Friday, 30 September 2016

Artel - Green Light and Long Tunnels

Artel was lead out of the hole and along a dark, earthy tunnel that seemed to go on forever. His companions didn't move very fast, they seemed to sort of waddle, and Artel had to stoop to avoid banging his head on the low ceiling. The tunnel was illuminated by dim green lanterns that hung from the sides of the walls every ten paces or so. They walked for what felt like hours, and Artel made good use of the time, watching his captors out the corners of his eyes, trying to pick out their weaknesses, work out where they were vulnerable.
Their pale skin looked rough and thick, and he guessed it would take a lot of force to push a blade through it, even their wiry white hair looked as if it would be hard to break. Their blindness, of course, was a weakness, but they made up for it with their superior hearing, something that would make it difficult for him to surprise them in any way. The ears of course, large, slightly pointed, and protruding almost comically from much higher up the sides of their heads that Artel's own, were a weakness. They looked delicate, pale and thin with slim veins running through them like you might see in a leaf. If he could manage to get his sword he could go for their ears, that would both pain and disarm them, they would useless if they couldn't see or hear and he'd be able to make his escape. But then where would he go? As they moved further down the tunnel he had begun to notice more and more tunnels leading off of this main one, and once or twice he had even glimpsed more of the strange creatures peering out at him. The place reminded him of a rabbit warren, and he was sure that even if he did escape he could end up spending days wandering through the tunnels, unable to find his way out. He would wander until he starved and died in one these tunnels. The thought made him shiver and, sensing his movement, the creature next to him turned, as if to look at him, as if to fix him with its milky eyes.
They walked on, until Artel's back began to ache from stooping to avoid the ceiling. The tunnel itself twisted and turned, first this way and then that, and at times it seemed to loop back on itself. At some point they left that tunnel and entered another, a few minutes later they switched to another. At some point he sensed they were moving uphill, but somehow he doubted they were taking him to the surface to be released.The tunnels leading off of theirs grew more frequent and he guessed they were nearing the centre of the 'warren'. He saw more of the creatures, all of them stopped and turned to face him when his small procession came past, as if they were looking at him, watching him. He wondered how blind they really were.
At last they reached the end of the tunnel, well, it wasn't an end as such, it was more a huge cavernous room, dimly lit with faint green light from many torches set into the walls. Again Artel wondered how blind the creatures really were, if they were completely blind surely the torches wouldn't be there at all. The question fell from his mind as his small procession walked into the room and he realised the floor on either side of him had completely fallen away. He leaned over slightly to peer over the edge and felt a wave of vertigo wash over him as he looked down into the abyss below. Other pathways crossed through the space below him and there were torches in the walls all the way down, down as far as he could see anyway. He straightened up, hating the vertigo feeling, and looked above him. It was the same picture as below, pathways stretched across the space, which stretched upwards, dimly illuminated with green light, as far as he could see. The enormity of the place hit him then, like a cold slap in the face. He had imagined the creatures were pretty harmless, he had pictured a few of them, easy to overcome. He had thought he might escape, might get out of this underground warren and find his way back to Millon and his quest... if Millon was even still alive. But this was bigger than he ever could have imagined. This wasn't a small colony of ants he could simply run away from, and this underground home was much more than that, it was a city, a metropolis beneath the forest. He couldn't begin to guess how long it went on for, or how deep he was underground, even with a map he would have a hard time finding his way out. One of the creatures prodded him in the back and he realised he had stopped walking. He jumped and carried on, following the creature in front of him across the walkway towards the centre of the room, where he could now see a wide, circular platform, upon which was a round table, around which sat several more the the creatures. It looked like they were debating something, but as Artel and his captors drew closer they quieted and turned to look.
They stopped at the edge of the platform and silence fell, then the creature in front of him stepped forward and addressed those around the table, there were 9 in total, in its strange grunting language. Whatever it said caused a chatter of grunts and vowels around the table, which quietened again a moment later as one of them began speaking in earnest. Artel watched the proceedings with a certain sense of comedy. It was almost laughable, looking at the weird little beings, their ears waggling as they made unidentifiable grunting noises at each other.
Eventually silence fell again and one of the seated creatures turned to look at Artel, if look was what it really did.
"Big thing fall down tunnel yes?"
Artel cleared his throat. "Yes."
"Ah, big thing lost in forest?"
"Yes, trying to get through actually, my friend and I are on a... a journey."
The creature nodded its head sagely, its overlarge ears waggling slightly.
"Big thing will go nowhere, will stay with Varra, as ours."
"What?" The alarm in Artel's voice made him loud and he saw the creatures closet to him wince.
"Big thing hear, too loud, big thing will stay."
Before he could reply he felt something hit him in the back of the head and the world went black, the strange grunting language fading into the darkness as he lost consciousness.

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