As quickly as the words had appeared, the ice sank into the stone and all light was absorbed. Rowen held up the Nintura’s stone: the carving had vanished without a trace or blemish on the smoothly rippled stone.
Thoughts raced through Rowen’s mind. What did it mean? The fire lords? The destroyers? He? She? Try as she may, Rowen could not piece anything together. And now she was also confronted with yet another issue: Where she was going to go.
Out of the corner of her eye, Rowen saw a flash of light. It was from the aurora tunnel; another ring of light had shot through it. But the beam kept going, traveling across the ceiling like a rainbow, until it came to another tunnel and kept going. Rowen sighed in relief: it had just shown her the passage out. She scrambled as quickly as possible towards it and began climbing through, drumming softly to ward off the enchanting auroras.
“Andereth, I have taken your counsel into consideration, and I know you have taken mine. What now is your thought?”
“You are wise to suggest such a choice, Castamir, yet it is a risk none the less. Many of our elves will be killed, weapons wasted, destruction immense… they don’t go down easily.”
“Yes, yes, that is quite obvious,” Castamir replied, becoming impatient. “But still, in the future we may be presented with opportunities that would coincide with whatever…set backs we encounter.”
“And I propose that no… ah, personal, interests would become at heart here?” Andereth questioned tentatively.
“Andereth, Andereth, you ignorant fool. You know me all too little. Conquest is at stake here, not petty individual matters.”
“My lord, you do know she has escaped again?”
Castamir waved his hand dismissively. “Quite yes, boy. I am well aware. She will not get far. I know her now. After last time, we have made a few changes of guard position. Besides, she is bound to me,” he fingered a fine gold chain between his fingers, laden with a jet-black stone. “She cannot get far,” he added with a grin. “Now, Andereth, what have you been able to gather about that prophecy?”
“Oh, we were able to discover one of the missing verses: `Six times it will attempt freedom, Seventh will trigger the Fire Lords’ rise.’ What do you make of that?”
“It is your job to figure these things out, Andereth!”
Andereth remained silent for a minute while Castamir cooled. “You fear it speaks of Rowen, do you not? You fear her attempts, now six in plan changing according to our sources. You fear what is about to happen next?”
“‘The Fire Lords’ rise.’ `Lords” infers that there are more than one. It must mean the dragons. Rise? Perhaps the prophecy is forked in our favor, and their rise will spill out over Middle Earth. But this does not make sense with the rest of the verse! The seventh escape may be upon us, we must figure out this prophecy. Still… it refers to the escapee as `dragon.’ Could this be a mistake? I think not… Andereth!”
Andereth, who had been letting Castamir muse to himself, snapped to attention at the call of his name. “Yes?”
“Are you sure, absolutely sure, you have interpreted and translated this prophesy correctly?”
Andereth shifted his weight uncomfortably. “Well, we are not perfected in the ancient tongue of such creatures and -“
“Are you or are you not sure?”
“…….we are not.”
Castamir sighed; it had been a long day. And the discovery of a cryptic prophecy, written on a scroll in a complex language, found in the vaults had proved to be more befuddling. “Andereth, send for Larenteth. There are a few things I wish to… address. And plus, we shall need the Master Key in order to delve deeper into the vaults.” Castamir turned his back to Andereth and went to extinguish a few torches.
“Shall I just retrieve the key? Or bring him to the vaults and open them?” Andereth inquired.
“No…” Castamir began, turning his head over his shoulder but still not looking directly to Andereth. A sly grin crept up the side of his deeply-shadowed face. “I would also like a word with him, Andereth. A word. Please also inform Shirnar and Kalip that I will be having a word with Larenteth in the second hall. Please, if you will.”
And with that, Andereth bowed and took his leave.
Rowen landed with a soft thud on the ground as she fell. The tunnel had taken her back to a squeezed crawl, and eventually to an opening at the ceiling of a room. It had been blocked, but only lightly, and gave way when pushed. Fortunately, the room below was dark and unused; no one witnessed Rowen clambering down. Once she had landed, a low rumble and cracking noise flitted through the air and the tunnel opening overhead caved in on itself. Good thing I got outta there quickly. Rowen thought to herself as she shielded her face from falling dust and rock debris. The room’s air was extremely stale as if it had not been opened in centuries, and the walls were stacked high with old scrolls and boxes.
Rowen clambered to her feet to inspect the strange room, surprised to find a torch had sprung to life after her fall. Strange places, these Seerganash halls. She tired to pick up a scroll to see if it could be read, but the paper crumbled to dust in her fingers. Old indeed! This stuff was ancient! Rowen sighed and moved toward the small stone door. It had no handle or keyhole, but yielded open at her touch. She stepped out into the dim corridor. Behind her, the torch sputtered out and the door slammed shut. On the outside, the door had no handle – only a keyhole. Moreover, the way a large cloud of dust had cascaded down when the door shut, and the keyhole was deteriorating, it looked as if no one had opened that door in a long time.
The passage Rowen was in was filled with doors, some metal, some bars, some stone, some all three. Each had the same keyhole on it. Rowen was in the Hall of Secret Vaults – all accessed by one key: the Master Key. Almost the entire wing itself was bolted off with entree only by the master key; only Larenteth had use of this part of the wing. The wing itself was filled with these vaults and lesser vaults as well, reached with various keys. The cool bag at Rowen’s hip jostled as she jogged down the corridors.
The torchlight began to grow as Rowen neared the lesser vault halls. The door ahead was made of thick stone, being the last barrier between the restricted vaults and the regular ones. Rowen was on the clandestine side of the door this time, and she hoped exiting would not require a key.
She had just about reached the door when the floor collapsed under her feet. It was a trapdoor, perhaps a last device to capture unwanted sneaks who may have found a way to enter, or possibly a quick passage to a lower floor. Either way, the hewn tunnel-slide rocketed Rowen down a ways, landing her in a heap on the floor below. It was a large cavern she seemed to be in, stalactites lining the high ceiling. However, curving stone walls surrounded her, a little bit more than nine or ten feet in height. Curious, Rowen jumped up and grabbed the top ledge, using her strong arms to pull herself up. Her view cast over an incredible sight: it was a maze. Whether it was intended to be one or just happened to turn out that way, Rowen didn’t know; with Seerganash it was hard to tell. She considered trying to leap from low wall to low wall across it, but that was impossible. All the walls other than the one Rowen was on were hewn to a rough, jaggedly sharp point at the top, making it impossible to walk on. Rowen jumped down and began to find her way through the odd corridors, the sound of torch flames flickering and water dripper ever present in the damp cavern.
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
Chapter 26: https://www.theonering.com/docs/10675.html
Chapter 27: https://www.theonering.com/docs/10827.html
Chapter 28: https://www.theonering.com/docs/11053.html