Chapter Four Part 2: Boom! Boom! Shake the room!
It was eerily silent down in the worm tunnels. And while, at first, they had been able to walk on the gooey dirt, the roof of the tunnel abruptly lowered in height, forcing them to crawl on all fours to fit.
Clandestine crawled on with a focused gaze, keeping her eyes open for anything in the light of the lamp she was holding in front of them, and her ears for anything else. The further in they went, the more the stench intensified, and she began to recognize its source. It smelled like... cow. And not just any cow. Probably a dirty, stinky, injured one. Or at least, that was what she would assume from a scared bovine creature being dragged through a dirt tunnel underground.
She glanced back at Matt to see how he was keeping up. He seemed to be doing fine, but her gaze kept falling on his injured arm, and then she realized: they were crawling. That wasn't the best for a wounded limb. Though, it was too late to turn back now. Not when they were already in so deep. She turned back to look ahead of her, awkwardly scooting the lantern along the goopy floor with her hands.
"Wow, they really did take cows down here didn't they?" she said with a short laugh. "There's plenty of room! ... sort of!"
"Low ceilings," was all she got out of Matt.
Clandestine snorted. "And smells like cow."
She smiled, pausing for a second to wipe away the beading sweat on her forehead. Even though it was slowly getting cooler the deeper they went, the air was getting more stuffy, and they'd been crawling for a while.
"I guess now's a bad time to tell ya I have a fear of being buried alive, huh?" she quipped.
"Since yer the one who jumped down in here so eagerly, I feel like that's counterintuitive to mention," he replied with what Clandestine was pretty sure was intended to be sarcasm. That, and she didn't know what counterintuitive meant.
In the moment that she was trying to come up with a witty reply, they began to feel a rumbling beneath them, as if something were moving very quickly through the dirt that made up their walls. Clandestine's sweat output immediately increased by 2%. She gripped the handle of the lamp and stopped, holding it out. The tremors stopped suddenly, and for a second, she thought the worm was gone.
She heard a hesitant question from behind her. "...Worms?"
"Yes. Woo-OOo-orMs," Clandestine's voice shook as the ground did before them. The trembling turned into a great rumble, and as Clandestine backed up into Matt ever so slightly, she held out the lamp with an increasing sense of resolution. It was then that the a giant worm burst its head into the tunnel, just ahead of them.
She'd never seen a sand worm that close before.
It greatly resembled a regular worm, apart from its size, and its face - if you could even call it that. Up where she had to assume its head was, was a mouth that split into four tooth strips, almost like the budding petals of a flower, except sharp, and there was something of an esophagus in the middle, presumably for the worm to swallow whatever it chose to nom. She knew they ate small underground creatures, like moles and rats, and critters that burrowed underground, but facing its gaping maw in the face made it feel very much like it wouldn't mind the taste of humans either.
But she drew her brows together, and she inched forward towards it with the lamp extended in her hand.
"Shoo, you big slimy!" she yelled, shoving the light in its face and waving it up and down.
The worm drew its head back, closing its mouth as it looked away and tilted its head in the opposite direction. For a brief moment, Clandestine was pleased, but that moment quickly ended when the worm withdrew quickly and tunneled into the ground right beneath them. She scrambled at the dirt beneath her as it gave way, trying to grasp for a solid hold, but she couldn't find anything in time.
They were falling.
Fortunately, for them, since the worm was only a little bigger than them, Clandestine and Matt were able to slow the fall by skidding down the sides if they stretched themselves out a little bit. But the fresh slime covering the walls of the newly burrowed tunnel that went straight down made their descent inevitable.
And it wasn't a very long slide until the worm below them seemed to disappear and they hit another thin layer of dirt that gave way beneath them. This time, they fell nine or ten feet, with Clandestine narrowly missing Matt on the way down. They landed right beside one another with a mutual "oof," and groaned as they slowly got up.
Clandestine blocked her face as some remaining dirt trickled down and rolled over, getting to her feet with a pained stretch. That fall really did nothing for her back.
Matt was a little slower to hop up, but he got to his feet as well, and the two looked around to find that they were in another larger underground tunnel, this one even a little bigger than the one they entered in. Along the walls were wooden posts that seemed to be fortifying the structure, and the ground beneath them was more flat, as if made to be a path. At different levels in the walls there were also several smaller of-shoots of tunnels, though she couldn't very well deduce what for or where they went.
And the only reason they'd been able to see any of it at all was because the tunnel's walls were lines with torches. Clandestine's lamp had gone out, and she couldn't find it anywhere. It appeared to be lost to the tunnels. She let out a quiet huff of frustration. In all her books and experience, sand worms had always been shy around fire. Normally they'd freeze up. But that worm straight up freaked out!
Clandestine was about to say something when she heard the echoes of distant chatter that made her hush. There was a rushing of footsteps, and what sounded like panicked shouting approaching, and with one look at Matt, they both knew. They were goblins, and they were coming.
After a few panicked looks around, Clandestine pointed at the little tunnels in the side of the wall. She climbed up to a higher one and let Matt take the lower, shimmying herself snugly inside until she was out of the range of light. She could only hope and assume that Matt had done the same when she saw a small group of goblins come into her narrow view.
Of the three of them they all varied greatly in size - with one looking about the height of an average human, one being absurdly tall, and one hopping around on all fours, about the size of an average dog. But they all were distinctly green, with eyes that shone a vibrant yellow.
They were each talking loudly and coarsely, in a vowel heavy language combined with grunts and tongue clicks that she couldn't understand. But if she understood anything from what glimpses she got of their body language as they walked in and out of view, it looked like they were arguing and talking about the minor cave-in that she'd caused.
The argument didn't seem to last long as the little one yelled something and scurried ahead as if leading the way. The two larger ones followed.
As the sound of the footsteps began to fade, she cautiously inched forward to peek out her head and check the area.
"It's clear," she whispered, before pulling herself forward and kind of just... falling out of her hole. There wasn't really any other way with the way she went in feet first. With a bounce she hopped back up and dusted herself off, looking down to see Matt crawling out of his hole with his cowboy hat magically still intact.
Woah. How did he do that? He didn't lose it in the fall...
She marvelled at him for a good few seconds before she realized she was staring, and he was looking back at her expectantly. She shook her head and began to walk in the direction that the goblins had gone. She looked back at Matt, gesturing with a pointing of her fingers that they should follow.
From the look on Matt's face, he clearly objected to the idea, but Clandestine just rolled her eyes insistently in that direction and smiled, leading the way. She looked back at Matt again to catch his begrudging glance as he followed, and she smirked as she looked away.
It was this or wait for the goblins to come by again, and she didn't want to risk her odds. There was no good way to surprise the goblins and be able to actually quickly take advantage of that surprise if they had to shimmy out of those tunnels as their hiding places just to reach them. Their best bet was to keep going forward, and hopefully sneak up on the goblins's main camp - because what else would this giant tunnel lead to anyway?