Thursday, November 12, 2009


Chapter 13 – Trial of the Ancients

It was several hours before Shen and Keladkha came to after suffering head injuries from the fight. Arynn had done her best to drag them into a corner of the massive room, setting up a camp for them complete with a blazing fire going. Her burns were not as bad as she had originally thought, able to be patched up with some of the basic ointments they had brought with them. It would be sore and tender for a couple of days, but there wouldn't be any long time harm done.

Keladkha was the first to come to, asking, “Where are we, what happened?”

“Shen took down the dragon. We are currently camped in a corner of its lair.”

“Where is he now though?”

“He suffered a mighty bump to the head, he was out cold like you were. I took the initiative of setting up camp and tending to wounds.”

Keladkha sat around the fire, sipping on some fresh herbal tea that had been prepared, trying to shake the cobwebs from his head. He was unable to remember most of the battle, only little snippets of it came to him, a side effect of hitting the wall so hard. Now with time to wait until Shen recovered, he decided that it would be the perfect time to fully explore the cavern that they were in.

His first stop was to examine the massive pile of gold and other items that the dragon had obviously collected over the years. There were coins and other items stretching across a wide swath of known human history and some that even appeared to predate them. It was a magnificent find that he would gladly notify historians to after all the problems they were facing were dealt with. One particular sword sticking from the pile caught his attention.

He slowly walked over to it and pulled it from the pile. Being such a big great sword, he had expected it weight a ton. But he was pleasantly surprised to find that it was lighter than most short swords currently used by the army. The entirety of the sword was constructed out of a single, milky white colored material. The hilt was adorned with what looked to be similar runes to those they had found on the walls earlier. He tested it by hitting it on a solid goblet lying nearby. For its lightweight, it was surprisingly stronger than the sword he was currently using.
Seeing nothing else of interest, he headed back to where they had set-up camp. Upon arrival, he was happy to note that Shen was now awake and attempting to shake the cobwebs from his head.

“So I hear you're our big hero,” Keladkha joked, sitting next to him at the fire.

“Can't remember too much other than a crazy stunt of climbing on its back, then nothing. What's that you got there?” he asked, looking at the sword.

“I'm not really sure. I found it on the pile of gold and it surprisingly strong and lightweight. Here take a look,” as he handed it to him.

“Man this is rare. It is made of dragonbone, they haven't been able to make anything this exquisite in centuries.”

“Dragonbone? You can make weapons from their bones?”

“Yeah. It is one of the strongest materials ever found, this will slice through even the heaviest of plate mail. That's a good find,” he said, handing it back.

“Wow, I didn't even think it was worth that much. Glad I picked it up now.”

They didn't stay too much longer by the fire as they hoped to get back to exploring the remainder of the cave. Hopefully, it wouldn't be too much further until they reached the rear of the cave and found the herb that they needed. With another quick meal in their stomachs, they packed up the camp and started the march again. On the opposite side of the chamber they found another passageway, this one much rougher, more natural looking, leading deeper in.

As they trekked further, they began feeling a breeze originating from somewhere above them. It was a cool, fresh smelling wind, probably entering from some cracks in the earth far above them. It was refreshing change, for as they had continued to delve deeper into the earth, it had steadily grown warmer. Now they temperature had grown grown considerably colder, made even colder as the sweat evaporated off of their skin.

As they continued walking, noticing that no longer were side passages branching off of the main path, they eventually came to another cavernous opening in the cave. The sound of running water filled their ears almost as soon as they entered. The middle of the room was filled with a massive underground river, flowing swiftly. Off to the right, the water entered the room from near the ceiling and fell in a spectacular waterfall until it reached the narrow channel that had been shaped out from generations of water flowing past.

With no obvious way over the river, they decided that they would have to ford it. Stripping off the cumbersome armor they wore, they slowly stepped into the quick moving current. While the water only reached up to just below the waist, the pull was surprisingly strong. The water was ice cold to the touch and so clear that they could see all the way to the bottom. The channel snaked its way through numerous stalagmites, making quite the picturesque view.

Once on the opposite bank, they quickly dried off the best that they could and donned the bulky armor once more. On the far side of the room, they found what appeared to a massive door built straight into the rock. The walls were covered in some ancient rune, different from the ones that they had encountered earlier, possibly elvish. Arynn, after having some time to examine them, was able to decipher most of what they said.

“It says that in the Ancients require us to prove ourselves worthy or else suffer their wrath.”

“But how do we prove ourselves and who are the Ancients?”

“I don't know who they are, but they talk of three tests that lie on other side of this door. That must be how we prove ourselves and move on.”

As they stood there talking about what lie ahead, the doors began to creak and swung open outwards. They were unable to see any further though as the doorway was filled with any inky blackness. Having no choice as to how to proceed, they each entered the doorway one after the other. As they appeared on the other side, they realized that each one was now alone. They would have to complete the tests laid out before them without help from anyone else.

Keladkha looked upon the room he found himself in marvel, massive pillars ran along either side of the room. The ceiling was vaulted and room was covered in beautiful works of art. He tensed as he examined the other end of the room, as he saw three shadowy figures standing next to the door, not moving. He began walking towards them, one hand on the hilt of his sword, waiting to see if they would attack.

But they made no signs of hostility as he got close. As he stood in front of the middle figure, a disemboweled voice filled the room. “Riddles will test your wit, before you can move on with it.”

Almost as soon as the voice finished, the figure in the middle spoke up, “What can run but never walks, has a mouth but never talks, has a head but never weeps, has a bed but never sleeps?”

Thinking this over quickly, Keladkha guessed, “A river?”

Not responding to whether he got it right, the figure on the left began speaking, “Give me food, and I will live. Give me water, and I will die.”

“A fire,” he responded thinking of it easily.

As soon as the words, left his mouth the ghostly figure on the right spoke, “No sooner spoken than broken. What am I?”

Thinking over the question furiously, he was having troubles coming up with what the answer could possibly be. Almost as soon as thought he was going to have to just guess, it hit him, “Silence.”

Almost as soon as the words left his mouth, the ghostly figures blocking his path vanished. He assumed that he answered all of the questions correctly when the doors lying in front of him swung open, even though the voice never returned to tell him anything. He strode forward and stepped forward into the darkness.

Shen examined the room he found himself in. It appeared to be an arena that he was in, with high walls surrounding the circle pit he found himself in with what appeared to be a crowd watching from stands situated above him. At the other end of the pit, a man stood clad fully in armor with two short blades in his hands. A voice boomed out over the room, “Stay your blade and you will have it made.”

There was a few seconds of silence, before with a blood curdling yell, the man at the other end of the pit began to charge him, blades out. Shen quickly drew his sword and gripped the hilt tightly. He had heard what the voice said, but was worried about letting this thing do whatever it wanted to him. He tried to hold back, but as soon as the man got into range, he swung out with the sword and beheaded the attacker, causing blood to spurt everywhere.

Barely after the man's body hit the ground, two more men appeared at the opposite end and began charging him. Once again, he was unable to hold off attacking and quickly took the men down with two quick slashes across the chest. Before the men had even fallen, four men now appeared at the opposite end. Realizing that it was hopeless to continue fighting, Shen laid down his blade and waited for them to attack them. Bracing himself as the first blade was about to strike, he was surprised when the blade went straight through him without causing any harm. Opening his eyes, he noticed that the men had vanished and a door had opened on the other end of the arena. He walked over and entered the darkness.

Arynn found herself in what appeared to be the ruins of an ancient temple or something. Fallen pillars and broken walls dominated the space she was in. As she examined the area for what she was supposed to do, a voice filled the room, “You will have to be quick of feet for this task to be beat.” As the voice faded, she noticed something glowing near the ceiling. Squinting to see it better, it appeared to be a key, possibly to the door on the other side of the room.

Getting to it would be the problem though, she would have to slowly make her way around the ruined structure to even get to a point to reach it. With no better plan, she ran up a tilted pillar and jumped onto part of a ruined wall. She slowly tiptoed across the wall, careful for occasionally a brick would give way and tumble down to the ground. She reached the end portion of the wall she was on and was forced to jump a five foot gap to the next section of wall. Backing up a few steps, she took a running head start and leaped across the gap, landing nimbly.

This section was short and she was soon forced to jump over to a pillar that was heavily tilting. Misjudging the distance, she only barely managed to grab hold of the pillar as she hit it hard. She pulled herself up and edged her way up to the top portion of the pillar. The only thing that she could see that was possible to reach was a long piece of ivy hanging from the ceiling. With a running jump, she grabbed hold of it and began pulling herself up to the ceiling. As she nearly reached the ceiling, she was able to get a foothold on another part of a crumbling wall.

She transferred her weight to it and looked over to where the key was now. It was just off the wall, requiring a jump to get to it. The problem was that there was no other place to land on. The key was out in the middle of nowhere and it was nearly a thirty foot drop to nearest platform. Having no other choice, she took a running leap and wrapped her hand around the key. Preparing for the falling sensation as the ground would be rushing up at her, she was surprised when she suddenly found herself standing on solid ground. She opened her eyes and found herself standing next to the door that originally been at the far side of the room.

The key was still in her hand and she quickly placed into the keyhole on the door and turned it. Thankfully, it worked on the first try and the door swung open. The opening was filled with the same inky blackness that had been on the door they had gone through earlier. With nowhere else to possibly go, she took a deep breath and stepped into the darkness.

As she stepped to the other side, she found herself standing next to Keladkha and Shen again. “I see you passed your test too,” Shen said smiling as he saw her.
“Yep, wasn't too hard. Where are we now?”

“The end,” Keladkha said motioning towards a massive plant growing ahead of them.

“Athaleas, so we found it after all.”

“Yes, and we've gathered what we needed already so we can get moving.”

With nothing else to do in the small room they found themselves in, they decided to head back through the door behind them. Stepping out of the blackness, they were quickly bombarded by a massive sea spray. They were standing back in the cave where they entered the passageway for the first time. The waves in front of them were choppier than normal, signaling that a storm was moving. Only having been standing there for a minute, they were already soaked to the bone from the spray.

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