The Dragon Chain
By charmdfate (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Disclaimers: These are original characters in an original story that belongs solely to me. I dreamed the whole thing, and believe me, if I can get half of it down on paper I think youre gonna like it. Any resemblance to anyone, living or dead, is purely coincidental. This story will eventually deal with same sex couples, so if this is illegal where you live or it just plain is not your bag, please move on.
Language: This chapter contains mild expletives.
Her words echoed in her ears with each squishy step. The tunnel was all she expected and more. The rough-hewn walls dripped with moisture.. . and insects. She had quit looking down at her feet quite some time ago, as she was no longer sure if it was water she was wading through or something more foul. The air smelled strange. A warm breeze blew about her head, thankfully keeping her from smelling any odors that might have been emanating from the flowing path. She really didnt know why she continued to slog ahead. She guessed it was because she felt it was better to die doing something instead of just lying on the ground in the fetal position (given her surroundings, that was not an option). Besides, she could hear the Father and the rest of the "postulants" following close behind. Which was the main reason she continued to carry the damn shield.
Father Meary insisted she take it, although he was quiet cryptic as to the reason why. He mumbled about it being the key to something, but the stranger did not understand the word the old priest said. When she would have asked more questions, the old man again stated the need to hurry, and with surprising strength shoved the shield into her arms and her through a secret passage all in one move.
She paused for a moment. The sounds behind her were beginning to fade. The Father had told her that he, Gareth, and the others would take shelter in a side passage, to avoid any "accidents" as he called them. Apparently, Gareth had not been the only person to enter the caverns in disbelief; he was just the only one intelligent enough to take the shield.
"Well, might as well keep going. Not like theres anything to go back to," she mumbled to herself, kicking lightly at the liquid flowing around her feet. For a brief moment, she pictured her family, but quickly pushed the thought away. Life was hard enough right now without reliving that mess.
She noticed then that the floor of the tunnel was now completely dry. Her feet scuffed lightly over the dust-covered ground. The breeze playing around her head had also intensified; she could detect a pattern to it: drawing her bangs lightly off her forehead for a count of seven, a pause for a count of three, and then plastering them back down for a count of five. Must have been some kind of air movement system to keep the tunnel air from getting stale. She could think of a lot of things that could be stored down here; the dry, low humidity air would keep wood and textiles beautifully preserved. She was knocked out of her musings by a sudden blast of air that blew her hair violently out behind her. She counted the pause, out loud to ease her nervousness.
"One, two, three four five "
She let her voice trail off as she heard the sound of rocks and small stones being dislodged by something.
"Great. Its a trap; I know its a trap. This is valuable storage space, there must be someone down here and now Im going to get my ass kicked for trying to humor an old man," the stranger ranted to herself, barely making a sound as she vainly searched the stone floor for anything that could constitute a weapon. The shield just was not going to cut it. Sure, she could hide under it, but how long could you do that for? Unfortunately, the damn floor looked positively clean. Not so much as a spec of dust was in this part of the cavern. "Shit!"
Her footsteps faltered as the air began to move again, this time at a much faster (and somehow warmer) pace. The tunnel walls had become noticeably rougher looking, and the isle itself was getting much wider. Where she had been barely able to walk with the shield held out in front of her at the beginning of this journey, the passage would now be wide enough to accommodate three or four of her walking side by side. She also noted that the ceiling, while never so low as to cause her to stoop her tall frame over, now vaulted a good ten feet above her head, and continued to rise. The movement of the air mirrored her thoughts. Drawing her forward, wanting to satisfy her curiosity, and then pushing her away, making her want to drop this damn heavy shield and run. The air was much warmer here, but still very dry. It had a pleasant smell; a mixture of old sandalwood, but with an underlying scent that could only be described as the smell of spring.
And then she sensed it. There was a very wide, open space directly ahead of her, just around a crook in the tunnel. She could see everything clearly, as a dim light was emanating from something just around that corner. She stopped walking, and just stood there for a moment. The air rushed around her, and she counted the pattern: in for four, out for two, in four, out two. She shook herself, realizing that her breathing had unconsciously been mimicking the movement of the air around her. The air suddenly pulled against her body, drawing the stranger toward whatever was around the bend. Just as quickly as it started, it ended. There was no out-pouring of air. Before she could change her mind, the stranger hefted the shield, drew in a sharp breath, held it, ran up to the bend in the tunnel and jumped out into the space beyond, a small part of her hoping it was the underground equivalent to the Grand Canyon and she would die before she was aware of anything.
To be continued