Only Fools Complain
Down Where there is Death
The one that wrapped around my head did not know me. Right now I had some hair on my head, but I had gone through periods of shaving it. A towel did the better job of holding the sweat from my skull than hair, so on extended maneuvers through the desert I would go bald. I thus knew how to move a blade about my upper appendage. I also knew how hard my head was, so the one wrapped about my skull found itself slammed against a wall. Honestly, its rubbery body protected me from the worse of the impact, so I did it again, and again, along with shaving slices from my blades, and soon I was looking at others wondering if they had learned something about me.
One thing about attacking masses of opponents was to survive. It was the hardest thing to get fresh troops to understand. They were going to have to stand firm, or rush toward, a group of opponents and simply survive. You learn something in those few minutes, or die trying. Those that survived became recognized soldiers.
I had now overcome the press of a number of opponents and killed some. Their worse attack, having access to my skull, had also been negated with the death of the creature that tried. I thus knew that I could overcome the threat upon me.
My only enemy now was my own body. The fatigue from the constant action and the erosion from the attacks would cause the weakness that could have me die. I once spoke to King Terish about that. Word came of an approaching army, and I had a battalion move out to challenge the threat to our land. As usual, my monarch had gone out to eradicate the threat himself. As he trudged back through the desert, I had my men stop and show respect to our liege. He thanked me for the support, then gave me orders about what the soldiers could do about cleaning things up. That was when I asked him about handling the fatigue from taking on so many opponents.
“It’s fight or die, Berair, so you fight. Don’t think about anything else. Start a chant, tell jokes, do whatever you need to do to think only about fighting, because thinking about your weary body will only have you wind up dead. If you must know, I think about you guys. Can’t appear weak by having you boys come to my rescue, so I so fight determined to have everything finished by the time you show up.”
I had two wives. It was what I thought about. What bothered me was that I had not courted either lady. I had not known them before I woke up to their care. I thus thought about what I needed to do to properly establish our marriage. The monsters became nuisances keeping me from my wives, so I killed them.
My thoughts about my wives became so focused in my mind that I spun wondering what I was doing when I found myself without another opponent. The fatigue from the combat then overwhelmed me, and I collapsed first to my knees then sitting against a wall. I actually looked to the pickled food items thinking to chance eating one. Wondering if there might be a whole barrel against the wall behind the layer of detritus, I finally focused my thoughts on getting back up.
I found an intact barrel of pickled fruit. Have no idea why they did not make jams or jellies with the fruit. No offense to those that like things pickled, but it was not what my body wanted. In the middle of winter, food preserved by almost any method was appreciated. After a lengthy active battle, those pickled fruit did not satisfy. I thus closed the barrel and turned my attention back to the crack.
No tentacles waved this time. I thus chanced kneeling and sticking my head down for a better view. There was some light from somewhere, but not really enough to see by. Not wanting to have tentacles surprise me, I thought about a light source.
I had spotted a lamp, but it was small and I was not certain that any oil remained in it. While I thought about using it for what it was worth, another idea came to me. I yelled out wondering if there was a small chance I could get some help.
“Hey, anyone out there with a good lamp or torch?”
A voice returned, “Major, Sir! Lamp?”
The last word was said with the same strength as the first two, but had a different tone as if the speaker had turned his head. All that I could assume was some footman had sought some response from a superior. My assumption was proven correct when another voice spoke.
“Major Berair, you’re still alive?”
“For the moment. Trouble is no longer coming to me, so I am going to it. It would however help if I could see it.”
“Yes, Sir. I can get you a lamp. Anything else?”
Honestly, it would have helped if I could have prepared for this, but I kept my requests to the basics. “Canteen of water.”
“We have two potions for you as well, Sir. Humor us and say that you need at least one.”
“Probably need them both …”
I have to give the man credit for recognizing the reason for my pause. “Sergeant Danock, Sir.”
“Probably need them both, Sergeant Danock, but I tend to be too stupid to think about the damage to my own body. As long as I continue to live, I consider myself good.”
He chuckled, then said, “They will be coming to you shortly. Thank that wife of yours, Aden. Some people here disagree with what you are doing, but she is throwing her weight around for you. Those of us in the military have been wanting to do what you are doing, so taking the advantage of opportunity to assure that you are not fighting a two-sided war. Hurry up and get moving, Major Berair. We both know that politicians will take their time, so let us solve this problem before they make any decisions.”
I saw a pole come through the crack with a backpack tied to it. I considered it a horrible tying job, then realized that the amount of rope used was enough to be useful in other ways than just securing something. Thinking of what I heard from others that were married, I spoke while grabbing the pole.
“I will thank Aden, Sergeant, but you are going to have to be satisfied with my words.” He laughed in a manner that stated he was not married, but had also heard the words from others that were. “I expect that the monsters are coming from other places as well.”
“So I cannot promise that I will return this way. Hope to see you anyway, and share something to drink besides water.”
“Sounds good, Major Berair. You have our best wishes.”
I drank one of the healing potions, and found my body not complaining that much at all. My own opinion had been that I was mostly fatigued from the lengthy active combat, so just needed to rest. After drinking the potion, I felt aches fade that told me I was suffering from more than just being out of breath.
The pole was used to check the depth and stability of the floor below. The tentacle faces tended to fly about, so really did not need solid surfaces to travel upon. Feeling that I could safely drop down, I then considered the matter of seeing.
I ripped up clothes that were not in any condition that anyone would use. Once I had a pile of material, I worked on some frayed ends to get a wad of very fine material. After moving the mass near a wall, I had my enchanted sword scrape along the stone surface. Could have simply used a dagger, as there did seem to be some flint in the local rock. The power of magical blades however kept it sharp, and would produce stronger sparks. As hoped, soon the clothes were burning with an unpleasant smoke. I did not let the quality of the fire bother me, but put it to use by dropping the mass down the hole.
The light showed that below was a short tunnel before opening out into a larger chamber, from which came the illumination I noticed earlier. Worried that my light would bring more tentacle faces, I carefully dropped down. I then lit the lamp while preparing to move into the enemy territory.
I boldly moved out to fully inspect the view of the underground realm. There was a layer of good bedrock, but it had been undermined by what I suspected was a flow of water now coming out a number of feet below me. The liquid pooled on top of a shell of the same yellowish filaments as I had seen covering the sky over the city. The level of the water showed no sign of rising, so I felt some hope realizing that the substance sealing the city in was permeable. I looked around to see that the erosive force of the water along with the working of underground monsters had removed sections of bedrock giving other points of access to the city above. Accepting that I was helping the city as a whole, I looked through the underground realm attempting to estimate the number of my enemies.
It would not have surprised me to see the whole chamber filled with the floating bodies of the tentacle faces. Honestly, I stood in amazement to only see a small number moving about. Seeing a rather large kormesh taugh did give me a moment of pause, but I accepted that I would mark my reputation by successfully overcoming my difficulties. I thus began studying the chamber to assure that I would not face a surprise that would result in my death.
The fact that I saw paths in the rock bothered me. The kormesh taughix did not need a surface to move upon. It either meant that the monsters were working with other underground creatures to enable an assault on the surface, or that the kormesh taughix were bringing people down. Considering what I had heard, I expected the latter. By chance I did hear a voice complain, then scream in agony. That told me people had been brought down the paths, either to do labor or to be eaten at a later time.
Being interested in gathering more information on the shell, and simply wanting more solid space under my feet for fighting than my present position provided, I dropped over the edge to a path below me. Moving down the path would not only take time, but also possibly have me encounter traps set along the way for fools like me attempting a rescue. I felt good gaining a position on the lower path. Hearing a noise in my mind however let me know that I had been seen and a fight was coming.
My opinion however was proven wrong by hearing a psychic voice say, “Either put down your weapons and surrender, or you will die as well as the others we have captive.”
I really had not come down expecting to negotiate. My words to the soldiers were however that I felt a need to protect the regular citizens. I thus paused considering my options in negotiating with these monsters.
You can trust that negotiation does not equate with surrender.