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The Caverns of Kildun Aalda--Chapter Twenty-One--Farewell to the caverns of Kildun Aalda
Before leaving the cavern that had the pool of water, everybody filled their flasks of the icy cold drink.
“It is not pleasant to swim in,” Shyla said “but it is delicious water.”
“I wonder if this is the same water that is in the pool room,” Johanna wondered.
“Maybe that was not a trap on the upper level,” Britt said. “Maybe the servants lowered buckets to the water and carried them to that pool. It certainly is easier that having to go all the way to the lower lever just to get the water.”
George walked to the southeast corner of the cavern. Here, the ceiling sloped down so low that he had to duck his head. Balon would have to walk bent almost in half to avoid hitting his head.
“There is a large cavern to the north of us,” Shyla said. Now that she was with the man she loved and new friends, she no longer was scared. As a matter of fact, she was very confident.
“Large is not the word for it,” said Britt. “It is majestic.”
They had walked north along the corridor and noticed that as they drew closer, it sloped downwards.
“This must be one of the biggest rooms in the lower level,” said Bard. He looked upwards. The ceiling was at least sixty feet over his head. Halfway up the north wall, he noticed a small hole.
“I think I can see outside; I am sure I am looking at the blue sky.”
“Yes.” said Britt. “That is the sky. I could have sworn that it was still night.”
“I hope they know that it is not night yet,” George said pointing. All along the ceiling, small creatures were hanging upside down.
“I hope they are sleeping,” said Britt.
Shyla looked up, “Bats are nocturnal are nocturnal. Still, since they are underground, they may not know when it is day or night.”
“Maybe we should leave this place,” Balon said.
“And do it quietly,” finished Johanna.
They started to leave on quiet toe treads, and then Britt noticed that George had not moved.
“What is wrong, George?” he asked, when the thief’s faced was contorting.....
“I am afraid that I am going to…”
“No!” whispered Britt, desperately.
“Achoo! Sneeze,” finished George.
The ceiling above their heads was quiet for a second, and then the squeaking began. It first started with a squeak here and there, then more and more bats joined in. Soon the ceiling was a chorus of squeaking and squawking. The bats started dropping from their perches from the ceiling and began flying madly about.
“Run!” yelled Britt. “You picked a fine time to sneeze!” he said to George.
All around the fleeing adventurers, the bats flew. They brushed against their cheeks and landed in their hands. Some flew all the way to the top of the cavern and dived at then, zooming pass them.
“Fall to the ground!” yelled Balon. The light that was coming from his body disappeared.
Everybody dropped to the ground and kept still. The bats eventually stopped swarming and returned to their resting places upon the ceiling.
“George, was this one of your practical jokes?” Shyla asked.
“No. I made a promise to give them up if I ever found you,” the thief answered. “I just had to sneeze.”
“It is good you did not sneeze on purpose,” Shyla said. “However, do not give up your jokes because of me. I still like to pull a prank once in a while.”
“It is my promise,” said George.
“Did anybody get bitten?” Johanna asked.
“They are harmless,” said Shyla.
“We have to use lanterns now,” said Balon. “I will not be able to draw my light source for a while.”
“There are goblins ahead,” whispered George.
“How many are there?” asked Britt.
“I only see two. They have bows and arrows.”
Shyla spoke, “That is usually how many there are in this part of the lower level. I think they guard the room with the treasure in it. Once in a while they leave. I think they find gold pieces scattered throughout the caverns and bring them here.”
“That is why we have not found many coins lying about,” Johanna said. “It just surprises me that they have not also collected the gems and other things that are worth money.”
“Goblins are not that smart,” Eileena said. “They only see gold and silver pieces as being worth something. They do not realize that something, such as a pewter figurine, may be worth something if they try to sell it.”
“Nobody would want to purchase something from a goblin, unless if they use it to purchase their life.”
“We should rush them and take them by surprise,” Bard said.
They did just that. The goblins did not have any time to respond. They both were dead before they even had a chance to fit their arrows on the bowstrings.
Britt looked at the short bows that the goblins had been holding. “These are in such poor condition, that they could have not done any harm.” The strings were so worn that they did not have any stretch to them. The arrows also were so blunt that if they found their target, they would not have pierced any skin. Throwing rocks would have caused more harm.
“Does anybody know what these are?” George asked, carrying ten dark green stones in his hands.”
“These are bloodstones,” Johanna said after looking at one. “I carry two with me.”
“So do I,” said Balon reaching into his bag and retrieving his.
“What are they use for?” asked Bard.
“I use this one for healing. It does not work on healing any harm you get from magical powers or serious injuries, such as getting bit by a poisonous snake. It is used more to heal common, ordinary ailments. For example, if I have a fever, I do not waste a healing potion to heal me. I use the bloodstone to get rid of the fever.”
He held up the other stone, which was a darker green. “This one is a mystical bloodstone. I use this to help me become more knowledgeable in the ways of the world and magic. There are some spells I can perform. However, if there are serious consequences to using a specific spell, the bloodstone tells me by turning into black.”
Britt looked at a statue that was carved in black rock. It was a human standing five feet tall. His arms were outstretched and seemed to be pointing with his hands. “It seems to be telling us to go in one direction or another,” said Britt.
“Which way do we go,” asked George. “Shyla, did you say there was a room that had treasure in it?”
“It is this way,” she said.
“Be careful,” said Johanna. “There is a hole over there.”
The hole was just to the north of them. It was twelve feet wide and deep. At the bottom were spikes. The skeletal remains of a beast were down there, apparently fallen victim to the spikes.
“This was another trap,” said Britt. “At least we saw it before we fell into it.”
“Maybe, this mission finally paid off,” George said, looking around the small room. Gold pieces were scattered around the floor along with several chests that were closed. “I will check this one,” he said walking over to a chest that was near two wax human statues.
“Look out!” Shyla yelled, as he knelt down to check out the lock. The statue closest to him immediately sprung to life and rushed at him, with his sword drawn.
Britt rushed towards the statue and protected George from the cutting blow.
Shyla rushed the statue from behind and stabbed it in the back.
The other statue came to life and rushed at Bard.
“Look out!” yelled Johanna.
A bear rager appeared magically out of thin air. Wearing its bear fur, it howled savagely and rushed at the remaining three.
“I can handle this on my own!” yelled Bard, swinging at the human-like statue.
The berserker focused on Balon, Johanna and Eileena
“I can read its thought,” Balon said. “It intends to fight us to the death.”
Johanna held out her mace and a ball of light appeared at the end of it. She threw the ball into the face of the berserker. It bellowed with rage as it was blinded by the light. Since it could not see, it did not attack.
“Stand aside!” bellowed Balon. Startled by this outburst, the others stopped in what they were doing. The two human-like statues had already been defeated and were dead. They were human who were petrified and were used as guards for the treasures.
Balon held out his hands and two glowing lights formed into balls of fire came out of his hands. However, instead of forming these into arrows, he threw the fire at the blind and raging bear form. Then his fur caught on fire. Balon continued throwing fire balls at the raging creature. Soon its entire body was engulfed in flames. Burning it fell to the ground on its knees. It continued to howl. However, it was not screaming in rage; it was now wailing in fear and pain. It was so bad that Johanna had to cover her ears to shut out the pitiful noise.
“It is too hot to get close to!” Britt yelled, his sword drawn.
Bard could only stand and watch in horror as the bear rager continued to scream, pleading for somebody to ends its life.
Soon the creature stopped screaming and became silent. Its misery was finally ended. “We need to get out of here fast,” said Balon, gasping for breath. “Gather whatever treasure you can find and get back outside.” He looked pale, the way he did when he communicated with the orcs.
George quickly looked for traps on the chests and unlocked them. “It is good that we bought extra bags,” he said. “There must be over three thousand gold pieces! Hopefully, our bags will not be too heavy.”
“We are not the only ones who made it this far,” Bard said. Laying face down near the exit was a body of a warrior, wearing a suit of chain mail. A battleaxe protruded from his back. “The berserker must have done this,” he said.
“I did not notice him before,” Shyla said quietly. “It sometimes does not make sense. He risked his life for this.” She picked up the bag that was lying near his hand. It contained obsidian and jade necklace, an ivory collar and a wooden carving of a deer. “While these may be worth over 3,000 gold pieces, was it worth it?”
George went up to her and put his arm around her shoulder. “It is worth it if the person survives. It is worth it when the person somebody loves deeply is standing next to him.”
Britt looked over at Balon and was concerned about him. “We better leave,” he said. “I think once we are back outside, we will be able to relax.”
“We can leave this way,” said Shyla, “If somebody has some rope.”
“I have a coil in my bag,” said Bard.
She led them to a small cavern. Turning the corner they were suddenly blinded by daylight. After a few seconds of getting their eyes adjusted to the light, they saw that the ground was forty feet below them.
Britt and George hammered spikes into the rock wall and tied the end of the rope to them. One at a time each person was lowered to the ground. When everybody was safely on the ground, they headed a distance away and set up camp.
Balon, once he was in fresh air had resumed his normal and quiet demeanor. They had a fire going and everybody was sitting around, eating and having a good time. Missions like this one they had just completed are dangerous. While several of the members came close to losing their lives at least once in the caverns, it is good that did not happen. He had grown to know and love each member.
He envied the ones such as George, Britt and Bard. Both the fighter and the warrior relied mostly on strength. Then George relied on his cunningness. He wished that he could be like one of those three. If he was, he would not be in the predicament he was in now. Very sure that his lawfulness was violated by the evil from the dead magic-user, Balon wished that he had never learned his first magic spell. He wished that there were never any magic-users in this world.
Then if his powers did not exist, Bard would not be out here looking up at the stars. He would have been killed by the ochre jelly. George would also be dead. Without magic-users in this world, he would have been dead from a crushed windpipe. It was magic-users like he who provided healing potions, just like the one Bard used on George to heal him. Yes, magic-users were needed in this world. Maybe, he did have a purpose and he would remain lawful for his remaining days in this world.
Britt sat on a log with Eileena.
“How do you think this mission went?” he asked her.
“It went well. From the missions we went on previously, this one was the most productive. At first I thought the place was picked clean from others who entered before us. However, as we got deeper and deeper into the fortress, we found many valuable items. I am sure the elders will be pleased.”
“Still, we were not always careful. We each almost got killed while in there.”
“True. That is why we needed to travel as a group. If just one person went into the caverns of Kildun Aalda, he would have been killed shortly after entering. When we get back to Antares, while we await word from the elders, we should sit down and review everything that went wrong and right in there. That way we can learn from our mistakes.”
“We will do that,” Britt said. “However, there is something missing. I am not sure what it is, but something is missing."
Bard sat and looked at the stars. It had seemed like it had been days since he had looked up at a starlit night. He glanced over at George and Shyla; it was not too long ago when the thief had told him how he had lost Shyla. Now the two were together, discussing wedding plans. He glanced over at Johanna, who was sitting by herself. Maybe wedding plans were not in the works yet, but an icebreaker would do. He stood up and walked over to her. They held hands, while they looked up in to the sky.
The next morning, the group gathered all that belonged to them, preparing to head back to Antares.
“Which way did you take to get up here?” Shyla asked.
George pulled his map out of his bag and showed it to her.
“This is the long way,” she said. “If we head back this way, it will be easier. Not only is it less hilly, the distance is about half as long.”
“That is the best news I have heard in a long time,” Britt said. “I am looking forward to a cooked meal and a warm bed.”
One by one they started walking, making the distance between them and the caverns greater. Once in a while somebody would turn and wave a farewell to the fortress of Stephan and Joban. Balon turned and looked towards the Caverns sadly, hoping to hear a voice of encouragement. However, it did not come. Then he faced forward and followed the rest back to Antares. He knew that when he got back to town, he had a major decision to make.
George held the moonstone in his hand. He knew since he had his Shyla back, his nightmares about her would go away. He never minded the bad dreams that haunted him as long as they did not involve the woman who would be his future wife. He could handle any dreams that came his way. Therefore, he did not need the moonstone any longer.
He ran to catch up to Balon.
“I do not need this,” he said handing the dream stone to the magic-user. “I believe that you have more need of it than me.”
“Thank you, George,” Balon said, patting him on the back. The darkness that he saw in his future faded.