Forgotten Cave
Forgotten Cave     “What is this place?” Brenna stared into the dark maw of the cave hidden behind layers of toothy cacti. Hot and sticky under her long red-brown robe, she sat and drank from her water skin. After hiking up a desert mountain, with no trail or path, Brenna suspected Sven had gotten them lost.

     “It’s the hidden passage I told you about. This cavern used to be a trade route, before the desert covered the countryside.” Sven looked at a wrinkled map. His tan muscles gleamed in the sunlight, highlighting many scars. He was from the barbarian race, a northern people quick to fight. “It’ll be quicker than climbing or circling around Misery Mountains.”

     “Is it dangerous?” Damek leaned on his mahogany staff imbued with runes, while smoothing the folds in his gray travel robe. His chestnut hair lay flat from perspiration. He hadn’t wanted the task of finding and destroying the source of the dark elves black sky magic. The old magician died while Sven lay unconscious, both swords still sheathed. Damek found him while escorting his student, Brenna, to Forfarshire. He wasn’t as strong and experienced in magic as the old magician, but there wasn’t time to find another. The Council of Magic had determined a mage was the only one capable of stopping the dark elves. Now the council was in Forfarshire, defending the city in a crumbling stalemate. The two human mages, a barbarian, and a new member, a lumen, were all that stood in the way of the dark elves lust for conquest and domination over all. When Damek climbed the nets of his father’s fishing boat as a child, he never dreamed the fate of the world would rest on his shoulders.

     “Not any more dangerous than the desert.” Sven rubbed the tip of a scar that ran down his face from brow to chin. “May be some beasts in there, but we’ll manage. We need the time we’ll save.” He led them into the cave, peering from time to time at the ancient magician’s map. 

     In the dim light, Tover scouted ahead. His brown lumen eyes, better suited for dark since lumen live deep underground, helped him pick their path with ease. He was much shorter than the humans, thin, and had moon colored skin. 

     Damek carried a small torch, held high between Brenna and Sven. They took care with their footing but tripped on cracks and jagged rocks. Their footfalls echoed. Tover’s ability to move silently surprised them. 

     After many twists and turns, Brenna considered Sven’s map useless. They were lost deep beneath Misery Mountains. The darkness stifled her. She hugged her elbows as tension rose in her tight shoulders. If the dark elves succeeded poisoning the sky with their floating dark magic, would this be the future? She shuddered.

     Tover directed their way in the maze. He popped up in front of Sven. 

     “How’s it look ahead?” Sven asked.

     “There’s a bridge.”

     “A bridge?” Sven studied his map. “I don’t see a bridge.”

     “Yes, I wondered about that too. There’re no other side passages along this stretch. I ventured ahead to see if it led to the Hall of Knives, but I wasn’t able to get far enough.”

     “Not far enough?” Sven folded the map.

     “Cave in?” Damek asked.

     “No, scorpids.”

     “Scorpids?” Brenna shoved her way around Damek. “What’s that?”

     “Half scorpion, half man,” Sven said. “How many?”

     “Three that I saw, maybe more farther back.”

     “Damek and I can take three. You stay behind us with Brenna.” 

     “You’ve fought them before?” Damek asked.

     Sven nodded.

     “I haven’t,” Damek said.

     “It’s similar to giant scorpions. Watch out for the tail. They see movement well in the dark. Probably some glow moss nearby, where they’re nesting. They can see as well as us when there’s glow moss.”

     Tover led the group to the wooden bridge spanning a deep chasm. He pointed out the gaps between each plank before signaling Sven to douse the light. 

     Brenna waved her hand in front of her face without seeing it. Darkness would give them the advantage of surprise. The bridge swayed and creaked under their weight, and she kept one hand on the rope railing. 

     Once across, they joined hands to creep forward. Tover stopped, crouching low. 

     Sven struggled to see. When he gave up and closed his eyes, he heard them. He drew his two swords without noise. Damek grabbed hold of Sven’s waist belt as they moved forward in pitch black. 

     Tover leaned close to Brenna. “Stay here,” he whispered before hopping along behind Sven and Damek. “Thirty paces,” he whispered.

     Damek started, but Sven didn’t flinch. 

     Sven gave a short nod before realizing the others couldn’t see it, except perhaps Tover. He shook off Damek’s hand and charged. Stabbing low near the sound of feet, he rushed in, then fell back and to the side in a defensive position listening for reaction. 

     When Damek chanted, the scorpids hissed and stamped in his direction. Sven swung his sword into the movement. It sliced through flesh unseen before Sven ducked into a roll as spear tips stabbed the rocky earth. 

     Damek unleashed waves of rolling water, hitting the target before it pooled along the cave floor. He began a second incantation. 

     Brenna gripped her dagger, hand shaking. This was ridiculous! How could they fight a battle when blind? “Tover,” she whispered. What if a horde of scorpid killed them all and she didn’t know? She felt paralyzed and useless. Brenna couldn’t tolerate the helplessness any longer. 

     She cast magic on the dead torch in her hand. The cave exploded with light, like a crack leading topside to the midday sun. She threw the torch at the advancing scorpids. 

     As it flew end over end, Damek released a magic freeze, turning the puddles of water into ice at the scorpids rush of stick-like legs. Stiff hair from their lower abdomens touched the ground. The long, curved tails loomed overhead, with stinger topped bulbs on the ends.   

     Sven squinted in the light. Blood poured from one limp shoulder of the scorpid he’d slashed. He stood and sliced at its neck. The scorpid pulled away, swinging its heavy tail over its back, claws chopping air. Sven’s sword sliced through muscle and scraped against bone, like a knife through bruised fruit. When the scorpid fell, its tail rained down and struck Sven’s leg. He fell backward, his leg burnt and spasming from the toxic sting. 

     Damek saw the scorpids yank their feet free of the frozen ice. Two tried to rush him, but their legs slipped. They clamored for balance. Chanting, he spun his staff round and round in his palm, pulling energy into it. He aimed at the left scorpid and released an ice spear into the beast’s heart. 

     The third scorpid regained his balance, and stumbled forward. Crippled, with one leg useless, Sven lay too far away to help. A loud thumping began from the cave’s depths. The scorpid paused at the sound and screeched before closing in on the ice mage.

     Hearing Brenna shout behind him, Damek ducked just in time. A fireball rolled through the air to his right. The scorpid’s eyes opened wide. It darted sideways, but lost traction on the ice.  The fireball struck its chest, covering the beast in flames.

     “More coming,” Sven said. 

     Damek glimpsed Tover helping Sven rise before the steam from the fire and ice obliterated his view. An eerie mist, thick with sweat and death, clung in the cavern like a damp web. Brenna’s hand touched the back of his cloak.

     “Take the right side,” he instructed. Her ghostly shape drifted away. Damek pulled magical energy into his hands, and directed a rain of hail, pelting the center of the mist.

     Tover saw them first, through the glowing fog. He whispered to Sven, then ducked out of sight. 

     Sven leaned against the cavern wall for support, one sword ready, the other sheathed. He needed a free hand for balance. 

     Two gigantic scorpids materialized at the edge of the cloud and looked toward Damek. One let out a deafening roar that filled the cavern and shook the walls. Rocks and silt fell. It held up its arm to deflect the ice spears. Blood dripped from deep gashes and blisters. The first huge scorpid heaved its spear at Damek. 

     Tover heard Brenna’s low voice as she readied another spell, followed by a short surprised scream and thud. He couldn’t spare his attention on her predicament. One thing at a time. Quietly, he picked up a metal spear dropped by a scorpid. He climbed up the side of a stalagmite and jumped onto the monster’s back. Before the scorpid bucked, Tover drove the spear between its ribs. He fell to the ground and crawled out beneath its legs, away from the fray.  As the scorpid lost consciousness, it wobbled into its comrade and fell.

     Damek hopped to the side. The large spear flew down after him. It brushed his shoulder and stabbed his robe, pinning him to the cave floor. He yanked on the robe, tearing it free. The mist cleared somewhat, and the last scorpid rushed toward him. There wasn’t enough time to prepare another spell. He pulled out his dagger. 

     As soon as the monster passed, Sven leaped, and stabbed into its heart. Blood gushed out, splashing him and pooling on the floor. He left his sword in the creature to do its lethal work while he dropped to the ground, avoiding the waving tail.

     The scorpid turned a complete circle before stumbling into the far wall with a loud thump. The impact vibrated through the stone cave. It moaned and fell. 

     Damek nodded at Sven and headed over to help him up.

     “Where’s Brenna?” Sven asked. 

     Damek looked around the cave. Brenna’s magic torch pushed the darkness into clumps of shadow. “Tover?” Damek called.

     “Here! There’s a hole within this crag of rocks. Brenna fell down it during the fight.”

     “How’s the leg?” Damek helped Sven limp toward Tover.

     “Should be alright once I get some healing salve on it. The poison won’t kill me, but it will slow me down.” 

     They didn’t have time to slow down, but they’d never make it without the warrior either. Damek looked down into the vast black pit as Tover held up the magical torch. 

     “I’ll get her.” Tover anchored a rope to a column and tossed it into the hole. He slid down, alert for any sign of movement as the opening widened into a small chamber. 

     Brenna lay on the floor. Her chest rose slightly with her shallow breath.

     “Brenna?” Damek called. 

     Tover stuck the torch into a crack on the floor. He inspected her for broken bones or other injuries. A knot swelled on the back of her head. 

     Brenna’s eyes fluttered opened and she moaned. 

     Tover sighed with relief. He smiled down into her confused face. 

     “What?” she asked.

     “Not the best time to be falling down holes,” Tover said.

     “Oh no!” Brenna sat up too fast and saw black dots swim before her eyes. She leaned back and the darkness retreated. “Sven and Damek?”

     “They’re safe, above.”

     “What’s going on?” Sven shouted.

     “I’m fine, I just need,” Brenna took a breath, “give me a moment.” She noticed something glowing through one of Tover’s satchels. “What’s that?”

     Tover untied the small bag and took out a round stone. The green stripe on the common gray rock glowed in the soft darkness of the chamber. He rubbed his thumb across its surface. “It’s my magic detector.”

     “Is this a magical place?” 

     “No, green means something else.”

     Before Brenna asked anything else, Tover darted off into the darkness. A moment later he returned with a wide smile. He climbed the rope and found Sven alone. “Where’s Damek?”

     “Scouting. We want to know if there are more scorpid nearby.”

     “Wouldn’t they have come with all of the noise during the fight?”

     “Probably. But it’s better to know for certain.”

     Tover saw Damek shake his head as he returned, reporting no signs of more trouble.

     “Come down. I’ve found something.” Tover didn’t wait for their questions. He slid down, picked up the torch and handed it to Brenna. 

     She slid her fingers up to the tender spot on the back of her head and winced. “I’m okay.” 

     Damek slid down the rope. “Sven can’t come because of the scorpid sting. What did you find, Tover?”

     The three walked to the edge of the chamber and turned around a corner. Hidden in a pocket lay glinting gold and jewels, a secret treasure trove. Damek cast a quick spell to check for curses and traps before the three plunged into the find. 

     Amongst the jewelry, candlesticks, plates and goblets, Damek found a treasure beyond his dreams; the legendary staff of Raven Rimround. Named Whirlwind, it slew the dark dragons of its day. The carvings marked it clearly, just like the myths told. It had a spiral inside a winged triangle below the balled top. On the other side was the mark of a raven in flight, white trillium flower in one claw. 

     After the fall of the Kingdom of Rimround, everyone scoured the countryside for this potent weapon. Although the ruins of Rimround lay partially buried in Grimalkin Forest, no record proved the existence of Raven or Whirlwind. Yet here lay the staff, Whirlwind, in Damek’s hands. He felt the pulse of magic beat within the weapon, as though after a long sleep the weapon woke up and said hello to the mage that found it. 

     “We’ll have to come back for all of this,” Brenna said. She held a plain blackened staff. 

     “What’s that?” Damek asked. 

     “Staff I found.”

     “But there’re several others here, marked in magic runes and imbued. Why take the plain one?”

     “Have you seen my magic? If I burn this one, it won’t matter. It’s survived so far.” She thumped it on the ground twice. “See? It’s solid. Maybe this is the perfect staff for me.” 

     Damek shrugged. He grabbed a few coins. They might need them. With two new weapons, one plain, the other of myth, they continued through Misery Mountains and towards the source of darkness.

References: Brenna, Sven, Damek, Tover, Barbarian, Human, Lumen, Scorpid, Scorpion, Dark Elf

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