Skydagger Mountains northeast of Seagate. Second week of the month of Redheart (early summer)
The rocky area of the skydaggers was near the box canyon where the rest of their group had been hiding for the last few weeks. Dion and a few others had been hunting to stretch out their food while Ibram healed. His head was badly bashed in a fight a few weeks ago and he was only now completely coherent. They were going to be leaving soon and would need more meat for the journey.
He’s been sitting in his hide site for a while and a couple of glide terrapins were slowly floating by. They were long and slim unlike landbound turtles with big paddle feet and a leathery balloon at the top of their shell. One of them shot their long sticky tongue out and snapped up a small bird. It peeped once and the pair continued to drift out of sight guided by the winds and their oarlike feet. His mother made a great soup from them. It fizzed as you boiled it and would be served to people with upset stomachs. He smiled briefly at the happy memory then his eyes went blank, staring into the past.
Another set of hands grasped the upper edge of the farm’s wall, and Eirene lunged forward to stab at them with one of the few darts she had remaining. The creature lost a finger and dropped, never having come completely into sight. She smiled and turned towards her son. “Don’t be afraid!” she yelled to him. Behind her another of the great brown hands grabbed onto the pointed stakes at the top of the wall and a long gorilla arm shot over the edge to grasp her around the waist. Without a sound she was pulled over the edge and out of sight.
“Mama!” Dion rushed to the edge of the wall. At its base, almost half a dozen of the stringy furred creatures hooted while hopping and dancing. Two of them worried at the broken red remnant of his mother, pulling gobbets of flesh free and stuffing it into their mouths. Tears filled his brilliant emerald eyes as he fumbled for another rock to load into his sling. He dropped it and fell to his knees. She had always seemed to fill any room; how could her remains have been so small?
The boy closed his eyes tightly against the memory. “Don’t think about it. It is over.” Was whispered to himself over and over. When he opened his eyes they were red and watery. Blinking frequently and looking around he saw furtive movement in the brush down the slope from where he had been hiding. He already had a rock in the pocket of his sling and let it hang from his hands were he grasped the leather straps. One of the fat cottontails of spring hopped out into the clover that was quickly turning brown under the summer sun. The sling began to spin and he stood up. Stepping forward into the cast he released the stone and it flew true. His lead foot kept going as a hole collapsed under it. Several rocks rolled down the hill towards the rabbit and his leg was sunk past the knee.
The boy froze for a second as the pain of his stretched out legs hit. He felt like the wishbone on feast day. Pushing up with his hands he tried to pull his leg out of the hole and earth around it began to fall in. He tried crawling backwards but the opening yawned large and he was suddenly falling.
Sometime later he came woozily to consciousness. Everything hurt and he was laying on his side. Groaning quietly he shifted a bit and rocks rolled under him. Roots hung down from the hole in the ceiling nearly two heights of a man above him. Light speared in illuminating where he lay but casting the rest of the area into shadow. He seemed to be in a large cavern as water could be heard dripping in the distance.
He picked himself up moving gingerly. Everything hurt and he moaned softly as he stood. Feeling along his left side there was a bit of blood where a small rock had cut into his side after tearing through his shirt. There was more on the side of his head clumping his hair together.
Once he was out of the main thrust of the light the area around him became clearer. It wasn’t a cave at all. The floor was tiled marble and he had broken through the top of a buried chamber. Collapsed benches showed this had been a sitting room of some sort. Faded, moth eaten tapestries moved in the feeble breeze and long empty torch sconces dotted the walls. The air felt close and thick as if nothing had moved in here for a very long time. Two doors, one narrow and one wide, stood on the left wall.
After looking around for a few moments he tried piling up some of the broken down furniture to climb out of the hole he fell into. Everything crumbled into dust as he stacked it. The benches had dry rotted to nothing and as soon as they were disturbed came apart. Sighing he looked around the room and kicked the pile of trash that had been ancient benches.
The boy slowly stepped into the gloom. Through the rigor of the last few weeks he had lost a lot of the puppy fat on his face and he looked almost like a fox. His hair fell into his eyes and was irritatedly brushed away. Approaching the narrow door he opened it and saw a tumble down shelf area like a pantry or closet. Shuffling around in the debris he found something that had probably been an old cloak and a metal rod. The ancient cloth wrapped around the poker could make a passable torch or the poker could be something like a weapon.
He crept up to the larger door holding the poker as if it were a rapier. Pulling the handle it opened it just a bit with a long creak and he put his eye to the crack. Blackness. With a deep sigh he wrapped the old cloth around the poker and used his flint and steel to strike some sparks. After a few moments one caught and the torch was lit.
The flickering light revealed a long hallway. Thick dust coated the ground and obscured much of the detail of the murals on each wall. Brushing some of it away created a cloud that made the boy cough, which boomed in the silence. The band of cleared space revealed a knight with a glowing spear held high.
The hallway stretched into the darkness to the left and right. Dion looked each way for a moment and shrugged, then started to creep left. He kept against the wall, left hand making a trail through the dust.
After a few yards of slow and careful travel, along with a couple of sneezes, he came to a big set of double doors blocking the hallway. They gleamed in the dim light with scenes of warriors fighting what must be demons. The two doors had the image of a spear covered in flames across them. Dion recognized the image. It was the holy symbol of Raugoshe, god of good warriors and the one worshipped by his father.
“Come, Anuri. Dion. There are eggs to find and goats to graze.” The huge man stood and walked towards the door after kissing his wife, Eirene, on the head with a smile. As he did each time he went through the passage, he brushed his hands on the gleaming axe above the doorway. Wolfing down the last of his food, the young boy Dion followed his sister and tried, as he always did, to jump up and touch the axe, but he wasn’t quite tall enough. Instead he darted over to the corner to the lovingly maintained suit of armor, shield and spear and played his hands across them before darting outside.
Dion bowed his head in front of the door. “Raugoshe, I’m not sure if you can hear me.” He snuffled loudly in the gloom, “But I think my father is there with you. All of you are training for the end times to protect the world when that comes and I understand how important it is.” He stopped talking for a long moment and swallowed thickly before continuing.
“It’s just that I really miss him and wish he was here. He died with his axe I his hand. You should know that. He always taught me how important that was to you and your followers. He was a good man and I hope you will tell him how much we all loved him. Please watch out for him. Take care of him the way he took care of us, until right there at the end.” He dissolved into tears. He was only a little boy and was trying so hard to be strong for the others in his group. He leaned forward against the door with his arms across his face to sob. When he put his weight against them they opened soundlessly pitched the lad forward onto a gleamingly clean tile floor.
He picked himself up and stood starting forward with wide eyes. He rubbed a dirty fist across his face and a remaining tear made a trail towards his chin. A burning white glow illuminated this room. The boy gasped when he saw what it was.