Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Tale of The Exile--The Second Night: Though the Belly of Miir (Part 1)

Part 1: Swallowed Down

The day passes.

They bind my wounds and then toss me into my cell. I don't mind. After last night, the cell is quiet, I get fed, and I rest. If I had a choice now, I'd chose the cell over Exile. I told one of the guards as much. He seemed sympathetic, but sympathy is no use to me.

Naros is still out there, waiting for his chance at revenge. I screwed him over; there's no way he's going to just let me live that down. I can't do anything about it now, so I rest, to face the night prepared.

I don't sleep well. Too many nightmares. It's better than nothing.

I'm awoken by a key turning in the lock. "Just a few more minutes, ma," I quip.

"Be quiet!" a voice hisses.

That's odd.

I wake fully. Lights flicker from the tiny window. The street lights are still burning. It's not midnight yet. "What is this?" I say, turning to the door.

There's only one guard there. He looms over me, paunchy and middle-aged but still formidable-looking, like a tired old bear. I recognize him from last night. The guard from the courtroom, who promised to set me free. My heart leaps.

"Be silent, if you value our lives!" he insists. Fine by me. He leads me through the halls. He doesn't manacle me. He looks quite nervous. We pass by other guards, bored, not paying attention. We reach the street. "Follow me. And for Shadow's sake, don't say anything! I'm taking an awful risk for you." I nod.

He hands me some rags. There is something inside the bundle of rags, hidden from view. He leads me further into the Bastion, towards a cistern. "In!" he says. I don't have to be told twice. I dive into the cistern, and swim. It's not much different than the canals of Calisipas. I've escaped from mobs this way.

He follows behind. I dive down a tunnel. It's a long, long swim. Eventually, however, I feel an opening above my head, and surface. He pops up behind me. We climb to a bank and pull ourselves up. The surface is slimy with molds, and the air is foul. But I'm free!

I open the rag bundle. It's the fireglass dagger! The light is welcome in this dark tunnel. I turn to my benefactor. "I really don't know--"

"Quiet!" he hisses, his eyes darting around in the gloom. "We aren't out of the city yet, Exile. They will notice we're missing soon."

"Right. The name's Gaven, though. Not Exile." I extend a hand. He doesn't take it. Instead, he draws a fireglass dagger of his own. We walk.

These tunnels are eerie. They meander, without any rhyme or reason. The turns come at odd angles, rise and fall in elevation at random. It's a half-hour before we stop at a crossroads, and he finally speaks. "Good. They haven't thought of searching The Belly yet."

"What is this Belly, then?" I ask. I have an uncomfortable chill. Surely not the Dragon's Belly, where sinners swallowed The Dragon burn forever...

He sighs. "Miir has many volcanic tunnels. These ones are lined with granite, to keep the water flowing."

So it's a natural sewer, then. That explains the odd turns everywhere. The tunnels weren't built, just adapted. "And our destination?"

"The tunnels NOT lined with granite. And from there, the Ivthian Mountains, where we can be free of this cursed place forever." He says.

He uses the term 'We' a lot, I notice. "Not to sound ungrateful, but why are you doing this?"

He looks pained. "I have no choice. Leave it."

"No." I say. "All night, I dealt with shadows, mages, and spirits who only gave me half-answers. I want a whole one, or you're on your own."

He looks at me, frightened. "What?"

"You heard me. I'm not going to be jerked around. Tell me what's going on, or I find my own way out."

He sighs. "I suppose I should expect no less, if our positions were different. Very well. I told you last night I would help you escape. I find myself needing to leave the city, too. I have run up a huge debt that I cannot repay. I figured that there is strength in numbers."

"Ah. Loan sharks. I know their kind well." Too well. I came to Miir to escape my own debt to Longshankes. "Why brave the Shadows, though?"

He looks even more miserable. "My debt is to them." he says. Flame and Dragonfire. This is going to be a long night.

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