The Whispering Wail Sword:Part Three
A monstrous Slorg had cornered Mina. She stood back against the wall, spear aimed at the beast. It reminded Talzadon of the Monoceraptor both in size and ferocity. The floor was soaked and slippery from the slime of the Slorg. Its mouth oozed messy saliva that fell on Mina's head. When Talzadon had thrown open the door, the Slorg's attention had switched to him. The Slorg made a determined but laborious move towards him. He may be large and dangerous, but the Slorg was quite slow. Talzadon attempted to run but slip and fell in the slime. As he got up, he realized where he was. This room contained the entrance to the sewers, but the Slorg sat directly on top of the hatch leading down, as if it was guarding it.
"Mina!" he called out. "We have to get the Slorg off the door! That's the way to the sewers!"
"Right!" she said, still shaking.
Talzadon, now covered in slime, set down his candle, approached the Slorg, and rolled back his sleeves. He breathed in deeply, wiggled his fingers to warm up his paws, and prepared to cast a spell. "Artintoxia!" he cried as he threw his arms in the direction of the Slorg, whose attention was focused solely on Talzadon. The Slorg seemed wholly unaffected by his spell, that is until the Slorg turned purple.
"Purple!" cried Mina. "What is that going to do?"
"I don't know! It was supposed to teleport him somewhere else!" Talzadon began to wiggle his fingers again, intent on solving the problem. "Artinto – " he started, but was interrupted by an enormous and powerful glow that filled the room. Heat rained down upon him and he closed his eyes. The temperature in the room swelled until he was dripping with sweat. The roar of a fire thundered through the room. The burning stopped suddenly, and he opened his eyes. Mina stood in the corner, nostrils and mouth smoking. Tapestries on the wall smoldered, and Talzadon's whiskers were singed. Yet in the corner of the room was a dried-up Slorg. Though still enormous, it had been instantly dehydrated by the heat. Its skin was tight and dry. The Slorg was clearly still alive, too dry to move its not-so-slimy skin. It attempted to make a lunge at Mina, but it's body was glued to the stone floor. Its own slime had baked, locking the Slorg in place like cement.
"That was amazing!" exclaimed Talzaon. "I've never seen a Draik breath fire like that before!"
"Well," replied Mina, "my family is known for being especially gifted in that regard." She looked proud of herself and smiled at her work. "We best get moving before the running water on the walls rehydrates him." With great difficultly she lifted the hatch and Talzadon peered down into the darkness. An old, musty, foul and putrid odor crept up from the depths of the sewers. Nothing excited him about jumping into sewage from a thousand years ago, but after briefly consulting his map, he knew it was the only way further down. Holding his nose, he leaped into the waters below.
Mina splashed down behind him. The water was icy cold and his fur stood up on end, but it appeared more or less clean. The water came up to his waist, so when he removed his map from his robes he had to hold it high in the air. A thin stream of light came from the room above, where some tapestries still smoldered from Mina's fiery breath. The light was just enough to illuminate his map. From the looks of the faded parchment, the sewer flowed like a river down into the moat of the third castle, or at least what was left of it. Rumor has it the castle is mostly ash and stones. The tunnel was dark and cool, but wide. There was no light to be found. There was no sound but the flowing water. Mina blew a fiery breath in effort to light their torch, but it was too soaked to light.
"What was that?" said Talzadon. "When you breathed fire just now I saw something. Do it again." Mina inhaled deeply and threw flames from her snout. They were surrounded. Every wall was covered in Spyders. They shrieked quietly and withdrew from the light. They didn't look dangerous, but it was a very odd being watched by so many eyes.
As they traveled down the tunnel, Talzadon felt weary. Perhaps his attempt at magic took too much effort, or maybe he was just embarrassed that his spell didn't work. Whatever the cause of his gloom, he was still convinced he would be rewarded with the Whispering Wail Sword. He imagined how it might feel in his paw. Would he feel the raw power within? Would it whisper to him? Did it glow? The ancient rumors were consistent in the story of the sword's origin, but not in what it looked like. Some said it was short, some said it was of monstrous size. Some said it was so heavy only a true hero of Meridell could lift it, and some said it was light, like swinging a feather.
Talzadon had little concept of time in the tunnel; with no light and only the sound of dripping and running water, but he suspected it was perhaps a half hour when they reached a section of the river that was too deep to wade through. Mina stepped back and breathed a large breath of fire, illuminating the environment.
The tunnel opened into cavernous area. In the fleeting light Talzadon could not see where the ceiling was, but he saw a lake what seemed like an endless and black lake. Out of the water arose tall spires. Some appeared intact, but others were crumbling. Dilapidated parapets and battlements were blackened with soot. Talzaon suspected the water was shallow where it met the castle, but they would have to swim past the remains of the mote. A deep chasm stretched below in from of them, but on the other side was the last castle before the legendary sunken castle which must lay far below the lake.
"Can you swim?" asked Talzadon.
"Ha!" cried Mina. "I can fly! Or have you forgotten Draiks can do that?"
Talzadon was glad Mina couldn't see the embarrassment on his face in all the darkness. Without warning his robes tightened and he was pulled out of the water. Mina's strong wings beat air down on his face and he screamed as he flew through the air. Mina breathed fire for light and Talzadon attempted to distance himself from the flames by wiggling about. "Stop moving or I'll drop you!" Mina struggled to hold his weight and Talzadon's feet began to dangle in the water. The light from the fire was blinding, but it appeared as if they had reached the outer edge of the castle. Before he knew it, there was stone beneath his feet. They had flown through a window.
Talzadon did his best to wring out his robes. He was soaking wet and shaking – whether from the cold for from being dragged by a flying Draik, he didn't know. Mina blew a weak stream of flames to illuminate the map. As Talzadon's eye's adjusted to the light he was disappointed that he didn't recognize where in the castle they might be. The map representing the burned castle looked as if it was drawn before the castle had crumbled to bits. The room they were in now was completely empty and square. He couldn't even tell what the room might once have been used for, but the many piles of ashes suggested the place was once full of furniture. The doorway was crumbled and even the very stones seemed to be rotting.
Talzadon and Mina exited into a large hallway. Consulting the map once more, Talzadon noticed that in theory, the entry to the last castle could be found by entering the old castle well, but it was impossible to say where that might be. "I suppose we'll simply have to check every room on the bottom floor," said Mina. "There's not a very efficient way to do this so I suggest we get started. We'll have to travel together, otherwise you won't be able to see." Talzadon agreed and the two began to stroll down the long hallway, checking each room as they went for anything that looked like the remains of a well.
After a few quiet steps, Mina struck up an uncomfortable and awkward conversation. "So, why do you want to be a mage anyway? You seem to… struggle with it."
Talzadon hung his head and sighed. "Well, I didn't want to really, but I felt like I had to because my father was a great mage. At this point all I've done is embarrass him. I feel like I can't quit, so I'll just have to get better at magic. It's very challenging though! I can't seem to figure out even the most basic spells! I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong."
Mina thought about it for a second, and then suggested a possible cause. "Perhaps you are just so worried about impressing everyone that the pressure is preventing your magic from flowing. Maybe you just need to relax and let the magic come to you! Not that I would know anything about magic, so it's just an idea."
"Maybe you're right," Talzadon sighed. "I suppose I could try relaxing more. I guess sometimes I expect I'll fail before I even cast a spell, so maybe I just need to stop thinking about it."
"Well, if it helps at all, I bet you can be a great mage one day," replied Mina. "You know, when I was growing up I couldn't breathe fire at all! I just couldn't figure it out. My whole family encouraged me and gave me time, and now I could fill a castle with my flames if I wanted to! So, don't give up, I guess."
Talzadon smiled a bit. "Thanks," he replied before returning to his sulking. His ears perked up as they entered the 15th room. "There!" he cried as the flames from Mina lit up the room. "The well, that must be it!" A circular wall was built up from the floor. As the duo approached the well, they could see a bright reflection.
"Oh MAN!" Talzadon exclaimed with disbelief. "Just look at all that GOLD!" The well was filled to the top with mud, armor, and gold pieces, as if the fleeing residents of the castle stored all their valuables in the damp well where they would be safe from the heat. "It's amazing! We'll be rich!"
"Not so fast there!" Mina barked. "You're not taking any of this; it belongs to the King of Meridell. Also we have a bigger problem. How are we going to get all of this out? We have to get to the bottom of the well, and there must be a hundred thousand pounds of metal here!" Talzaon's smile faded and he stared back down at the glittering artifacts. How could they possibly empty this well? They were nearly out of food; there was no time to just dig all of the material out. Mina and Talzadon exchanged a concerned look in the darkness…
To be continued…