Alda'hirakam ghar Ara; Chapter 86

  • The pitch blackness of the tunnels made Teldryn feel uneasy. The only light in this forgotten place was the torch light. He shivered and noticed his breaths had become visible as it was colder. He didn’t know where they were taking him and the Apprentice. Finding Ciel’nn now might have become complicated. His throat constricted at the thought of Ciel’nn dying before he could find him. A frown latched on his forehead. I have to find him. The older mer sighed and hoped for the best.

    They had been guided by the warriors, and if they strayed from the path, a poke by the small spear to the leg put them back.
    Once in a while Teldryn caught glimpses of torch lights at the sides. Torches and… shapes of Rieklings? He glanced at the other side, more Rieklings within the range of the torch light and watching them from the ice cliffs. It’s like a Riekling main camp, Teldryn thought. I’ve never seen so many of them at once. What does this even mean?

    He had made a mental note that Minasi hadn’t said a word since they were surprised. She must be making notes as well as looking for a suitable Riekling for Neloth. She might have some difficulty to choose on, but Teldryn didn’t care.

    They were guided through another tunnel. Some barrels  and sacks were in the small alcoves as they passed by them. Sometimes a riekling  hunter patrolled in one of the side tunnels that seemed to continue as the older mer caught glimpses of them. How deep do these tunnels go? He wondered.

    After a while marching they came to large open space that was equally as dark as the other tunnels. Small lights flickered on the far sides, and here and there a blueish light illuminated from the deep ice walls. By looking down, Teldryn swallowed as he couldn’t see the bottom when they crossed the Ancient Mammoth Bone Bridge. But his awe was short lived as he focused on where they were going.

    This place seems to be important, the older mer thought as  they went into a tunnel and emerged after a while into another spacious place with a rickety barricade and small watch towers on both sides of the entrance. Teldryn frowned as his stomach tensed up. He didn’t like the odds of being in the middle of Rieklings and deep down somewhere in the middle of the ice. A shiver ran down his spine again.

    There was no way of escape from the caverns if this would go awry. Why have they led us here? I hope Ciel’nn is still alive - wherever he is.

    The Rieklings around them watched as they marched through the front guard area which after that was the commons. There were dozens upon dozens Rieklings as far as Teldryn could count. A real Kingdom of Rieklings. He swallowed again. This doesn’t bode well. In his mind the older mer went through the possibilities of escaping and fighting. He didn’t like those odds at all.

    “Gather yourself, mercenary!” Minasi whispered suddenly. “I can sense your hopelessness from here.” She was quiet for a moment as she surveyed the area - some quarters with fetishes and totems. “Maybe all is not lost yet.”

    “Easy for you to say!” Teldryn hissed. “You just need a…” He had to shut his mouth. A quick glance around, and he was relieved that the Rieklings hadn’t comprehended his meaning. That would’ve been a disastrous event, and all hope for finding Ciel’nn would be lost. No, he wouldn’t give up. He couldn’t.

    They were brought to a place that ended in two forked ways in opposite directions. The shaman-like riekling stopped the small group and gestured to the warriors to depart.

    Riiwak waited for the warriors to leave and looked to the two mer. “You. Expected.” He gestured in the air. “Follow.” The High Shaman’s assistant turned to the right side tunnel and walked slowly.

    We’ve been expected? Teldryn glanced at the Mage. How did they know we were coming? The mage didn’t say anything to him, but she glanced back at him with a neutral look. He didn’t know what to expect at all. The older mer followed the Riekling. If it’s taking us to their leader we might as well as ask if they’ve seen Ciel’nn.

    Riiwak led them to the High-Shaman quarters and gestured for them to wait at the large brazier. The two Riekling Chargers were on the ramp guarding the place.

    It didn’t take long until The High-Shaman strolled toward them. She looked up to them for a moment, gripping her staff and her eyes studying the older mer. “Boo cha!” She nodded. “We. Wait. You. Expected.”

    “Why?” Teldryn frowned at the Riekling Shaman. It was beyond his understanding why such creatures would’ve been expecting them.

    “Have you— ?”

    “You. Teel-drinn?” The High Shaman asked peering into the mer’s eyes.

    “Something is going on here.” Minasi whispered while she gazed around the place. Her eyes found the Riekling who had led them here and a mischievous smile crept on her lips.

    Teldryn blinked. “Teldryn. That’s my name. How?”

    The High Shaman nodded slowly, and replied in a mysterious tone, “We. Heard.” She pointed with her small hand toward the small section of the hall that was covered with hanging furs and  leathers and fetishes. “Go. On.” She gestured.

    Teldryn shivered. They heard? He felt his heart bounding fast as a strange sensation flowed through him. He swallowed as he shifted to move toward the covered section. What would he find there? Perhaps he imagined all of this? It didn’t make any sense to him.
    He licked his lower lip before pushing the patch-work leather cover aside and stepped in.

    The place was fuming with scented candles and the small braziers. He narrowed his eyes as the smoke stung his eyes as he took another step. His eyes found the person on the stone table, covered in furs. His eyes widened and he lips parted as he rushed to the table.

    “Ciel’nn?” He whispered, his hands shaking and his eyes welling up. Thank Azura!  I found him! The older mer reached out but he grabbed the edge of the table to balance himself. “Ciel’nn! I finally found you!” He said softly as it felt hot. By Azura! He looks so ill! If I could’ve found you sooner…  He want to hold Ciel’nn close to him, but he didn’t know if  the young mer was injured. His chest ached. Had he found his partner too late? He’d never forgive himself. Teldryn leaned in and pressed a soft kiss on Ciel’nn’s forehead, then he heard a shifting sound.

    “Is he…?”

    The High-Shaman had followed the older mer and now looked at him. “Alive. Yes.” She paused to see the relief on the mer’s eyes. “But. High fever. Nightmares.” She gestured in the air and seemed to be thinking.

    Then Minasi came to listen to them and she saw the unconscious young mer on the table. She nodded to the mercenary. It would be anytime now to use the rings, but something told her to wait a while longer. So the Mage stood and studied the place with her eyes and made mental notes.

    “It’ll be alright, Ciel’nn.” Teldryn whispered while he caressed his partner’s hair. As soon as we get you out of here. I’ll take care of you, daelha. He wondered about the assassin’s words about the poison. The Riekling Shaman had said he’s alive but… What has transpired? What happened to you? The young mer looked so suffered and broken that it almost broke his heart.

    Suddenly Riiwak rushed to them, panting. “Araloo! Araloo!” He gestured hastily once he caught his breath. The Chieftain had said that they must sacrifice the fallen one to appease their gods, and the warriors would come soon for him. He couldn’t stop them.

    Gnimmum scoffed, gripping her staff.

    “What’s happening?” Teldryn demanded to know while he felt a tingling in his chest. Something is wrong I can tell, he thought and glanced at the Mage. Minasi was frowning and looked nervous. He glanced at Ciel’nn and bit his lower lip.

    “Danger.” Gnimmum said simply. “Protect. Him.” She seemed agitated gestured at the mer on the table. “Need. To. Leave.”

    Minasi stretched her fingers and arms while she watched them debating. She also felt the danger and it made her nervous as Neloth without his tea. The thought of Neloth made her twist her mouth. Neloth and his tea, the mage shook her head inwardly. I must be ready to grab any riekling when the opportunity presents itself. She signaled to the mercenary that she was ready for whatever was coming to them.

    Teldryn cursed under his breath and gently lifted his partner onto his arms. “Hang on, Ciel’nn.” He whispered. He would have wanted to cover him in the blanket he had in his backpack, but apparently there was no time for it. Another curse left from the older mer lips. He looked at the Riekling Shaman. “We’re ready. Where should we be going?” He noticed the Mage stepping closer to them.

    They followed the High Shaman to the Commons where a score of  warriors stopped them. The other Rieklings were watching the commotion as one of the warriors stepped toward the seemingly fleeing group. Gestures were made and an argument rose up between the warrior and the High Shaman.

    Fucking great, Teldryn thought as he adjusted Ciel’nn in his arms. The young mer let out a small moan in his sleep. He frowned. His love probably was having nightmares. Hopefully it would end when they got to escape this place. The older mer pressed his partner against his chest. “I love you, Ciel’nn. I’m going to get you out of here.” He whispered into Ciel’nn’s ear. In one way or another…

    The Rieklings made way for the approaching Chieftain with two guards, and he didn’t look pleased. He grunted deeply at the High Shaman and gestured at the mers. He demanded the sacrifice to happen so their gods would stop growling at him. The sacrifice of all three would appease them.

    Gnimmum scoffed and objected about the whole idea. She was sure that Chieftain had gone mad while eating the glowing fungi. The sacrifice would not happen while she still lived, she assured the Chieftain. And then they argued noisily and started throwing threats at each other.

    Teldryn looked at Minasi with a question.

    The Mage frowned at him and looked around. Everyone’s focus seemed to be at the arguing pair. She should make her move soon. Minasi’s lips parted as she was about to say something when —

    — when a loud roar echoed through the caverns, making them tremble. It was a angry roar and another roar came after it.

    The Rieklings froze.

    Teldryn cursed under his breath and held Ciel’nn even tighter against himself.

    Minasi grabbed the High Shaman’s assistant and disappeared out of sight.

    A panic set into the Rieklings. They mumbled in fear and started to looking for escape.

    The older mer swallowed. He wouldn’t be able to fight while having his love in his arms. He would also have to seek an escape. Maybe a tunnel somewhere. Preferably close by and that would lead to safety. Yes, that was good wish-thinking. He braced himself to run.

    “Eeeloo!” The High Shaman gasped as she looked past the Chieftain. She couldn’t believe it - The Ancient Frost troll had awoken from it’s slumber. It was truly unlucky timing and it may as well as be that their high pitched arguments had disturbed its sleep. Gnimmum paid no attention when the Chieftain cried out and fled.

    “Run!” She cried out when the Ancient Frost troll crushed its way from the darkest corner of the Commons, and it grabbed the closest Riekling and took a chomp of it.

    Holding Ciel’nn tightly against himself, Teldryn shifted toward the tunnel just ahead. He could only hear the panicked scream of the Rieklings and the roars of something he didn’t know. His partner let out a quiet moan as the caverns trembled and the roars echoed. “Hold on, Ciel’nn!” Teldryn gritted his teeth while he tried to dodge the running Rieklings.

    More screams and the cavern shook. The roars were closer now, but Teldryn didn’t have time glance over his shoulder. He’d need to find some cover so he could adjust the young mer in his arms. He could tell the troll was close by.

    He almost lost his balance when the ground shook around him. Ahead of him he noticed a tunnel that was not far away. If he only could get there in time, but the damned troll was getting closer.

    There was a corner near him and the older mer decided on a whim to find cover from there. Only there was a small alcove, but it was between two cracks. Teldryn took a deep breath and wedged himself and Ciel’nn carefully through the gap. He’d have a very short time before the troll would find them.

    He leaned against the alcove wall and slid himself down. With Ciel’nn in his embrace, Teldryn checked his partner’s face - still distorted. It’s the nightmares and this place, he deemed. He sighed and brushed the stray hairs from Ciel’nn’s face. Well, at least we die together if there’s nothing else, he thought. I’m so sorry, Ciel’nn.

    The troll had found them, and Teldryn stared at it with his heart racing. He could feel the hatred from the troll. For what the Rieklings had done, he did not know. He pulled Ciel’nn closer to him, his head under his chin and hugged him tightly. Then he closed his eyes.




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