The Caverns of Kildun Aalda--Chapter Seventeen--George's Dreams
After eating a quick lunch, George went over the map. “We still have the south east of the upper level to explore.”
They went down the hallway that was south of the wizard’s annex and came to a door. Checking to make sure the door had no traps, he unlocked it and peered inside. It looked like this was another hallway and not a room. He listened, thinking he heard something.
“What is it, son,” Britt whispered.
“I think there is something in this corridor.” There was another sound, like a grunting.
“Balon and George, you stay in the middle. Britt, you cover the rear.”
They moved slowly and quietly down the hallway. After a few silent minutes, Britt halted the group and he peered around the corner. “I can see them up ahead. There are three orcs and they are fighting each other over something. One of them looks sick.”
“Should we try to talk to them?” asked Bard.
“No they are never good to try to persuade unless if you are involved in the black magic,” he said looking at Balon.
The magic-user shook his head. “I know the dark arts but I avoid using them. There are always serious consequences when you use them. I would try to fight them first, then command them if all else fails.”
“Do they have any weapons?” Johanna asked.
“One has a crossbow and the other has a battleaxe. If we attack, I must warn you they are like berserkers and like fighting in close combat. They will fight to the death and rarely retreat or surrender. They are not like goblins, which are cowardly. Wait a minute!”
“What is wrong, Britt?”
“They are all missing one eye. That might give us an advantage. They must have gouged them out by fighting among themselves.”
“No,” said Balon. While that is a possibility, most likely these are the orcs that worship Shurgm.”
“Who is that,” asked Bard.
“That is a one-eyed orc, who is considered to be a god. Orcs that worship him remove one of their eyes and offer it to Shurgm as a sacrifice.”
“Too bad they do not sacrifice both eyes,” George said.
A smell reached Bard’s nose. “That smells like wine,” he said to himself. “Hey!” he whispered to Britt. “I think they have been drinking.”
“That will give us the advantage,” Britt said. “I do not see any chieftains; the look like they have been separated from their tribe. If things go wrong, we will retreat back the way we came. Eileena, get ready with your bow. When we turn the corner, we will rush them.”
When they stepped the corner, the three orcs did not notice them. They were fighting over a piece of fish. The one that look sick, just sat there with his back against the wall, sending grunting remarks to the other two once in a while.
“Eileena, take out the one with the crossbow.” The elf shot the arrow and the orc fell down dead, with the shift protruding from his heart.
The sick orc leapt to its feet and the one holding the battleaxe let out a blood thirsty yell and rushed towards the group.
Britt and Bard attacked the stronger orc. When it swung at Britt, Bard protected the dwarf. At the same time, Balon used his magic to fight the sick orc and Johanna used her mace against it. “Fire!” Balon yelled and the orc was consumed in flames. It screamed at it burned but continued to fight. Johanna struck it head and it fell to the ground, dead with a crushed skull.
The larger orc was harder to handle. It swung its battleaxe, trying to cut into the fighter and dwarf. Even though they were able to defend against themselves, they were unable to strike effectively against it.
George, holding on to his knife, could not get into striking distance. He was trying to attack the creature from the rear and, every time he had a chance, the orc swung at his direction with the battleaxe. When he did this he left an opening for the fighter and dwarf to hit him. Still it would give him the satisfaction of killing somebody.
“Hold back!” Balon yelled with a fury in his face that nobody was expecting. Even the orc was stunned for a second before it started in on his rage again. “You have your orders vile loathsome creature!’
The orc snarled and grunted at Balon. “Who do you think you are?”
“I am Shurgm your god of slaughter! Look at my eye!” Balon winked one of his eyes closed, and it looked like that he had only one eye.
“The orc groveled on his knees, bowing before Balon. “It is indeed you, Shurgm, the one-eyed god of slaughter. Please forgive my foolishness!”
“Rise and leave this place!”
The orc looked at the others. “Shall I sacrife these humans to you?” it asked.
“They are my slaves. I use them to read the omens and be advisors. No harm shall be bought to them until I have no further use of them.”
“That is your will, master. What do you wish me to do?”
“Return to the mountains and await Go back further orders!”
The orc snarled and slithered away. Shaking Balon fell to the ground.
Johanna was the first to reach him. “Are you okay?” she asked with concern.
Balon stood slowly to his feet, his face a pale as a sheet.
“Are you okay?” Johanna asked again.
“Yes,” he said, wiping his hands on his robe as if he was removing dirt and grime from his hands. “Let’s just get out of this hallway.
“There is a door up ahead,” said George. “Let me see if it is safe first.” He looked over at the magic-user, “Balon are you sure you are fine?”
“Just check the door, please,” said Balon.
Britt walked over to George and pretended to help him check for traps.
“What did Balon said to the orc? All I heard was a bunch or grunting and snarling.”
“That is what I heard too. Remember that he did not like to perform the dark arts.”
“It is safe to enter,” George called.
They walked in the room and Balon collapsed to the floor once everybody was in and the door was closed behind them.
“Balon! What is happening to you?” Johanna yelled running to him.
“Just give me a few minutes,” the magic-user said weakly. He sat with his back to the wall.
George went over and sat next to him. “If you care to talk, we will listen.”
Britt said nothing, but stared in astonishment at the thief. While he was annoying at times, he also was caring and not to mention brave. He seemed to mature overnight.
“It just took a lot out of me. I convinced the orc that I was his god, Shurgm. I wonder if Joban and Stephan used these creatures as guards of this fortress or if they are just intruders like us.”
“It is possible either way,” Britt said. They would rather live in hills and mountains than anywhere else. Since they are lazy, they probably took over the Caverns of Kildun Aalda for themselves. Since they normally do not build their own places, this home of Stephan and Joban was very convenient for them. Then again, these orcs may have been their slaves and used to do most of the manual labor. Therefore they may have been living here.”
“Aren’t orcs cannibals?” Johanna asked. “How could Stephan and Joban control these blood thirsty marauders?”
“Joban must have spoke to the orcs just like the way I commanded the one to leave,” Balon said.
Eileena looked at the crossbow that she had taken from the orc she had killed. “This is beautifully made,” she said.
“I wonder if this is orcish made,” Bard said looking at the excellent craftsmanship.
Britt looked at it. “While they can make weapons from stone and iron, orcs are very lazy. “They would rather get their weapons, tools and other products by using force.”
“I am ready,” Balon said, rising to his feet, using George and Johanna as support. The color had returned to his face.
George looked around the room and exclaimed, “We have hit the mother load!”
“Did we find treasure?” Britt was the second to follow him. The rest of the group quickly followed suit, looking for monsters.
“No I am just thirsty and my flask is empty,” George said.....
The group stared in surprise. They were standing in what was, of what they had explored so far, the largest room in the Caverns of Kilda Aalda. Although the floors in the rest of the cavern were of stone, with the exception of the moss covered floor in the garden room, the floor in the room was perfectly layered in ceramic tile, forming a beautiful checkerboard pattern of reds, browns and black.
“Very beautiful,” said Johanna.
“I agree,” said Eileena.
“Excuse me,” said George, as he walked up a pool that was in the floor. “I have to fill my flask.” The room contained fourteen pools that were each fifteen feet wide and five feet deep.
“Wait, George!” Balon said, regaining his composure, approaching the thief with his wand out.
George stopped walking as the magic-user approached him. “We need to see what these pools contain. We don’t want you to get poisoned or grow horns, do we?”
“Thanks. I never even thought about that.”
Balon took out his wand and waved it over to the first pool. A translucent image appeared over the pinkish liquid. It showed an elf driving a drink to a sick elf. The second elf stood up on her feet, completely healed. “Ah a pool of healing,” he said.
Bard walked over with a flask. “I have an extra one; we should fill it up and keep it in case we run out of healing potions.”
“No,” said Balon. “I know these pools. You have to drink from the pool to get healed. Once you fill the flask, the liquid will lose its healing powers. However, it still has a pleasant taste, if you are getting tired of water.”
He walked to the second pool and once again a translucent image appeared over the fizzing liquid. George turned his head and almost vomited as he saw a person wishing to take a swim. As soon as the person dipped into the water his skin began to bubble and melt away. He screamed soundlessly as his body changed into a glob of human flesh. Soon only his bones remained, then they too melted away.
“A pool of acid,” Balon said. “Do not worry, George. Your flask would have melted away as soon as it touched the liquid.”
“Why would Joban and Stephan even have such a pool? Britt asked.
“Maybe they just used it to get rid of unwanted items. Just think, if they had a weapon, like a sword that was rusting, it is a good way to get rid of it. All they would have to do is throw it in this pool. It would be gone.”
The third pool contained murky gray mud-like liquid. “I would not even drink from that,” Bard said.
“It is a good thing,” Balon said as the image showed a goblin becoming sick after drinking it. “A pool of sickness. I winder if that orc we encountered outside this room had drank from this. He did not look like he was healthy. It was holding his stomach while fighting.
“Now that is gross,” Johanna said, looking at the next pool. Even Balon could tell without using his wand that it contained green slime. Even though the pool was not filled with this liquid the bottom and walls were covered with the slime. Britt went close to the pool to get a better look.
“Look out!” Johanna yelled, as a tentacle came up and grabbed the dwarf’s sword. It started pulling him towards the edge of the basin.
George ran up and pulled on Britt’s other arm and broke him from the slime’s grasp. The fell backwards, with the dwarf falling on top of the thief.
The dwarf looked at George and said, “As much as I appreciate you helping me, I hope we do not get this close again.” He looked at the slime pool and said, “Of course, I could have let go of the sword.”
“Here you go, George,” Balon said, after the image over the next pool, with revealed wildlife drinking from a pool of clear water. George went over and filled his flask. “This is the best and coldest spring water I have ever drunk! It sure beats the warm water we have been carrying in our flasks. “Come on everybody, this is delicious.” All, but Britt went to drink. He was staring at the pool next to it. This one contained a liquid that had a deep red color.
“Balon,” he said hopefully, “I think I know what is in this one. Just can you check for me?”
The image showed a group of dwarves laughing and carrying on, drinking wine. “This pool is for me!” Britt yelled rushing to it.
“Careful, Britt,” George said, as the dwarf drank his flask and went to refill it a second time. “You do not want to become intoxicated. Still this is good wine,” he said after taking a sip.
“I know,” he said. “I am saving this flask for later. Hey, everybody fill your flasks; we will have a party later on tonight in the library!”
Balon went to the seventh pool. “This one is completely dry.” Even after waving his wand over it, no image appeared.
“This one I guess is going to be a mystery to us.”
“Wait a minute!” George exclaimed.
“What is wrong?” Britt asked.
“Do you remember that Joban wrote to look for the next journal in a dry place?”
“Yes, but what do you mean?”
“This may be the dry place that Joban referred to!” George peered over the side and looked down. “There is a book down there! Britt, help lower me down so I can get it! The walls are too smooth to scale down.”
Britt looked down, “It looks safe to me.”
Britt lowered George to the bottom of the pool. He opened it and looked inside. “It looks like one of Joban’s missing journals!”
“Good, now we can find out what happens,” Britt said.
They helped pull him back up.
The next pool looked like the fresh water pool. However, the clear liquid was boiling. The image showed servants carrying buckets of water and filling a tub. Several other images showed either a magic-user or a warrior sitting in the tub, taking a bath.
George looked at Bard and held his nose. “I think somebody stinks a little. Just kidding Bard, I am only talking about myself.”
Bard grinned, “I think I might need a bath soon, too.”
“This is beautiful, Balon said, as he approached the next pool of water. It was only half full but the water was shimmering, glistening and sparkling in a variety of colors.
“Is that an aura pool?” Johanna asked.
He reached down with a silver cup that was lying near it. Filling the cup, he drank the liquid. As soon as he swallowed it, he felt a strange sensation come over his entire body.
“What is he thinking of?” Britt asked. “What is happening to him?”
After the tingling ended throughout his body, Balon felt warmth surround him. A blue circle of color surrounded him.
“The color shows what type of magic-user he is. Since it is blue, it means that he is lawful.”
“What if somebody evil like Trent swallowed it or somebody like me?” Bard asked.
“A yellow color would surround Trent. That shows that he is chaotic or evil. Some people are neither chaotic nor lawful; they are neutral. If somebody who is neutral drinks it, he would be surrounded by white.”
Soon the aura disappeared from Balon. “I had to do that just to make sure,” he said.
“What do you mean?” Eileena asked.
“I am sure that I am a lawful magic-user,” he explained. “However, I have been tempted to cross to the chaotic side. Then I had commanded that orc and he obeyed, I wanted to make sure I was not falling victim to turn evil. If that aura had been yellow, I would have no choice but to leave.”
“Why leave?” Bard asked.
“I would not want to cause harm to fall on any of you,” the magic user said quietly. Without saying anymore, he walked over to the next pool that had a liquid that had different shades of green. The image showed a lion drinking from it. Then all of a sudden it yawned greatly and laid it head in its paws and went to sleep. “A pool of sleep.”
“Does anybody have a fishing pole?” George asked. In the next pool, trout and bass were swimming around. No image appeared when Balon waved his wand. I guess this is how the orcs survived in here, by eating fish.
Steam was coming from the next pool. They went over to investigate. “Ice,” said Britt, “dry ice. Do not touch it. It is so cold that it will burn you.”
“I think we are going to be rich,” George said looking at the bottom of the final pool. Looking down into the clear water, the bottom of the pool was covered with gold coins.
Balon smiled, “I do not need my wand to tell what this one is.” He reached his arm into the pool and as soon as the surface of the water was touched, the image disappeared.
“Oh shoot,” said George, disappointed “Another illusion, just like the one in Joban’s chamber.”
Balon walked over to the west wall of the pool room and looked at it. It was bare except for some rune markings on it.
“I think there may be a secret door,” he called. In less than a minute they were standing in a small but quaint room. It too had the perfectly layered floor in ceramic tile, forming a beautiful checkerboard pattern of reds, browns and black, just like the pool room.
“I wonder who stayed in this one,” Johanna said, looking at the simple bed, chairs, desk and table. They had no worth, since they were commonly made and were worn.
Eileena walked over to a painting that was hanging on the wall over the bed. A strong warrior, wearing plate armor, was wielding a sword. “If this actually is Stephan,” she said, “he is very handsome.”
Standing next to the warrior in the picture was a magic-user wearing purple robes. Power was coming out of his fingers. “He too looks very impressive,” Balon said. He looked closely at the painting, “What does that say?” There was writing in the lower left corner.
“Oh that is written in the elfin language,” Eileena said. “It says:
Underneath, in the common language, Stephan and Joban’s names were signed.
George looked at the gold frame surrounding the painting. “I bet this could sell for at least three-hundred gold pieces. However, I think it will be too heavy to carry back to Antares.”
“We will leave that up to the elders,” Britt said. “I never heard of this Luten fellow. I wonder what he advised them on.”
Johanna walked over to the desk and picked up the book. Opening the book, she said, “I think I know.” She pointed to a page with a drawing on in. It was of a room that they had already explored. There were notes of what supplies were needed for the construction, it included how long it would take and how many laborers were needed to complete the room on time. Different pages showed similar drawings of other rooms.
“He must have been the major planner of this fortress,” Bard said, looking through the pages. “However, there is nothing about the lower lever.”
“Maybe that never got done,” Eileena said. “What are you doing, George?” she asked as he pulled out his lock picking kit.
“I just wonder what is so important that the desk drawer had to be locked.”
“Be careful,” Britt warned. “You remember what happened before.”
“This one is safe,” George said. “I already checked I dismantled the trap.”
“Was it the pin one again?” Bard asked.
“No. It more or less was a harmless one, something like my laughing gas prank. However, if it was set off, we probably would have left the room quickly, holding our noses.”
“What was it?” Britt asked
“A gas one. You know what happens after we eat too many beans.”
“George!” Britt barked out laughing. “I am so glad you dismantled that trap! If that gas is anything like your bean episodes, we would not be able to come back into this room for at least four hours!”
George grinned, evilly. “Pay back, Britt if I find any laughing gas in this drawer.”
He finished skillfully using his kit and had the drawer open. “Maybe I might be in luck,” he said holding up a bottle, filled with a clear liquid. He handed the bottle to Balon. “You are the expert in this.”
“This is a potion of levitation.”
“It there anything else?” Bard asked.
“Yes and they may be worth something. He held up a gold necklace and a ring.
“Let me see the ring, for a second,” Balon said. George handed it to him. “This is a ring of protection.”
“Just like the one Joban had,” Johanna commented.
What is that you are holding, George?” Britt asked. “Something you are going to pocket?”
“No. I actually do not know what it is. Though the gems might be worth something.”
“That is a moonstone, Johanna said, looking at the stone with the blue gems embedded in it.
“What are they used for?” Bard asked.
“These are magical gemstones. Do you see how it shimmers with different light when you rotate it one way or another? They are used for different purposes. Sometimes they are used to predict weather. Some women use them to become fertile. Farmers use them to bring an excellent harvest. However, I think this one was used as a dream stone. By turning it where you get the right color, you can have beautiful visions at night.” She handed George the moonstone. “I think you should have this,” she said. “You were tossing and turning last night, maybe you need a good dream.”
“Thank you,” he said quietly. He was not shocked that she was generous with this find. Everybody was kind and generous. What surprised him was that Johanna was not off the mark. He had that dream about Shyla again. She kept calling out to him during his sleep. He would think he would find her. But then it would turn into a dead end. “It is dark in here, George! Please help me!” Every time he thought he was in reach, Shyla was nowhere to be found.
The dream he had last night was worse. She let out a blood curdling scream. Then she was silent. “Shyla!” he yelled to her. “Where are you?” However, there was nothing but silence.
He woke up sobbing in his blanket, thankful that nobody was awake to witness his weakness.