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Gathering Shadows – Part 4 February 2, 2013

Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
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Grey headed down the hall to the lower storage caverns with Cavall padding along at his side. The hound’s hackles were standing up, and a snarl curled his muzzle.  Grey put a hand on his head to quiet his growls. “Hush a moment. Let me listen.” Cavall looked up at his master, then went back to watching the hall with fierce intensity.

Grey could still hear the sounds of early morning activity behind him – quiet conversation mixed with the echo of footsteps moving back and forth through the big cavern. He blocked that out and focused on the other end of the tunnel. Gusts of air blew fitfully at the torches on the walls, making them snap and gutter, almost to the point of extinguishing. The hallway itself groaned and grumbled as if he were in the belly of some great stone beast.  Down the throat, and straight to the gullet I go, he thought, laughing quietly to himself. If father saw me jumping at the sound of wind in the tunnels, I’d never live it down.

They had just passed the entrance that led to the cisterns when Cavall let out a deep rip-saw of a growl. The ground beneath their feet started to rattle, and Grey had to put a hand out to steady himself. “What in Hel’s name is going on down here?”

The solid stone wall bulged outwards, and he jerked his hand away. The rattling continued, coming in even pulses, as if something were battering at the cavern walls from inside the stone.  Cavall started scratching at the wall, barking furiously. Grey grabbed his collar and pulled him back. “No Cavall! Heel!”

The words had no sooner left his mouth than the wall exploded outwards, throwing them back and showering the tunnel with razor sharp chunks of rock. Grey and Cavall both yelped as they slammed into the far wall. Grey picked himself up off the floor, head spinning, only to look straight into the face of a nightmare.

Something that looked like a giant millipede larva crawled out of the hole in the wall. It had milky white eyes set above a round maw, ringed with teeth. Hundreds of legs tore at the stone, and its pallid skin pulsed as it heaved the rest of its bulk out into the hallway. Grey put up an Air shield just as the worm lunged down, its teeth undulating as they tried to find purchase to bite through the shield.

“Bloody Hel!” Grey said, instinctively trying to scrabble backwards. Suddenly his joke about gullets wasn’t so funny. Cavall stirred next to him, letting out a plaintive whine as he struggled to get his paws under him.  The worm made a strange convulsive movement, and its maw stretched wider.

“It’s going to swallow us whole!” Grey cried. He reached out with his senses to summon Air to fight with, but the wind had died off. The worm bit down harder, its teeth sinking in, and Grey gagged as its fetid breath seeped through the shield and washed over him.  “Ugly and bad breath, just great…wait, breath…that’s it!”

Grey reached out again and summoned the only bit of moving air left – from the lungs of his attacker. He yanked the air out and the creature whipped its head back, flailing madly as it struggled to breath. Grey scooped up Cavall and put the hound over his shoulders with a grunt of effort, and ran as fast as his shaking legs could take him back up the hallway.

The ground started rocking beneath his feet again, and he heard the alarms being sounded as he burst out into the central cavern. “Bore worms in the lower caverns!” he gasped out. He leaned down to set the heavy hound on the floor.

Someone else ran in from the upper hallways. “Wyverns outside! I went to see what was cutting off the air flow through the tunnels and nearly got my head bit off!  The damn things are dropping rocks over the vent holes!”

One of the healers looked around with wild eyes. “We’re trapped. We can’t get out!”

Grey could see the panic spreading through the room. He grabbed a spear from the rack on the wall and BANG!  He hammered the butt into the floor. Every eye in the place turned on him. “We’re not done yet,” Grey said, his voice commanding. “While there is life, there’s hope. We need only take out the worms. The adult wyverns are too big to get in these tunnels. Tairwyn, can you keep the bore worms from tunneling under us?”

The Mountain kin nodded, his long mustachios bobbing. “Aye laddie, for a little while.”

“Good. Aradann, I need two of your archers at every hall entrance to provide covering fire.”

The dark skinned Forest kin nodded as well. He picked up a stout branch from the wood pile next to the fire, and it stretched out into a heavy, curved bow.  “You may count on us.”

Grey looked around what was left of his people, and at the huddled group of Galen’s healers.  “Everyone who can still fight, gather at the hall entrances, three abreast. If someone falls, pull them back and take their place. Everyone else, summon as much Air as you can for us to fight with. Galen,” he said. “I’m sure your people know what to do with the casualties.”

The elder Air kin looked up from where he was scribbling furiously on a scrap of parchment. “Of course. And I may have an idea that will help. But I will need a little time to pull it off.”

Grey clapped him on the arm. “I was hoping you could whip us up another miracle. We’ll buy you as much time as we can.” He turned back to the hallway and readied the few war castings he knew that could work on limited air flow. The ground started to shake again. “Here they come. Ready yourselves…”

—–

<- Gathering Shadows, Part 3

 

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Comments»

1. J. M. Strother - February 2, 2013

Boreworms and wyverns… things are looking, dare I say it, grim. 😉 Good tension here, Angie.

techtigger - February 5, 2013

*lol* thanks Jon! 🙂


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