I was glad we had very detailed maps of the area, because otherwise the areas were basically indistinguishable. Each corner was virtually indistinguishable from the next, as everything was seemingly featureless walls. Though the walls could be marked, any damage to the walls faded over time, and anything left on the dungeon floor was eventually absorbed into nothingness. Thus, there were generally only markings near the entrance of the dungeon. The strips of cloth on the entrance steps were resettled every day to avoid absorption, and occasionally had to be changed out regardless.
I did notice that the walls weren’t completely featureless. At the corners, it was possible to see some of the texture of the wall, as the bricks stuck out beyond the mortar holding them together. Because of the absorption of light, this was only visible when looking past a section at something behind it.
Halette and Socks walked at the front of the party. Though Halette used a bow, she was also the scout. As long as everything went as planned, she would notice enemies with enough time for us to reposition. With a small party, that only took a moment.
I was behind the two of them, followed by Kantrilla and Kasner, with Alhorn at the back. He could block for them in case enemies appeared from behind, while I would be less useful in that regard. I might draw the attention of monsters or kill them to neutralize their threat, but physically interposing myself in front of an attack was outside my skill set. Well, I could do it, but it wouldn’t be smart. Alhorn had a shield and pointy ears to help him, though the second thing wasn’t really relevant to the interposing part. Apparently, though, elves- and half-elves- had pretty good senses. He would be able to react to a sneak attack better than others, though he hadn’t focused his training on that area so Halette was still a better scout.
Socks was also a good scout. The wolf had naturally keen senses… and an especially important one was smell. That was good for locating things around corners, or tracking things that left no visible tracks.
“Socks, heel!” We had been walking for a few minutes when Halette held up her hand motioning us to stop. Of course, I wasn’t going to walk past her when she stopped anyway… but it was a good habit to make sure.
Halette stopped to one knee, looking ahead suspiciously. Then she took out a handful of powder from her pack and sprinkled it on the ground in an x. Looking at the trail, I could quickly see what it was marking. There was a raised spot in the floor covering about the middle third of the corridor. I could tell that because the powder stuck to the edges, but upon looking more closely I could see it wasn’t quite the same absolute blackness as the floor below. It was more of a normal sort of black, the kind that reflected some light. Halette looked carefully and felt around on the floor a bit before nodding, “Okay, everywhere else should be safe.” She looked at the walls, blowing a small bit of the powder from her hand. I saw the powder settle in some small holes. “Dart traps, again. Just avoid the pressure plate and we should be fine.”
There wasn’t really any way to actually disarm such a trap without digging into the dungeon floor or walls, but avoiding it was good enough. The powder would mark it in case we came by again, or even for another group. We could mark it on the map, but while corridors in a dungeon changed very slowly, traps and their locations seemed to move almost every day or so. The only upside of that was they weren’t made from exactly the same material as the floors and walls, so they could be spotted if you were careful. I hadn’t noticed it, but I thought if I had been looking more carefully I could. It wasn’t exactly my job… but it wouldn’t hurt to spend some effort on it.
We continued down the corridor, though not at a fast pace. We didn’t want to exhaust ourselves or rush our way into an ambush or trap. Even so, it was only a few minutes and a corridor intersection before Socks stopped and growled. Then we saw a handful of goblins come around the corner.
They were short green humanoids with large teeth and daggers. As for height, they were pretty near Kasner’s- around three feet tall. That didn’t mean they couldn’t be dangerous. After all, they did have weapons… and even horned rabbits were dangerous.
As soon as they saw us, they charged down the corridor. Though they apparently had some form of intelligence, it seemed to become more prominent deeper in the dungeon. Near the entrance like here they were more likely to just attack with no plan… as we were seeing.
Halette quickly took a step back and drew her bow, nocking an arrow. She fired it just before the goblins had closed the gap of twenty feet between us. The arrow flew with a whistling sound before embedding itself in a goblin’s eye. At the same time, Socks pounced on one of them, tackling it to the floor.
I also had my club out, since a halberd was a bit too long to easily swing in the corridors. I was rather used to swinging low, and my club moved at chest level for goblins. I hit the goblin on the right, but the power in my swing knocked it into the one next to it… and the third, which was turning toward Socks.
All of the goblins fell into a heap on the floor, and it only took two more quick swings to crush the last two goblins. The one I’d hit directly had died right away, but the other two were mostly just stunned. Socks also tore out the throat of the one below her… and I was reminded how glad I was she was on our side.
It was a short and brutal battle, but I knew goblins would have more numbers- and better tactics- the further we went in. As for loot… the goblins had tiny little knives that were apparently useful as cheap metal. Their bodies themselves dissolved over the course of a minute until there was nothing left… except a single tiny gem in the place of one of them.