Shift World I Book III Chapter 6
by Christopher W. Gamsby
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The group marched within several miles of the Hunter's Quarry. The keep sat within a two-day march south of the Crossroads. They planned to have Nort, Ban, and Timore escort the steward to the keep in the morning and decide what to do from there. Preparing for each scenario became impossible since the group didn't know if they were arriving at an active siege, destroyed compound, abandoned keep, or a castle on high alert.
The steward became impatient waiting to arrive home, but she traveled the pace of Timore, Ban, and Nort, who had insisted on moving cautiously. The closer they approached the Crossroads, the more likely they'd encounter the Furies. Despite traveling freely through the Lush Forest, all intelligence pointed to the Furies staying close to the capital in the Arid Desert and the Creeping Ice. If the group approached carelessly, they could find themselves flanked by shifters when returning from the Lush Forest.
The group spent the night in one or two-people tents scattered between trees. The decision meant sacrificing clearly seeing each other for preventing the enemy from easily spotting them.
Since killing the Fury near The Whitecoat's compound, they hadn't seen any enemies or fought any monsters. Those worries gave Nort troubled sleep in his tent as he didn't know if caution prevented tragedy or made a future problem much worse. Nort rolled onto his back in the night's fresh air.
Crickets chirping in the distance reverberated through his small tent while he savored the night's calm. He closed his eyes, but sleep didn't come. Nort resigned himself to laying until sunrise. When bushes rustled near the formation's outer edge, and he sat up.
He concentrated on the sound, which continued in an erratic pattern. Concerned that the source was more than a camp dweller relieving themselves, he unbuttoned the side flap. Tearing sounds punctured the night's calmness. Confused mumbling turned into a scream several tents down. Nort shot through the half-open tent flap and bolted toward sounds of thrashing and snarls.
Nort arrived at a pair of legs sticking out of a hole cut in a canvass flap. Screams echoed inside, and Nort lunged and grabbed a figure by his shoulders. The tent's occupant kicked the man's face to protect herself, but the devil tore her legs. Bleeding profusely, she kicked the devil back with the last of her strength, and Nort pulled with all of his. Flying backward, Nort struggled to hold on to the thrashing monster that swiped at legs and lunged again.
The slashes grazed Nort's woolen pants, but couldn't penetrate the material. The devil thrust one last time, and a charging Ban plunged a dagger through its temple. The blade immediately cracked and splintered apart. The devil fell limply, and Nort let the body drop to the grass. Ban checked on the woman and bandaged her leg wounds. After a few minutes, Timore came charging in full armor with Huskie barking at his heels.
"A devil showed up and attacked that tent."
"A devil? From where?" Timore gave an awkward smile, seemingly realizing the foolishness of the question. Members awakened by the sounds of fighting tentatively climbed out of their tents carrying knives, swords, sickles, clubs, and whatever they had to defend themselves.
Nort rolled the body and examined it for clues. The young steward came up to the group, trembling. "He's from the Hunter's Quarry" She pointed to a line of blue flowers running across his upper body.
"Could it have traveled all this way?" Nort asked Timore, who had the most experience with monsters created by shifter powers, but he gave a noncommittal shrug. Nort turned back to the steward from the Hunter's Quarry. "Do you recognize him?"
The creature's face resembled a human's despite the scaly texture, sunken features, and unnaturally dark green shade. The dumbfounded woman mumbled. "I don't see how..."
As Nort examined the body, a small red gem fell from its mouth. The Mandrake recoiled at the sight. Those in the gathered crowd who had any experience with the gems instinctively stepped back.
Preparations to take back The Whitecoat's compound in Timore's world were finishing. A sizable group of survivors amassed on the outskirts because of rumors that Furies recently took over the area. The one hundred person squad couldn't compare to the armies that predated the Furies scourging the world. Still, each member donned armor provided by Timore's family.
Some wore full sets of sunshine steel with mismatching themes, while others wore a combination of sunshine steel, water steel, and seashell steel. Every person, however, scrapped together full sets. A man named The Second Hope stood in front of the group wearing a flowing cloth coat laced with seashell steel. He held up an oblong red crystal.
"This will be our secret weapon."
The onlookers gazed at the crystal with dumbfounded incomprehension. A man in the crowd wore sunshine steel armor with a faux lion's mane running down his back and carried a shield pressed with a lion's face. He drew The Second Hope's attention with a wave.
"Won't this gear be enough? We now have the greatest combined force the world has ever seen. What could we gain from those crystals?"
The crowd stirred in agreement, and the man motioned for quiet. "These little gems give you the strength and speed of a shifter for a short time. When you find the enemy, use one and overpower them. I must stress, however, that you don't use this near our brothers and sisters."
"The results are... unpredictable. We will train you to use them now, but only separately. Look in the provisioning bags we've supplied." Each warrior carried a small pouch on their belts that held three little red gems. The Second Hope continued. "Birn and Jara's family mined these at great cost with what few other people survived in the Shift World. It's our responsibility to utilize the armor and gems and destroy the Furies. We will train three people at a time."
Six people paired off based on The Second Hope's commands and headed to different sides of the field. Continuing past the camp's edge, The Second Hope and The Lion's Cub arrived at a pair of straw-filled practice dummies. The Second Hope began to explain. "Cub, I will wait outside of the clearing and observe how you react to taking a crystal. I want you to destroy those dummies with your sword and then sit when you're done. In a few minutes after that, the effects of the gems should wear off."
"I could do that without any gems. What's all this for?"
"I don't doubt you. The training is to learn to handle the gem's effects."
The Lion's Cub couldn't comprehend how becoming faster and stronger would make such a trivial task more difficult. Still, he nodded and removed a gem from his pouch. The Second Hope scurried to the end of the field and waited behind a tree. The Lion's Cub turned to the dummy and hesitantly popped the gem into his mouth. Warmth melted into his body.
A red screen formed over his eyes, and his thoughts muddled. He turned and decided to return to camp. An image of the dummies flashed in his mind, and he remembered his purpose, and slashed with all his strength, splintering it in pieces. He cut at the second, and it exploded in a hail of straw. The Lion's Cub hacked at a dummy much thicker than the first two. Despite his increased strength, his blade didn't obliterate the target.
He hacked again, and the dummy shook but didn't fall. This time, his blade lodged into the stubborn target, and he thrust it free with all his strength. The edge popped out, and he repeatedly swung, but the dummy didn't even shake as his sword passed through. He continually attacked until words penetrated the crimson coating over his concentration.
"Stop! I said Stop! Sit down!"
The Lion's Cub plopped to the ground with his legs crossed. He stared into the distance for what felt like a few more minutes as his consciousness faded back. As his sense returned, he remembered his task but couldn't remember how he arrived at the clearing's edge. Two thin trees laid on the ground sliced clean from the base. He examined the blade-less hilt in his right hand.
"How did this..."
The sword's blade jetted out from a thick hardwood tree. The thicker, duller section near the hilt had caught the tree, and the securing pins broke while trying to pull it free. The training dummies stood untouched in the field's center. The Second Hope's voice came from behind him. "You are a berserker type."
"You become very strong, but you attack anything nearby. Most of the people we've found like this say they thought they attacked their targets but didn't. When I practiced for the first time, Birn told me I sliced at a nearby anthill. Now, if I use a gem, I can target that power much better, but it's hard."
"Do you think I will be ready by the time we move?"
"You will be a low priority to be trained. Also, only use a gem in extreme circumstances. If you find a Fury alone, or whatever, go ahead and kill it. If you used this near a comrade, do you understand what would happen?"
The Lion's Cub shamefully nodded.
A rumbling shook from the direction of their camp. The Cub popped to his feet and the pair sprinted. A few minutes later, they exited the woods and balked before passing any tents. The ground inside the camp looked like a flooded rice paddy.
A man wearing a full set of sunshine steel armor fought to free his legs from muddy soil. The Second Hope and The Lion's Cub rushed ahead, grabbed him under the arms, and struggled to lift him out of the muck. The ground felt as though it sucked him further inside despite having been dry just a little while ago. The man slowly dragged underground, and the pair let go to avoid being pulled in with him.
After being wholly swallowed, the earth filled in his wake. A few moments later, his sunshine steel armor and bones flew in a muddy explosion. During the gruesome spectacle, other members of the band freed themselves and regrouped. The ground rose around the fighters, and they scattered to avoid mass casualties. Soil enclosed around a few of the slower members and an influx of soggy soil stifled screams.
A fire jumped from tent to tent on the way to the surviving members. A quick-thinking woman in regular steel armor grabbed a pot of water and doused the tent, but the flames molded around the incoming liquid, while blasting the woman. She screamed as fire engulfed her but lost consciousness due to pain and oxygen deprivation. The Fury ate away her body but left her weapons and metal armor in an unnaturally pristine state.
"Watch each other's backs. When I create an opening, flee and find where the Furies are hiding." The Second Hope put a gem in his mouth, and his eyes glowed. He tore apart a nearby tent so that he held a piece of canvas stretched across two poles. He waved it toward the fire consuming his comrade's corpse. To everyone's surprise, the extinguished flames changed into the shape of a man and solidified. The naked man's shrieks sounded half like a person yelling and half like a wolf snarl.
The warriors took heart that they now had a way to uncover the Furies who existed in the elements and didn't control them from afar like the survivors previously believed. The snarling man rushed to embers embedded in the scorched tents. As he approached, he leaped to a smoldering section, and flames burst out. His corporeal form disappeared as fire engulfed him.
A woman wearing water steel came forward. "Let's follow The Second Hope's lead and use the gems to smoke out the Furies!"
The Second Hope mostly controlled his body and intentions while under the gem's influence, but he couldn't speak. His mind screamed warnings behind a wall of crimson, but his compatriots never heard. Almost the entire group threw gems in their mouths. A few moments later, pandemonium broke out.
"I Found one!" The woman in water steel sliced through a warrior covered in sunshine steel.
Others reacted to her violence in kind and ganged up on the woman. A man's regular steel sword bounced off her breastplate, and she counter-attacked by taking his arm. He continued swinging his stump at her, not comprehending that he had a severed limb. The Lion's Cub hid after others ingested the gems without understanding how unstable they'd become.
The Second Hope joined the fray, trying to stop the group from fighting. Despite his relative mastery, he couldn't wholly stop protecting himself and took out some of his attackers. The group continued infighting for the duration of the gems' influence. Those who blindly slashed at the ground began to return to their senses and fled from the camp.
Furies let the group fight and focused on eliminating the fleeing people. Forty of the 100 people survived the initial ambush, and only three survived using the gems. The Second Hope clasped the bloody stump of a hand he lost parrying incoming swords. He had hoped the people would return to their senses before having to kill anymore, and that naivety cost him dearly. A fire skipped from tent to tent and engulfed him, eating away his flesh and sparing the armor.
A man ran from the battlefield toward a line of trees and disappeared through the bushes. The Lion's Cub sneaked toward the treeline, hoping the enemy would chase the stranger instead. He passed the central command tent and drew closer to the woods, closer to safety. Just past the shelter, however, a sarcophagus of mud shot from the ground. The entombed man dropped his shield with a lion's face as the mud encased him. The battle had been wholly lost.
Nort, Ban, and Timore gave the steward time to rest while preparing to head out for the Hunter's Quarry. She'd been exhausted when the group found her, and the travels hadn't improved her situation. Ban approached Nort wearing her typical leather armor with plates covering her biceps, chest, and thighs. Nort waited in his gambeson with claw weapons.
"What should we do about camp?"
Nort looked over the small tent city. "What are you talking about?"
"Will they be alright with all three of us gone?"
"I'm not sure it would make much of a difference with us here..." A loud clanking in the distance interrupted their conversation. "I think there might be a bigger problem. Though, maybe we can win the round with one throw."
The clanking drew closer until Timore, wearing the full Manta armor, rounded out from behind a tent. The armor's flaps clanked together as he approached Ban and Nort. The sound wouldn't be as pronounced in a noisy hall or street, but the camp's still air accentuated the noise. By the time he arrived, Nort and Ban impatiently watched him.
"What?" A confused Timore questioned their stares.
"We need you to stand guard here."
"OK..." Timore's inflection rose as he trailed. The comment sounded half as confusion over the dismissal and relief at avoiding the long journey.
"These people are going to need someone to look to for leadership and inspiration even if I don't think there's much you can do against the Furies. So, if they show up, run and desert the camp. Get the people out alive. Let the enemy have our spare leathers."
"OK." Timore nodded.
"You're also the only one with any experience killing monsters. If more of these devils or skeletons wander by, you are going to need to take them out."
Timore nodded. The steward arrived with tear stained cheeks. It appeared that she hadn't rested at all. "Are you ready to go?"
"We are coming with you, but Timore's staying."
The woman resigned herself to finish her journey. "Thank you, but I don't want to wait any longer..."
Nort stood from the stump he used as a chair and followed the steward and Ban. The trio waved Timore goodbye. He paused from removing his helm to return the wave.
The group disappeared behind bushes that ringed the encampment. Nort instinctively moved onto the balls of his feet to sneak. His legs glided through knee-high weeds and landed on twigs and leaves. The plants didn't rustle, and the leaves didn't crumple, causing his whole presence to disappeared. Ban skulked behind, but compared to Nort's movements, hers shook the entire forest. The steward walked incomprehensibly louder than both of them. Ban caught up to Nort and whispered.
"How can you move so quietly? It's like you aren't even here..."
Nort shrugged. "Obviously, you can't move through the world without touching anything, but you have to make every contact as gentle as possible." At Nort's explanation, Ban eyed him as though he spoke in riddles. "The Whitecoat once told me that most people thought sneaking in armor couldn't be silent. You see, it becomes hard to gauge how far armor extends past your body and when you walk near a branch, it may hit your breastplate and make noise, or leaves scrape against your armor and rustle. The sole of your boot grinds the leaves and twigs into the ground as you slow your feet from crushing them. Most warriors only learn to stop their armor from clapping together like with Timore, but you must learn to move as though the armor extends past your body to disappear."
Ban's incredulity darkened her face. "When did Korg tell you this?"
"I'm not sure when compared to today, but some time ago. I just learned to sneak really well to begin with for some reason, and I can't even wear metal armor. I guess that helped me skip ahead some."
"In all my time training with him, he never said anything like that. I guess I still had some to learn before the advanced training."
Nort smirked, trying to hold back a nervous laugh. "I guess he thought he had more time with you. You'd both have lived another 200 years if not for Karp's betrayal."
Ban grimaced at the mention of Karp killing The Whitecoat. The need for quiet gave Ban an excuse to stop the conversation, and she dropped behind Nort and practiced what he taught her. The trio traveled in silence for hours as they approached the Hunter's Quarry. Ban practiced sneaking, and Nort continued to perfect his technique.
They arrived outside just as the sun set. Perched behind bushes on the edge of a field that approached the building, they looked for signs of the Furies or signs of villagers. Great divots and exploded tents dotted the area in much the same way they found the base camp near The Whitecoat's Compound. Fissures too small for a person to fall into but deep enough to break a leg or ankle cut into the ground.
A strange glint caught Nort's eye. "You two wait here."
Ban nodded and the impatient steward agreed but eyed the keep as Nort moved from cover. He skulked close to the ground in the hopes of disorienting any watchers too far to get a clear view but close enough to make out a person walking normally. He arrived at a gray and silver line of rusted metal flakes. He touched the ring and smelled the powder which had the pungent, bloody odor of iron. Nort slinked back to the treeline and addressed the pair.
"It's a long line of metal shavings..."
Ban cocked her head and pursed her lips. "Maybe that interferes with powers or something. Like they can't travel through the ground on the way to the keep because of the metal."
"So they found a way to slow down the Furies?"
"I guess. It makes sense. They don't seem capable of traveling into the bedrock in the Crossroads. Maybe there are just certain things that they can't..."
The steward burst in, cutting off Ban. "I knew it! They figured out a way! They are alright!" A disturbing smile crept across her face.
"Hold on. We don't know if it worked, or if they just didn't walk past the line and..."
The steward didn't wait for his objections and broke from the treeline. Neither Ban nor Nort had the reaction time to stop her. The pair helplessly glanced at each other and back to the woman sprinting through the broken-up field. The sun finished setting as she arrived at the fort and burst through the front door.
Darkness crept over the field, but the fort's windows never lit. A dragon shot flame through the air over the area. Nort and Ban watched with dumbfounded expressions. Smaller flames shot around the building as asaghi climbed out of the windows like roaches scurrying out from the lid of a pot. Devils and skeletons poured out of the open doors and ran laps around the building and the field. Some tripped into fissures that crisscrossed the area.
"They changed them all. When they couldn't get to the fort, they turned them all into monsters..."
Ban stared at the strange monsters and fought the urge to flee screaming when the realization of their situation struck her. "We need to get out of here. Run away. We need to get our camp clear."
Ban grabbed Nort's wrist and dragged him away from the spectacle. The two started moving as quietly as possible at first, but then ran toward the camp when they felt safe. After a few hours, the exhausted pair arrived.
"Pack... now... whatever you can carry..." Disquiet broke out between the warriors as the runners tried to catch their breaths. "There are monsters too close to here. Worse than that, if the Furies find us in the open like this... we're doomed."
Early in the morning, the Crossroads' air sat undisturbed. Nort, Ban, and Timore watched the entrance from the Lush Forest with keen interest. Furies could be hiding in accumulated topsoil, the still air, or a spark lighting up a house. An acute sense of danger permeated the group, but fear of being engulfed any minute couldn't drown out survival instinct. Timore stepped in a low crouch and sneaked toward the buildings in the Crossroads's center.
One by one, a trail of fighters followed carrying the clothes on their backs. Some members dragged along empty bags that once contained food or other supplies. The terror of imagining the camp being corrupted into monsters or otherwise getting ambushed caused the frighted warriors to flee without their essential camping equipment and non-essential supplies. The uncertainty of having made a mistake crushed the leaders, but knowing that nothing terrible had happened helped relieve their anxious minds.
Timore arrived at a nearby house and waited for his companions to catch up. Only traditional light-weight wooden dwellings remained. These houses served just fine in a moderate climate that lacked the rain or gales that routinely destroyed homes in the Lush Forest. After The Whitecoat brought metal to the world, settlers abandoned those types of structures in temperate climates. In the Crossroads, metal carved out a wooden structure's foundations from the ground's sandstone.
Timore made this trip for the fifth and final time. Bringing everyone at once would have been impossible. So Nort, Ban, and Timore had put themselves at risk by moving back and forth with several smaller squads. The last of the convoy's stragglers arrived at the house. Timore pressed forward.
The group weaved between the remaining houses. This trip had been the quickest and easiest since the leaders didn't need to consider what route to take. After 20 minutes, the travelers regrouped at that section's last house. Before the Furies attacked, the further one moved into the Crossroads, the richer the inhabitants. Skeletons of doomed hardwood structures began lining the road. Some structures had been stripped down to partial frames supporting wood slat walkways. Others had been reaped down to empty foundations.
Timore crawled from the building's edge to the nearest foundation. His belly rubbed on the crusty, dust-covered sandstone, irritating his soft flesh. To make subsequent trips easier to navigate, he had removed his Manta armor after the first time they arrived at their safe house. Without walking upright in the bulky armor, he lessened his exposure to danger. Still, the thought of accidentally finding a Fury without adequate protection sent a shiver up his spine. His forearms slapped along wood slat flooring until he reached a partial standing wall. He whipped his body around to watch his followers.
One by one, ten people arrived at the slatted floor and snaked toward covered areas. Nort and Ban rested sprawled on the floor, tired from repeated trips. Some of the other wanderers heaved and coughed as the unusual movements exhausted their fragile physiques. Timore wondered how they ever expected these people to save their world even if his family managed to collect every scrap of metal in the Shift World. He shoved the idea from his mind and rose to a knee.
"The next section is a large open area until we get to old man Tiron's store. This upcoming section is the most exposed we'll be. Other than missing everything inside, the building itself is intact. Follow me into the store's basement, and we'll wait there."
Three of the travelers stared into the ground, but everyone else nodded. Timore rose to a hunched shuffle. He peeked around a fallen section of wall. The soil just beyond looked dry and didn't move except for when an occasional breeze swept a few square feet clean. Timore swallowed and ran.
His travel cloak trailed through the dirt, leaving a path of streaking sand. His followers continued along his trail, bound for the open store. Halfway through, wind picked up in the Crossroads' normally calm air. Timore swallowed and looked back for Nort in case a fight started. Nort trailed at the rear to protect from pursuers.
The wind intensified, and Timore ran more quickly. Air resistance increased until he couldn't push faster. He sustained his maximum pace until his short breath and burning muscles slowed him. With short, sucking gasps, he felt his air being sucked from his lungs. He arrived at the store, bound into the empty building, bolted for a counter, and retrieved his dragon fire sword which rested on the bottom shelf. He lunged toward the entrance to face any pursuing wind Fury.
Timore greeted the other runners with choppy panting, glaring eyes, and a drawn sword. Most of the people hesitated at his sight, but caught themselves gawking and entered to hide. The quicker they traveled, the less time the Furies had to spot the small group, so they pushed themselves.
Timore's legs still burned, but after he stopped moving, breathing became more comfortable. His choppy breaths turned into calm, drawn respiration. Half of the people had entered before his inspirations returned to normal. The easing strain let Timore return to his senses and retrieve his scabbard. The barbed sword slid back into its sheath. He addressed the recent arrivals, who stayed just inside the door. "Get to the basement!"
The runners looked between Timore and each other with a blank expression. Timore walked behind the counter and lifted a wooden hatch. "Get down here quickly!"
The people filed down a hidden set of stairs while Nort impatiently stood at the store's door. "Hurry up!"
A few moments later, Timore descended. "Last one!"
As Timore dropped into the darkness, the first floor's wooden planks sagged and creaked as The Paladin crossed. Standing on the planks himself must have been unnerving, but the group couldn't risk multiple people standing on the first floor when Nort entered. The same abilities that made him almost impervious to metal made hardwood vulnerable to collapse under his steps. Nort descended, shutting the hidden hatch. Ban had already lit a torch while waiting, and the group saw the basement's interior.
The wall's different types of stone created a gradient running from light sandstone to rich onyx bedrock. The basement's floor matched the onyx bedrock. Torchlight reflected strangely off the various angles carved into the bedrock, causing the ground to have a slick look. One of the tired runners addressed their three leaders. "Where are we going now?"
"This is our destination."
Confusion spread, and a woman wearing sunshine steel chainmail spoke up. "Where is everyone else? What did you do with them? Are we next?"
Ban stared at the woman with an annoyed look. "What are you talking about? If we wanted to do something to people, we would have a long time ago! This is just the entrance."
A man in a cloth gambeson spoke up. "An entrance to what?"
"To the underground tunnels." Ban nodded to Timore, and he moved to a section of stone floor with a set of barely-visible intersecting lines. He tapped the intersections until an edge came loose and grabbed a tile. He lifted the lid, and everyone crowded a stone ladder with barely enough clearance for a single person to descend. Dull orange light glowed at the bottom, twenty feet away. Timore descended the ladder.
Timore, Ban, and Nort strolled through an underground labyrinth lit by a torch Ban carried. Low clanks reverberated from partially lit tunnels. Workers laboriously expanded the network of tunnels with hand-held stone chisels. Explosives could clear the stone much faster, but the explosions might trigger a cave-in, and the Furies at the surface would probably hear an avalanche of falling rock. Since their arrival, the enemy hadn't discovered the stronghold sitting under their feet. The survivors desperately wanted to keep it that way. The group reached the first open clearing.
"Now that we know about the Furies' power, isn't it strange that they never discovered these secret lairs?"
Bolts of light green canvas lined the cave's outer wall as workers sliced swaths of material to bind wooden frames. Ban spoke. "I thought so too, but going to the Hunter's Quarry changed my mind a little."
After securing the fabric to the frame, workers stood up the divider and tested its durability. Pushing and pulling the frame near the top caused the whole contraption to wiggle, but casual contact didn't cause any movement.
"Are you referring to the metal shavings lining the fort?"
"Yes. Of course."
"I don't think there could be metal in the ground, or it wouldn't crumble when The Paladin touches it." Timore had given his opinion.
Chests full of armor and weapons sat in the shadow of fabric bolts. When in use, the warehouses at Timore's compound stored weapons in a stone vault. Now, to avoid detection, they rested in underground tunnels.
"Unless the metal in this world doesn't bind together like the metal from other worlds..." Ban continued the conversation.
"What are you talking about?"
Ban acted like she hadn't said anything out of the ordinary. "One of the things we learned all that time ago is that things that aren't natural to the world don't act normally with scholars. Maybe the issue is that metal does exist, but doesn't bind together like in other worlds. So, maybe, the stone has metal which blocks the Furies, but can't be forged into anything."
"I guess that makes sense... but could that be the only reason? We should consider any possibility."
Storage bins of dry goods and jars of water lined the wall opposite of the fabric. The pots held enough to provision a miniature army for months, but no one hoped to need them for that much longer. Ban looked to him and nodded. "I agree, brother. The Furies might not have ever needed to go this deep and simply pass by on the surface. What do we do in that case?"
The group watched the workers move the canvas divider next to a matching set that partitioned off a corner of the hall. The area looked reminiscent of the cave where Nort and Timore rested after returning to the world. The cave made by nature and the tunnels made by man served to shelter from dangerous conditions outside.
A realization shocked Nort, and he began to think out loud. "If we assume the worse case and that the Furies just haven't figured out where we are, then I think the answer is obvious. We must remove the danger outside the cave."
Ban and Timore glanced at each other and back to Nort. Ban stumbled out a question. "What cave?"
"No, sorry. What I mean is we need to take the fight to these Furies. Kill the ones we can, harass the others. Make it unbearable for them until they flee from the Crossroads. Then, we don't have to worry about if they find the tunnels. It won't matter anymore."
Timore and Ban contemplated the words.