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A boy finds a tunnel under his bed filled with all sorts of strange creatures
#833618 added January 27, 2015 at 1:29am
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chapter 8
Gavin leaned back on his bed. My parents had kissed me goodnight and I was in process of changing the bandage. “Well, I can’t say this was how I thought today was going to end. Not that I mind.”
“I’m glad it ended this way,” I pulled the bandages tight till I winced, “better than another night by the side of the road or in the cave.” That should be tight enough. I leaned back on my own bed and let out as much of a deep breath that was possible.

“So we going to see the tunnel tomorrow?”

“Or what’s left of it.” I wonder what they had done to my room. Kyle seemed to be evaluating my state of settlement so I patted the bed beside me. He took my signal for what it was and climbed up. Gavin wathed me petting him for a while.

“May I?” I nodded and he joined me.

Kyle seemed to take no notice of him, but that might have had something to do with the fact that he had been around him most of the night and I was accepting of him.

“He feels so strange. I would have thought he would have been courser. He’s almost like leather.” He chuckled, “I can see why you were afraid of him at first…and why you aren’t now.”

He did seem rather relieved to see me, with his head resting on my knee while the rest of his body was coiled enough for Gavin to be on the bed but still loose enough that he didn’t seem tense. His usual heat radiated from him, making me doubt the necessity that Maria had seen with setting a fire in the room. He had grown as well stretched out he would be longer than me laying down. Still the same shade of grey still the same wrinkly face and features, it hadn’t occurred to me before, but the other wyrm I had been with was much more taungt in its facial features. Maybe that would come with age or maybe it was Kyle’s individual look.

“Nothing this exciting ever happens where I live.” He laid back across where my feet were supposed to go and put his hands behind his head, “or maybe they do, and we just don’t realise it.” He said after a pause. That cave system must go under our village too?”

I nodded as I tried to distract Kyle from playing with the end of the linen bandage.

“I wonder where else it goes.”

“Did you forget what is in there?” I asked in some alarm.

He smiled at me in answer before saying, “ I haven’t forgotten, but if you managed to get through with no problem, or little problem, we might be able to find a safe route, espescially if we can limit the time spent in the larger caves.”

I huffed a bit and refused to add to the discussion.

Gavin studied me for a moment. “You object that much.”

“I’m surprised you don’t after hearing what I told you. Maybe if the fire breathing snakes,” I indicated Kyle with a wave of my hand, “are afraid to go in there we should take it as a clue.”

“how about the smaller tunnels then? You used one to get out to the folds faster.”

I turned away, refusing to admit my own inconsitacny. “That’s different.”

“Not from what I’m suggesting, it could be faster to have roads inside the mountain, unaffected by the weather and traval able safely at any time of year.”

“Except when they are full of things that…oh what was it? Oh, yes…that want to eat us!”

I hadn’t meant to yell, really I hadn’t but the tension was mounting, as I listened to him and I wasn’t seeming to be getting through. Kyle was on alert now, looking back and forth between us, with slightly longer lasting glances and Gavin, no doubt trying to decide if I needed any protection.

Gavin stared at me, a bit hurt but also slightly angry.

“We wouldn’t get in as deep as that. Ed,” he propped himself up on his elbow, “once more people know about this, they are going to want to try it, especially the villages that due to their positon don’t get in on that much of the trading that goes on. You may not know this,” he laid back down, “but your village is probably the richest on the mountain. On the north side, they might make more but they spend nearly all of what they bring in with trying to live up the the expectations of the northers, on the south side, if what we make isn’t expresely useful and cheep they aren’t the least bit interested. If there is a chance they can cut a shorter path through the mountain to attract more people to them, they will do it.” He was silent for a moment and he focued on some indiscriminate dot on the ceiling. “And if they are successful it could be the ruin of your village.”

“That isn’t possible.”

“Oh yes it is.” He got up and moved so he could sit beside me on the bed, “I’ve heard the elders talking about it. Everyone may be all happy go lucky up here and get along real well, but in the more out of the way villages, people struggle, and I’ve heard more than one discussion though an open window or around the corner about how if there wasn’t as much trading going through that you would be just as poor as the rest of us.”

“Most of your people are well off,” I shot back feeling a bit defensive.

Gavin shook his head before leaning against the head board and closing his eyes. “My family is alright and most of the miners are getting by but anyone not in those positoons is not doing that well. I’ll give you an example you can appreciate.

“We are staying with my aunt, she is a widow, never had any kids, yet she lives in a large house with plenty of food a resources enough that she doesn’t have to worry if family unexpectedly drops in, even when that family has been known to eat as much as me. In my village, there is a widow by the name of Mildred, nice old lady, similar circumstances, but she has to live in a house half this size, tending to for or five ageing grandparnets, that she gets paid a measly sum to look after, but she is herself nearly as old as them. That is the diference.”

I stared straight ahead, by brow furrowed, surely there must be more difference in the situation then that, there must have been a way to defend.

“Why do you think there is so much anticiapetion about rebuilding the road and paving the path to our village? They are hoping to attract more business.”

I was still having no luck finding anything to say back to him. “I didn’t know.”

Gavin smiled half heartedly, “I doubt anyone would ever give you cause to suspect it. Too much pride.”
I didn’t get to sleep as quickly as I had been anticipating. What Gavin said shocked me. I would have to ask my father I he knew anything about it. But even if I did and he did, what would that prove? What purpose could it possibly serve? I fell asleep at length still trying to go over stratagies in my head for something, anything that might serve a solution.

It was worse than I had imagined it. My bed looked like it had only just been righted onto its feet and the covers had been roughly stripped from it, I had seen my trunks in the hallway, just beyond the door where they wouldn’t be in the way of people going in and out. The window had been open some time, but the feel of the chill in the room. The glass figurenes that had adorned the window sil were now out on the ones in the kitchen and dining room. The table and some of the other items I had not yet seen so assumed they must have been moved either into my sisters room or into that of my parents. The window had been opened to let the men get the dirt and rocks from the excavation out, this I deduced from the trail of dirt bits that had fallen to the floor, and traced a neat line from the entrance of the tunnel toward it. The tunnel. Well, it certainly looked more like a proper tunnel now, it was possible to see into it and the hallway lighted by the strangely formed glass pillars. The entrance was still a rather jarring step down but I could tell that there were going to be steps down in short order based on the work that was still being done to it as we entered. Five mostly rectangular stone slabs, that had nt before resided in my room, not took up a vigal while one of the men of the village, measured the place to lay it while another started work on where the next was to be laid.

My mom seemed reluctant to let me go in, but my father defended my right to see it again. My progress was slow, I had some rubs on it to help it to heal faster but they were far from give any more immediate assurances than the cold tingling sensation that the most recently applied one seemed to bring with it. A little way in we were able to start standing. They hadn’t been able to raise the roof at all, on the one hand because it was solid rock and on the ther with being as we were still so close to the surface it would run the risk of causeing a cave in. When we got to the area where I know the branch off led to the folds, I saw that someone else had made the same discovery, there were another two men in here working on widening and raising the tunnel walls and roof, they, like Gavin last night seemed fixed upon what advantages the tunnel systems might give to them. I did my best to ignore their excited chatter, after talking with Gavin last nght…

We passed a few more passages that had people going off down them with lanterns, occasionaly I would hear the sound of a wyrm moving around or chirping, this was often followed by someone, usually a man’s voice, saying something to the tune of “hello there” or “good morning to you too”. The wyrms usually would peek their heads out of the confines of where ever it was they were moving ariund to look at me, give an excited chirp and then move on again down their way. I had never paid that much mind to these other passages so I didn’t really know where they went.

“Do they come up anywhere else above ground?” Gavin asked before I could.

“Yes, some of them do so far, mostly in the forest, which is neither good nor bad for us, but we are hoping to find a path that leads us close to the next village down.”

Gavin briefly glanced back at me but didn’t say anything. He also didn’t look triumphant or pitying so I was greatful for that. At the end of the tunnel I was strating to feel a bit uneasy, with my only memory of this area being tied to a not so pleasant experience. The cave just to the right of the dragon statue had been pushed out with a rope slung across the opening to prevent untoward falling by any other person.
“We had done this so we could lower a light down to try to catch some signs of you.”

I spent most of the next week or more sleeping. I stayed with Maria, Gavin remained as well. He came back and told me at night of the progress they were making mapping out the tunnels, and trying to estimate when they would come up next. I was more than a little wary of the enterprise and Gavin did his best to assure me of the practices they were putting in for safety, but though I had told im of what I saw and I was sure he and the others would respect that, I couldn’t deny that I didn’t think he got the point. He hadn’t seen the creatures. None of the others had seen the creatures. Sure there were the little statues that the wyrms had made plus the assurance of my own testimony but that wouldn’t completely cut it for the adults. As far as that went, they seemed to only see me as a young lad without the experience to give them an accurate reading of the dangers. Odd that they didn’t want to believe me.

“Ambition, you’ll see a lot more of it as you get older.” Had been Gavin’s explanation when I aired my resrvations for what must have been the eighth time in as many days. That was not exactly what I had been hoping to hear. I kept wanting to ask my dad about it. But he had been elected some kind of foreman on the project, which I suppose made sence seeing as it was taking place from the base of his house. If I was awake it seemed he was somewhere deep in the tunnels, and if I was asleep…well obviously I didn’t see him then. Though Maria and my mom did make sure to tell me that after work my father would often come over and sit by me for a while, but had been instructed not to wake me if I slept by the healer. I would prefer if he would break from that particular kind of advice. I was allowed to help Maria around the house for a week or so afterwards. It was easy work, but Gavin had to point out a few times to his aunt that I was not in fact a five year old boy and that though I needed to take care I did not need to be babied.

By the end of the week I was feeling ready to scream. And not just because of how I had had to employ myself over the last few days. My father had sent down the mountain for people in want of work to come help with the project, especially people with mining experience. While they steered clear of any really large passages and caverns, my anxiety mounted with each day that they continued in the pursuit of their quest. Each night Gavin and my father brought more stories nad theories about how this was going to help bring people on the mountain together and how it would be good for us especially when the winter came again. My dad even had an idea that if we could rope off an area with out any acces to the surface other than through a main tunnel that we could take large amounts of hay down there in the winter and keep the goats out of the harsh cold and away from the desperate wolves. Gavin went right along with him, assuring me that he admonised caution any chance he got when people started getting a bit too ambisious. Though how honest he was being with me about how he was received in these misgivings, he gave me reason to doubt by the way he seemed to side step the direct question.

“How old are you getting to be now Ed?”

He chose his distraction well as I had to think of it. “We celebrate Letti and my brithdays together in the late spring, so I would be thirteen now by that measure.”

“When were you actually born?” he pressed.

“In the fall just after the full moon.”

He stared at me for this. “Ed, you’re almost fourteen. No wonder you’ve been growing like a weed.”
I ATTEMPTED TO deny this, he looked at me dryly and commanded me to stand. Drawing up to my full height I realised what he was saying. I was getting to be taller than him and there was still some length in my spine that I had not the command of using due to the pain of my ribs.

That was getting better at least. My dad had senced my hesitation when he asked if I wanted to work in the tunnels and instead sent me out to help train and oversee Letti and some of the other village girls in taking care of the flocks. Some time during my confinement in doors, someone had realised the benefit of the wyrms for defence. Now when the lock was taken out there was a parimeter of wyrms to keep any would be predators at bay. This made for a rather boring way to spend the day. Letti however was insistent that it be busy and involved. For the first week…more than a week it felt like a month really, I could only stay out for the first part of the morning and day. I would then return to sleep until Maria shook me awake to have my bandges changed or to get some more food in me.
“It’s about time for the goats to go up the mountain.”

I looked up across the table at my father, was he being serious? I had only just finished my first week of being in the pasture for the full day, never mind that I was merely directing and didn’t have any clear idea yet what I would be up against as far as pain went if I tried to manage the entire flock myself.
“I’m going to send them out under the care of the group you’ve been managing.”

The spoon that had stopped midway to my mouth nearly fell into the bowl in front of me. I straightened looked around in a puzzled way and began. “ I’m not sure I can do that I’m…”

“A growing young man, that doesn’t at present have the stamina to help in the in village project. But you can supervire our up and coming goatherds and herdesses. We’re pulled as many able bodied men from the villages nearly all the way down the mountain. We’ve already found a few tunnel systems that will be of use though he haven’t finished timing them to find out which ones at truly more efficient then the roads at the surface. It is already benefiting the trading and that was the aim in the first place.”
Now I blatanly put the spoon down. “I haven’t seen or heard any traders coming through the village.”
He smiled, “they don’t need to now, we’re catching them a village or two down on either side. We’ve found a tunnel that nearly cuts though the mountain from one to the other so it is faster that way.”
I stole a glance at Gavin, I could see the muscle in his jaw flexing though the reason why eluded me.
“So that’s it then? I’m not useful for the new trade route so I get to take the kids up the mountain with the goats to keep them out of your hair for a while.”

“It is a great responsibility Ed, one that you…”

“Not the one I’ve shown competency in.”


“I’ve been herding the goats for a long time, that much is true, I may not be working in those tunnels, but I am the only one that has seen the full extent of what dangers are in there. But you won’t listen, none of you will listen, you’re so bent on your new trade route that you can’t pause to consider that we hadn’t found this before for a reason. The more you’re in there the more attention you attract from the creatures that will do you harm.”

“The wyrms are there…” he attempted to speak louder over my own mounting voice.

“You think those little wyrms can do anything against those others?” I shook my head and gestured to Kyle whose head was just visable over the table where he was trying to identify the source of tension in the room. “The wyrm that helped me was more than ten times the size of Kyle and even he was wary of those creatures. When they find you the wyrms are not going to be able to stop them and neither are you. Once they finish off what’s in the tunnels they will then have a direct line into the vliiages, the goat folds and anywhere else where you have enlarged the tunnels. I believe they were narrow for a reason.” The truth of it dawned on me even as I said the words. I stood and walked out of the room as quickly as I could. No one moved to stop me, no one seemed to move at all save for Kyle who followed me immediately from the room to mine, where he pause in the door way, trying to decide whether he should remain there and guard or follow me to where I had dropped myself into the bed.
I patted the bed and he moved up beside me keeping a wary eye on the door. After some time we heard some raised voices, they got quiet and raised again. A tear slipped down my face but I brushed it of and tried to force myself to sleep again. Gavin entered a short time after that. He looked at me for a moment and shut the door.

“I agree with you, you know that right?”

“Then why are you helping?”

He sighed, “I won’t bother telling you that I need to make money too. My father is going to want me to move out soon, you should know the feeling, you’re getting to around that age as well.”

I hesitated in nodding, it wasn’t something that I had actively thought of much just yet.

“The tunnels will be useul, and for now they are safe.” I heard him move to the chair near my bed, “but all it will take to change that is one mistake. One break into a cavern, one rope that those creatures discover and break. If those creatures nad the wyrms alternatively eat each other, they will be more then happy to go though all our tunnel enlargeing and eat the wyrms.”

My hand on Kyle tightened. This wasn’t supposed to happen.

“He loves you, you know that. He asks after you every moment that he isn’t actively engaged with something else. I think he’s using it as a distraction. I envy you.”

I opened my eyes and looked at him now. He was sitting beside me, rubbing his chin where some stubble was strating to form, leaning with his elbows on his knees.

“I don’t think my father would even give a second thought to if I went missing for as long as you did.”
I opened my mouth to refute the claim but he put a hand up to stop me.

“I should say I know. Ed I’ve been here for more than a month already, I didn’t leave much of any word of where I was going. He wouldn’t have known where I was until messangers were sent there to hire workers. And since them he hasn’t been up here to see what’s going on or even bothered to inquire of anyone mkeing their way between how I am or to give me a message.”

I could see a flicker of the pain in his eyes but he steeled himself against it presently and drew in a breath.

“I’ll show you around if you’d like. We are doing our best to keep the risks minimal. Maybe it will put your mind a little more art ease.” The look I gave him must have bespoken of my disbelief in his success at such a project, as he laughed and rubbed his neck. “At least try. I think going up the mountain would be good for you. And it will give some time for things to settle around here some more.”

That was the last we said before staring at each other awkwardly for a while and then going to bed. I didbn’t take Gavin up on his offer for nearly a week, in which time, I rarely spoke to my dad and when I did it was strained. It was more painful then the argument we had had. I wasn’t used to being distant with him, nor he with me if I could tell anything by his eyes, but we neither of us quite knew how to bridge the gap back.

That night, Gavin woke me somewhere in the middle with a sparkle in his eyes in addition to the sleep bugs.

“I just had an awesome idea, what if we put in a sliding rock mechanism at the entrances to all the tunnels near the villages.” It took me a while to understand what he was talking about but even while I was still trying to shake some of the sleep from my head.

“What are you…” I paused as I saw the funny pile of stuff he was holding.

“We’ll use a slab of rock and work out a way to move it from the outside so it covers the entrances to the tunnels when we aren’t using them.” He demonstrated moving a plate over the opening created by rolling a piece of leather into a tube. “That would protect the villages should the creatures find a way into the tunnels we are using.”

I stared at him still uncomprehending. He looked at me with expectiation then it seemed to dawn on him how tired I was…and the time.

“Maybe I should show you this in the morning.”

I nodded, not voicing my hope that I would be able to go immediately back to sleep despite his interruption.

And shoe me in the morning he did. With my wits about me I was much more able to appreciate his idea, though how we were going to pull it off I wasn’t too sure.

“I’m sure we can find a way. We are rather resourceful. And it will give you and your dad an excuse to get on pleasant terms again.”

I glanced at him.

“Come on Ed, the entire company and village is on edge watching you two give each other the silent treatment. It’s making everyone feel awkward. On the bright side though it is making people more conscious of being nice to their parents.”

I didn’t need the guilt trip and Gavin apologised after looking at me for a moment.

I had to admit that the tunnel construction was coming along nicely. It took nearly a day to walk all they had accomplished thus far, but it was getting to a point of looking more finished. We walked by a few groups of wyrms who were molding new pillars lighted with goat hair wicks and their apparently eternaly burning saliva. The pillars were being placed on alternate sides of the tunnels as opposed to the middle like they were in the original. I found out later that the men and villages were supplying meat for the wyrms so they could concentrate on what they were being asked to do without needing to go out hunting. This seemed to fly in the face somewhat of what my dad had originally told me, but I supposed that was before the wyrms demonstrated such advantageous abilities. Gavin seemed perfectly at home under the ground, I flet that the air was too close the walls to narrow and the roof too low, even if it could support tree men walking abreast of each other waving their arms above their heads as was demonstrated by one of the groups on their way up for lunch.

“The small tunnels that lead up to the surface but not to anywhere useful work great for ventelation. We haven’t yet found any deposits worth note, but if we do we will expand the project to include them.” When we got to the end on the south side, we were met by an older man and some of the other workmen, they had a few pieces of parchment out and seemed to be hashing out designs based roughly on what Gavin had showed me. It was a comfort to know that I wasn’t the only one concerned with the safety of the innocents in the village. As soon as Gavin had suggested his idea, it had been pounced upon and given to an old engineer from the south lands that had come to live on the mountain some time ago. He smiled and nodded to Gavin when he saw us but otherwise didn’t break from the task before him.

“He says I might apprentice with him after this.” Gavin was beaming, very proud of himself and perhaps starving for the male attention he was getting from the old man.

“How are the people on the north side dealing witht eh new tunnel addition?”

Gavin winced at this. “well they called it an unsightly mess with no purpose other than to rob people of the beauty of the mountain side to get a few coins.”

“Ouch. But they’re still letting you put it up?”

Gavin smiled, “my aunt…”

“I might have known.”

“managed to convince her husband to let us do it, thankfully the entrance over there is on their property. He’s started making the path and the construction site itself as pleasing in appearance as he can, in an effort to pasciy their neighbors.”

“Do they know about…”I let my voice trail off.

“The wyrms? Yes they know something of them, but we didn’t tell them about the other creatures you saw, with any luck they won’t ever have to know about it.”

We started back while I still had energy with hope of making it in time for another of Maria’s expertly prepared meals.

“So are you going to take the goats up with the goatherds in training?”

I let out a snort of laughter, “I’m not sure that I really have that much choice in the matter, but yes I am. We’re delayed in the going up so there should be lots of pasture for them without having to go too far. But I’ll have to pay more attention to the weather since it won’t be as much time as I’m used to.”
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