The Red Hand Part 30
by Shane Migliavacca
The Red Hand Part Thirty Going Back
The once ominous looking rock formation that marked the entrance to the caves where The Audar had their largest settlement. Where the Reint, Tenth and the others lived. Where I stayed, trained and cried. Four long fingers reaching for the sky are now shattered ruins. There are no bodies but the sand and rocks bears signs of being badly scorched by several powerful blasts of energy. As we walk around the base of the great formation, I’m on the verge of tears. The main entrance is covered in rubble.
I become desperate, looking for a way in. It seems impossible. How did they escape? After some searching Nasr finds a small entrance. Off to the side. Just large enough for us enter, one at a time. Did they come up this way, when the world was falling apart around them?
I use the crystals on the ax to light our way as we descend slowly into the darkness. The sides of the passage have huge jagged cracks running through them. From time to time the sound of small rocks falling can be heard somewhere in the distance.
“This place is going to come down on us,” Nasr says, touching the broken wall.
“You can wait outside if you want.” I’d hoped he would have given up on hanging off me and headed home by now. But he’s stuck with me the whole way. Trying to pry the reason I’ve come here from me. I wonder why it’s such a big deal to him? Not that he’s hasn’t been helpful. He has, especially in that nest of snake creatures.
“No. I was simply stating a fact.” He says, under his breath.
My heart starts racing the further we get in. Not from fear of the rocks coming down on us. No, it’s due to the fact that we’re close now. Close to finding out if Maebh is alive or…or not.
“You’re willing to risk being buried, for some trinkets?” Nasr says, still trying weasel the info out of me.
“Yes.” I answer. Then feeling the need to justify myself further. “They’re not ‘trinkets.’ They mean a lot to me.” I picture Sixth’s small urn. “One thing in particular.” The thought of it shattered or crushed fills me with as much dread as thinking about Maebh being dead.
There’s some light ahead of us. Eventually the passage opens up onto a small area just off the central community area of the caves. A place that was once the heart of their home, is now filled with rubble and death. There are bodies here. Bodies from both sides. Some died in battle. Others from being struck with falling debris. The statute of Isr has been cracked into several little pieces.
I scan the bodies. Trying to let my eyes wander over the dead without looking like I’m being deliberate about it. There’s no Maebh here. Not sure if I relieved by this fact.
Nasr shakes his head. “This-This is sad.” His voice cracking a little. So, he has some emotion in there.
I decide to try and make it to the old woman’s room. More than likely she’s there. If not there she’d be close by when they grabbed her. The tunnel leading to her place is littered with debris. Larges areas of the tunnel have crumbled. It’s slow going as we have to climb over and squeeze by various sized rocks.
“Are we close to your living quarters?” Nasr asks, steadying himself as he climbs over some rubble.
“Close. But there’s something I have to check first,” I say, sliding between a large rock blocking our path and the side of the tunnel.
Behind me I can hear him sigh.
As we progress further down the tunnel I look expecting to see the old woman’s legs or arm’s sticking out from under some large boulder. We reach the room with no sign of any bodies, hers or otherwise.
Inside it’s a different matter. Two blue skinned warriors lie dead. I smile. Maebh didn’t go without a fight. Good for her. The room itself is a mess. Potions and ingredients are strewn about. Her bed is turned over and the far wall is scared by a large crack.
“Is this your room?” Nasr asks, picking up a piece of a bowl. Turning it over in his hand.
“No, a friend’s.”
She’s not here, not in the tunnel and not in the main area. My heart sinks as the idea of perhaps what I knew all along but didn’t want to believe becomes more likely. They have her. Mr. White to be more accurate.
I leave the room. Nothing for me there now. I head to my room, which isn’t as difficult as reaching the old woman’s. I feel a small wave of relief wash over me when I find my room is relatively untouched. Except for a light coating of dust from the overhead bombardments. The urn is sitting just where I left it. In a small alcove in the wall. The urn lies on its side, but the lid remains secure.
“Now this is what I pictured your room looking like.” Nasr says.
“Glad it lives up to expectations.” I chuckle. I know what I have to do. I’m not looking forward to it but it’s the only way to know.
I keep an extra backpack stashed here. I grab it and start stuffing it full of stuff, including the urn, some extra clothes and another cloak. I take the fur blank from my bed and roll it up. It’ll make nights a little more comfortable.
“Are we leaving now?” Nasr asks. “Or do you have to look for something else?”
I divide up the contents of my first backpack with the one from my room. After I’m done I hand Nasr the first backpack.
“We’re done here.” I scan the room. Got everything I need. I liked this little place, my home far away from home. “How do you feel about heading to Kuma Torth?”
I’m surprised when Nasr isn’t very thrilled by the thought of returning to his side. But after some complaining he decides to go along with my plan. The plan being to have Nasr bring me to Mr. White as a prisoner. Of course, I’ll all be bullshit. I just want to get in close to learn if Maebh is there and kill White. I’m hoping with him dead, their whole plan with the tower will fall apart. I’m very certain I’ll die in the process, but at this rate I’m never getting home anyway. If I can take him out and maybe save Maebh and the others in the process. That’s a price I’m willing to pay in an instant. I haven't told Nasr about that part though. Only that I want him to pretend to capture me. I told it’s to learn Intel on what they’re building there.
Leaving the caves behind for the last time we head in an all too familiar direction.
Nasr trails behind me. “Tell me, what or is it who, you were looking for back there?”
“A friend. Someone special.” I say.
“And you think they’ve been taken?” He asks, clearly intrigued. “To Kuma Torth?”
“I do.” I say. I could see by the sly smile on his face he was starting to put things together. Might as well tell him a little. Enough to keep him interested.
“What’s to stop me from betraying you? Should I decide I don’t want to go along with this plan?”
I smile. It’s my turn to be sly.
“The person I’m looking for, an old woman. She’s from my world.”
Nasr lets out a laugh. “Yes! We’ve heard of her. He’s looking for her.” He narrows his eyes. “Yes. It all makes sense now. Is she kin of yours?”
“No. But, she took care of me when I came here. Taught me how to use the Krel crystals, how to channel my energy. She also taught me about potions. The old woman is very skilled at concocting all manner of concoctions.”
“I see.” He says. “Still this doesn’t answer my question.”
“Well, you see I’ve been sharing water with you. I happened to slip a little something into your water. It’s tasteless, doesn’t smell. Quite harmless really. That is unless it comes into contact with another little something. Vershek root she called it.”
I watch as he takes this in, working the calculations in his head.
“You grind the root in a fine powder. Put it in water or on food, get it in your system and boy, you are in trouble. It takes about four weeks to gestate, deep inside your belly. She told me it’s quite a painful death. You go blind first. Then your nervous system breaks down. After that-”
“Enough!” Nasr raises a hand. “Enough. That’s a good story. Let’s say I believe you. If I help you is there an antidote?”
“I might know of a little something to flush it from your system.” I say. “But it’s locked away up here.” I point to my head. “If I go, so does it.”
For a while afterwards we continue on in silence. I can see anger burning in his eyes. He’s pissed at me. No doubt. That’s good. Means he believes me. I can also see a bit of fear there too. He underestimated me. What I was capable of. Don’t think he will anymore.
It’s there before us on the horizon. Lit by the setting sun. Kuma Torth. City of my nightmares. Creepy evil dudes and their deformed child things. Giant talking spiders. Every time I come to this city there’s some new horror in store for me.
The journey here was fairly uneventful. I’m a little buzzed from not sleeping much. My heart has been beating like a hummingbird’s wings the whole trip. I know that this time I’ll die here. I cheated death twice in this place. Three times though?
I’ve also had a hard time sleeping with Nasr around. I don’t think he’d be dumb enough to try anything like running off or trying to kill me. But he might try to run ahead to the city, raise an alarm. I’d have a hundred pissed blue lizards on my ass.
At nightfall, we make camp for the evening. After we eat Nasr turns in for the night. He lies there watching me as I sit. I can only imagine what he’s thinking about. Eventually he falls asleep. Leaving me all alone in the night.
Dinner sits heavy in my stomach. Between that and the lack of sleep, my head feels heavy. One second I’m watching the fire flicker and the next I wake to see a sword at my throat.
No. He’s in pretty much the same predicament as me. A shadowed figure stands over him, it’s blade hanging over his chest. I look up at my own sword wielding shadow. Their face obscured by a hooded cloak. I feel the tip of their blade pressed into my neck. The sticky warmth of a single drop of blood running down my neck.
One wrong move and I may die before I even reach Kuma Torth a third time.
back to Fantasy