Haryk’s legs pumped like an overworked well hammer. His slicker blew out backwards. There was no wind in the cavern’s tunnels, but he was making plenty of his own! He tried to focus on where his feet stepped. He knew that one slip left him for the creatures crawling on the ceiling, and the walls, and over each other just a few footfalls behind him.
Once more he thought it ironic that he wanted most in the world, was what these creatures wanted from him: lunch.
They weren’t the only ones breathing down his neck either. Behind him he could hear the labored breathing of the mage and the animal lover dragging him along.
The boy turned man, Tahg, ran along with the mage and he tried to keep curiosity from killing his cat, but how in the… The boy had shown promise. Step. Step. He was nothing more than a ship’s hand, a nature worker as he and Andril liked to call the island’s druids. Step. Step. Stumble. They had chosen the kid really just because he said he could talk to the fucking rats and…step…they were tired of cockroaches in their food galley…step…he was just the fucking help! We called him the pest control expert! He got carried away to his death! Step. Stumble. Stumble.
“Just run you fools! Run!”
Andril was not a sprinter. But he didn’t need to be. Using a word of magic from one of his new spell books, he gave an energy to his legs and to the man child at his side. Soon, his feet fell lightly, floating off the ground. Before long, the two were running past the sweaty soldier. Their superhuman legs made his look as though it were running through mud. Andril waved at him as he passed, and in a breath as casual as if he were sitting in a tea party he told Haryk that he should “Catch up, old boy.”
Can’t shoot him. Thought Haryk. Someone has to help me kill these things!
“The tunnel widens ahead! It’s the opening.” Haryk was shouting now because all words needed to be heard now. He wanted to give more commands, but he had no idea what to do. If the opening led outside, would the creatures follow? Would they stop? He didn’t think so, and besides it looked dark. Creatures in the darker places of the world didn’t mind venturing out into a Sister-less night did they?
“Cast slow them the fuck down Andril! Would ya?!!!”
Judging by the look on Andril’s face, was thinking something very similar. He drew his sleeves back, conjured a massive ball of flame and threw a fireball behind them. An explosion rocked the tunnel and flames licked all around the cave walls. The fire slid along the ceiling where it found one of the creatures clinging to the rocks. Inflamed, the thing fell, writhing and screeching in agony. A few of the beasts were roasted alive as well. Those behind clamored to pass but couldn’t get through the fire.
Haryk and Tahg skidded to a halt and stood behind the mage. Andril was directing his flames to block off as much of the tunnel as he could. “I can’t hold them much longer!” He yelled back at them.
Andril’s bird fluttered around somewhere in the darkness. Whatever it was searching for, it didn’t seem to help them presently.
Haryk tried to see past the glow from the little gem, but couldn’t see the walls of the space. Have we come out into the open, into the night? No, it couldn’t be, there were no stars and the air was stale. It had to be underground. Before him lay large boulders and piles of rocky earth as if it great objects had simply fallen from the heavens. He saw the cliffs along where the tunnel emptied and looking up and to the sides couldn’t see the ends. There were no plants, or trees. It had to be some immense hollowed cavity. This new cave was massive, and he couldn’t see. Flames simmered behind him in the tunnel giving no help, nor did the lantern glow reveal anything for he and the others near him. I need more light damnit!
Instantaneously, the gem erupted into a bright, brilliant light. It shed perfectly white shafts in all directions, and Haryk saw then that they were in a cave, but that is was larger than he could ever have imagined. If it was natural, it was the most perfectly formed natural cylinder. They stood at the bottom of it, but they could not see the roof. It would have been hard to see anyway, because it was more than a mile above them. Something though was in the way. The ceiling, most of it at least, was blocked by something which looked from his vantage point as if it were a floating disc of earth. It too was massive, like a huge plate simply floating inside of the space.
His attention was brought back to the mage. The fires began to die and the creatures scrambled past the flames. Andril spoke a word of magic and he shot up into the air, his bird swirling around him. They dipped and dived around one another, the small owl and the mage whose robes fluttered around him. Andril had become a pretty good flier.
Things I think now, thought Haryk and presently, he felt his feet rise above the ground and he too shot upwards. He was not quite skilled yet at flying. He pinwheeled around, trying to catch his balance. He didn’t see Tahg, but a small bat fluttered around him and he knew that the little creature wasn’t there naturally.
In a matter of seconds, they were nearing the bottom of the platform. The closer they flew, the clearer it was that whatever it was above them was not connected to the cavern itself. In some way, it was floating on it’s own. Haryk saw, coming to a place underneath it, that it was like a great hill of earth was simply lifted and suspended in the air. Great rocks and boulders clung to the bottom of it, held together by the force of the sediment they were a part of. Then, Haryk twisted his body the way he had learned to do and he came over the edge of the structure. A domed ceiling came into view and a magnificent temple of some kind as well. There were arched doorways around the circular building and a stone walkway surrounded everything some several yards wide. But what Haryk noticed first was not just the absurdity of the floating temple resting upon a suspended hill of stone. What caught his attention immediately was that this was clearly the scene of a battle. A battle that had happened some years ago.
Haryk saw the bones of the creatures, huge piles of reptilian skeletons large and larger lying scattered on the stones. Before he could say anything to the others, a bat fluttered over the platform, swirled in a tight circle and grew into the druid, Tahg.
Tahg ran over to the side and looked down. Haryk sommersalted and landed awkwardly near him. His foot struck a skull that looked like it belonged to a gigantic snake in life. He held his breath, half expecting to see it come to life. Andril lit next to him and shook his finger. Haryk scoffed.
Tahg yelled, “Dragons! Two dragons!”
Andril peered around where he stood. “I’d say they are dragonborn, some perhaps are larger. There might be a juvenile dragon here in the mix, it’s hard to say.”
“Two!” Haryk had gone over to where Tahg had been standing, and he too peered over the side carefully. “Two big fucking dragons, Bookworm. Not bones. Real living breathing dragons, and they are on their way!” He ran back towards the temple, kicking bones out of his way. “We’ve got incoming!”
The mage and his one time pest control expert broke into a run too. The three of them made a beeline for the closest of the arched doorways.