Castamir was furious. He could hardly sense Rowen, and when he did it was straight down. Where could she possibly be?! In a rage all the scholars, linguists, and masters of prophecy and riddle were hurriedly drying to decipher the prophecy Andereth had found. Finally, they came to a conclusion they could generally agree on. It must have something to do with the great waterfall that was at the heart of the east wing, the largest wing. It was a beautiful spectacle that flowed up cold from unimaginable depths and cascaded down into a glassy pool below. They thought it magical, and perhaps it was the “liquid power” spoken of. But it was not solid, Castamir argued. Still, they shot back they knew best on this subject, and perhaps it would freeze over, or was already frozen. The water was forever icy anyhow, and no one had checked on it in years out of fear. It simply must be the answer. They knew of nothing else that was liquid.
So, the army of Seerganash stampeded around the halls, speeding to the Cascadelunara, as so they called this waterfall. It would take some time to reach it, for the halls were long and immense in the mountains of the Seerganash.
While the army was galloping out, Réllika rode in to get a report. She was informed of the situation at hand, and told to retrieve the original notes of Andereth on the prophecy for them. She rode faster than the wind to one of the few vaults that was open to them, and scrambled around looking for the record. She disliked the vault area; the death of Larenteth seemed to have brought a heavy presence to it, as if all the ancestors of the Master Key were frowning upon her that ordered the shooting of Larenteth. Her hand trembled and dropped the stone cover of a chest full of old papers. Where the cover fell, a corner of stone floor lifted up.
It was a trap door.
Intrigued, she peered inside to find a scroll written by Larenteth’s great grandfather. It looked to belong in the deeper vaults, but never made it there. Réllika’s eyes widened as she read it, then shoved it in her pocket. She now knew what the prophecy meant, or at least part of it.
No time to inform the rest of the troops; Réllika was making this capture on her own. Now Castamir would have to see her power and strength. Now Castamir would see that Réllika, not Rowen, would be his powerful queen.
Rowen lifted her right arm; the band glowed underwater with such resilience that it was difficult to look at. A burning sensation traveled up her arm, and Rowen was certain it would almost burst into flame right underwater. Jack held tight her other arm.
Without even much aid of her own will, Rowen was being pulled upward. At first she looked frightfully at the solid ceiling; surely it would crush her. But then her eyes suddenly began to shine their golden color until her pupil could not even be seen, nor the white of her eyes. They were somewhat like the eyes of the Natarinturnan, wholly gold and glowing. She looked down at Jack, and made a motion he could understand by patting her throat, pointing upwards, and shaking her head. She was telling him not to breathe in the Vantranack.
All Jack could do was hold tight and take one last, deep breath of the breathable liquid as Rowen’s hand hit the base of the immense Vantranack – and went through it. At Rowen’s band it seemed to melt away, and Rowen and Jack were propelled upwards, searing straight through the solid black rock, and now Rowen knew the meaning of the phrase of the prophecy:
“Solidified liquid power.”
Though she was not sure why it was so, nor why it was referred to as power.
Up and up they went, gathering speed in a fury. All around the inky blackness shivered at the bright bands on Rowen’s wrists, and Jack could feel searing heat beneath his hand that gripped Rowen’s wrist. Around Rowen’s neck dangled what Jack had recovered: the Master Key, and the stone shaft of the sphinxes.
Despite the warm, comforting feeling Jack felt as he held tight Rowen’s blazing banded wrist, he felt something else too. It was not cold, though it made him shiver. It was almost hot, but a different kind of heat that felt altogether too evil and too familiar. It seemed that the only thing protecting the both of them were Rowen’s dragon-made wristbands, or perhaps the glowing shaft of stone around her neck that dangled next to the Master Key. Or maybe it was a combination… Jack could not tell. He just could not shake the feeling that the liquid/stone, whatever it was, around them was someone alive and full of mal content.
Faster and faster they shot up, and fortunately too for both were running out of the breathable liquid in their lungs, and both dared not breath the Vantranack. As worrisome as Jack was, he could not help but be amazed at sights that flashed by as they ascended. Countless bones and bodies, gold, jewels, glass vials, scrolls, and innumerable artifacts and items flickered by, as if a city was just dumped in the great void. Earlier he had seen odd cat-like bones, which Jack did not know of but had been in fact Natarinturnan carcasses. Even scattered dragon skeletons dotted here and there. And, on different levels, something he did not know caught his eye six times. As he and Rowen passed up through, six times he saw some small things as they flew by glowing brighter and brighter. Sometimes, when he looked down, he could almost see the specs of light still, as if they were following them. Though it would seem to be a worrying intrigue, Jack somehow found himself feeling as if they were also protectorates in this mass liquid of the Vantranack stone. Or was it stone? He had heard even firelight cast no reflection upon it, and it seemed liquid now.
Suddenly something glowing snapped off Rowen’s neck and fell straight passed Jack as if to join the other glowing things that seemed to follow them. He did not know what it was, but at least one other thing still remained glowing around Rowen’s neck.
Finally, Jack could see past the luminosity of Rowen’s bands to a dim flicker of firelight above –
They were close to the surface.
But the closer they got, the more tug Jack felt against him reaching it. He gripped Rowen’s arm tight, as she seemed to be the only thing propelling upward. By now it seemed to be solely the work of the bands that pulled them towards the surface, for Rowen’s head was dropped to her chest, and her eyes were almost wholly closed with only a bright line of golden glow escaping her lashes. Jack realized that he too, was become devoid of oxygen. Almost there… almost there….al..most….. th…there……….
Réllika could hardly believe her eyes. Below the stone she stood on, the Vantranack twisted and turned, churning and swirling as if in great pain. The rock was moving. Noises of a deep, low moans and groans escaped it as the odd stone churned and heaved. Below, deep in the rock, a bright golden glow sparkled and was rocketing upwards at an alarming rate. Réllika worried it would explode when it reached the surface, but she stood her ground. Her leather boots were planted firmly on the rock, and she stood tall and strong with an arched back as she waited. In her gloved hand rest a sword, in her other, a long leather whip. She waited, not allowing the flutter of fear to rise from where it welled up inside of her.
In one mighty heave, the entire cavern became filled with the fiery golden light as the Vantranack frothed and spewed forth a body. The body was hardly visible though a sheen of golden light, but the light dimmed as the figure fell and sprawled painfully onto an outcropping of sharp stone, not breathing. When Réllika’s eyes adjusted, she grinned at her correct prediction. The body was Rowen’s. But where was Jack?
Her attention turned back the center of the Vantranack, which was still swirling and heaving. In the very middle, Jack was up to his waste still in the liquid stone, clawing his way out. Aghast, Réllika realized why he could not free himself
The liquid was rising up, pulling him down like a pair of glassy hands. It suddenly shook with a deep, booming laughter that sinisterly rocked the walls, causing bits of rock and dust to fall.
The stone was laughing. The Vantranack was alive.
Réllika was suddenly distracted by a gurgling noise to her right. Rowen was drowning in the liquid left in her lungs. Réllika would have loved to watch her die, but she knew she would get more praise if she brought Rowen back alive. Carefully, without stepping on the churning floor, Réllika leapt to the rock where Rowen lay on her back. She tried kicking Rowen, but all she accomplished was a few ribs cracking under her boot and Rowen still did not breath. With a sigh of frustration, Réllika leaned down breathed life back into Rowen. The girl sat up coughing, her eyes dazed by the pain of her broken ribs. Even so, when her eyes fell on the struggling Jack she stagger up to help him.
A leather thong lashed around her arm, ripping her onto her back. Réllika stood behind her, whip in hand. Soon a cool sword point lined Rowen’s throat.
“Don’t move. I will kill you. You know I would only be delighted at the excuse.” Réllika ordered coolly.
Rowen, exhausted, weak, gasping for air, and searing with pain at each breath, collapsed in heap. Réllika lower her sword in satisfaction.
An incredibly deep, low voice that seemed to come from everywhere at once reverberated around the chamber. It called in a mocking tone. The Vantranack swirled up around his chest, locking him in it. A malicious laugh followed.
Just then Rowen kicked Réllika, almost knocking her down. The fiery spirit of this girl would not let her give up so easy. Hurt as she was, she was not going to stop. Réllika turned with her sword raised.
Fortunately for Rowen, Castamir burst in the chamber. At first his sights fell on Réllika, but then he turned to the Vantranack and Jack in the middle. The penetrating voice, seemingly from the Vantranack itself, spoke again in its low, slow speech.
“Ah… at last, both my sons.”
Jack writhed as he lay captured and yelled out in a hoarse whisper, “Castamir! It’s … it’s Cathrandar….“
The booming laugh echoed to the showed ceilings above.
Castamir stared in shock. “Réllika! Get out of here! MOVE! Get out NOW!” He yelled, fleeing the chamber himself. Réllika grabbed Rowen by the hair and dragged her out. The booming laugh haunted their passage out as stone and dust fell crumbling off the walls.
Outside, Castamir smiled.
“It seems my father still favors me. Now Jack is out of the way, and we can bring Rowen into our plan.” He bent down to the bound form of Rowen on the ground, smirking. “Time for a luncheon with your kin, darlin’.”
Then he turned to Réllika, who stood stiffly to attention.
“Well done Réllika. You have earned yourself a new standing. You shall now be in charge of Rowen, as your reward and your challenge.”
Chapter 1: https://www.theonering.com/docs/9127.html
Chapter 33: https://www.theonering.com/docs/11634.html
I am sorry for the delay (again, yes) in posting the next chapters. until about june 20th posts are going to be sparse. I will not be home often, and i will be vigorously(and begrudgingly) studying for finals, finishing papers, etc. I’m sorry about this, I did not even know my story would still be continuing this far. thank you all for your comments, though please don’t hesitate to comment on the bad points of the story as well.
Thanks for hanging in there through my few and far between posts!