Castamir struggled to get up from his fall, trying hard to keep the out the unimportant idea that Rowen had one hell of a combat skill. But this thought soon blocked itself out of the surface as his mind when he saw what Rowen and Jack were running for. Castamir ran after them, but too late: both jumped off, and deliberately.
“Jack, you idiot, what are you doing?!” Castamir yelled uselessly after them, “Rowen can’t swim!!!”
But both were already gone. In rage, Castamir yelled further, “DID YOU HAVE TO KILL HER JUST TO STOP ME?! DID YOU HAVE TO KILL HER?!” Castamir threw his sword down – the sword that still had Rowen’s blood on it… it landed in some of flames that surrounded the ring.
In an instant, the flames erupted in a huge explosion, sending Castamir’s sword flying out. Castamir ducked and shielded his face as bits of stone came cascading down, followed by his sword, which landed a few feet away. He looked closely at it and realized the blood on it… Rowen’s blood… of course! Dragon blood was flammable… but she wasn’t really a dragon. Why her blood would react that way Castamir could not figure, but he could not ponder it now. Réllika came running up, her normally neat hair unusually disarrayed.
“Réllika – they switched places and jumped off the -“
“I already know, Castamir – come with me quickly!”
He followed her as she ran back into the mountain and through the tunnels, to the dungeon where Jack had been kept. As he arrived, he found a small band of the Hunting Party encircling a figure on the ground, who was bound tightly and had been gagged, but the gag was already taken off.
“We didn’t want to do anything until you got here,” Réllika explained quickly. Castamir nodded in approval and looked at the binding ropes. Sure enough, he found what he had expected.
“You see the charred ends here?” Castamir said, pointing to the ropes. “They have been burned and melted together by Rowen.” With that, he took out a knife and released the bound Seerganash elf. The elf sighed in relief and began relating rapidly in an orderly manner what had transpired. From his account, Castamir could conclude the following:
Rowen had jumped down from the ceiling, apparently out of nowhere, and attacked the guard. He tried to recoil, but she uttered something odd and all the totches died to their lowest possible embers. When the guard ran to relight the torches, the torches jumped up in flame and scorched him, but instead of running he hid in the chaos. He reported that Rowen and Jack discussed in hushed tones, but the elf could hear bits and pieces of their plan, and it had involved the Master Key and something of Larenteth, and the Vantranack, and of course, switching places. Jack seemed reluctant to let Rowen do it, but he gave her his sword and cloak anyhow, and then they found the hidden Seerganash elf. Jack took the elf’s cloak and symbols of position, then Rowen bound the elf. When the other guards came in and took “Jack” out, they were actually taking Rowen.
“So,” Castamir inquired, “jumping into the river was planned? Jack was not trying to kill her?”
“Correct,” the elf replied.
“But she cannot swim!” Castamir exclaimed. The Seerganash elf had no reply for him. “Rowen, what are you doing now….” Castamir muttered to himself. Suddenly he jerked his head up with such force that it startled the surrounding elves. In a low voice, barely above a whisper and half to himself,
“The seventh escape….
ANDERETH!” Castamir hollered the elf’s name, and Andereth promptly galloped into the cavern, looking not the least bit frazzled at being beckoned so quickly. In rapid mode, Réllika efficiently reeled over the important points of what had recently transpired, and Castamir’s last words about the “seventh escape,” though she did not know what it meant. Castamir kneaded his brow with his knuckles, dearly vexed. He was not originally one to believe in prophecy, that is, until his father left one behind. Now this one about dragons and escapes that Andereth had found… Castamir did not know what to think now. At first he dismissed it, until he heard of how Andereth had found it.
Apparently, Andereth had found it while doing research on a stone that contained a natural phosphorescent, seeing if it could aid the Seerganash in the future. With study, they decided to delve deeper, finding more of this stone. At one time, Seerganash began disappearing unexpectantly, and scratching often was heard in the walls as they delved deeper. At one point, the director of the team got angry and ordered a section of the wall be blown apart with high danger explosives. When the dust cleared, the team saw to their amazement a sheet of sheer wall covered in tiny scratchings that looked like words. Only one was in a form of language that Andereth could piece together, being linguist in addition to a geologist. With haste he translated the prophecy and had brought it to Castamir.
Then Castamir, still not wanting to believe it, was quite shocked when it so clearly applied to Rowen. Doubt racked his mind, but mostly he feared it to be true. Unless, perhaps it was working in their favor… he did not know. But whatever the “Fire Lords’ rise” was, Castamir wanted to be in control of it; he had to find Rowen.
While Andereth was being filled in, Castamir fingered the black stone in his pocket that bound Rowen to the mountain. She could not get too far, but still the Seerganash halls were far past expanse of conception, far vaster than even the Seerganash could remember. The closest anyone could come to the idea of its expanse was Castamir, and at one time Larenteth. But even Castamir could not possibly know every passage, for many had been delved in secret, not finished, or opened up by natural occurings.
“Andereth, do you know what Larenteth might have told Rowen?”
“It may have to do with `the key to solidified liquid power’,” Andereth replied thoughtfully, “But that could be a metaphor for anything! Castamir, you yourself are solid and powerful. It could mean you for all we know. Though I have no idea what that would have to do with a key. The possibilities are endless.”
But Castamir didn’t reply. Instead he called for Réllika. Addressing her harshly, he began commanding what needed to be done.
“Réllika I know more than you think, and you let Rowen go. You missed your chance, and she may cause more havoc than we imagined. Gather all of your Hunting Party and find her. FIND HER NOW. And,” He cupped his hand under her chin, lifting her emotionless gaze to his green eyes, “do this and do not fail me; I trust you with this even when part of me thinks it folly. You cannot fail this time. I have never known you to, except when it comes to her. And do not, DO NOT, hurt her. You hate her; I see it in your eyes. You are not altogether emotionless.” And with that he turned from her pallid face and hurried off with Andereth.
As Jack and Rowen plunged down, Jack pulled her closer and yelled over the torrent of winds. “Rowen! You will sink! The water is too fast, I cannot hold you!”
“Don’t try! Take a huge breath, and sink with me! Trust me Jack!” She yelled back. After a long pause he yelled back,
“You’re crazy, but I trust you.”
With that, both took as enormous of a breath as the wild torrent of raging water rushed up to meet them. Sound disappeared as both hit the white water, and both Rowen and Jack began to panic as the cold water entangled both of them in a never-ending fury of black ropes of dark water. Farther and farther down the whirlpool inundation of water beat them, viciously attempting to pound the air from their lungs. Jack, powerful in build, could not stand to see, through the millions of tiny bubbles that ripped between them, the form or Rowen going unconscious as light faded from the water. One thought pulsated through his being: get out. Out of the water!
Jack gripped more tightly the dark arm of Rowen, her hair snaking around his arm as it whipped around in the water, and began to beat his powerful legs. But the water was too fast and strong, even for him. And the dead weight of Rowen pulled him deeper and deeper. Panicking now, Jack released a fury of bubbles as he tried with all his might, wasting precious energy and oxygen, to get back to the long distant surface.
The water turned soft and smooth, but still just as strong, as all light faded from view. They were plunged into blackness. Up ahead, the river diverged into two tunnels. One was slightly lower, but both black voids. The stronger current pulled to the upper one, and Jack fought to reach the surface still.
Then he felt Rowen’s hand on his shoulder. Startled, he twisted his body in the water to look at her.
The stone around her neck was glowing a faint blue, illuminating her face; her face was startlingly calm. This calm was strange even for Rowen normally, but in the water it was a staggering surprise. Her yellow eyes met Jack’s dark ones, and he calmed down. Weighed down by Rowen’s dead weight, and both of their bodies thick and heavy with muscle mass, caused both Jack and Rowen to sink down through the currents and nearly hit the stone bottom. They both passed into the small, darker, lower tunnel.
The submarine tunnel flowed amazingly fast as it rocketed through the small space, and remarkably smooth simultaneously. Both Jack and Rowen began losing consciousness slowly but surely as their air supply ran out. It seemed like a dark eternity, winding down that tunnel, as it flowed farther and farther underground, where no soul had ever gone. It went down beneath even the tunnels of the Seerganash. The tunnel was small and fast moving however, so the pressure did not build up upon them. And all the while, the blue light of Rowen’s stone grew.
It was then at long last that the two companions started slipping away from life, lost in the swirling black waters. Their grip on each other loosened, and neither could see nor hear. Both their mouths went slack, allowing the forceful water to gain entry.
With a gasp, Rowen and Jack suddenly snapped back into consciousness. The liquid they had begun taking in was breathable. Astonished, both looked around as they entered a passage of calmer water. How far underground neither could fathom, but they were now surrounded by water that was penetrated with a soft blue-purple. The tunnel was a mine of rocks containing that natural phosphorescent, illuminating the water. The stone on Rowen’s neck was now a stunningly bright blue.
Rowen turned to Jack and smiled, and he smiled back at her, a strange gesture underwater.
Abruptly the two caught into a faster stream of water, which rocketed them out of that flow of water and into a larger chamber. The stone around Rowen’s neck suddenly grew to a bright purple, then a brilliant gold. Something else strange began to happen… the bands around Rowen’s wrists began to shine with such luminosity that the entire underwater cavern was lit, penetrating even the incredibly vast, dark roof. Rowen looked at her bands, then at the roof, and then to Jack. He nodded with understanding.
The roof of this sub aqua cavern was the bottom of the great Vantranack.
Chapter 1: https://www.theonering.com/docs/9127.html
Chapter 32: https://www.theonering.com/docs/11545.html