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   Chapter 13 Through The Great Whirlpool

Maldene - Volume One By Mark Anthony Tierno Characters: 51380

Updated: 2018-04-10 12:02


The sleem drifted along the open sea, the dark green sky overhead with its small yellow sun shining feebly through the gloom. The crew and passengers were arrayed all along the deck- some strewn along its ground, some attached by now almost-dangling ropes to masts and other ship's projections- all of them unconscious. The trip through the white mist of the Great Whirlpool had sent them reeling through a maelstrom of light and color, conflicting gravities and shifting perspectives, a tunnel through reality.

Bronto was the first to wake up, picking off bits of seaweed and rope from around himself, as he looked around at the others. The next to wake up was the hardy Thirdocian Captain, followed by Lindel, and then several of the others. Everybody began to slowly pick themselves up, remove rubble from around themselves, and look around at each other.

"Well, at least the ship survived this time, " Eldar smiled, as he got up.

"I'm surprised that we survived, " Lindel commented.

Quickfoot came crawling out from a lower-deck access and carefully stood up, looking around. Behind him Kilgar also came on board the deck, his hair looking a bit tousled, his tight-fitting desert suit having seen better times.

"Why is there a sky here under the ocean, " Quickfoot asked, as he was coming up from one of the lower-deck accesses, "and why is it green? Is this delosho?"

"The mighty Indra seems to have delivered us, " Candol said, also coming up from below decks, as he straightened out his robes.

"And why are we on top of the ocean instead of under it?" Kilgar asked.

"We do seem to have a bit of a puzzle, " Sindar observed.

The light shining down from the sky was neither of day nor of night. A sort of perpetual twilight it seemed, hanging down around them all.

"I think that I can offer at least a little help, " Sabu shouted out, as he came across the broad deck.

"Why am I not surprised, " Kor-Lebear said to himself, elsewhere on the deck.

Sabu walked over to the center of the deck, where most of the others were gathering except for the crew, which was now beginning to get back to its duties. The Captain also gathered with the others, apparently interested in any information that could be of help to his ship.

"So, spill it, " Eldar said.

"Well, it all centers on a theory that I began to develop from hearing the sailors' stories, " Sabu began, "about the Great Whirlpool. I figured that there just might exist a dimensional and spatial translocation effect emanating from its center, maybe even being the impetus that propels its continuous motion. At any rate, I figured that, if this was true, that we just might be translocated to a different space-time coordinate if we just stayed in the Whirlpool long enough. This being true, then our chances of translocation would dramatically increase as we would head for the center. And immediate translocation definitely seemed more preferable at the time than our alternative."

"Uh, " Eldar interrupted, "in a language that we can all understand. . ."

"He means, " Mauklo interpreted, "that the Whirlpool transported us to another world at a different star and dimension."

"Somyundo, " Lindel summed up.

"Well, " Eldar said, looking around at the green sky, "they say that travel broadens the mind.

"Then how do we get back?" Shong asked.

"I would theorize, " Sindar contributed, "that Tedelnosho is capable of transporting one to any number of planets and dimensions."

"Then, " Sabu continued, "which place we were transported to would depend on the trajectory with which we entered the Whirlpool."

"How does that help us get back and save my ship?" the Captain asked.

"Well, " Sabu said, "if I could figure out the trajectory that we've been sailing along when we entered this world, then, with your help Captain, I could figure out a reverse course to sail back along. I would then have to open up a dimensional portal at the exact spot that we came in through, which should then deposit us back in the Great Whirlpool except on a reverse trajectory."

"I know there's bad news in here somewhere, " Kilinir commented.

"Well, uh, yes, " Sabu said hesitantly. "I've never opened up a dimensional portal before; it would take me a while to figure out how."

"Great, " Mauklo rolled his eyes, "a real confidence-giver, that last statement."

"Land ho, five degrees off port bow, " came the shout of one of the sailors.

The conversation ceased abruptly as they all rushed over to the front of the ship to see.

Several miles ahead of them could be seen what looked to be a continent-sized land mass, a peninsula stabbing out from its ragged shoreline into the gloomy sea. Faraway mountains could be seen further inland, while most of the coast seemed to be one long mass of towering cliffs, broken by age-old land falls.

"Maybe we can find a place over there to dock this ship, " Kilgar said. "While Sabu does his figuring."

The Captain shook his head.

"That coast is too broken up, " he said, "there's no safe spot to put her up at."

"What about over there, " said Lindel, pointing.

They looked to where Lindel was pointing. It was at the peninsula. As the ship got closer, they could see that its high sides weren't cliffs at all, but walls made out of stone, carved around the peninsula, meeting at a point at its tip. The walls stood flush with the ocean, leaving no strip of beach around its bottom, except at one point. Off to one side a bit of a smooth sandy beach slopped down from the wall to meet the ocean a few dozen feet later. At the origin of this sandy outlet, there was a large metal door in the wall. It was towards this door that Lindel pointed.

"Hmm, a structure, " Sabu muttered, "good eyes, Lindel."

"A structure that takes up that entire peninsula, " Candol observed. "It looks to be miles long."

"Hm, yes, " Sabu began, "I would say-"

"And don't go estimating its size, either of you two, " Eldar said, looking at Sabu and Sindar.

Sabu and Sindar just looked at each other puzzledly, as if kids being scolded for doing their school work.

"I would say though, " Sindar finally said, "that it's probably some sort of walled city or large estate."

"It doesn't smell like a city, " Quickfoot shook his head.

"It is an estate, " Kor-Lebear said in a measured tone. "The small one is right; I don't smell any of the odors of a city that large, nor do I see any such life."

"Good, " Bronto said, "one person is easier to deal with then a whole city government when asking for their hospitality."

"Helmsman, " the Captain shouted out, "sail for that peninsula."

The large sleem sailed on closer, being carried more by current than by the feeble winds. The sky seemed oppressive for everyone save Mauklo, who just seemed to ignore it. They sailed through the gloom, around the tip of the peninsula, towards the large gate, putting out anchor some distance off from the small sandy beach. When they got closer, as the sailors were checking for depth, they found that not only did the walls run straight down into the water, but also much further down, blending in with the land's edge, that apparently didn't slope off gradually at some point beneath the water like it should but just dropped off as a single sheer underwater cliff, down as far as they could tell, perhaps cutting straight down to the very floor of the ocean itself.

The heavy anchor stilled their motion as all eyes looked up at the wall.

"I don't see a single seam in that entire wall, " Sindar said. "It's as if it all got carved that way in its entirety; one single cut."

Indeed, nary a break, seam, or weld could be seen in any part of the wall that any of them could see. For a brief moment, all eyes looked and wondered. Then the mood was broken by Eldar.

"Well, all ashore that's goin' ashore, " he chirped out.

"Get out the longboats, " the Captain ordered.

"No wait, " Sindar interrupted, "I've got a better way to cross onto shore."

"And what might that be?" Mauklo asked.

"Sabu isn't the only one who's been practicing a few new spells, " Sindar answered.

Sindar walked over to the port side of the sleem, facing towards the edge of the short sandy beach some thirty or so feet away. He then stretched his arms out in front of him, palms facing downward, thumbs hooked together, fingers pointed straight out towards the beach. He concentrated for a few moments, not even muttering a single word. Moments later a sheet of light stretched out from his pointed fingertips, slicing out through the gloom to touch down on the beach, almost right in front of the large gate. Another brief flash later and the near end of the plane of light was now anchored to the ship's side, providing a five-foot-wide sheet of white light stretching from the ship to shore.

"It's solid enough to walk on, " Sindar said, as he put down his hands, a brief sigh of breath escaping his lips.

"Not bad, " Sabu admired as he came over to look at Sindar's handiwork.

Sabu put a careful foot onto the light, testing its solidity. It took his weight as if it were solid ground.

"Not bad at all, " Sabu smiled, as he jumped onto the plank of light. "How long will it last?"

"Long enough for us to get ashore, " Sindar answered.

"Captain, " Eldar ordered, "you and the crew look after the ship, and prepare her for the return voyage, the rest of us will go ashore and see if there's anyone home. Sabu, aren't you supposed to be doing those calculations or something?"

Sabu stopped his bouncing on the light-plank, turned, and gave a puzzled look to his friend.

"I am, " he said simply.

"In your head?" Eldar asked incredulously.

"Yes, " Sabu nodded, "I'll have them done by the time we return to the ship. Then I'll just have to go over them with the Captain."

"I shouldn't be surprised, " Eldar said to himself, as he walked over to the light-plank.

The Captain and crew staying behind, they all walked along the light-plank down to the beach, arriving at the base of the large gate. It towered over them. Twenty feet wide it was, and twice that tall, its dark dull metal standing guard against any that would come through it. The wall it was imbedded in stood even taller, rising to a full fifty or sixty feet of towering dark stone.

"My special sense tells me that gate is denser than steel and three times as tough, " Eldar said, as he gazed up the gate's height.

"Well, " Shong said, looking up, "we sure can't climb that wall, it's too high and too smooth; there's no handholds to climb with. Then there's the gate; it looks locked, even assuming that we could open something that large."

"Leave the lock to me, " Quickfoot said, scampering over to the gate.

"And I think that I won't find it too heavy to move, " Bronto smiled.

"Someone hoist me up, " Quickfoot complained, as he looked at the large lock, some four feet above his head.

Sabu smiled and made a brief hand-gesture, resulting in Quickfoot floating up until he was even with the lock. The small one looked down at the ground below, a bit disconcerted, but then snapped out of it and got to his work. The lock was large, as if made for a giant's large key. Using one of his knives as a lockpick, he got to work on it. A few trids passed, the others below getting visibly impatient. Finally he heard a loud audible thunk as tumblers slipped into place.

"Got it, " he shouted.

"It's about time, " Mauklo said. "I thought you were supposed to be good at this sort of thing."

"Hey, " Quickfoot answered, as Sabu floated him down to the ground, "I am; that's one heavy lock. I almost broke my knife in that thing!"

"My turn, " Bronto said, walking up to the large gate, cracking his knuckles in preparation.

He put his fingers along the central seam down the gate, wedging them in as far as he could, and then pulled. The muscles along his shoulders and arms bulged out to twice their normal size. The large gate gave a loud creek, rusted sandy bits of old metal showering down upon them, the accumulation of a long period of being closed. Slowly the seam down the center began to grow wider. When they were wide enough, Bronto wedged his hands fully in between and then pulled outward with all his strength. Slowly the large gates began to open, a widening slit down its middle growing until it was enough for a single man to walk through. Then Bronto put both hands over to one side of the gate and pushed with all of his weight until that half of the gate was fully open.

As it opened, they could see that the gate that Bronto was pushing was fully five feet thick, all of it of solid metal. The gate creaked its loud protest as it was moved, silenced only when Bronto had finished. He stood back, turning around to the others as he shook out his muscles, smiling.

"So much for the door, " he said, barely breathing hard. "Shall we go in?"

"Bromtasea, you've been working out, " Eldar commented to Bronto as he began walking forward.

As Eldar nodded his approval they started through the gate, then stopped at the first sight that they saw.

"How did you two get in there?" Lindel asked, unbelievingly.

Standing in front of them, on the other side of the gate, were Kor-Lebear and Kilinir, side by side, calm and unperturbed as can be.

"We just climbed over, " Kor-Lebear said simply, as he looked up at the sixty feet of smooth seamless wall standing over him.

"We've been waiting here for you for several trids now, " Kilinir said, a slight smile upon her face.

They all just stood there in amazement, looking at the unbelievable pair. Finally, an immense grin broke out on Bronto's face as he gave out with a belly laugh loud enough to be heard back on the ship and beyond.

"I'd say that it's time to get moving, " Bronto said to the view of several miffed expressions.

"He's right, " Eldar grinned, "let's move it."

So, together they all walked through the gate to the inside of the great walled estate. Beyond, the area in front of the gate, for about a couple of dozen feet around, was all dirt and small rocks. Past that was a large field of two-foot high red grass, then a field of trees and flowers. Finally, far off at the other end of the misshapen garden, could be seen the dark structure of a large multi-storied manor.

"Looks harmless enough, " Quickfoot said hopefully as he scurried around behind Bronto.

"Let's head for that old mansion, " Sindar offered, "somebody might be home."

"That's what I'm worried about, " Kor-Lebear muttered to Kilinir.

Kilgar's eyes darted quickly around as he sniffed the air, looking a bit apprehensive.

"Something wrong kid?" Bronto asked Kilgar, as they all started walking towards the grassy area.

"I don't trust this, " the kid answered, "there's something wrong about it."

"Then we'll just have to keep an eye out, " Bronto answered seriously.

They started walking across the red grass, all eyes peeled for any sign of danger. Nothing came at them, nothing threatened them. They were halfway across the grassy area when Quickfoot stopped and began tugging his foot.

"What's wrong, small one?" Candol asked.

"My foot, " Quickfoot began, "it's tangled in this grass. I can't seem to-"

But he was cut off by the two-foot high grass suddenly surrounding him and pulling him dow

hin. "You're really sick, you know. I am not a sex toy!"

Mauklo winced as pain shot up from his shin. Ba-Rayl grinned at the sudden onslaught, while Torai seemed busy with Kilinir.

"Are you sure you can handle your own toy?" Ba-Rayl chuckled.

A flash of motion produced a knife in the boy's hand, while Bronto and Shong readied themselves for what they knew must be coming next. Sabu's hand just slipped casually around the top of his staff as he muttered a few words softly under his breath.

"I'll show you to laugh at me!" Kilgar said as tossed his dagger at Ba-Rayl.

The curved knife went right for the priest's robed belly, aiming straight for a deadly hit. It looked to hit, until a mere few inches away from its target, the knife veered away by at least thirty degrees and suddenly seemed to lose the bulk of its velocity, clattering to the ground by Ba-Rayl's feet.

"A most amusing little tyke, " the priest said, his grin turning into a frown, "although I must now insist on his punishment for this impudence."

"Sorai!"

That last word of a magical incantation came from Sabu, his staff now pointed straight out towards the priests. A sudden stream of thick liquid seemed to then stream out from the staff's tip, billowing outwards as it threatened to encompass not only the two priests but those around them as well.

Several simultaneous reactions occurred. First, one moment Kilinir was blowing in Torai's ear, arms around his waist and shoulder, the next he was screaming as Kilinir bit off a piece of his ear, and the arm around the waist came away, fingernails lashing across his groin. Torai in pain, she then nimbly somersaulted backwards, landing softly several feet away, and casually spat out a chunk of chewed-up ear.

Meanwhile, Kilgar tumbled across the floor, like some mad rolling ball with limbs, lunging by Ba-Rayl's feet as he grabbed his dagger and half-rolled half-leapt away.

Everyone would later assume that Kor-Lebear dived out of the way, but no one would ever be sure. For a moment after Kilinir had leapt away, Kor-Lebear just wasn't there where he'd been. The next anyone saw him, he was halfway to the hallway through which they'd come.

Mauklo, seeing the hurtling mass of already congealing liquid, remained as calm as ever. It was by no accident of his own that the two priests stood rather close to each other, while Mauklo himself was now a good five feet away. He looked quickly at the hurtling liquid mass, and then at the priests that it was to land upon. Then he just casually took a single two-foot-wide step to one side.

The liquid mass landed, enveloping the two priests in a web-sticky heap that stuck everything in it to everything else, be it people, clothes, the stone floor, whatever, all in one large pile of stickiness about five feet across.

Mauklo looked down towards his own feet, noticing the sticky stuff ending a mere few inches away from where he stood. He straightened out his robes, then calmly proceeded at a fast but dignified walk towards the hallway.

"Dignity preserved, " he said to himself.

The priests trapped, sticky muck gluing their mouths shut, and their hands unable to gesture magically, the rest quickly barreled out into the hallway and were soon back in the immense central room in which they'd been earlier.

A grin was back on Eldar's face, the elf now back in his own element of adventure. He jumped up next to Sabu, as the others gathered around, Sabu gazing all around at the many choices of doors and hallways down which to go.

"You learned that one from back in the spider caverns, " Eldar grinned.

"I must admit that their rather large webs did inspire that new spell, " Sabu replied. "Now, I would suggest that our best course lay down those stairs."

He pointed at the immense stone stairwell, towards the part that spiraled downward like some immense corkscrew hole.

"As good a direction as any, " Eldar shrugged.

"Your toy indeed!" Kilgar shouted at Mauklo, knife at the ready. "I'll teach you to-"

"My dear son, " Mauklo said with just a trace of indignation in his voice, "my little performance back there probably saved not only your own life but also that of our friend Candol. I know that I didn't expect much thanks, but never this sort of complete ingratitude!"

"He's probably right, son, " Bronto intervened. "I'll question his motives and methods, but the result kept us alive."

The scowl on the boy's face reduced as he backed over to Bronto's side.

"That webbing will only keep them busy for a few more moments, " Sabu interrupted. "Down the stairs now. Fast!"

"Fast I can handle for the lot of us, " Eldar smiled. "You aren't the only one with some spells stored up."

That said, the silver-haired elf concentrated as his hands went in faster and faster circles around each other, ending a few moments later with their sudden stop and his right hand coming down in the air as a fist, as if to slam down hard upon some unseen surface.

Unseen electricity seemed to then charge the air around them, leaving its static upon everyone in their group. Limbs felt tingly and lungs breathed easier, as Eldar nodded towards Sabu.

"Now run!" was all Sabu said.

They all ran with a speed they each never thought possible. Better than twice what they each could normally achieve, they almost flew down the wide stairwell, their feet almost never touching the stone steps, their hands almost never grasping the wooden railings carved like long sinewy dragon bodies. Running ever faster, while far behind them they heard a distant explosion, as if of flames, followed by two cursing voices.

Downward their journey carried them, down through layers of thick rock, separated on occasion by openings onto a new floor, but still ever downward their speedy course carried them. Running too fast now for much control in the course of their flight, they just ran to get away, some wondering if Eldar's spell would ever end.

The stairs finally ended, giving way onto a dark cavern-like corridor, ceiling at least nine feet high overhead. Uncounted doors and branching ways flew past them in a few brief instants, before Sabu was able to shout over to his friend.

"Eldar! I think we've gone far enough, " he shouted. "Now, how do we stop?"

Eldar nodded to Sabu, and then brought his right fist up into the air, his fist having apparently remained clenched during the entirety of their flight. Slowly he opened his fist back up. As he did so, their speed slowed at the same rate. When his fist was completely open, palm facing fully up, they found themselves walking at a more normal pace.

"Nice trick, " Quickfoot said, panting a bit and looking a little green and just a bit dizzy, "but I think I left my stomach a few floors back."

"At least it got us out of there, " Sabu said. "I don't think we could handle those priests yet."

"You can make that definite, " Mauklo said, walking over to Sabu, "I know of what rank and power is that priest of Set and, contrary to what I said up there, I also know enough about the cult of Vold to know that his priest we just left is at least as powerful as his brother."

"By the way, " Sindar interjected, "how much of this Set-worshiping side of you is true?"

Mauklo just shrugged, feigning innocence.

"Why, me dear wizard, " he answered, "can you not read my mind for the answer?"

Sindar furrowed his brows, seeing nothing but cloudiness in the other's mind.

"We'll talk later, " Sindar finally said.

"Well, at least we lost them, " Shong commented.

"Not for long, " Mauklo put in. "Priests of Set always carry their own device of power with which to protect their holy sanctuary. It will allow him to quickly locate us."

Kilinir calmly walked over as she reached into the folds of her cloak.

"Um, does it perchance look like this?" she said with a twinkle in her eye.

In her hand was a black wand with the image of a cobra carved along its length.

Mauklo smiled as he answered.

"My dear lovely, " he said, reaching for the dark wand, "remind me to never ask for fondling companionship from you, for you would surely rob me blind."

"Yeah, " Kor-Lebear said, putting an arm around her waist, "that's one of her good points."

A heavily-muscled hand grabbed the wand out of her hand before Mauklo could get it. Mauklo looked up, a sour expression crossing his face.

"If it's dangerous for them to have it, " Bronto said holding the wand, "then I certainly don't trust you with it."

A wince of loss crossed Mauklo's face as the big man took the wand in both hands and broke it in the middle, dropping its two pieces on the ground.

"If you feel that way, " Mauklo said, quickly recovering his composure.

"I have a question, " Shong interrupted. "Who or what is this Vold?"

"He is the last of the Olden Gods, " Sabu began as they all started to walk down the hallway, all arms at the ready, Sabu's voice carrying its tale. "A deity of extreme evil and great power. As powerful and evil as is a god such as Set, Vold's power is far greater. To make it worse, he is an ally of Miro."

"My people have stories of him, " Lindel put in. "They say that it was because of him that the other Olden Gods are no more. He is even said to be far older than Miro."

Shong thought about this for a few moments before he commented.

"It sounds like he's about as bad or worse than Miro, " Shong said.

"No, " Sindar quickly put in, "Miro is immeasurably worse."

Shong shuddered at that thought and kept even firmer hold upon his drawn sword.

Kilinir and Kor-Lebear now both walked on either side of Mauklo, as down dark corridors they all traveled. Kilinir leaned in closer to Mauklo to whisper so that only herself, Mauklo, and Kor-Lebear could hear.

"If you so loyally worship the god Set, " she asked, "how come you just betrayed one of his own priests?"

Mauklo smiled pleasantly as he answered.

"Because, my dear, " he answered, "it suited my purposes at the time. One must not let such frailties as loyalty and devotion get in the way of one's goals."

They all walked down the dark unknown corridors, as once more a circle of light from Sabu's staff lit their careful passage.

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