Four: Grimstone Mines
"There it is Rynn. A cave entrance" Arokh said as he noticed the small hole in the rocks landing on a rocky platform just outside from which Jhoni fell.
Rynn jumped off and squatted down to crawl through the small opening, turning her head to look back up at Arokh.
"If I don't come back, watch for me coming out of that large door behind us" she said to her bonded pointing towards the mine entrance.
"Okay" came the reply. "Be careful."
Rynn crawled into the tunnel edging along until it opened out high enough for her to stand. It was very dark in there and she stood for a few moments to let her eyes adjust to the darkness and continued; the light from her flamesword illuminating the walls with a faint orange glow.
Something moved in front of her. “Oh no, not more spiders!” she thought. “Why does every cave have to be populated with these things?” she asked herself. Unsurprisingly, her flamesword destroyed them easily cutting the bodies into shreds and casting orange yellow flickering light around her as the bodies burst into flame.
Eventually, the short tunnel led into an abandoned part of the mine closed many centuries ago. The torches fastened to the walls were not lit and cobwebs hung from every place possible. Probing round in the darkness, she came across an old drilling machine. “I wonder if this thing still works?” she thought examining the massive wheeled machine.
She pressed the power switch on the control crystal but nothing happened. "Bah, the power crystal is missing!" she said with dismay as she noticed the hole by the side of the controls. Not one to give up, she began to search the tunnels that ran like a rabbit warren around the abandoned mine. She found useful items such as health potions and some more arrows for her bow but no power crystal. Suddenly, she saw something in a skeleton's hand. “Yes, that's it” she thought as she ran over to pick it up hands trembling with excitement.
"It doesn't look like much" she said to herself and returned to the machine not giving a second thought about the long forgotten miners who had perished in that place many years ago.
Rynn placed the crystal into the machine and it burst into life with a
thunderous roar, the noise echoing around the tunnels like thunder. Shrugging,
she pressed the forward lever and the machine lurched forward drilling through
the wall right into a crowd of wartocks standing around some explosive barrels
which exploded with a thunderous boom. The explosion destroyed the machine but
it killed the wartocks and left a hole big enough for Rynn to crawl through to
reach the main mine. Jhoni had obviously come from the main mine another way but
she wasn’t going to search around in the darkness all day.
Grinning with satisfaction, Rynn crawled through the hole and made her way over to the front door. As Jhoni had said, she was pleased to find it was not guarded and she pulled the lever activating the mechanism lifting the huge door.
Rynn walked outside, she could see Arokh sat up by the cave she had entered. "Arokh!" she shouted to attract his attention. He turned his head to see where his bonded was calling him and flew over to where she was stood. As he landed, a dragon came towards them at alarming speed.
"A dragon of the Elder Breed!" Arokh exclaimed with amazement observing the large winged beast "I wonder who awoke him or her?"
"That dragon does not have a rider, Arokh." Rynn added as she squinted against the sun to get a better view of the winged creature.
"You are right Ry... Huh?" Arokh replied stopping in mid sentence as a ball of poison gas left the green dragon's jaws and came hurtling towards them.
"Quick get on my back" The dragon demanded. Without hesitating, Rynn obeyed and Arokh lifted into the air firing a warning shot back at the dragon.
"Why do you attack?" he shouted. The dragon did not reply but instead hurled another ball of poison at him. Rynn coughed with the fumes and drank a health potion to heal. "I think it wants to kill us Arokh."
"No kidding" Arokh said sarcastically returning fire hitting the dragon in the chest burning its scales. A couple more shots were fired between the two and Arokh managed to get in close slashing the creature's side with his talons tearing through the scaly hide like butter. The dragon screamed, blood pouring from the open wound and shortly it began to show signs of weakening from the massive blood loss. “I ask again, for the last time. Why do you attack me?” Arokh shouted making one last attempt at asking why he was attacked but still no reply came.
"I regret to do this but its my only choice" he said as he breathed a steady stream of flame straight into the dragon's face burning its eyes. It gave a shriek and crashed into the river below with a huge splash.
Suddenly, a thundering noise sounded and a group of large green crystals grew out of the ground next to the dragon's body, lightning flashing from the crystal striking the rocks around it. A much smaller crystal appeared hovering in the air between the surrounding crystal columns.
"What's that?" Rynn asked, startled by the lightning bolts and rather surprised to see a set of green crystals growing out of the ground.
Smiling at his bonded, Arokh explained. "It’s a rune of power. One appears upon the death of a Dragon of the Elder breed or equally powerful creature. I can use it to gain the breath weapon that dragon had but regrettably it does not last forever. I'm a fire dragon you see."
Does it contain any other powers?" Rynn continued, trying to make
"No" Arokh snapped impatiently.
"Well, what happens if you already have poison?" she asked inquisitively.
Arokh sighed. "You ask a lot of questions don't you? Well, if I already have that ability, then a rune does not form. It’s as simple as that. By the way, it does not matter if I or you kill a equally powerful creature as we are effectively one."
Arokh looked down at the dead dragon and flew into the rune. With a blinding flash of light, Arokh absorbed the rune giving him the additional breath weapon of poison. Not as powerful as his own flame breath but useful nevertheless. When it was over, he landed by the mine entrance and stopped, the snow turning red where he stood with the blood from his deceased foe. He slowly wiped his feet in the snow to clean them and turned his head to look back at Rynn.
"What have I done?" He cried in dismay. "I have killed one of my own kind! A female at that."
Rynn jumped off and stood in front of the great red dragon. "She would have killed you Arokh. You had no choice,” she said softly, understanding the dragon’s anguish.
"Maybe, but what I want to know is who awakened her" he grumbled.
"She might not have gone into eternal sleep when the others did at the end of the Dark Wars" Rynn suggested, trying to think of the simple explanation.
"Don't be stupid! That was six centuries ago. Even a hatchling hatched then would be long dead. How long do you think we live for?" he snapped angrily.
The dragon saw the look in her eyes and replied "I'm sorry for snapping at you Rynn. I guess you can imagine what I feel like right now."
Rynn placed her hand on his side. "Well, maybe someone found her soul crystal and accidentally awakened her. The good thing about this is that there are dragons of the Elder Breed in the world. You are not alone for after all!"
Arokh snorted. "I am alone. Don't you know that it would be a near impossible task to find the soul crystals of all of the dragons of the Order who's riders were killed and then finding their lairs? Most of the crystals will have been lost forever or destroyed. It’s just a matter of luck if you stumble across one."
Again trying to sway Arokh’s feelings, Rynn thought of the lore she had been taught. "Well, what about the other Elder Breed dragons, the ones that were neither part of the Order or the
Arokh gave another sigh. "There were lots of dragons who were neutral to us
but they were intelligent beings and spoke fluent draconian and / or human
tongue. There were even unbonded dragons that served in the Order of the Flame.
They did not have soul crystals, as you need the Dragonstone to create one if a
dragon wishes to bond for the first time. These dragons were put to eternal
sleep by Mala-Shae the Mother Dragon. Only she can awaken them again."
"Well, why don't we find this Mother Dragon?" Rynn suggested.
"If only it was so simple, if only." the Dragon replied seeing Rynn's puzzled expression. "I will explain it to you some other time, but for now we should concentrate on what lies ahead."
Rynn shrugged and mounted the dragon. "Let’s see if we can find Delon."
they walked into the mines, distant noises of mine equipment and pick axes could
be heard carried along by the slight breeze that blew through the tunnels. Only
the flickering torches and the occasional eerie green glow from the grimstone
crystals lining the walls lighted the interior of the mine.
They flew past a large raised wooden bridge over a deep chasm and began their decent down a steep slope leading into the bowels of the mountain. The temperature also got noticeably colder as they got deeper and Rynn began to shiver; combat kept her warm but she was now really starting to notice the cold.
"I wonder why they are mining this grimstone? I thought it was a banned substance" Rynn asked the dragon as they descended deeper.
"It was banned, but obviously it’s not now. Whatever the Wartocks are using it for cannot be good and it would appear they are mining it in huge quantities. They are obviously up to something and we should stop them especially seem as we are here" Arokh explained as quietly as possible not wanting to draw attention to himself.
Suddenly, pain filled human screams sounded from nearby as they reached a fork in the path. Rynn looked horrified and even Arokh stopped to listen for a moment. The noise sounded again.
Arokh’s sensitive ears listened again to determine the sound’s direction. "It’s coming from the left. Come on, let’s see what's going on" he suggested gaining speed turning down the left-hand fork. A Grull came up to attack but Arokh turned it to ash in seconds. They stopped when the tunnel dead-ended; blocked by rotten wooden boards. The scream sounded again from behind the boards and Rynn jumped off her reptilian companion smashing her way through the flimsy blockade walking into a large cave brightly lit by torches hanging from the ceiling and walls. She hid behind a couple of boulders and watched two wartocks taking to a man bound to a stretching rack. "Another torture chamber" Rynn whispered to herself.
One of the Wartocks looked round startled and Rynn squatted lower hoping he had not seen her. The Wartock turned to the man again and began to speak, Rynn could clearly hear their conversation.
"One last time, tell me where the Hider is!" one of them demanded.
The man on the rack sobbed and replied "The Hider is in the east tunnel!"
The Wartock grunted "You lie. There is no east tunnel!" he nodded to his companion who began to quickly turn the wheel of the rack stretching the man even more. There was a sickening crunch and a horrible tearing noise followed by screams of agony as the man's arms and legs were ripped clean off. Laughing the Wartocks began to head for Rynn still hiding behind the rock. Heart pounding she screamed in rage and ran straight at the two wartocks taking them completely by surprise.
managed to injure both wartocks before they could react, she ran from the rock
and attacking at deadly speed. However, she soon noticed her mistake of rushing
into things as four more were just around the corner eating at a table. They
noticed the commotion and came to their companion's aid surrounding Rynn
laughing and jeering. Swallowing hard she thought it was all over but a thought
suddenly struck her. The flamesword had a devastating fire ring attack!
"Take this!" She shouted as she rubbed her finger over the small crystal embedded in the pommel releasing a deadly ring of fire burning all of her adversaries in one blast. The cavern was filled with Wartock cries of pain as their hairy bodies burst into flame. They were too busy trying to put out the flames to notice Rynn release another burst ensuring their painful deaths; a fair price to pay for what they had done to the humans Rynn thought.
As she looked further around the cavern, she noticed a lower section with a few nooks cut into the walls blocked with steel bars - the prison cells. She walked over to where two wooden beams crossed over the area below and walked onto them so she could get a better view. It looked like there were no human prisoners down there; all of the cells were empty bar one in which sat a lone Grull. Two wartocks were on guard walking up and down. Rynn readied her bow and unloaded a few arrows into each one and jumped down to finish them off.
"Get me out of here!" the Grull beckoned from his small prison cell furnished only with a wooden bench upon which sat a single lantern, its candle almost burnt out.
Rynn turned round upon hearing the creature's plea and crept up to the prison cell door looking out for more Wartocks.
"Why should I?" she asked the weary looking creature who observed her with tired eyes.
"I help you" he begged.
"Oh really, how?" she asked half interested that this disgusting thing might possibly know the whereabouts of her brother.
"I give you mine map and tell you where prisoners be..."
"Prisoners?" Rynn asked interrupting him. "Okay, Ill do it. No funny business okay?" she threatened showing the creature her sword. She pulled the lever and the gate opened, the Grull running out to stand in front of her. Rynn noticed his green patchwork kilt torn and bloodstained - evidence of previous battles, most probably with humans. She really had the urge to run him through there and then but had to fight hard with herself not to; she needed information.
"The map" he grunted as he gave Rynn a crudely drawn map on the back of a piece of leather, poorly drawn but useful nevertheless.
"Big human work in mines. Small human taken to be evaluated" he continued pointing to part of the map indicated by pictures of pickaxes.
Not interested in what the Grull was showing her, she impatiently threatened it with her sword, the creature drawing back in fear. "What do you mean small human evaluated?" she demanded.
The Grull gave a blank expressionless look, not understanding what the human had asked. "Small humans to be evaluated" he said again.
"This is hopeless" Rynn sighed. "You find Hider. You find Hider" the Grull suggested. "The Hider. What is it? A human?" Rynn asked, her patience growing thinner by the minute.
"Hider, is big human. You find" the Grull continued, his face drawing into a wide grin. Rynn thought for a moment "this Orc obviously knows something and he seems friendly. I'd better trust him." It was all she had to go on.
"Okay, thanks. Ill be on my way" She finally said and began to climb a nearby stack of crates to reach the area where she killed the six wartocks. She reached the top and looked at the charred remains of the wartocks lying on the dusty floor. She smiled to herself and returned to Arokh.
"Anything exciting happen?" she asked the great red dragon noticing that he seemed pleased to see her.
"Exciting? Yeah right" he said sarcastically answering her question.
Rynn smiled at the dragon's sarcasm and jumped onto his back stopping for a moment to examine the map the Grull had gave her. "I found a map of the mines Arokh. We need to go back to that fork and follow the right path, it will lead us to the first mine face."
The dragon nodded in reply and obeyed Rynn's instructions his feet making a loud thud as he ran through the tunnels.
The silence was suddenly broken by dozens of bats flying down from the ceiling hitting Rynn with their wings as they went past, disturbed from their sleep by the soul bound pair. Rynn screamed and Arokh looked round startled but continued to look ahead when he realised what the noise was. "Surely you are not afraid of them are you?" he asked his companion.
"Bats? They're hideous" Rynn exclaimed jumping off Arokh's back to open the door in front of them. Arokh grunted and laughed to himself. "Afraid of bats" he said shaking his head in amusement.
"Yeah, well you must have a phobia of something" Rynn snapped back.
"Me, a phobia. HAH!" the dragon snorted. "Whatever you say Rynn."
At the other side of the door
was a wide tunnel leading slightly upwards. Human mineworkers picked away at
grimstone crystals along the tunnel sides, their pickaxes making a clinking
sound as they hit the crystal echoing in the freezing mine. As Rynn and Arokh
got closer, Rynn could see something strange about the workers, their eyes had a
bright green glow; a sign of continued grimstone exposure.
"Are these the people from your village, Rynn" the dragon asked softly, his voice almost a whisper. Rynn looked at the two closest workers but did not recognise them.
"No, I don't think so Arokh, Ill get off and see if I can talk to them" she said loudly, her voice startling one of the men nearby.
"Be quiet!" Arokh snapped. "I wouldn't go near them; they aren't human anymore. Their wills have completely gone, just look at their eyes." There was a pause and he continued "They will only mine grimstone and nothing else. Once the grimstone has gone and they are no longer required, they will commit suicide" he whispered.
"NO!" Rynn cried. "We have to save them!"
"Shut up!" Arokh hissed. "Now you have done it,” he said sternly as the workers broke off from their work and came to attack with their pickaxes. Arokh responded by dousing them in a deadly cloud of flame burning their bodies till they exploded in a shower of green blood.
"What did you do that for?!" Rynn exclaimed, horrified that the dragon had just killed her fellow human beings. He was supposed to protect the dragon and human races, not kill them!
"I was putting them out of their misery. Its not possible to reverse the effects of grimstone, they were effectively dead anyway" Arokh explained, his eyes showing signs of impatience.
Rynn felt anger well up inside her and she kicked the dragon hard in his side and immediately felt a sharp pain in her ribs. She had hurt him but hurt herself too through the bond.
"Rynn!" Arokh snarled. "Don't do that again!"
"Don't kill them Arokh, please" she pleaded "We might find a way to save them."
"How many times do I have to explain things Rynn? I have lived for over 200 years before I was committed to eternal sleep and I know that there is no cure for grimstone poisoning! Now please, stop your whining before I loose my temper" he growled muttering something in draconian under his breath.
Rynn wiped a tear away and jumped off the dragon's back. She looked up the tunnel towards the mine face and turned back to Arokh who noticed her sadness.
"I won't kill them unless our lives are threatened. I promise,” he eventually said, his eyes still glowing with anger. Arokh was by legend a dragon known to easily loose his temper and whining humans were one thing that really annoyed him.
Rynn climbed back on his back and they made their way towards the mineface ignoring the slaves as Rynn wanted.
a sudden crash the gate to the mineface slammed down to the floor, the wooden
tree trunks making up the gate shuddering with the impact.
"It looks like someone has noticed our presence" Rynn said quietly remembering Arokh's comments a few moments ago. Arokh glared through the gate noting the Wartock standing by the lever who had obviously just shut it. His massive head turned to Rynn. "With the noise you made I am not surprised. You had better get off and open this gate" he said in his normal voice not bothering to talk quietly now that the enemy knew they were there.
Rynn slid off the dragon's scales neatly landing on the ground not even bothering to answer him; she was still angry at his attitude towards her a few moments ago. Deep down though, she was beginning to like the great red dragon now that they seemed to have an understanding of each other and that they shared the same sense of humour. The dragon could show compassion and friendship despite his offhand, arrogant nature and that is what mattered in her opinion. She looked the dragon in the eye and walked between the wooden bars of the huge gate into the large mining cavern inside.
The Wartock had turned his back giving Rynn a perfect chance to land the first strike. Now confident in her weapons and her abilities, she made short work of him and collected the health potions he was carrying. His long sword was no better than her own so she decided to leave it; it would seem that there was plenty more available should she need them. Her eyes flicked quickly around the cavern, noting that no one else was around except for a few miners who posed no real threat. Her eyes flicked to a large wooden lever, a steel cable connected to its base running through a channel on the ground to the door mechanism.
"Ah-ah" Rynn said to herself as she pulled the heavy lever, moving home to its open position with a resounding 'click'. With a large clattering of chains, the huge door slowly lifted and Arokh came through flying over to hover above her, his powerful wings casting a draught blowing the dust off the top of the nearby barrels.
"That was easy" he remarked, landing beside her. "However, there does not seem to be a way out; that gate ahead is locked from the other side" he continued, pointing to a similarly sized gate with his outstretched left foreclaw.
"Yeah, maybe I can get around to the other side" Rynn suggested. "Let’s take a look around."
The dragon dipped to let her onto his back and they flew around the cavern looking for any more possible exits.
"Wait Arokh. What's that down there? It looks like a tunnel,” Rynn said pointing to a dark area of the mine face where a small tunnel entrance could just be seen.
have eyes like a hawk, Rynn" the dragon chuckled.
are not as good as yours" she replied as they landed outside the entrance,
Rynn jumping off to investigate.
Sounds of a few wartocks could be heard nearby just inside the tunnel. Rynn cautiously peered inside and saw at least five standing in a group talking in their own language, unfortunately one she didn't understand. She turned back to the dragon "Wartocks just ahead, Arokh. It will be a tough fight alone but I have an idea; Ill attract their attention and you burn them as they come through, okay?"
Arokh grinned and poked his head through to see for himself. "The pleasure is all mine,” he said, his red eyes glittering in the torchlight like jewels.
Rynn ran through the entrance shouting "Over here you great hairy, stupid, foul smelling idiots!" and quickly ran back to the safety of her fiery companion. The plan worked and the furious wartocks came running through the door whilst Arokh burned them one by one. "Feel my searing flame!" he roared as he roasted the last one. It was clear to Rynn that the dragon was enjoying himself.
Rynn shook her head slowly at the Wartock's stupidity. "You would think that the others wouldn't follow if their companions were being killed. They just carry on regardless,” she said looking at the charred remains on the dusty floor, still smouldering.
"Wartocks aren't exactly known for intelligence" the dragon said thoughtfully "but they make up for it in brute force. They are not to be underestimated" he continued absently kicking at one of the dead wartocks head.
"I kinda noticed that, they are no match for you but they are a challenge for me" Rynn said sarcastically.
The dragon laughed "I have my own challenges in the air" he said, smoke wisping from his nostrils.
Rynn smiled and with the coast now clear she disappeared into the small tunnel entrance.
"Good luck Rynn" Arokh said from behind.
continued along the dimly lit tunnel eventually coming to a path along the top
of a steep underground cliff, which seemingly had no bottom. Rynn cautiously
peered over the edge seeing nothing but the odd green glow from the grimstone
glittering like emeralds against the black of the dark void. Her heart skipped a
beat and she pressed herself against the wall edging down the path avoiding the
cliff as much as possible as she had a mild fear of heights.
Rynn pulled out the map she was given earlier; part of it was bloodstained from her recent fight with the Wartock but still legible. Wiping the blood away she examined the map and then her eyes looked up to the sign in front of her showing the way to the second mine face. She was glad to find she was on the right track, these mines seemed to be not particularly complex. Wartocks created them after all.
The path led across a wooden bridge and out into the open, the fresh mountain air making a change from the stuffy mines, which smelt of Wartocks, sweat and rotting corpses. The snow had stopped falling and several miners were hacking away at slabs of grimstone embedded in the rocks of the circular rocky basin cut into the mountain itself. The basin was formed by centuries of mining; this part of the mine had been used for thousands of years, well before the Order.
couple of wartocks were keeping watch over the miners which Rynn defeated with
ease taking only minor injuries herself. Examining the map, Rynn found that this
was obviously the second mine face and a tunnel seemed to eventually go round to
the other side of the gate Arokh mentioned. There was a lot to go through to get
to it however.
Rynn smashed open a couple of nearby barrels gaining a fire crystal and looked around for the tunnel entrance to the rest of the mines. Seeing nothing at ground level, her eyes gazed up to the top of the basin where a path carved into the rock led round the edge behind a cliff. "That must be it" Rynn thought to herself. The only way up was a wooden tower with three platforms interconnected with ladders erected from the basin floor. The only enemy in sight was a lone Grull on the top platform, which, by the look of things it was only necessary to get to the second platform. Easy she thought.
Rynn began to climb the ladders, creaking with every step. They were designed to hold the weight of a Wartock so surely they wouldn't break. Eventually, she reached the second platform but the bridge across to the opposite tunnel had been retracted but the gap was short enough to jump if she made a run at it. She was much lighter than a Wartock and could make it.
With a boost of confidence, she backed up and ran leaping across neatly landing on the other side unscathed. "Nice try!" she shouted back at the Grull on the third platform above. He just responded by waving his club in the air and grunting to another one higher up on the ledge. Rynn ignored him and began to continue up the tunnel but soon found out why she had made a grave mistake of letting the creature live. A huge rock came thundering down the tunnel, pushed from the ledge, which obviously was the other end. Rynn quickly ducked into a small alcove, the rock missing her by inches as it hurtled past. A huge crash was heard followed by the sound of splintering wood; the rock had smashed straight into the tower! Laughing at the Grull's stupidity she ran back down the tunnel in time to see the structure go crashing down to the floor below. Now, the only way was forwards, but she was confident she was going the right way.
Still smiling she went back up the tunnel to the ledge killing the Grull who pushed the rock as she past and followed the ledge deeper into the mine. Eventually, she came to a fork in the path and a couple of signs pointed left and right. Pulling out the map again, it looked like one went to the grimstone processing rooms and the other to the barracks. Seeming as she was low on arrows and her flame sword was getting worn out, she decided to go to the barracks to see what she could find. With a bit of luck, there wouldn't be many Wartocks around, as they would all be working. She would go back for Arokh later, he would just have to wait a little while longer.
reached the barracks a good ten minutes later dealing with Wartocks as she went.
She gained a few homing arrows, guided by magic and a huge long sword, which she
added to her collection found in storage crates littering the area.
Entering the barracks, she was alerted by the sound of heavy snoring from sleeping Wartocks. Deciding to follow the sounds, Rynn found several wartocks sleeping on the floor in one of the quarters. "A perfect chance to use this" she thought to herself as she reached for the flame crystal which she had recently found. Smiling to herself, she slowly crept into the middle of the room treading as softly as she could. Despite her best efforts, her footsteps could easily be heard on the stones magnified by the echoing of the small room. "Take this!" she shouted and let loose a blast of flame making the wartocks wake up instantly; their cries of surprise and pain filling the room. Not waiting for them to reach their weapons, she let loose another two of the five charges in the crystal and whipped out her sword finishing them off before they could retaliate.
She put her hand over her mouth to mask the smoke and left the room walking into the opposite dining quarters.
The dining room was empty bar a single wooden table in the middle of the room surrounded by 12 chairs, some smaller than others; the Grull and Wartocks shared the same barracks. Rynn suddenly noticed she was very hungry, her worry of Delon’s safety put her off thinking of food. Fortunately some fresh cooked meat lay on one of the plates, whoever it belonged to wasn’t far away. She reached over and ate as much as she could before a Grull coming in the door behind her interrupted her short snack. She saw the reflection in the shiny metal plate and whipped round with her sword cutting the creature’s head off in one sweep. Put off the rest of her new found meal, she left to explore the one remaining room that was of any use; the armoury.
Rynn was disappointed to find the room empty of weapons bar a single bow, which she used to replace her worn longbow. Walking round the room, she was relieved to find several pieces of chain mail hung on the wall all different sizes, she was even able to find one that fitted her almost perfectly. As she was about to leave, she noticed a key on a pedestal. “I wonder what this is for? Well it does not look like anyone is using it, Ill take it” she thought as she grabbed the key.
The moment the key left the pedestal, the iron gate in the doorway closed with a clang and the torches in the room flickered and went out. A mild panic began in Rynn's throat. She had obviously activated a trap or something and was left in darkness awaiting her fate. She swallowed hard and then a knight clad in thick armour materialising in front of her suddenly broke the silence.
"Who are you?" She asked whilst reaching for her flamesword. The light it gave off illuminated the room slightly with its flickering flames. The Knight did not reply and drew a flaming spear, which he hurled at Rynn missing her by inches. She could feel the heat of the flames on her legs.
"What the hell?" She muttered under her breath and ran behind a dividing wall drawing her bow and equipping it with the magic arrows. The clinking sound of the knight's armour came closer as he investigated where his prey had gone. Rynn jumped out from the wall unloading arrows as fast as she could as the knight ran towards her. The room was lit up brightly by the green-blue trails left by the magical arrows as they shot from the bow seeking out their target like snakes writing in the darkness. The Knight grunted as each one hit home piercing the armour.
The knight was almost upon her when he drew two flameswords similar to her own but distinctly larger. Rynn responded by drawing her own flamesword, her best armour piercing weapon she possessed. Suddenly the knight said something like "ten huurr!" and a devastating ring of fire spiralled out from his feet; Rynn now knew what it was like for a Wartock to be on the receiving end of her flamesword's fire ring attack. She quickly did a backwards flip avoiding most of the fire but it was too quick for her and her legs were engulfed in flames burning the skin. She shrieked in agony and ran at the flame knight who attacked with lightning speed; his dual flameswords lighting the dark room with vivid yellow light. Rynn tried to avoid his attacks as much as possible but suffered massive burns to her chest and back. With a final cry, she drove her sword into the knight's eyeslits killing him instantly. She fell to the floor and crawled over to where her backpack lay on the floor, ripped off by the knight's sword.
Rynn was almost done for, she could feel her breathing getting slower and slower and her vision started to blur. A searing pain went through her head and her leg hurt where the exposed burnt skin scraped on the floor. All she had to do was drink a potion of life and she would be fine.
Shouts of nearby wartocks came closer and the gate into the armoury began to slowly open just as Rynn reached her backpack. She fumbled about and grabbed a vial of the vital blue liquid pulling the cork from the bottle with desperate hands. With a sigh of relief, she drank its contents instantly curing her injuries, the pain mostly drifting away. She looked at the dead knight not believing how lucky she was to survive that fight. She certainly did not want to meet another one of them.
Rynn reached down and put on her backpack and left the room; now would be a good time to go back to Arokh.
examined the map and saw that there was no way out other than the way she came.
The left-hand path at the fork she came to earlier would take her through a
third mine face before she got to Arokh. She could see that there was also some
sort of Grimstone processing equipment in that area too. "Maybe that is
where the hider is" she wondered. Confident that she had killed all of
the Wartocks and Grull in the area, she quickly began to head for the forked
path; the sooner she got back to the safety of her dragon the better.
The lift leading from the barracks slowly came to a rest on the cave floor the winding mechanism creaking to a stop with a clank as the lever moved to the down position. Rynn crept out of the cave looking for any enemies that may of followed her; she was only a short distance from the forked path which lay at the other side of the open arena below. Suddenly, a large booming noise sounded, like something heavy was walking around. Small stones were shook loose from rocky overhangs falling onto the path and a mining cart's brakes were released with the vibration sending it rolling down the path beside her. Cautiously, she peered round a rock overlooking the area a few feet below. There was the biggest creature she had ever seen; it was hairy like a Wartock and walked like an ape, its fists almost scraping on the ground. Below its tusks, its huge mouth opened and uttered a resounding roar that could be heard for miles. She had been spotted.
"What the hell is that!?" she said out aloud and ran back into the safety of the cave just as a huge boulder crashed into the wall showering her in fragments of rock. The creature stomped about throwing more rocks with such force that all of them exploded on the arena walls. Rynn pressed herself against the cave wall a few feet from the entrance as rock fragments continued to crash through missing her by only inches. Eventually, the assault stopped. Blinking, she crept back to the rock and saw that a couple of wartocks had come into the arena from the other side. The giant was still stomping around, seemingly run out of things to throw.
Rynn grinned and readied her bow to fill the hideous thing with arrows but all of a sudden, the creature picked up one of the wartocks and hurled it at her. "Yearrghhh!" the Wartock yelled as he sailed through the air splattering on the rocks nearby showering Rynn with blood. The other Wartock had wisely fled for his life and the giant no longer had things to throw at her. It bellowed again and began to run up the path towards her. "Oh crap" Rynn muttered wiping the Wartock’s blood from her face running back into the cave frantically finding somewhere to hide. She squatted behind some nearby crates just as the giant's imposing figure loomed in the doorway. "He's too big to fit" Rynn realised with relief.
Suddenly, she remembered the greatsword and had an idea; the sword she found earlier had a wonderfully long blade, long enough to hit the creature's legs whilst remaining in the safety of the cave. She equipped it and began to run backwards and forwards hacking away at the creature’s legs till the bone were visible. Now, bleeding heavily, the creature began to retreat slowly roaring in pain but Rynn wasn't going to let it get away; she equipped her bow picking up some nearby poison arrows and unloaded them into its back. The creature finally gave a groan and fell to the floor with a crash, the ground shaking like a mini earthquake.
Rynn leant on her sword and breathed out heavily; she wondered what that thing was and how it managed to get there in the first place, the two tunnels leading to the arena were too small for it to fit through. Shrugging, she headed back to the fork and took the path leading to the third mineface, according to the map only moments away from Arokh.
As she ventured up the tunnel, she encountered a couple of wartocks but they were no match for her long sword. It was a heavy weapon and couldn't be used for long without tiring her out but it prevented her from being hit whilst fighting due to its long blade. She walked out of the end of the tunnel and stopped to observe the scene below her. A muddy path wound round the mineface towards where Arokh was waiting and a fork led off to another door that she presumed was the processing area.
"That can wait, I need Arokh first" she said to herself as she headed down the path. A unexpected shriek sounded from above and a ball of poisonous gas hit the ground nearby. A Blackwing!
Rynn looked up with horror and saw the feathered creature hovering nearby. She would have no chance against it without Arokh; she had used up all of her arrows. There was only one thing to do; make a run for it.
Summoning up all of her strength, she ran down the muddy path pursued by her aerial oppressor hurling poisonous fumes at her as she went. She put her weapons away and grabbed a couple of health potions so she could drink them on the run; Arokh wasn't far away now. A couple of Wartocks came up ahead to attack but hung back when they saw the blackwing behind; the blast radius of its attacks was devastating to any nearby beings. The tunnel entrance finally loomed ahead after what seemed like an eternity of running and Rynn literally dove in looking back with relief that the blackwing hadn't followed. Wiping her brow, she peered into the dark tunnel letting her eyes adjust to the sudden change of light level.
She blinked and squinted into the tunnel noticing a group of Wartocks running towards her to attack so the agile human quickly grabbed the fire crystal letting off the two remaining charges and finishing them off with the long sword. Heart racing she ran down the tunnel to the wooden gate and pulled the lever beside it.
"Arokh!" she shouted into the cavern; she was back at the first mineface recognising the layout of the cavern. The dragon lazily sauntered over and yawned.
"What have you been up to? I felt that you got into serious trouble whilst you were away; I thought my time had come already" he questioned, his head cocked to one side when he noticed her bloodstained clothes.
"Slaying just about every Wartock in this damn mine. The pain you felt was probably when I was attacked by a knight wielding dual flame swords similar to this one" Rynn said whilst holding out the flame sword to show Arokh. "He also threw flaming spears from a distance that appeared from nowhere" she added shaking some debris from her hair.
The dragon suddenly gave a look of horror and stared at the ground and groaned. He glanced back up at his companion and gave a faint smile.
"What's up, Arokh?" she asked noting his sudden dismay.
"What you encountered was probably a flame knight. They were members of the Dark Union; basically suits of armour possessed by a spirit. They were typically commanders who looked over the front line troops of Grull and Wartocks but some served the Dark Lord, Navaros himself."
The dragon paused and noticed Rynn's blank expression and continued to explain "Only a sorcerer or mage is capable of bringing them to life. I don't suppose you found any more did you?" he asked cautiously.
"No, but I just fought this gigantic creature, some 10 times bigger than a Wartock" Rynn remarked whilst climbing onto Arokh's back, the warmth offering comfort and relief.
"What did the creature look like, Rynn?" the dragon asked with concern.
"Big, brown hair all over its body and a huge mouth! He also threw rocks and even Wartocks at me" she answered shaking her head and tidying her hair the best she could.
The dragon gave a sigh "It might be a giant, Rynn. A race of creatures that originated from the eastern wild lands not usually found in these cold lands. They too served the Dark Union, possessed by Navaros's magic." There was a brief pause whilst he took a breath thinking that it could be possible that they have been breeding and spread to other lands. "Have you seen one before?" he questioned, his head turning round to face his rider.
"No” was the short, immediate reply.
"Rynn, it would seem that there is something sinister going on, the awakened Elder Breed Dragon, the Flame Knight, the mining of the grimstone and the Giant. It’s all starting to make sense,” Arokh said thoughtfully.
"Atimar did say the Order would be the only way of defeating this evil" Rynn pointed out.
"I would have really liked to talk with Atimar, I guess he knew a lot about the Order. But seem as he is dead, we will have to wait and see what we come across. There is obviously a powerful mage or sorcerer behind all of this but there's only one way to confirm it, that is for me to see for myself."
The dragon looked at Rynn again and said sternly "There almost certainly will be difficult battles ahead and it will not be easy. Are you sure you are up to the task?"
Rynn nodded "My brother may be in grave danger. That thought alone will keep me going. I am a capable fighter and can deal with Grull and Wartocks easily."
Arokh grunted in reply. "I would agree you are a good fighter, I don't doubt that and I have confidence in you. Come on Rynn, let’s get going" Arokh suggested, his voice booming in the tunnel.
"Be careful Arokh, there's a blackwing outside" she warned.
Arokh snorted. "Nothing I can't take care of."
The pair left the tunnel Arokh attacking the blackwing on sight, easily killing it in a few blasts of flame. He hovered in the air and shot balls of flame at the Wartocks below, making it easier for his bonded companion.
"I guess you didn't find Delon,” he said abruptly. "He must have been taken elsewhere, there is a gateway the Dark Union used to use to the south-eastern continent not far from here."
Rynn gave a surprised look "The south-eastern continent is where
"Yes, it used to be the headquarters of the Order some 35 years after the Order was formed. The Order originated from near here though, in the Surdana province. You know when villagers made allies with the neighbouring dragons some one thousand years ago? Arokh explained, his voice almost a whisper.
"I never took a lot of notice of the legends to be honest, I thought it was a load of silly stories. However I was wrong" Rynn answered shuffling about on his back.
"Well, let’s go then" Arokh suggested as he began to make his way to the passageway between the mountains.
"Wait! We are not done yet Arokh, we need to find the Hider. A Grull told me about him, he knows where my brother is" Rynn said, tapping the dragon on the neck.
"It may be a trap, I wouldn't trust a Grull at all, you would be stupid to believe anything one told you." Arokh laughed scornfully.
"Well, I'm going to check it out anyway. Land by that door down there" Rynn commanded pointing to the door leading to the processing rooms.
"Do as you please. But don't come crying to me when it doesn't work out" the dragon growled.
"Sarcastic git" Rynn thought to herself as she jumped off to open the door.
"Locked!" she said turning to Arokh who rolled his eyes and looked away. "Try the key" she thought as she pulled the key guarded by the knight from her pocket. She inserted it into the lock and the door swung open with a creak of its rusting hinges. "There must be something important in here for it to be guarded so well” she thought. "The Hider has to be in here."
sound of the grimstone processing plant was getting louder as Rynn progressed
down the wide tunnel, the walls wet with rain and snow that had soaked through
the ground and found its way into the mine system. Rynn placed one hand on the
slimy, wet wall and crouched behind a nearby crate when she heard voices ahead.
Her feet made slight squelching noises on the muddy floor as she moved around
for a better view.
A Grull was sleeping on the tunnel floor, on one of the only dry parts. Another came up to him and immediately started shouting and threatening him; he had obviously fallen asleep on duty and the other Grull was not best pleased. Smiling at the amusing scene, Rynn continued to observe as one of the Grull went up to the huge crushing machine and activated it. A thunderous roar echoed around the tunnels as it burst into life, occasional splintering noises could be heard as the raw grimstone was crushed into small fragments under the huge hammers.
Running out from her hiding place, Rynn ran at the two Grull, taking advantage of the noise of the machine to get the upper hand. She dealt with them in a matter of seconds and looked around the cave she was now in. A rail track ran through the cave leading to two boarded up tunnels and a further track led back the way she came but she noticed the tracks had not been used for a while, they were all broken and rusty. The two tunnels both had signs on the boarded entrances stating 'Danger! Keep out!' in three separate languages.
Slightly disappointed, Rynn examined her map and saw that the tunnels were not shown, it would not be a good idea to venture through; the tunnels had been closed for a reason and were probably too dangerous.
“No way out” Rynn thought to herself as she examined the map again. “Wait a minute, yes. There is another way,” she thought as another route was shown leading from the cave she was in. Her eyes looked around the cave and she eventually spotted a small tunnel above the crusher. The only problem was the ladder leading up to it was broken; the only other way was to walk along the top of the crusher as it was moving up and down!
"Bah" Rynn snorted as she climbed onto the machine. Below her was a conveyor belt bringing grimstone to be crushed under the four hammers ahead of her. She could make it if she used the tops of the hammers as stepping stones but if she fell, it would mean certain death. Observing the timings of the huge hammers she jumped onto the first, jumping off to the second just as it came up to the sharp ceiling which would squash her above. The next two were easy and she made a final leap from the fourth hammer into the tunnel, neatly landing in some algae slipping and falling on her back knocking the breath out of her for a moment.
"That wasn't so hard,” she said as she picked herself up and tidied her hair. The mine tunnel ahead obviously hadn't been used for years either; only a few scavengers made their homes here. Suddenly the ground gave way and Rynn fell down a steep slope eventually landing on a rocky platform in almost total darkness. She looked around not moving in case she fell into a deep pit or ravine; the only light came from the green glow of grimstone below. More sounds of loose rocks echoed in the darkness and Rynn found herself sliding again eventually bursting through a thin ceiling and landing on a well lit path. She immediately jumped to her feet; her new surroundings could well be populated with more Wartocks. Finding nothing except a huge grimstone crystal surrounded by four smaller ones suspended from the ceiling beside her, she followed the path to see where it led.
"Over here" a man's voice said, breaking the silence.
Rynn turned her head to see a middle aged man leaning against a mine cart. It was not someone she knew and he looked weak and tired.
"The Hider I presume?" she asked.
The man looked up and smiled "At least that's what the Wartocks call me. I have been hiding down here for four days now without food or water."
Rynn gave a surprised look "Why are you hiding?" she asked. The man frowned and Rynn suddenly realised the stupid question she had just asked. "Why do you think? I don't want to be possessed by that grimstone; my mind isn’t completely gone… yet. Plus I know things" he grinned.
Rynn's perked up for a moment "Do you know where the children were taken?" she asked hoping that finally she could find Delon.
The man’s eyes looked vacant for a moment as he remembered the incidents over the past few days then he turned his head to look at her and gave a faint grin. "Yes, the children were taken through the wastelands to the east known as the grotto - there lies a gateway to the Eastern Archipelago. Some Dark Lord or something wants them, god only knows what for."
Rynn leaned forward "Are there any still here?" she asked impatiently, her hopes suddenly dashed by the news that Delon was still probably miles away and this 'Dark Lord' did not sound too promising.
"No" the man groaned, his voice getting weaker. "Listen girl, you cannot escape the mines, a forcefield blocks the way to the Grotto. You must disable it; the easiest way is to destroy the power generator back there. It’s used to power all forcefields and mine equipment and destroying it will stop the Wartocks."
Rynn shrugged, briefly looking back to the five grimstone crystals. "Okay, how do I do it?"
The Hider coughed violently and continued to explain. "You must turn off the switches on the four crystals surrounding the main power crystal. But be careful, disabling the switches will cause the electricity to arc and you could be hit. Furthermore, once the four switches are disabled, the power crystal will overload resulting in an explosion. You must leave immediately after the fourth one is down as the mines will collapse."
Rynn looked on concerned "What about you and the other miners?"
"We are dead already, the effects of grimstone is like a slow poison and it cannot be cured. Don't worry about us. Now, you must go" the man rasped and looked away. He leant back on the cart and let out a deep sigh. Rynn paused for a moment realising the man was correct; nothing could save the enslaved human miners. She took one last look at the man giving a slight smile and began to head for the generator.
Standing at the edge of the
path, she could see that the entire thing was suspended above a deep pit by
ropes and power cables leading upwards into the darkness. Electricity had been
used in Drakan before back in the days of the Order, it was something she knew
about but wasn't familiar; it was once used to power large industrial cities but
technology like electricity hadn't been used since the fall of Navaros. The only
thing that served as fuel and light now was good old fire and magic.
Rynn jumped onto the first platform, the crystal suspended below the wooden planks she was standing on. The other three crystals were too high to jump to so she wound the platform higher using the lever connected to the rope holding it to the roof. Almost straightaway, the electric lights began to dim; the position of the four crystals must be critical. Their position must be used to regulate the power output Rynn thought. Once the platform was high enough, Rynn pulled the switch. Electricity began to arc like the man said and she quickly jumped down to the second platform hitting the switch as she went. Jumping to the third, she was hit, the shock almost throwing her from the platform.
Finally, Rynn arrived at the fourth switch and drawing a sharp breath, pulled it. The electricity began to jump all over, arcs hitting the cave walls. "Now to get out of here,” Rynn said as she ran up the path ahead hoping it would lead to the surface. The ground began to shake, as the crystal's power was unleashed uncontrolled; a rock came crashing down the path, Rynn dodging it just in time. As she ran up the dusty path, she spotted an awesome looking mace, which was too good to miss. Crouching briefly to collect it she didn't even stop to examine it in detail, time was of the essence.
Stones and rocks began to fall from the roof. Heart pounding, she summoned up all the energy she had and ran faster than she ever thought she could, the fear of being in there when the crystal went up drove her forward.
Eventually, she ran out of the tunnel into daylight. "Arokh! Where are you?" she shouted.
"I'm right here Rynn" came the welcoming reply from above. She was really glad to see him now. She ran up to him and jumped on his back.
"No time for talking Arokh, just fly towards the grotto. We need to get out of here now!" she demanded still holding the mace she found. Arokh didn't argue; he knew something was wrong when he felt the rumbling of the ground through his feet. He quickly flew into the air and flew through the short canyon and through the previously blocked forcefield just as the ground erupted behind them in a shower of rocks and debris.