Solus stepped out of the trees where she had been watching the exchange. "Ria is right. She would have killed you long ago if she'd wanted to."
Ria smiled, but Solus could see her eyes flick uncertainly toward her. She was someone to watch.
"Thanks for the vote of confidence," Ria answered, the sudden worry in her eyes gone. "I can tell we're going to be good friends." She unslung the small leather satchel on her arm and pulled out a long length of rope. "Unfortunately, I ask all my friends to donate rope to the communal getting-into-the-deep-dangerous-pit pool. Are you interested?"
Solus rolled her eyes but tossed down her coil as did Ash. Ria went to work and after maybe ten minutes of tying and tugging had a knotted length of rope that - when she tossed one end over the edge - fell to the bottom of the cavern.
From the corner of her eye Solus could see Warren rubbing his hands together, plainly eager to get moving.
"Warren can go first," she offered. "He has the best underground instincts."
Salorien nodded. "I didn't get much farther than this the first time I came here - bad timing. A goblin raiding party was heading back to the citadel and ran into me. I managed to - subdue them - and escape, but it was close.
Skeptically, Anastri raised an eyebrow. "How exactly did you subdue them?"
"It doesn't matter," Salorien muttered, but Solus saw his hand stray to his viol.
Warren grinned. "Did it have anything to do with your rendition of a song?"
There was a long silence. Then: "maybe".
Warren burst out laughing. "The talent of driving people away with your music is powerful indeed," he cackled. "Glad to have you with us." Not bothering to wait for a response, he jumped onto the rope and began dropping himself down, using the many knots as handholds and footholds.
He quickly moved out of sight, and Solus cursed her lack of dark-vision. Something to see to if they were going to be spending some time down here. All she could focus on was the rope, bobbing and swaying.
Barely three minutes had passed before the rope went still. Warren called up "all clear!" and gave the rope a tug for good measure.
Solus looked at the others. "Who wants to be next? Warren didn't die, so I suppose its safe enough."
Medrash grunted. "I'll go. If it holds me we know it'll hold any of us." He grabbed the rope and eased himself over the edge of the hole, cursing as he struggled to fit his clawed feet onto the knots. He made it down in five minutes without a problem, followed by Anastri who hung onto the rope as tightly as possible, her knuckles white. Solus and Salorien looked at each other, and Solus mockingly gestured toward the rope.
"Salorien, would you do the honors?" Salorien took it in stride, strutting over to the rope.
"Of course, my dear." He seemed more light and dramatic than usual, walking with a different pace, and Solus wondered with a start whether he was now a she. Something to figure out once they were both down on the cave floor.
Finally, only Ria and Solus were left. Neither of them made a move to go down the rope. Solus was sure Ria knew something was up, and she suspected that she knew what.
"Ria. Where are you from?"
"Is that important?"
Ria made a show of packing her satchel, snapping it closed and slinging it across her back. "You wouldn't have heard of it. A little village several weeks away from here. The jungle."
Solus offered the rope to Ria, who took it without comment. "Interesting that you should have traveled all the way over here. From what I know, jungle villages tend to stick to themselves."
"Yeah well," Ria grunted, stepping down onto the rope. "Maybe I wanted to see the sights." She disappeared, dropping hand over hand into the pit. Solus watched with narrow eyes.
"No," she muttered. "I don't think that's it." After a minute or two, she followed her group into the darkness.