Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Tangled Web: Part I

After telling his story, Dragoneyes went to forge some weapons before going to sleep. Frankly, it was somewhat bizarre. It was almost an obsession. He claimed it was necessary practice.
Afterwards, we returned to the road. We were approaching the University. This was good, because it meant that we could soon begin to rally the forces against Koteph. But it was bad, because it meant that we were crossing a dangerous mountain range.
"You know," Dran said, "I'm pretty sure that this is where Scipius and his legion disappeared."
"Are you talking about the Etoran general," I asked.
"No, the traveling circus performer," Dran sneered.
"I understand that the Etoran army is essentially a traveling circus," I retorted, "but Scipius might not appreciate that description."
"Make fun of the Etorans all you want. They are a backwards people who exiled my father because they feared him. I feel no kinship with them."
We continued squabbling for hours. Suddenly, with no warning, Dragoneyes stopped. "What's the holdup," I asked.
Dragoneyes gestured to a patch of dirt colored slightly differently from the surrounding dirt. He muttered the True Name of stone, and that section of the ground was shifted to the side. "I'm going to have to learn the True Name of soil soon. That trick wouldn't work if we weren't in such rocky terrain."
The four of us gathered around the hole Dragoneyes had created. It was maybe two stories deep. It seemed that he had uncovered part of a tunnel. I used to True Name of air to glide to the bottom. Dragoneyes created stairs of stone. He created a ball of flame for illumination. We looked around us.
The cave was covered in cobwebs. From the ceiling to the floor. I noticed what seemed to be mummified humans dotting the walls. I felt the movement of the air. "They aren't breathing."
"They are alive," Dragoneyes said.
"We should get moving," Dran interjected. "This is very interesting and all, but we do need to save the world."
"There are hundreds of people here," Dragoneyes said. "No, thousands. These caves are centuries old, and the monsters inside have trapped travelers as long as there have been people navigating these mountains. Like spiders... or ants... bigger, though..." He addressed me and Dran. "You two, stop squabbling and start taking these people to safety. I am going to track down the creatures responsible." With that, he wondered off into the dark.

"Well, any ideas how to lift hundreds or thousands of people out of these tunnels?" I knew I didn't have any.
"I suppose we could just carry them."
I was reluctant. Physical labor was never an interest of mine. "My winds couldn't carry the bodies. I think we would need to use sorcery."
"My father could have made men out of ice. Strong, untiring men. But I never learned that."
"We probably have an hour or so before Dragoneyes comes back. Not enough time to make a significant spell." Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Cassinder running her fingers over the webbing.
"I have an idea. We revive five or six of these guys. We let them revive the rest."
That seemed unheroic. But did we really have time to excavate the whole cavern by ourselves?
Dran pulled out a knife. I found a sharp rock. We each cut cocooned men and women off of the walls of the cave. With much effort, we lugged them up to the surface. "Should we start untangling them," I asked?
"I suppose so," Dran said.
I felt an obligation to go back into the cave and get more people. I told Dran. "I see your point," he said. "I'll join you."
Neither of us noticed Cassinder staying behind.

By the time we came back to the surface with two more bodies, Cassinder had untangled a young man. "Who are you," I asked, in Irinian.
"Who are you," he asked, in Etoran.
I switched languages. "I am Amniel of the White Tower. Who are you?"
"I am Lius Quirus. I am Lieutenant in the glorious army of Etor."
I looked at Dran. I spoke quickly, in Irinian "Does that sound like normal Etoran to you?"
"No, it sounds archaic. Like some of the old legal articles my father made me read. The History of the Republic and such."
I turned to Lius. "What year is it?"
"The four-hundred-sixteenth year of the Republic."
Dran and I looked at each other. That republic had become an empire almost three centuries ago.
A thought struck me. "Are you... a member of Scipius' legion?"
"Do you know that you were trapped underground?"
"Well, you were trapped for almost six centuries."
"I apologize. I have trouble understanding your speech. You say I was underground for six hundred years?"
"I do."
Lius thought about this. "So, the Republic..."
"An Empire," Dran said. "My family has been sitting on the throne about a century and a half."
"The people I knew..."
"If they weren't trapped with you, they are probably dead."
"How many do you think that would be," I asked. "Did the monsters kill most of your men in the struggle?"
"What struggle?"
"When they dragged you into their tunnels."
"Oh," he said. "There was no struggle. They make you want to go in. Then, they make you tired. Then, when you go to sleep, they wrap you up."
Dran and I exchanged glances. "Dragoneyes..."

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