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Old 06-07-2021, 07:41 PM   #41
Terquem
 
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Idaho Falls
Default Re: Into The Labyrinth - a work of fiction

Part 7

“I was born on a red tide,” Alo began, speaking carefully, slowly. “Were it not for my heritage, I would have been sacrificed to the great sea god, Alucaarat. Instead I was raised in isolation, kept from others of my kind except those who among my people are allowed to be in contact with those who are untouchable. When I was nine years old I was branded,” she said as she indicated the mark on her head with one tentacle.

“At the age of eleven,” Alo paused, her head fell a little, and before she could continue Tabitha reached out and touched her below the eye.

“You don’t have to explain it to him,” Tabitha said in soothing tones.

“No, it will help him understand. When I, when I was eleven my rostrum was removed in a ritual designed to mark me as a slave for the rest of my life. It is because of this that when I speak too quickly I slur and misspeak some words. It has been nine years and still my muscles have not adapted to the pain and injury.”

“I was sent to live on the island of Ka’Nahalin. It is a place where outcasts and untouchables are allowed to live out their lives. It is a harsh place. You should know that my people are, how do you say, xenophobic. We do not want any others, of any kinds, coming onto our islands, or telling us how to live our lives. Our rules, our way of life, our traditions, may seem harsh, but it is only because many other kinds simply do not understand where we have been, what we have suffered. Because of our ways, many are cast out, and many, those who cannot follow our laws, are sent to die on isolated islands at the southern end of the archipelago. Some of these manage to survive, even escape their isolation, while others band together to form clans of their own. Some of these isolated clans of my people are driven mad by the separation from the greater population, driven to great atrocities, even cannibalism. Some manage to find a way off their prison islands aboard the ships of pirates, and these, more cruel, more insane even than those who live out their lives in isolation, are the ones you most likely encountered here in your own country. My people, strange as they are to you or others of your kind, do not leave our homes voluntarily.”

“Still, there are others, the ones most dangerous of all. These are the ones who have been cast out in great numbers in the past. Because of conflicts among the nobles of my people, whole families of hundreds of individuals have been cast out. These are cast out onto great rafts. Twin and sometimes triple hulled great ships called Lukaloke, with sometimes as many as five masts roam the seas with the remains of these people. They are scavengers, pirates, and scoundrels, often trading upon the high seas with other pirate peoples.”

“Just over one year ago a Lukaloke made anchor off the coast of Ka’Nahalin. It is forbidden, even for the untouchable to have contact with the outcast people of the sea, and we assumed it was going to be a raid. But instead, the outcast people came ashore in one small boat begging for help. They had been attacked by a great vessel of the gymnagaopthians, you call them sea-elves. The sea-elves were searching for the Cryssalium. The outcast people did not have it, nor know of its location, and the sea-elves were not pleased to hear this. They stole all of the outcast people’s supplies, leaving them in a desperate situation. It was the season of the southwest rain storms, and they could not hope to reach an island where they could resupply before many of them would die. The Lord Governor of Ka’Nahalin allowed the outcasts three days to gather supplies from the island but would offer no other help to them.”

“On the second day a fire was started in a warehouse on the docks of Ka’Nahalin. I was a working girl in the Othapa, a place where the men of the island could ease their loneliness. During the confusion of the fire I escaped my cell and stowed away on a supply raft. The outcast peoples, naturally, were blamed for the fire, and fled in fear of retaliation by the island dwellers. They did not notice me until they had sailed away from the island with the few supplies they had collected.”

“Three days later a ship sailing out of Norral, north of Galdorland, hailed the outcast peoples. I was traded to the human kind on that ship for weapons and supplies, mostly ropes and sailcloth. Tabitha was among the crew of those people and she paid for my freedom with her share of the ships goods once the ship reached port here at Bayfield.”

“I began to look into what could have made the sea-elves believe the outcast people were in possession of the Cryssalium. I learned about the reward offered by the Queen of Kijzta for its discovery and its return to her palace, but I also learned much, much more. When we have more time I will tell you what I have learned about this artifact and why it cannot be found. Look, our assailants are waking up.”

End of Chapter 1
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Old 06-13-2021, 05:38 PM   #42
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Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Idaho Falls
Default Re: Into The Labyrinth - a work of fiction

Chapter 2
Part 8

“The layout here seems simple and obvious,” Brendun said as he led the way along a tunnel. The tunnel was man made, in that it was obviously not made by the toad-folk. The ceiling was high, at least two feet above their heads. The walls had been reinforced with cheap bricks and thick timbers spaced about twelve feet apart supporting cross-beams on the ceiling. Everything was wet. Water dripped from the beams and left small puddles along the uneven floor. The water had a course, brackish smell and he could tell it came from the frequent high waves that crashed against the sea wall above. The passageway turned gently to the right and began to slope downward. After a short distance the tunnel opened up into a large chamber.

“Well, that answers that question,” Tabitha said as she walked passed Brendun into the chamber. The remains of several pieces of wooden furniture were scattered along the wall to her left, and against the far wall sat a heavy wooden chest, marked across its face with a swordfish painted on a representation of a sail. “Looks like I might have known these people. That,” she pointed, “is the mark of Captain Rahlo Agaspando. This was either one of her hideouts, or someone managed to steal that chest from her and hide it here, and I only know a few pirates dumb enough and tough enough to actual steal from Captain Rahlo. From the looks of this place,” Tabitha went on, taking the brand from Brendun’s hand and walking a few more steps out into the center of the chamber, “there was a pretty good-sized battle, but when it was over the winner, if there was one, didn’t try to break the seal on that chest. I imagine that, if there were bodies, maybe both sides killed each other off, the toad-folk must have carried them off a long time ago.”

“Iha stihhl don’thh uhndersstandhh awhy youhha lhet them gohh fahree,” Alo said moving from the rear to stand next to Brendun. She had found her other sword and was holding them both at the ready.

When she moved, it was without almost any sound at all. A tinkle from a buckle on one of her belts, or the slight sound of her leather pack stretching as it shifted on her back was the only thing that gave her movement away.

Brendun had always been curious about the way the octopus-folk were, well, arranged. He hadn’t seen many of the regular ocean living types in his life, just one or two, actually, and those all seemed built for sliding along the sea floor trailing their head bodies behind them. The octopus-folk weren’t built like those creatures at all. Anyone could tell that the first time they encountered one of their kind. They had the eight tentacles, and the large solid dark eyes, with enlarged heads, but that was where the similarities ended. Octopus-folk’s legs, long as they were, ended in a body, a torso not completely unlike any other land walking folk. The torso was slim and short. When the Octopus-folk wore any sort of cloths at all, it was usually a long “kilt-like” garment which tended to obscure the region where their bodies and legs came together leading to the belief that their legs went all the way up to the bottoms of their heads, which was obviously not true at all. Where their heads rested on their torso there was a short, thin, neck. The head, larger than an average human’s head by easily twice the size, did tend to droop toward the back, but it still stood upright. All of the Octopus-folk that Brendun had ever seen wore hooded cloaks, great billowing things of heavy, dense, dark colored fabrics. With the cowl pulled over their heads, and if moving slowly while keeping their tentacles close to each other, they could usually slip by, in a shadowy alley way or crowded street on a cloudy day, without being noticed for what they were.

He let Tabitha explore the room a bit, even though he had earlier reminded them to stay close, knowing that this was her field of expertise. Tabitha, Brendun knew, had a keen eye for small details, and her knowledge of the pirates and other sea travelers in the region was unmatched. As she moved closer to the chest, he began to get nervous.

“Tabitha, don’t do anything stupid. We have time to be careful,” Brendun said as he took his pack off of his back, and then turned to face Alo.

“I let them go for a very good reason,” Brendun told her. “They understand we are dangerous, and if they had more numbers they would have already been upon us while we searched the room for our stuff. They won’t risk attacking us outright, but I bet they are following us at a safe distance, hoping something else does us in, and they can pick up the scraps. We’ll keep moving. I think we might either find an entrance to the Labyrinth close by, or an exit back to the city. That trap door was a minor setback. I still intend to find what I am looking for.”

Alo slid closer to Brendun, and spoke slowly, for his benefit, and perhaps in an attempt to frighten him again, “I told you that it should not be found.”

“That’s interesting,” Brendun said, taking a knee, and reaching into his pack.

“Oh, great, here we go,” Tabitha said, turning slowly and with a flip of her hair she moved quickly back to stand beside Alo. “I told you to be careful of what you say around him.”

“What, whhahht didha I sssayh,” Alo said shrugging two of her tentacles.

Brendun stood up, holding a small leather case in one hand, “You said, ‘shouldn’t be found,’ not couldn’t be found. That means you know it can be found, even if you don’t know where it is. It means that you know things I need to know. Unfortunately, now isn’t the time to get to the bottom of that. This place isn’t safe, at least not safe enough to rest, so that means we see if that chest there is trapped, and if it is leave it alone, or, if it isn’t see if we can find out why it was left here and by who. We’ll keep this short, and then be on our way. I will feel a lot better once we are back in the city, or in the Labyrinth proper. Pirate hideouts give me the willies,” Brendun shivered at an old memory.
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Old 06-18-2021, 09:40 AM   #43
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Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Idaho Falls
Default Re: Into The Labyrinth - a work of fiction

Part 9

“I’ve never heard of any of these chests ever being recovered, and always thought they were only a myth,” Tabitha said as she rushed forward, holding the brand high.

“Stop!” Brendun cried.

Tabitha froze in place, holding one foot off the floor. It was a credit to their time spent together that Brendun could count on her reaction time and understanding of his warnings.

But almost immediately Tabitha recovered from her reaction. “Oh, would you stop being so careful all the time. I know this pirate captain’s history. She sealed her chests with magic spells, and let unwary thieves believe the spells would last for years, but the Xason resonators that she used could only store spell strength for a few months, at best. She knew this and kept it a well-guarded secret. Most of her treasure chests were small, and those were hidden on islands to the north, near the coast of the Duchies of Olwand and Sviel. Chest of this size were always mentioned in stories about her, but no one ever said they found one. She disappeared nine years ago, in a storm off the Azar Peninsula. Other pirates who were active at the time were the Fuldir Brothers, Captain Parcell of Niranel, and the Red Dawn. I don’t think this chest is trapped, and it might be the only one of its kind, probably captured by the Red Dawn just before Captain Agaspando disappeared.”

As she filled them in on her encyclopedic knowledge of the pirate captain, Brendun moved a bit slower toward her, and when he was right beside her he shifted her still raised foot to the left and pushed gently down on her knee.
“Ha, haha,” Tabitha laughed nervously. “I didn’t realize my foot was still up. Silly me.”

“Good that it was,” Brendun said. “It wasn’t the chest I was worried about. A different sort of trap is set here. It’s simple but well hidden. The floor right where you were about to step isn’t made of flagstone like the rest of the floor here. It’s made of plaster, painted to look like the rest of the floor. It has lost some of the paint, due to the water here I’m sure, and I spotted it just in time. I can’t tell what it covers, but let’s not find out. I feel it was added later, by someone other than the people who built this hideout in the first place.”

“Fhhhejevarahh,” Alo hissed moving away from the two of them.

“Not likely,” Berndum said, kneeling close to the trapped floor. “Alo, hand me a few of those pieces of wood there, by you.”

Alo sheathed both swords, and then collected a few long narrow boards from a pile that looked like the remains of a table, as she did a small water lizard scurried out from under the debris.

“Olololol,” Alo made a strange sound, dropped the wood and backed away quickly.

Brendun stood up and stepped toward her as she was backing up. He caught her with both hands, and she turned and placed her large head against his shoulder.

“It’s alright,” Brendun said feeling the upper part of her mantle. It was warm, and dry, and not at all what he expected. “This really is your first time at this sort of thing isn’t it?”

“No,” Alo said and turned her eyes up at Brendun. She slowed her voice and looked directly into his eyes, “I’ve done things like this before. It’s just caves, wet caves, and lizards or snakes that I am afr…uncomfortable with. There was a matron in the orphanage. She used to tell us stories about a group of outcasts who lived in deep wet caves. They had resorted to barbaric behaviors, wild and violent kinds of our people, and they, they mated with the snake-women, producing monstrous offspring. They were stories to frighten children, like me, and, I suppose it worked.”

“I need you to not be easily startled, Alo,” Brendun said. “If you want me to help you, if you are going to help me, I need you to be ready for anything.”
He had never held an Octopus-kin in his arms before. He had thought it would be uncomfortable, but for a reason he couldn’t pin down at the moment, it wasn’t. She looked different, and she spoke differently, at times, but she was just another intelligent species, like so many that lived in this city, not as different as some, and in some ways more the same than others.

He gathered the wood, with Alo’s help, and placed the pieces in a box frame pattern on the floor around the area that was not a real floor. When he was sure he had the trap identified, and warned Tabitha and Alo of the area, Brendun approached the seal on the lid of the large chest. Taking off his pack he rummaged around in it and retrieved a small leather roll. He unrolled the kit of small tools to one side of the chest, and then, without touching the chest at all, he brought his eyes as close as he could to the elaborate seal where the lid met the box edge.

“Tabitha, bring the light closer,” he said in a whisper for no particular reason, and then turned to Alo and asked, “Do you have any torches?”

“I do,” Alo said slowly, “I have ten.”

“Light three torches and place them ten feet back from the front of the chest on the ground, avoid the trap, in a semicircle, and then lower yourself to the floor as low as you can, while still being in a position to get up quickly if you need to. Tabitha, I want you ten feet to the side, on one knee, with the crossbow on the floor at your side, loaded, and any other weapon you might have ready. You both understand?”

Alo took out the torches and lit them one by one. She then flattened her body to the floor near one of the torches, while Tabitha moved away and set up her small area as Brendun had said.

“Alo, can you get up quickly from that position?” Brendun asked.

Without answering, Alo rose quickly, almost faster than Brendun thought possible, and then lowered her body back down again. “When I know what I need to do,” Alo said, again speaking slowly, “I can place my arms where they need to be to assist me in this sort of maneuver.”

“I appreciate your taking the effort to be clearer when you speak,” Brendun said as he turned back to the chest. “It is more helpful than you know.”

He was not in the know, as the saying goes, but Tabitha knew Alo well, and the colors that passed briefly across Alo’s face where not missed by Tabitha. Not missed, and for the moment, not taken well. Tabitha had only ever seen Alo blush once before.

Using a pair of the small tools together, one in each hand, Brendun carefully removed the seal from the chest, and then, still on his knees, moved to the opposite side of the chest from Tabitha.

Drawing his short sword, he placed the tip of the blade against the gap between the lid and the box itself, and said, “Alright, I’m going to lift the lid, on the count of three. If there is a magical trap still on this chest, let’s hope the crystals have drained over time, if not, be ready for anything.”
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Old 06-18-2021, 08:10 PM   #44
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Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Idaho Falls
Default Re: Into The Labyrinth - a work of fiction

Part 10

Bracing his elbow against his knee and using his forearm like a lever, while in a crouching position, and with his left arm curved above his forehead for protection, Brendun shoved the lid of the large sea chest up and away.

*Sha-POOF*

There was a short but loud sound, like a bag of flour being dropped on the floor from a great height, and then the room filled with a fine, white smoke. The smoke wasn’t toxic nor did it obscure their vision, much, but it created a moment of chaos that was all that was needed.

Through the smoke Brendun saw three figures, all human, one female and two males, dressed in the garb of sailors, and brandishing weapons. There were all about the same height and same build, all alike in features, too alike in features.

“It’s a summing spell!” Brendun shouted.

“How in the world?” Tabitha cried.

Brendun rolled away from the chest, and came to a kneeling position a few feet away, with his sword in his right hand. He dropped the tools he had been holding, not at all concerned with where they ended up on the floor. He hoped the summoned fighters were delayed as much by the distracting smoke as he and his friends were and took a moment to draw a long dagger from his right hip, hanging low off his belt, with his left hand. The dagger in his left hand had been a trusted weapon for many long years. It was old, older than his sword by five years at least. His father had given it to him when he first left home, at the age of fourteen. It wasn’t a sharp knife, but it had a strong blade and a fine point. If anything, it would make his defense stronger against at least two of the weapons he saw.

The first figure he could make out held a cutlass in his right hand and had a spiked buckler strapped to his left forearm. He was standing about twelve feet from Brendun, facing toward where Alo had been crouching low to the ground. The second figure, just a few feet behind the first figure and to Brendun’s right was the female figure, and she held a long pole with a small gaff on the end. The last figure stood further away than the first two, and again off to Brendun’s right, and this fellow was holding a pair of small axes, one in each hand. From what he could make out, the summoned fighters were not wearing any armor.

Somewhere inside the chest, Brendun knew, there would be one or more Xason resonators, or often also called a Jackson’s Kit. These small square devices were built from fine silver and specially tuned crystals, with spring driven gears and fine clockwork mechanisms that could cost a fortune to have made. These, part magical, part mechanical, devices could be charged with a wizard’s strength. It would be the power from these devices that summoned these warriors here, and as long as those devices had stored energy within them, these warriors would remain.

Magic, in the world as he understood it, was powerful, dangerous, complicated, and usually short lasting, because all magic spells drew their power from the body of the person who casts or creates the magic. A living, breathing wizard might be able to throw down some fire spells, or even lift a person off the ground for a short while, but eventually the power to maintain such magic exhausted the spell caster, and if not managed carefully these types of spells could even knock a wizard unconscious from the effort to manifest such power. The most wondrous of these spells of them all, in Brendun’s mind, where the spells that summoned living creatures into existence out of nothing.

A wizard might create an image of something, or even manage to infuse the magic with talent and strength to create an illusion, something more convincing than a mere image, but a summoned thing was real. A summoned creature had flesh and blood. It could fight and was under the complete control of the wizard that summoned it, even to the point of fighting to its death without a second thought. The only drawback to these summoned creatures was that they required large amounts of power, strength from the wizard who summoned them, to keep them materialized in this reality.

He had never studied this magic. He didn’t know from what realm, world, or dimension these kinds of summoned warriors came from, but Brendun knew that as long as they were here and if the proper alignment of the Jackson’s kits was maintained, the spell that had been triggered would run its course, and in this case it was clear the spell trap was made to summon these warriors to kill anyone who was around the chest once the spell was activated. These summoned pirate warriors would fight until they were all dead, Brendon and his friends were dead, or the power in the resonators was exhausted. He could risk trying to find the devices, which were most likely hidden in the construction of the chest somewhere, and if he could find them quickly enough, he knew how to safely disable them. But that would mean that Tabitha and Alo would be outnumbered. There was no real way for him to know how skilled, strong, or smart these summoned warriors were. They could prove to be vastly beyond his or the other’s skills, but even if they were only average warriors at all, he knew that taking time to search for the resonators was not an option. He was going to have to fight, and Brendun only hoped he and his friends could survive long enough to run the chest out of strength or kill the pirates before they killed them.
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Old 06-19-2021, 09:12 AM   #45
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Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Idaho Falls
Default Re: Into The Labyrinth - a work of fiction

Part 11

Things began to happen faster than Brendun could track. To his right Tabitha took the crossbow off the floor and in the same motion triggered it sending the bolt flying low at one of the summoned pirates. Brendun spun his head to the left to see if he could find Alo and as he did, the pirate in the middle saw him through the mist, turned on her heels and came at him.

He had no time! He shouted a cryptic warning, “The Floor!” And then he brought his other foot up under him until he was rocking on his heels, staying crouched low. He thought for a moment of dropping the sword, afraid it would be of no use against the long-handled gaff, but then he had an idea.

Brendun moved at the pirate coming toward him and waited until she drew the gaff to one side in a telling motion that she was aiming for his legs, probably meaning to trip him in the first attack, putting him at a disadvantage right from the start. He leaned far over toward that side and struck the gaff with the sword shoving it back. Her body was twisted already, and the blow loosed her grip on her weapon. One of her hands came free of the gaff and the end hit the floor before she could bring it forward.

He was trying to decide if going left, to help Alo was more important than dealing with the pirate in front of him when out of the corner of his eye he saw the octopus-girl rise quickly off the ground with both of her swords ready. She lunged at the pirate near her, and Brendun had to shout again, “The Floor!”

This time the warning sank in and Alo, with an agility far beyond anything Brendun knew the girl was capable of, seemed to leap off the ground in a fluid extension of one, two, three, then four tentacles each one following one after the other, until she sprung completely over the section of the floor that he had marked out with pieces of wood.

Alo landed in a flawless reverse of the same motion which took her off the ground, to the right of her attacker and almost beside him. Her swords flashed in the torchlight and ribbons of red blood splashed away from the man’s arms.
He tried to out maneuver the octopus, by stepping quickly to his left, and that was his demise. Brendun only had a moment to watch as the man disappeared through the false floor.

The summoned pirate he was tangling with had recovered her weapon and was taking a defensive stand close to him, possibly waiting for Brendun to make the next move.

The enemy that fell through the floor trap screamed.

Again the woman in front of Brendun took a wide spread, two-handed hold on the handle of the gaff, this time bringing it over her head for a powerful downward smash, but Brendun took that opportunity to leap at her. Dropping the sword, relying on the dagger and his brawling skill to hopefully catch the pirate of balance and drive her to the ground, Brendun threw himself at his attacker.

He had no idea what situation Tabitha was in now, nor could he afford to take his eyes off this pirate as his full weight slammed into hers, to see what Alo was doing. The woman didn’t drop the gaff but brought it down behind Brendun’s back in a vise like clamp at his shoulders. This kept his dagger arm from being able to extend out far enough and as he brought his arm in the dagger only struck the pirate’s belt and was stopped. Then he felt them both falling to the side as she shifted her hips.

He fell on top of her, the gaff pinning his shoulders to her waist. She wrapped her legs around his hips and quickly brought the gaff up to the back of his neck pulling in with such strength that Brendun blew out his last held breath before he had any chance to prepare.

Brendun felt his eyes close and saw bright lights behind his eyelids, blinking and growing in intensity. It was an experience he knew well. The pirate had not only managed to get his breath but had clamped down hard enough to pinch the blood flowing to his brain. It would not be long before he lost consciousness and with one last effort he pointed the heavy dagger up and forced his arm to extend. The blade pierced her flesh and went in far enough to strike her lung, he knew, but it was not going to be enough.

Suddenly the woman below him went completely limp. The gaff swung away from his neck as her hands lost all strength. Brendun pitched his weight to the right, staying as far away from the opening in the floor as he could and lay on his back gasping for breath. When he opened his eyes he saw Alo with her body low over the pirate woman’s chest, both swords buried through the woman’s breast.

In another instant the summoned pirate’s dead body vanished.

“That was too damned close,” Brendun stammered. Looking up at Alo, he tried to get to his feet, and reaching out a hand as he stumbled he said, “Tabitha, give me a hand, will you?”

There was no response.

He rolled, instead, onto his hands and knees, and turned his head in the direction where Tabatha was last kneeling on the floor. She was still on her knees. Her expression was blank, except for a slight smile. She was holding her right shoulder with her left hand. Her shirt was almost completely covered in blood. Tabitha’s eyes closed, and shell fell forward onto her face.
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Old 06-25-2021, 09:51 AM   #46
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Default Re: Into The Labyrinth - a work of fiction

Part 12

“Tabitha!” Brendun shouted, as he watched her fall. Then he remembered, the third pirate was still somewhere around. He had foolishly forgotten and now the only thing he could do was shout another warning to Alo as he scrambled to get to his feet.

“Alo, the other pirate, do you see him?”

Alo spun on her tentacles, drawing her swords upward as she moved, and then slid sideways across Brendun’s field of view, moving quickly to his right and toward the open chest.

“There, ohhhffer that wwwayhhh,” Alo said, pointing to the left.

The third pirate was still holding the two small hand axes but had moved in a semicircle out and away from Tabitha until he was standing nearer to the pile of rubble on the far side of the room. It was two against one now, and those were never good odds for a fighter with small weapons. He must have gotten the jump on Tabitha, and now Brendun wasn’t sure his friend was still alive.

He fought the urge to run to Tabitha’s side, and take her up in his arms, tell her everything would be alright. They had had many close calls together, the two of them, many scrapes, bruises, and hurts of different kinds were shared between the two of them, even caused by each other in fact, but knowing she was lying on the floor bleeding heavily was tearing Brendun’s heart to pieces.

He took one step to his right, and without looking away from the pirate, Brendun whispered to Alo, “There’s just no way that there’s enough strength in that chest to keep this pirate here for very long. All we should have to do is move in opposite directions, keep him confused and on the defense and eventually he should return to whatever world he was summoned from, but we need to get to Tabitha, quickly, so I don’t know what else to do but take this guy head on and see what he’s…”

Before Brendun could finish, Alo charged across the room as fast as six limbs could propel her forward. She caught the pirate by surprise and slashed with one rapier, while stabbing with the second. The summoned pirate was just too slow to put up any kind of defense and as quickly as Alo’s blows struck, he was disappearing in a vapor that vanished almost immediately.

With that, Brendun turned and threw himself on the ground sliding toward Tabitha until her head was in his hands. He gentle lifted her by the sides of her head, feeling her thick, silky hair between his fingers. She was still warm, and for that he gave a soft whispered thank you to the universe.

“Tabitha, Tabitha, sweetheart, open your eyes, Tabitha, say something, Tabitha?” Brendun spoke to her in a tone that he had not forgotten, from a time when they were much closer than they were now.

She did not respond, and he leaned his ear down close to her lips. He could feel her breaths, but they were slow and shallow. He pulled his knees up under him and raised her slowly until he could see the wound on her shoulder. It was large, deep, and bleeding, but thankfully it wasn’t spurting out blood into the air, which told him the blow had missed arteries, and again for that he was thankful. It didn’t look like the sort of wound that should have taken Tabitha out of the fight, and as he tried to get one arm around her back, to support her slight upper body, he discovered the real reason she had fallen.

Tabitha’s back was wet with blood as well. The pirate had somehow gotten behind her before she had time to get on her feet and slashed a long wound across her back below her ribs. She had lost a lot of blood in a short time, and Brendun wasn’t sure there was anything he could do to help her. The thought that she was going to die in his arms overwhelmed him and he felt the sting of hot tears fill his eyes.

“The thhkit!” Alo said as she came up behind Brendun. “Shhhe ahas thhhhe healinah kit, inah hhhherrrr pouch.”

“Yes, the healer’s kit, how did I forget?” Brendun said choking back his grief.

He reached down to her waist, and gently felt around for the fold where her pouch was hidden.

“Keep trying soldier. It’s a bit lower than that,” Tabatha spoke with heaves of her chest.

“Tabitha!” Brendun scolded, “Stop scaring me to death, I’m looking for your pouch, not a good time.”

“Good times don’t come cheap,” Tabitha coughed.

It was an inside joke, a thing from their past that once would have made them both laugh out loud. He remembered those times, and emotions ran over him threatening to shut down every thought he had.

“She’sssh ahhlivvhe,” Alo exclaimed, and dropped low to the ground beside Brendun. She wrapped the two of them together with three of her tentacles, raising the swords up and out of the way and pushed her mantle hard against them.

The warmth of Alo’s body gave Brendun renewed strength and purpose. His fingers found the opening of Tabitha’s pouch and as if he had never forgotten how to do this, as if it was only a day since they last saw each other, and not a year, he wiggled his hand gentle back and forth until the muscles of her pouch relaxed and his hand slid inside. He found the kit easily, and pulled it free. With one hand still behind Tabitha’s back, he unrolled the leather on Tabitha’s stomach, quickly ran his hand over the contents and then recognized the bottles that held the sealer. The same liquid she had used earlier on his leg to close the wound from tumbling into Alo’s rapier.

He raised the first bottle slowly, giving it a gentle shake. It was half empty, and then he dropped it, grabbing for the other.

“I don’t know if there is enough to do the job,” he said more to himself than to the others.

He looked first at Tabitha’s back, and then at her shoulder. The shoulder had stopped bleeding heavily, but was oozing still, while her back seemed to be the worse of the two. “Help me roll her over,” He said to Alo, and then put the bottle of sealer in his teeth.

Working together Alo and Brendun rolled Tabitha onto her front side. Alo moved quickly to reposition Tabitha’s arms as they worked.

Brendun took the bottle from his teeth, and said to Alo, “Hold her head to the side, and watch her mouth, in case she begins to vomit.” And then he leaned close to Tabitha’s ear, gently brushed her hair away and placed a kiss right where she liked it best, saying, “Tabitha, this might sting.”
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Old 06-26-2021, 12:08 AM   #47
Terquem
 
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Idaho Falls
Default Re: Into The Labyrinth - a work of fiction

Part 13
With the fingers of one hand Brendun stretched out the fabric of Tabitha’s shirt and holding the bottle of nacromoid oil he pulled the stopper from the bottle with his teeth and quickly poured all of it out along the gash on Tabitha’s back as carefully as he could to avoid any of the chemical being wasted on her cloths.

He braced his body against hers expecting the reaction to the stinging oil to cause her to spasm uncontrollably, but she did not move. Tabitha lay limp on the floor, with Alo cradling her head. Again Brendun leaned his head far to the ground and placed his ear near Tabitha’s lips, listening, feeling for life.

“She still alive,” Brendun let out with a sigh as he straightened up, “But she won’t last very long, even with the oil sealing that wound. She’s lost a lot of blood, and I think she’s in shock. We’ve got to get her out of here, as fast as we can, and I don’t know how to do that.”

“Thhhherressssaa sssohhhmeonneha hhinnn thhheha ssssity wwwhhhoa cahhhannnn hhhelpaha, wwhhhhee…”

“Alo, Alo,” Brendun took the girl’s free tentacles in his hands and pulled her to him, making her release her hold on Tabitha’s head, “Listen to me. You have to concentrate. Slow down, I don’t understand you when you get excited like this.”

The octopus-girl pressed her head against Brendun’s shoulder and began to cry. “I am sorry,” she said between sobs placing out each word with a measured breath between them. “There is a man-being in the city that can help us. He has helped us before, if we can reach him in time. I know the way. Can you carry Tabitha by yourself?”

“Yes, yes I can,” Brendun soothed the girl with his words. “But, that will mean that you must lead the way. I’ll be right behind you, but I won’t be able to help you if we’re caught off guard, until I can set her down safely. Do you understand what that means?”

Alo pulled out of Brendun’s grip, and rose to her full height. She slid across the floor to where the brand was lying, took it from the ground in one tentacle, and with two others raised her swords, turned back to Brendun, and said slowly, “Where should I go?”

“That’s the spirit, Alo,” Brendun stood and looked around the room. He first went to the torches, still burning and shedding some light all around. With his foot he stomped out two of them, picking up the third he went to the chest, the sea chest that was the cause of the problem they now had to face.
He looked into the chest and was disappointed.

It was practically empty.

He could see the bottom of the chest through the few items lying in it. A couple of bags, small, made of heavy material, were near one corner of the box, and by the lumpy shape of them he could almost be certain they were filled with coins. Near them was a pile of gold and silver chains with various trinkets and amulets of precious stones, fancy carvings from whale teeth, baubles, and other small things he could not recognize. Laying a little way from this small pile of treasure was a jeweled handled sabre, in a leather scabbard lying across what looked to be a small empty leather satchel. At least that was convenient, Brendun though. Everything except the sabre would fit easily in the satchel, and he quickly gathered the treasure and began shoving it into the bag. That was when he noticed a slim, leather bound book in the satchel. He didn’t take the time to examine it, but just shoved it aside, and continued to fill the bag with everything that was there. He slung the satchel over one shoulder, stuffed the sabre into his belt, and then turned.

“We’ve found a decent treasure here, and I only hope it is enough to pay for the healing Tabitha needs and leave us enough left over to buy some better gear. When we get out of here, and we will, in time, I can feel it, we will, we’ll rest up a few days and try again. Now let’s find the pirate’s regular escape from this place. It can’t be far. There, head down that passageway across the way. I’ll be right behind you. Keep the brand high, and try not to be in a hurry. Slow and steady wins the race. I always say,” Brendun said, throwing the last torch down and stomping it out.

Alo led the way, while Brendun picked Tabitha up with both hands, cradling her close to his chest. He remembered how light she was, and he was thankful she wasn’t wearing a chain mail shirt or any sort of breast plate that he would have had to leave behind, but of course she hadn’t dressed for this sort of thing, and neither had he. Armor would have probably made the difference in Tabitha’s condition right now, but now was not the time to second guess her, or trouble himself with bad decisions he had already made.

They moved slowly down a twisting passageway of natural stone and earth shored up in many places with bricks and timbers. Someone had put serious work into this little hideout, and it hadn’t been too long ago. In this damp environment, the wood would have rotted away in ten years or more, unless it was maintained. Twice the passageway opened up into larger rooms, empty, except for broken furniture, probably the work of the toad-folk.

It seemed like a long time had passed, too long Brendun worried when, unexpectedly, Alo came to a stop.

Brendun’s breathing, by this time, was labored, and he had missed what Alo had heard first.

Speaking slowly, Alo said, “Do you hear that?”

Brendun closed his mouth, took a few deep breaths in and out through his nose and listened. Ahead of them came the sound of tools striking the walls, and muffled chatter.

“Let’s hope they’re friendly,” Brendun said.

The moved forward, slower even than they had been moving before, and then a light appeared from around a corner, to their right.

“Alo,” Brendun whispered, “Can you peek around the corner and see what is there?”

Alo nodded her head, and slid quietly ahead. Reaching behind her with one tentacle she placed the brand on the ground as she went.
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Old 06-27-2021, 03:08 PM   #48
Terquem
 
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Idaho Falls
Default Re: Into The Labyrinth - a work of fiction

Part 14

Brendun held his breath as he watched Alo move silently forward. He watched the ground, taking note of the almost mechanical precision with which Alo moved each of the five tentacles that she had on the ground one after another. She came to a stop, and Brendun shifted his eyes upward taking in the almost human like form of the octopus-girl’s body, concealed mostly, as it was, by her long cloak.

It still struck him as odd, how many people were still confused about exactly how the octopus-folk were, well, to put it bluntly, arranged. Many times a wanted poster would appear around the port city identifying octopus-folk who were wanted for terrible crimes, and while most of the time the charges were trumped up or even completely false, because blaming the silent, mysterious, unfriendly octopus-folk was the easiest thing to do, those posters almost always got them wrong, physically, and mostly no one seemed to care. The octopus-folk, or as Brendun had just learned from Alo, Mauli, as she called herself, were not even close to being like the water living creatures that most other folk associated with them, that is an actual octopuses. Alo had a body, not a human body exactly, but it was similar, only much smaller. The upper part of this body, what Brendun called her mantle, was basically shaped like the upper torso of a human, with no arms. Alo’s head, which was disproportionate to her body, but not grossly so, sat on a thick, short neck and when covered by the hood of her clock, in the shadows, could be taken for a regular person’s head, but with perhaps a full head of thick hair. Alo, of course, had no hair, and Brendun could not recall ever having seen any sort of octopus-folk with hair at all, even though some wanted posters drew hair on wanted octopus-folk, probably to make them look even more frightening.

Brendun had no idea how the inside of a Mauli was arranged. He couldn’t figure out where their stomach might be, because where the waist of a regular human folk started, on her, on Alo, this was where her legs began. Alo’s legs, or tentacles, were both arms and legs, and they were thick, flexible, and strong. She could raise as many as five of her tentacles into the air, he had seen her do it, and balance on just three, but he had been able to tell from watching her that she preferred to have five tentacles on the ground, leaving three for her to use as arms. If not for the tentacles, and the slightly larger head, Alo would be a slim, normal looking human girl. Getting to know her over the past few hours had told Brendun that indifferent to what she looked like at all, in many ways, Alo was just like any other, frightened, but determined, human girl.

He hadn’t realized he had been thinking about her in such a far off way, and when she appeared next to him he was startled.

Alo spoke slowly. “It is a group of Turturons” she said in a whisper. “It looks like a working party. They are dressed for hard work, and have tools for working the hard rock walls ahead. There are nine of them.”

“Turturons,” Brendun exhaled, “we are, indeed, in luck. I know a few of them, and I know that as folk go they are usually not dangerous. Quick, let’s let them know we are here and see if they can help us find our way out.”

Alo retrieved the brand from the floor, sheathed her swords and lowering her height just a bit, drifted to the side to let Brendun take the lead.

Brendun moved ahead feeling the strain of carrying Tabitha beginning to take a toll on him. His legs burned and his back ached, but he was still a long, long way from giving out or giving in.

When they rounded the corner of the wall Brendun looked across the chamber ahead taking a moment to try and make eye contact with as many of the working Turturons as he could. His eyes fell on a fellow with muddy-brown hair, braided in a thick twist that was over his left shoulder and hanging down in front of him almost to his belt. Brendun smiled and sighed in relief. The Turturon’s eyes grew large, and his head tilted back in surprise.

“Brendun Mark, Kud zok man, what are you doing down here?” the Turturon said.

Turturons were another strange folk. They were about the same height as common dwarves, and built thick like dwarves as well, but they were a reptilian race. Their arms and legs were stout and shorter than they should be for their size, and their skin was a thick, tough hide of small scales. Most Turturons were green or brown, but some were mottled in different colors of blue, green, brown or black. They had a shell on their backs, covering them from just above the shoulders to about mid-thigh, narrow, and rounded, with a slight flip upward near the edges. The shell and reptilian skin gave them the appearance of turtles, and that is where the name of their kind came from. Unlike the Mauli, or at least from what Brendun could tell from meeting Alo, Turturons did not mind the name, and he did not know if it was a name they called themselves originally or if it came to them some other way, but Turturons were not like Mauli, not like octopus-folk.

They were a gregarious, often to a fault, hardworking folk who were well known for their knowledge in building, mining, and tool making crafts. Most Turturons were well employed in the city, and often worked for some of the major labor guilds. They did not tend to like being in positions of responsibility or leadership, but preferred humble jobs that kept them busy all work day long, and in their private lives they were quiet, reserved, and respectable.

Perhaps the thing most striking about Turturons was that their faces, which were almost human like in every way, were very much alike from individual to individual, making it hard to tell one Turturon from another, by just their face alone, but Turturons had thick, course hair, often worn in braids, or tied in bundles on the tops of their heads. Each Turturon took unique pride in the particular length, cut, and knot style of the hair on their head, and it was this feature that Brendun recognized right away when the fellow spoke his name.

“Thomas,” Brendun said to the fellow, “I am so glad it’s you. I’ll be quick about it my friend, I’m lost, and in trouble. Do any of you happen to be carrying any Stanley Clark’s Snat Oil Liniment? My friend here is in bad shape.”

It was about then that the rest of the Turturons, who had been working at the walls in the large chamber with picks and spades, noticed that Alo and Brendun, carrying Tabitha, had stumbled into their midst.

“Ah, what now?”
“Great Kud, is she alive?”
“Oh, the poor dear.”

The voices of some of the Turturons overran each other while they closed in around Brendun, and began reaching out to help him lower Tabitha gently to the floor.

As soon as Brendun mentioned the need for a liniment, half the Turturons in the group began searching through backs, some on others backs, some on the floor.

Timothy pushed through those of his friends near Brendun, to stand close to Tabitha. “Aye, she doesn’t look good. I hope we can help you, Master Mark, but I don’t think anyone brought anything like Stanley Clark’s with us. We might have some lanolin balm, or some tincture of willow bark, for aches and pains, but I don’t think we have anything stronger than that.”

“Anything, at this point, will help, Thomas,” Brendun said.

“Why are you down here?” Thomas asked, putting emphasis on his question.
“I was, I mean, we were along the sea wall, on the coast road, and got in this trapped wall situation that dumped us down here. Next thing I knew we were facing some toad-folk, and after that we ran afoul of another trap. That one injured my friend, Tabitha. Tell me Thomas, is there a way out of here, close by.”

“Oh, for sure and for certain there is lad. Here,” Thomas stepped to the side, and moved one of his friends out of the way with a gentle hand, “You see that wall over there, and the passageway at the end. That leads right away to a wide stair, a wooden stair, which leads up to the old Fauldor’s Hall.”

“Thank you, Thomas, thank you so much. We need to be on our way,”

Brendun began as he took a knee in preparation of lifting Tabitha again. “Wait, did you say Fauldor’s Hall? You mean the old secret gambling hall that was run by Dorn Fauldor? The one that is beneath the Bench Board tavern on Ferry Way?”

“Aye, aye, that is the place. This fellow, a fellow by the name of Captain Terring, bought the Hall from old Lady Peabody, Dorn’s sister, and hired my crew to open up these chambers. I had no idea the place stretched all the way out to the coast road, and toad-folk and traps you say. That’s going to be on the extras list for sure and for certain.”

Brendun turned to Alo, “How far is your friend from the Bench Board?”

“Alo moved out from the shadows behind Brendun, and said, “I don’t know. I don’t know the city. Tabitha did. I relied on her to get around and stay out of trouble.”

When Alo exposed herself to the curious eyes of the Turturons, their reaction caught her off guard.

End of Chapter 2
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Old 06-27-2021, 07:07 PM   #49
amenditman
 
Join Date: Nov 2018
Location: Florida Peninsula, Earth, Sol Sytem
Default Re: Into The Labyrinth - a work of fiction

Quote:
Originally Posted by Terquem View Post
Thank you for the support - to clarify and prevent, hopefully, any misconceptions


...


So - with the few messages of support here and no objections I will bring the story back and post it in increments so readers can experience it a little at a time
I like to experience the story in an episodic format. Gives the feel of a well written post game session "report".

Keep up the good work!
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"If you make it, players will break it"
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Old 07-14-2021, 06:24 PM   #50
Terquem
 
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Idaho Falls
Default Re: Into The Labyrinth - a work of fiction

Chapter 3

Part 15

Brendun carefully lifted Tabitha from the floor, ready to get moving up and out of this place as soon as possible, when he saw the curious turturons moving in on Alo.


To her credit she did not immediately react in a hostile way, but Brendun could tell the close little folk where making Alo nervous.

“Owww,”

“Ahhh,”

“Vervee,”

They made strange sounds as they gathered around her, and finally one of them, one young female with thick reddish hair in a tight braid worn pulled over her shoulder and hanging down across her ample chest, was the first to say anything else.

“You are, Nadin, or Thavin, yes? From the noble’s barge? You are one of the outcasts?” she said. Her voice was deep, and her words carried a tone of compassion.

Another among the Turturons, an older man, standing behind the girl who spoke, pointed his arm from where he stood, indicating Alo’s forehead, “She has the brand of the untouchable.”

There were other sounds of sympathy, surprise, and curiosity from the turturons. Finally, as Brendun noticed Alo’s quivering, and the slight lifting of her sword arms, he had to ask his friend to put a stop to the curious, but not threatening behavior, before Alo lost control.

“Thomas, please, ask your people to give her some space. She is young, and inexperienced.”

Alo shifted in a slow slide to her left, away from the gathering little people, and came close to Brendun.

“I can speak for myself,” she said, speaking slow, loud, and clear. She turned in place, a graceful pirouette, bowed to the turturons, and then, rising, she lowered all of her arms, and said, “I am mauli a’anawa. This is where I was born. I am neither noble born nor of the warrior class, not a Nadin or a Thavin. I am the slave of the girl, the one this man carries. My name is Alo Tanas Gynemid, and I am not your enemy.”

Her words had a pronounced effect on the turturons, who all took turns bowing, placing one hand against their forehead, and saying softly, “We welcome a friend of our people.”

Brendun leaned toward Alo and whispered, “Well done,” and then turned away, toward Thomas and said, “Thank you, we’ll be on our way now.”

“When you get to the stairs,” Thomas said from behind Brendun, “be careful. We’ve set up some planks on the steps, on the right-hand side, to make it easier to get the wheelbarrows up and down here. Good luck, Brendun Mark.”

Alo followed Brendun as he walked away from the turturons. It was only when they reached the bottom of the stairs going up, back into the city, back to where they might get the help they needed, that Alo said, quite innocently to Brendun, “what do you think she meant by ‘the noble’s barge’?”

Brendun had to stop. He thought about the question for a moment, as he shifted Tabitha in his arms to hold her higher against his chest. He tried to imagine what that simple comment could mean, but it couldn’t mean what he thought it meant. There had not been an octopus-folk barge in the harbor, here, in fifteen years, and when that happened it almost started a panic that nearly emptied a third of the city. It couldn’t be happening again. Twice he opened his mouth to say something to Alo, anything that might answer her question, but he couldn’t put the words together in his head. It would have to wait.

“I don’t know,” he said at last, and keeping to the left of the stairs, Brendun began the long climb up to the cellar of the Bench Board tavern.

As they climbed Brendun decided it was time to find out what ally Alo had in the city.

“Once we reach the old hall below the tavern, we’ll make Tabitha as comfortable as we can, you tell me who you can trust in Greenwall, and how to get to them, and I’ll go fetch help. I’ll want you to stay in the hall, for now, until I know it’s safe to enter the tavern without drawing too much attention to you.”

“Iah don’thha knowww wahhere he isah,” alo said from behind him.

Brendun stopped on the stairs, turned his body around and said, “You said you knew the way. Tell me slowly what you mean. Do you know where your ally is or not?”

For the first time Brendun registered a slight bit of frustration from Alo.

She let out a strong breath, which lifted the skin on her face toward her neck, and then said, very slowly, “I could take us there. I remember the landmarks, but I do not know what they are named. If I tried to describe them to you, I could very easily get it wrong.”

She straightened up, moved another step closer to Brendun and, putting her face near his, she looked right into his eyes. Her mouth flap lifted at the corners in what could only be a smile, and in a very different sort of way, her voice going up an octave with a bit of laughter dancing around each word, she said, “You will just have to trust me, and I will lead us there.”

Alo, with impressive agility and mobility, moved up on to the planks on the right side of the stairs, all the while keeping her face toward Brendun, and then moving each arm quickly she went around him until she was above him, and then turned her whole body around and started quickly up the stairs again.

Brendun watched her progress, and after checking on Tabitha one more time, started after Alo as quickly as he could, thinking to himself, “I haven’t died, yet, maybe I’ll survive a walk, at night, through Greenwall, with an octopus, seems like it’ll be a piece of cake.”
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