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Firestorm Peak, Letter 4


Dear Da,

I still miss Last Laugh, but I feel a bit better. Mostly because so many bad things have happened to everyone else. Not that I'm glad that bad things have happened to everyone else, but it sort of makes me feel like I'm not alone, and since bad things are happening to everybody, it kind of makes sense. The rain, it rains on everybody, you used to say. I think the rain would make jvennika happy, at least.
We were traveling through the caves, trying to find where we were going. Then, all of a sudden, everything went dark. I mean, darker. I called out, and heard Kariya's voice. I ran to it, but then I heard screaming from behind me, so I went back. Canliss and Jvennika were still trapped in the darkness! I tried to sense what else was in there with them, but I couldn't. I could hear Jven run out, and Canliss moving around. And then all of a sudden, I got very scared.
I don't know what happened. I mean, I've been scared before, like when all those dead people were attacking us or when that giant drugdear was going to kill Nikita and Jven. But I was so scared, I don't even know what I was doing. I just had to run away, as fast as I could.
And then, it was over. All of a sudden. But now, I was scared in a different way. I didn't know where I was, or where Nikita and Rhavin and Jven and Canliss and Kariya were. Maybe they were getting killed by whatever I ran away from, because I wasn't there to help.
I sat down in the dark, and called out their names. I guess a monster could have heard me instead, but then I heard Kariya's voice. She found me!
We got back OK, and everyone else was OK too. Rhavin told me that there was a big black bat thing, but that they killed it. I still wish I could have been there to help.
We wandered around in the caverns until we found a stone door in the middle of this one space. Normally, we would've been really suspicious, but we were hoping that the door was the way to wherever we were going. so we went right up to it and Rhavin opened the door while I got ready to whack whatever was on the other side. There wasn't anything, but this strange fire in the middle of the room, and a lot of coffins, and all these skeletons carved in the walls. Rhavin closed the door right away. Now, were were suspicious again, so we checked for traps. And there was a trap right where Rhavin, Jven, Nikita and I were standing! I looked under my feet for any trap, but I couldn't see one; I knew there must have been one there-- the last time we had seen a trap it had been those ones in the hall that would spike you or drop you or squish you if you step on them. Since nothing happened when we opened the door the first time, we opened it again. Still nothing. It was time for Nikita to cast a spell, because we didn't know what to do. Nikita asked what would happen if we walked into the room with the fire, and she found out that we would come face to face with the builders. I guess the people who built this mountain were in this very room, not that I wanted to meet them. They didn't sound like very nice people, building all these traps to spike and squish people. I was really nervous about going into a room that had a trap that we didn't know what it did, but Nikita said it was OK. So I stepped in the room. It was really cold in here! When my foot came down, I heard a "click!". I froze and looked back, but everyone motioned me on. Nikita told me that the room was safe. So I kept going and everyone came in behind me. I really wanted to geta look at that fire. First of all, there wasn't any smoke. second, it was a funny color. And third, it was MAGIC. When I came closer, I found out it was cold too. Maybe that was why the room was so cold. While Nikita tried to read the stuff on the coffins, I tried to see if the cold fire would burn things. It did! But they burnt cold, just like the fire. It was so strange; the only smoke in the room was all of us breathing because it was so cold. The coffins were made of stone so old it was crumbling-- and it probably took a lot of time for that, with no rain or sun or snow down here. We could see the bodies, but they didn't look like Drugdear. They didn't even look like dwarves-- but who else would build a mountain! nikita said that the writing looked a little like old elven but even older. What are ELVES doing in a mountain-- even really old ones? The elves we saw lived in a forest... But, anyway, it didn't really matter. Jven and Nikita were trying to make the fire go away, because Rhavin said it was evil. Well, if it can be magical I guess it could be evil too--now that I think about it, fire that's cold has something UNNATURAL about it... Unfortunately, when the fire went out, all the skeletons came alive and started crawling out of their coffins. I suppose they weren't giant, fire-throwing skeletons but pretty scary all the same. This is NOT what I thought "meet the builders" meant, but I felt pretty good about taking a swing at them. Then Rhavin held them all back with his holy symbol, shouting "estereal's blessings upon you". Or something. I think it was around that time when Kariya tried to leave the room and almost fell into one of those spiky pits that seem to pop up here. One more thing I'd like to speak to the builders about. Supposedly, we were face to face with them, but they weren't saying anything. And then, our only lantern fell into the pit. Fortunately, when it broke open, the burning oil gave off enough light to see. As Rhavin held off the skeletons, we lept across the pit one by one. Then we pulled Rhavin across last. We were all safe, and none of us had gotten hurt this time, but we had no lantern-- how were we going to save the world if we couldn't SEE? Someone would have to think of something... In the meantime, Canliss had spotted some stuff at the bottom of the pit, and went down to investigate. We were feeling pretty irritated, but then he brought up some really neat stuff. I suppose we should stop along the way to try to find things that will help us. Canliss found a big, magical sword hilt. And some other stuff. I wonder what it is-- I hope it might be something I could use, something more like Last Laugh. Not that I'm not thankful for "Spit" (I'm just calling it that until Nikita finds out its real name). But if Azkul wants me to have a big, magical, two-handed sword... After trying to figure out what to do for light, we pressed on. We had counted all the torches in Kariya's box, and figured we had enough for maybe half a day. We could make little oil lamps when we camped and save the torches, but still... Boy, and I thought it was dark and creepy with just lantern-light! I could barely see the person in front of me, and I felt like ANYTHING could be hiding in the shadows.
We came to a room with a row of big boulders. I guess it was a scorpion's nest, because one came out from behind a boulder and grabbed Kariya with its big pincer and started dragging her off. So I ran off to get it, stepping past Rhavin, and the next thing you know, another scorpion came out and grabbed him!
I got the one holding Kariya pretty good, and ran back to help Rhavin, but he said to go help Nikita. The room was FULL of scorpions! So I ran back, and Nikita was trying to attack the scorpion with her little dagger. Actually, it looked pretty big with her holding it. I could hear Canliss yelling for help, and Jven swearing, and Kariya saying some words I'd never heard her use before, but I knew that Nikita was just a mouthful for that big bug and if I turned my back again it'd eat her all up. Sometimes I wish she wasn't so brave.
I took care of that scorpion, and then I think it was all over except for getting Kariya out of the dead scorpion's pincers. Canliss had been crunched up pretty bad, and so had Nikita.
And then, in the corner, we found some long, kind of shiny, squishy things. Eggs! Rhavin squashed them with his boots-- yuk. The dead drugdear were one thing, but this made my stomach kinda do flip-flops.
We continued on for some time, passing through many caverns. It would have been awfully pretty, if we had had better light and knew where we were going and didn't have to worry about being set upon by who-knows-what. In one room, there was some rocks in the wall that reflected our torches, making things brighter for a while. In another, there was slime on the floor, and we could hear chittering sounds in the darkness. We hoped that maybe the slime could burn, so we could have more light, but it was just slimey.
At that point, I think we decided that we weren't getting anywhere in the caves. There was a reason there were no Drugdear here: they didn't like the caves either! Checking Kariya's map, were tried to move back toward where the paved part of the mountain was. We camped for the night in a worked stone tunnel.
Nikita told us she had a spell that could help us see in the dark. This was a good thing, because we really didn't have enough torches at all, and this way we'd probably see even better. Nikita told us that we could see just like daylight, except no details and we wouldn't be able to read. That was OK with me, since I couldn't read anyway. She also said that if we saw any light, it would blind us for a while and hurt our eyes. Since there really wasn't any light down here, it seemed like a good idea. Especially since we didn't have many torches.
It was very strange. For the first time, there were no shadows, and I could see the turns and twists of the passages far away, and how in some rooms the ceilings went way up and got pointy. But when I looked at Rhavin, I couldn't tell that he was Rhavin except that he was bigger than the others, and I could barely tell Nikita and Jven and Kariya apart at all. Ulfie still looked pretty much like a dog, but I couldn't see what color he was. It was odd being able to see and not see.
We went on for a time like this, with no shadows. Since Kariya was the only one who could see normally, she marked our path as we went. Then, we found the stairs.
We were all very excited. Now we were getting somewhere! As we climbed down the steep stairs, all of a sudden, we heard a "click!", and we were sliding down the stairs. Those Builders! I wish I had given them a piece of my mind when I met them.
I was able to stop myself, and hung there, almost sliding, with Ulfie on my shoulders. I heard the others sliding, and then a splash and a scream. It was Kariya! I heard the others making noises, so I guess they missed falling into whatever was down there.
I yelled down to Rhavin. I didn't know what to do-- bring Ulfie back up, or go down and try to help. He told me to take Ulfie back up, that I couldn't do anything with him on my shoulders and someone had to help him.
I was worried. I didn't know what was going on down there; I kept hearing cries and splashes. Ulfie was worried too, I guess he could tell Kariya was in trouble. But he was a good dog and stayed still while I climbed back up; he knew that if I slipped he'd go down with me.
All of a sudden, Nikita yelled out that she was making a ladder. Boy, I'm glad she did that. I don't know how everyone would've got up otherwise.
When everyone came up, they explained that there was a pool of acid at the bottom, with a light at the bottom. We decided we needed the light, because then we could have real light, and Kariya's father's journal told about magic gems that we needed to close the gates-- if this was one of them, we had to have it.
It seemed like the only way to do it was for someone to dive down in the acid and get it. I volunteered, because I'm good at doing dumb things like diving into a pool of acid on purpose. Unfortunately, I can't swim, otherwise it would have been an OK idea.
Rhavin did it, with Jven to help him in case. He's so brave. We told Nikita not to look at him while he got ready, because she had to concentrate on keeping the ladder there. I had to cover my eyes, because I still had the spell on my eyes that made it so I couldn't look at light, and Rhavin needed to get adjusted to light before going down. But with all the things Jven was probably saying, I bet he was bright red.
They went down, and we had to wait. Both Kariya and Canliss had fallen in the acid, and been hurt. Some of the things they carried also were lost. Mostly, Kariya's sword and our rope. Canliss told us that because we had lost the rope in the acid, he couldn't cast the spell that gave us that secret hiding place from monsters. And not only could Kariya not see invisible beans anymore, but she'd lost her sword too! I told her I felt bad for her, because I felt terrible losing Last Laugh, even though it wasn't magical at all. She said it was OK, that she still had her old sword in her box. I'm glad the box is still ok.
After some splashes and shouts, we heard them climbing back up the ladder. I could see the light coming up in front; Nikita wasn't kidding when she said that light would blind our eyes! Rhavin looked some the worse for wear, but who wouldn't after diving into a pool of acid. He was trying to cover himself up with his hands; I was right, he was bright red. I don't ever think I've seen a man blush that pretty. Nikita was staring at him so hard that she couldn't concentrate on the ladder anymore. Fortunately, Kariya handed him a fur so he could go off and change in private.
I don't know what Rhavin was embarrased about. It's not like he's hideously deformed or has six fingers or anything. And it's certainly not nice for everyone to stare at him like that-- haven't they seen naked men before? But, now that I think about it, I've never seen Rhavin naked before-- even a little bit. I guess I'm used to the changing areas at the academy, and forget that some people are a little more private than others.
Well, the good news is: everyone is OK, and we have a light. The bad news is: we still don't know where we're going. But I think we're bound to find something soon. Maybe some of the magic things Canliss found in that pit will help. I wonder what that sword hilt is.

love,

Ester




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