Extended Ending, Chapter 38

Chapter Thirty-Eight

To the Dungeons

Leaving Arius and Guardus, Savatay and Orthel continued along a different hallway.

“It pains me to leave Arius and Guardus by themselves,” Savatay said. “It seems as though we fail in our duties if we allow such a thing to happen.”

“I feel as you do brother,” Orthel answered, “but we are also charged with obeying Arius’ order. And he said we are to find his father and free him, if such a feat is possible, even with an outlook so grim.”

“I suppose you are right,” Savatay concluded, his footfalls silent even on the stone. He shivered. “This place is saturated with a pungent evil that soaks me even to the core.” The dark walls were bleak, the torches barely adequate to illuminate the corridor.

Orthel said nothing, but touched his forehead, then his mouth.

Savatay scowled at him. “You and your religious signs. Can’t you see they do you no good? Isn’t having a sturdy blade in your hand more reassuring then your meaningless gestures?”

Orthel frowned. “I refrain from instructing you on how your fears you might conquer. And to answer your question: No, such a flimsy item as a sword is powerless against the will of the Creator.”

Savatay huffed. “If an enemy were to attack at this moment, my sword would pierce his chest while your words would bounce off him harmlessly.”

“It is not about killing or surviving,” Orthel rebuked. “It is about playing the part you are given with surety instead of merely surmising.”

Savatay shrugged. “Your arguments do little to convince me. But perhaps if we do survive this confrontation, I may give your religion a bit more thought.” He held up his hand. “I hear voices echoing from this stairwell. We must go quietly from here.”

He drew his sword and stepped lightly on the stairway. The orange glow of torches cast flickering shadows against the wall. Somebody approaches, he told Orthel.

The other elf drew his sword and followed Savatay onto the stairs. They leaped with ease down to the first landing. The voices grew louder. “Yes, the King made me ensure he was safely in his cell. The door is securely locked and a legion of the King’s Men guards the entrance to the dungeon. There is no threat…” He didn’t finish his sentence as he came upon Savatay. The elf killed him and his companion with two quick thrusts of his sword. The corpulent man rolled down the flight of stairs with barely a gasp as the life left his body, landing heavily atop the other soldier.  

“The fat one is the dungeon master, no doubt,” Savatay said. “Come, he is sure to have the keys to every cell.”

Savatay quickly found the ring of keys on the man’s belt. Then he and Savatay hurried down the corridor, illuminated with as few torches as the previous. The air grew colder, and the odor of rotting corpses invaded the elves’ nostrils.

“We must be approaching the dungeons,” Orthel said, wrinkling his nose. “The rats here are sure to be gluttons.”

The black hallway narrowed the farther they walked, and the ceiling dipped so it nearly scraped their heads. There were no doors on either side of the corridor, only dark stone brightened occasionally by the glow of a torch.

Finally, they reached a wall that blocked their passage. Savatay put his hand against it. “There is no apparent door. Simply solid stone.”

“There must be a door,” Orthel replied. “Or else why would the architects construct such a corridor?”

Savatay ran his hand along the impasse. “Unless…” Putting pressure against several of the stones, the elf found a block that depressed into the wall at his touch. In response, the partition rotated about an axis through its center. The elf smiled. “I believe I’ve just found a way around!”

He slipped past the trick wall and Orthel followed him. The hallway was even darker than the first, with fewer torches, and the walls oozed a film of slime between the cracks. Coming to the next torch, Savatay removed it from the sconce. “Just a feeling we might be needing this,” he whispered.

“Why not create our own light?” Orthel asked. “And with a magical bauble, we can make it more or less bright.”

Savatay shook his head. “I don’t think it wise to use magic here. Whatever attention it might attract, or whatever sorcerer’s hex it might trigger, it’s easy enough to carry a torch.”

Orthel shrugged, and grabbed a torch when they passed another.  “There are still no doors,” he observed. “It seems as if we are walking aimlessly on boundless shores.”

“There must be something of importance here, else why would Contemno seek to hide it with a false wall?” Savatay answered. “And the dungeon master came from this direction. There was no other corridor he could have taken.”

“It looks as if this corridor is endless!” Orthel added. “I glance ahead and only see an orange glow, every few hundred paces or so.”

“This must be the path to the dungeons,” Savatay said. “It must be.”

Their footfalls began to echo against the cold stone walls. Suddenly Orthel stopped.

“What’s the matter?” Savatay asked, looking back.

“A thought just entered my mind. Our footsteps are not quieted and so are a warning of kinds. We know not what awaits us should this corridor end. But the sounds of our approach are sure to arrive prior, and carry around any bend.”

“We have no time to worry about such things,” Savatay returned. The empty corridor gaped before them, cold and dark, stretching infinitely.

A cry suddenly echoed through the hallway, followed by the scuffle of feet. A door banged open in the distance. The clang of chains was accompanied by the steady march of soldiers’ feet, and the wailing increased.

They must be brining a prisoner, Savatay said to Orthel. If they are coming this way, we are sure to be seen. We must use magic to hide ourselves.

Would you so willingly disregard your previous admonition against using magic? Orthel rebutted. We could simply fight them with our swords; wouldn’t this be safer logic?

If we create too large of a disturbance, we may never be able to reach Arius’ father before they take him from his cell. If they are made aware that elves are near the dungeons, they are sure to move him. No, we use magic to stay hidden until we are forced to confront the King’s Men with swords. 

Then why not fight them with magic, killing them quickly and quietly? A sudden burst of energy would put them all out of their misery.

Savatay shook his head. If there is a hex imbued within these walls, it is sure to guard against aggressive magic. We may be able to slip by with a gentle manipulation of the light—after all it is already quite dark here—and escape the sorcerer’s enchantment undetected.

His head jerked to the sounds coming nearer. Now, we must induce our spell now!

What of the torches? Orthel asked. Are we to throw them to the floor or find two empty notches?

Throw them to the floor! But ensure they are extinguished. Savatay pinched the wick of his torch and set it on the ground. Orthel did likewise, and then they both whispered under their breath a spell of concealment, disguising them to appear as part of the wall.

Moments later, the approaching soldiers entered into view. They were five in total, and wore the mark of the King’s Men. Between the first two, they dragged a prisoner. His face was turned down, and his body covered in mere rags. Could that be Arius’ father? Savatay wondered. With his face and wrists hidden, it could be some other.

The soldiers and prisoner finally passed out of sight. The scrape of stone against stone echoed through the hallway. They have passed through the false wall, Savatay concluded. He let his spell fall and he became visible once more.

“That could have been Arius’ father,” Savatay said aloud.

“Then why didn’t we stop them to see? If it was, we just let his captors go free.”

“Because if it wasn’t, then our chances of freeing him from the dungeons would surely have diminished!” His face abruptly grew grave. “They will come upon the dungeon master and his companion in mere moments. Come, precious time is being wasted. There was a doorway that those soldiers must have used, and it wasn’t far distant. We run the rest of the way.” 

Without another word, he hurdled into a sprint, and Orthel followed close on his heels. 

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