Thursday, October 31, 2013

Day Five-Sixty-Four: Oms in the Dark

Well, nothing ate us today. But not for lack of trying.

For a solid three hours yesterday, Jeffrey and I wouldn't even talk. Or move. Or blink. Or breathe. The latter two may be exaggerations, but lemme tell ya, when you can faintly hear the scuttling of tarantula poodles through a hundred echoing caverns, you're not inclined to do a whole lot. Hell, when Jeffrey dared to trumpet out a fart I damn near strangled him.

Why didn't I? His gurgles would cause noise, of course. Why else?

Once the shuffling movement of dozens of legs in distant parts of cavern ceased, we settled down. Jeffrey assured me that tarantula poodles are notoriously nocturnal - something he'd read in a book somewhere - and that they only hunt during the day if disturbed. I figured that being underground might negate such problems, but apparently not.

After I'd finished up yesterday's diary entry, we made some very preliminary explorations into the myriad of caves surrounding us. As I mentioned, we'd fallen into a large room filled with over a hundred small openings in the rock, all of which seemed big enough to carry us elsewhere. Problem is, 'elsewhere' could potentially be home to a tarantula poodle nest. We moved a foot at a time whenever we entered one of these openings, and though none of the dozen we checked led us to danger, they all proved way too steep for us to climb.

In time, night came. The scuttling and scraping and growling in the tunnels began again. We fell silent, backed into the barest corner we could find and draped in old cobwebs. We took turns on watch, but I doubt if Jeffrey or I got even a tiny bit of sleep. Not until the early morning, anyway.

I was dreaming when it happened, dreaming of home. Not Villeinville, nor Pubton, nor even the Dauphine, but of the castle. Castle Whateveryawant. And in the dream, I was working on the Neck, actively executing people. I would send a group of people out onto the bridge, their heads shrouded in cloth, and when I pulled a switch they would all die. Ripped to pieces and dumped into the moat, like the days of old.

I never executed anyone on the Neck. That was the job of the bridge's mechanisms. Everything was automatic. So I guess I can't say what the dream meant... nor could I tell you why almost everyone who died on the Neck did not scream. You'd think they would scream.

I say 'almost everyone'. But that's not 'everyone'. One person screamed. And the voice -

Jeffrey's hushed yet defiant yell broke my fatigue in an instant. My eyes snapped open, and as the haze lifted I saw a struggle beyond the cobweb laying on my lap, a tussle of bodies both haired and less-haired. Something hissed and growled, and something else raised its hand -

- and a dagger came down, hard and deadly. A single slash did the trick.

The tarantula poodle gurgled and died, its voice stolen by the gash across its thin neck. The light faded from its lumpy eyes, its body slackened, and it shuddered one last time before going entirely limp. Jeffrey had to struggle to push it off of his legs.

He dropped the dagger, gasping for breath. I scrambled to calm him down before his noises could bring any more tarantula poodles down on us. Fortunately, this one seemed to be an exception, and we didn't see any more of the creatures for the rest of the day.

Thank the gods that Jeffrey had been awake. Otherwise, he says, we'd have been silently strung up and injected with sleeping poison until feeding time. Which is probably what happened to Grylock and Edmund.

We didn't talk much the rest of the day, even while exploring another dozen holes for a way out. But I did offer Jeffrey my portion of the evening's meal, a hunk of spiced ham, and I think he got the message just fine.

We're running out of food and water. We need to get out of here, before mortality catches up with us in one way or another.


Dragomir the Trapped

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