Part 142: Tales of the Lost Kingdom - Rescuing the Princess - Part 8
Tales of the Lost Kingdom - Rescuing the Princess - Part 8
Still upset, the group went further into the tunnel, to get away from the entrance as fast as possible.
Sajet couldn't stand it. The walls came closer and closer, the air became thicker and thicker. Sweat was running down her forehead. The walls surely wanted to squeeze her down! Slowed down. Now, the walls were just before her! She couldn't walk anymore! Frantic, she wanted to cry, but couldn't let a single sound out.
Aidan noticed that Sajet stood still, stretching out her hands, as if she tried to keep the walls back from her. He turned towards her. "Is there any way I can help you?" he asked. As he noticed that she wasn't able to speak, he just held her in his arms, trying to calm her down. "Don't worry! It is only dark, and we will leave this place soon - in a few hours. It is safe and secure. Nothing has changed here for 50 years. Come on, fight against your fear and you'll make it!" he whispered to her. "Hello, we need a rest!" he shouted to the others.
Eolus had noticed it, too, after Aidan had called the group. He saw what a situation Sajet was in. He decided to ease her fears with a magical spell, although he didn't like it, because he wanted to preserve his magical power for the fight against the Dragon.
Alrik wasn't happy. There were shadows, shadows, shadows. Too many shadows. Too many shadows for a surprise attack. He glided deeper into the shadows, because he believed that "only from the shadows, you can see the shadows attacking".
After three hours of walking - more slowly than at the beginning (because they wanted to give Sajet time to acclimate herself to the caves), they arrived the Resting-Room Krasnegar had told them about.
Small Stalagmites had grown here, but otherwise the room hadn't changed much. Except for the dust, maybe. It was filled with fresh air, what meant that the ventilation system was still intact. It had been good dwarfish construction. They sat down on the seats made of stone. Ulath proposed a rest. Seemingly, no-one of the miners had followed them; also, they could heal the Elf prisoner, and at least they were all tired and needed a good sleep.
Krasnegar pointed to the small waterfall. "The water over there is still fresh; at least it was as we left it 50 years ago. On the left side, the fireplace should also be still usable. The air here should drive the smoke away."
Krasnegar made a small fire. Small, because he feared that it might signal the inhabitants who followed the leaving of the Dwarves...
The strayer walked to the water, wanting to check and restore the water supply of the group.
Near to the water he found mushrooms.
Asked by the strayer, Krasnegar told him that these were mushrooms one could eat without fearing to get poisoned. Actually, he told, these were kind of mushrooms the Dwarves had used for hundreds of years in any dwarfish town as a food supply. Some Dwarves, he said, ate only those mushrooms and nothing else (although these remained few).
Alrik picked some for provisions; the rest were left as it was, so that the mushrooms could reproduce and remain for the future.
They took the time to taker a closer look at the Elf, the former Prisoner. He surely wore the typical Elven clothes, but his body was a bit too massive to look like a real Elf. Also, his eyes and ears didn't look too elfish. As far they could tell at a glance, this Elf had human blood in his veins.
"A bastard" murmured someone, obviously Hookhand, who earned an angry look from Xera. His face blushed, and he turned aside.
Xera healed the Half-Elf's wounds, using her magical powers. Slowly, he regained his strength.
"What's your name?" she asked the former Prisoner. A little bit surprised, he turned his head towards her, answering: "I am, well, my name is Galladrion. I thank you for my rescue."
"You can thank our "Fox". Your rescue is the work of his brave hands."
"Well, thank you... "Fox" ."
"Don't mind me. Anyone would have done that." Suddenly he seemed to be embarrassed by what he had done.
"What's up?" Krasnegar's voice was heard. "We should move on soon."
"Well, we have your Map, Krasnegar, so we should be able to move quickly forward. Let's see where we are..."
"Quiet! There - there's a sound..."
All voices became silent. There was a sound. A knocking sound, as if two stones were pushed against one another.
Clack, clack-clack, clack-clack-clack, clack, clack-clack, clack-clack-clack,....
"We're not alone here!" said Sajet, her voice sounding panicked.
In the excitement, they didn't notice another sound.
Small, patting feet walked on the ground.
"Meschlinke... unt errr ... antere."
A sensitive non-human nose sensed the smell of fire, while approaching with his owner to the group of travellers.
The being thought about these grim-looking heroes, wondering what they might want in this cave.
But they were surely blocking him from the fresh water and the mushrooms he loved so much. His shape became one with the shadows around him, and he began eating some other mushrooms. But - instead of driving away the feeling of hunger, they rather increased it. Soon, the creature became nervous.
His eyes wandered to the waterfall. They were picking his mushrooms! His mushrooms! And he had let them grow for weeks... The thin body began climbing along the cave's walls, towards the waterfall.
No-one looked up to the ceiling, where the creature was climbing.
Having come near to the waterfall, the creature slid into a small cave behind the waterfall. Now, here it could drink and wait for the travellers to leave...
Ulath wasn't impressed. He was determined not to let any kind of panic arise.
"Well, let's look at our choices together: What we can do is: first, to go further on with Krasnegar, second, go back, hoping that our pursuers aren't there anymore, third, if the followers are gone, bringing Xera and the Half-Elf to an elfish village, and continuing our way without them, fourth, going then back somehow, trying to get some reinforcements by the King. What do you think?" he asked.
"By the Gods, I want to move on!" Krasnegar looked quite determined, too.
He earned many surprised looks. "My, a few days ago, you didn't want to?!?" Aidan shook his head.
"Well, that's true. But now I'm already here. And I want to know where all the disappeared Dwarves might have gone...
Dwarves...disappeared... Aidan's face became more and more pale. In the following silence, the clacking sound was still audible.
The hunger became stronger and stronger. The small creature climbed slowly out of the waterfall, going directly to the travellers, who were blocking him from his mushrooms.
Hungry, the creature picked up one of the mushrooms, followed by a curse when it fell into the water with a loud, splashing sound.
In the water, the creature quickly ate his meal, then climbed up again. He wanted to be known by these travellers. "Err... Hi! Boyz??"
"What - who are you?" asked the deeply surprised Aidan.
Embarrassed, the creature didn't quite know what to say. "Ahmmm Chello?"
"Hello, my friend, who are you? Did you live for long here in this cave?" Aidan asked, trying not to frighten the creature. He turned to the others. "Does anybody now what this is? I have never seen or heard anything like such a creature so far.
Laughing, the strayer turned to Krasnegar, saying: "Now here you have one of these inheritors of the left cave."
Eolus, who wanted to take a look into one of the other caves, bumped against one of the stones lying in the dark shadows. He soon felt a kind of soothing warmth where had bumped into the stone. Noticing a kind of light, he looked above him. There he saw Flamjiadi, the Fire-Elemental who accompanied him from time to time, but mostly in caves.
"I see, that you liked your cellar very much." the Elemental said quite ironically. "Let me give you some light and guide you to your fellows. They are in this direction." He formed an arrow, pointing to the rest of the group.
Aidan asked again. Do you know what this creature might be?" Flamjiadi felt as if this question was directed to him, and answered: "Do I know what this creature might be? Why do all people think, Magicians and Elementals have eaten their wisdom with full spoons?"
Flying closer, he inspected the creature. "Don't you see? It is just an..."
"A Prmbfpl?" the strayer asked, giggling.
"Yes, indeed! He brought it to the point! It is a Prmbfpl!" Flamjiadi floated once again to Eolus. "Why aren't you able to make such exact definitions?"
He returned again to the others. "Now - follow me!" He became a bit brighter, shaping himself into an arrow once again, which directed the heroes to the next cave.
The small creature shook away the water from his body. "Chey! Don't walk awaych! Takech me wich you! You have eaten my Muchrooms! I chave chunger!"
Eolus asked the small creature. "Take you with us? Why? Do you really want to give up your cave? Here there are many mushrooms!"
He went to the entrance of the next cave. "Come on, folks!"
"Chey! I am Azdrak, and if you don't takech me wich you, I willch follow you!"
Sajet suddenly got the impression as if the small creature became bigger and bigger, looking more and more threatening, while speaking his last words. After that, the creature shrunk to its normal size again. Since no-one seemed to have noticed that, she thought that it might have to do something with her fear she always felt in closed rooms.
The reality was that she had been the only one who had eaten one of these mushrooms so far. That was why she also wondered why everything suddenly looked so colourful... Since no-one seemed to notice, she thought that it might be normal somehow...
Indeed the creature was not frightening at all, apart from the small teeth it needed in this environment...
They soon moved on, into the next caves. The strayer inspected the caves; like Aiden, it was something he hadn't seen so far either.
Once, he asked Krasnegar, if these tunnels and caves were safe. Just as Krasnegar was about to answer a rumbling sound told them, that there had just collapsed a tunnel. They became silent.
Flamjiadi floated to the group, coming out of the direction of the collapsed tunnel. "Nothing to worry about." he said. And while floating back, he added: "You are able the get through stone, aren't you?"
Krasnegar asked Eolus: "Where have you got this restless ghost from?"
They went to the place where they could see from a distance an enormous cloud of dust. "Seems as if a tunnel had collapsed there. There is nothing we can do for now. But it isn't that bad for us, because this tunnel wasn't on our way." Krasnegar said.
Azdrak was saddned " Not bad? Not bad? Chis was my home! " he said. "Many, many muchrooms!"
"Don't be so saddened. You had good luck, at least you weren't there, where the stones fell down!"
" Me, chappy? Wich youk?" Azdrak couldn't understand their kind of thinking. He separated himself from the group.
As the heroes were discussing, they suddenly heard a groaning and rumbling. With a thunderlike sound, the other tunnel behind them collapsed, too.
And the strange creature was gone...
They thought they had heard a laughing coming from behind the stones...
As they went to pack their belongings once again and follow the way, they noticed that they were out of almost everything of their supplies, too. And their torches would soon be burned down, if there was not Flamjiadi to help them...
Looking at each other, they were quite shocked. "There is no way back anymore..." Hookhand murmured.
After Krasnegar's advice, they walked as far as they could, into a room, where he said was a box to be found, in which were some more torches.
They didn't want to lose any time, so they marched to the Exit of the cave-system.
The Exit-door was closed, but heavy hits by the Northerner's axe solved this problem.
Sajet felt - indescribable freedom again! The fresh air, the smell of grass and flowers, the wind on her skin - it was an incredible feeling to her! She was free again! In the back of her mind, she decided never ever to go back into a cave again...
"Fresh air!" The strayer Alrik was glad to breathe fresh air, with the smell of grass and flowers, again.
Although he didn't like caves that much, this had been his first cave. It had been an interesting experience to him.
Krasnegar told them that it would only be one or even a half day to travel, until they would come to the Dragon's Cave. If they would follow him, they would come to another cave, where Dwarves lived. Another way would lead them to the northeast, to a small village of farmers, which sold the miners food.
Aidan thought about the last days. "Something's wrong here" he said, " first, the Ogres, then the pitfall with the dead ranger - possibly Sam Dry River, the one Krasnegar had told us about, then the surprise attack at Krasnegar's, after that then the miner's camp...there's too much going on. I fear that someone is trying to hinder us from freeing the Princess. It could be someone at the King's court. I've seen courts. They often tend to scheme there."
"What have we to do with politics?!" Ulath asked loud. "Let's go to sleep early now, and let's try to reach the Dragon's Cave Entrance tomorrow!" After a short discussion, they all agreed, and went to sleep - it was about sunset.
Eolus separated himself from the others - he wanted to meditate and restore his magical energies - he was sure he would need them in the forthcoming fight. Late that night, he went to the others, going to sleep, too.
Knowing, that it would be a long day, they had their first meal of the day. Feeling strong enough, both mentally and physically, they began walking to the Dragon's Cave.
On the way, Krasnegar told the group that there was a strange magician around here.
A few hours later, they actually came to a nearly vertical slope, being a part of the local mountain. Before it, there was a wide clearing covered with grass, and an old fireplace.
"This is the clearing, where the strange magician and the Dragon could be seen - at different times, as far as I know. The vertical rock is fairly even and without any cracks. Maybe the entrance is magically hidden!?" Krasnegar told them. Thorwyn had guessed that this strange magician could've been the one who had helped them against the Ogres.
Carefully looking at the sides, the group went to the even rock. The strayer was searching for a possible ambush. He felt that the group was vulnerable while standing in the clearing, like dinner on a plate...
Nervously, the group walked slowly towards the slope.
Everyone looked at it, but they didn't find anything. The rock was smooth, without any cracks.
Ulath beat the rock with his mighty axe, without success.
Krasnegar inspected the rock more intensively, and came to the conclusion: "This is dwarfish magic. Or some other. No-one else would've been able to close any entrance in such a way. Although - I have heard of Dwarves, who were able to produce such a thing in the Old Times."
Eolus, the magician, came closer, inspecting the rock, too. He came to the conclusion, that only magic could reveal the magic that had worked on the rock. He was sure that a kind of magic locked the cave with that rock; but - he couldn't prove it. For that, he needed a magical spell.
He got angry that he had to use some of his magical powers for that, he would rather have used it in the fight against the Dragon. But without magic they couldn't get in at all.
"Please stand back, all of you!" he said to the others. He needed room for weaving his spell. The others stepped a bit aside, only Ulath looked with a bit suspicious. Did he have problems with magic in the past?
With widely drawn gestures he weaved his spell, and behold! : A small gap was there, in bluish, unearthly colours. It went down from the top to the earth - and possibly even into the earth, Eolus thought. It was too small for anyone, even the smallest among them to fit through.
"Now!" he shouted, not knowing how long this gap would last.
Filled with energy, the group strode towards the gap, like they had already found their foe. Ulath beat it with his mighty axe, Sajet looked, if she could put her blade into the gap, Krasnegar draw a mighty dwarfish hammer from somewhere.
"BACK!" a thunder-like voice sounded. Everyone got frightened to the deep, because they had concentrated so much on opening the gap.
As they slowly turned around, they saw an old man with white hair and a long, white beard, leaning himself on an old stick. He looked very old and fragile. They couldn't believe that this man could've produced such a voice. "Back, that's what I've said." the old man said now in a rather tender voice, like a teacher who has noticed that his students were not ready, not mature enough for his task.
Feeling both intimidated and curious, they drew back from the gap, which slowly faded away.
Now, the old man lifted his stick, and spoke highly sophisticated formulae. It seemed, as if almost invisible, pale bluish flows of energy moved from the man towards the crack in the rock. (They didn't see the crack anymore, but still knew that it was there.) A rustling and a crackling was to be heard in the air around the slope - and it became louder and louder!
And - what wonder! The gap in the rock opened, without any sound! The old man stopped with weaving his formulae, and now he was his self again. An old, fragile man, with white hair and a long beard, leaning on a stick. The noise had suddenly become completely quiet, leaving nothing but the singing of some birds in the trees.
"Tell the Dragon, that Gandalf has opened the door for you." he said quietly. Then he turned slowly, and began walking back to the forest, where he had come from.
Stunned by amazement, the whole group looked after the old man. They stood between the open door, which looked like an open, yawning muzzle, and the man himself, who was slowly walking away. Only Eolus was the first one who was able to speak again; no wonder, since he was an magician, too. "I thank you very much, old, wise man." "Yes, yes; you don't need to thank me." the Old one murmured.
The heroes packed their things, making themselves ready for the last journey: the march through the Darkness.
Only Alrik and Xera continued looking at the old man; and Eolus nodded slowly, with high respect. And there, where the man reached the trees of the forest, the sight of the strayer began to become distorted, and small tears fell off his eyes. He rubbed his eyes, to get his eyes clean and dry again, but as he was ready, he found that the old man was gone. Where he had seen him the last time, there was now a tree. Wondering, he turned around. (He was sure that Xera and Eolus had had seen this, too.)
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. "Galladrion", male half-elf, former prisoner of the mercenaries.