Halfway down one of the winding tunnels, Castamir stopped. His rage had cooled, though the angry fire still lingered in his eyes. Jack had gotten the better of him only once before, and Castamir had vowed that would never happen again. Now he had escaped from their match…. Then his anger fell on Rowen. Her interference was costing him. And he saved her life! Even if it was only because he needed her for his plan… or was it? Castamir temporarily shut off his anger and thought logically about this. Rowen was insanely clever; she had managed to foil him at many different points. Her wit and fierce will, combined with his leadership and intelligence… it was a fantastically dominative power. Perhaps if could alter his plan so that it still worked but Rowen lived….
Castamir smiled at the plan forming in his head, sheathed his sword, and took a right onto an alley tunnel. His head clear, he now remembered what lay at the end of the tunnel Jack and Rowen had run down. He began walking coolly down this branching tunnel, grinning wider as saw perfectly in his mind what was about to inevitably happen.
Rowen ran in front, her hand still tightly around Jack’s wrist. He had sheathed his sword and hooded his cloak to disguise himself as best as he could as they ran, though it really didn’t matter much with Rowen running in front.
Anger had flooded his mind when Rowen stopped their fight; she had no right! But her insistent pull kept him going, and he cooled down from that thought and knew she was right in doing this.
All of a sudden Rowen stopped, panting. When both Jack and Rowen had caught their breath, Rowen turned to him. “Are you alright?”
“Yeah, I’m fine I-“
“Good!” Rowen interrupted, and abruptly smacked him hard upside the head.
“Ow!! What was that for?”
“Forget to tell me something?” She yelled at the surprised Jack.
“What are you talking about?”
“Oh, I dunno,” Rowen said innocently, tapping her fingers against Jacks shoulder, “just the itty bitty tiny little unimportant fact that CASTAMIR IS YOUR BROTHER!” She shouted, smacking him again.
“It’s not something I relish in revealing.” Jack mumbled almost inaudibly.
“So you do know. Thanks for filling me in.” Rowen shot back crossly. “It’s not like it would have been useful to know or anything while Castamir was wrapping his arms around me.”
“What?” Jack said suddenly in a dangerously low tone.
“Did you think I wouldn’t figure it out? Oh well its not like both of you having horses with the same basic name and all isn’t obvious or anything.”
“Wait- Castamir’s horse is like Dragon.”
“Let’s see, does Gáladmor ring a bell?” Rowen replied haughtily. Then she saw the shock on his face. “You really didn’t know?” But straight away she got back to her arrogantly fast-running tongue. “And who is this Cathrandar? Are you a spitting image of him?” Rowen shot out without thinking. She suddenly found herself pinned against the wall with a knife to her throat.
“Don’t you ever talk about my father.” He hissed out vehemently, his eyes flaming. Rowen’s eyes went wide at the transformation from Jack’s easy manner. Jack’s eyes softened and he backed away, looking shocked at what he had just done.
“Rowen… I’m sorry, I don’t know what came over me…”
“Let’s just keep going before they catch us.”
Up ahead, the tunnel forked into two paths: one brightly torch-lit and well used, the other dark, crumbling, and blocked off with high rocks. Without hesitation Rowen let go of Jack’s arm and vaulted herself over the rocks.
“Come on Jack!!” Rowen called, shuffling around. “Just vault yourself over! Don’t worry, your boots will take the shock of most of the sharp rocks, and as long as you don’t jump too far… or wait, don’t jump too close either… wait, try to vault just about-“
“ROWEN!” Jack interrupted.
“WHAT?” She yelled back impatiently.
“You’re ridiculous.” Came the soft answer, followed by the clang of boots as Jack vaulted over, using his sword as leverage.
“Now what?” He asked.
“Now, I light the way,” Rowen replied, and the torch in her hand suddenly flared, illuminating a triumphant smile. The ground around them stretched about five square feet, and the rest had crumbled away too empty depths, as if it was only a thin layer of stone that held this tunnel up. Cold air blew up from these, giving suggestion to their depth.
“Uh… Rowen? Perhaps there was a reason this tunnel was blocked off by incredibly large rocks.”
“Nonsense, its only because its dangerous.”
“Oh if that’s only why, then proceed away!” Jack said mockingly. Rowen glared at him, making him bite back his flippant tongue.
They continued on, dodging the many holes. The tunnel seemed to crumble to dust around them, and they had to several times dodge falling ceiling blocks. Rowen began to go faster, confident with her torchlight.
“Rowen,” Jack began, peering ahead through the cold gloom, listening intently. “Rowen, stop, hold on…Rowen stay there a second, wait, stop…”
“What’s the matter?” She turned to say, still walking. With a shriek she fell through a frail piece of rock as it crumbled beneath her.
“Rowen!” Jack yelled, jumping ahead.
“No, its okay, I’m holding on, just help me up and-“
Her voice suddenly stopped as the sound below her hit her ears. Deep in the depths below her, water raged. Instantly Rowen’s eyes went wide as insanity returned to them. Her arms had been up on the ledge, but they abruptly slipped so that she was holding on by her hands.
“Rowen! Listen to me, I’m right here. Hold on, don’t let go.”
“Jack! It’s you! No, you’re not Jack, go away Castamir I won’t help you!!! Castamir…!”
Jack was shocked at the effect the water beneath Rowen was having on her. She fell apart instantly, and when she looked at Jack’s face she only saw Castamir’s face again, dripping over her.
Jack reached down and grabbed her arms, pulling her up. She twitched, thinking it was Castamir again, and released a wave of fire through her hands. Jack winced and bit back a yell as her red-hot hands gripped his bare forearms. With a mighty heave, he pulled her up and threw her to a safe bit of rock.
Rowen looked up, her eyes unglazing as the danger disappeared. She picked up the torch and held it up. Shiny red burns flared on Jack’s arms and Rowen realized they were from her.
“Jack, I’m so sorry…” He silenced her with a gesture.
“Look.” He peered ahead, his elven eyes penetrating the gloom.
“I’m no elf, Jack, I can’t see.”
“Hold the torch up and try.”
“I have a better idea,” Rowen said, and shot an arc of flame from her hands, using the already lit torch as fuel.
“Fire from your hands? Well, that explains a lot.”
But Rowen was staring ahead. The tunnel opened into a wide cave with a high, shadowed ceiling. The tunnel walls disappeared into the vast room, and the path turned to a wide patch of rock before narrowing into a stone bridge… a bridge over a river of water.
“Rowen, we must cross that. We can’t go back, the hole you created is too far to jump now. We have to cross. Can you do this?”
Rowen gulped and nodded deafly. “Let’s go.”
The two walked the distance to the cave, Rowen’s steps getting noticeably slower and smaller. At last they reached the railing-less stone bridge.
“Jack…” Rowen began shakily, her eyes fixed on the water.
“Don’t think about what’s down. There’s only the bridge. You just have to walk straight, I’ve got your arm.”
“No, don’t, I might burn you again.”
“Rowen, I don’t care now MOVE.” Jack commanded. A threat had been growing in his mind, making the hairs on his neck stand on end. Something wasn’t right, and Jack didn’t want to be caught in the middle of the bridge when and if something went wrong.
They started across the bridge, Jack pulling Rowen along while she tried to keep calm. A few chips of rock fell into the water underneath him, and the stone bridge groaned as they plodded across it. The twitch in Jack’s mind grew. He began to move faster.
“Rowen, this is not the time to slow down!” Jack whispered as she near stopped in the middle and thinnest, weakest point of the bridge.
“I can’t do it… I can hear it…the water is right there… ” She suddenly stood straight up, the insane look full in her eyes, yet her voice spoke suddenly solid. “The bridge is going to break.”
Barely were the words spoken from her mouth when a great crack echoed in the air. The bridge cracked in half between Rowen and Jack, and crumbled under Rowen’s feet. Jack pushed her backwards, sending her sprawling across the bridge so she would not fall through, while jumping back himself. Still, it was not far enough, for she barely managed to grab hold of a protruding stone in the remaining half of the bridge as the middle fell out from under her. Jack was frantic, for he knew the senseless insanity had passed over her again as her fingers slipped. He was almost relieved when a dark figure pulled her up. Then his senses came back, anger fueling to the figure who held Rowen.
“Let her go!” Jack yelled.
Castamir’s face peered out of the hood, grinning. He held Rowen out by the neck over the rushing water.
“Okay Jack, I’ll let her go if you really want me to.”
“Glad you changed your mind. You must be stressed… how about a nice tranquil rest?”
Jack’s gazed flashed up to the shadowed upper chamber to see tunnels leading out to ledges, all of which were filled with archers.
Darts whizzed through the air. Five pierced Jack’s neck, and in an instant he was unconscious. Castamir brought the insanely fidgeting Rowen back to the safety of the bridge, and she immediately clung to him in fright.
“I’m beginning to see a pattern in this little cat and mouse game.” He muttered to himself, stoking Rowen’s head as she shook. “Too bad Jack doesn’t seem to get he’s a mouse in my maze.”
Chapter 1: https://www.theonering.com/docs/9127.html
Chapter 2: https://www.theonering.com/docs/9141.html
Chapter 3: https://www.theonering.com/docs/9184.html
Chapter 4: https://www.theonering.com/docs/9263.html
Chapter 5: https://www.theonering.com/docs/9297.html
Chapter 6: https://www.theonering.com/docs/9307.html
Chapter 7: https://www.theonering.com/docs/9356.html
Chapter 8: https://www.theonering.com/docs/9422.html
Chapter 9: https://www.theonering.com/docs/9472.html
Chapter 10: https://www.theonering.com/docs/9530.html
Chapter 11: https://www.theonering.com/docs/9566.html
Chapter 12: https://www.theonering.com/docs/9603.html
Chapter 13: https://www.theonering.com/docs/9616.html
Chapter 14: https://www.theonering.com/docs/9629.html
Chapter 15: https://www.theonering.com/docs/9658.html
Chapter 16: https://www.theonering.com/docs/9678.html
Chapter 17: https://www.theonering.com/docs/9772.html
Chapter 18: https://www.theonering.com/docs/9847.html
Chapter 19: https://www.theonering.com/docs/9949.html
Chapter 20: https://www.theonering.com/docs/10087.html
Chapter 21: https://www.theonering.com/docs/10112.html
Chapter 22: https://www.theonering.com/docs/10154.html
Chapter 23: https://www.theonering.com/docs/10284.html
Chapter 24: https://www.theonering.com/docs/10329.html
Chapter 25: https://www.theonering.com/docs/10476.html