Only Fools Complain
Answers Without Solutions
None of the military challenged the status of Aden or me. Had a few compliment my armor with some of them speaking of wondering why I did not wear it the day before. I mentioned to those that I had not planned to enter combat. I had merely gone out that morning with my wives to get out of the castle, visit some people, and generally learn some things. The presence of the monsters took me by surprise, but I had acted to do my duty. Once the regular soldiers understood my level of commitment, I displayed certain contortions I used against the creatures that the armor would not allow. The honest and open replies gained some respect, so doors opened even easier.
Some did glare at Aden as if she did not belong with me, but nothing was openly stated. Those that spoke to her called her ‘Princess Aden,’ and I noticed that she never corrected them. She was a princess, although in marrying me her status was truthfully no longer that of nobility. I would do nothing to reduce the level of respect shown to Aden, so simply kept her by my side as I moved through the area given to the military.
It was as my wife informed a captain of a desire to speak to Sergeant Hissauld that I began to lose a little confidence in what we were doing. The officer simply turned his torso, said the name, then stepped to a side as an elderly soldier walked up. He was not in full uniform. If a call came, he could finish dressing within a minute, but moved about as if he would otherwise let the time pass in some comfort of relaxed attire. I actually expected the captain to speak to the man about coming before a lady in such a manner, but such did not occur. That had me wonder about the level of concern or importance that the soldiers considered my presence to represent.
“Princess Aden and – why, Major Berair. What brings the two of you down here?”
My wife answered the man. “Sergeant Hissauld, you once spoke to me of your plans to dig through to the shell where you would have a private area to test it.”
The elder soldier looked to the captain to explain. “Princess Aden had just lost her husband and child – children – and then this matter of the shell occurred. I mentioned the topic to put the lady at peace.”
The officer replied, “Yes, and the lady probably recalled it due to the purpose of her new husband. Okay, Sergeant, go on. The major outranks me anyway. While there are some orders speaking against him, there are others speaking for him. I will simply say that I gave the man some rope to hang himself with.”
I spoke to the captain, “It seems that we might need to discuss things later.”
“I hope not, Major. Remove the shell and a lot of problems can simply be allowed to go away.”
The man turned and walked back to a room, the door of which he shut behind him. I set it in my mind to remember the officer’s name, but decided to do nothing more with the information at present. Hoping that some answers could be gained, I turned to the sergeant.
“I did notice a section of the shell underground.”
“Yes, Major. The shell does seem to be a complete sphere. With the city on one side of us, that put one side of the shell rather close to the castle walls. I had a team excavate some bedrock to give us access. Lost some men however, and had to seal the passage.”
“I would like access to that passage, Sergeant.”
He hesitated before saying, “I would hope that Princess Aden will not mind staying with me.”
She replied, “As long as it is at the door, Sergeant Hissauld.”
“Of course. Come with me.”
I had seen stone doors. Dwarves would work with stone claiming they could match any construction of wood or metal. Even those that had stone carts did not complain about their weight or difficulty in maneuvering. I had seen stone and crystal weapons, but they had to be handled carefully or did not last long at all. Stone houses however were safe refuges in the roughest weather, and stone seals kept out all but the strongest opponents.
I helped the sergeant open the stone portal. It was not overly heavy, and not carved with enough skill to have a lock or even latch in place. When I commented that I could run and knock the stone door down, Sergeant Hissauld admitted I probably could, but said that if things were that bad then it would bad on me to open up such a threat on others.
A lamp was set on the floor in front of the door. The sergeant then had a soldier light a torch for me. He handed me the burning length of wood saying that the monsters were hard to see. He recommended putting the torch in a sconce, then assuring the next section of the corridor before moving the torch forward. I assured him that I would be careful, kissed Aden, then told the soldiers to close the door.
I stepped forward feeling that this had originally been a closet, as the first few feet of the walls were paneled with wood. The back wall appeared broken down with an excavated passage beyond. I had to give the military credit for taking the initiative and seeking an active response to the shell. While I probably could have quizzed the soldiers about what to expect, splotches on the ground and wall told me that the sealing of the passage was done for a good reason. I thus continued to carefully step forward.
There was no noise, and I almost did not see it. What had me stop was the yellow glow from the shell, and I paused to wonder just how close I was to the barrier. While I saw moving patches of something translucent through the distortion of water, I was eager to get a close inspection of what type of threat the soldiers had sought to seal in this passage. Only my concern for my own safety and recognizing things for later appraisal caused me to see what appeared as a film forming a barrier in the path to the shell.
It was not perfectly clear. I would call it more like a plane of ice than a spider web. Curious, I threw a rock at it, but it passed on through without any sign of it being substantial. If the military had not gone through the effort of sealing this passage, I might have been less wary. As it was, I shifted my body to get a good idea where the translucent form really was, then drew my sword and charged.
here was every reason for my blade to have passed through the monster just like the rock. I actually trusted in the magic of the weapon to hurt the creature more than the physical cutting power. My swing however sliced through the membrane in a long enough section that the creature’s skin could not easily repair itself.
Suddenly the monster flowed both to avoid my attacks and make strikes of its own. It was quick with thick skin, and due to its speed and translucent nature I did miss striking it a few times. It really did not hurt much when it attacked, but one time it latched onto me and began to flow beneath my armor. I then felt a burning sensation upon my skin until I could slice it in a manner that pulled it out. The next time it came upon me, it was wounded to the point where my efforts to remove it ended the monster’s life.
Knowing that there were people worried about me, I walked back to the door. After knocking, it opened. While Aden seemed to want to kiss me, I held my place simply telling her that I loved her. I then told the sergeant that I was not finished, just wanting them to know that there was not a reason to worry.
“Fought an ooze,” I reported. “A strange fast one, but definitely an ooze. Is that your recollection?”
I got the impression that everyone expected to laugh at me. The expressions of the soldiers dropped their grins, and with sober faces they looked to the sergeant. He looked at Aden, nodded, then spoke to me in a manner that stated he was impressed.
“Yes, Major Berair, it was an ooze. Spread itself around and burned the bodies of my men.”
“Yeah, about that, could use some salve. Give it to my wife. I just killed one; were there more?”
“One was enough, but we were scared that they would breed.”
Those words had me look back down the passage. Not seeing anything, I still considered my action as giving a soldier a reason to go ahead a chuckle. I thus decided to save face and possibly save the reputation of the sergeant as well.
“Yeah, but I suspect we have a large enough population around the shell. Anyway, just wanted you to know that I am still all right. Aden, love you, but I’m not finished.”
She replied, “I understand, my lord. Thank you.”
I waited for the door to shut again, then turned to head back to the shell. I went and looked at the remains of the monster. There was no corpse, but the creature had collapsed to a pool of noxious liquid. That was the way with oozes. They had no actual substance to their bodies, but died when whatever motive force gave them life could no longer maintain consistency of their form. Understanding the threats, I went to look at the shell.
There were no other oozes along the way. I carefully moved forward looking for even baby ones. Did not really know how the creatures reproduced, or cared, but simply checked for other threats as I stepped forward.
Only a small hole gave access to the shell. I gained the impression that the soldiers broke through, then were attacked and all work ceased. I had barely a foot diameter section to inspect. For what I needed to do, I felt it would be more than enough. I thus drew my sword, set my feet, the prepared to attack the shell.
My sword struck the yellowish tendrils. They looked like thin long petals of a multitude of flowers interlocking and not as a series of strands like that from a spider. My blade did not much cut into the barrier as part the yellowish tendrils.
Suddenly my mind became overwhelmed by the thought of a multitude of the oozes rushing toward me. Memories of my recent battle with one became reinforced with images of having to fight several. The soldiers had not told me of this. Either the one that experienced this mental assault died, the ooze attacked before they could actually do anything to the shell, or a regular weapon did not have the capacity to affect the shell like my enchanted blade did. I resisted the influence to flee with my own memories of being swarmed by tentacle faces. I had survived combat with a multitude of one type of monster, so worked my sword to learn what I could of the shell before facing an overwhelming number of oozes.
The sight of something on the other side of barrier could be seen. It was not daylight, but neither was it mountain rock. What I set to mind was that I could pierce the shell. That was actually enough information at the moment. I could not pass, as the opening to the barrier was not large enough for me to get through. I just wanted to check some facts, and that objective had been accomplished. Being satisfied with what I could see, I backed off and prepared to fight the mass of monsters I had been mentally warned would be coming.
The fight is not what is expected, so different plans need to be considered.