The world was spinning faster than usual. My head throbbed. I couldn’t seem to gather my thoughts. Everything was jumbled… where was I? I remembered falling, and that jolting pain as I hit. My lungs felt like they exploded on impact. That must be it. I concluded. I must have died. But if I was dead, shouldn’t I have been returned to slight?
Perhaps death wasn’t as every says it was. Maybe it’s just like life but in a different place. I guessed it would be weird to die, and then, all of the sudden, be able to see. It was so disorienting the first time I saw through the dragon’s eyes. It made my brain ache. All of the vibrant colors… and the way everything moved was sickening. I felt as though I were out at sea in a violent torrent. No, it wouldn’t be a happy place if you died and were suddenly restored to sight.
A jolt of pain suddenly shot up my leg as I tried to move, which caused me to try to cry out in pain, only making the agony worse. My lungs felt as if they were on fire, and I suddenly lost my breath, as though I had experienced the whole impact over again. The pain seemed to jar my memory a bit, and I remembered the cold… I was suddenly weightless after the impact. I didn’t hit ground. I hit water.
Perhaps I hadn’t died after all. More searing pain resonated from my aching lungs as I desperately gasped to recapture my breath.
I wasn’t in water any more. Why couldn’t I breathe? Maybe my lungs had been damaged. Maybe I would die, after all. That would be just like my life; to wake up just to die. I started hating all of the cruel maladies the fates had thrown at me through the years. I couldn’t have had a more jaded life if someone actually sat down to plan it.
Again I frantically gasped for air, not because I wanted to live, more from instinct. I wanted more than anything to just die. The thought of trying to gather another breath of air sent shivers through my body intensifying my pain even more. It seemed like an eternity had passed since the last time my lungs had let the sweet cooling air enter them. My throat started to ache. I knew I needed to breathe; pain, or no pain. Against my will, I coughed. I didn’t think that there was a whisper of air left in my body to cough, but I coughed, none-the-less. Darts of pain stabbed every inch of my body as I convulsed in uncontrollable fits of coughing. Water and vomit seemed to leave my mouth of their own accord. Again my lungs pressed for air… The imaginary force that seemed to be compressing my chest lost its power, and the cool current of air rushed in, extinguishing the excruciating burning in my lungs. Again, I gave in to a fit of coughing and vomiting before I could finally breathe.
I had somehow made it to my side in my efforts to expel the liquid from my chest, but having spent what little strength was left in my body, I rolled back to my back to lie as still as I could. I was breathing easier, but didn’t want to breathe too hard because the rise and fall of my chest seemed as if I were under the smithy’s hammer.
No, I couldn’t be dead. The dead shouldn’t have to suffer such pain. Maybe I was in the underworld. Maybe I would be forced to live eternity in a state of pain and anguish. The religious people of Gogaloth were always preaching about fire, pain, and suffering without end. I had never been one to follow silly superstitions, but now I feared that they were right. I didn’t think I lived wickedly enough to be subjugated to such torture. Maybe I shouldn’t have cursed the heavens so much for all of my hardships.
“Yesss, ressst. You’ll need your ssstrenth.”
The voice made the air chill. It was as if a hundred voices spoke at once, yet it was only one. My stomach wanted to flee my body through my throat. If I were dead, this would have to be my under-guardian tormentor. It could only be the voice of the foulest creature in existence.
I panicked! There was absolutely nothing I could do. Whatever this creature was, I was completely powerless against it. I didn’t dare to try to move again; the creature must have had some sort of oppressive device on me. My arms and legs weighed as much as full grown dragons. I ached all over. The world wouldn’t stop spinning. I wanted to hold my head to keep it in place, but all I could do was lay there.
Cold scaly hands slid under my legs and neck. The touch was colder than blue dragon’s ice bolt. My bones began to shiver from being so close to such a being so devoid of life. The cold sensation only lasted a moment before the burning returned. My entire body erupted in a volcano of searing pain. I felt myself being lifted from the ground, but my senses started to betray me. All at once I was spinning out of control. I finally decided that I wasn’t dead… yet. I must have fallen all the way to the center of the earth, and this foul creature figured that since I was so close anyway, it would just carry me the rest of the way. I tried to regain stability in my spinning world, but it was too late. I felt myself leaving the world of consciousness. The pain made me give in to the dullness of unconsciousness.
I don’t know how long I was out, but consciousness slowly began to return to me. At first there were spurts of sound… then strange noises, indecipherable by any living being… at last my mind was able to recognize the sound of boiling water. There were other noises too, but they seemed too distant. I tried to hone in on the boiling water… it was something familiar… something I could hold onto and drag the rest of my mind out of the darkness. Sounds of moaning and crying filled the room. The voices, of what seemed like hundreds of sick or dying people, seemed to be packed in a small cavern. The walls echoed with the ruckus. The echoes made it impossible to tell just how many there actually were.
“He wakesss. Sssilencssse!” The strange creature said.
At once the voices ceased. I strained to hear a rustle or cough, but there were none. Surely a crowd, that large, of sick people no less, could not remain that quiet. I strained again to detect the traces of life around me, but there were none; just my captor and myself. My ears must have been damaged in the fall. That had to be it. What would I do without my hearing? I depended so much on it. If my ears were dimmed, even to a small measure, I would surely stumble through the rest of my life.
I could hear my companion’s raspy breathing. It seemed a labored process for him to just support himself with breath of air. He was clanking a spoon around in a large kettle. It was only after I heard the spoon hitting the walls of the kettle that I noticed the aroma of soup filled the air. It wasn’t necessarily a pleasant aroma, but whatever this strange creature was making, did have the smell of food. The thought of food made me convulse in a dry-heave. I wanted nothing more than to just pass out again, alas; my mind had a firm grip on consciousness.
“We wasss wondering when you would wake up.” He seemed to be trying to be sincere, but the voice was something dark and evil. It made my soul freeze and my body shiver. I didn’t want him to talk again, and I didn’t dare test my lungs with words, so I just continued to lay still.
“We wasss fissshing, when you fell from up world. We don’t have many that comesss down thisss far. The dwarfsss makesss it to the hard rock, but none comesss thisss far.”
The more the creature spoke, the less its voice disturbed me. I felt as though it were casting some sort of spell because the voice was as horrible as ever, but its effect seemed to be dimming. I worked up enough courage to test my voice.
“Where am I?” I asked with great difficult.
The creature laughed… My mind will forever be scarred with the awful thought of that other worldly sound. It was not the laugh of a living creature… It seemed that the lost souls buried in the earth all called out at once with the laughter; great wails of sorrow and shrieks of pain mingled with a wispy villainous wheeze of a laugh. Some of the wails seemed to be close enough for me to reach out, and touch, but even if I had the power in my limbs I wouldn’t dare it.
“Where you are doesssn’t matter becaussse it isss sssomeplacssse you will never be again.” The creature answered. “And, it’sss sssomeplace no one elssse hasss been. Ssso, it doesssn’t exissst to your world.”
The creature made a horrible raspy gurgling noise that could only be interpreted as a snicker of some sort. The noise echoed through the enormous cavern and seemed to have voices added to it as it traveled, until the cavern was a choir of echoing deathly laughter. Then, all at once, it all stopped; even the echo.
“You are from up world. What doesss up world want from Zore?” The creature asked. I had no idea what it was talking about. “Have the kingsss finally dessscided that our exile wasss a missstake?”
The creature laughed again. I couldn’t bear to hear that unholy choir again. I desperately tried to plug my ears, but the legion of laughter penetrated even through to my bones. I could feel that awful, gurgling, hissing noise in the very core of my soul. There had to be others here, but I could not discern a single voice, just the confused jumbled choir that seemed to come from everywhere, yet resonate from the creature. The laughter stopped, but this time the echo lingered for a while on the damp air. As hard as I tried I couldn’t calm my nerves.
“We growsss impatsssient up-worlder!” It said, bringing the echoing laughter to an immediate halt. “Tell usss; what doesss up world want with Zore?”
I had never before heard tales of any Zore, nor any creature living in the Dwarven Mountains. As far as I knew, if the dwarfs encountered any living creature deep in the ground, they killed it because they believed that anything living that deep would assuredly be from the underworld itself. My mind raced to find the proper response to my captor’s inquiries. I reasoned that if he thought that I was down there without anyone’s knowledge, than I would be expendable. No, I needed to lead this creature to believe that I was someone important.
“I am Calitharious, son of Illarsian, last heir of Gogaloth.” I announced trying, unsuccessfully, to sound sure of myself.
A legion of voices cried out at once. Indiscernible mumblings roared through the enormous cavern. I felt my blood run chilled through my veins. The voices were other worldly. They were there, but they weren’t. I needed to get out of there. I tried to rise, but my body wouldn’t respond. Pain seared down my back, and into my legs. I needed to leave. I pushed through the pain, and made it to a sitting position.
“Carumnac!” The creature said in an eerie voice.
My muscles tensed. I couldn’t move. Suddenly, I felt myself lift from the ground, and slowly turn towards the ‘Zore’ creature.
“sssimbomba.” It said, once again, in the strange voice.
I stopped turning, and hovered, slightly above the ground.
“What name wasss that, boy?” It said, in a single voice. “Choossse your anssswer carefully. We wouldn’t want to upssset old Zore, now would we?”
It was a mistake. Why did I give my father’s name? He was a hero to our people, but a dreaded death-dealer to our enemies. In his career, he had upset some of the most influential people of our time. Many kingdoms offered large sums of gold to my father to get him to train their armies’ dragons. Of course, my father would turn them down without second thought because of his loyalty to my mother, and her family. Most of the other kingdoms despised him for it. Just the same, I couldn’t fathom as to how my father would ever have come across this creature; much less offend him in some way.
It was too late. I had said it. I couldn’t back down now. My only hope was to try to seem somehow influential and important. Perhaps the creature would want a ransom of some sort, and would keep me alive to collect it.
“I… I… I’m Calitharious…” I stuttered.
The creature roared its awful laugh, cutting me off. “Finally! The prophecsssiesss have come to passs. We are free!”
It was my name that caught his attention. Not my father’s. It didn’t make sense. How would a creature, living at the very licks of flame from the underworld, know of me? Even in the prophecies my grandfather and mother mentioned, they didn’t mention my name. There was much talk about my father and mother, but nothing specific enough to identify me.
“How… how do you know me, creature?” I asked, tentatively.
There was no answer, but the creature seemed to dislike the title, ‘creature’. Its laugh was cut off in an enraged hiss and snarl at the sound of the word.
“How do you know me… Zore?” I amended.
Continue reading on my blog at Blogger