DAY 13: The Elori – Part XIII

Kilgalan awoke. He was miserable.

There was a keen pain on the back of his head, where he felt a large protrusion extending from his skull; various parts of his body were bruised or encrusted with coagulated blood, and an intense ache permeated his whole being. He surmised that he must have been beaten by those cloaked men, but didn’t remember a second of it if they did; that wasn’t new for him, though. The infusion damaged his brain in more ways than possibly even Ghardinian knew…

He surveyed the room. It was dark, lit by a single torch that burned sadly in a corner, casting a dim light about the place. There were no furnishings and, in fact, and it was so austere that it seemed as though the room had been excavated by hand, given a door, and called a humble abode.

Kilgalan groaned and rubbed his hand over his face; why had he been so foolish to search for Vestra and Bartholomew? Surely they would have known their way around the place, and returned to the rotunda in due time; he didn’t know a thing about the layout of the labyrinthine tunnel system! If he had just waited – just been patient, and not impulsive – he’d probably be with them right now. But he wasn’t, and it was all his doing. In his mind, his imprudence engendered these circumstances, and he resigned himself to suffering the consequences of his ill-advised actions.

His contemplations, however, were abruptly interrupted when the door to the room burst open and the leader of the five, a grim expression upon his face, grabbed Kilgalan by the collar and said, “You’re fortunate, boy. Our companion is not dead, but gravely wounded. He will recover. Thank Heaven that he is still alive; you’d be gone already if he wasn’t.”

Kilgalan dislodged the man’s hands and said, “I was defending myself. If he died, why should I care?”

The man threw him against a wall and leaned in dangerously close. “What would you think if your parents died, boy, huh? You’d be sorry about it, right? Well, that goes for everyone who loves someone, not just the people who are on your side.”

Kilgalan glared at the man, but did not speak.

The man stepped away from Kilgalan and turned to look at one of the dirt walls as if finding something of peculiar interest there. “What do you know about the girl?”

“Vestra?”

“That’s a start, but her name will not sate my desire. What more do you know about her? What powers does she possess? Why is she here in the first place?”

“I only vaguely know the answer to a few of those questions…”

“Then answer them if you may, no matter how inarticulate your explanations might be!” the man implored. “I must know more about these intruders.”

“Intruders?” Kilgalan replied, bemused.

“Yes, intruders. They came here without our consent, and now use our council chamber for their own ends. We’ve tried to retake it, but have always found the passages to the rotunda to be obstructed, impeding, if not halting entirely, our progress. I have talked with the elderly one briefly before, and he is under the unfortunate delusion that this place is no longer a civilization, that no one lives here anymore, and that we are simply trying to harass him and the girl. Well, he’s wrong. Myself and my companions are all part of a brotherhood, a fraternity that protects the people of this empire, and there are tens of thousands of citizens living a few thousand feet beneath us this instant.”

The man turned to face Kilgalan. “Your friends must leave, and you’re going to help us do it.”

“Why can’t you? You’ve said yourself that you’ve talked to Bartholomew before; just tell him what you’ve told me now!”

“I have, but he is an obstinate old man, and set in his ways. My efforts have been fruitless. He thinks that I’m lying, and won’t come to the lower levels with me so that I can prove my veracity. If you can convince them to go, though, then perhaps there is a chance that he will change after all.”

Kilgalan considered this for a moment. The man certainly seemed to be talking sense, and didn’t appear to be malicious or dishonest in any way. In fact, thought the man was stern and dour, there was a gentle and tranquil aspect to his demeanor that rather endeared him to Kilgalan, and this trait made it easier for the boy to trust him. But wouldn’t he be betraying Bartholomew and Vestra’s trust by doing this? Wouldn’t he be doing something against their interests? Which should he choose: What seemed to be the right thing, or what seemed to be the right thing?

But Kilgalan came to a decision at last, and with a confident look in his eye, he said, “I will prevail upon them to go to the lower levels.”

TO BE CONTINUED…

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