The figure that had escaped their notice waited in the shadows, leaning up against the cavern wall.
The figure’s shape and form were different from…from what she’d just seen, but Blue didn’t lower High Noon nor Midnight an inch. Whoever this newcomer was, Blue had no reason to trust them, not yet. Similarly, Trace stood at the ready beside her, raised hands and eyes glowing with the effect of her power.
“Whoa now…” said the stranger with an easy, calm demeanor that both women distrusted immediately. “Peace…there’s no need for any of that. I mean you no harm, though I’m betting that just stating the sentiment isn’t enough to put you at ease.”
“That’s a very astute observation,” Trace said, the corona effect pulsing brighter as she did so.
“Yeah, no flies on the creeper in the shadows,” Blue growled. “C’mon out and let’s us have a look at you, fella.”
There was a hesitation that stretched out just long enough for Blue to repeat her instructions, but the figure took a breath and walked out into the light.
In the shadows, Blue had thought it was a dwarf, though the accent and timbre of the voice was much higher. But it was a gnome who stood before them…a gnome approaching his middle years with just a speckle of gray at his temples. He was of average height for his folk but a bit rounder than most, bedecked in a long overcoat and a large backpack, weighed down with all sort of brass and metal paraphernalia.
“Name’s Tinkerwell,” the gnome said, with a little lopsided grin as he doffed his cap. “Ephronen Tinkerwell of the Farsight Exploratory Guild. A pleasure, ladies.”
“What in the hell’s an engineer doin’ in this place?” Blue said. “I guessin’ you are one, considerin’ the scrap yard you’re wearin’. And th’ fancy pants guild, though I don’t reckon I’ve heard of y’all.”
“I have,” Trace said, not bothering to hide her irritation at the gnome’s credentials, though she did stand down her power. “You’re a long way from Saint Aven, Master Tinkerwell.”
“Just Tinkerwell will do, please,” the gnome replied with a genteel grin. “Or Ephronen. Was never one to put on airs or care for fancy honorifics, no ma’am. As for my presence here… well, that should be fairly obvious, no?”
“Humor us,” Blue and Trace said in unison. They spared a sideways glance at each other but otherwise kept their eyes on Tinkerwell.
The engineer cleared his throat and continued. “Well, our guild’s mandate is to explore, to investigate, to chronicle our findings. For science.”
This last declaration was delivered with such gusto, that both gunslinger and mage were impressed, and the former finally holstered up.
Tinkerwell continued. “And from what we’ve heard about this place, it seemed high time we should do just that.”