There was something strange in the way the cave smelled. Haryk thought it was familiar. Nasty, yet familiar. Like waking up again in your own piss again backside of the pub when you told yourself never again. Again. That type of familiar. He hated the smell. It was nasty, and it was familiar because these were the very caves he once had nearly died in. Should have died in. And here he was again. Again, familiar.
He sloshed through the rank water behind Andril and the boy druid turned adventurer, Tahg. At certain moments, Haryk also recalled that Tahg had saved his life, although years ago, Haryk had been unable to do so. It was a feeling that didn’t sit well with him, but it wasn’t enough for him to stop teasing the boy relentlessly.
He thought back to the plan and wondered what he was doing here at all. Let me get this straight Haryk, he told himself, a couple of dragons pick you up, bring you to a cave where a bunch of asskissers agree to do anything and everything for a prince, who is the king, who is actually probably still the prince, has a plan that involves him flying off on the only way you have off an exploding island?
“You forgot the part where Canton and the others decided to take the scenic tour instead of keeping an eye on your backside,” he said out loud.
Andril, who had been listening to Haryk’s mutterings for the last few minutes, stopped him. “Haryk, so long as you stay by my side, we do not need a gate to return to Cillandar.” Andril patted the pocket where Haryk knew he had kept his most magical of scrolls.
Haryk didn’t understand much about it, but he did know that it took him years to manufacture in his little nerd tower back in Black Hollow. “Well, I don’t plan to, so don’t go losing me either, eh?”
“Have no fear, Haryk. We will exact our revenge on that bastard, Abraxas. And then we’ll be on our way. But if you see a king, don’t keep it to yourself. He’d be worth a fortune if we found him and returned him safely.”
“Don’t you trust to the King, er I mean prince to do it?” Haryk could barely keep the smile off his face. Neither could Andril.
Sometime later, Andril, Haryk and Tahg worked their way through the caverns beneath the isle. Smoke and sulfur filled their noses and more than once, a quake sent a shiver through the rock above them, forcing them to push on quickly.
“This place, nasty and familiar,” he said to no one, because no one would care. “A perfect advertisement for the whole of these cursed isles!”
“Shhhhh,” Andril hushed. “Quiet Lord Haryk, we’re trying not to get killed here this time. Remember?”
Tahg, in the lead, slipped under the water. “Great,” groaned Haryk. “I ain’t going to rescue that kid again, blast him Andril!”
“You won’t need to you great fool,” sighed Andril for he knew Haryk hadn’t saved him in the first place–a fact that the old soldier seemed to often forget. “You need to start paying attention to things Haryk.” Andril pointed at the dark water near where Haryk stood. A fin cut through the surface and before Haryk could aim his pistol at it, a head and dolphin beak broke through the water a few feet before the fin. Haryk wasn’t a dolphin expert but it sounded like the bastard was laughing at him.
“He wants us to follow him,” said Andril matter of factly.
“He? You are telling me the pest control expert can now become a fish?”
Andril ignored Haryk for the time being, “The way is clear he says. Scribbles confirms it via the air. The dolphin wants us to follow.”
Haryk mimed the mage while swirling his pistol around, “The way is clear, let’s just follow blindlly says the magical fucking bird and the boy dolphin, whoopity fucking dippity do dah….Well of course he does, you damnable book worm. Only I don’t care what a flapping metal bird thinks and I ain’t taking orders from a light-forsaken dolphin-boy!”
“Of course you aren’t Haryk.” Andril then stopped and made a motion with his arms that Haryk knew was the beginnings of some spell he would cast. Whenever he saw it, no matter what it was, Haryk felt a tinge of anticipation. More importantly, all of that–and he never admitted the anticipation of course–was first preceded by a wave of nausea. Magic was not in his blood, and that was the way he liked it.
“Why do I get the idea you are about to try and do something…abhorrent…to me again, mage?”
“Hush, Haryk. Hush.”
Haryk did so, only on account of his firm belief that Andril’s magic, whatever it may be, might make his dick fall off, or perhaps do something really insidious like trading his dick for the mage’s. Haryk remembered once how Andril had used magic and they had both walked across a dread lake, zombie horde at their heels. Now, the wily old mage, standing there up to his waste in dark water, had a different trick up his sleeve he reckoned.
The mage winked and produced a smooth stone that looked like it could have come from the floor of the cave. Then, he held it up and out in front of him. Andril nodded for Haryk to place his hands on the stone while he continued to chant. Quickly, the old soldier brushed the pebble with his knuckle and pulled his hand back. He now felt a strange sensation coursing down his hand, and arm and into his body.
The mage walked on into the dark water of the cave. The rocky walls were jutted with thick slabs which hung precariously overhead. The sea churned and made small waves around hidden corners he couldn’t see. Somewhere underneath Far Realm, this entire structure he figured was once the very caverns he fought through that first night on Far Realm.
“You remember, Bookworm?”
Andril did not answer. He was concentrating on his spell.
Haryk didn’t seem to care.”Remember when that great fool Humbolt locked us up.” Haryk squealed with delight at the memory and soon he was nearly doubled over in laughter, “We all got arrested because the Captain of the Guard of Far Realm thought his daughter wanted to get with you!!!! You and your blasted books!!!”
Haryk had lost it now. He had needed a good laugh for quite some time, and this was far better than a good laugh! He looked ahead at Andril who had no idea what he was laughing about. Although the mage stared right at him, he was muttering, chanting, fully immersed in his spell now.
Haryk was still roaring with laughter though. “Say Andril, what you got for us this time? Gonna make me more handsome?” Haryk couldn’t control it.
But Andril didn’t notice. He simply spun around and waded out deeper and deeper until, with a little splash, his entire shoulders and grey-haired head was submerged below the surface. Haryk stood alone in the dark waters of the cave.
“Blast mages, now and for all time!” Yelled Haryk at the space where Andril had been. That’s when one of Andril’s hand, the one not holding the stone, waved forward as if he wanted Haryk to come foward into the water too.
“Pixie’s dicks,” raged Haryk. “How am I supposed to keep my gun powder dry, you damnable magic-user?! You’ll be back up in ticks of the king’s clock you skinny little…”
A large bubble rose to the surface and burst, and as if it had been trapped inside, Andril’s voice called out, “Don’t be stupid, Haryk. Push on, push on…” the final two words rang and echoed in the cave. Push on…push on…
Haryk cursed again but followed anyway. What else was he to do? He found that his feet were slowed by the water and just before his mouth and nose dipped below the salty surface, he smelled the coppery scent of magic. At first he had closed his eyes–now Haryk opened them. Through a few strands of stray seaweed and bubbles, he saw the mage before him flanked by a dolphin. The little stone in the mage’s hand now glowed with a bright radiance. The dolphin was nodding vigorously up and down as if it were excited about something. Andril was making a hand gesture by his throat, his mouth was open.
Haryk let out a breath and breathed in the salty ocean water. Instantly his lungs filled with fluid and he dreaded the decision to trust the mage. He tried to kick off the bottom, his lungs burned. But the weight of his armaments were too much, even in the water, and he couldn’t even get his feet off the floor of the sea cave. Arms wild, he clawed for the surface and knew he wasn’t going to make it.
Haryk, just breathe. For fuck sakes, take a breath would ya Ding Dong!
At that instant, the heat in his lungs cooled. Hair whipping in whisps around him, he gulped again and found that the intake of water actually cooled his lungs even more. He was breathing–underwater!
Relax Haryk. Take a few breaths.
Haryk–eyes wide– looked over at the mage, his robes and hair billowing outward like some kind of human shaped wild sea grass in a strong breeze. Then, he looked at the dolphin. Tahg was nodded his snout vigorously up and down.
Then, like a stray cat in the King’s courtyard, he swam around Haryk’s legs, clearly excited that Haryk was there.
Haryk opened his mouth to curse, and quickly closed it again.
Just talk in your mind Haryk said Andril’s voice.
You mean Bookworm, I can now curse you directly in your head? Great….well…
Caaaaarreeefulllll Haryk. I can turn it off you know.
Haryk was defeated. It took some doing.
Andril stepped before him, his grey hair swaying in the current. If it makes you feel any better, your pistol and ammunition is safe within the confines of my spell.
The dolphin looked up from near his crotch and nodded his snout vigorously.
I can’t kill you until I know I can find my way out of this Ket hole.If it makes you limp unicorn horns feel any better.