"I promise you I wouldn't even think of eating you." He repeated my jest back to me.
Of my people, I may not be the most knowledgeable person when it comes to Gorfs, but I'm not slouch. I've seen a Gore's smile when finds a tasty morsel. With their big noses, Gore's are natural truffle finders. In fact, if you look at it sideways it was an old,dim sighted Gorf that taught me how to find truffles. Oh, not on purpose or directly mind you, but from spying on it, and noting the kinds of places it was finding them, I learned what kinds of places they might be found.
All that was to say, I've seen a Gore smile, and this one was definitely smiling. One has to ask oneself at a time like this, can I trust a smiling Gorf?
I was more than a little out of my element. I'm a pretty confident kid and I do fine with people I know, or rarely, people my brother or parents know if they are around as a buffer until I'm comfortable. This was none of that. This was interacting with a creature that up to a few minutes ago I would have sworn was little more than a dangerous animal.
I did the only thing I could do, I looked to my father for a sign of what to do, but he seemed to be struck dumb. I had never seen my father at a loss for words, he always knew the just-right thing to say. Uncle Zon saved us from the uncomfortable silence.
"Very well, we do apologize for frightening you, friend." Zon held his hand out to help the old Gorf up off the floor. "Up you go."
I was impressed. Uncle Zon touched a Gorf. Sure, it was a small one, barely bigger than my father, and it was old... I think... or so it appeared to be. The old Gorf brushed himself off and started looking around.
"Oh, your cane!" I cried, nearly frightening him into falling over again with my sudden outburst. I suppose I can be a little exhuberrant for some people. I quickly located the item, it was more of a walking stick than a cane, and placed it into the old Gorf's hands.
"Thank you young lady. And might I ask, what brings you fine folk to the upper halls?"
"The Gorfs over-ran our village!" It was out of my mouth before I thought about it. The old Gorf winced as if my words struck him, and I wished I could take them back.
"You must mean the savages on the surface." he said, "Sometimes even I find it hard to believe I am related to those creatures, and I am married to one. Come, you would be looking for the Water Gate if you want to evade savages in your village. It has been a long time since I was last there, but I believe I know the way."
With that, the old Gorf turned and started back up the tunnel the way he came from, which was also the way we were heading.
"Do we follow?" My father asked Uncle Zon.
"There's little else we could do." Uncle Zon replied. "Just keep an eye out for bears."
Father looked around himself half in a panic, then visibly calmed himself. "Zon, there are no bears anywhere near the village, there shouldn't be any down here in the caves."
"Exactly." Uncle Zon replied, as he calmly moved to follow the old Gorf.
Eventually, as it always does, my curiosity got the best of me. "You said you were married to one of the... surface Gorf? Are you really?"
"Yes child. Living in the upper halls as I do, there wasn't a whole lot of choice for a mate. Women of my kind rarely leave the lower halls. Why would they? Anything they might want in life is there."
"If the Lower Halls are so great, why don't you live there too?"
"I did at one time, but let's just say I don't get along well with others of my kind, so I moved to the upper halls to get away." The old Gorf explained. "I do miss the lower halls, but I can never go back now."
"Never? Then you an outcast?" I asked.
"No child, if I am an outcast, it was I whom cast myself out." He explained, "I found my mate wandering through these upper halls. Her tribe had been over-run by another, as she escaped, she fell down one of the airshafts and found herself down here. She seemed so beautiful and exotic to the young Gorf I was, and rescuing one of the fallen seemed so romantic." The old Gorf sighed.
I would have never thought that falling down an airshaft was such a romantic thing, but it made sense that being so different, Gorfs would have a different view of things.
"The fallen, I was never quite able to understand how that worked." Uncle Zon interjected.
The old Gorf replied "The entire race of Gorf once lived deeper than the deepest mine. We toiled at the bottom of the world, searching out the rarest and most beautiful gems and ores to make tribute to our deity, Gorphom. We grew fat and happy off of the gifts that were provided by Gorphom. As time went on, the clerics of Gorphom became greedy and corrupt, and demanded more and more tribute. When it was exposed that the clerics were leading opulent lives, while the poor toiled in the dirt, many Gorfs turned away from Gorphom. Then came the breaking of the world."