of Master Samuel Gees.

Rocks in the sand

It has been very good having Red Beard around these last few weeks. He comes and visits me often and we sit and talk for hours. Mostly we talk about the “old” days and our triumphs. I say it’s been good because it has gotten my mind working again – it’s helped me remember.

Last night we talked about an adventure we had together when we were both young – well I was young in any case – and were a little too confident in our own abilities. There were three of us in the party, Roger was with us as well to handle any traps or locks we might find.

We had traveled for several days out into the desert. I had been doing some research and believed that I had found the location of an outpost from the Garren Empire, some 3000 years ago. We weren’t sure that we would find it, or even if it still existed, and if we did find it there might be nothing of value left, but that is the life of a treasure seeker. We throw the dice and spend the time looking, and sometimes we hit it big.

We reached an outcropping of rock protruding from the miles of sand around it. The rock stretched 150 feet above the sand and was several acres in size. We started searching for an entrance into the underground complex we knew was there. We searched for half a day with no luck.

It was strange remembering the mixed feelings that we had. We were disappointed and beginning to doubt that there was any complex. We also began doubting our own skills at being able to find it, if it was there. On the other hand, we were feeling a rising sense of hope that if there was a complex, that no one else might have found it either.

That night we camped within the rocks. We talked about the day and what we might try the next day. We went to sleep early and were up before dawn. I remember all to clearly that morning. I was searching the rocks for any sign of cracks that might indicate a door, but was continually distracted by the ringing of Red Beard’s war hammer as he pounded on the rocks listening for the thud that would indicate a hollow space.

I stopped for lunch and brought out my books and papers – maybe I had missed something that would help. I spent most of the afternoon sitting in the shade of a large rock, listening to Red Beard’s hammering, trying to find some clue. That night we were less hopeful and our conversation was subdued.

Our second full day of searching started much the same as the first. Red Beard started his pounding – I remember thinking that if he didn’t find the entrance soon that he was going to make one of his own. I started my searching again, but was soon frustrated. I decided that I needed to start using my brain. What could I look for beside cracks?

I could look for a path, but the path would be 3000 years old. Even a path worn into the stone would have long disappeared. I figured the same would be even more true for trash. Perhaps if the original inhabitants had excavated large amounts of rock some of that might be left. With a new sense of purpose I started looking for the remains of the huge pile of rubble that may once have been here.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that there were no remains. Thinking about it I realized that there probably never was a pile of rubble – the sea of sand was too close not to just throw the ruble there and have it sink into oblivion.

I sat eating my lunch wondering what else I might try. Red Beard came and joined me – he was tired and frustrated, too. We sat and talked while trying to stay out of the sun. Red Beard wondered if the sand had been lower three thousand years ago and if the entrance we were looking for might be buried.

We went our separate ways and continued our search all afternoon. Tired and even more frustrated we cooked our dinner and ate in silence. Neither of us felt much like talking and neither of us knew what to do next.

After we were finished eating, I grabbed a torch and headed back into the rocky crags. I figured that maybe things would look different in torchlight – that maybe I might pick out a crack. I didn’t find any cracks per say, put after an hour of searching I did notice something strange.

The smoke from my torch was hanging above me like a cloud, caught in a down draft caused by the gentle breeze blowing overhead. While unusual, it wasn’t the cloud that was strange – it was what was happening to the cloud near the cliff above my head. The cloud was gently swirling towards the rock and then disappearing into the cliff.

I managed to climb up high enough to see that there were a series of small holes in the wall. I watched in fascination as the smoke from my torch swirled and disappeared. I placed a hand over one of the holes and could feel the air rushing past my fingers.

I ran back to camp and pulled Red Beard back to the spot. He smiled when I demonstrated my disappearing smoke trick. He proceeded to pound his hammer across every foot of the cliff face, but found nothing that sounded hollow.

After an hour we gave up and walked back to camp – a little more hopeful, but no less frustrated. I don’t think either of us slept well that night and we were both up at dawn to resume our searching. Red Beard performed a more detailed investigation of the holes. He told me that they were at least ten feet deep, maybe much deeper. When I asked if we could dig a tunnel and follow them he said, “Yes, if we had the right tools, which we don’t.”

We widened our search, but to no avail. About noon I remembered how I had first found the holes – smoke – and then it hit me. If the smoke was going in, it was probably coming out somewhere else. If we could see it go in we might be able to see it come out. I found Red Beard and Roger. Together we built a smoky fire. We waited until the smoke was being sucked in the holes then ran around the rocks looking for any sign of the smoke coming out.

We went back to camp that evening down hearted. I had been sure my plan was going to work. We didn’t know what else to try. We still had a couple of week’s worth of food and water left, but we were feeling like, “what’s the point.”

That evening and night were the hardest we had had. We didn’t talk and finally each of us went to sleep. The morning was different. I woke to the smell of game roasting on the fire. I pulled myself out of my bag and found Red Beard whistling by the fire slowly turning a rabbit on a spit.

“I realized that I was getting frustrated and that it was keeping me from thinking, so I did a little hunting,” Red Beard said as I approached. “It’ll be done in a few minutes. Coffee is ready now – pour yourself a cup.”

I did. The coffee smelled wonderful and tasted even better – and it felt so wonderfully warm as I drank it. The rabbit was even tastier. Roger came walking into camp rubbing his stomach. “That smells wonderful! I could smell it a hundred yards away.”

“Say that again,” I said.

“I could smell it a hundred yards away.”

“Roger, you’ve got it,” I said excitedly. “We couldn’t see the smoke coming out, but maybe we could smell something.”

We ate our breakfast and talked excitedly about what we might be able to use as our scent. Roger suggested some of our waste – both Red Beard and I thought that was a bad Idea. I suggested the rabbit, but we decided that it wasn’t strong enough.

Finally Red Beard admitted that he had a bottle of perfume in his pack. After a bit of teasing from Roger and me, which is surely why he didn’t say anything about it earlier, Red Beard went and got it. We each took a whiff of it and agreed that it was unique enough that we would be able to pick it up.

Red Beard put several drops in each of the holes and we ran down wind of the rocks. It took almost an hour before we started picking up the scent on the wind. It took another hour of walking around, losing the scent and then picking it up again, as we were walking up into the rocks.

Just as the sun was going down we found ourselves with our noses pressed against the rock breathing in that not all to familiar dwarven scent. We ended up finding a dozen places along a twenty-foot stretch of rock where faint breezes could be felt and the scent could be detected.

Having a definite location to search, it only took half the morning to find the mechanism that opened the stone door. As we all looked down into the darkness of the tunnel, Roger and I both made sure to comment that this was surely the prettiest smelling rune we had ever found.

Remembering this adventure with Red Beard reminded me of how easy it was to get focused on one plan of attack and to forget all the other possibilities. I tried to use my eyes and Red Beard tried to use his ears, but it was our noses that were up to the task.

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