Terra Incognita – Chapter 9

Terra IncognitaHelena was about to throw fire again when Orby made her slow down. Wait. Focus your energy through me. Don’t quick cast if you can avoid it. Slow your breathing. Speak the word fire in draconic. Use that to focus.

Relaxing slightly the glowing in Helena’s arm focused into her hand and manifested in a green flame as she spoke a single word in draconic. She threw the flame at one of the shadow skeletons, causing the shadow to appear to bleed.

Lourek and Lukren were distracted by the draconic for a moment, then went back to fighting the shadow skeleton. They gave it a few swift hits before Sorley cast a bolt of energy at it, causing the skeleton and shadow both to burst apart.

“Well, I suppose it’s nice to have magic types around,” Lukren muttered. “As long as they don’t try to spread religion.”

“Yeah, that priest we had with us in the mines was a little too talkative, but I still wish he’d made it.” Lourek bowed his head slightly.

Lukren patted him on the back. “Don’t worry. We both know it was his yammering that called the beasts. We both told him to shut up a lot.”

Lifting his head slightly Lourek looked at the shattered bones in front of him. “Yes, let’s get moving though. I’m sure we have a way to go before we’re out of this tunnel.”

– – –

“Come, Evryn. I’m sure we’re getting close. Even if we aren’t let’s keep away from that rend. The elves fear those more than orcs.” Krakust patted the fur on his ice-wolf’s snout. “Besides, there’s nothing we can do with it.”

Reluctantly Evryn turned away from the rend and followed Krakust through the tunnel.

“I bet this comes out in the middle of the eastern forest. According to my compass that’s the way we’re going.”

A small growl escaped Evryn as she turned to face a path too small for a man to travel.

“What is it, girl? They couldn’t have-“ A flaming skull launched out of the small passageway and shot fire at Krakust. “Oh, one of these. I know what to do.” Krakust reached for an ornate waterskin in his pack. “I had to use this a while back, figured I’d keep some on me. Hold it off for a little while I find it, Evryn.”

The flameskull shot another stream of flame, this time at Evryn who dodged to the side. Unsure of how to deal with the skull she started hopping around it rapidly, attempting to distract it. She was successful at her distraction, but she took a few flame shots as she did so, ruining her fur.

“Ah, found it!” Krakust held up the ornate water skin. “Blessed by the village priest. This should deal with those flames.” He unstopped the water skin and threw it onto the skull. The skin slowly burned as the water spilled out onto the skull, dousing the flames.

The flameskull slowly dropped to the cave floor, now nothing more than a skull and Krakust continued down the passageway, unaware that the skull started glowing a light purple behind him. If he had seen it he would’ve crushed it, certain that it would bring no good.

– – –

For what felt like days Sorley, Ember, Helena, Orby, Lourek, and Lukren traveled through the tunnel. The dwarves felt the upward and downward movements and knew they were heading towards the surface, but they didn’t know where.

“Look, Helena can walk fine now. I say we pick up the speed.”

Helena started walking ahead of the group. “Do you think you could keep up with the run of an elf?”

“No, I think Flaskheart was suggesting we go at a comfortable jog instead.”

“Oi, don’t call me that!” Lukren started jogging, setting the new pace.

“Yeah, just run off then, brother!”

“Don’t make me come back there, brother.”

The new pace was easy for Sorley and Helena to keep up with and it would have been for Ember as well, but she was sleeping in Sorley’s arms when that jogging started.

Stirring from her nap Ember looked around sleepily. “Are we jogging because of danger, or just for fun?”

“Sorry, we’re just getting a new pace. The dwarves are anxious to get out of the tunnel.”

“I’ll refrain from making jokes.”

“Aye, that’s a good idea.” Lourek poked Embers snout lightly. “We’re not okay with racism.”

“Not even with orcs?”

“No, they may be a dastardly group all together, but individually they aren’t all that bad…usually. The one that’s following us is making it difficult to believe.”

“Do you still think he’s back there somewhere?” Ember scrabbled up to Sorley’s shoulder. “Maybe he’s given up.”

“I doubt that. He seemed really interested in interrogating Sorley here.” Lourek nodded at Sorley. “Besides. He was the one that let Sorley and Helena escape. From what I know about orcs that means he’s ostracized until he gets you back or dies trying.”

“Well, can we move faster?”

Just as Ember asked Lukren came to a full stop and everyone almost ran into him. “Oi, careful! There’s a chasm ahead.”

Twenty feet in front of them there was a wide chasm with a dim red light glowing from it. As they stepped out of the tunnel onto the shelf next to the chasm they felt the heat pounding against them.

A rock when skittering across the ground and over the edge. Eventually it made a strange half-splashing half-thudding sound. “Well,” Sorley said, “everything I know about underground chasms tells me that there’s lava at the bottom of that.”

“It’s magma when it’s still underground, but yes.” Lukren looked to either side of the tunnel exit. “Well, we could attempt to mine a way up and around, but that would take a long time. Anyone know how to conjure a bridge?”

Sorley pulled out his father’s grimoire and started thumbing through it. “Conjure bridges? No. Make people climb walls and ceilings? Yes, if I can find it.”

“Let me see. I should be able to do that one too.” Helena muttered something in draconic and moved her hands in a few spider-like motions. She then pressed up against the wall and climbed straight up it as if she were just taking a casual stroll. “Yup, I can.”

“Ah, I found it here. I can do that too.” Sorley muttered something in Latin and moved his hands in a similar fashion to Helena. Ember scrambled into his pack before he did the same thing Helena had done. “I don’t think I can do that again. It puts a bit of a strain on me.”

“Unfortunately, that’s the same for me. Maybe we can string rope across like a pully system to get you two across?” Helena motioned to the rope and pitons the dwarves had on the exterior of their packs.

The dwarves looked at each other in concern.

“Well, it would work, but we’d be hanging over a chasm with magma at the bottom. If we do it, we need to be quick.” Lourek peered over the edge. “No amount of healing magic would bring us back from that.”

Lukren pulled Lourek away from the edge. “Aye, a grisly death that. Lots of skittering about. It’s something you don’t want to watch, and yet you can’t look away.”

“Well, let’s get started, unless you want to go fight that flameskull.” Sorley held out a hand for the end of a rope and a piton.

– – –

Krakust started moving at a jog when he saw the remains of a couple of skeletons. He had heard stories about strange amalgamations of creatures called shadow-skeletons. They were supposed to be made up of a shadow and a skeleton that functioned as one. He didn’t feel like meeting a group of them given the other stories about them. There were other creatures known as demon skeletons that were a shadow demon and a skeleton. When one shadow-skeleton was nearby a demon skeleton wouldn’t be far behind.

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