Volume 3 Chapter 7
As they walked further into the cavern, the road gradually became well-conditioned and easier to walk on, unlike the previous section covered in gravel. The gnome leader strutted as he led the way, his shoes clattering against the ground. The rhythmic noise echoed throughout the tunnel.
“Ugh… How much longer till we get there…” Karile started grumbling about the lengthy walk.
“Dear guest, don’t be hasty, we’re almost there. I already told them not to dig such tortuous tunnels, this bunch of fellas.” From the gnome leader’s tone, it appeared that he was an engineer of considerable rank.
After walking for a long while through the tunnels, the trio finally arrived at the gnome’s city, Burnadel.
Short single-storey houses, streets laid with bricks, and pillars that glowed like Plato’s staff filled their sights. Sounds of hammering could be heard everywhere in the city along with conversations between gnomes who spoke in witty accents, creating a unique spectacle and atmosphere.
It could be said that this city was known by no one, but also known by everyone at the same time. The legends of Burnadel had spread to even the most remote of regions, but only very few had actually managed to set foot in the legendary city. Only those acknowledged by the gnomes could receive their guidance through the intricate network of tunnels and finally reach Burnadel.
The gnomes here detested the existence of magic. They believed magic belonged to gods, and it was not something mere mortal creatures should possess. As such, they were focused on developing a miraculous thing which they themselves named “Gnomish Technology”. The entirety of Burnadel had been completely industrialised. They even managed to create something unimaginable to the people of this era, namely street lights, lighting the whole underground city up.
Led by the gnome leader, Witsen’s group zigzagged through the streets and valleys. Karile was astonished to learn that the gnomes really were as hospitable as the rumours had said. Every gnome that had passed by greeted her in good manners while the children gazed at them out of interest. From their curious eyes, Karile could feel that the gnomes did not hold even the slightest hint of hostility against humans and elves.
After walking through the city for a while, the group had finally arrived at the city hall situated in the centre of the city.
They entered the city hall and came to the front of a conference room. Witsen could hear the discussion going on in the room despite the thick wooden door in the way. One of the voices sounded very familiar in particular. Witsen felt that he had heard it not long ago.
Briefly after, the door creaked and opened up. One of the people in the room was indeed someone Witsen had met not long ago, Reintis.
Reintis who was clad in armour was engaged in talks with the mayor of Burnadel. He instinctively turned to look over when he heard the door opening.
“Witsen? Karile too?”
“Why are you people here? Didn’t I tell Rawls to bring you all to Atlantis?”
“It’s a long story. Your majesty, Rawls has gone missing.” Plato stepped forward to explain the situation.
After listening to Plato’s brief explanation, Reintis signaled the three to wait outside for a bit. He then continued his conversation with the mayor, and the two seemed to have quickly come to an agreement. With their talks concluded, Reintis left the room and went over to Witsen.
“Head over to my place.”
Reintis brought the three to a house next to the city hall. After confirming everyone was present, he closed the door.
“What is going on, why is Rawls missing?”
In response to Reintis’ questions, Plato told him everything that had happened thus far. After hearing Plato out, Reintis fell deep into thought.
“Mhm… Rawls seems a bit fishy.”
“What about it?” Karile asked.
“The Northern Protectors have fallen.” Reintis answered.
“What? Then what Rawls said before…”
“What he reported back was fake.”
“Isn’t Rawls a loyal knight from Atlantis?”
“This may mean that… ” Reintis’ tone turned stern. “Atlantis has been corrupted by the dark forces, or that the king has been deceived.”
Even the most farsighted archmage in the world would have been unable to predict Rawls’ betrayal. Who would have thought that the faithful elder who had followed the previous king through countless battles that spanned across the entire continent would betray them? Regardless of how much regret they felt, this was already a fact that could not be changed.
“Atlantis, we can’t trust them anymore…” Karile was visibly at a loss.
In the face of their enemy who was also the God of Deceit, losing a powerful kingdom as an ally was no different from losing a crucial weapon. The powers that could put up a fight with the enemy had been reduced by one.
“You cannot go to Atlantis now.” Reintis took a map from the bookshelf behind him and laid it on the table. “You’re now here, inside the Mountain of Demise. Atlantis is to the west, while going through the east and the south are currently impossible.”
“Then we can only head north.” Karile pointed at a location to the north on the map. There was a mark on one of the mountains in the region.
“The dwarves, huh…” Reintis placed his hand on his forehead and thought a bit before saying, “There’s no choice but to go there.”
Dwarven kingdoms were often built along mountains. They would excavate the interior of mountains, connect them together, and construct a palace. Contrary to the dwarves’ short stature, their palaces had extremely tall ceilings, to the degree that even humans would find the top untouchable. Unlike the gnomes who were entirely dedicated towards developing their technology, dwarves were literally crazy about wealth and riches.
However, their irrational addiction was not limited to riches. Throughout the entire continent, dwarven craftsmanship was considered to be the definition of “perfection”. If one was fortunate enough to see them forge weapons and armour, he would surely come to admire their talents in this aspect. The dwarves’ muscular strength were reflected in their forging techniques, but it was even more so in combat.
The Northern Protector’s symbol contained their most symbolic weapon—warhammer. The combination of well forged warhammers and thick, muscular arms allowed dwarves to possess unparalleled combat prowess. A group of well-trained dwarven soldiers even had a decent chance of winning against monsters that came from the void.
However, what made Reintis distressed was the dwarves’ grumpy and unyielding nature which made it very difficult for others to get along with them.
“Sigh,” Reintis let out a deep breath. “There’s no choice. Let’s hope that they’re in a good mood.”