Part 141: Tales of the Lost Kingdom - Rescuing the Princess - Part 7
Tales of the Lost Kingdom - Rescuing the Princess - Part 7
Sajet ran through the dunes. She loved the feeling of hot sand under her feet and looking at the stars in the sky above her. The Old Temple towered before her. Orju, her adoptive father, was the last priest of these almost forgotten four gods. Her tribe was the last one which followed this cult. Orju had always hoped that Sajet would become the next priestess. He had always said that the gods had determined it for her, and also the circumstances how they had found her in the desert. But - Sajet never felt a special closeness to the gods. And - being honest, she had to admit that she had never searched for it. Everything that was supernatural produced fear in her. No matter if it was Ghosts, Wraiths, Demons or even Gods.
At the entrance of the sanctum she hesitated. The force oozing out from the old walls was frightening. She had seen many sacred places before, and every time she had sensed a powerful radiation. But nowhere had it been as powerful as here, this small, unapparent temple. Sajet pulled herself together and stepped into the sanctum.
The room was not very big. It was dominated by life-like statues of the four gods. In the middle stood a simple table for things offered to the Gods. It was carefully crafted out of stone. Sajet looked at the four gods. At the left side there was sitting Sa, the Goddess with a catlike head and a sword in her hand. Sa meant "Earth" in her language. She was Sajet's protective Goddess, and from her she had recieved her name. Sajet, meaning "Daughter of the Earth". Sa was responsible for everything that had to do with the humans. Next to Sa stood Ju, meaning "Water". Ju had a fishlike head and held a disc in his hand, in which an uncountable number of animals and plants was carved. Water meant Life and Ju was the Creator and Preserver of all that lived. Everything that lived came from the water, that was the belief in her tribe, and so no animal that lived in the water was allowed to get harmed. Next to Ju stood Ma the Cobra. Ma meant in her language "Secret" and for everything that was mysterious and paranormal, supernatural stood this Goddess. Ma brought Death and Wisdom to the humans. And next to Ma stood To, the Sky. This falcon-headed, winged God represented Truth and Eternity. Speaking all the names one after the other, they composed the word "Sajumato", what meant "World". As usual, Sajet had to smile while thinking about it.
As Sajet was about to turn and leave the room, the walls became blurred and she found herself standing in a clearing, next to a small pond with fish in it.
"Do you really believe you can change your destiny?" The voice asking this question was as smooth as the wind, that murmured through the trees.
"Your destiny is unchangeable, Sajet", a second voice hissed right beside her.
"Why can't you trust us and your abilities, young child?" a third voice asked from the left.
"Come to me, Sajet", said a fourth voice coming directly from the pond before her. Come and see the mission we have for you.
Hesitating, she stepped to the pond and looked inside. The water became black and suddenly she stood in a dead, rotten landscape. Dead animals and men were lying everywhere. The trees were only dry skeletons and the earth was black, stinking mud beneath her. A suppressed cry came out of her mouth, as she observed the devastation around her. Suddenly she froze in her movement. A horde of demons appeared before her. They were led by such an awful being, that human words were not able to describe it. Like a deadly, ice-cold hand, the fear grasped for her, and she believed she would lose consciousness at any moment.
Then, the landscape changed again and she was standing at the pond. A sand-coloured cat sat next to her, and a white cobra crawled at her feet.
"What you have seen, young child, could be the future of this world, if no-one hinders this creature", the cat said to her. "This is your real enemy, and not the Dragon. He will only guide you to the right direction. Hold your eyes and ears open, and you will stumble upon mighty allies against this foe. This bracelet with the four amulets will guide you in your fight. The force will reveal itself from time to time."
"Prepare your self good for that fight", the white cobra hissed at her feet. "And carefully prepare your companions for the fight, too. But don't ever forget: The foe comes often in the disguise of friends, Sajet..."
In a jerky move, Sajet stood up. Her clothes were glued to her wet skin, covered with sweat. The cool night wind from the mountains made her shiver. Only a dream, she thought, covering herself with her quilt again.
Suddenly, her look fell on the bracelet at her arm. A bracelet with the four sacred animals of her Gods. An ice-cold feeling crept through her. It was to her, as if she still could hear the serpent from her dream, as it hissed: Your destiny is unchangeable, Sajet...
Xera and Krasnegar had almost arrived at the small wood, which the Fox had showed them. Unexpectedly, they heard a terrible cry. Xera jerked, while Krasnegar pressed her hand a little bit stronger, trying to calm her down. What was going on there? After a while of silence, there was a sounding laughter to be heard. Although she was worried about what they might find, she was quite glad that the Dwarf had lost his fear. His steps looked more determined...
About five Minutes later they had arrived at the camp. About 150 men were there, both bad and poor looking rogues, obviously gold-miners. "That's very unusual," said the Dwarf, "normally they don't gather in such big groups."
"Shhhh, a little bit quieter, please. We are invisible, but not inaudible. If you've got something to say, try to whisper, then..."
"But Dwarves cannot whisper..." answered Krasnegar, now a lot more quiet...
Fortunately, the miners hadn't heard them. Instead, they concentrated on a figure that was lying next to a fire. They couldn't see the face of the being, but from the shape of the body they deduced that it came near to an Elf. No, no Elf. The body was not that smooth, fine, everything that was typical to an Elf; rather, the body was a little bit more clumsy, compared to an real Elf. Probably a Half-Elf? Or a very high and thin man.
Now someone said something to the bound person lying on the ground. Xera couldn't hear a word, but she surely heard the slash of a whip, that followed. The person cried again. Krasnegar murmured "What a bunch of nerfs..."
Looking from a safe distance, she inspected the camp. Here were no houses, but only small tents. It didn't look as if they were here for mining something; rather as if they were ready to leave at any time. Like a hunting-party. But what were these men hunting? Gold? Elves? Ridiculous - how could they hope to come in contact with even a single Wood Elf with such a loud mass of people? Anyone - at least any Elf - would be able to hear them, see them, smell them for kilometres in the distance, before they had arrived at any place.
Then a new voice appeared. It was quite deep, coming from a big man, who had held himself in the background all the time. Xera sensed that the hand of the Dwarf contracted itself. Somewhere she had heard this voice before, but couldn't remember, where.
Then the heavy man stepped into the firelight. "Now, that's enough for today. Let's go to sleep; tomorrow is a new day, a new chance. Tomorrow we'll get this information where the others are, or we'll simply cut his head. With that, we'll have revenge for all of your friends, who were slaughtered and tortured so badly by the Wood-Elves." He thought a little bit, then said, "Bind him well; I have seen it with my own eyes, how he set the houses on fire; all this time he was laughing. I don't think that he'll ever tell us where he and his companions have hidden your Gold. But we'll soon find out, when we have finally caught his whole band of greedy marauders. They should be here soon; all of them supporters of the blood-greedy Elves and this terrible Dwarf; the one with the crippled hand." As he turned and walked away to his place - the biggest tent standing there - the miners could hear him murmur "soon...soon...".
Krasnegar was struck speechless. What a terribly sophisticated speech of hatred! At first thought, he just wanted to get away from Xera and strike down his tormentor. Did he have a thousand lives? But Xera held him back, revealing quite a lot of strength in such a gentle person.
The more he listened or recalled the voice of this dark man, the weaker became his resistance. He noticed that he was about to believe what the man had said. Yes, Elves were marauders full of greed and bloodlust, wandering raiding and firing on anything in their way, having no ethical rules, no mercy, no end.
He shook his head, driving away these dark thoughts. Dark Magic! Mass-hypnotization!
Xera had heard enough, too, and withdraw, having always the Dwarf at her hand. "What shall we do now? The way through the mountains is barred!" the Dwarf asked.
"First, we shall go back to our friends. We must tell them everything we have heard and seen. I think we must rescue this prisoner, sooner or later. We cannot let him remain there and be a victim of these rascals. What's more, it is directly or indirectly our fault that he is now in this terrible place."
"And then? If we have rescued him, we'll have legions of miners behind us! Like the Legions of Lettow!" he shuddered. "We'll be hunted for days!"
"We will ALL have to go into the tunnels..." Xera answered.
"WHAT?" Krasnegar suddenly stopped, leaving Xera's hand. Soon he appeared again, becoming visible for everyone. Fortunately, they were already far away from the camp. "We ALL should go into the tunnels? Never!"
"How often have I heard you saying "never" theses days?" Xera smiled, which couldn't be seen by the Dwarf, simply because she was still invisible. She lowered her voice. "Be careful - we are not far enough away from them. They might still hear a stone crashing."
Xera moved on. From the corner of her eyes she could see the Dwarf following her, grumbling, just as if she were visible...
The report provoked a heavy excitement in the party. In a kind of tumult, they were variously discussing 1) how to attack the camp (Ulath, Krasnegar), 2) different fighting techniques (the strayer, Sajet & Thorwyn), 3) leaving the prisoner behind, because they had already lost time (Derlaf, Xera). Aidan unsuccessfully tried to calm down his dog, Bearpaw, who was barking at the whole bunch, while the hidden Kelendan simply stood in the bushes, looking at them with his mouth wide open.
As Eolus arrived later that night at the group, they were still discussing what to do. For a while, he listened to them. Finally, he ended the whole thing with the remarks that no-one would survive an attack, simply because they were the minority. "Ten versus sixty, rather more", he added. But now, it would be even nine - "where's the Fox?" he asked.
"Away. He said that a silent shadow could do more than a bawling horde." the strayer answered.
The Fox was waiting for the dawn. The dawn was with him, and he saw that everyone went to sleep. Some of them managed to go into their tents, others were simply lying around, being drunken and asleep.
The alcohol had two functions: One the one hand, it helped the heavy man to keep the men under his control; on the other hand, the men could give up all of their scruples. They could also cheer themselves up. This could become quite handy in an interrogation...
The heavy man slept now, too, but in a bigger and better tent than the others.
The Fox approached the prisoner.
The Prisoner was obviously exhausted, smelled of sweat, and his breathing sounded a little bit unhealthy. The Fox couldn't see whether he was asleep, or unconscious, or what had happened to him. There were several traces of torture on him.
The Fox whispered. "Can you see me?" he asked the Prisoner. He slowly turned his head aside. "Not that again..." he sighed.
"You don't have to fear me. I'm here to rescue you. You must only have some patience." The face of the person relaxed a bit.
It took him a long time; far too long in his terms, to free the Prisoner. Meanwhile, the night had come. Now it was dark. He touched the Elf and told him: "I'm ready now."
The Elf tried to get up, but his strength was gone. He had needed to use too much Energy to heal his wounds with magic; now he was exhausted. That was why they didn't get information out of him: He had helped himself withstand their abuse with his magic.
What he still didn't understand, was, what these alcohol-filled and stinking humans had wanted from him. Yellow metal? For what? He knew that humans were crazy for this kind of metal; but in the wilderness it couldn't help them anyhow. "Then try to withstand a Bear or a Wolf with your incredible-valuable-metal in a forest!" he had said to them at the beginning of his imprisonment. They didn't understand. The men only had become more excited and angry - he still couldn't understand why - and bound him with thick chains. He had heard someone of the men saying something like "he doesn't know the value of Gold!" Since then, he knew that they called this yellow stuff "gold".
He wanted to get up, leaving these horrible days behind him, but he failed. He just fell down.
The Fox wheezed. The Elf was too heavy! At least for him. They would need a fairly long time to get away from here, mostly because the Elf was too weak to move. He only hoped that they wouldn't make too much noise!
Against all odds, they had good luck. They withdrew, as far as they could.
But then suddenly, the weak, and therefore clumsy Elf made a small kick against one of these many, many bottles...
There were many, many bottles, formerly filled with alcohol, lying around. A lot of them were amassed on a small slope, unfortunately the way they had chosen, because it was the one pointing directly to the camp of the heroes.
This single bottle rolled down the slope, bumped into another one. Both of them rolled further down, bumping into other bottles, clinking around...
The heavy man woke up. Couldn't they be quiet even in the middle of the night!? Couldn't they get completely to sleep from all the alcohol they'd drunk? He got angry. Now! It clinked again! Was there one of those drunken idiots making "bottlethrowing"?
It clinked more and more, louder and louder. Now REALLY angry, he ran out of his tent, about to call these drunken BEEEP.
Outside, he was irritated. He saw no men, but instead an enormous helter-skelter of bottles rolling down the "junk-slope". He looked around him. The men were still asleep, deep asleep. The fire was almost down. And - something was missing.
What was missing?
Only as he noticed the chains, he knew it: the Prisoner was missing! His look wandered to the mass of bottles rolling down... Over there, he could just see two shadows disappearing...
"ALARM!" he shouted. Grumbling and groaning, the men woke up only slowly. He was still angry. What a BEEEP! This time he would show it the stubborn Elf! He would let him hunted down by a horde of massively drunken men! They would catch him, and show him, what he deserved: death. This time, the Elf wouldn't have a chance...
But for that, he still needed his men. And they were waking only VERY slowly. It would take a long time, until most of them would be up. On the other hand, the trace of the Elf would be fairly easy to follow...
Deeply exhausted, the Fox and the Elf arrived at the camp of the heroes. It was still before midnight. Lonely in the night, Eolus watched over the group.
"Alarm! You must wake up quickly!" the Fox shouted. Eolus jumped a bit, mostly because of the loudness. He quickly calmed himself down. "What's going on?" He asked. "We are hunted; right now. I have freed the Elf, but now all the miners are behind us!" he told Eolus while wheezing. He had to carry the Elf almost alone, so weak had he been. Only the last part of the way had he been able to move further on by himself, driven by the fear to get into the hands of the miners again.
"We must go into the tunnel!" suddenly came a clear voice from the shadows. It was the strayer. "Let's pack our belongings and then disappear into the tunnel-system! They might not look for us there." he said.
Hectically, all woke up, packed what they had, and went into the Entrance - Krasnegar uttering many curses and protests. Although he didn't like it, he understood that they would be soon dead as Dodos, if they stayed there.
The big, heavy man and his company searched the surroundings of the camp for traces of their path; but they couldn't find any. Now, IF they had gone into the tunnel - the Elf and his helper - they would soon be no concern of his safe. He smiled sardonically. Because they would be dead.
He said to the ones who stood next to him: "Let's go! There is nothing we can do for now! No one has ever left that tunnel alive! We don't need to go pursue them anymore!"
He knew, that this wasn't certain; but he didn't mind it. The likelihood that they could come out alive was very small...
1. Sajet, female human from the Southlands
2. Thorwyn, male human (with his magical sword)
3. "The Fox", male "human" (an intelligent Fox polymorphed into human shape)
4. Ulath, male human, from the Northlands (a bit of a drunk)
5. Aiden, male human, an inexperienced and unworldly bard
6. Alrik, male human, a strayer or wanderer who is uneasy in crowds
7. Eolus Thunderstorm, male dwarf
8. Xera, a female Wood-Elf (who wishes to see some of the world)
9. Krasnegar, male dwarf (crippled right hand and possibly crippled left hand)
10. Gideon Derlaf, male human, aka Hookhand (has a hook for a left hand)
11. Bearpaw, male dog, former pet of Sam Dry River (deceased)
12. An barely-conscious half-elf, former prisoner of the mercenaries.