Volume 3 Chapter 6
A pungent and repulsive smell originating from the cave enshrouded the group of three.
“Witsen, come up with something,” said Karile.
“Plato, come up with something.” Witsen simply passed the buck to Plato.
“Eh? Why me? Didn’t she ask you to deal with this?”
“If I say it’s you, then it’s gonna be you. Stop talking nonsense already. It’s on you if we die from this smell.”
“Uh, I’m afraid I don’t want to bear responsibility for such a thing,” Plato murmured at his staff.
After a short chant, the crystal on the staff’s tip gave off a violet glow. Plato slammed the bottom of his weapon onto the ground.
Thump! A shockwave carrying a lavender-ish smell spread out like a ripple. Soon after, the pungent smell was completely replaced by a refreshing aroma.
“It’s alright now.”
Witsen took in a deep breath and thought, This sweet smell really lightens up the heart compared to that disgusting smell just now.
Karile also let go of her hand that was pinching her nose. “Mhm! Not bad, this smells nice. It’s okay to proceed now.”
The trio entered the cave. In contrast to the large cave they were in not long ago, the one in front of them was less damp and felt more comfortable. Witsen touched the cavern walls with his hands and realised that instead of a sticky, wet sensation, there were tons of dust on his fingers. The cave was evidently excavated relatively recently; small chunks of rocks left behind from the excavation work had not been cleared, causing crunchy noises as the three walked.
“Wait.” Seemingly just noticing something, Karile stopped Witsen and Plato. “Witsen, look at the footprints on the ground.”
Witsen looked at where Karile was pointing and quickly saw a series of footprints. The small and shallow marks were signs that were easily associated with the goblins they had encountered earlier.
“Goblins, huh… How troublesome,” Witsen muttered.
“Not goblins, they never wear shoes. Also, there are no soles present. The owners of these footprints must have been wearing something on their feet,” Plato said while analysing the traces.
“If they’re not goblins, then…” Karile’s expression suggested that she was racking her brains to come up with an answer. “Gnomes?”
“That’s right,” Plato spoke like a teacher. He was glad that Karile got the right answer. “It’s got to be gnomes.”
“Aren’t gnomes just the same as goblins,” Witsen grunted.
“No no no, gnomes are not goblins. Although they look very similar and are often mistaken for one another, there are still some fundamental differences,” Plato explained. “Gnomes have way greater intellect than goblins, even comparable to us elves in that aspect. Also, unlike goblins that desire fighting, as long as you don’t offend gnomes, they are pretty passionate and hospitable towards their guests.”
“Oh,” Witsen nodded.
At that moment, some hustling could be heard from further inside the cave. It sounded something like a bunch of weird geezers whispering among themselves, and the noise was slowly approaching Witsen’s group.
“What should we do? Do we head back?” Witsen asked.
“There’s no need to. There isn’t another route even if we head back.” Karile replied. “Plato, can you speak in Gnomish?”
“Yeah, but I’ve never actually used it before.”
“Then let’s put it to practical use now.”
“Alright.” Plato stepped forward and knocked the ground with his staff. The echo resounded throughout the cave, shutting the blabbering gnomes up. Plato then shouted in what sounded like mumble jumble. The general idea was, “Esteemed owners of the cavern! We sincerely apologise for intruding your territory! Would you please allow us to pass through here? We will not do anything to this place!”
The other party’s voices subsided briefly before they erupted into an even greater debate, which soon came to end. From the other side of the cavern came the voice of a gnome who spoke in Gnomish. With its witty tone, the gnome replied to Plato with another series of mumble jumble.
“Plato, what did he say?” Karile asked.
“Um… Something along the lines of telling us not to worry, and that they’re very hospitable creatures,” Plato explained.
“Then what do we do now…”
“Just stand here.”
Just like that, the three remained where they were as they waited for the gnomes to come over. Karile and Witsen had secretly gripped their weapons tightly in case anything happened. The clamorous gnomes slowly walked towards the travellers in rhythmic footsteps, the pitter-patter of their tiny feet ringing within the cave. With some jazz music, it would make for a wonderful tap dance ball.
As the minutes ticked by, Witsen was getting more and more nervous. Finally, the glow of a torch came into sight from the darkness ahead, revealing a group of gnomes that looked extremely similar to goblins considering their thin limbs and greenish skin. The only thing that differed in terms of their physique was the lack of round bellies. The gnomes also wore proper clothes, unlike their barbaric counterparts that only wore embarrassingly revealing loincloths.
A group of gnomes tottered to and stopped in front of Witsen. The gnome who led the group stepped forward and said, “Respected guests, your trip must have been tiring. This way please.”
“Oh, um…” Witsen’s mind fazed for a moment, but he quickly regained his senses and whispered to Plato, “Aren’t they speaking in the Common language!”
“Yeah, I didn’t say they couldn’t,” Plato answered with an annoyed expression. “Karile told me to use Gnomish.”
Witsen turned to look at Karile.
“Hehe.” Karile scratched her head and smiled with glee. “I’ve never heard a Gnomish conversation before, you know.”
“Hey! You two were teaming up to make fun of me!”
“Not at all! Come one, let’s go. The gnome leader’s getting impatient.” Karile grabbed Witsen’s shoulder and pushed him into the direction from where the gnomes appeared.
The gnome leader sent a few underlings to inspect the location where the loud bang occured, then proceeded to lead the trio further into the cavern.