Depths of Peril part 2

Depths of Peril... continued from part 1

     Kivi climbed down quietly and returned to camp in the Hall of Noise. He told the group about the beast.

     “What’d he say?” Aplite asked.

     “I can’t hear with all this noise,” Hawk said.

     Cavegrind told the team to take a break.

     “There’s a wampir, not far from here. I think the sound is bothering it; it was irritated,” Kivi said.

     “Great, an irritated wampir. That’s all we need to put us off schedule,” Cavegrind complained.

     “What’s a wampir?” Hawk asked, rubbing his hands on his cloak.

     “A large bat?” Ulfer said.

     Cavegrind nodded once. “A giant bat. It’s too close; we’ll need to kill it.”

     “Is it dangerous?” Aplite asked.

     “Poisonous and ferocious. Unpredictable. It’s about the worst thing we could’ve run into this deep in the tunnels.” Cavegrind looked at Ulfer. “Any ideas?”

     “Just one?” Ulfer asked Kivi.

     “Yes.”

     Ulfer paced the length of the tent, then turned toward the group. “One person leads the bat to a crossways in the tunnels, while Aric and I hide on each side of the second tunnel. As it flies past, we strike.”

     “Who’s the bait?” asked Cavegrind.

     Everyone turned toward Kivi.

     “You see the best down here, and you know your way around,” Hawk said.

     “You’re the fastest,” Cavegrind added.

     Ulfer raised his eyebrows and knelt low to look Kivi in the eyes. “Will you do it?”

     Kivi nodded.

     Ulfer patted Kivi on the shoulder, causing him to stumble under the heavy man’s gesture.

     Kivi left the warriors at the crossways. The miners stopped work, waiting for the animal to be dealt with. Kivi let his thoughts wander in the silence. He wondered what Larite would think of him baiting a wampir. Bat rescue didn’t handle this breed, only the much smaller kinds. Still, the girl loved bats. She might understand, but he decided he wouldn’t tell her.

     Kivi found the bat in the tunnel near Biting Hall. It had moved closer to camp. He stomped his feet and yelled down the passageway.

     The bat honed in on him and dove in pursuit.

     Kivi ran, turned a corner, then turned again to slow the wampir. He sprinted the length of the cavern, the crossways hidden, just ahead. After shouting a warning, he ran by without slowing. He didn’t look over his shoulder until he heard the animal scream.

     Ulfer lifted his axe a second time and brought it down in a rush, severing the wampir’s head. Aric pulled his sword from the headless body.

     Kivi jogged back to the warriors and they returned to camp, with the bat meat. The mining resumed, and Kivi wandered away from the camp.

     Ulfer followed. He tripped. “I wish I had your eyes in here. I missed that thing’s head on my first strike.” Ulfer sat on a rock ledge near Kivi. “Can’t wait to get back into daylight, just as soon as we finish this little adventure. I’m not in a hurry though; I’m paid by the day.” He smiled. “What are you planning to do with your take?”

     “Make my name.”

     “Ah yes, a noble choice.” Ulfer leaned back, the leather straps on his armor creaking. “Me, I’m going to marry a girl.”

     Kivi stopped, looking around. “Hear that?”

     “What?”

     “Wings, beating the air.”

     Ulfer pulled out his axe. “Where?”

     “I don’t,” Kivi spun in a circle. “I can’t-“

     Something heavy knocked Kivi down, ripping the back of his tunic with sharp claws. It came from directly overhead, but the echoes had concealed the direction.

     Kivi rolled. The momentum carried him away. He sprang to his feet. Heavy claws missed his head by inches.

     “Move clear,” Ulfer yelled. He swung down, breaking a wing. Blood splattered the wall. “Are you clear?” He lifted the weapon in an arc, bringing it down on the injured animal.

     “Yes,” called Kivi.

     “What was it?”

     “Another wampir. Probably the first one’s mate. They usually don’t travel together.”

     “We’ve got meat for weeks.” Ulfer cleaned his weapon and put it away. “You hurt?”

     “I’m scratched from the rocks, but the bat’s talons missed.”

     “Good thing.” He sat back on the ledge, away from the blood.

     Kivi wondered about what Ulfer said before the bat attack. It was funny he thought Ulfer dimwitted when they first met. He was a regular warrior. He spoke his mind without restraint. Kivi had misjudged Ulfer similar to how Ulfer misjudged Kivi. Only Kivi didn’t mention what he thought of Ulfer’s brain size the way Ulfer had mentioned Kivi’s large eyes. Lumen didn’t speak without restraint. Underneath it all, they were more alike than different. 

     “You need money for that? To marry a girl?” Kivi asked.

     “Yeah, well. She wants a man with the clout and the wealth to lead his covenant, and it’s hard to get the experience or the coins when you’re saddled with a family too early.”

     “Saddle?”

     “It’s what you sit on to ride a horse, don’t you have horses?”

     Kivi shook his head, then realized Ulfer couldn’t see the motion. “No.”

     “Well, in this case I meant burden. A man has many duties to a wife and children.” He rubbed the back of his hand. “Her name is Torfa. She’s smart and strong. Good with a small sword, not too bad with an axe. She has red curls and green eyes, beautiful full lips.”

     “There’s a woman in my home, Larite. I’ll ask her to be my mate when we’ve succeeded.”

     “Can you ask her regardless?” The question hung in the air for a moment.

     “No. She wants a man with a name.”

     “Ah. So we are in the same boat, you and I.” Ulfer smiled. “You do know what a boat is, right?”

     Kivi smiled and blinked. “Yes. We have boats.”

     Ulfer laughed.

#

     “We’re about to break through,” Cavegrind yelled into the tent.

     Despite his hands pressed tight against his ears, Kivi heard him over the noisy pickaxes striking stone. He followed the others to the edge of the new tunnel and waited. Cheers erupted from the hole.

     “We’re through, boss,” a dwarf called from inside. “Opens into a large hall.”

     “Clear out, we’re coming through,” Cavegrind answered.

     “Shouldn’t you let the warriors go first?” Hawk said, but Cavegrind didn’t respond. He was already in the tunnel.

     Ulfer went next, on hands and knees. It was a tight fit for the big man. Aric, Hawk, Aplite and Kivi followed.

     The Hall was wide, with three prominent columns near the center.

     “We’ll call this room, Three Fingers,” Cavegrind said. He pulled out his map and made a note. “We need to move the camp here. Which way to the lifestones, Aplite?”

     “I don’t know, I’ll have to take some measures.”

     “Let Kivi have a look around first.”

     Aplite nodded.

     Kivi started toward a grand opening on the opposite side of the room. A pebble skittered across the ground. He held his breath, but heard nothing other than the party moving equipment behind him. His hair stood on end. He felt sick to his stomach. Pressing close to a finger column, he held tight to the amulet his mother gave him.

     They slipped among the shadows along the edge of the room. He couldn’t see them within the shadows, only between. Magic. They were elfish looking, but with skin as black as obsidian, covered in blood red rune tattoos.

     When the dark elves ran, the dwarves finally saw them. Shouts rang out and echoed in the hall. Ulfer raised his axe and split one elf in the middle before a sword ran him through.

     The dark elf pushed Ulfer to the ground, and slashed at Cavegrind. The dwarf stepped aside. He smashed the dark elf’s chest with his battle hammer. Before he could turn and face the next opponent, a dagger stabbed into his back. He fell next to Ulfer.

     The dark elves decimated Kivi’s party. The expedition wasn’t prepared for such an attack. There were no enemies like these known to them. Shock froze Kivi against the column. A dark elf appeared beside him.

     Kivi fell back. His tunic brushed against the stone.

     The dark elf cocked his head. He lifted his spear and thrust it against the stone column several times, but Kivi had already climbed high, one hand on the wall, the other on the pendent. The dark elf joined the others.

     Kivi heard their voices carry through the hall. He understood most of the words, but the dialect and structure were very different from the wood elves he’d met back home.

     “Think there’s more through this little hole?” one asked.

     “Maybe. What are these things anyway? They’re so weak. We only lost two in the battle.”

     “Don’t kill them so fast next time, and we’ll find out what they are. If they can speak.”

     The group laughed.

     “I wonder where this leads? There’s no tunnel that we know of on the other side.” With that, a dark elf climbed through, followed by the others.

     Kivi waited a long time before climbing down, and even longer before he went to his friends. Kneeling beside Ulfer, he placed his small hand on the barbarian’s large one. “What have we done,” he whispered. “What have we unleashed from the deep?”

     Ulfer wheezed.

     “You’re alive?” Kivi bent over Ulfer’s mouth and felt breath on his cheek.

     The warrior coughed blood. He stained his lips. “Don’t worry about me.” Ulfer gagged. His muscles spasmed.

     Kivi shook his head. Blood pooled under Ulfer’s body. The wound was grave. “You’re dying. I can’t stop it.”

     “No.” Ulfer struggled to talk, his breathing, labored. “Tied to stone.”

     “Lifestone?”

     Ulfer nodded.

     Kivi felt a great weight lift from his shoulders. Even surrounded by death, one life spared was enough to make it bearable.

     “Kivi,” Ulfer called back his attention. “We have to stop them.” It was the last thing he said.

     Kivi had to close the opening. It took every ounce of willpower he had to force himself through the tunnel. Dragging a string of explosives behind him, he was sure the dark elves would hear the sound and kill him on the other side.

     He thought he saw a dark elf in every shadow. Kivi was a bundle of raw nerves when he exited the tunnel. It was quiet, the old camp empty.

     He couldn’t think of anything other than closing the hole. He bundled the end of the explosives at the tunnel’s edge, lit the charge and ran. He didn’t know if it was too little or too much. He didn't know if he had time to get away. The world exploded around him, and then there was darkness.

     Kivi woke in his bed, his mother reading beside him. Disoriented, he thought he must be dreaming. Or dead.

     “You’re okay, dear,” His mother said. “You were trapped in an explosion. Must have been some terrible accident.”

     “Is he awake?” His father entered the room. “Don’t worry about my reputation. I don’t care what others say.”

     “The explosion really mangled your friends. They must have been near the source, regardless of what the dwarves say. You’re lucky you were far enough away not to get killed.”

     “No. I set the explosion.”

     His father looked pale. “Don’t worry about remembering.”

     “There were these horrible elves, dark elves that moved in the shadows. They killed everyone. We have to plug the hole.”

     “He’s talking about those rumors,” his mother said. Her smile fell.

     His father shushed her. “What hole son? They found you and the others in an enormous hall.” 

     Shocked, Kivi was silent. He was on the other side of the tunnel from the team when he set off the explosive.

     They were loosed, the evil from the depths of peril. He would never have Larite. Never find the lifestones. It hardly mattered compared to what the kingdoms of the lumen and dwarves faced from the savage elves. “I tried to close it.”

     His mother glanced at his father, a worried look on her face. “Sleep, Kivi. You’ll feel better after more rest.”

     He knew it wasn’t true. 

References: Barbarian, Dwarf, Elf, Lumen, Dark Elf

 
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