Saturday, July 6, 2013

There Once Was a Kingdom: A Storm in the Pass

After they got back aboard, the fishermen asked if they could keep the underwater craft. "What was it you called it again?" the captain asked.

"A submarine!" Sarai answered.

"Interesting this will help us with our... treasure hunting," the captain nodded, trailing off.

They turned back around and prepared to return to the harbor. As they went, they looked at what they'd taken from the shipwreck. The treasure chest was locked and had iron bands wrapping around it in all directions. Tiana tied to pick the lock but found it very difficult make any progress. They didn't want to try to force the lock and risk damaging anything inside. 

"If only there were a way for me to see what the inside of the lock looks like," Tiana muttered.

Alatar brightened. "I can help with that! Here - hold one end of my staff. I'll make it appear to be a tunnel. You can look down and through it with the other end on the lock."

Tiana held it steady and looked straight down. At first, it just looked like staring through a hollow stick as one would expect. When she focussed on the dot at the end, though, she found that it rushed toward her so fast that she jumped. Looking in again, she found she could move the staff ever so slightly to see the different parts of the inside.

"Interesting! There's not just pins coming from the top and bottom like other locks I've seen, but from the sides, too. I can see where they come in. Maybe I can craft a small key of my own to fit and help me get those pins to the right positions..." she mused. She started to work right away. It was frustrating work with the rocking of the boat and she decided to set it aside until they were back ashore.

After a time, they turned their attention to the small wax coated box instead.

They carefully cut a a slit in the wax and found that the lid swung open easily. Inside, there was a bit of leather wrapped carefully around some folded parchment. Most of it was in an ancient language. Alatar puzzled over it for a time.

"It's unfamiliar to me, but I do recognize the symbols," he mused. "I may be able to make some sense of it after a bit of study."

Beneath all of these, however, was one sheet in their modern tongue. They read this out loud:
The one who brings the scepter, crown, and throne
May claim the whole of country for their own
If brought to castle lost that once was known
Before the 'goyles claim it for their own

A kingdom under them would soon be mud
The rivers dry, the fields all caked in crud
To stop the coming storm, prevent the flood
Will take a savior born no royal blood
"Wait - that says the savior has to be born with no royal blood," Sarai mumured. She looked at Alatar quizically. "Didn't you say I'm the old king's heir? How can I do this, then?"

Alatar stood silently for a moment. "I wasn't entirely misleading," he said at last. "You are not his heir by heritage, but by manner. I used divination to find one in our time who had a similar spirit and good heart to that of the king. My spell led me to you, and, when I asked around about you in the town, knew that I was right. Everyone there, including Tiana, spoke of your kindness and thoughfulness toward others."

Tiana nodded at this, smiling. "I didn't realize why he was asking at the time, but it's true. We all love you very much and respect your care for others."

"I hope you don't hold that against me," Alatar continued. "As you've already seen, you're able to do much to help others."

Sarai sat in thought and then nodded. "I guess this doesn't really change anything, does it? We don't want the gargoyles to get the king's symbols and we're the ones to stop them."

They continued sailing past where they'd met the sea monster without any further incident and made port easily. Sarai and company got their goods and horses unloaded and quickly road back up toward the mountain pass. As the approached the town at the foot of the mountains, however, another storm started brewing and they found shelter for the night.

The following day, the storm was still raging. The people of the town looked up at the cloud curiously. "Odd weather for this time of year," one was heard to remark.

Me: Should they try to rush through the pass in the rain or wait in the town to see if it would subside?
Elie: Try to wait for it.

They waited in the town, but it grew late and they stayed the night. Still the rain came down the next day and the next with no sign of letting up. Tiana ccontinued working on the key throughout but wasn't having any luck getting it to fit quite right.

"Sarai, this storm doesn't seem natural to me," Alatar said one morning. "Perhaps we should brave the pass despite the storm.

Elie: Yes, let's.

They bundled themselves up against the driving rain and walked their mounts slowly to the mountain pass. When they got there, they found themselves facing three gargoyles.

"We know what you have," one rasped. "Just hand them all over to us and we'll be happy to go on our way."

Elie: No!

"Do you really want this burden? Ruling a kingdom is very hard work. The people are always looking to you to solve everything. 'He took my cow! She stole some bread! They won't play nice!' You'd be much better off going back and living a nice relaxing life in the country. Leave all the hard stuff to us, little girl," the gargoyle hissed as it crept slowly closer.

Me: Should they try to go back and find another way to force their way through?
Elie: They should go through.

Sarai nodded to Mandalar, who suddenly charge his horse and swung his sword hard. The blade struck the creeping gargoyle square on the face, shattering its head to a fine dust. The rest of the body stopped as still as a statue and then collapsed into nothing more than a pile of loose stones. The others stared openmouthed.

Before they could act, Sarai shouted, "This way!"

She brought her horse to a gallop in the few steps between her and the stone beasts, leaping clear over their heads. Tiana, Alatar, and Mandalar followed and they rushed headlong into the slippery pass. The gargoyles behind them tried to regain their footing but skid wildly.

As they rushed through, careful not to lose control of the horses, the company heard more skittering, chattering noises coming first from behind them, but then, too, from the slopes on either side. They weren't even halfway through the pass when they could tell there were dozens of the gargoyles almost upon them.

Alatar tried to conjure up another wall of air but found the storm made the air too wild to control from horseback.

Mandalar spun around at the rear. "I'll stop them here, if you ask it of me, Sarai!"

Elie: No! We all stay together.

He nodded swinging his sword in great arcs to keep the gargoyles just far enough out of reach and turned back around to follow the others. Tiana looked over her shoulder and then spun around backwards in her saddle.  Aiming carefully, she threw two daggers, one to each side high on the slopes.

The small blades on a clear, dry day would have had little effect. In the rains that had pounded down for so long, though, each set loose several small stones that tumbled free. These knocked larger stones before them and soon huge walls of tumbling rock were coming crashing in from each side.

Sarai and her companions cleared the pass just as the great waves of rock came crashing together behind them, crushing many gargoyles under their weight. More still were stuck up the slopes or on the far side of the wall of rock but none followed them to the valley below. As they made for the town, they heard the horrible screeching of the gargoyles in the mountain behind them.

They left the storm up in the peaks and found a clear day awaited them below.

Part of the "There Once Was a Kingdom" bedtime stories series.

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