Kufi, with his second, Absiday, watched as the trio of adventurer’s entered the cave.
“They have found the entrance we should go now,” Absiday said impatiently. She was a good warrior and a loyal follower but she had a lot to learn.
“No.” Kufi said not feeling the need to explain himself.
The dark skinned human scowled at the Hili who perched in a tree, “But we know where it is now, the pirates chasing them are close, if we went now-“
Kufi interrupted her, “we would have to deal with whatever traps are inside. I am not worried about the privateers, they are loud and wear blinders to their surroundings. They will be easy prey. Besides our agent has not given the signal.”
“You underestimate the mariner’s and you overestimate your agent.” Absiday regretted it as soon as it left her lips, she knew she had pushed too far and was now at the mercy of the Infamous Hili.
“Do…I?” Kufi’s words were slow and dripping with rage and intent.
Kufi was universally feared within Abdula’s military as the poison needle… you never saw him coming and he never failed to kill you.
“I am sorry, master, I overstepped.” Absiday sputtered.
“Indeed. return to the others, we go in after the pirates.” He said, turning back to watch as the three adventurer’s disappeared into the cavern.
Tactically it would have been better for Asyi the obvious fighter to go first into the cavern but there was no stopping the treasure hunter Savë who was the first down the hole, Titus followed, eagerly putting himself in the best spot for survival as Asyi brought up the rear.
They crawled for about 20 or 30 feet before it began to open up. After a few hundred feet total the cave turned into an small amphitheater there then appeared to be two routes. The first was towards the south of the cave and seemed to head up. The second one the the north side of the naturally made room took a stiff inclined descent.
“I think we should go down,” Savë commented, “Treasure is always down.”
“In my experience so are monsters,” Asyi, uncomfortable in the enclosed space, made an astute observation.
Sweating and now completely covered in grime, Titus mulled it over without much enthusiasm. “On the other hand, who knows what all is in here? Who buried Cogostramus? Would he have left his hoard unguarded? It seems a little sketchy that this Cogerdamus would have just put it in a cave and hoped for the best.”
He wasn’t butchering the name intentionally, it was just a fact with very low importance to him. Much like marriage status. “Maybe we should poke upwards first, if you think it’s down, so will the pirates. If the hoard is downward, we can trap them as they try to escape with the loot. If the hoard is upward, then we can sneak out before they find out.”
Savë nodded, “Fair enough, you guys wait here I’ll head up.”
Asyi grabbed her shoulder, “Hold on, we should stay together.”
Savë looked confused, “I can move faster and just scope it out, I’m also the most knowledgeable about traps. “
“I would prefer no one to run off ahead.” Asyi was a little more serious now and Titus watched her face.
Savë looked back with a smile, “Since when are you afraid of the dark? I’ll be right back.”
Save was blinded by the closeness of her life’s goal to see it, but Titus however, was not. Titus might not have been the best fighter, the greatest tracker or outdoors men but he was amazing at reading people. Asyi’s entire personality shifted for a moment. He stepped to square up with Save. She was preparing for a fight. In that moment Titus’s trust in the Imbube fell away and he truly questioned everything.
Looking curiously at Asyi, Titus agreed. “I don’t think we want to get separated here, especially with the pirates on their way.”
Titus said this as he attempted to ease his pistol free of his belt while stepping away from Asyi trying to angle himself to her blind side. He was not as slick as he had hoped. Asyi’s eye caught Titus drawing his pistol and side stepping. A cutting grin appeared on her face,”Curse my luck, I let my personality slip there didn’t I?”
Her free hand went to her mace as Savë felt the shift in tension but didn’t understand why, “Asyi, Titus, what’s going on?”
Asyi ignored her, “I knew you were danger pretty boy, that’s why I flirted back so hard, I assumed if I blinded you with sex your powers of deduction would fail you.”
Savë grimaces, “You two had sex?! When? It has been like a hundred degrees?!”
“It almost worked, but I let my anticipation get the better of me.” She continued to ignore Savë but her grip tightened on her arm.
“Asyi you are hurting me…” A confused Savë whined.
Titus was currently fifteen feet from her. He grinned. “Don’t get me wrong, it was very thoroughly distracting.”
The pistol came up and he looked hard at Asyi. “I’d regret damaging such a lovely form as yours, especially now that I know what you’re capable of. But regret is what happens after, not before. Right now, we can either sort this out or we’ll go on without you.”
“You are not going anywhere without me.” Asyi countered.
“I have seen your skills, while you are very…Good… At other things, combat is not one of them. I will get to you long before you put me down with that.” She countered.
Savë finally caught up, she now understood there was a betrayal in the works, “Asyi… How could you I thought we-“
Asyi’s laugh cut her off, “friends? Sister’s even? You were a mission for the God who walks, Abdula Kawa. Nothing more.”
As the powerful women spoke, her eyes never left Titus or his pistol.
Savë shook her head, “we’ve been partners for over three years?”
“I am nothing if not patient.” She replied, “The gold in this cave will fund our glorious war to retake what is ours from the affiliation and finally squash the rebellion. To it, you are going to take me.”
Titus shrugged. “I think I already did that last night, right? Or could you say we took each other?”
His grin was a little hard around the edges. “Tell you what, love. Why don’t we all head upstairs together. We’ll see how much gold there is to fund your holy war. There might not be anything, we might have to go down instead. Either way, those pirates are not long behind us, and I’d rather get out of their way.”
Titus’ eyes had locked onto Asyi’s. You could tell a lot from a person’s eyes, especially after you’ve seen the depths of their passions.
Asyi’s hand was gripping Savë’s arm over her concealed dagger perfectly. She seemed to consider the situation . While Titus was unsure she wasn’t able to take them both, there would be a fight, a fight that might cost her a valuable key in Savë. He could tell It was not a risk she was willing to take. “Alright… We move but we go down, directly to the treasure, and I will hold on to our guide here.”
Titus nodded. Just keep her moving, and maybe at least some of them might make it out alive. “Lead on, love. If you know where we’re going, that makes one of us.”
As they walked, a few gears started engaging in Titus’ mind. He didn’t bother trying to stop again, no point in that. So he let her lead on for a bit.
“Obviously you’ve been planning this for a while, Asyi, but you had to have a backup plan. No need to get into specifics right now, but deep covert is pricey. So, my question is, what kind of cut does the God who Walks think is appropriate for Dufree and her crew?” He asked casually, voice deceptively calm.
She chuckled as they all moved down the cave, she maintained her stance behind Savë and walked them both a few feet away from Titus so she could watch the whole cave. “Dufrees works with me? You have the privateer all wrong.”
“You didn’t come alone though.” Savë hissed.
She grinned, “No, I did not. The poison needle is out there waiting for his time, I have no fear of the one eyed pirate.”
Titus looked at Savë, confused. “Is that supposed to mean something? Oh, oh, oh, it’s like a riddle! The poison needle is out there, that’s like the lead shot is in here,” he gestured with his pistol. “Or the devil is in her,” he grinned at Asyi. It wasn’t the first time a partner had gone a different way than he. It was the first time it had come to violence, come to think of it. “The eagle flies at midnight? The oil is nearly spent? Come on, love, give us a clue.”
She shook her head visibly upset with Titus, “Of course, why would I think you would know who he is? After all, if it is not a woman or how to sleep with a woman it has no place in your simple head.”
“Hold up.” Savë suddenly stopped.
“No stalling.” Asyi said, nudging her forward.
“I’m not stalling, there is a trap up ahead, you will have to let me go in order to disarm it. “Asyi did not like that at all.
“Where? I don’t see anything.” Asyi said not wanting to get tricked or to give up her only bargaining position.
Savë pointed a few feet ahead of them, “It’s there, in the dark it’s a tripwire, there may be more and I cannot disarm it with you holding my arm.”
Titus shook his head. The woman had no sense of timing. “Savë, now’s not the time for games. There will be traps ahead, but there’s no need right now.” His voice held a note of warning, hopefully she’d catch his meaning.
There were at least two groups of unfriendlies who were coming after them now, and they didn’t need to jump the gun.
Savë gave a glare back at Titus that may have killed a lesser man, “Really?”
Asyi realized the trap was a lie and pushed her down the tunnel, “You should lie less Savë, because when you try to tell me there is a real trap I might not believe you, and you are the person leading us.”
“Leading us? Is that what this is? leading?” Savë fired back as she moved on.
the tunnel leveled off and then opened up. Give or take the terrible things that had happened on the trip, It was all somehow worth it for the moment of beauty Titus witnessed in that instant.
Of course it would be short lived.
The Last Tea Shop. A solo TTRPG playthrough. Written by Ash Alder and narrated by Zachariah Van Sluyters