He stopped. A series of crates lay scattered across his path, their cargo of fine china dishes strewn in a swath before him. No way to pass though, too loud. He needed to go around. He crawled until he found an enormous rug that had fallen over the broken china like a bridge. Good enough. He slithered across then waited for Obrin to do the same.
Kal tried to orient himself but it was no good. The acrid smoke was thickening. A stray blast of alch lightning must have ignited some of the smuggled goods, and he couldn’t see more than a few feet through the oily, black haze. What little he could see gave no clue as to his position, just a chaotic mess of broken boxes, overturned furniture and dead men. Worst of all, he wasn’t sure where the exit was.
He considered severing Pyrel and attuning Syrithis, but blanched at the thought of dropping his only real defense. Maybe it wasn’t necessary. He looked overhead. The smoke was flowing slowly but steadily to his left. The second exit wasn’t a natural tunnel. It had been dug by the maintenance guild in years gone by for use as a ventilation shaft. That was probably what was drawing the smoke. There wouldn’t be anywhere to hide in the shaft, but it would be level and well lit. If they could reach it, maybe he and Obrin could make a dash for safety. He didn’t have any better plans. It would have to do.
All around, the cavern echoed with the whimpering of the wounded and dying. The smell of blood was everywhere. Heavy padded footsteps echoed through the cave, sounding like they were coming from all directions. The footsteps stopped. There was a momentary silence, then a short scream, tearing, growling and the stalking footsteps resumed. Kal could hear his heart pounding in his ears like thunder. Could the beast hear it too? He had a sudden and powerful urge to curl into a ball and cry. No, he shook his head. Panic, and neither you nor Obrin will make it out of this cave alive.
Kal maintained his slow, quiet pace. He heard another dreadful silence. He stopped, hunching his shoulders, hand on sword. Then the scream. He felt a wave of relief, then a pang of guilty sympathy for the dead man. No time for that now. He looked back. Obrin was biting his lip so hard it was bleeding, but he was still following. The smoke overhead was thinning out. The exit had to be close. He increased his pace. Kal couldn’t hear the padded footsteps anymore. Where was the Githrox? He fought down the urge to scream. A few more feet and a slim wooden doorway loomed out of the smoke. The exit!
The narrow doorway was filled with an ancient wood and brick frame, the door itself apparently long decayed away. He could see a string of new looking lamps, undoubtedly hung by the smugglers, leading down the shaft and towards the surface. Almost there. He turned back to check on Obrin and saw a dark, hulking shape in the haze behind them. Its unblinking gaze met his own. The Githrox had been watching the exit, waiting for them.