This was for the most recent writing prompt on the fanfic forums. Don't ask where #4 is; I haven't decided if I have something for it yet.
The warrior asked entirely too many questions.
Elaine had wanted to go explore the Crypt of Forgotten Kings - “It’s an ancient crypt; there’s probably something useful in it!” - and now we were there, and it was dark, and there were floor tiles marked with random magic runes that hurt if you didn’t see one and walked across it.
Did I mention that they hurt?
So after the third unexpected attempt by the floor to electrocute us, Elaine had pulled out the lantern she’s been carrying around since - ugh, since that job for the dwarves in the Wetlands.
And what does the warrior - I don’t even recall his name, it was something like Philip. He was drinking at one of those Grummle bars in Kun-Lai on our way up there, and Elaine said he looked good enough for what we needed. Anyway, what does he ask?
“So how does the candle stay lit in your bag?”
Oh, Philip, I thought, you really don’t want to know...
Elaine and I spent some time working for the locals in Goldshire after I left home and met her in Elwynn. Just a few small jobs, to get some cash to spend up in Stormwind. Kill a few wolves, gather up some lumber, stuff like that. After several different residents had mentioned work that required going into Fargodeep Mine, it seemed to Elaine and me that it might be worth the trouble of dealing with the kobolds infesting it.
“Hm, get some gold dust, explore the mine, get a necklace back from some big kobold, and... candles,” Elaine said. “Why does an apothecary need candles from the kobolds? Can’t he just buy them in Stormwind?”
“Don’t you use candles for some of your priestly stuff?” I asked.
“Well, sure, but to symbolize the holy Light for - what does that matter? Apothecaries aren’t priests.”
“I’m just saying, if he wants them, he’s probably got a reason,” I said.
“Fine, whatever, let’s get going,” she said. “Spending all day in a mine means I’m going to want to wash my hair when we get back.”
I stopped outside the inn to talk to the stable master and get my coyote. I had been calling him Chad, but he was still “that dog” to Elaine. She rolled her eyes at me when she came out of the inn and saw me there.
“You’re taking the dog?”
“He’s handy in a fight,” I said.
“I hope we don’t have to stay out overnight, then.”
“He howls,” Elaine said.
“Yeah, so? I don’t complain about your snoring.”
The walk down to the mine was quiet, but chilly.
Elwynn’s trees were quite a change from what I was used to in Westfall, and even after being there for a couple weeks, the difference was still stark. The forest harbored bears, giant spiders, and thousands upon thousands of squirrels. I still haven’t decided if I like the flavor.
The Fargodeep mine was at the northern end of a small ravine, a bit south and west of Goldshire. Elaine didn’t like the look of the ravine walls, so we headed around to the southern end where the approach wasn’t so steep. We could see two entrances from that vantage point - a built-up mine tunnel towards the top of the hill, and an open cave tunnel below it and a bit to the west. And the ravine itself? Swarming with kobolds.
I hadn’t seen a kobold before; I’d heard there were some infesting the mines in Westfall, but I’ve never had cause to go into Westfall’s mines before. Goldshire’s mines were apparently lousy with them, as well. Here they were, out in the open, working the mining equipment and looking, apparently, for gold dust and other minerals.
“That’s going to make getting into the mines interesting,” I murmured to Elaine.
“If you want to call it that,” she said. “We’ll have to be careful if we don’t want to end up fighting every kobold here to get in and out.”
I took a quick count of the kobolds I could see, trying to pick out a route. “Maybe if we hug the eastern side? They’re small; I might be able to knock them down with one shot.”
“That gun makes more than a bit of noise,” Elaine said, frowning.
“Yeah, but so does their mining,” I said. “Once we get down in there, it might not draw too much attention.”
“Let’s try it, then,” Elaine said, looking over the notes she’d made about the jobs. “Gold dust, necklace, candles...”
We crept along the edge of the quarry-like area in front of the mine, stopping behind a pile of rubble when we got close to the first kobold. It was a little rat-like humanoid, with a long, wrinkled snout, ragged clothes, and, planted firmly on top of its head, a candle.
“How does it not fall off?” Elaine murmured as I was lining up my shot.
“Wax probably melts into the fur on top of its head,” I said. “Guessing they don’t bathe much.”
“There’s a reason I generally let you pick up all the crap folks ask us to bring back.”
As I had suspected, a single, careful shot was able to drop the kobold, and after waiting a minute or so to see if any of the other kobolds were going to run over, we edged over to it so Elaine could go through its... I hesitate to call them pockets, but the kobold had a bit of gold dust on it, and Elaine pried the candle off its head with her knife.
“We really need to ask more about the details of things before we agree to these jobs,” she said as she put the candle in her bag.
“Better than murloc eyes,” I said.
“Murloc eyes are tasty,” Elaine said.
“But really, really gross.”
We continued on around the edge, picking off a few more kobolds. The others didn’t seem to notice the gunshots over the noise of breaking up rocks and digging, so it seemed like it was going to be a fairly uncomplicated job.
Then we got into the mine. It was pitch black once we’d turned the corner from the entrance, and the tunnels extended back into the hillside. We stood a moment, both silently debating how to proceed into the darkness.
Three kobolds came around the corner ahead of us, pushing a cart full of rock and ore. We could tell there were three - because they all had lit candles on their head.
“Well, we’ll be able to see them coming,” Elaine said, preparing a spell to smite one with holy energy as they ran toward us.
“Sure, but that doesn’t keep us from walking into walls,” I said, siccing Chad on them as I took aim. “Ceiling’s kind of low here, too.”
“There’s no reason we can’t use a couple extra candles to--”
“YOU NO TAKE CANDLE!” one of the kobolds snarled as it ran at us. It recoiled in pain as another of Elaine’s spells hit it, and a thin veil of shadow slightly dimmed the light of its candle. It kept coming, though, and I redirected my aim at it.
The three of them fell without wounding any of us too severely, and Elaine pulled out one of the candles we’d already collected. I had flint and tinder on me that I used to start our campfires, and after one of the sparks almost caught her gloves on fire, Elaine set the candle on the ground for me to continue attempting to light it there.
“We should invest in matches if we’re going to be going into caves frequently,” she said.
“And maybe a light source we don’t have to pry off a kobold’s head,” I said.
Once the candle finally lit, Elaine searched the three kobolds, and we continued into the mine. The kobolds had been cutting haphazardly into the tunnels, and they twisted at weird angles. The further into the tunnels we got, the more desperately the kobolds were demanding that we not take their candles. It seemed like the only motivation they had for attacking us, however, because it was all we heard them say.
The mine tunnels continued for quite a ways into the hillside, and we were finding a goodly amount of gold dust on the kobolds, and of course they all had candles, but we hadn’t found the one that had taken the necklace yet. It was, of course, at the very furthest extent of the tunnels.
It was also bigger than we expected. Crates of ore were stacked around the roughly carved room at the back of the mine, and there was a small hoard of gold-vein-streaked rocks by the kobold’s small fire. We had stopped just out of immediate sight at the edge of the shadows. The necklace was clearly visible hanging from the kobold’s belt.
“That looks like trouble,” Elaine whispered.
“Yeah. I’ve got a few bombs left...”
“You’re carrying around explosives?” Elaine asked, probably louder than she should have, but the kobold didn’t seem to hear.
“I’ve been carrying around explosives since I was like, twelve,” I countered. “Besides, they may stun it for a few moments.”
“Fine, fine... that’s probably our best shot at doing this without getting killed, anyway,” Elaine said.
I set my pack down to look through it for the bombs, and Elaine started weaving protective globes of Light around us as a precaution. I had two bombs left, both copper contraptions with a bit of heft to them.
“Let me know when you’re ready,” I said.
After a moment Elaine nodded, and I set the timer on the first bomb and lobbed it at the kobold. It exploded on impact, scattering the kobold’s campfire and extinguishing it - and bringing down some of the ceiling, as well. Rock spray scattered off the holy magic Elaine had used to protect us, and the room was filled with a cloud of dust and smoke from the fire. The protective magic didn’t keep out the dust, and we were both set coughing and gagging. The big kobold was trapped under a small pile of rocks - dead or unconscious, I don’t know - but kobolds in the other tunnels leading out the room, the one we hadn’t come down, had heard the noise and started streaming in to see what had happened.
“Maybe,” Elaine gasped as she started casting a spell at the kobolds heading towards us, “maybe that was not such a good idea.”
“Right,” I agreed, “explosives underground are not advisable.”
The kobolds were coming out of the other tunnels in twos and threes, and Elaine and I fell back a few yards into the tunnel we had come in through, letting Chad mostly block the entrance. I’m generally all right in an extended fight as long as I’ve got ammunition and someone to keep our opponent off me, but after the fifth or sixth pack of them, Elaine was noticeably flagging; her spells were coming further apart and she was mostly saving her strength for healing spells for Chad so he could continue acting as a barrier for us.
When the last of the curious kobolds had fallen, I steered Elaine into an alcove to rest.
“Have some water, catch your breath,” I said. “I’ll go get that necklace.”
“All right,” she agreed.
By me, of course, I meant Chad, and Elaine raised an incredulous eyebrow at me.
“You really think he’s going to bring back that necklace, much less anything of use?” she asked.
“He’s a smart coyote,” I said.
A short time later Chad came back and dropped half a dozen candles, several small pouches of gold dusk, a few small gemstones, a handful of coins, and the necklace we’d been looking for. Elaine gasped slightly.
“How does he do that?” she asked.
“Coyotes are scavengers by nature,” I said, shrugging slightly.
“Well, I think we’ve got everything we came for,” Elaine said, putting away her flask and pulling herself to her feet. “Let’s get out of here.”
The tunnel we had come through was still devoid of kobolds, and we headed back to the mine entrance. The candle stub we had been using for light was getting low, and Elaine tossed it aside as we turned back into the light by the entrance. We both stopped short as an ancient-looking, shrunken, twisted little kobold gasped at the act.
“NO,” it gasped. “Candle. You no take candle?!”
“What?” Elaine said.
“Unbeliever!” it squealed. “You no take candle!”
It raised the mining pick it was carrying and rushed at us. Elaine didn’t move, still staring at with a look of complete disbelief. Chad jumped at it, getting in between the kobold and Elaine, breaking her out of her stupor, and I was lining up a shot at it when it dealt Chad a blow with its pick that sent the coyote whimpering away several steps in pain. That both put my back up - Chad had saved my tail more than once since he’d joined me - and alarmed me, because normally Chad could dodge or kind of absorb a hit. The kobold turned its attention back towards Elaine, and I dug into my pack for one of my newer creations.
The crate popped open as it landed, and the dummy sprang out of the top, drawing the kobold’s attention. Elaine’s face twisted back into skeptical disbelief.
“Is that... is that a wench?” she asked.
“Shut up. It works on the drunks at the inn,” I said, a bit defensively. “Hit it while it’s distracted.”
Elaine opted to heal Chad’s wound first, then turned her spells to the grizzled little kobold as I backed off a step for a clearer shot. It was harder to kill than I expected, but it finally collapsed as the dummy crumpled. Elaine leaned over it almost reflexively to check its pockets, jumping slightly as it grabbed her wrist.
“Take... candle...” it gasped, then went limp. Elaine turned her eyes up to me.
“I am so creeped out,” she said.
“Uh... did you look at the candle?” I asked. I couldn’t take my eyes off it. The flame wasn’t burning upright, and the wax wasn’t dripping onto the floor. It hadn’t gone out when the kobold had fallen, as the other ones we’d gathered had.
“The candle...?” she shifted her eyes down to it. “That’s... really weird.”
“Maybe it’s magical?” I said.
Elaine gingerly reached down to take it, but unlike the others, this one came easily off the kobold’s head. She tried to blow it out, to no avail. The flame didn’t even flicker when she blew on it.
“Is it hot?” I asked.
“It’s... no,” Elaine said, her brow furrowing, and she waved her hand through the flame several times with no effect. “The wax isn’t even melting.”
“Where do kobolds get a candle like that?” I asked.
“Where do kobolds get any of their candles?” Elaine asked, standing and tossing the candle into her bag as she did. “I don’t even want to know. Let’s get out of here before something even weirder shows up.”