My head swirled as I tried to sit up. I couldn't make it at the first attempt and I collapsed back on the warm sand, a move which amplified the dull ache in my head. It wasn't hitting the ground at the bottom which had made my head hurt - such a drop unaided by magical restraints would kill any living being not equipped with wings. I must have caught my noggin on something on the way down.
I was in the depths of the caverns, the lowest of the Lower Realms, in the region known as the Hells. I could tell this immediately, of course, even with my eyes closed, from the the air pressure, the smell and humidity, and the stifling heat. I remembered that this was a region where keeping your wits about you would be a really good idea. I sat up, more successfully this time, and looked around groggily.
Not all of the caverns were actually excavated by Goblins, although we have been digging away down here for a great many millennia. My distant ancestors found, something to their surprise, that other creatures - wiser and stranger creatures - had long since elected to leave the surface world to the upstart and energetic races, and make their homes in the quiet depths. The system of caverns is interconnected, of course, but these older regions are sparsely populated and distinctly low-rent; not that they were particularly dangerous - most of the time, anyway - but many Goblins found the neighbourhood too hot, too oppressive, or just too damn weird.
Gumshoe and Rosie were both lying on the ground next to each other, not ten feet from me. I recovered my hat and crawled over to them. They seemed shaken but otherwise uninjured.
"Where are we?" Gumshoe asked, gently helping Rosie to her feet then loosening his tie. He found it hot, too.
"We're in the Hells," I replied, too bluntly.
"In Hell?" Rosie gasped, looking around wildly, "You mean, literally?"
"It's not quite as bad as that," I quipped, trying to sound reassuring, "It's just a name for the deeper regions."
Rosie didn't seem entirely convinced. She looked around at the cave we were in. Goblin tunnels are finished perfectly, the surfaces almost polished smooth and finished with cut stone blocks. Here, the rock walls were all rough-hewn almost as if carved by the claws of a giant creature. I hoped that wasn't actually true, although you do hear some strange stories.
"How do we get out?" she asked.
This cave was a dead-end, except for the chimney above us. The chamber narrowed to a funnel fifty feet over our heads. There was no way to climb, even with Goblin claws. Just the one low wide archway that led out of the nearly circular room. We had no choice of direction.
"I'm not sure we do," I said, "At least, not yet. Somebody - or something - has brought us down here deliberately. And I don't think it's got anything to do with Garrick and his goons. They seemed as surprised as I was when we fell into that trap. Meanwhile, that way, I suppose."
I pointed along the wide track and kicked at the sandy surface with the toe of my shoe. The way was lit by a reddish light that seemed to flicker at random. It was unnervingly like firelight, enough to disturb the ancient prejudices of the Goblin race, not to mention being worryingly close to human preconceptions about the fires of hell.
"We'd better go and find out," I said, "Somebody's got some explaining to do."
Gumshoe shrugged and raised an eyebrow in what was intended to be a meaningful way. I sometimes have difficulty with human facial expressions, but it looked like he was turning over a vast number of questions and possibilities in his head. He asked nothing, though; like me, he realised we still had no real idea of exactly what was going on.