by Ey Stargazer
A boy finds a tunnel under his bed filled with all sorts of strange creatures
|'Ed! Ed! What is all that roaring? Open the door! Ed!'
I woke to the loud banging of my father's shoulder on the door. Yet my effort to get up was hampered by the weight on my chest. The door opened before I could properly assess the situation. The gasp that erupted from my father's throat should have told me enough. I had fallen asleep with Kyle on my lap and two or three other wyrms, only about half his size were now sitting on my legs while they argued with Kyle about sitting on my chest. They paused to glance at my dad, stared at him a moment, and then resumed their tirade with each other. My dad didn't seem sure if he should become angry or calm down. Kyle knocked one of the other wyrms off my leg. That put off just enough weight. I lifted Kyle a bit and sat up. 'I'm fine, dad, it's nothing serious.'
'Ed,' he paused his mouth outwardly searching for the right word, 'How many are there?'
I tried not to sound guilty, of what I don't know, 'I don't know. I've encountered a number of them, they seem a bit wary and shy at first but when I have Kyle with me they quickly relax.' I wasn't sure if that was going to make things easier for me or not. My inclination was in the 'not' category. My father slowly walked into the room. He waited a moment before giving Kyle a slight scratch on the head.
'Ed, I appreciate that Kyle saved Letti'twice, but I need to draw a line. What if these creatures got into a friendly fight with each other and burned the village down or became hungry and decided to attack the goats instead of going hunting.'
I had to admit that both of those were valid concerns, I didn't want to think about them myself but the village being set ablaze was a much more serious situation than them getting a bit over eager with their flame in the tunnel.
'How much do you think they understand?'
I rubbed Kyle's head at the same time as the smaller one that had been knocked off used my dad's leg as a means to get back up to the top, Kyle made a grumbling noise at it and the smaller one tried to put me as much between them as he could manage. 'They are intelligent, but I don't know how much of our language they understand.'
'You seem able to communicate just fine.'
'Yes but'' I bit my lower lip and tapped my fingers on Kyle's head, 'I'm not sure that it's the same as how we communicate, it seems to me that they might be understanding more my emotions than words.'
'But you taught them to make the glass animals,' he pointed out with a raised eyebrow.
I set about rearranging the wyrms on my bed so I could have more freedom of movement, 'well, it was' it was more like teaching Letti how to do something when she was little than when I'm instruction one of the younger boys.'
'So more smart like a dog?'
I considered, 'almost, I think they are more understanding than a dog but''
'Not by much?' he offered.
I nodded, 'I can try, but I don't know how many I will have to talk to in order to get the point across.'
He put a hand on my shoulder, 'I would appreciate that son, we'll just have to wait and see what comes of it and go from there.' He looked down at Kyle who was sitting next to anther wyrm about half his size. 'Um, don't tell your mother the answer to this question but, is Kyle as big as they get?'
I thought back to the large wyrm I had met in the tunnel, I wasn't sure how well he would take to the size of that one, 'they get bigger than that but I think it depends on how much they get to eat.'
'How much do they eat?'
'I'm not really sure,' I rubbed the top of Kyle's head, 'I've seen him attempt to consume a mangy skinny wolf but I'm not really sure how much or even what he eats. I could attempt to find out but it might take an entire day and''
'We can't spare you for that long at this time of year,' he shook his head, 'That won't work but hopefully and with any luck we won't suffer for the lack of knowledge.'
I heard the sound of footsteps in the hall, the tread wasn't fast enough for Letti's fast pace so I got up and tossed the blanket over my collection of wyrms a moment before my mom entered the room.
'My love, the traders are coming back through the village.'
My father simultaneously straightened turned and further blocked the view of the extra lumpy bed surface that was now firmly behind the both of us, 'traders coming back this early? The first have not come through yet.'
'From last fall.'
'the group of important people?' I asked for clarification.
She smiled at me, 'yes my clever boy.'
My father glanced back at me. I could see a look of some seriousness on his face. 'Well then we had best go out to meet them.' My mother smiled and turned to leave, once we heard her footsteps well down the hall, he sighed.'
'What is it?'
'They should have come back in the fall.'
'Prehaps winter came early.'
He looked thoughtful. 'Still odd, but,' he shook himself and smiled, 'it is not our place to judge. Come, your friend will want to see you again.'
I will not pretend to understand my father's speculation but it would stay in my mind for some time to come.
It was obvious that they had been doing some traveling, though their clothes had not taken as much of a beating as the traders usually did, but they were not of the proper travel weathered quality to begin with so they looked much worse. I scaned the group for Cornelius. The entire company looked rather haried and frazzled, perhaps too long since they had been home. I stil had not seen Cornelius. I glanced up at the sky. The goats would start to get restless soon. I quickly gripped my dad's hand to get his attention. When he turned his head to me all I had to do was look up to indicate my intention. He gave a quick study to the sky as well and nodded.
When I reached the folds I was surprised to find Cornelius feeding long strings of grass to the goats through the door. He looked up as I approached.
'I didn't realize you started work so late.'
I smiled, 'there was a big commotion in the village of course I had to look at it before coming out to work.'
'I've been waiting for you for days.'
I gave him a disbelieveing look, 'Are you sure you've even been here that long?'
He tapped the bridge of his nose and smiled, 'I didn't say I had been waiting here.'
I laughed, swung my crook and javelin across my shoulders and draped my hands over them like a yoke, 'so city boy, would you care to learn how to put goats out to pasture?'
Taking goats to pasture is not a simple thing with a novice goatherd and no dog. Between the nannies bitting, Lyle terrorizing and overall incooperation from the goats we were lucky to get out to the field by high sun.
Cornelius collapsed on the rock, 'Good lord! And you do this everyday?'
I pulled at the toe of my boot while leaning on my crook, 'well not exactly like that everyday.'
He rested his head on the rock, 'I'm going to start sending our whining councelors up here to work for a while to make them more appreciative of their position.'
'I'm not sure the goats would appreciated that.'
'That's part of the idea.'
I continued fussing with my boot.
'Are you curious about what happened while I was away?'
I paused, 'Can't say I've thought that much about it.'
'Woulod you like to know?'
'Do you want to tell me?'
He was silent. I pulled my boot off and began shaking it to dislodge the rock.
'They are suspicious, wary, one look at us told them where we were from, some villages even drove us out.'
I slowed as I pulled on my boot.
'I'd tell you that I'd never seen people so on edge but I have,' he glanced at me, 'in my own country.' He closed his eyes. 'I still don't really know what we were doing there in the first place, and my men are talking to me even less now.'
'Can't you just order them to tell you?'
My friend began to massage his temples, 'you think I haven't tried? Something is going on here but I don't know what. I can't even get a straight answer out of them for why we left when we did.'
A sound not dissimilar to what a young child will make when trying to scare their parents erupted above our heads. While Kyle made me jump a bit it was nothing comparend with the shock had be Cornelius which onlt heightened when he saw our assailent.
'What is that?' he nearly yelled while searching desperately for somthign to defend himself with.
I lifted the hefty wyrm from the rock, 'This is Kyle.'
He had found his stick and was holding it before him in a very nervous way. 'What is it?'
'He's a wyrm, it's koind of like a dragon nbut with no legs or wings.'
Cornelius was staring at me in a very suspicious way now. 'And you're just holding it like it's a pet dog.'
I looked down at my arms full of reptile, 'well he is like a dog but not really like a dog.'
'Ed.' I returned my eyes to his face, 'That thing is dangerous.'
'Not to me,' I smiled at Kyle.
I could hear Cornelius' breathing was becoming agitated, 'If the men in my group see that thing, they will attack it in an attempt to save your village.'
I looked at him in shook, ' what are you talking about? They can't do that.'
'they can and they will. That creature could kill everything here, it's probably only a matter of time.' He turned to move toward the village.
For a moment I was rooted in place he wasn't going to get Kyle killed was he? And what about the other wyrms. Barely thinking I did the only thing I could think of to stay him; I threw Kyle square onto his shoulders. They both flailed around, but I got my desired effect and they were both on the ground. Kyle in his effort to defend himself coiled around Corneluis torso, which was much more humane that his typical frying response. I waited till they had stilled a bit before restraining Cornelius' shoulders to give Kyle a chance top relax.
'I'm sorry but I can't let you do that. 'his eyes met mine, 'he's my friend. He saved my sister and our goats. You don't trust him, I get that, you don't know what he is like, that he doesn't need to be feared, but I can't just let you have him hurt.'
Kyle relaxed the coil that was covering our pinned friend's mouth. He took a few quick gasps before speaking. 'I thought it was going to kill me.'
I smiled nervously, 'he was just as surprised as you are. Please don't tell anyone.'
'Does your village know about this?'
I released him and took to gathering Kyle into my arms again, 'to one degree or another yes.'
He sat up and looked nervously at Kyle, 'I don't trust this thing.'
I ran a hand along Kyle's back, 'no, I suppose you wouldn't , But I do and I won't let you do anything to hurt him.'
'alright alright but if I hear that your village has gone down in flames I'm sending in a hunting party.'
I thought it unnecessary and pointless but at least it meant Kyle was safe for the moment, 'as you will but it won't happen.' We were both looking rather paranoid. 'are you planning another big supper in the village?'
'No we have to continue on right away, we still have a lot of daylight and the men seem to be in a hurry to make it back to the capital.'
'they probably don't want to be kept waiting.'
'they had to resupply anyway.'
Even Lyle's standing beside Cornelius for a moment before stomping firmly on his foot and bleating wildly wasn't enough to crack us out of our awkwardness. It didn't take much time after that before we were on nearly opposite sides of the flock from each other. He had brought along a meal pack for himself so we remained segregated even while eating. Finally I returned as he was returning the spent clothes to his bag.
'I'm sorry I ragged on your dragon snake, but we have problems with very large ones in the far south of our lands.'
'It's called a wyrm.'
He chuckled, 'I should have guessed that you knew that. Please be careful, I won't tell anyone about it but,' he seemed to be searching for a word, 'be safe.'
I smiled, 'I will, and he helps, he gives better protection than a guard dog.'
He smiled warily but wasn't that convinced. We shook hands and I watched him walk away out of the field. By the time I got back that evening the entire party was long gone. They had done some trading in the village which my mom happily praised to be because of me. I got to bed a bit earlier than usual. But once I laid down I wasn't really that tired anymore. After tossing and turning for a while I finaly got up, put on my shoes and went into the tunnel.
I couldn't remember when the last time I had been down there was. Time had simply gotten away from me and it seemed that most of the time when I was interacting with Kyle now it was on the surface. I did not bother to bring a candle as the tunnel was already well illuminated by the glass pillars and small fire pools that the wyrms had filled it with. It was beautiful. Colors changing and morphing in the glass in abstract shapes and forms giving way to what looked very much like glass embossed images on the walls and floor. Glass sculptures ranging widely in skill and size but ever increasing in complexity began to cover the floor. These were not here the last time I was. I walked along looking at them, making sure to take a more thorough glance around for wyrms every now and then. The figures ranged from sheep and mice to dogs and bears. Then they started to change. Wyrms, playing, fighting, even climbing trees were starting to get portrayed with amazing details. Then came the stranger one; suspended from the ceiling of the cave what seemed like an unnaturaly thin line of glass was the figure of what looked like a wyrm but with a delicate sheet of glass across the back that looked like wings. Beneath this was a number of wyrms seemingly fleeing in all directions. As I walked further along more scenes similar to the last played out, some the wyrms seemed to gang up on the winged snake, others the winged creature reared up in triumph over a wyrm that laid on the ground with no sign of life. I walked faster as I obrerved the sudden gruesome change in the figures. If I had been paying more attention I might have noticed that the cave was becoming larger as the figures also grew in size.
A sharp pain ran in my head as I turned to see what I had run into. I fell backward and stared in a mix of awe and terror. There in front of me was a figure I had never seen the like of. Nearly three times my height it was unlike any of the others. It possessed a strong tail that served as its balance point on the ground. Four legs, muscular and thick ending in feet as large as my head and claws the length of my hands, were poised forward to grasp what it might. A serpentine head, with considerably more of a snout than my wyrm friends was gaping open to reveal not one or two but five rows of dangerously curved teeth. The creatures were seeming to get more menacing the more limbs they gained. Made mostly of red glass with some random patches and veinings of gold, the depiction was awesome to behold. After regaining my wits I moved to walk around it. The wings touched both the top and sides of the cave, bracing itself upright and nearly blocking the entire tunnel way. I had though previous to this one that the wyrms with wings looked threatening enough. This was a creature I didn't feel particularily thrilled about the prospect of meeting. I wasn't sure if even Kyle's precence would help me in any way if I met this creature. I ducked and edged around it, wondering how the wyrms had accomplished such a feat of sculpture. The space under the wings was rather narrow to the ground. I must have gotten taller since it seemed to be getting harder to get through small spaces. After I got under I straightened and strode past the figure, surprised that there were none beyond it. That same moment I realized that there was nothing under my foot.
Air whipped in my face as my rapid decent began. I flailed my arms and legs but neither connected with anything nor could I see where I was going. When I met the ground again it was with a jolt that sent instant pain into my ribs followed by a roll of I know not how long. Somehow I managed not to hit my head but everything else hurt. The pain from my ribs caused stars to dance in my eyes for a few moments before clearing. Slowly and with a great deal of both care and agony I rolled over to see if I could spot where I fell from. I could make out the illuminated figure of the dragon some considerable distance up from where I was. The shape and size of it prevented much light from escaping from the tunnel into what I was guessing must have been a large cavern. I waited where I laid on the floor, looking upwards to where the only shred of light was coming from and waited for some of the pain to subside. My breathing was shallow, I probably had broken a couple ribs along with I don't know how many bruised everywhere else. I could hear nothing. No sounds of the wyrms, no underground streams. My eyes slowly adjusted to the gloom. It didn't make much difference. How large the cavern was I couldn't tell but it seemed to defy the lights ability to illuminate it. The image of the fierce dragon danced though my mind and I held my breath in an effort to try to hear better. Nothing but my own blood pounding in my ears. I released the breath. No one knew I was here. Not my father, or mother, not Kyle or the other wyrms.
I don't know how long I sat in the dark, burning my lungs as I yelled for help. After every call I waited hoping to hear the scuffling sound of a rescue or the familiar cries of the wyrms as they talked to each other. My voice was becoming hoarse. I began to shake with worry but it was short lived as the pain in my ribs demanded respect. I fought the tears for a while but lost the battle quickly. I only had two options. I could stay here and hope to be found or I could attempt to go looking for another way out. I rubbed my temples gently. It was the middle of the night, even if I did start walking now no one would even think to come looking till the morning anyway. As gently as I could manage I laid down on the ground. There was a lot of sand on the ground down here as the wyrms hadn't stripped it all to make their statues. Working slowly I collected it into a pile to give myself some more cushioning. I don't know how long it took me to go to sleep or how long I was asleep for. But I couldn't stay that way for long. I sat in the sand and tried to think of something positive. I tried to envision how my dad might discover that I was gone. Maybe Kyle would lead him into the tunnel. I tried to think of him admireing the statues that the wyrms had made as he stooped his way through the tunnel. I entertained myself with thoughts of them building a ladder out of ropes when they suspected that I might have fallen down. I thought of Snaps, sniffing along the ground in the tunnel to help them find me. I also thought that they might miss it completely, sending search parties up and down the mountains. Time seemed to come to an absoulute hailt, it's only betrayal was how hungry I was becoming. I tried to sleep again, confident that if someone did come looking that I would be able to hear. My stomach did not make it an easy task. I sang some of the village songs I used to sing to Letti when she was sick to help her pass the time.
At long last I had had enough. My vision wasn't improving, there were no sounds that anyone was coming to look for me. But there was a chance that whatever had made these tunnels must have made a way to the surface. I said a quick prayer that I wouldn't pick the wrong direction and stood. I was instantly hit with vertigo and a queasy feeling in my stomach, I reached out to the non-existant wall to steady myself, barely catching myself in time and instead bracing myself on my knees. I had never broken ribs before, but I had heard it described by some of the village elders and I was reasonably sure that this was my difficulty. The air was still no hint of a breeze to tell me what might be the way up. Walking was a slow and painful process and the going didn't get any faster as I continued. The floor was uneven and I was always in silent dread that I was going to drop down another hole. No light aided me. At times I felt that I was on an upward slant. I tried not to let this get my hopes us as it always seemed to be followed by an even deeper descent. I absent mindedly hummed for a while till the image of the dragon in the tunnel would creep into my mind making me silent in fear.
At some point in my journey I began to notice an occasional noise. At first I thought I must be imagining it since it seemed that every time I thought I heard something, I would pause and no further sound would reach my ears. After some dozen instances of this happening I began to think that I was not yet going crazy. It was the sound of an echo of a drop hitting the ground. It was a hollow sound and I couldn't tell from what direction. My stomach began to respond to the noise and my mouth felt dry. My urge to give up the search for a way out and focus on the water was strong. I stopped to try to pinpoint the direction. Then I hears a new noise. A scrapping sound, like dragging a heavy back over the road.
I waited. No response. The sound did not continue, no cheerful moan or chirp reached me. I heard the sound of water again. I also felt a touch of air on my neck. I put my hand back to try to confirm that I hadn't imagined it. But it had come from behind me. I took a step forward away from the wind. My blood began racing. If there was air from that way now but there hadn't been this whole time I had a horrible feeling that something was very wrong. The drip sounded again, only this time it sounded like it hit water. My foot failed to make contact with solid ground. I let out a cry as I fell forward long into what I was sure to be my death drop. The cold water seemed to reach up to pull me down. I swung my arms madly and strained to get to the surface as the liquid seemed to freeze in my lungs. I had gone swimming before in the mountain streams, but those were on rare and special occasions and always with an adult or another person nearby to assist if something were to happen. I broke the surface. Gasping for air I raked my brain to remember what the proper way to float without drowning was. I tried to move toward the side only to be greeted by a sheer bank that I couldn't reach the top of. I tried the other side. It seemed to take longer than I was comfortable with to get there and I was greeted by the same unassailable bank. The water was still, no movement was there to guide me save my own splashing. I took an effort to breath before I started to follow along the bank of the stream.
Swimming with I don't know how many broken ribs as far from a fun experience as you can get. I periodically checked the bank to see if I could climb out as well as the bottom to see if I could manage to stand. Gradually I began to feel that there was some slight currant. Hardly detectable but just enough to give me some hope that I would be getting somewhere. The next time I checked the bank it felt much more gradual and as I moved toward it the floor of the stream rather suddenly came up under my feet. I sat on the bank in my soaked clothes, finally remembering how thirst I was after my initial scare of falling in. The water was not stale but did have the air of something that had been sitting around perhaps a little too long. This cavern seemed to have a very slight advantage in light over the other one. I could just make out what I thought was the reflective surface of the water. It took quite a bit of staring at it to come to this conclusion since the reflection of a dark surface in a dark surface is not readily discernable. I sat there shivering. I wondered what time it was. Was it morning? Was it the afternoon already? Surely it wasn't the evening yet. No echos of a search party came to my ears as I sat there. At least now I had the sound of the tiny waves of the lake lapping on its tiny shore. I hadn't noticed it before since I had so much water in my ears. I wondered in perhaps this was the source of one of the streams. It was possible that if I walked around it I would come to a branch that would carry me to the surface, all be it some distance down the mountain. I had been to a couple of the villages on the way down so I would most likely be able to find my way back.
I was starting to feel a bit better. I thought I might have found a way to get home. This was followed by the thought that I might have me tunnel exploring privileges revoked. I looked around at the cavern I had found myself in. My eyes were beginning to adjust still more and I was able to make out some of the walls on the near side to me. The lake seemed to take up most of the space on the floor. But I could not properly see to the other side. This gave me hope though for being able to make my way with a little more surety when I again started moving. It was not a bad cave, though the surprise of it all was perhaps a bit much for a sleep deprived boy without any torch of lantern. Perhaps more exploration would be a good thing in future. With a great deal of rope, some lanterns and an abundant supply of candles, and of course a more ready supply of food. My stomach made a pitiful gurgling noise and the unwelcome thoughts of hot rolls, goat cheese, and firm apples that I usually had for lunch intruded into my thought. I tried to think of something else. No good, now that the door had been opened to the memory of how hungry I was it would not be denied. I gently rocked back and forth for a moment and finding some small rocks began tossing them into the lake, trying to judge from the noise how far I had managed to toss it. When I began to feel that I was as dry as I was going to get without the sun to warm me, I got up and began my continuance around the lake.
There were times I had to stepping to the water due to the disapearence of the shore in places where it met the wall, but I only fell in two more times where the water was strangely and quite suddenly deep. It was almost as though the bed of the lake had been carved out in places. I walked along the shore, suddenly freezing when I heard the unmistakable sound of something moving in the water. I looked out at the surface. I could see nothing at first but in a moment or two though I could distinguish a long shape of what I at first thought was a wave. I gave up on this excuse when it neither came toward shore nor seemed to get any lower in the water. My focus on the water must have been what distracted me from the sound of a light gust of wind or I might have better anticipated what happened next.
The log shape in the water seemed to make a noise and disappeared under the surface but not before a shape rather resembling a blanket thrown out a window fell to the spot where it had been, it make a sound and I heard a terrible hiss as it attempted to pull up before hitting the water. I stumbled backward and fell to the bank. Trying to stifle a cry and hoping against hope that I wouldn't make so much noise as to attract the creature to me. There was a blinding flash as fire seemed to erupt from the water. I was barely able to make out the form of the winged serpent, for that was the shape I had seen as a blanket, as it tried to beat its wings to get away from the fire and water. In the last glows of that light I saw an even greater snake leap from the water and pull the other creature in. the sounds of the water being sprayed and assaulted by the writhing creature were more than enough to shatter whatever I had left of my nerves. What's more the flash of light had wrecked my night vision and I was now left in total darkness again. Just me and the monster in the lake.
I could feel the tears beginning to form. I was going to die here there was no way around it, I would die alone and never be found eaten by a monster in an underground lake. My parents would always wonder what happened to me, Kyle would probably be hunted down by the villagers and that would be the end of that. I cried till there were no more tears for my eyes to give. I sat on the bank sniffling. Surely the creature in the lake knew I was here and was just toying with me. I looked out at the water. I could only just make out the surface again. The log shape of the monsters body was hidden. Misery loves company, and I didn’t have any. I slowly stood. Had it had enough by eating the other creature?
Maybe I would get out of this after all. I took a moment to remember which way I was going. When I resumed walking I kept a wary eye on the lake, straining my ears so at the first sign of movement in the depths I could run. The gently sound of the small waves against the shore were the only sound my ears were rewarded with. When I came to the next stream off shoot I was considerably more hesitant to enter it. If I were a lake dwelling monster this would be the time I would pick to ambush someone. It might be better to cross the stream a bit closer to the wall then to lake. I walk a distance away and stood for what I felt to be a long time looking out at the lake before kneeling down at the bank of the stream. This was a deep one, thankfully it was well set into the stone and as such was easy to get into without making undue noise. Once in the water I again pause to see if my entrance made any difference, while maintaining my hold on the side just in case. Nothing. I let go and let myself start to float toward the otherside, and away from the lake. I tried to concentrate on just my movement in the stream by its own current. Had I found what I had been looking for by accident? I leyt myself continue floating, checking to make sure that the bank was at a level where I would be able to climb out if necessary. At least this was an easier way to travel. I took some gulps of water in an attempt to appease my stomach which seemed to be just now remembering that it was hungry after my scare. I laid on my back and let the water carry me.
It was not a fast method of travel by any means but I was quickly realising how tired I really was. I had been doing a lot of moving recently, without food and with the unwelcome addition of a few broken ribs. And I was beginning to realise that I was not going to be able to keep up at this rate. I let myself float in the darkness and near silence, the sound of the lake was receding and the sound of the stream was not as regular. I caught myself nearly falling asleep a few times. How I managed not to drown I’m not sure. But in time I realised that I needed to take more steps to combat this. My body felt heavy and my ribs like they were being compresed as I lifted myself out of the stream. I tried to align myself with the direction I was going before laying down a few paces away. I also took the chance to try to fill my stomach with as much water as it would accept. It was a temporary fix but I didn’t want my stomach to keep me up for want of things to do. The moments before I was able to finally fall asleep were agony but thankfully short lived. I was so tired.
I awoke in the silence and the stillness. For a moment believing and even smiling with the fact that it must have been a terrible dream brought on by an unquieted mind. But as the moments passed I could no longer delude myself into believeing that I was just under my blankets with my eyes closed securely. My attempt to roll to my side was greeted by the feeling of knives being thrust into my ribs. It was no dream.
“More like a nightmare.” My voice sounded strange all alone in the gloom. I crawled toward the steam, finding it in short time and lowered myself back in. I would need to conserve energy. I had a reliable source of water now but I was still without food and no idea how long I had been under the mountain or how much longer I was likely to be here. I could feel that my hands were starting to take on the texture of prunes as I floated along. For a change of pace I got out and walked along the side. It took more effort than it might have been worth considering how often I had to check to make sure I was still beside my watery pathway. When my feet began to hurt, I filled myself as much as I could with water and sat some little distance from the stream. I closed my eyes, though there was not much difference, and began to wonder again what my father must be thinking. Would anyone think to look for me down here? Would Kyle be able to track me? A sinking feeling hit me. If Kyle had started to track me he would have lost me at the stream. I only had the option of finding my way out. No one was going to find me.
I heard a scraping sound on the ground.
Well not anyone that I wanted to find me anyway. I got up. Too quickly, before I could stop myself I was on my hands and knees trying desperately to keep from retching as the queasiness hit my stomach. The scrapping sound was louder it was far too large to be Kyle. If it was another wyrm and I didn’t have Kyle to intervene…I remembered the look the other wyrm had leveled at me when I stumbled across them in the tunnel. At least it would be a quick death. If I could get back into the water perhaps it wouldn’t take notice of me. I tried to move toward it as fast as I reasonably could. Falling head long into the stream again. I tried not to splash too much, the sooner I got to a resting floating positon the safer I would be otherwise I didn’t stand a chance. I finally achieved the stillness I desired. The scrapping sounds continued to get louder fed by the slight echoes that accompanied it. Then they stopped. I heard a very faint clicking sound. It was too large to be Kyle. Maybe wyrms just make those kind of noises to amuse themselves without there being any special meaning. Then my head bumped into it.
I froze, it didn’t move. I hadn’t heard it enter the water. I held my breath and braced myself for it to eat me in two gulps.
It pocked my head and made another slight noise. I slowly moved my hand up. It flinched away for a moment but seemed to recall itself. It let me run a hand over its wrinkly forehead. Then I heard it move into the water. I felt the current under me change and then gradually I was partially lifted from the cold liquid and moving down the stream at a more rapid pace. Traveling this way was much easier. Smoother as well. At some point in the ride I fell asleep. I dreamed of nothing, that or I was only asleep for a moment and when I woke up it seemed that I could make out some slight formation in the rocks that lined the stream. I watched them for a while. There were some pointy things on the roof and floor of the cavern and every now and then I heard a drip of water, though wethere that was from the cavern or from our journey though the stream I could not tell. After a time it seemed that we were slowing and the wyrm pulled closer to the bank and let my get off. He crawled out to curl into a sort of semicirculat pile of coils that I took the liberty of leaning against. He was warm.
This time I dreamed of being home in my own bed only to have water erupt from the tunnel and fill the room. I awoke with a start. But found myself to be warm and now rather dry in the cavern with the wyrm. I looked to my right, I could see the walls of the cavern on both sides of the stream for some distance before they abruptly left off. Must have been another much larger cave similar to the one I first fell into. A moment of dread came to me that I had managed to go in a circle. I got up, slower this time for respect to my ribs and walked as quietly as I could toward the opening. No lite up glass dragon gave up presence anywhere on the walls. It was just another cavern. I heard a scuffling noise behind me and turned to see the wyrm yawn before moving toward the stream. I didn’t want to miss my ride. Thankfully the wyrm waited patiently for me to get into the water and position myself in the shallows provided on top of its back.
I was wondering if I should be calling this a day. Suddenly the wyrm stopped moving. A low growl coming from its throat. On instinct I moved off of it. The wyrm was in a strange coiled positon on the back with one large splash that nearly drowned me. I refrained from asking what was wrong as another blanket shape descended from the ceiling of the larger cave we had entered. I heard a sort of chemical hiss as the wyrm doged to the side before lunging itself at the head of the other creature that it had very foolishly put in range. It wraped its much longer body around the winged creature, pinnign them to its side. I closed my eyes to the bright flash as the wyrm bathed them both in a grand show of flame.
The wolrd was back into utter darkness. But I was more at peace with the notion that the wyrm had won the fight. I remained by the side of the bank gripping it as I waited for my friend to rejoin me. The time started to stretch out. Then I heard the distinct sound of it eating.
I was feeling impatient to get out of the cave systems and get to finding my way home on the surface but I wasn’t about to argure with a wyrm about when was an appropriate time to eat, espescially when it was the one responsible for taking me out. I found one of its coils and used it as a pillow, I wasn’t sure how long it would take.
When I next woke, up it was to the creature poking my as gently as it could. It was as though it had come to the conclusion that we had spent enough time here and that it was time to go. The meal must have done it some good though as it seemed to be moving through the water faster now. Though it could also have been that it was getting more confident that it wouldn’t break me. I was beginning to drift off again when we took a turn that startled me as the walls seemed to all of a sudden be lite up. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. There was not reflection off gold veins, not, jewels encrusted in the walls. It was light, pure beautiful sunlight. My turn to look at it better nearly set my stomach off and for a moment unbalanced my friend who made a sort of harrumph noise at me and moved closer to the bank. He seemed to be expecting me to get off but when I didn’t seemed to sigh and continued foreward. It was very bright, though I could’t yet tell the time of day. The light seemed a rich yellow, with fecks of green as it bounced and danced off the rocks, our stream was a rich blue colour with an almost milky tinge. I could see some moss beginning to form. We were definitely headed for the mouth of a mountain stream. The wyrm moved closer to the bank again. This time it did not move away when I continued to sit as I was admiring the view. I couldn’t remember if colors had always been this bright. The wyrm had enough, it sunk its body forcing me to swim and then climb out on my own before bringing its head up again. It looked at me and at the entrance a few times before giving a chirp and turning to go back into the gloom. I put a hand on its head. I felt a bit silly as I was sure they didn’t understand words but I said, “thank you.” None the less. It gave a chirp and looking at it it finally dawned on me. This was the larger wyrm that I was seen in the tunnel with Kyle what must have been getting to be more than a month ago now. It hadn’t occurred to me that I hadn’t seen it since then. It must have outgrown their tunnel. It didn’t stop long to ponder the look of recongnition in my eyes, just ducked it’s head under the water and I watched the ripples that indicated it going back to its unting grounds under the mountain. Walking slowly and with care for my ribs as much as the occasionaly slippery rock I made my way to the entrance of the cave. My eyes were adjusting now, but I still shielded them with my arm as I came to the mouth. I was in a sparsly treed but with lus undergrowth part of the mountain looking out toward the land at the base of the mountain. It looked different from what I usually saw when I looked out through the ocasionaly breakn in the trees out at pasture which told me I was somewhere on the south side of the mountain. Well that was one problem solved. I tried to roatte the view in my maind to corolate to what I migjht see when I was up the moujtin with the goats in the summer. But it proved more elusive then I thought it would be. The particular ladscape didn’t look very familier. But that could be excuses since any thime I did come down the mountain it was always to another village and in those cases there was seldom time or cause to go of exploring the streams and foerests. I picked my gently from the cave trying as much as possible to stay out of the water, finally grabbing the branch of a white nad black stripp barked tree to aid me. Once on my feet I examined the new leaves on the bough I held. They were further along then they had been the day I fell, but that might have been just the time of year they tended to grow fast or possibly just that beign lower down the mouhtin they were wasrmer and it was then easier for the trees. I looked around. It was smostly this type of tree, and a dense tangle of shrubs that came up to my waiste that were sprouting out small pink flowers before they put out any leaves. I pause to take a drink and looked for where the sun was. I almost couldn’t locate it due to how low it was but when I did there waws no mistaking that it would soon be dark and that meant I needed to get moving if I wanted to spend the night anywhere that wasn’t out in the cold. Now here was a gamble. I could continue to follow the stream down, it was possible that there was a village on the stream. There could also be one near by in easy waling distance, or I might follow it down and end up in the South kingdom before coming across any civilization. I tried to look more objectively down the mountain. If only I could see the road.
Our towns were never much more that about a three hour walk between them. If I found the road, it didn’t matter that much wich direction I chose, other than that going up would work best for me in the long run. The road sloaped from the shoulder of our mountain to a point on the oposit side then crossed back before takgin some more gently curves and going into the systems of the south kingdom. If I could just tell where I was…I decided to risk going at a diagonal away form the stream away from the setting sun. I said a quick prayer that I wasn’t just past the curve in the road, but even in that case I would interept the other portion of the road soon enough I hoped.
Progress was slow and after a time of trying and failing to clamour over rocks nad logs in my injured condition I began to pine a bit for the worn down and almost smooth surfaces inside the cave. Maybe I should have just stayed in the stream. Colors began to appear in what clouds where doting the sky I would have to stop soon and try to find a place to hide. There may have been wyrms and other creatures down in the caves, but they were content to hunt each other it seemed. The desperate wolves on the other hand…
I hoped for a full moon, I had never paid much attention to the stages of the moon before and I was beigning a vow t resolve that inadecuasy. If it was going to be light enough to continue by it’s light I stood some slight chance of getting a glipse of the lights of one of the villages, either further up or down the mountatin. Dark does not descend very quickly in our land, even after the sun has set. We often have nearly a hour before the light becomes inadequate to walk by. When this started to happen I broke off a stick to use to feel in front of me and started scanning what was available for range of sight to try to see if there were any lights about. I could already see where the cities and larger towns were in the south lands as they were beginging to be lite up like groups of fireflyes over the streams in the summer. I sat and waited. Maybe just a little more time. I waited till the light of the half moon was adjusted enough in my eyes for me to make out what was in front of me. I guess all that time in the dark had had some benefit for me. I listened for any sounds of hunters in the forste that might think to make a meal out of an injured human boy. Nothing. I slowly got to my feet and continued walking. I had to find the road if I didn’t I would be helpless to find my way back. If I did find it I might even be able to catch a ride up with one of the trading companies. They should be getting about set to start up for the year again. A forest in the dark is not that much differnt from a cave in the dark but where it gains an advantage from the stars and moon, it also loses something in the less surety of footing due to the plants tangles and rock that get displaced in landslides. I think I fell more in that forest then I had in the cave. Finaly I thought I deteceted a break in the trees ahead. I moved foreward faster, falling again, before making it though. The packed dirt road was one that would lead to a village in one direction and to the cobblestone road that went up the mountain in the other. Either direction would bring a welcome sight. I couldn’t see any light up the path but either way it didn’t matter I was finally on my way home. Walkng was easier now as I didn’t have to worry about tripping or if I was going in the right direction. The worry having past I was now much more aware of how tired I was. I tried pincking myself to keep me awake, but quickly regretted it when my walking stick made contact with my ribs.
Finding a comfortable bed of moss is more difficult the frther down the mountain you go so I had to walk along for a wihle before I found one th at was soft enough, or maybe I just finally got too tired to care.