The Tamer (part 6)

Danger #3: “Stink and smell be our features,

                    So please do not touch the creatures!”

Hawkeye, his new furry friend Splink, and the druid Sashrala were neck deep into the Cave of Foul Stench, hidden in the Ore Rock, the cold ominous mountainscape of the White North.  They were walking through windy pathways that never seemed to end, trying to find the crown of the Ancients.  Soon, they came to a series of wood fences, still winding, but narrowing their room to walk and this lasted for another three miles, roughly, until it opened into another wide cavern with a huge wooden fence enclosing a larger pen.  There were buckets of food and water there, and some patches of grass grown in as well.  Both men could smell a strong odor, stronger than the pit they had passed.  It got in their noses, and lingered there, taking their breath.  Hawk saw there was a glowing set of green eyes hidden in a hole in the back of the pen.  He approached the pen, but heard a voice from the side coming closer.

“Stop!  Don’t disturb them.  I just got them settled down!” said a short, stubby man with a few wisps of hair and a couple large, brown teeth.

“Who are you, sir, and what are you doing in this place?”  asked Sashrala.

“I’m Denger, and I live here, smell and all.  The question is who are you and why are you here?”

“We are on business of our own and we are not here to disrupt you.  Come, Hawk, we shall leave this area quickly.”  And they started to walk on, but Denger stood in their way.

“There’s a toll to pass through my home.  Always has been.  Most people won’t pay, so they turn back if I let ‘em.”

“Well, we are certainly not turning back, and we have no money, so let us pass.”

Denger pulled out a stick with a string and whistle on it and he began twirling it.  They could hear nothing, but in the pen, a dust was stirred up and a lot of commotion was happening.

“Okay, it looks like feeding time for my pretties!”  and out of the pen and over the gate jumped four large horse-size skunks.  Except for the front half of them looked like a jackal.

“Made ‘em myself.  Aren’t they pretty?  Girls, attack!”

They began charging and Hawkeye fell to his hands and knees and started speaking in an old language.  They were getting closer, but he stayed down and still speaking.  One got in front of him and halted, as he caressed its nose, and the others stopped their charges as well.  Denger kept flailing his signal, but they weren’t responding.  Sashrala then gave him a cold stare and started walking towards him.

“You will pay for this abomination!  Entangle!” he screamed as he raised his hands and vines began sprouting from the cave floor and wrapping themselves around Denger, as he screamed.

“The more you struggle, the tighter they get,” Sash warned him.

Hawk was leading the animals back into the pen, as he petted them and bid them farewell.  He walked over to Denger and spoke:

“Desala Baco Wit,” he uttered.

Sashrala knew what it meant.  “Be kind to nature.”

Three Hours and Twenty-Three Minutes later…

The rumbling of loud, heavy footsteps ruptured the ground as a small horde of giants and men trampled the fencing designed to keep people in.  When the group happened out into the open area, they saw an ugly little man tied up with vines.  Titan approached him.

“How did this happen to you, you little whelp?”  he asked.

“A man in a black robe… and some naked guy.  They turned my pretties on me…” and he began sobbing.

Titan turned to Nefaria, who was looking off in the distance.

“The tracker is here.  We will let him find the crown, and then we’ll take it.”

One of the skunk-jackals came out into the pen and snarled at the visitors.  Nefaria noticed this, and lifted up his blue box.

“Time to feed!”  and out came his large serpent, quickly swallowing the poor, tortured creature.  The others stayed cowered in their hollow.  Titan led the men out of the area, and as they left, Siphon stuck a knife into Denger’s belly and chuckled to himself about it.  The giant holding Dite didn’t know she was now awake.  She was letting him carry her about to give her time to regain her strength.  She said a silent spell to herself and blew a light air onto the cold ground beneath her captor’s feet.

One Hour and Seventeen Minutes Later….

Our three silent friends made their way through the fencing and quickly left it behind.

Twenty minutes later, our not so silent knight also came through the area and found a corpse, which he attributed to the cloaked demon he was after.

Twenty minutes later….

The other four travelers in the cave came upon the pen and Croc notices a glowing star of light on the cavern ground.

“Where did that damn Darius get to?”  Gert said aloud.

“What is that?”  Croc said, kneeling down to touch it.  As soon as he did, he could hear Dite’s voice in his head.

“Croc, I’m okay, but we are nearing the crown.  Keep the trinket I leave with you, so you can follow our exact path.  Please hurry.”

Then, it went away, and a small stone necklace was left where the star had been before.  Croc put it around his neck.  Luther recognized the bauble and smiled to himself.

“I knew she was alive and he dropped a few small tears to the ground.

“Come on, we have to pick up the pace!”  and with that, the whole group started at a run through the caves.

Danger #4: “Be Careful or this is all in vain,

                     One wrong step will cause great pain!”

            Sashrala read this right off the side of a wall in the way down another cold, smelly corridor.  He wondered if they had missed any of the other messages.  Hawkeye petted Splink as they continued down further passages.  They heard odd noises like steam or some sort of pressure release.  The sound was getting closer and closer and soon sounded like it was right underneath them.  Within a second, right under Hawk’s right foot came a wave of sticky heat, and right as he moved his foot up from the ground came a white blast of steam or energy that blasted clear to the ceiling.  They began to notice these wells shooting up all over the place.  Hawk started moving at a brisker pace, and Sash noticed and followed suit.  He could see blasts shoot up right where he had been the second before and thought to himself as long as he kept moving, he would make it out.  Sash, also was noticing the closer he got to them, that maybe this was the same stuff from down in the pit.  Just as they were almost through the gauntlet of spray, Sash mis-stepped and the side of his ankle was singed in the fire.

“Ahhhhhhhhh!” he fell to the ground, clutching the burnt ankle.  The flesh was instantly seared away and left with a sizable red burn mark.  Hawk helped him up and leaned him on his shoulder, as they walked through to the next corridor.

Two Hours and Forty-Seven Minutes later…..

            The giants and mercenaries entered the wide passage, but stopped short due to Nefaria’s warning of danger.

“Beware, we must step lightly and move quickly.”

Titan turned to the soldier carrying Dite and asked for a count of men left.

“Twelve of our platoon and twenty-one Dunlanders, sir.”

Titan nodded his approval.  He raised his hand to give the command to run through, knowing that this was not boding well for him or his men.  It would be a bad idea to let Siphon overpower him and his giants because the temptation to take the crown would be there.  Titan lowered his massive paw and every man and giant took off into the flames, trying to avoid the spurts of energy.  They were firing all over, hitting quite a few men.  Titan finished first, followed quickly by Siphon.  Both were trying to make an impression on their men, as well as find the crown.  They both secretly knew that they other wouldn’t hesitate to kill the other man for it.  When all the men and giants were through, again they took a head count.  Eighteen Dunlanders and nine giants.  Things weren’t looking good.

Fifty-One Minutes later….

            Again, three shadowed figures came upon the wall, the message, and the room.

“Be careful, or this is all in vain,

One wrong step will cause great pain!”

“Be nimble, my Elvin friend… and human girl,” said Alvistar.

“There’s nothing girl about me, buddy,” as she began running her way through the mines of fire.

“Trust me, she’s all woman…” Gauge said as he heard a loud rustling of metal behind him.  He then saw the knight from back at the Rusty Bucket running towards them, tired and weary.

“Must….stop….demon,” he mumbled, barely stumbling.

Gauge sighed. “Oh no, we have to help him or he’ll kill himself.”

So, they followed Darius as he stumbled and sloshed over the hot spots and near the end, he almost was burnt, but luckily, Gauge and Alvistar hit him in the back, knocking him forward onto the ground, as they continued on their way.

Nineteen minutes later….

            Croc and company showed up and again, read the warning on the cave wall.  And again, they all had to run with all the speed they could muster, and all the energy left in their tanks, while being careful not to hit the spots.  A part of Gert’s armor was singed in the room, but other than that, they passed through quite successfully.

Danger #5: “There are many doors, but only one path,

                     To find the crown, and finish the task.”

            Only dark, musty smells resonated in these chambers.  The stink seemed to have evaporated as the hallway seemed to lead up to a huge ledge in the air, connecting to another large cave.  As Hawk helped Sash along up into the narrow passageway, they came to the ledge.  On the wall on it was a door.  And on the door was the next message.  Hawk, not thinking twice, pushed on it with his hand and slowly it opened.  Sash normally would have like to investigate the situation, but was in such pain, only wanted to make it to soft and comfortable ground.  After Hawk had helped Sash through the doorway, he looked up to see a long hallway, and on both sides were several other dozen doors.

“This does not bode well, my friend,” Sash managed to mumble from under his hood.

Hawkeye began to sniff the air, and then started walking towards different doors.

“Smell for the stench.  It must linger behind one of these cursed doors,” Sash said.

Hawk continued to sniff out the stench they thought should be there.  And sniff he did, for over two hours, until finally, the twenty-sixth door on the right side, he could feel a wave of horrible odor blast him in the face as he got near it.  The door had no remarkable markings to speak of, only a carved sign that read, “Beware.”

“If you believe this is the door, then it is.  Guide me through,” Sash said, and he peered up as Hawkeye pushed the door, with some amount of force, and they entered into an unbearable smell.

Thirty-Two minutes later….

            More rumbling, yet not as strong came through the long, narrow hallway leading up to the door.

“Nefaria, what’s this mean?” Titan asked his demonly friend of the message.

“Just go through.  We are still a ways away.”

So, he had a giant push it open and before them they saw a long, two-sided hallway filled with doors of all designs and frames.  Titan spied the one at the extreme other end of the hallway, and thought to himself, surely that would be the one.  He grabbed one of his men and began racing forward.

“This is it!  Down here!” he screamed.

Nefaria screamed back, “No, it’s far too obvious!  That’s not the one!”

When they reached it, they could see the golden design of a crown on the door, and Titan knew he had found it.  He ordered his soldier to open it, and when he did, a heavy iron saw, circular in shape flew from it, and sliced the giant completely down the middle.

“Get to the sides!” Siphon screamed out as the tremendous blade rolled down through the hallway with a ferocious speed.  It stopped at the other side, from where they had all arrived from, and embedded itself in the door.

At this time, our three thieves had reached this outer door.  Gauge pulled out his lock-pick set after trying to open the door by hand.  It didn’t budge.

“Leave this to me,” he said, fiddling with a small metal object in the crack of the door.

He seemed not to be having much luck, while on the other side; numerous mercenaries were trying numerous doors.  One man opened a door etched with lightning bolts, and when he opened it, he simply saw a hallway.  He walked in with one foot and disappeared, never to be seen again.  Another one opened a dented in door, and when he stepped inside, he saw long tables filled with the most delicious-looking food he had ever seen.  He walked over and ripped off a leg of pheasant and took a hearty bite from the golden meat.  It tasted so good.  Then, when he looked down at it again, it had grown moldy and black.  He could feel something in his mouth, so he reached in and pulled out a grubby worm.  He got sick and stumbled back out of the room.  Yet another man entered a room with a black door.  He saw nothing but a sturdy bridge built in the middle of the room.  He started across it and from both sides, out of the darkness, flew skinless winged creatures with large claws and they tore him to pieces.  Titan now chose another door, a plain door made of wicker and straw.  He instructed one of his men to open it.  The giant pulled his massive club in his spare hand and when he opened it, a strong, powerful wind tried to suck him into the doorway.  It pulled both his feet in first, so he stuck his club in the doorway horizontally to keep himself from being pulled in.  The wind was so strong; it was pulling others towards the door.  Siphon noticed the large saw blade wriggling in the door it was jammed into.  From behind the door, Gauge thought he was actually unlocking it, or at least trying to.  From behind him, he could hear a tired warrior making his way towards them.

“Oh, demon, Titan, you are both in so much trouble when I find you,” Darius was saying.  He stopped and rested on his knee, then looked up at the door in front of him.

“No door will hold me back.  I will burst through every barrier to reach you criminals.”

Gauge stepped back to let him try to open it, and to keep up their appearance of being invisible.

Inside the hallway, several men and giants had been sucked into the doorway, and all the others were holding on to door cracks and anything else for dear life, including Aphrodite.  She managed to grab a hold of a door with a large iron ring.  She desperately tried opening it, but couldn’t manage against the force of the current.  Suddenly, a mercenary who had been holding on was being pulled right towards her by the wind.  He slammed hard against the door, and when he did, she pushed with all her strength to get inside as quickly as possible.  She stood up from her knee and looked around her.

“My Aphrodite….”

The saw blade was loosening more and more now, as everyone was hanging to the sides of the doors.  Darius seemed to be preparing a charge, and he did, head first at the door.

“Get back guys.  He’s not going to slow down,” warned Gauge.

As Darius impacted the door, it surprisingly flew open, but only because the giant saw had unstuck itself from the door and rolled directly towards the windy passage.  It rolled in and burst the doorway as well as severed Titan’s best soldier in half as the door slammed shut behind it.

“Titan, you’re trip is over!”  Darius announced, as he pointed at the King giant with his sword.

Two mercenaries stepped in front of Darius, and surprisingly, he bested them in swordplay and slayed them there in front of his feet.  But, from behind him, Siphon’s giant spiked whip was now attached to his thigh, and he jerked it, pulling Darius to the ground.  Darius was moaning in pain, and trying to pull out the deadly weapon.  Siphon began dragging Darius towards him, then jerked on the whip to loosen it from his leg.  Darius muscled himself up and tried to run, but got spiked in the back.  Blood poured from the wounds and his mouth as he screamed in terror.  Siphon again snapped the whip and brought Darius to his knees.  From behind Siphon came Demagauge, with dagger in hand.  He shoved it into the warrior’s kidney, but seemingly unphased, he turned around and smacked the thief in the face.  Gauge quickly recovered and twice as fast, slashed Siphon’s wrist twice with his dagger.  Gauge then paused as he heard Cuttice’s scream back from the other side of the door.  He turned and opened it, but was hit from behind, extremely hard and the blow knocked him back through to the other side and then the door was slammed shut.  Titan had blasted Gauge in the back, and was now rounding up his men.  Siphon on the other hand, cruelly wrapped the rest of the whip around Darius’ neck and pulled with all his might, snapping the knight’s neck.  He unfastened his weapon from the limp corpse, as Titan bellowed.

“Nefaria!  We know the tracker was here.  Can’t you use magic to find out which door he went into?”

The little creature closed his eyes and moved around in a circle for a moment, then pointed to the twenty-sixth door on the right side of the corridor.  Titan had another giant open it for them, and the stench hit them all, gassing them, but Nefaria’s magic was strong, so the stench went away, as they entered the last chamber.

As for Gauge, Cuttice was helping him up as he saw Alvistar’s body laid face down on the ground with three small knives stuck in it.

“What happened?  Tell me,” Gauge said, grabbing her by the shoulders.

“It was him. I saw him,” she said, seemingly frightened and shocked.

“Who?  Who was it?” he said, now shaking her furiously.

“The black shadow.  He did it.  And he spoke to me.  He,” she paused a second to catch her breath, “he said ‘Traitor’ in this deep, evil voice.  And, then….he just …vanished.”

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