The Ledge

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic


"Oh Ailbe," he thought, as he plummeted down. "Not again."

Chapter 5 (v.1) - Down and Out

Submitted: June 10, 2019

Reads: 8

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Submitted: June 10, 2019

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Every adventure starts with a single step. Unfortunately for Ailbe, that step was onto a slippery surface thirty feet above a bottomless gloom. Oh, Ailbe, not again, was his last thought before he hit the water, and the world went dark.

It was shock more than concussion from which the blackness burst in his head, and after only seconds he felt himself coming round. He knew it could only be seconds because the water was yet to still from what must have been an almighty splash from such a height. He swam over to the wall and grabbed it for support, trying to catch his stuttering breath in water which was subterranean in both geology and in temperature. He shook water from his eyes and looked around. Light was still pouring in from above, as if mocking him, the dark shadow of the bridge striking the well-water into three. He looked around and, to his utmost surprise, treading water a short way away, was the bretherend.

"Riddian..." he gasped, "you followed me down?"

"You pulled me with you, you bloody nanskurr!" He slapped water in Ailbe's direction, and this time Ailbe was sure he was using his gifts of natural manipulation, because a great surge charged towards him, once again ridding him of breath. "How many times will you make me regret my decision to let you follow me?! What do you suggest we do now?! can't climb back up, which almost certainly negates your claim to!"

"Can you not control the water and make it rise?"

"Rise what, fifty feet?! I'm not Telrine! In fact, in case you need reminding, I'm not any of the gods!"

"Well what do you suggest?"

"Maybe you should've thought about that before you threw yourself down here!"

"It was an accident!"

"Oh, I'm sure. I have renewed sympathy for the Hipson boy and his eight stitches."

"Look," Ailbe was cross now, "if you keep this up then we're both going to freeze, only I'll be sad and ashamed when I die, and you'll just be angry. Either way, we'd both make really annoying ghosts. Now, are you going to offer anything constructive, or are you just going to keep shouting?"

The bretherend, still bobbing up and down in his self-inflicted ripples of rage, took a swim backwards. "You are the last person to be lecturing me right now," he said, "but alas, you are right. Follow me."

To Ailbe's amazement, the bretherend turned and disappeared beneath the waves. The reservoir was dark, and Ailbe couldn't see below the surface. He watched for bubbles, but of course, Riddian would no doubt be able to breathe underwater. Ailbe waited... and waited. A full minute passed, and still no sign of the bretherend. What was Riddian playing at? Another minute. Was he looking for something? Had he got entangled in some marine weeds or become snared on a rock? Apprehension began to grip Ailbe as time slipped away, and his nerves weren't doing anything to calm him down. His teeth had begun to chatter and below the surface, his legs were shivering badly.

At least four minutes had passed by the time Ailbe decided he should go and investigate the situation. He took a deep breath, and was about to plunge his head under the water when something burst up from the depths in front of him. He yelled, losing composure and falling his head under the water, inhaling more water than he'd ever wished to. It took him a second for him to realise that it was no lurking creature of the caverns, but only his frustrated travelling companion.

"What don't you understand about follow me?" he growled, and without another word, submerged himself back out of sight.

It took Ailbe a second to recover, but then quickly dipped into the ripples Riddian had just made. It felt oddly warmer now he was completely submerged, as if he had accepted the cold and become one with it. It wasn't as dark as he'd thought, and he saw the silhouette of Riddian swimming downwards in front of him. Ailbe, too, stroked down, trying to fight the clothes that were sticking to him like glue. Down they swam, until the gloomy lakebed came into view. What were they doing here? Ailbe wondered. Riddian wouldn't try and drown me, would he? He was sure of the answer, but as his lungs began to press for air, he felt more and more doubtful of the bretherend's reasoning.

The lakebed wasn't decorated only with rocks and fallen boulders, Ailbe was shocked to see, but skeletons, skeletons of all different shapes and creatures. He wouldn't go as far as to say it was a graveyard, but it was evident than the bridge was a more treacherous path than he- or even Riddian- had guessed. As for Riddian, he was no longer swimming down, but towards the side of the well. Ailbe risked a look up, letting precious bubbles escape from his mouth. The sky was twinkling waywardly above- how he wished he was one with the outside once more. He mournfully turned his attention back to Riddian, and then he saw it- a hole in the wall. It looked like many of the tunnels he and Riddian had been walking through that very day. How far down had they swum? How far up did they still have to go?

The tunnel rose painfully slowly, and Ailbe desperately dragged his hands to propel him forward. He let out his last reserves of oxygen, and suddenly the tunnel opened up. Daylight poured in from overhead. The bed was no longer rock, but sand, and instead of sheer cliff walls, the sides of the pool sloped gently away. He kicked upwards with all the strength he could muster, mortally envious of the distant figure above him already at rest on the surface. Ailbe kicked, his lungs about to explode when his head finally broke the surface, and relief of day had never been so sweet- a relief that he had escaped not only the well, or the underwater tunnel, or even the graehl, but the caves! Open sky flooded upon him from in waves of glorious freedom, as before him lay nothing but the unbounded wilderness. They had left the mountains.

As soon as they had emerged from the lake, the bretherend had focused all the water drenching his person into his hand, and held it like and orb before dispersing it onto the grass. Ailbe got no such treatment, and remained soaked to the skin. But to add to Ailbe's euphoria, his clothes seemed to be drying naturally, and it suddenly dawned on him that not only had they left the mountains behind, but also the rains!

"It seems like your little escapade back there has worked in our favour," Riddian said beneath his scowl, breaking the silence in which they had been walking.

"You mean I got us out?"

"Do you know what serendipitous means?" Ailbe shook his head. "It means accidentally beneficial. And whilst I am happy that your detour turned into a shortcut, your ignorance of the situation until its fruition does not give you the right of pride."

"A shortcut? To where?"

"Had we carried on the desired course, we would have come up somewhere up there." The bretherend pointed a swaying arm, indicating an arbitrary point on the ridge above them. "It would have taken us an extra few hours to leave the caves, and another few to get down here. I said it would be the best part of a day's march to The Riverlands from this side of the ridge, and we've about cut that in half. There." He indicated the expanse of green below them, littered with traces of streams that branched together like the roots of a plant converge into a stalk. "There are The Riverlands."

"But that's just a delta."

"I wouldn't say that once we get closer," Riddian warned. "They might hear you."

"Who?"

"It may look like a barren flood plain, but that's exactly why they like it. No disturbances, no trouble."

"Who?!"

"The faerins."

"The what?"

"If they come out by day, you wouldn't notice them. But by night... well, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at how beautiful just a delta can become. How is it that one who knows of the skards and Nokkagi ruling kingdoms so far away has never heard of the faerins that lie on his doorstep?"

"We don't leave the valley, do we?"

"Surely you must leave it sometimes?"

"Even when we do, we never go investigating caves. That would be stupid, even the most senseless of people can see how bad an idea that would be-"

"You've done a fine job demonstrating that."

"-so we follow the valley to the end, and head out from there."

"I suppose that makes sense," Riddian conceded. "Why did you want to leave, anyway? Surely it wasn't just the bad day you were having?"

"Everyday was a bad day! You won't understand, being an adventurer and everything, you don't have anyone telling you what to do, or anyone to tell you you're doing something wrong."

"Not anymore, but even us bretherends were young, once. I'm sure even the wisest of skards could relate to scoldings and reprimands of their immature youths."

"Yes, but not all the time, every day."

"I was trying to be sympathetic, but now you push me, I must point out that I doubt they were as useless as you."

"This is exactly the sort of thing I'm talking about."

"There must be other reasons. As infuriating as you can get, you are admirable. I've seen many children, heard many arguments, caused many tantrums. The script you tell is all too familiar, but of them all, you are the only one who did it. They all tell you adamantly how they are going leave home, and leave their emotional poverty behind them, and make riches in the guilds, or build great towers, or serve skards... and there they are ten years on, ploughing the farms or hitting the iron. So tell me, what drove you to leave?"

Ailbe thought for a moment. Indeed it had been a moment of haste- and madness- to which he had set out into the wilderness with nothing but a backpack, but had he not met Riddian, then who knows if he would still be on this journey. What had made him leave?

"I suppose it was a bit of everything. I'm sure the people who you speak of had some redemption in their life- friends, family, talents. I didn't really have any. My father died when I was young, my mother no longer recognised me, and no one else wanted to take me in. There was no one really my age, except Lora, and we didn't get on anymore, and-"

"A love interest?"

"Like most of the people back there, she wanted nothing to do with me. I always knew she wasn't the one, anyway."

"The one?" Riddian raised his eyebrows. "I didn't have you down as someone who would believe in the one."

"Well, it makes sense, doesn't it," Ailbe frowned. "Everyone is more suited of less suited to a given person. So if you lay them all out and put them in order, there will be one person who is suited to you more than anyone else."

"Yes..." Riddian mused, "I suppose there is. There is more to you than the clumsy little boy who collects greyroots and falls down wells. And I must admit that I may have been hasty in chiding you of your ignorance earlier regarding The Riverlands. The faerin are not by nature secretive, per say, but they are shy and have little to do with what does not concern them. In hindsight it does not surprise me that they remain unknown and undiscovered to those not trying to seek them out."

"So why are you trying to seek them out?" asked Ailbe, anxious to move the conversation away from The Settle and his past love-life.

"We are old acquaintances, and since I was passing, it would be a shame not to entertain their company."

"But you've been in a cave for three years!"

"And so my visit is overdue."

And that was all he had to say, inducing a silence lasting almost as long as the day, that was only broken when Ailbe suddenly remembered what Riddian had said, right before he'd nearly drowned him.

"Tell me about The Ledge!" he blurted, startling the bretherend with his outburst.

"Heavens above and hells below, Ailbe, you almost shocked the sun out the sky! I suppose I couldn't have kept it a secret forever."

"Where is it?"

"For one obviously intelligent, it is very rare your words reflect your aptitude. You may as well ask where the sky is."

"But how do I get there?"

"If you walk for long enough then eventually you'll run out of land."

"Is it dangerous?"

"Some bits, maybe."

"Have you ever been?"

"Are you going to keep this up all the way, or am I going to die of boredom?"

"But it's like finding out that... imagine a storybook," Ailbe said, his eyes suddenly wide with excitement, "and in that storybook, long, long ago and far, far away, there's this a magical land, and you wish you could become one with the letters on the page and pass from this world to the glorious kingdom beyond so you could see it for yourself. Well, that's what it's like. You are the words, and until I see it, you are all that get make it real."

"If I am the book of your adventure, then it would be nothing but cruel of me to spoil the ending."


© Copyright 2019 Patrick. All rights reserved.

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