Birdcage

Reads: 1194  | Likes: 1  | Shelves: 0  | Comments: 3

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

Chapter 5 (v.1) - Chapter V - Rescued, or, the unexpected meeting in the dark

Submitted: May 29, 2019

Reads: 34

A A A | A A A

Submitted: May 29, 2019

A A A

A A A

My heart thumped a thousand beats a minute as I ran from the Ogre. I bolted out of the cistern and into the unrelenting darkness of the catacombs. My eyes were useless. My ears heard the screams.

 

I knew that I should’ve turned back. I knew that Connors and his men were dying. But my legs, my legs wouldn’t stop running. I was afraid, more afraid than I’d ever been in my short life. I kept running until I fell into the river.

 

The river swept me away, dragging me deeper into the labyrinth beneath the city. I struggled to keep my head above water as water filled my lungs. A million thoughts ran through my head, thoughts of Squad V and the Ogre and my fear. I slipped beneath the surface of the rushing river and reached for salvation that would not come. I closed my eyes and accepted my fate.

 

Then it came, from the unrelenting darkness. A hand reaching into the river to save me. It drug me onto the shore of the river. “Now is not your time, Ernest,” a voice whispered as I passed from consciousness.

 

I came to sometime later, long enough later that my clothes had dried out. Someone had built a small fire for me. My grandfather's sword sat by the fire. I grabbed it and returned it to its sheath.

 

Suddenly, I heard groaning and footsteps coming from beyond the light of the fire. I drew my sword and prepared myself for combat. An unnerving specter walked out of the darkness.

 

It looked like a man but clearly was not one. Its eyes were lifeless and its mouth hung open as it walked. It wore in tattered clothing covered in blood stains. And the smell, the smell was so foul that no description could possibly do it justice.

 

“Who are you?” I shouted.

 

The creature didn’t respond. Instead, it growled and lunged at me, trying to sink its teeth into my throat. I sunk my blade into its heart. It didn’t seem to mind and continued walking towards me, teeth chattering and slobber dripping from its lips.

 

I pulled my sword out of its chest and split its torso in two. Instead of blood, a thick black substance poured from its wounds as the top half of its body fell to the ground. I backed up, not wanting to get the black blood on my clothes.

 

As I walked away, a bony hand grabbed my ankle. I glanced over my head at the creature. It was still moving, crawling towards me with its rotting arms. I raised my sword and prepared to strike. Before I could bring my sword down, an arrow flew through the darkness and struck the creature in the temple.

 

I looked at the source of the arrow, a bruised and bloody MacDonald holding his bow. “Zombie worms,” he muttered. “They’re disgusting monsters. They burrow into the brains of dead bodies and control them like puppeteers. Only way to get rid of them is to destroy the brain they inhabit.”

 

MacDonald walked over to the fire and grabbed a burning log. “Nice fire,” he said as he walked off into the darkness.

 

“Wait!” I said while running after him. “Did you drag me out of the river?”

 

He raised an eyebrow and kept walking. “It’s good that another member of the squad managed to get out of that shitshow,” he said. “How’d you survive?”

 

“I fell into the river and was swept away. I would’ve drowned, but someone drug me out of the river.”

 

“You sure about that?”

 

“Yes! They whispered now is not your time in my ear and built that fire. I’m sure of it.”

 

“Sounds kinda unlikely.”

 

I sighed and decided to drop it. “How did you survive?” I asked.

 

“I was hanging in the back, so I could get good shots in,” MacDonald said. “Didn’t get any on account of the lights going out, but I was far enough away that I was able to dig a tunnel and get away before the Ogre killed me. The thing is, I dug into an old passageway and fell into the lower parts of the catacombs. I’ve been making my way back up for about two hours now, but the monsters have kept me from making any real progress.”

 

“Hold on,” I said. “You dug a tunnel through a stone floor and are calling me out for having an unlikely survival story.”

 

MacDonald ignored me and kept walking through the tunnels. “Do you think any of the others survived?” I asked.

 

“You enjoy hearing yourself talk, don’t you?” he said.

 

“Just answer the question.”

 

MacDonald sighed. “No, I don’t think any of the others are still alive,” he said. “Connors was thrown at a stone pillar with enough force to break it in half. Anyone who was caught by the Ogre died.”

 

“What if they managed to get out of the Cistern before it caught them?”

 

MacDonald stopped and looked at me. “You were the one holding the torch, weren’t you?” he asked.

 

I nodded my head. MacDonald ran his hand through his hair and rolled his eyes. “Is that what this is about?” he said. “Are you trying to relieve your guilt by pretending that you didn’t hear the screams?”

 

“If I hadn’t run away, if I hadn’t dropped the torch-”

 

“Okay, I’m nipping this in the bud right now. You fucked up and people died. Deal with it. Don’t pretend it didn’t happen, don’t throw yourself a pity party, just accept that it happened and try to be better going forward.”

 

“I understand,” I muttered.

 

“If it’s any solace, I’m pretty sure they were doomed regardless of what you did. Fighting something as strong as an Ogre in that small of a space was a death sentence. You certainly didn’t help things, but it’s not like you were the sole reason they died.”

 

We walked in silence for a while. Eventually, we came across a pile of rocks blocking our path, rubble from a collapsed section of the tunnels. “I guess we’ll have to go back, try and find another path to the surface,” I said.

 

“Hold this,” MacDonald said as he handed me the torch.

 

MacDonald got down on his knees and placed his hands on the rocks. A silver glow spread from his fingertips, covering the rubble. Slowly, the rocks changed shape, reforming into a stone archway we could walk through.

 

“That was incredible,” I said. “How did you do that?”

 

MacDonald pulled back the arm of his shirt, revealing a brand of the word Reforge on his forearm. I knew from a glance what the brand was. It was a Verse, a unique ability granted by the Gods. A powerful magical ability that only the greatest Knights possessed.

 

“My Verse allows me to reshape stone and metal by touching it,” MacDonald said. “Not the most useful ability in a fight, but it’s pretty helpful in situations like this.”

 

MacDonald took the torch and walked through the archway. “Wait,” I shouted as I chased after him. “If you can reshape stone, can’t you just dig a path to the surface?”

 

Without a word, MacDonald walked over and placed his palm on the tunnel wall. The bricks changed shape, spreading apart to create a staircase leading into the wall. Then, a flood of water burst from the staircase, rushing down the steps. MacDonald and I jumped to the side to avoid getting soaked.

 

“These tunnels are too interconnected for me to dig a way out without getting soaked,” MacDonald said as he resealed the staircase. “Better to take the long way around and avoid drowning.”

 

I glanced at the stone floor of the walkway. Most of the water spilled from the staircase was moving towards the river, as I expected. But some of it, just a small amount, trickled in a different direction, seeping down into a crack in the floor. Upon closer inspection, the water dripped down through a square-shaped outline on the floor.

 

I reached down and touched the square-shaped outline. I discovered that the outline was the product of a square tile in the floor. I lifted the tile to reveal a ladder leading into a small room. “What do you think this is?” I asked.

 

“These tunnels contain hidden bunkers, meant to be used in the event that the city comes under attack,” MacDonald said.

 

We crawled down the ladder into the dark room. From the light of the torch, we saw walls covered in weapons and crates full of medical supplies and military gear. MacDonald popped the lid off of one of them and began digging around.

 

“What are you looking for?” I asked.

 

“Something we can use to help get out of here,” he replied.

 

He pulled out a pair of green goggles and placed them over his eyes. He smiled. “What is that?” I asked.

 

“Darkvision goggles,” he said. “Expensive magical gear, gives the wearer the ability to see in the dark.”

 

He tossed me a pair and I put them on. “Now we don’t have to worry about carrying the torch while fighting,” I said.

 

MacDonald pushed the crates out of the way and found an old map showing the layout of the tunnels. “There’s a quick path to the surface nearby,” he said. “All we have to do is climb a part where the storm drain falls into the river.”

 

I grabbed a blue circular shield hanging from the wall. “Let’s get out of here,” I said.

 

MacDonald and I followed the map through the tunnels, taking side paths when necessary until we reached the meeting point. Water fell thirty feet from the end of the man-made storm drain into the natural river.

 

MacDonald placed his hands on the rock wall by the storm drain and used his Verse to create a series of handholds for us to climb. As we began to scale the stone wall, I heard splashing. I turned my head just in time to see a creature in the water holding a trident.

 

I jumped from the wall as it through the trident, blocking it with my shield. As I landed, I pulled the trident back and threw it to the side. Three blue heads, covered in scales, stared at me from the river. The creatures walked through the water and onto the shore of the river.

 

The three creatures looked like a mix between a man and a fish. They had large jaws full of pointed teeth, sharp claws, and webbed feet, but lacked any eyes. One of them held a trident. It pulled its arm back and threw the trident at me.

 

I held my shield up to protect myself. This action proved needless when MacDonald placed his hands on the ground and raised a wall of stone to protect me. “Thanks,” I shouted as I hurdled over the wall.

 

Drawing my sword, I struck down two of the creatures. The third was finished by an arrow provided by MacDonald. All three of the creatures faded to dust, leaving their tridents as the only remnants of their existence.

 

“Those were Sandcrawlers,” MacDonald said. “They’re monsters that live in rivers and lakes. They fight using weapons taken from their victims.”

 

“They didn’t have eyes,” I said.

 

“They’re attracted to loud noises and the smell of blood.”

 

I glanced at the waterfall. The noise created by the rushing water was much louder than the sound of our footsteps, meaning the Sandcrawlers shouldn’t have tried to attack us. Then I noticed it, a trickle of red in the pouring water. The body fell down the waterfall a few moments later.


© Copyright 2019 Casey Jarmes. All rights reserved.

Chapters

Add Your Comments: