.” Said Thakeo.

“Please explain what your plans are for that regard.” Said Hasti.

“Wait, does that mean that you believe us?” Asked Tia confused.

“If Thakeo say it is true, it is good enough for me but before I can approve of any action I need to know the details of your plan.” Replied Hasti.

“Eh? You trust him that easily? This rude, weak, perverted boy? Just like that?” Asked Tia surprised.

“Huh? But of cause! After all he is… What? She don’t know? Oh… Right…” Started Hasti but Kacie stopped him by whispering something in his ear.

“What? What is going on?” Asked Tia confused.

“Shh!… Adults are… Talking…” Said Koh suddenly, clearly trying to tease Tia.

“Why you…” Growled Tia, but as Thakeo coughed she stopped.

“You are right, I do have a plan but it will not be without risks, which is why I need Tia with me. Even if she and have our… Issues, then her control of magic is impressive and precise and Koh, well her nose and ears will help us avoid unnecessary fights.” Explained Thakeo.

“Nose? Ears?” Mumbled Koh confused.

“Yes, because we need to go into the old aqueducts and you are the only one who knows the way down there, even if I have this map then it will be bad if we got lost so that is why we need you, oaky?” Explained Thakeo as he put down a piece of paper on the table, outlining some of the oldest tunnels underneath the city.

“No problem… Leave it… To me!” proclaimed Koh as she puffed out her chest while at the same time sending a gleeful smile towards Tia.

“She’s just a child… She’s just a child.” Mumbled Tia, clearly getting frustrated over Koh’s behavior.

“So, what do you think you will find down there?” Asked Hasti.

“No idea, but Tia said that she lost track of the carts somewhere between the city and the dwarven camp so they likely have a hidden entrance there, and maybe even a hidden warehouse. I do know tha the hooded man I saw was holding some sort of ledger. If we can get our hands on that…” Said Thakeo.

“…We can see exactly what they have been doing and catch them all at once.” Said Hasti and smiled, seemingly liking the idea.

“Correct but we need to move fast… How many men can you get?” Asked Thakeo and looked at Hasti.

“That would be a problem. After all, tonight is the night before the festival so the streets will be busy even today so I need all my men here.” Replied Hasti.

“Oh? That is even better. If people are distracted we can slip in easily.” Said Thakeo with a nod.

“What about Thragoth? I highly doubt that he would like you to leave him out of this?” Asked Hasti next.

“Oh, he will make a distraction. After all, he has a duel with one of them tomorrow so he needs to be in town to boost about the upcoming battle.” Said Thakeo.

“By the gods… I better close my liquor cabinet” Said Kacie suddenly and got on her feet.

“Relax he is going into town, not coming here.” Said Thakeo with a smile.

Dwarves were known for their drinking parties and ability to consume anything drinkable and eatable if they had the chance.

“Still, I don’t like that fact that it is just you going in. I really want someone else to go with you.” Said Hasti with some concern on his face.

“Hmm… Could Naiwoh make it here in time?” Asked Kacie, who had returned from securing her liquor cabinet.

“She is at least 3-4 days away and would need another day to ready her men so she won’t make it in time.” Replied Hasti and shook his head.

“Erm… I kind of already… Told her.” Said Thakeo suddenly with an awkward smile.

“Eh? When did you tell her?” Asked Hasti surprised.

“The first night I was here, after the incident with Koh, I sent Naiwoh a letter explaining what was going on with those nobles.” Explained Thakeo.

“EHH? And you tell me this now?” Asked Hasti surprised.

“Well, I was planning to let her handle Koh after all, I am sure they would get along.” Replied Thakeo.

“By the gods… You truly are your father’s son… A great mind but always fuzzy with the details.” Said Hasti and sighed.

“What? Was his father a pervert too?” Asked Tia who could not resist the chance to prod Thakeo when he was down.

“Oh, he is the worst of them!” Said Hasti with a laugh.

“Is that so? It seems run in the family then?” Said Tia with a gleeful smile as she looked at Thakeo.

“I can comment on that but I do remember one time when…” Replied Hasti but a stern look from Kacie shut him up right away.

“Aherm… If Naiwoh is coming then I could send someone I trust to go meet her and explain what you told me.” Said Hasti next.

“Sounds like a plan. That would certainly make it easier for me but in the meantime the three of us will go get that ledger or other evidence.” Said Thakeo to which Hasti nodded.

“Who is… Naiwoh?” Asked Koh, tilting her head as she had not heard the name before.

“Yea, I would like to know that as well.” Said Tia soon after.

“Naiwoh is well… She is a commander in the Imperial Guard. I asked her to come and take Koh away from this place as it is not safe for her.” Explained Thakeo.

“Take me… Away?” Asked Koh next.

“Yes, to a safe place where you can be free.” Replied Thakeo with a smile.

“Free… Me, free? Really?” Asked Koh, wagging her tail.

“Yeap! Naiwoh is just like you so she knows very well how to do but don’t worry, I will drop by from time to time if you want.” Replied Thakeo with a smile.

“I want!” Said Koh smiling across her face.

“Lolicon!” Growled Tia as she crossed her arms.

“Lo-lolicon? Th-that is not true!” Said Thakeo who was not prepared for that broadside.

“What does… lolicon mean?” Asked Koh next.

“Erm… Eh? Ah! A-ask Tia, she brought it up!” Replied Thakeo who could not manage to get himself to explain it.

“Huh? Why me?” Asked Tia with an agitated voice.

“Because you started this?” Replied Thakeo.

“Mmm… Elf girl… What does… Lolicon mean?” Asked Koh again, this time looking directly at Tia.

“Erm… How do I start?” Mumbled Tia confused.

This more or less put a stop to the serious topic so instead of spending more time on it, Thakeo went over the details with Hasti while Tia tried to get out of the predicament she had brought upon herself.

– ₪ –

“So… Left or right?” Asked Thakeo as he looked down at Koh.

“That is, if you can find the right way.” Said Tia, trying to get a reaction from Koh, but were merely ignored, much to Tia’s chagrin.

“Wait… A bit…” Replied Koh as she looked back at forth between the two tunnels which was currently in their way.

“So… Why is she so into you?” Asked Tia suddenly while they were waiting.

“Eh? What do you mean?” Replied Thakeo confused.

“God! Men are stupid regardless of species…” Said Tia and shook her head.

“Huh? Eh? Maybe?” Mumbled Thakeo, unsure what else to say.

“That girl is clearly more inclined to trust you without a doubt, even listens to your every word. Why is that? I know that beastkin are fiercely loyal but you are neither her friend nor master and only met her a few days ago, so why is she so loyal to you?” Asked Tia.

“Hmm? I… I honestly don’t know… I never really thought about it.” Replied Thakeo who now understood what Tia was going for.

Why was Koh so willing to help him, someone she had just recently met? It made no sense, especially not for a child which had been living on her own so she should be more afraid of people she didn’t know.

“Hey Koh, can you come over here for a second?” Asked Thakeo.

“Eh? But… The pathway?” Asked Koh confused.

“It can wait a bit more. I want to ask you something important.” Replied Thakeo.

“Hmm? Okay.” Said Koh, unsure what he meant but she did as she was told.

As soon as she arrived, Thakeo knelt down and looked directly into Koh’s eyes.

“Say Koh… Why are you so willing to trust me and do as I tell you?” Asked Thakeo with a kind voice as to not scare the girl.

“Trust? Why you… Ask?” Asked Koh confused.

“Well, it is just that you have been alone for a long time yet you are willing to trust me without problems. I just want to know why.” Explained Thakeo.

“Ah!… Because… You smell good…” Replied Koh.

“Sm-smell good? I am not sure I understand.” Said Thakeo.

“I don’t know… That either… I just know… I can trust you.” Said Koh.

“Hmm? Could it be…” Mumbled Thakeo.

“What? Did you realize something?” Asked Tia.

“Well, I can’t be sure but she does have white hair but I never thought about it as I have white hair too. Could she be… A rare kind of beast or have a rare trait to determine who to trust and who not to trust.” Replied Thakeo.

“Rare trait? You mean like she can sense who is can be trust and who can’t?” Asked Tia confused.

“Well, there is much we don’t know about beastkin but it could just be pure instinct but it still raises a question I want answered.” Replied Thakeo.

“Oh? And that is that?” Asked Tia but Thakeo turned his attention towards Koh.

“Say Koh, you said that I smell nice. How does Tia here smell?” Asked Thakeo.

“O-oi! Wh-what is that supposed to mean?” Interjected Tia.

“She smells… Nice as well…” Said Koh but with a face that showed something else.

“Oh? If that is the case then why are you so hostile to me?” Asked Tia with a stern voice as she bowed down, trying to look intimidating.

“Because of… Those… Fat Deposits.” Said Koh and pointed towards Tia.

“F-fat deposits? What do mean?” Asked Tia confused.

“Those things… Handing there… Unfair! Too big…” Replied Koh with a stern voice herself, like she was making an accusation.

“Eh? Things…” Started Tia, however she quickly realized that Koh was pointing towards her chest.

“Men like those… Unfair! You cheat!” Proclaimed Koh.

“Men like? What do you… KYAAAH! WHERE ARE YOU LOOKING YOU CREEP?” Yelled Tia as she realized that Thakeo was also looking where Koh was pointing and instinctively covered up her bosom.

“No-not my fault this time! You are the one who started this topic!” Said Thakeo desperately as he sought shelter behind Koh and force once, Tia could not comment on that.

“The bigger… They are… The more they… sag later.” Said Koh with a devilish smile.


“Thieving Elf… You won’t… Win!” Proclaimed Koh.

“ENOUGH!” Said Thakeo with a stern voice. He really had no idea what was the cause of this issue but clearly Koh had something against Tia’s body works and he could understand as Tia was certainly good looking but now was not the time for such.

“No need to shout… I have good hearing… Unlike the elf.” Said Koh without even seeming moved about Thakeo’s stern tone. With that said, she turned her back to the others and began to examine the tunnels again.

“Se-seriously this brat!” Growled Tia as she clutched her fist in frustration.

However unlike the useless human next to her, she would not and could not raise her fist against a child, even if it was one as provoking as the one in front of her, even if that brat was misunderstanding everything or maybe she was doing it on purpose?

Tia was not sure about even that fact anymore but she did not have more time to think about it either as Koh suddenly turned around again and smiled.

“I found… The smell… This way…” Said Koh and pointed towards one of the corridors.

“Well done! Now let’s go.” Said Thakeo with a smile as he rubbed Koh’s head again before proceeding down the old tunnel Koh had pointed out.

Tia sighed and followed Thakeo down the path, however as she passed Koh, the little beast girl sent her a devilish smile.

“I got… Praised… You did… Not.” Said Koh with delay.

“BY THE GODS! I DON’T CARE ABOUT THAT!” Yelled Tia out loud.

“Shhh! You will alert… Them to our… Presence.” Said Koh, still smiling, before she quickly ran by Tia and caught up with Thakeo, leaving Tia alone to growl by herself.

A short while later, the trio arrived at the exit of the tunnel which instead opened up into some sort of large room but due to the darkness and them not being able to use light, it was hard to see what it was exactly as they could not risk being discovered.

However, despite the darkness they could all hear the sound of running water and a lot of it from somewhere just below them. Curious as to what is was, Thakeo knelt down to look closer but still could not reach anything.

“Hmm… I wonder what it is?” Mumbled Thakeo and took a whiff of the air.

“Whatever it is… It smells foul.” Said Tia as she covered her nose.

“Noht a problem far ma!” Said Koh, clearly trying to speak without breathing.

“I think this is… Human droppings?” Said Thakeo suddenly.

“Eh? Hu-human dr-droppings?” Stuttered Tia surprised, unsure how to react.

“Indeed… It does smell… Like human droppings.” Said Koh from the dark.

“St-stop calling it that!” Said Tia, clearly not okay with where this was heading.

“Sorry, but what else would you find in a sewer?” Asked Thakeo with a smile.

“Anything bu-but… Human…” Replied Tia but could get herself to finish the sentence.

“Then… Let us call it… Poop.” Said Koh.

“Don’t call it that either!” Growled Tia.

“Feces Then?…. Turd? Dung?” Said Koh with an innocent tone of voice.

“St-stop that!” Cried Tia.

“Hmm? Maybe just… Call it… Shi-Gumppf!!!” Continued Koh, clearly wanting to tease Tia but finally Thakeo covered Koh’s mouth to keep her quirt but also because he could feel that Tia would likely not be able to handle anymore of it. Koh might have already spent too much time near dwarves to have developed such a language.

“Enough fun, remember we got work to do.” Said Thakeo with a stern yet gentle voice.

“Okay… I understand… But, we need… To crossover… Somehow.” Said Koh and pointed towards the water below.

“Cr-cross over? Ho-how?” Asked Tia with concern in her voice.

“Well, first then we need light even if it is a risk. Koh, do you hear anyone nearby?” asked Thakeo.

Koh quickly turn her head and soon after she shook her head, indicating that no one was nearby.

“Okay, Tia can give us some light? I’ll make a torch.” Said Thakeo and adjusted his bracelet before mumbling the command to summon the iron wood branch he had found in the woods a few days earlier.

With a flash of light the branch appeared in his hands and he gave it a good swing, however the sudden light seemed to have blinded Koh slightly.

“Ma-magic?” Asked Koh confused as she rubbed her eyes.

“Kind off but not really… I can’t use magic so I use tools instead. Now, Tia, fire?” Said Thakeo and looked towards Tia.

“I-I can do that!” Said Tia and sooner after she had a lit a fire in her hands.

“Okay, hold it there.” Said Thakeo and quickly tore of some cloth from his inner shirt and wrapped it around the iron wood branch.

“Will that work? Don’t you need oil?” Asked Tia as Thakeo held the branch close to the fire.

“Normally yes but this don’t need to last that long, just enough for us to get across.” Said Thakeo and turned around in the now lit room as Tia’s flame vanished again.

It was clearly a room was not a room but rather a very large half tube of sorts with metal bars separating the various ends, making it look more like a dungeon than a sewer.

Of cause it was normal as most people connect metal bars with jails and the sort but in this case the bars were as thing as Thakeo’s arm and was meant to support the frame of the tunnel as well as prevent large scale debris such as logs or barrels from blocking up the system.

Even if it was used to transport human waste and what not, Thakeo could not help but be amazed by the architectural style of this old system but sadly then he did not have the time to study it further, at least not at this time.

It was built like other sewers and aqueducts and had a wide span the size of a two-way street like one of those found in the capital and was too wide to simply jump across so they had no other choice but to walk.

“Okay… It does not seem that there are any bridges or other ways to cross… Oh well.” Said Thakeo before he walked over to the edge, however before he jumped in Tia grabbed his arm.

“What do you think you are doing? You are NOT asking me to go into that!” Asked Tia and pointed to the slurry of various components below them.

“How else do you plan to cross? There are no other way.” Replied Thakeo, without concern.

“Bu-but it is gross! Disgusting!” Whined Tia.

“Eh? To a mage this is considered normal you know?” Said Thakeo confused and looked at Tia.

“Ho-how is walking in… That!… Considered normal?” Asked Tia and pointed once more at slurry.

“Eh? Don’t tell me… You never left the forest to go exploring?” Asked Thakeo in return.

“Why would I waste my time like that?” Replied Tia and crossed her arms.

“Erm… Have you never been a child?” Asked Thakeo confused.

“My people do not waste our time on useless endeavors like that.” Replied Tia next.

“Eh? You must be the only ones then… Normal people, regardless of race, tend to play as children.” Said Thakeo.

“I’m a Fire Elf! We don’t do that sort of stuff.” Growled Tia.

“Too bad… It is fun…” Said Koh, but Tia ignored her.

“That doesn’t matter! We don’t play! Nor do we like to walk in… Human droppings!” Cried Tia, clearly not wanting to enter slurry.

“Erm? Can you jump across then?” Asked Thakeo next.

“It’s too far, even with my agility!” Replied Tia and looked away.

Thakeo was getting annoyed now due to Tia seemingly always acting like a teenage girl who had just been told she could not go to the harvest ball.

“Koh, can you jump across?” Asked Thakeo and looked at Koh.

“No problem.” Said Koh as she took a few steps backwards before she ran as fast as she could and gently leaped across the slurry span like it was nothing before landing on the other side.

“Wh-what? That is impossible!” Said Tia surprised.

“Not really, she is a beast. She is stronger and clearly braver than you and she is not even a quarter your age, in human terms that is.” Said Thakeo with a devious smile.

“Th-that has nothing to do with it!” Cried Tia.

“You are just being stubborn. Now come or we will leave you behind.” Said Thakeo, before he finally jumped into the waterway himself.

“Eww! I don’t care! I will remain right here!” Said Tia and firmly planet herself at the edge of the waterway.

“By the gods… it is only knee deep. You can take a bath once we get back!” Said Thakeo.

“I refuse!” Cried Tia again.

“Seriously…” Mumbled Thakeo before he slowly walked across the waterway handed the torch to Koh.

“What are you… Going to do?” Whispered Koh and nodded towards the stubborn fire elf.

“Leave that to me.” Said Thakeo and began to slowly walk towards Tia again, who seemed to be glaring at them, while acting like a child.

“You can walk back and forth as much as you want! I won’t mooovvee… Kyaaah!” Started Tia but her

“Oh stop with the screaming already!” Mumbled Thakeo to himself as he grabbed Tia’s waist and lower legs, carrying her like a princess and started walking across the slurry.

“Pu-Put me down this instant!” Cried Tia, however it was more in desperation than anger.

“Oh? Want me to put you down right here?” Said Thakeo and stopped up, standing in the middle of the stream of slurry.

“No! Put me down somewhere dry!” Said Tia next.

“Fine… Make up your mind.” Said Thakeo and proceeded towards where Koh was standing.

“No! Not that side!” Said Tia as Thakeo walked.

“We are more than half way, so suck it up.” Said Thakeo with an annoyed voice.

“What? No! Wait!” Cried Tia, however before she could even finish, Thakeo had already dropped her off on the other side.

“See… That was not so bad was it?” Asked Thakeo as he looked down at Tia who was sitting on the other side while he was still standing in the slurry.

“I-I will get you for this!” Replied Tia as she clutched her fist.

“What? You will carry me next? I look forward to it.” Said Thakeo with a smile as he got up from the slurry.

“Th-that is not what I meant!” Said Tia.

“I know but add it to the list of the things you will do to me.” Said Thakeo and sighed and walked a few steps away.

“You are… Lucky…” Mumbled Koh as she looked at Tia.

“Eh? What is that supposed to mean?” Asked Tia confused.

“I want… To try that… As well…” Replied Koh and looked towards Thakeo.

“Guh! Seriously this wolf girl… She’s way to open for her age.” Mumbled Tia who still could not see why Koh was so interested in Thakeo.

“Now ladies, shall we go?” Asked Thakeo with his arms crossed.

“Yes!” Said Koh with a smile whereas Tia only mumbled a series of curses which Thakeo did not understand, which was probably for the best.

Thus the trio continued their way through the ancient aqueduct for quite a while without anything major happening, passing the torch between them once in a while. None of them spoke much and when they did it was just the usual slander and small talk one could except from such a random group of people.

“Say Thakeo, do you think that dwarf friend of yours will actually be able to do his part of this job?” Asked Tia suddenly as she walked behind the other two.

“Eh? Why? I mean… Yes he can, in fact I am surprised he was so calm when we met up in town. Why do you ask?” Replied Thakeo.

“Well… I-in case you didn’t notice… We elves don’t like to be this deep underground.” Replied Tia with a weak voice, at least compared to her usual tone.

“Are elves really… that afraid… Of caves?” Asked Koh, with a curious tone of voice.

“We-well… It is not like we are afraid but, we don’t like it… When we can’t see the sky. It makes us uncomfortable when we can’t.” Replied Tia with a meek voice.

“Hmm? What does that have to do with Thragoth and his job?” Asked Thakeo.

“Well, he is a dwarf… And your friend… So I thought you might know a trick or two on how to keep your composure… Under these circumstances.” Replied Tia with a slight blush.

“Eh? Erm… To be honest… I can’t say I do… I just don’t let it bother me, even if we are deep below ground.” Replied Thakeo, unsure how to act when Tia was acting like this.

“Well… Okay then… Sorry I asked.” Replied Tia next and walked ahead.

“Is she… Okay?” Asked Koh and looked up at Thakeo.

“I am not sure…” Replied Thakeo, pondering about something.

“I think… She is weird…” Mumbled Koh.

“Maybe… Say Koh could you scout a head for a second but not too far.” Said Thakeo.

“Hmm? Okay… I will be back soon.” Said Koh and quickly proceeded ahead of Tia who let out a little scream in surprise.

“Say Tia… If I may ask you something.” Said Thakeo and stopped up in the middle of the corridor.

“Wh-what? I didn’t do anything.” Replied Tia.

“I know that but I just have a few questions if you would answer them.” Said Thakeo next.

“I don’t see why I should but ask away.” Said Tia with a defensive tone.

“Do you normally… Get so angry or so concerned?” Asked Thakeo without delay.

“What is that supposed to mean?” Asked Tia with an angry voice.

“Erm… Just that ever since you took my necklace your mood has been going all over the place. You are either extremely angry or borderline afraid and your mood can flip within a second.” Explained Thakeo.

“Eh? Well… You did a lot to piss me off so maybe it is just your face that is the trigger? Why would some old necklace be the cause?” Retaliated Tia with a stern voice.

“Well… It is an ancient necklace if your master is right and so then we do not know what sort of effects it can have on non-humans.” Explained Thakeo.

“What does me being a… Non-human have to do with it?” Asked Tia, clearly getting aggressive again.

“Eh? Wait… I mean… The ancient mages were notorious for their hatred of non-humans just like the alliance is. They enslaved a lot of races after all so it would not be beyond them to put enchantments or curses on their relics to prevent their abuse so I thought that it could explain why you are so angry… Not that you are not entitled to be angry, because you do of cause.” Explained Thakeo but quickly added the latter part just in case.

“Huh? That is just stupid! Why would anyone…” Started Tia but then she stopped to think about Thakeo’s words.

It was true that she had become more aggressive ever since she took the stupid necklace but for someone to put enchantments on prevent abuse, that was extreme but this time Thakeo might just be right.

Even the incident with her fireballs growing in strength beyond her normal capabilities made it clear that the necklace was not just some random relic but might in fact be rather powerful. Thinking this, Tia took the necklace out from under her shirt and looked at it for a moment before she turned towards Thakeo.

“What sort of enchantment would you think could be on it? If any at all?” Asked Tia.

“Eh? Erm… No idea… But… If it affects your mood it might be a mind spell of some sort but I am not an expert on curses.” Replied Thakeo.

“But what would trigger it? If it was cursed would I not be more heavily affected?” Asked Tia next.

“Actually… That is a good question but… It is not like either of us know how to use it so… Maybe it is just a side effect of a possible enchantment?” Replied Thakeo with a shrug.

“Well, you are not getting it back regardless but I do thank you for the heads up. I will keep an eye out for it.” Said Tia and hid the necklace again.

“Well, just be careful with it okay?” Said Thakeo with a smile.

“Hmm? You concerned for me all of a sudden?” Asked Tia with a raised eyebrow.

“Is that so surprising? It’s not just you but also myself I am concerned about. You know very well that I am no match for you.” Replied Thakeo with a sigh.

“Oh? You think I am better than you?” Asked Tia next, smiling.

“Eh? Well… I can’t deny that… My magic control is non-existent after all.” Replied Thakeo, with another sigh.

“Hey… You two… I found… Something…” Said Koh suddenly from the pathway up ahead.

“Eh? Already! Let’s go then and get this over with and… Settle whatever is left.” Said Thakeo and moved ahead of Koh.

Tia followed suit with a smile but as she passed Koh, the little beast girl grabbed her hand.

“Hmm? Something wrong?” Asked Tia.

“Unfair! Don’t go… And get… A head start!” Said Koh, looking up at Tia with a serious look.

“ENOUGH OF THAT! It’s not like that! How many times do I have to tell you?” Growled Tia and returned Koh’s gaze.

“Good… As long as… You understand.” Said Koh and let go of Tia’s arm and ran ahead, sticking next to Thakeo.

“That damned beast girl… Way to mature for her age…” Mumbled Tia to herself as she followed the others.

– ₪ –

“Get those crates unloaded right away and do inventory. The shipment leaves at dawn! Hey! Careful with those barrels! They are worth more than your hides!” Yelled a deep and commanding voice.

Thakeo could not help but smile when he saw the huge man named Drungal again.

“Hey boss! These sacks are still wet. I don’t think we can dry them in time.” Said one of the grounds.

“And? Leave that to those piss ant nobles to sort it out on their own. We don’t get paid for that.” Replied Drungal and walked towards the grunt.

“H-he really don’t keep his mouth shut.” Mumbled Thakeo in surprise from his hiding spot above, flanked by both Koh and Tia.

The trio had been observing Drungal and his poachers for around an hour so from a hiding spot above their position below them. It seemed to that they were storing the goods in an old workshop or something like that but it was impossible to tell due to the age of the construction however it was a wide open space and there were a lot of stuff hidden here.

“Well, we found them, so now what?” Whispered Tia.

“We wait for the right time to strike.” Replied Thakeo with a low voice.

“Strike? You want to attack them?” Asked Tia next.

“Hmm? I thought you wanted a fight. I mean there is only what, seven of them? With a surprise attack we could take out a few of them before they could act.” Replied Thakeo.

“Oh? And what about the rest? Unlike you they experienced in fighting, even with my magic it would go against us.”

“Well I don’t plan to attack them head on and we still need to wait for one of the nobles to show up. Given they are merchants they will likely show up to control their goods again. Once they do we will snatch the ledger from them and leg it out of here as fast as we can.” Replied Thakeo.

“That is the most stupid plan I have ever heard!” Growled Tia.

“You have a better one?” Asked Thakeo in return.

“I say we burn it all, cargo and crates.” Replied Tia.

“We can do… both, right?” Asked Koh suddenly from the side.

“Eh? Well… I guess we can but why would you burn it?” Asked Thakeo.

“I can… Smell it… They are… Moving Poison… Hurt and hunt my kin… Or so… I am told. If we… can help just… A little bit… It would be… Good.” Replied Koh.

“Hmm… That is true, it would be good to stop their shipments and… It will also be a nice distraction.” Said Thakeo with a nod.

“But what if the merchants don’t show up?” Asked Tia next.

“That won’t be a problem. I got a backup plan for that.” Replied Thakeo.

“Oh? I thought you said we needed proof to take them down.” Said Tia.

“In a court of law yes but there are… Other ways.” Said Thakeo with a smile, but it was not the sort of smile he usually wore but one that was much more sinister, causing Tia to grow a bit uncomfortable.

“And what is your plan… B? I think you humans call it.” Asked Tia, a bit hesitant.

“We blow the dam and flood the entire aqueduct, sewers and everything.” Replied Thakeo without delay.

“Eh? But that…” Started Tia but quickly quested down as she had unintentionally raised her voice, but luckily it did not seem that the poachers noticed her.

“…That is just murder… All of those people will die!” Continued Tia with a low voice.

“If they don’t run then yes, they will likely drown but the alternative is worse.” Said Thakeo.

“Oh? So drowning dozen of people is fine! What is worse than that?” Asked Tia.

“War… War is worse and I want to prevent that at any price.” Replied Tia.

“War? With whom?” Asked Tia confused.

“The alliance wants to get their hands on the Dwarven Mountain and the minerals it contains. If they do that they will likely march into the town with the troops they are massing at the border. Such two incidents will not sit lightly with the empire as it would expose their flank but also be in breach of half a dozen or so treaties.” Explained Thakeo.

“The empire would go that far? I thought the empire was the good guys.” Said Tia next.

“They are but if the alliance try to invade our land and the dwarves… Do you think they will just stop at that? Your clan’s lands will likely be next. Remember that a lot of the alliance nobles are purists, just like the ancient mages and they don’t care about their methods. Their movements risk triggering a large scale conflict even if they think the empire will just let is pass by.” Continued Thakeo to explain.

“How come you know so much about what the empire will do?” Asked Tia next.

“Because I informed them the day I arrived, well I informed the one who trained me in sword fighting about the issue with Koh. She is a commander in the empire and hate the alliance. But what I described is the worst case scenario so if we can bring proof I am sure the alliance leadership will wash their hands and avoid getting involved.” Replied Thakeo.

“Huh? That is dishonest and cowardly, would they really do that?” Asked Tia.

“It is politics so yes, they would as the alliance cannot hope the match the empire on the battlefield. In fact I doubt their king even knows about this. He is a moderate, at least compared with alliance standards.” Replied Thakeo next.

“But would you do it? I mean, kill these men just like that?” Asked Tia, clearly concerned.

“What do you think magic is for? Fancy show and tell? Magic and weapons are designed to kill the enemy.” Replied Thakeo.

“You did not answer the quest. Are you able to kill these men? Even if they are criminals.” Asked Tia again.

“Well… Maybe not… I kind of like Drungal, even if he is a criminal, but as long as they believe we will, is that not all that matters? Now come, let us prepare.” Replied Thakeo with a smile and slowly moved away from their hiding spot.

“I don’t get that guy.” Mumbled Tia.

“Hmm? I think… He is nice…” Said Koh with a smile.

“Guh! Talking to a child about adult stuff… Not for me…” Mumbled Tia as she and Koh crept away and followed Thakeo to a position nearby.

Soon thereafter, Thakeo had outlined his simple plan for whenever the poachers contact showed up however it would mainly involve Tia and himself with Koh out of harm’s way, or rather, to prevent her from harming anyone else. Beast kin were not known for holding back, especially untrained ones and it was not like they knew her strength.

“So to sum it up. Tia will provide cover from above using her fireballs while I run down and get the ledger using my smoke and flash bombs as well as anything else nearby. Should things go bad then Tia is to fire all her magic at the wooden crates to put them on fire, hopefully I can escape in the meantime but don’t hesitate to fire even if I am in the cross fire.” Explained Thakeo.

“Don’t worry, I won’t even take your safety into consideration.” Said Tia with a devious smile.

“Geh! Th-that is… What I asked for I guess but please don’t try to hit me intentionally.” Replied Thakeo as he scratched his neck.

“What about… me?” Asked Koh as she looked at Thakeo.

“Well, I need you to stay back for now…” Started Thakeo to say.

“Okay…” Mumbled Koh, seemingly a bit dissatisfied.

“…However it is not just because you are a child but also because you have better senses than me and Tia combined so I need you to cover our backs, okay?” Replied Thakeo with a smile.

“Oh? You really going to let her watch out backs? Without any weapons?” Asked Tia, clearly trying to tease Koh.

“Weapon?… Ah! Yo-you are right… That would be a bit unfair and dangerous… Can you hand me the torch?” Replied Thakeo having realized this as well.

“What do you want with that?” Asked Tia as she handed him the torch, having held it while Thakeo was explained the plan.

“Hold on… I am sure… Ah! Tia, can you give me a light?” Mumbled Thakeo and quickly found an alternative ho the wooden branch and that was his short sword.

“Fine… Here you go.” Said Tia and lighted a fireball in her hands.

With light secured, Thakeo extinguished the iron wood branch they had been using as a torch and removed the cloth and spare oil, giving it a close inspection at the same time.

“Oh? Not even a burn mark… As expected of iron wood.” Said Thakeo with a satisfied smile before he handed the branch to Koh.

“Hmm? What for?” Asked Koh confused.

“A club. Giving you a sword is too early but with this one you should be able to knock out anyone who comes at you.” Replied Thakeo.

“Club? What is… A club?” Asked Koh next, seeming unsure how to use this weapon.

“Erm… Well if you see anyone who is not me or Tia, just smack them in the head with this, okay?” Replied Thakeo next.

“Smack? Smack!” Said Koh, repeating herself.

“Yep, smack! Go give it a few swings to test it out.” Said Thakeo with a smile to which Koh merely nodded and started to walk a bit away.

“Are you sure she can handle that?” Asked Tia as she looked towards Koh, who was trying to feel the weight of the branch by swinging it around. It looked a bit silly as the branch was just slightly shorter than she was.

“Well? How bad can it go?” Replied Thakeo with a smile, however at the same a loud thud echoed across the corridor quickly followed by the sound of broken stone, causing both Thakeo and Tia to turn around and look at Koh again.

“This… Will do.” Said Koh with a satisfied look on her as she looked at the branch and the pile of stone she had just crushed it.

“How bad hmm? If that had been someone’s skull it would have been pulverized.” Said Tia with a sigh.

“Erm… Koh, do remember to hold back. We are not here to hurt anyone if we can avoid it, okay?” Asked Thakeo with a meek smile.

“Hmm? Okay… Hold back… I will try.” Replied Koh with a nod.

“Somehow… I feel less safe now…” Mumbled Tia and sighed again.

“Now Koh, do you remember your job?” Asked Thakeo as he walked towards Koh.

“Yep… Smack anyone… Who tries… To get behind you.” Replied Koh.

“Good girl! Just be careful yourself, okay?” Said Thakeo and gently stroked her head.

“Yep! Be careful… Yourself.” Said Koh with a smile.

“Of cause I will.” Said Thakeo.

“Tsh! People might get the wrong idea about your relationship.” Growled Tia as she watched the two of them.

However, to this Koh merely walked over to Tia and looked up at her with a devious smile.

“Don’t get… Jealous.” Said Koh, clearly known which buttons to press.

“YOU DAMN!” Started Tia but Thakeo quickly jumped between the two and covered Tia’s mouth.

“No shouting unless you want us to get caught.” Said Thakeo with a stern voice to which Tia’s eyes clearly objected.

“The same applies to you Koh, don’t tease Tia so much okay, we need her help.” Said Thakeo as he looked at Koh.

“I… Understand.” Said Koh and lowered her head a bit.

“Now, that is a good girl… Augh!” Started Thakeo but stopped himself from screaming out loud in pain.

The reason was that Tia had bitten his hand in response to him covering her mouth.

“Oh keep quiet or do you want us to get caught?” Asked Tia with a sarcastic voice.

Even if it hurt emotionally, Thakeo had no grounds to say anything back to her, having his own words used again him, instead he merely shook his hand a few times and sucked up the pain before turned back towards the two girls.

“Let’s get this over with. I will give the signal for when we strike.” Said Thakeo with a sigh.

“Understood… Maybe?” Said Koh with a halfway nod whereas Tia merely looked away like usual.

“Gods give me strength…” Mumbled Thakeo with a sigh before the trio split up with Tia following Thakeo and Koh going her own ways to cover their backs.

Soon thereafter, Tia and Thakeo had returned to their previous spot and was now watching Drungal and his men again, however something was different from before as it was only Drungal himself and two of his men but the rest was no longer around.

“Do you think they left?” Whispered Tia.

“Not sure… But it does make it easier for us to do a hit and run and get that ledger.” Replied Thakeo.

“Assuming that scumbag shows up.” Mumbled Tia.

Thakeo did not respond but merely continued to observe the thugs below. The two minions was still moving crates around but did so without much vigor like they had pulled the short straw when the work routines were handed out.

Drungal on the other seemed like he was slowly getting annoyed about something as he kept starring into the darkness. Seemingly his contact was late, something which seemed to upset the man which was unusual as he did not seem like that sort of person, at least not to Thakeo.

That was also something which Thakeo had not yet figured out. Why meet here in the sewers when they had already done so in the woods? What was the point in doing so? Was there something else they were shipping or was this just some of random meeting?

These sort of questions kept coming to his mind however Thakeo did not more time to think about that as Drungal and his men suddenly changed their posture.

“Looks like something is happening.” Mumbled Tia and gestured towards a new arrival who was all dressed in black.

“What a typical shady character outfit.” Mumbled Thakeo to himself as he looked at the new arrival who was dressed in a similar manner as the men in the forest with dark hood, boots and everything else. He was even carrying a bag containing something, likely a possible payment.

It was hard to hear what they were saying but Thakeo tried to do so none the less yet he could not hear a single word but he could see Drungal walk towards the new arrival and started poking the hooded character in the chest, seemingly angry about something.

The other person moved his hands around as if trying to reassure Drungal about something but the large man merely shook his head and continued to should, all while Thakeo could not hear what was being said by anyone.

It was possible that the hooded character had placed silence spell or something similar which muffled his voice except when very close. It would make sense to do so in a pub or an inn in a shady part of town however doing so underground made even less sense.

“Say, do you feel cold?” Asked Tia suddenly.

“Hmm? A little, why do you ask?” Replied Thakeo confused, trying to focus on the events below.

“Ah, nothing… Just got a chilly sensation that’s all.” Mumbled Tia.

Thakeo raised an eyebrow as he had been expected something along the lines of how well humans burn or whatever insults this she-elf usually used to communicate with.

Down below Drungal kept arguing with the shady character but it did not seem to go anywhere but since Thakeo could not hear anything it was pointless anyway. However, there was another pressing matter as he could not see the ledger he had hoped would be here anywhere.

“So, when are we going to make our move?” Asked Tia next.

“Not yet…” Replied Thakeo who was still waiting for good chance.

Meanwhile the people below began to seem clearly agitated as Drungal and his goons had started to group up with each other and looked at the hooded character who seemed to be backing of a bit.

The hooded character reach for his began and got something out which he presented to Drungal however the man did not seem to care much for whatever he received as he merely threw it away and grabbed the hooded man by the coat and lifted him up like a ragdoll.

“Woa… He is really strong, more so when compared to you.” Mumbled Tia, seemingly impressed by Drungal’s strength.

“Well, sorry that I am not a muscle head.” Mumbled Thakeo to himself, feeling a bit disgruntled over the comparison.

However he did not have time to ponder more about it as Drungal suddenly tossed the hooded figure back down the hallway he came from while shouting something a loud.

The hooded character quickly got on his feet and seemed to be shouting something back before he suddenly reached for something in his bag which he then apparently tossed on the ground before he turned around and vanished into the shadows.

To this Drungal merely shook his head and turned his attention back to his men however barely had he done so before a weird black fog began to appear from the items that the hooded man had dropped on the ground.

“Eh? What is that?” Asked Thakeo confused and pointed towards the fog which was slowly taking shape.

“I don’t know but… Wait… Th-this is bad…” Said Tia suddenly as she looked towards the black fog.

“Eh? How so?” Asked Thakeo surprised.

“I think that… thing… Is a shade… It explains why I felt cold earlier.” Replied Tia, clearly not making a joke this time.

“A Shade?” Repeated Thakeo and looked towards the shadows which had now assumed the shape resembling humans.

“Yea, my master told me about them before… Filthy creatures.” Growled Tia, having a seemingly strong dislike for shades… For some reason.

Encountering a shade was a bad thing. Not because they were that hard to defeat as they were slow to form fully and could be dispersed with ease but it required either magic or enchanted weapons and Thakeo possessed neither of those.

Shades were creatures made of shadows and essence of death according to some and as such had no physical form that weapons could damage so his weapon was useless.

They also emitted a feeling of cold and frost due to the dark magic involved in their creation and due to that they could cause severe frost burns if they caught someone and could even freeze someone to death in a very short time. This was likely what Tia had felt earlier due to the unnatural coldness would not sit well with just any mage.

Depending on the situation, a well-made shade could be considered invincible if one did not have weapons or spells to counter them but even so, most of the time shades were merely dispersed and would reform soon after in an endless loop until they ran out of magic power.

Of cause, they did have several weaknesses regardless of whatever one had magic or not but it all came down to defeating the caster. However, that was easily said than done as that man had already left the area.

Another way was to lure them into sunlight, use holy magic or clenching magic but no one here could use that so they were stuck.

Thakeo cursed to himself and finally understood why shades were frowned upon by most mages as it was such a devious spell to use, but was perfect for assassins and the sort so that was likely their objective, so silence anyone with ties to this incident or at least everyone in the tunnels.

Furthermore then they could not be truly destroyed unless the magic caster was defeated or ran out of magic power but neither seemed like it was going to happen soon.

This was likely why Tia considered the shades filthy creatures due to her prideful nature even though elves were master in ambushes.

“Oh hell no! It is forming up!” Said Tia as the shade suddenly took on a humanoid shape, stating just a few steps behind Drungal.

“Damn it! What is a shades weakness?” Asked Thakeo even though he already knew the answer.

“Heat and light, but I can’t say how effective it would be.” Replied Tia.

“Well, you bring the heat, I will handle the light. We are moving in now.” Said Thakeo and got on his feet while feverously searching for something inside his pocket.

“Huh? I thought they were poachers?” Asked Tia next.

“I know but I won’t let them due just because of that! Besides, we need them alive. Cover your eyes!” Replied Thakeo and finally found what he was looking for; the flash bombs he had brought along.

Quickly, Thakeo jumped down from the hiding place and ran out into the open. Quickly he lighted the short fuse on the bomb and tossed it towards the shade that had nearly formed where the bomb exploded in a bright light, illuminating the entire area, temporarily blinding everyone in the room.

“By the gods! My eyes!” Yelled Drungal in surprise while his men cried just as much due to the sudden brightness.

Luckily it seemed to take a bit of time before the shades would form fully so for now they could easily disperse them but in the end they might get overwhelmed if not kept at bay.

“Tia! Use your fire magic. Whip up some flames to keep them at bay. Make it was bright as possible to remove the shadows. It should slow them down.” Yelled Thakeo out loud.

“I don’t need you to tell me that you nitwit!” Growled Tia back however she was smiling slightly as she said this and began to form fireballs in both of her hands.

“What the… You brat! You got some stones to show your face in front of my again!” Yelled Drungal with an angry voice, still partly blinded but clearly having recognized Thakeo’s voice.

“Sorry about that but we don’t have time for this!” Yelled Thakeo back.

“I’ll string you up before you before I will ever listen to you!” Yelled Drungal and reached for his weapon.

“Enough you log of a man! Turn your head and look unless you want to dine in hell tonight!” Yelled Tia as she fired off a fireball into the shadows but did not hit anything however it did light up the various shades which had already been formed.

“What the hell is that?” Asked Drungal confused.

“That is a shade, a little gift from your hooded friend. Likely meant to silence you.” Said Thakeo as he grabbed another flash bomb and readied the fuse.

“A shade? Why?” Asked Drungal confused.

“I said, we don’t have time. Take this and toss it at any shade that comes close. Your weapons will be useless against them!” Said Thakeo next and showed the flash bomb in his hand, ready to be used.

“Hah! I don’t need no magic!” Growled Drungal and readied his weapon, a large maul like hammer, for the fight.

Just then, a shade had finished forming and rushed towards him. Reacting to the threat, Drungal lashed out with his maul however just as Thakeo had predicted the maul hit nothing but thin air, scattering the black fog slight which in turn caused Drungal to just look at his maul in surprise.

“Get out of the way!” Yelled Tia and fired a fireball at the shade just as it was about to strike at Drungal.

“What the? Watch were you aim girl!” Yelled Drungal in surprise as the shade was scattered by Tia’s fireball.

“No time for that! More are coming!” Yelled Tia back as she readied another fireball.

“Can’t you guys use any magic?” Asked Thakeo as he tossed the flash bomb, readying another.

“Of cause we can’t. We are not mages but warriors.” Replied one of the thugs.

“Well we can’t stay here! Drungal, can you keep up?” Asked Thakeo and tossed a flash bomb at a nearby shade, scattering the fog but it did not take long before it started forming again.

“Huh? Why would we follow you?” Replied Drungal.

“Well, I got a living flame thrower and flash bombs. Without us you will more or less be unable to defend yourselves.” Stated Thakeo with a smile.

However just then a fireball passed close by his face colliding with the wall, causing him to let out a little scream.

“Who are you calling a flame thrower?” Asked Tia sarcastically as she continued to form fireballs.

“Pl-please don’t start with that now.” Cried Thakeo as he looked where the fireball had hit.

“You better tell me what is going on kid!” Yelled Drungal with a frustrated voice.

“Once we get to safety I’ll tell you everything, even the stuff you don’t know.” Replied Thakeo and tossed yet another flash bomb from his limited supply. He was now left with only four flash bombs.

“If we are leaving then let’s move!” Said Tia while tossing a fireball near the ground where a shade was scattered again.

“Easier said than done, take a look!” Said Drungal and points towards somewhere down the corridor.

“Is that the way out? Then let’s go!” Said one of Drungal’s men.

“No, not that way. We have another friend with us who we need to get first. We go the way we came.” Said Thakeo and pointed towards the way he and Tia had arrived.

“Ah! I nearly forgot that little beast. Good thing you left her behind.” Said Tia.

“Well I am not a complete idiot, now let’s go.” Said Thakeo and began to move.

“I won’t just listen to what you say kid! I am at least twice your age! We go the way we came.” Said Drungal, however just then one of Drungal’s men let out a shout of surprise.

“Boss! Look!” Yelled the man and pointed towards the dark corridor.

Everyone, Tia and Thakeo included, turned around and looked towards where the man was pointing and they saw a thick black fog slowly forming however unlike the others this thing was massive.

Just as the group was watching the giant shade, Thakeo noticed that the lesser shades were still moving.

“Watch out!” Yelled Thakeo just as a shade ran towards Tia.

“What the…!” Said Tia however the shade did not attack her but merely ran by her, followed by another and then one more.

All of the smaller shades in the area suddenly headed directly towards the dark fog and quickly got consumed by it. In return, the black fog grew exponentially in size becoming seemingly alive.

“What is that… Thing?” Asked one of the thugs but no one responded as they had no idea.

“I have no idea but it will burn just the same!” Said Tia and shot a fireball at the fog.

However, unlike the shades the black fog merely absorbed the fireball without scattering any of the fog.

“Okay, that didn’t work.” Said Thakeo cautiously.

“Tell me something I don’t know!” Growled Tia however just then the fog unleashed a counter attack and lashed out at Tia who barely managed to evade the attack causing the fog’s attack to strike the wall instead, freezing large parts of it.

“Wow… it really does freeze everything to ice.” Mumbled Thakeo, who could not help but be slightly fascinated as he looked at the frozen wall.

“Now is not the time to be fascinated by that you idiot!” Growled Tia and grabbed Thakeo’s arm.

“Oh right! Well, in that case… Do you know how to make a firewall?” Asked Thakeo.

“Huh? A firewall is a high grade spell, even if I knew it I doubt it would help much.” Replied Tia.

“Darn, oh well… Was worth a shot.” Said Thakeo and shrugged his shoulders.

“Useless male!” Growled Tia and readied another fireball, however just as she did the fog attacked her again, causing Tia to evade it again.

“Ho? It seems to like you girl.” Said Drungal who was standing behind the both of them, still holding up his maul.

“Oh shut up poacher!” Yelled Tia annoyed.

“Tia… Make another fireball but get ready to evade.” Said Thakeo suddenly as he looked towards the black fog.

“Huh? Wait… You are not saying that it would intentionally target me?” Asked Tia, having seemingly found out what Thakeo wanted to test out.

“Oh, so you noticed as well?” Asked Thakeo right back at her as he readied a flash bomb.

“It’s a bit hard to miss that you nitwit!” Replied Tia.

“What are you two mumbling about?” Asked Drungal confused.

“That… Thing over there reacts to magic more than you guys who was supposed to be the target.” Replied Thakeo.

“What is that supposed to mean?” Asked Drungal next.

“In short, that fog creature may only consider Tia a threat due to her strong magic power. The rest of us would not stand a chance but still…” Explained Thakeo with a nod.

“So, you want to use the girl as a decoy?” Asked Drungal with a seemingly stern look on his face.

“I am no one’s decoy!” Yelled Tia angrily, as she continued to stare down the fog creature.

“Woa… Your woman is really feisty brat.” Said Drungal with a nod.

“I AM NOT HIS WOMAN! NEVER!” Yelled Tia with a stern voice.

“Well… That is true…” Said Thakeo and scratched his neck.

“Oh… My apologies.” Mumbled Drungal who could not come up with anything else to say.

“You two idiots will be the first to burn after I am done with this thing!” Growled Tia next and prepared another pair of fireballs and just as before, the fog prepared to lash out at Tia again, however Thakeo quickly threw the flash bomb in his hand, unleashing the bright light contained within.

This in turn seemed to force the shadows to retreat for a split second, giving Tia enough time to combine both of her fireballs into a larger one and fired it at the fog.

However, while the power it was struck with greater, the fireball still just sizzled out, not affecting the fog at all.

“Just as I thought… It really don’t like fire nor light but neither has any effect on it.” Said Thakeo and sighed.

“Your flame is not strong enough elf! Let a man do it!” Said Drungal and swung his maul into position.

“You already tried that before but it didn’t work, why would…” Started Thakeo but Drungal merely turned his head with a smile and looked at him.

“Listen brat, I have been a mercenary for more than two decades and in my line of work you pick up a thing or two. That thing is weak to fire and light but the girl’s magic is not strong enough, right?” Explained Drungal.

“Well yes but…” Started Thakeo but Drungal interrupted him again.

“And we cannot get out of here with that thing chasing us correct?” Asked Drungal next.

“Correct but even if we run, it will follow.” Replied Thakeo.

“You here that boys? It hates fire so bring out one the barrels! You two, keep that thing distracted!” Commanded Drungal and pointed at Tia and Thakeo.

“Huh? Barrels?” Asked Thakeo confused and looked at Tia but she merely shrugged.

“Just do as I say or I’ll slap you with my maul!” Yelled Drungal in a manner that did not allow any retort.

“Ok-okay! I’ll try!” Said Thakeo who had somehow gotten fired up.

“And how are we going to do that? Harsh language?” Asked Tia sarcastically.

“Eh? We? You going to help?” Asked Thakeo confused.

“Huh? Of cause I am you idiot! What do you think I have been doing all along?” Replied Tia, clearly annoyed over Thakeo’s comment.

“Okay, okay, I am sorry!” Said Thakeo while trying to back off a bit.

“You are the most useless one here brat, at least I have a weapon!” Said Drungal as he held up his maul.

“We are ready boss!” Said one of the goons as he and the other one rolled up a large barrel towards Drungal.

“Good! Brat, get those flash things of yours ready! You, fire elf, get ready to fire your magic at the barrel.” Said Drungal as he dropped his maul on the ground.

“Don’t command me!” Growled Tia but still got into a good position to use her magic.

“Upsy-daisy!” Said Drungal as he single handedly lifted the barrel his men had prepared above his head.

“Just give the word.” Said Thakeo, who stood behind Tia, having already prepared one of the two remaining flash bombs.

“Here we go!” Yelled Drungal and suddenly charged forward, carrying the barrel above his head.

The black fog moved as if to intercept Drungal however just then Tia lighted another fireball.

“Ready!” Said Tia and held up her arm.

At the same time, Thakeo threw his flash bomb at the fog, once again illuminating the entire area. With that move, Drungal used all of his strength and tossed the barrel through the air where it struck the black fog but passed right through it, freezing it in the process.

“NOW!” Yelled Drungal as he spun around and ran for cover.

With the order given, Tia unleashed her fireball and struck the barrel dead center. The result was a massive explosion which engulfed the entire area, engulfing the black fog creature in massive flames. At the same time an ear shattering scream echoed throughout the area, coming from the black fog.

The shockwave was enough to send everyone to the ground searching for cover.

“WAAAAAAH!” Cried Thakeo desperately as he dove for cover.

“Th-This is insane!” Said Tia who had also taken cover as she watched the flaming inferno she had helped create.

“Eat that you freak of nature! Har Har!” Yelled Drungal triumphantly.

“Wh-what was… Inside that barrel?” Asked Thakeo a bit hesitant.

“Oh, just a little homemade liqueur we had planned to sell elsewhere. In addition to its flammable properties it also taste great!” Declared Drungal proudly.

“By the gods… You and Thragoth would get along fine I am sure.” Mumbled Thakeo and shook his head in disbelief.

“Don’t go saying an old dog can’t learn new tricks. Har Har!” Said Drungal next, still boasting.

“I can’t believe this… This is so… WATCH OUT!” Started Tia however she interrupted herself to warn the others but it was too late.

Just then a blast of magic energy struck Drungal in the back, sending him flying through the air where he finally landed with a solid thud on the ground, no longer moving. For a second, everyone just stood there, looking towards the lifeless body lying on the ground.

“DAMNIT!” Yelled Thakeo suddenly and rushed over towards Drungal and quickly knelt down beside him.

“Bo-boss! Are you okay?” Yelled the two goons at the same time as they also rushed to his side.

Thakeo ignored the two of them and instead focused on Drungal who had taken the attack directly in the back. He was still breathing but was severely injured.

“You two! Grab him and get ready to follow me.” Command Thakeo and the two goons did as they were told and began to lift Drungal up while he moaned in pain.

At that time, Thakeo got up and looked towards the flaming inferno which was already dying down and noticed that the fog had dissolved again but this time the lesser shades began to reform.

“Tia! We have to go now! Give us cover” Yelled Thakeo, ignoring the two goons.

“You don’t have to tell me twice!” Said Tia and started firing of fire balls at the shades.

“You two, follow me, Tia, cover the rear please.” Command Thakeo as he readied the last of his flash bombs just in case. It was not much but it would have to do.

“W-we still got other men down here!” Said one of the goons suddenly.

“We know, we also have a friend nearby. We will gather whom we can but I doubt that anyone still hiding would be targeted if the shades don’t know about them.

“Bu-but…” Stuttered the goon but Thakeo merely grabbed him by the collar.

“Do you want your boss to die? If not then do as I tell you!” Command Thakeo with a stern voice which was unlike him.

“Let’s move!” Yelled Tia and thus the group quickly left the room which was now full of shades while Tia kept them at bay with her magic.

Shortly thereafter the group was running as fast as they could down the various corridors and narrow spaces. It did not take long to back track their steps, especially not with the shades which was following them relentlessly.

While Tia could scatter them more just kept coming regardless of how many was destroyed. It should not have been possible but it was. Thakeo had no idea how the mage had managed to continuously summon these shades but there had to be an explanation.

“How are you holding up back there?” Asked Thakeo as he turned his head.

“The Boss is still out.” Replied one of the goons while the other merely nodded.

“Same here, still alive. These things are hardly strong at all so how did Drungal go down so fast?” Asked Tia who had a brief moment of respite between the shades.

It seemed that the further they got from black fog the fewer shades appeared, meaning that their range was limited. That itself was strange as they normally would not act like that but now was hardly the time for an in-depth investigation into that matter.

“It should not be long before we run into Koh.” Said Thakeo as he looked down the corridor.

“You sure that little girl is still there?” Asked Tia from behind.

“I do. I don’t think she would run from anything… The main issue is where exactly she is.” Replied Thakeo.

“Well, children like to go on adventures… Oh blast it!” Said Tia but had to stop talking as another shade appeared from the darkness but it was instantly scattered by Tia’s fireball, however the constant fighting was beginning to affect her as well.

“You okay back there?” Asked Thakeo next.

“I am fine, for now. But I would not mind a rest when possible.” Said Tia with a tiny smile.

At least it did not seem to make her angry but rather she seemed to enjoy firing of her magic. Thakeo could not help but wonder what if he fought her seriously but it would not be pretty, especially not with her stamina.

Thakeo could not understand how Tia considered herself weak as she had continuously been firing off fireballs left and right. If that was a weak fire elf, he really did not want to meet a strong one thought Thakeo to himself and shuddered slightly.

“Ah, we should be nearby now.” Said Thakeo as he recognized the area where they had left Koh behind however there was no sign of the little beast girl anywhere.

“Koh? Are you here? We really need to go now.” Said Thakeo out loud as he continued walking.

However, just as Thakeo turned around a corner, he noticed a shadow aiming for his head and he had to jump for his life just as a giant ironwood club nearly hit his face.

“Wah! Ko-koh! It’s us!” Cried Thakeo desperately as he already knew who it was.

“Ah! Didn’t… Notice…” Said Koh with a mischievous smile.

“Yea right… Are you okay?” Asked Thakeo with a sigh.

“No problem… Perfectly fine.” Replied Koh without delay.

“I would say… She is more than fine…” Said Tia from behind and pointed into the room itself, causing Thakeo to look closer, however he had no idea on how to react to what he saw.

“Koh… What did you do?” Asked Thakeo as he looked around the corridor.

“Hmm?… Smack?!” Said Koh with a triumphant look on her face.

“Ar-are they still… alive at least?” Asked Thakeo with a stutter.

“Hmmm… Maybe?” Replied Koh, slightly tilting her head, not even looking back at the pile of unfortunate thugs behind her.

“Erm… can I have that back?” Asked Thakeo and pointed towards the ironwood branch Koh had used to defeat her enemies with.

“Ah… Sure…” Said Koh and returned the branch to Thakeo.

“Okay, give me once second… And there we go.” Said Thakeo as he tore a piece of his jacket, tied it to the branch making a primitive shoulder harness from when the branch was now dangling.

“We got more from behind!” Yelled one of the goons who was carrying Drungal.

“Damn it, they are catching up too fast.” Growled Tia

“My-my men… Are they…” Stuttered Drungal, who was being supported by his grunts.

“They are just unconscious but they should not be targeted the shadows, however, just in case,” Said Thakeo and closed the door.

“I-is that really going to work?” Asked Tia slightly concerned over them just closing the door.

“I hope so… Otherwise I’ll have another enemy. Oh well, let’s move out.” Replied Thakeo as he gently grabbed Koh and lifted her up over his shoulders and started to run.

“Wah! N-no…” Mumbled Koh surprised that she had been lifted up.

“If my men… Dies…” Stuttered Drungal but his own men stopped him as he started coughing violently.

“Yes, then you can kill me later, now just shut up and let us get out of here! Tia, move!”” Yelled Thakeo as he ran ahead, carrying Koh above his shoulders.

“I am not a dog! Eat this!” Yelled Tia as her fireball struck a shade, disintegrating it on the spot.

“Unfair! I want to… Fight!” Complained Koh who was still being carried like a ragdoll.

“This is not the time for… Crap! They are ahead of us as well!” Yelled Thakeo as a pair of shades began to form in front of them.

However, barely had he said that before two fireballs flew by him, striking each shade, scattering them. Thakeo quickly turned around and looked at Tia.

“W-what?” Asked Tia confused.

“No-nothing… Just a nice hit, that’s all.” Replied Thakeo with a smile.

“Ah, th-thank you.” Said Tia, turning her head slightly.

“Mhm! Unfair!” Pouted Koh, still slung over Thakeo’s shoulder however no one really paid attention to that.

“We don’t have time for that! We got to go!” Yelled Tia from behind as she fired another fireball at the oncoming shades.

“For once we are in complete agreement! Let’s leg it!” Said Thakeo and took the lead, carrying Koh, followed by the goons and Drungal with Tia making up the rear, shooting her magic at anything that moved.

With this combination the group headed towards the surface while fighting shades as they appeared but otherwise met little resistance.

A while later, the group finally exited the aqueducts and could once again breath fresh air.

“W-we finally made it out!” Said Thakeo as he looked up at the bright starlit night and nearly dropped Koh whom he was still carrying.

“Let me… Down already…” Said Koh as she dangled from Thakeo’s back.

“Oh right… Sorry.” Said Thakeo as he gently let the beast girl down.

“It’s… Okay… I did not… Dislike being… Carried like that.” Said Koh next while wiggling her tail.

“Huh? Erm… That is good.” Said Thakeo, confused as to what was going on.

“This thick headed man… Grabbing every chance…” Growled Tia, seemingly displeased about something.

“Is something wrong Tia?” Asked Thakeo next.

“Eh? Well that…” Started Tia, however just then, Drungal fell to the ground with a heavy thud, causing his two goons to panic.

“Boss! Boss, are you okay?” Asked one of the goons as he shook the giant poacher.

Thakeo also quickly rushed over and looked at Drungal.

“What is wrong with him?” Asked Tia as she looked on from afar.

“I thought so as well but… I doubt that was a normal shade which struck him.” Replied Thakeo as he gently held Drungal hand which was cold to the touch.

“This is bad… Really bad! He need medical help right away. How far are we from town?” Asked Thakeo and looked around.

“We are not that far but we don’t know anyone who can help.” Said one of the goons.

“That’s fine because I do. You two, grab him and let’s head to town as soon as possible.” Ordered Thakeo.

Thus, the two goons picked up Drungal and the group began to head towards town.

“What is wrong… With big man?” Asked Koh as she tugged Thakeo’s coat.

“I am not sure but I think that the shade struck him with a frost spell.” Explained Thakeo. It seems to be moving throughout his body. But we don’t have time for that.

“Big man… Down for good?” Asked Koh, seemingly concerned.

“Eh? No… I will ensure that he will be fine… he has to be… he is our only lead in this case after all.” Said Thakeo as he looked at Koh with a smile.

“Good… He is not… A bad man.” Said Koh.

“Oh? How do you know that sort of stuff?” Asked Tia confused as she looked at Koh.

“Did I not already… Explain that?” Replied Koh confused.

“No, not really.” Said Tia next.

“Hmm… I do not… Know myself… I just know… That he is not… A bad man.” Explained Koh.

“Well then, what am I?” Asked Tia next with a smile.

“Not evil… Friendly… A bit… Weird?” Said Koh as she tilted her head, clearly not sure herself.

“We-weird? I am not weird! How am I weird?” Asked Tia clearly flustered.

“I… Don’t know?” Replied Koh, once against tilting her head.

“Argh! This child!” Growled Tia as she rubbed her forehead.

“Hey you two, we are leaving you behind!” Yelled Thakeo from up ahead.

“Fine! Let’s go tiny.” Said Tia and pushed Koh down the road.

“I am not… Tiny!” Protested Koh but Tia merely ignored her.

Thakeo could not help but smile over this scene as it seemed peaceful despite of what they had all just gone through but it was enough of that as they had to get Drungal some help or he might really die.

– ₪ –

“Open up! Kelrick, please open up, we need your help!” Yelled Thakeo out loud as he knocked heavily on the door, using his fist.

“Who is Kelrick?” Asked Tia.

“A gnome I know, he is an alchemist so he should hopefully be able to help. Open up please!” Replied Thakeo as he continued to hammer the door heavily.

After a minute or so they could hear footsteps from within the house and soon thereafter a small slide in the door opened up in the door.

“Who is it?” Asked Kelrick from behind the door.

“It’s me, Thakeo. I need your help with a friend.” Replied Thakeo.

“Thakeo? What did that dwarf do now?” Asked Kelrick.

“Eh? Oh… he is out drinking this is another issue but… We cannot talk about it here, can we come inside?” Asked Thakeo next.

“It’s in the middle of the night young man! Come back in the morning.” Replied Kelrick.

“We were attacked by shades and one of us got hit!” Said Tia suddenly.

“Who was that?” Asked Kelrick.

“Tia, a friend of sorts and yes, we were attacked and one of our… Companions got hit.” Explained Thakeo.

“Alright I am opening the door.” Replied Kelrick with a sign.

Soon thereafter the door was opened up and the short gnome appeared in the doorway.

“Thank you for…” Started Thakeo but Kelrick interrupted him.

“Just get inside young ones.” Commanded Kelrick and ushered everyone inside his house.

Afterwards, Kelrick took a quick look around the area before he closed the door and locked it up using various locks. Clearly, he was not really a people person or maybe he just wanted to secure his home.

With that done, he quickly turned around and walked over to Drungal and took a quick look at him and then he turned towards the two goons.

“You two, bring this man into the back right away. You will find a bed there so please put him there. I will be along in a moment.” Said Kelrick.

As the two goons carried Drungal into the other room Kelrick turned around and looked towards Thakeo.

“You got some explaining to do young man but that can wait unless I have finished with the other one. For now, please take a seat anywhere you want and try and get some rest as you all look like you need it.” Said Kelrick and then he turned around and left the trio alone as he joined the others.

“Ah yea… I could use some rest but… I still got stuff to do.” Said Thakeo with a smile.

“Huh? Don’t we have what we need? Assuming Drungal lives that is.” Asked Tia confused.

“True but I have to go pickup Thragoth otherwise he will get too drunk to fight tomorrow.” Replied Thakeo.

“Fight? Who… Is fighting?” Asked Koh.

“That would be Grandpa dwarf who is going to fight that evil nobleman who tried to hit you a few days ago. Remember?” Asked Thakeo as he knelt down to Koh’s level.

“Ah! I remember… But why… Would he fight… For my sake?” Asked Koh next.

“Because it is the right thing to do and that is all there is to it.” Said Tia with a firm yet kind voice.

“Right thing… To do?” Asked Koh, seemingly confused.

“Yep. No one deserves to be beaten… Except a certain someone who tries to molest innocent girls.” Said Tia and looked at Thakeo with lightning in her eyes.

“E-eh? Y-you really still going on about that?” Asked Thakeo, a bit concerned that she would not just let it go.

“Yep! But for now we will deal with what is ahead of us.” Replied Tia.

“Phew… Thought you were going to go at me right away.” Said Thakeo and breathe a sigh of relief.

“I won’t… Allow it!” Said Koh suddenly and got between Tia and Thakeo, trying to shield him.

“Huh? What is wrong?” Asked Thakeo confused.

“I won’t… Let this… Perverted elf… Touch you!” Declared Koh.

“Wh-who are you calling a pervert elf?” Stuttered Tia surprised.

“You! You want… Too do something… Naughty… To Thakeo… I won’t allow it!” Said Koh next.

Neither of them seemed to understand at first when Tia suddenly got a bright red face.

“Th-tha-that is not what I want to do to him!” Cried Tia.

“Erm Koh… I think you are misunderstanding something here.” Said Thakeo with a dry laugh,

“Most defiantly she is!” Said Tia desperately.

“Misunderstood… Something? What?” Asked Koh confused.

“Erm… Tia will explain that to you, I got to pickup Thragoth.” Replied Thakeo and quickly got on his feet and headed towards the door.

“Huh? Yo-you can’t expect me to explain this?” Asked Tia confused, however before Thakeo could respond Koh gently tugged Tia’s shirt.

“Explain… To me… Please?” Asked Koh.

“Good luck, just lockup after me.” Said Thakeo as he unlock the door and quickly ran outside.

“Yo-you coward, get back here!”

“You started it.” Said Thakeo with a smile.

“Please… Explain….” Said Koh just as Thakeo closed the door.

“Ho-how? How can I explain this!” Cried Tia out loud, so loud that Thakeo had no problems hearing it from outside the door.

“By the gods… Women are scary… Well time to go find myself a dwarf.” Said Thakeo and slowly walked towards the inn where Thragoth would have staged his part of the plan.