Part Seven: Undead Assistance
Drake was silent for a time after the revelation. His mind was racing. He remembered what the tortured dragon had called him before he had stabbed it: Dragon-speaker. He wondered if it meant that his entire life had been a lie. He decided that it didn’t, since speaking to dragons hadn’t applied to any situation up until now. He then decided that the elder who had named him had been right about the importance of naming ceremonies, during which the village elder would determine the most appropriate name for a child. Eventually, he wondered if his title, or perhaps even his ‘gift’ – if it could be interpreted as such — could help them escape.
His thought was interrupted when Krish tensed and grabbed his shoulder. ‘There’s something out there,’ he whimpered. Drake recalled Certrain’s words. ‘Undead’. ‘Capture’. He shivered. Layle drew herself further back into the shadows.
There was a clinking sound as the multiple padlocks attached to the bars of the door were unfastened one by one. As they fell to the floor, they made no sound, and Drake realized that this was because of the swatch of cloth that had been placed underneath them. The cloth was lifted and disappeared back into the darkness. Then the three heard a key turning in the lock of the door itself.
The door swung an inch into the tunnel. An eye appeared at the crack; a nervous brown eye that looked very much human. When it caught sight of the boys, it was followed by a face. Drake’s own eyes widened in disbelief. Krish squeaked, and shuffled further into the cell. The face was followed by a body, which stepped hesitantly into the cell. Its torn tunic was soaked in blood. It was Jereah.
There was a pause.
‘No offence intended, friend, but you’re supposed to be dead’, said Drake eventually.
Jereah nodded. ‘I am dead. Stabbed in the heart. Then, next thing I know, I wake up in the middle of some tunnel with a strange craving for grains.’
‘Grains’, Drake repeated. He studied the living corpse awhile, then nodded. ‘Vegetarian zombie’, he concluded. Jereah sighed despondently.
‘I thought as much.’ Then, shrugging off his disappointment, said, ‘In any case, it’s nice to be back. Undeath isn’t too bad, really; I’m just not as quick as I used to be.
‘Anyway, all this time, I’ve been wandering the tunnels a bit, looking for a way out where we don’t have to fight a hundred or more Orcs.’ ‘If we freed Selebriar, he could defeat them without a problem’, cut in Drake confidently. Jereah sighed again.
‘No, he couldn’t. He may be a good fighter, but he couldn’t hold them all off at once. We’d all be swarmed. There must be another way out, and I think I’ve found the key to that.’
At this point, Krish blinked, and started breathing again. ‘Nnnuh’, he mewled. Drake turned to him.
Krish unfroze. ‘What do you mean “what”?’ he cried. ‘A bloody zombie breaks into our cell and you’re like, “oh, hello dead person, yes, I spontaneously have an escape plan now, how remarkable!” I am freaking out here and you’re just sitting there talking to him like it’s the most normal thing in the world ever!’
Krish’s voice had risen in pitch over the course of his outburst. Now he stopped, and keeled gently over backwards. Drake peered down at him. Krish opened his eyes and groaned. ‘Ugh. Just…Just leave me alone for a bit. I need to re-evaluate my perception of reality. I just…How do you stay so calm all the time?’
Drake shrugged. ‘I just do. I’m not terribly philosophical about it.
Krish glared suspiciously up at him. ‘Just like you’re “not terribly philosophical” about your wacked-out sense of hearing?’
‘Not only hearing, but yes, like that.’ Drake glanced behind him, and frowned. ‘Hey, wait a second. Where’d Layleanel go?’
There was a moment of silence before a hesitant figure detached itself from the shadows. Layleanel appeared, a doubtful look flitting across her features before they reasserted themselves into an expressionless gaze. ‘Thank you’, Drake nodded, and turned towards Jereah. ‘Please go on.’
Jereah nodded back, and drew a breath. ‘This underground structure wasn’t built here. It was lowered into the ground, piece by piece. I found some history records stashed away in a tunnel somewhere. The people who designed this labyrinth built in four levers, located in four corners of the structure. These levers can be used to raise or lower the entire construction above or below ground. Right now, the whole place is hidden; but if we were to raise it, it would be like a massive building with long, winding halls entwined around the big yellow dome in the middle, which would stick out like a pus-gorged pimple.’
A groan rose up from where Krish still lay on the floor, louder this time. ‘You didn’t have to paint us that picture’, he mumbled. ‘Just saying, “big, obvious, easy-to-hit target” would have been accurate enough’.
Jereah shook his head. ‘Not easy. Even if we could escape the labyrinth and amass an army big enough to defeat all the Orcs, it would take too long, and Certrain would already have had the entire structure descend back into the earth.’
‘The old shed thing would still be there’, Drake pointed out.
‘You try forcing an entire army down through a tiny little shack, and tell me how that works out for you,’ said Jereah. Drake’s brow creased in thought.
‘Well, we can’t storm this place with a human army, in that case’, he mumbled. ‘Even if we managed to keep the whole thing above ground for long enough, they would probably get lost in all the tunnels or something, and they wouldn’t have powerful enough weapons to just destroy the building. Do we have any alliances with peoples who are stronger and faster than humans?’
‘What about the Elves?’ Krish asked hopefully. Drake though about this, then shook his head.
‘Something even faster.’
Suddenly, Layleanel looked up, a glimmer in her eyes. ‘Stronger and faster than humans?’ She mused. ‘Well…Dragons, for one.’