The Crossing

Part 1: Gimbug Fauthuurz Dushgund

Written by Gor'bladz
Illustrated by T'berog

The picks and shovels made a satisfying crunch and scrape as the work proceeded smoothly. The five bareheaded peons were sweating and grunting profusely. Whenever any of them would slow down or mess up the rhythm, the gruntee that was behind them would bark out orders and abuse until things were running smooth again. This project was the first chance the gruntee had to prove himself. He wasn’t about to let this get screwed up by some lazy or clumsy peons.

“When da nobs gruk how far me got digged, dem go make me uh grunt!” The gruntee was quite pleased with the situation. In the harsh world of Outland, it isn’t very often that you catch a lucky break. But the seam that the peons were tunneling through was lucky in the extreme.

The Shadowclan needed more room. Conditions in the main caves and caverns were getting overcrowded. The nobs decided that some new tunnels needed to be dug. This work party had been assigned to expand some tunnels that dead ended off of some of the lower storage caves. For a while the peons had to dig through nearly solid stone. But after a few hours of work they broke through into a seam filled with jumbled and broken rock. It appeared to be the remains of a tunnel that had collapsed long ago. Digging through the debris was far easier than tunneling, and their were frequent gaps and pockets to push rock into rather than hauling them all the way out.

“Skah! Wut da hold up!” The gruntee’s daydream of his grunting ceremony was interrupted by a pause in the digging. “Why lat glob nub diggin? Lat lazee peons!”

“Dere big rok in da way. We gettin pry barz.” One of the peons scampered back up the tunnel to retrieve some tools that had been left behind. The gruntee lumbered forward to see what had stopped the digging. When the peons in front had moved out of the way he saw the seam had narrowed and was now blocked by a single long boulder that ran from floor to roof. The peons had scraped out around the edge, but it was clear the rock was going to have to be moved or broken in order to continue.

The peon returned dragging two long thick iron bars. The rest of the peons grabbed hold of these and jammed them into the edges of the rock and began levering and prying. They pushed and pulled and yanked for all they were worth until eventually the rock began to teeter back and forth. The stone began to lean forward, and all the peons dropped the bars and ran away to keep from getting squashed. In their haste they almost ran over the gruntee.

As the gruntee picked himself up off the ground, the rock stopped tipping, and for a moment stood perfectly still. Then it fell heavily away from the orcs with a resounding BOOM!, immediately followed by the roar of other rocks sliding down. When the dust had cleared somewhat, a large space was now revealed.

The gruntee slowly crept to the opening and peered into the cavern that had been discovered. The first thing he noticed was the light.. It wasn’t a lot of light, but in the eternal gloom of the underground world it was striking in its brightness. It was the faded yellow light of an afternoon sun. It gave the grey stone walls a warm glow that contrasted with the cold chill of the cavern air. The second thing that was noticed was the low pulsing humming noise that filled the stale air.

The cavern itself wasn’t very large. It was hard to tell if it was natural or crafted by hand. What could be seen of the floor showed fairly flat and level rock, but much of the chamber was filled with large boulders and stone. Gaping shafts in the ceiling gave evidence of a collapse at one point. The light and the hum came from a spot over on the far side. “Wut da skah...?” The gruntee began picking his way down the rockslide that led to the cavern floor, followed by the five wide eyed peons. He had just gotten to the bottom when he saw the door.

It was set in the far wall of the cavern. Large rectangular blocks framed the door. It was flanked on each side by a large stone statue, and another one perched on the lintel. The opening in the doorway itself looked out on a small valley surrounded by stone cliffs. The air in the doorway was strangely streaked and blurred, giving the impression of looking into a clear swirling whirlpool. Several orcs could be seen moving about on the other side near the entrance. In the near distance some scruffy looking boars rooted about in the turf. No noise seemed to carry through the doorway, though. The only sound to be heard was the low hum which seemed to be coming from everywhere.

The gruntee and his peon working party approached the door and stood staring as if entranced. One peon slowly reached his hand up as if to touch it, before wisely thinking better of the move and pulling his hand back. The orcs on the other side of the door seemed relaxed and well fed, unlike the scrawny and emaciated mining party. Two orcs stood off to the side speaking a soundless conversation. Another orc ran past on some sort of errand. A lanky troll strolled up and sat right in front of the doorway and began eating a large chunk of jerky. At the sight of this, a large rumble erupted from the stomach of the smallest peon.

This seemed to break the spell. All the peons suddenly started to speak at once and pointed and shouted at the doorway. This went on for a few moments before the gruntee bellowed “Shuddup! Get in line agh shut lat moufs! Nobs neeb gruk about dis. We guin bak. Let’s moob!”

The orcs quickly formed up in a line and filed out of the chamber back into the hole they entered. For a short time the crunch of their boots could be heard retreating down the passageway, but soon the only sound left was the quiet humming.

Portal Found

Continue on to part 2.

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