He was up late four nights later as rain pounded the roof of their home. Outside a drip was keeping an awkward beat on a metal bucket and inside Drake was restless and would nervously pace at every clap of thunder.
Seth, however, was shaking for other reasons. He had read through almost all of his mothers journal and was up to the last few entries. He had learned that most of her jobs were in the north and the one time she had gone south she had troubles dealing with King Agnos, in spite of the fact that he had called her down there.
He had also learned that the goo creature was known as a gellaco which his mother had learned from Wise Willie whom apparently lived in Forge.
Forge was just north of where Seth lived though he had only remembered being there once. In spite of it being relatively close it was still hard to get there, being on the other side of the mountain range he lived on, even though there was a set of cave systems that led to it.
He also learned about other creatures, some that his mom had tamed for people to keep as pets and others that his mother had learned to just stay away from. One of which, a large bear creature with spiky quill like poisonous fur known as an ederentian, was apparently located in the forest valley of Rahn that his mountain range surrounded.
He flipped the page in the book as another clap of thunder rocked their home and Drake walked around before finding a ‘safe’ spot under Seth’s blanket. He found a one page entry about trying to buy gear in Forge for another trip up north. She states she wasn’t sure what she needed she was only told the trip would be dangerous.
He had learned that anytime someone told his mom something was dangerous she normally didn’t think it would be, so when she made any comments that she thought it would be dangerous it usually indicated that she was going to encounter something fantastically bad, like the ederentain bear.
He flipped in anticipation to the next page and read what would be the last entries she would make.
Jan 21 – 476: I have arrived in Anchorton and met with Tiny Tom who has filled me in with some exciting yet scary news from the caves to the west. It appears someone reported seeing a dragon.
There has not been mention of dragon sightings in more than two hundred years and the thought that one is possibly still around has me more excited than I could ever imagine. But of course, the other side of that is what will be done with it.
The talk of dragons has already spread across the entire village and many people are already calling for it’s head. The last mention of dragons in this area were those that constantly attacked the town and ultimately destroyed it so many years ago that it wasn’t rebuilt until 402.
But I’m not so sure. If a dragon had survived this long without causing any harm who’s to say it would do anything now? Of course rushing in and attacking it would set it off anyway so I wonder if attacks did take place originally, who started them? Just as any creature is prone to attack if provoked, maybe it was our own hubris that caused us to prematurely fear something large, scary, and misunderstood.
On the other hand, I have to remember to keep my own feelings aside. I have to curb my deepest wishes and desires that want this to not only be real but also friendly. I have to remember that while I want this to be the discovery of my lifetime it could be a nightmare and quickly turn into my demise.
Still, I wish Seth were here. He has wanted nothing more than for dragons to be real since he was able to say the word. The experience that this would be for him would make my own pale in comparison. I know my decision to start bringing him along next year is correct and I wonder if I should even bring him with me next time. With work keeping me away more and more often I feel I barely know him anyway.
Seth sat the journal in his lap and cried for a few moments at the lost opportunities. She had wanted him to be with her and he would never get that chance. What would his life have been like had she been able to? And what would he do now that he couldn’t?
He had never been handy with tools like his dad, which was because he never really took an interest in it. It wasn’t that he wasn’t impressed by the things his dad and Crazy Joe made, he was, but the act of actually creating them just didn’t get him excited.
Creatures, however, had always interested him. Being in such a small village the idea that there types of creatures in the world that had not even been discovered yet made his mind spin. It was an even sweeter thought since he had a natural talent for it. He wiped his face, attempted to push away the thoughts, and read on.
But for now I need to stay focused on the current task at hand. What to do if it really is a dragon? Tiny Tom has agreed to go with me and I feel safe with him as he is a skilled warrior, even if he is afraid of a ball of goo. I also trust him to not run in attacking without giving me a chance to learn how the dragon might behave.
I have also gotten various herbs and potions from the local apothecary. A lot of the normal items for healing wounds and sedating animals, but also a drink that is supposed to calm aggressive animals without knocking them out. I have never used anything like it before and even the apothecary admitted it was pretty much untested however I know her to be very talented and have faith that, if needed, it will work.
I have also looked through what few books I have with me on the subject of dragons which, of course, are basically useless. These are the same stories I read to Seth when he was growing up and it is hard to tell if any of them actually happened. Most were written anonymously and the one that I know to have been written by someone who had been a creature handler is vague on what he did to try and tame the dragon, only pointing out that he ultimately failed.
It is really just down to my own instincts at this point and what I know about how dracons behave. I can only hope that dracons behave in any way similar to their distant relatives.
Jan 22 – 476: Tiny Tom and I have arrived at the mouth of the Lacerta Caverns where the reported dragon had been seen. This cave system is immense and believed to be two thirds larger than the most detailed map we were able to buy. We are sleeping just inside the mouth of the cave entrance today and have decided to go down the right fork first. Even it forks a number more times on the map we have however it appears most of them are dead ends. We have chosen to explore a path that has been only partially explored.
Tom is making a stew right now which makes me think of David’s everything stew he makes when I’m not feeling well. I miss my husband and son and want to take time off when I get home.
Tom has also insisted that I wear some sort of protection which, while I resisted, I have appeased him by wearing the lightest armor mesh he had. Even that is weighing me down and slowing our progress but I can appreciate that he wants to keep me alive.
Jan 23 – 476: We made it to the unexplored portion of the tunnel system we had chosen however it did not get very far before it also dead ended. It took us a day to get here and will take us a day to get back to the entrance to head down the other forked path. Then it will be a toss up deciding which paths to take from there as many of them seem to be unmapped.
One note on today’s journey is that we saw no signs of life on our way down. A few bugs, yes, but no rats or snakes or anything else you might expect to see living in here. Did something eat them all or scare them all out?
Jan 24 – 476: We are once again camping at the mouth of the caves. It is raining outside and we got to clean ourselves up a little. Leftover stew and stale bread for dinner. Going to bed early as I’m already exhausted from navigating these burrows.
Jan 25 – 476: We spent a day exploring various forks and paths and have gotten nowhere. Most were dead ends and we are sleeping at the mouth of the cave yet again. We both noticed how warm it was down that side of the caverns. When we had gone down the right side it had been cool and damp, however today every path was dry, muggy, and hotter than the last. It was easy to see why that side was largely unexplored as it made travel slow going. We were happy to see that it was still raining outside and have cooled off.
I’m starting to lose any hope that a dragon was actually spotted and wonder if the whole thing wasn’t a hoax. This whole trip has been a bust so far and I’m more and more ready to go home with every step. But we are getting paid well so we need to have a definitive report when we get back, hopefully we can finish exploring these caves within the next couple of days.
Jan 26 – 476: We are now deep in the caverns and have yet to find an end to the current tunnel system. It was the first one we chose and have been walking it all day. It has gotten so warm that we are having trouble breathing and have had to remove most of our clothing outside of undergarments. Even our armor has now been set aside as it is too much to bear and we are contemplating leaving some of our things in this spot tomorrow when we continue on.
Which also has us discussing just how far we can continue in such conditions. If we are having this much trouble enduring these caves it is highly unlikely anything would actually live here, let alone for hundreds of years. There are not even any bugs to be seen anymore and we are running low on food. If we don’t find a water source tomorrow we will have to turn around and head back lest we run out.
My head is starting to hurt so I am going to lie down. I pray for an easier day tomorrow.
Jan 27 – 476: We have yet to find an end to this tunnel however we have found a water source. It is a bubbling lake in the middle of a vast open area. Around it walls ramp up from our level to another tunnel exit high above us. If we are to go on we will have to climb up to it however we are not sure we will be able to go on.
While we have found water we are as of yet unable to even try to drink it for it is just too hot. Tom has put a large amount inside his helmet where we hope it will cool however after what we think has been an hour it is still bubbling. We are also wondering, if it does cool enough to drink, will it be safe?
Beyond that we are also almost out of food. We have some dried meat and old bread left that may get us through tomorrow. With so many things against us, how can we keep going? Who could have even come this far to see a dragon if one even is down here? With our spirits all but broken and everything against us, we will most likely be heading back up tomorrow.
Jan 28 – 476: We awoke this morning and found the water in Tom’s helmet, while still warm, was cool enough to try and drink. I told him I would try it but he insisted that he do it instead as he had no family to go home too. While I argued that that was no reason to be ok with dying he eventually took a drink anyway. To our benefit he did not get sick and to our surprise, he felt a lot better.
He told me to try it and upon the water even touching my lips I felt stronger immediately. We have not eaten anything today and do not feel hungry. The heat has not bothered us and we have stopped sweating. Whatever is in this water it is unlike anything I have ever encountered. We have set more aside to cool so that we may fill up our water skins and head deeper into the caves tomorrow. If we can carry enough of it we may just make it to the bottom of this cave system. God willing, we will find that end tomorrow.
Jan 29 – 476: Another day traveling this winding tunnel has gotten us another day away from the entrance and no closer to an answer. The one bright side is that the water we retrieved from the lake yesterday has not only kept us going but made us more optimistic than ever. We have strength to keep going and the heat, in spite of making anything metal we carry too hot to touch, has not bothered us at all. I look back at what I wrote over the last few days and can’t even remember why I ever wanted it too end.
Jan 30 – 476: Today we encountered our first problem and it is again something neither of us have ever seen. We reached a tunnel that narrowed to the point where Tom had to hunch over and walk sideways to even fit through. It then opened just enough for us to stand next to each other however the path was covered with what looked to be a set of vines. They were covered with red and yellow leaves and some kind of dark fruit was growing on them. We immediately decided not to try the fruit however when Tom went to slash a clearing for us the vines fought back.
From the wall beside him a vine rose up and grabbed at his sword before he could swing it forward. From my side a vine grabbed my arm and another went for my leg but I jumped out of the way. Tom took a dagger and cut his sword free before getting me.
We have back tracked to the last open area we had been through and are resting before deciding what to do tomorrow. We have come so far I am not ready to give up but I don’t know what Tom is thinking. He’s never been much of a talker and has been less so these last few days. Still, the idea of seeing any life down here at all is exciting and gives hope that something could survive.
Feb 5 – 476: I am back in Anchorton and apparently have been unconscious for a few days now. When we woke up the next day I was able to talk Tom into trying one more time to get past the vines. While he was concerned of what may lie beyond the vines if we did get through I was very adamant about at least trying since we had come so far.
When we got to the opening where the vine lay in our way it seemed there was less of it than the day before. We thought this was in our favor and he swung at the portion covering the opening.
One vine snapped apart and we looked to make sure nothing was trying to grab us again. He then took another swing and yet more vines snapped apart. At that point the ground shook and a loud roar filled our ears. From beyond the vines we saw the tunnel light up with flame and my skin began to tingle with excitement.
I told him to keep going as I could almost fit through the portion he had cleared but before he could take another swipe the vine suddenly grew and doubled in size. It quickly recovered the tunnel and Tom started to back me away.
Yet when we turned around to head out we saw the vines had covered our exit and all the surrounding walls. We were trapped.
He started swinging at everything that came towards us while attempting to clear our exit in between. That’s when vines started to come towards me. Tom handed me his dagger and I swung as best as I could towards each one. One grabbed my wrist and I cut it free. I ducked under another one as Tom struck it.
With my heart racing I started swiping at our exit with him until a new vine appeared. It was at first as black as night before showing itself the same red and yellow color of the leaves that adorned it. At first I just thought it was another vine with different colors however as it got closer I saw it had a tiny mouth and little eyes.
I stood, a bit stunned by what I was seeing, and then tried to hit it. I missed and it lunged at my stomach where it met the light armor mesh that Tom had convinced me to wear again today. Then Tom attempted to strike it down but failed and it this time came for my arm.
It bit in hard and I felt a sting run up into my shoulder and then my neck. I dropped our torch and the lights went out, for me at least, and I was left unconscious.
Tom says he was lucky to cut us free and then carried me out over the next few days. He says we are lucky to be alive and I have to agree with him on that one.
While I wanted to confirm there was a dragon Tom was quick to point out that as hot as it was it simply could have been a volcano. With no other evidence to say otherwise that is what we’ve told everyone here.
I still hold hope that what is down there is a dragon however I don’t know how we could ever prove it. All I know is I am heading home tomorrow morning and I am excited to see my family. Tom has agreed to work with a map maker to update the cavern maps and we told them all about the magical water yet we had none left to show.
I have seen things on this trip that I have never seen before and while that is all exciting, I just thank God I am alive.
Feb 5 – 476: I’ve made it to Forge but I’m afraid I’ve had more problems. The bite on my arm has become infected and I feel very weak. I am going to have a healer observe it tomorrow.
Feb 8 – 476: I have felt too weak to continue home over the last few days. The healer has cured the infection and it is almost completely gone. Hoping I feel better tomorrow so I can get home to my family.
Feb 10 – 476: Feeling much better today, heading home. Can’t wait to see David and Seth. I have decided to never leave home again without Seth. It is time he followed in my footsteps as he has always wanted to do. But mostly, I don’t want to die with us being as apart as we have been. I miss my son. I am so happy I will be able to hug him in a couple of days.
I also want to share with him the graces that God has shown me through this whole ordeal. I could be gone now, but I’m not, thanks to Him.
Seth closed the journal and shut his watering eyes. These had been the last words she had ever written. Two days after this she had gotten home and was already feeling worse again. She hadn’t gone into details over what had happened only that she had run into trouble and she just wanted to sit in her chair by the fire. By the second day she was back she was too weak to speak. A week later and she was gone.
Seth felt the anger at losing her rise up again. Everything he had just read about her last trip swirled around in his mind. He wanted to scream at her for going in the first place. He wanted to scream at Tom for not protecting her. He wanted to scream at God for letting her die. In his head, he did the last one.
His mother had often spoken of her faith and he had always felt that he also had God on his side. When she was home they often went to the temple in their village and prayed and she would read scriptures at meal times.
Now though, after she thanked God for keeping her safe He had let her die and this made Seth angrier than anything else. If she could have so much faith in God and get betrayed what was the point?
He wanted to curse God for letting this happen but instead he simply asked over and over until he fell asleep that night, “Why?”