Thursday, September 4, 2008

Chapter 20c: Of Stone and Water

Rachelle followed ten feet behind Wellan, as he had requested. His dark form shifted and bobbed in the flicker of her torch as he slowly stumbled through the rough hewn stone pathway. The walls glittered with moisture as though coated with orange and yellow diamonds in the shifting glow of her torch light. She could hear the shuffle and echo of the survivor's feet echoing in the tunnel behind her.


She had found Wellan as soon as she entered the tunnels. He stood slouched against a wall, his pale hands coved his face and eyes. She had reached out for him, but he pushed her away, hissing once again about his desires and how he teetered on the brink of loosing control. She didn’t argue, only asked him to lead the way. She would follow. With cracked lips pinched tight and a nod he had turned and strolled into the darkness ahead of her. The survivors gave them both a significant lead and watched Wellan as though he were a wolf within their midst.


As they progressed farther down the narrow and winding stone path the walls became rougher and the floors less even, as though the stone cutters had lost interest in their craft as the tunnel progressed. At several times she had to turn sideways and squeeze between cold, slimy walls of stone. She had no idea how the heavier survivors, such as the Piet, would squeeze through, but somehow he always did. Within a short while the passageway opened again, the nicks and chips of chisel work completely gone. They had entered a natural cavern that cut its way below the Barclave Mountain.


Wellan stopped. Listened. His eyes squeezed into narrow slits.


He glanced at he over his shoulder. His pupil as small as a pin head, the yellowed orb around it glinting in the dim light. The hiss of his voice echoed against stone. "The are before us."


"Who? The undead?"


The tarnished eye bounced up and down as he nodded. "Yesss...and...something else..."


A hand fell on her shoulder. She jumped, heart racing, power surging from her core to the ends of her fingers. Then the Dukes troubled voice whispered. "What else, my friend. What is blocking our escape?"


Wellan turned away, walking into the darkness. "The dead. I...I don't know what the other presence is...but...it's powerful. It...it calls to me, pulls me like a moth to a flame."


Duke Renier looked down at Rachelle as the undead wizard disappeared into the darkness, his expression serious, worried. Though she couldn't read minds his face told her his thoughts. He wanted to turn back, but retreat no longer remained an option. With a slight push and a nod of his head toward Wellan sent her ahead as he waved the others to follow.


Rachelle caught up to Wellan as he stumbled through the tunnel and finally came out into a larger area. She damp air smelled of sea water. Her light faded and disappeared as it stretched out into the void around her. Stalactites and stalagmites rose from the floor and roof like jagged teeth. Water dripped in the distance echoing through the shadows like amplified rain.


Wellan angled to the right, cautiously walking across the uneven floor. He didn't turn to see if they followed, oblivious to everything but the path in front of him.


A splash broke the silence of the stone chamber. Her light reflected off the water coated floor in bouncing yellow and orange.


Wellan stopped and pointed out over the water covered floor, into the black beyond. "They are here...lurking in the darkness."


A deep growl rumbled through the chamber. The echo made it sound as though it came from all around them. The survivors crowded behind her. Water splashed. Something waded towards them with an even, confident stride. Two pinpoints of white shone in the darkness before then, getting closer, growing into a huge shaggy head, shoulders, waist. A wolfhound, larger than any other she had ever seen before. It sloshed forward in knee deep water, studying the group, but paying close attention to Wellan as though sensing a threat, or maybe a kindred spirit.


Wellan took a step back and the group followed. Metal slid against leather as the soldier's pulled their swords from sheaths.


Piet Lithor stepped to the front of the group to stand at her shoulder, his sword drawn and pointed into the shadows.


The wolfhound turned to glare at the priest. His growl lowered in pitch, lips curling up to display yellow daggers of teeth and black spotted gums.


Rachelle felt the power surge from the center of her being, pulsing through her arms to focus in the palm of her hands.


With a roar the wolfhound launched himself at the priest.


Her hands flew up releasing the power stored in her palms. The air warped and crackled as swirls of energy burst through the air and slammed into the side of the beast, blasting him into the air where he sailed across the room and became lost in black. The sound of flesh striking stone resounded through the endless chamber.


Water erupted further down the tunnel. Dozens, maybe hundreds, of bodies lumbered into the light. Water sloshed and churned as they stumbled forward, mouths open and hungry for flesh.


The wolfhound burst from the shadows at her right, streaking straight towards her. The guards brought up their swords and prepared to make their final stand.


The small group was hopelessly outnumbered. Rachelle felt all hope leave her as she looked into the eyes of the beast.

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