Thursday, March 3, 2016

The Lightless Labyrinth - Excerpt 15


"And what about that boy?" said the mercenary captain, gesturing vaguely to the lank-haired youth standing behind the knight.  "One so young as he’s got no place where we’re goin’.  Besides, his shield has the crest of a coward."

The boy’s fingers tightened on the shield in his grip.  It was emblazoned with the symbol of a rampant mouse.  "It's not mine," he mumbled sullenly.

"This is Harin, my squire," said Sir Garath.  "And the crest is my own."

The mercenary barked a laugh.  "I’d say maybe you ought to be the one who stays behind, but you are payin’ my wages."

"Does young Harin have no say in this?" said Myrio.  "He may be your squire, but you cannot force him into a place like the Hellwarren, not against his will."

Sir Garath frowned, and glanced sidelong at his squire.  "Well, what say you, lad?  Will you come with us, or return to Alcott Hall and your father?"

Harin wilted, his face pale and his eyes downcast.  His fingers on the shield were white.  "Yes," he whispered.  "Yes, I’ll come."

"Your reason?"

"To serve my master," said Harin, his lips curled in a sneer.  "Whose bravery is legend throughout the land."


Jonn felt as though he was rooted to the floor.  His whole body shook, but his legs wouldn’t move, didn’t have the strength to stand.  He felt numb, and all he could do was look around the chamber in a daze.  The floor was covered in ash, some of it in black clumps where it was mixed with blood and splinters of bone.  Tharissa still lay motionless, and Father Beren knelt beside her, with Artis leaning on the wall nearby.  Jonn felt a detached sense of surprise to see that the priest had a long, bloody gash on his arm.

The squire, Harin, emerged from the tunnel, his normally sour face drawn and expressionless.  Gam walked close behind him, starting at every sound, turning this way and that with every step.  His eyes caught Jonn’s and he hurried over.  After a moment’s hesitation, Harin followed.

"You alright, Jonn?" Gam asked.  "You don’t look quite right."

"I’m fine."  The voice came from somewhere.  Was it his own?  Jonn wasn’t sure.

Gam licked his lips.  "I ain’t never seen a thing like that before.  Those men."  He shuddered.  "I think maybe I shouldn’t of come."

"None of us should have come," said Harin.  "Look at them, they’re like beasts.  Devils.  Who knows what else lives in this hellhole?"

"Maybe," said Jonn.  "Maybe you’re right.  But I have to go on."  He still didn’t know where the voice was coming from, but it made no sense.  His own father had died down here.  What chance did any of them have?

"Listen," said Harin, and he grabbed Jonn by the collar and pulled him close.  "I can't do this on my own.  When we make camp tonight, you and I will volunteer for the first watch.  Then we slip away and get out of here.  Are you with me?"

Jonn shook his head.  It made sense.  He had to get out of here, had to get away.

"No.  No, we can’t.  Leave the others asleep?  Undefended?  No."  Who was that speaking?  Jonn wished that he would stop.

"They might as well be dead already," said Harin.  "But you and I can live."

"What about me?" said Gam.  "Maybe I oughta come too?"

"Just so long as you keep your mouth shut, peasant," said Harin.  "Are you with me, Greywood?"

The voice did not answer.  Jonn tried to speak, but his mouth wouldn’t open.

"Say something," said Harin.

Again, the voice was silent.

"Speak!" he hissed.

There was a clicking sound, echoing faintly around the chamber.  It came again, multiplied.  Jonn shook his head and raised his sword.  From somewhere he gained the strength to push himself to his feet.  The clicking grew louder, and then they came pouring from the tunnels once more, a horde of beast-men, wailing, gibbering and shrieking in a scuttling wave.

Without a sound, Harin turned and scrambled back towards the tunnel.  Jonn whirled around with his sword at the ready, and saw an onrushing storm of open jaws and pale, luminous eyes.

"Fall back!" he heard Sir Garath cry.  "Back to the tunnel!"

It made sense.  He knew it made sense, that it was the only thing a sane man would do in the situation.  Instead, he hefted his sword and shield, and stood his ground in the face of the horde.

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