The skittering sound came again, it echoed across the hall. Harald twisted his head back and forth trying to track it down, but with no success. Something was moving in the dark that filled the corners of the room. He left the pit behind and with his torch chased away the blackness and searched for whatever made the noise.
* * *
"Head feel better," said Little Rat.
"Good, good," Harold mumbled absentmindedly. The halfling had crept ahead till he reached the shaft carved into the floor of the ravine. "Shhh!" he signaled to the orc to keep quiet, then put his ear to the hole and listened. Nothing, he could not hear a sound. He felt like calling out the ranger's name and cursing him, but he held his breath.
"We go..." Little Rat whispered and pointed down the shaft.
"We go back," said Harold and gestured toward the woods and the path the gibberlings had clawed through the underbrush.
"I stay?" offered Little Rat. "Cool here, nice and cool."
"You go too," Harold told him. "Come on, we have to go tell the others."
Little Rat grumbled, he dragged a dagger's edge across the stones with a screech and spark.
"Keep quiet!" the halfling commanded. "I wish you'd put those knives away, they make me nervous. No way ta treat them either."
* * *
Ghibelline could no longer hear the others, not even the orcs as they tramped and grumbled along the march. The woods were still, the gibberlings had chased off all that could escape them and eaten all that could not. The elf made no sound, he did not move, he barely seemed to breath, just crouched and waited for whatever thatw was tracking them to appear.
* * *
"Ivo, Gytha!" Harold ran up to them.
"Harold what is it?" asked Gytha concerned at the sudden appearance of the halfling.
"What's wrong?" Ivo asked expecting to hear bad news.
"Telenstil!" Harold called over to the elf. "The trail ends, there is a ravine and a hole down into the oerth, but no ranger."
"Harold," Telenstil came over to them quickly but did not run, behind him Talberth and the orcs stumbled trying to pick up their pace and follow the elf.
"The ranger has disappeared," said Harold.
"Was there any sign of trouble... a fight?"
"No, and there is a hole, something dug into the bottom of a crevice at the end of the trail," the halfling told him breathlessly.
"You had better lead us there, he may need our help," said Telenstil.
"He told me to tell you to go north," replied Harold. "He told me, if something got him, go north, don't follow."
"We will take care but I have no intention of abandoning our ranger," Telenstil looked from face to face.
"Hey!" Harold exclaimed. "I'm all for going after him. I'm just telling you what he told me to say."
"Gytha, Talberth, Ivo," asked Telenstil, "what of you?"
"You need to ask!" Gytha would have laughed if she had not been concerned about the ranger.
"I think we are all agreed," said Ivo.
"Talberth?" asked Telenstil
"Yes, yes, fine," Talberth grimaced looking around the shredded brush and mangled trees. "I don't fancy being out in the woods without him. Where is that Wood Elf?"
"Ghibelline!" Gytha realized that he was nowhere to be seen.