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Sunday, 5 November 2017

Episode I - VIII Reigning Them In



A Blood-soaked Legacy


VIII
Reigning Them In
(Full Chapter)


"I'll find you and rip your damned throat out!" Bhergom was beginning to run out of insults to bellow into the darkened caverns around him. He was now starting to get inventive with what tortures he would inflict on Vhoggli.

"I'll rip your fetid innards out with my bare hands and choke you to death with them!" He dropped to his haunches to catch his breath and pressed his back against a cold rock.

He was in the chamber where Isilda had noticed the ancient runes. The very rock he pushed his back against was that same rock. He couldn't make out anything in the waning light and he didn't really care. His entire rage-filled focus was aimed directly at Vhoggli.

"Jhulkos take you and tear you to pieces, you filthy little wretch!" He pummeled his fists impotently against the rock behind him and lifted himself back to his feet. "You can't hide from Oracles, you damned fool!"

Bhergom took a moment to think back to his home among the mesas and canyons of Alsira Thaenat. There he directed some more of his rage at Grandmaster Toulam, the head of his order, and the one who had sent them on this expedition. It was Toulam who forced them to bring Vhoggli. It was Toulam who, against the better advice of the Master's beneath him, sent this haphazard group to this ill-begotten place.

Master Illena had warned him before he left that this mission would be folly. She had mentioned several times before he left that the Grandmaster was becoming irrational. It was beyond her place to question the old sage, but she had mentioned over a few drinks of mead, the possibility of removing him from power over their order. At the time Bhergom deflected the idle and insurrectionist thoughts, but now being in this cold and dark place, he saw the wisdom in her veiled words.

"I hope the bauble you stole is worth it!" Bhergom howled into the growing darkness around him. "If it's worth enough to betray us, it better be worth enough to die for!"

He lifted himself back to his feet with a long and lingering groan. He was in the middle ages of his life and although he kept himself healthy, some aches and pains of age were making themselves known. Part of his mind wanted him to take a long rest, or to return to the camp and sleep. He hadn't suffered as much exhaustion as Isilda and Tyverus earlier on in the skull chamber, but it had drained a great deal of his vigor away.

He didn't have the patience anymore for Vhoggli's cowardice. He was tired of yelling into the dark and being the only one with the wherewithal to search him out. It should have been Tyverus to do the legwork. Isilda had keener senses than he had, and he knew that little gremlin of a man had a soft spot for her.

Back on his feet now, Bhergom took a few ponderous steps towards the last archway of the caverns. He stopped to hold his hand on the arched stones. He looked to his right into the deepening darkness as the passageway beyond folded into deeper recesses. He turned his head to the left and up the slight incline to where the expedition had entered the catacombs. Orange and red light of evening filtered through the ice above.

"You tucked tail and ran all the way back to camp? Damn you!" Bhergom slapped his palm against the archway and pressed forward and to the left. "Fine. I give up on this damned place. I'll meet you there and kill you in your sleep."

Bhergom stormed up the water-carved steps towards the entrance of the catacombs. Each step seemed like a portion of weight was slumped from his shoulders. The oppressive and disorienting feeling in the caverns seemed to pull back the closer he got to the waning lights of the twin suns, Dhaulm and Trallt.

The entrance was a mere stone's throw away now and the darkness growing at his back felt sinister. He stopped for a few moments to look over his shoulder. He could hear distant footsteps scurrying in the dark. Shadows coalesced from the recesses to flutter for a few moments. He could swear there was something there, looking back at him.

"You coward. No more, I'm done." Bhergom's face was filled with fear but he turned away from the darkness to stare into the dimming light ahead. He was defiant now and his own fear made him want to bolt into the light all the more.

He took a few more cautious steps ahead and stopped as his foot crunched loudly on some of the broken icicles he had kicked from the wall at the beginning of his misadventure. The feeling on the back of his neck was hot like someone was staring right at him. Cold breath blew on the back of his neck. He refused to turn to confront it.

One more step forward and then the whole world seemed to turn upside down. Dizziness struck at his skull and made him drop to his knees. He clutched his head as the cold breath behind him reached out to chill his body. Pain soared throughout his head and made his closed eyes feel like they were frozen in place.

"Damn you. Let me go!" His voice was shaky in his throat as the words crawled up like coagulated blood.

Bhergom forced his eyes open through the ice coating his lids. It looked as if the walls ahead of them were growing as ice reached out to slowly fill the light ahead of him with darkness. He knew this couldn't be and began to viciously scratch the ice from his eyes.

The pain was searing and wracking his body. The tips of his fingers felt like they were dead, yet the nerves inside them screamed as if they were plunged into a smithy's flame. He managed to free his eyes from the ice and reach out one hand into the light before him.

He was mistaken about his earlier certainty, the walls were sealing up in front of him. He felt the fingers of his outstretched right-hand glide across the growing ice and stone that slowly closed in front of him like great doors. Not more than a sliver of light cut through between the ice and he hadn't the strength to press forward.

That last sliver of light was extinguished and he dropped to his belly on the icy floor of the passageway. Somehow, something sealed off his escape. He began to slowly sob to himself and bang his icy fists upon the stone around him.

"What horror is this?" Bhergom could slowly feel the pain in his head and hands dissipating now that whatever had caused it had succeeded in trapping him in this place. "What do you want? Why do you torment me like this?" He clenched his hands into fists and raised himself up into a sitting position.

Silence reigned over the darkness around him. The only response came from a slight rumbling and vibrating around where he sat. He reached out his left hand to sturdy himself against the wall so he could get to his feet once more. As his hand touched the chill rock and ice, he noticed the walls were moving in on him.

Hurriedly, he pushed himself from the wall and fell forward onto his hands and knees. The rumbling intensified and began to shake the whole passageway. Whatever power had sealed off his escape was now wanting to crush him in the darkness.

He scrabbled forward a few feet and then managed to push himself up to his feet. He could feel the walls closing in behind him and on his sides, forcing him forward and downward into the dark. As soon as his feet were fully beneath him he began to run back the way he had come.

He closed distance next to the archway that held the runestone chamber beyond and looked forward into the descending passage. As soon as his eyes got used to the dark once more, he could see the extremities of that passage begin sealing. Whatever force controlled these catacombs seemed to want him to return the way he had come.

Berghom forced himself through the archway and began a full sprint into the chamber beyond. He could see a scant bit of purple light filtering in through the ice roof and caught himself staring up at the freedom so close, yet so far away. That is when he quickly cursed his lack of focus as he impacted something cold, metal and heavy.

Bhergom fought the obstacle ahead of him off with his hands and found a cold grip on his left wrist. He continued to push by and another grip took hold on is right. No amount of movement would free him in his frantic fit.

"Whoa, there, where are you going in such a rush?" It was the voice of Tyverus, as coolly nonchalant and unphased as ever. "Isilda sent me to check up on you and help track down Vhoggli. Have you seen him, yet?"

"Let go of me you fool!" Bhergom yanked his wrists free and the knight let them go. "That bastard is the least of our worries at this moment."

"How is that? Surely, he must've gone past you and up to the surface. We can just continue up to the camp. I'm sure this is all just a misunderstanding." Tyverus pushed past Bhergom and took a few steps in the dark towards the archway of the chamber. He turned back to Bhergom with a smile on his face.

"There is no way out of here you thick-skulled twit." The instincts calling out to Bhergom were to continue running back in the dark and ignore this dullard of a hired sword. He held his place for a moment and began to walk back on his heels.

"I cleared the passage ahead when we first entered the catacombs. Surely this place can't be affecting your memory as well as your mettle." Tyverus gave a short laugh, amusing himself at Bhergom's expense. "I know your old feet might not be able to take it, but it's just a few more steps."

Tyverus turned away from Bhergom and began walking to where the archway was. He lifted his right hand out to feel the wall. He ran his hand over the wall, feeling in the dark to where the archway once was. He began to walk to the right and then to the left.

"The light really is fading fast. I know it's here somewhere."

In any other situation, Bhergom might have been amused at the folly of the young man. At this moment, however, it was beginning to grate on his nerves. This moment was one of solace, and he knew that it would soon run out. The rumbling had stopped for now, but a feeling began gnawing at the back of his mind that whatever entity controlled these catacombs, still had its attention firmly on him.

"One moment. You said this was a handy little knack, so I might as well use it." Tyverus lifted his left hand up and began to summon his powers. He let the dim energy coalesce once more into a very small orb of plasma dancing in his hand. "Well, damn, where did the door go."

Bhergom stared at his frostbitten fingers for a moment and then looked over his shoulder to Tyverus. The knight was pawing at the wall with his free hand. He stopped and looked back to Bhergom with a quizzical look on his face.

"There might be something to what you just said. The entrance to this room seems to be gone." Tyverus turned back to the wall and continued to grab and claw at the rocks hoping to find one that would give. "I doubt that Jhulkos has stolen my senses, but this is hard to believe."

"Believe it." Bhergom looked back at his hands while clenching his fingers. "There is more than ancient artifacts and strange powers in this place. Whatever it is, doesn't want us to leave."

Tyverus gave a despondent snort. He continued for another few moments and then began to push his shoulder into the rock where the doorway should have been. He backed up a few steps and then charged the wall with his shoulder.

As soon as Tyverus' armored shoulder impacted the rock and ice, a lance of rock shot out from the sealed wall towards his face. With a moment's reaction, Tyverus was able to pull away just short of being skewered through. A sharp protrusion from the lance caught him across the cheek. The shot of pain made him wince and pull back further.

Bhergom stopped staring down at his hands to look over to what had just happened. Blood drained from his face and cool sweat began to bead on his brow. He took a step towards Tyverus out of concern, and then took two more backward out of fear.

"I guess this wall bites back." Tyverus gave a chuckle and pulled himself cautiously from the wall. He took two steps back while keeping his concentration on the wall ahead of him. "Do steer clear."

"You don't have to tell me. This wicked place not only defies logic, it seems to want us dead." Bhergom took another step back and felt the runestone press into his hip. He adjusted himself and continued to back up to the far archway.

Tyverus began to walk away from the wall, taking a few nervous glimpses over his shoulder. He began to wipe the fresh blood from his cheek with his free hand while still holding his light aloft. He stopped for a moment to give a long sigh, just in front of the runestone.

In a flash, another lance of rock shot up from between Tyverus' legs, towards the hand he held the ball of light within. He tried to pull his hand free but the tip of the rock cut into and pinned the back of his hand. He yanked his hand free, shredding the leather of his glove and forcing his hand into his face.

Tyverus was blinded by the light in his hand for a moment, stumbling backward until he was free from the threat of the newest rock projectile. He lowered his hand from his face, taking control over the plasma flame once more. He shook his head trying to get the dancing green burns from his eyes.

"It seems to like me." Tyverus opened and closed his eyes slowly, hoping to free up his sight. Another lance of rock and ice broke through the floor just behind him, causing him to jump forward into a haunched stance. "I think we best get out of here."

Bhergom was already at the archway, peeking his head through at the threats growing around Tyverus. The old man gave a grumble and disappeared into the darkness. His cowardice was getting the better of him once more.

Tyverus lunged across the room and with the lightest of footsteps made his way to the archway at the other side. As soon as he pushed his armored form through the narrow passage, the rumbling began once more. The sides of the arch sealed right behind him. Tyverus thrust himself into the dark and bowled into Bhergom in the passageway beyond.

"I think we best hurry. Whatever this is, will kill us, surely." Bhergom's voice was matter-of-fact as he pushed the knight off of him and began descending the passageway into the dark. His footsteps were frantic as he held his arms at his sides, yet feared touching the rock of the walls.

"I agree. Whatever this is, seems to be cutting off our means of escape. I think we best regroup with Isilda. That room is much larger, and we might have a better chance of figuring out what's going on." Tyverus held his orb above his head and pushed behind Bhergom. The passageway seemed to narrow around him, tightening to a claustrophobic degree.

The rumbling continued and the walls behind the two seemed to meld into a wall of dark rock. It was unfathomable that something could have such control over the very elemental nature of this area, yet here was the lethal evidence made manifest. Bhergom was openly afraid, and Tyverus continued to try to hide his fear.

"I do hope Isilda is alright. Who knows what terrors are stalking her as we speak." Tyverus gave a shudder at the thoughts. He took advantage of the width in the passage ahead by the arch to another room. Beyond, in the dark, the further recesses of the passage sealed in front of him. He pressed in front of Bhergom and led the way through the sarcophagus room beyond.


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1 comment:

  1. Definitely quite the dynamic going on between Bhergom and Tyverus, and it's highlighted the most in this chapter so far. Their situation is far from agreeable however, as they now remain trapped lest they be painfully skewered trying to escape.

    I think out of everything, I'm enjoying how Bhergom appears to be descending into some form of paranoid madness. It's hard to tell if that is from the place, Vhoggli, or if it's his true self coming out under all the stress.

    Either way, hopefully they find Isilda in time before she is lost permanently in both body and mind.

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