There was a flash of light from the cave and they all turned to see Gallif emerge.
"Come on in," she said waving for them to join her. "There are five bodies in a chamber just inside," she warned them. "They've been there for quite a while."
Gallif went back in to the cave and joined Marassa who was examining what was left of one of the bodies. There wasn't much left of the skin, but the skeleton was still intact despite the fact that the leather armor had been torn up. A boot was still left on one foot and there was a broken blade near the hip.
"I'm not sure what happened," Marassa admitted. "It looks like most of what happened to the armor happened before death."
"Yes," Acrufix agreed. "There are cuts that would indicate combat wounds. A good fight," he added.
"Not good enough," Jakobus looked over their shoulders. "They lost," he pointed out to them.
"There are also signs of damage of a different type. Something that came after death," Marassa continued after a glance at Acrufix.
"Have you any idea what could have happened here?" Gallif asked Marassa.
"I think I do," Blinks said and they all turned to him. His eyes were blinking so fast it almost looked like they were completely closed. "It's more of those things," he said pointing outside the cave. "One of those, those, thoseā€¦" he said taking his hand making a crawling motion up Gallif's arm.
She quietly pulled away from him and said, "Spiders."
"Exactly what I was thinking," Blinks said. "The Necression."
"That's very good, Blinks," Jakobus said as he scratched his beard. "Smaller ones, newborns, feeding inside the dead body."
They stood and swallowed hard trying to hold back the horrible images Jakobus had given them. Marassa was the first to recover.
"I should tell you," she said to Jakobus. "There's one further back that I am sure is a dwarf. The size indicates a male."
Jakobus excused himself and went to look at the body. Gallif watched Acrufix as he stood silent and anonymous. Despite his reputation she was finding it more difficult to trust him. She was also bothered by that fact that he had shown no recognition of her. Why? Was their meeting in the forest that unimportant and forgettable? She couldn't help but dislike how, underground, being surrounded by yellow dirt discolored his shined armor in an unsettling way. She considered talking to Luvin about it and suddenly realized that he was not with them. He was still standing just outside of the cave and she went to him.
"You coming in?"
"In a minute," he said without looking at her.
"What's wrong with you?" she asked. She started to reach out to him but held her hand back a few inches away from him.
"It's more caves in there, isn't it?" Luvin said shifting uncomfortably.
"Just some caves," she said and finally put a hand on his shoulder. She instantly withdrew it and hoped it had been so fast he hadn't noticed.
"Like the last ones we were in," he said looking at the dark sky.
"No, not like them," she said brushing back her red hair. "We've got more people than when we went in to Starpoint Mountain, we don't have anyone plotting against us, and this time we have an easier exit," she said not knowing one of her excuses was wrong.
"I just don't want to go through some of that again," he said reluctantly wishing he didn't have to speak to her.
"The tremors? The dragon?" she asked so only he could hear.
"No," he said angrily and swung to look at her with blood shot eyes. "The fear of you dying."
She gasped at the sudden rush of emotion and took a step away from him. She knew the fear she had felt inside the mountain and had forced it and some of the darker memories out of her thoughts. She heard those whispers now and pushed them away again.
"Gallif," Jakobus called. "You'd better come here."
She ran to join the dwarf and, responding to the urgency in his voice, Luvin followed close behind.
Jakobus was standing near the body of the dwarf holding a three inch high figure of a dwarf carved out of glass. "I found this on the body. Do you recognize this?" he asked and held it out to Gallif.
She looked closely at it and then nodded. "It's just like the one your parents were holding way back when we met."
He turned the figure over and showed Gallif there was a small chip missing from the bottom the figure's left foot. He reached just inside his armor belt and pulled out another glass carving. He held them together and it was easy to see why he was so worried.
"They're alike," she said slowly. "How can that be?"
"In fact they are the same thing," he stressed. "It's an exact match just like everything else on the dwarf. The remains over there," he pointed. "They're human remains about the size of a young boy, fifteen or sixteen years old," he said glancing at human. "Two adult human remains," he said with a quick gesture to Marassa and Blinks. "This one over here," he said walking to the last one. "Could this be a human female in her late teens?" To prove his point he reached down under the torn leather skirt and pulled a twelve inch knife from its sheath. Gallif gasped as her hand shot to where she kept her own knife. "These aren't just remains. They're us."