ATCv1 #14 of 25

11 03 2008

Please note that posts in this category belong to the old, discontinued version and as such will not any updates nor corrections.

‘All right, this should be the last one.’
Strika threw the book onto the top of the pile Laiva was
already holding. She stumbled, tripped over Mynor who had been
standing right behind her, and fell, catapulting the book pile into
the air doing so.
‘Careful, kid, these books are the only ones of their kind.
Hey, that one you are sitting on is at least five hundred years old.’
‘Sorry, I didn’t mean to…’
‘It’s all right, never mind. It’s just… I would be no
librarian if I hadn’t said that, you see?’
Strika gave her a broad smile.

It was hours later and Laiva was still in the library. Somewhere in
the middle of shelves and book piles she was sitting at a huge wooden
table, nearly covered by the books she had already consulted.
Somewhere, because Laiva had not the slightest idea how to get back to
the entrance of the library. With all its randomly placed shelves and
book piles blocking the way, the library reminded her more of a
labyrinth than anything else, but, as they say, a library is always a
labyrinth; a labyrinth you have to discover, with paths to explore and
dead ends to learn from. The past hours had been spent collecting bits
of information from the books Strika had given her, while Mynor used
the time to take a nice long nap. So far she had learned a lot about
the history and nature of the ring, but not where to look for it, not
a single clue. Laiva put the current book away and took a new one from
the pile. Children’s tales? What was she supposed to learn from such a
book?
‘In every story there’s a grain of truth.’ Strika said,
walking through the shelf in front of her. ‘And especially children’s
tales are a better source of information than most people think.’ She
opened the book and scanned the index.
‘There’s nothing useful in there.’ Laiva complained.
‘Oh, there is, there is.’

‘”You haven’t come to ask me about the ring, have you?” spoke
the Oracle. “What a pity, I could have helped you with that one, but
this is a completely different matter…”‘ Laiva recited from the
story book.
She looked up to the librarian’s ghost.
‘You knew it all the time, didn’t you?’
‘Yes, I did. It’s better this way, believe me. You would have
never have read all the other books if I told you where to look in the
first place, would you?’
‘I guess not…’

Laiva was heading straight for the city gates. Paying the ‘Red Dragon’
another visit wasn’t worth the risk and there was no need to do it
anyway; the bill was paid and she had everything she owned with her.
Looking out for Isrin, or anyone else who knew her, she made her way
through the streets of the capital. Approaching the gate she heard two
guards talking about her; obviously Isrin had asked them to stop her,
but fortunately they didn’t take it too seriously. Using some
merchant’s carts for cover, she managed to slip out of the city
without being recognized.

Nothing was left of the lovely summer weather anymore; the autumn had
started its reign and with it came the cold and, worse, the rain.
After two weeks travelling the plains, Laiva and Mynor had finally
reached the hill lands; that had been three days ago. Now they were
sitting in a cave, in the middle of nowhere, in front of a pitiful
fire that smoked more than it warmed. Laiva shivered; she was only
wearing her thin elven robe, but at least that was to some extent dry.
By the time they had managed to find a cave she had already been
completely soaked; his thick fur protected Mynor, but she couldn’t
have been wetter. So far she had spent her little money on inns, but
now they were far from any settlement. The hill lands were raw
wilderness, and only the desperate dared to enter the dense forests at
all; they had taken the lives of too many. Laiva was desperate; there
was a heavily protected coach going right through, but she’d never
have enough money to pay for that. And walking around the hill lands
was completely out of question; that’d cost her a whole year. So now
she was sitting in this cold, damp cave, shivering, freezing and
hungry. With a deafening bang lightning hit a tree in front of the
cave. For a second it wobbled and then, with a enormous crack, the
giant crashed to the ground, directly on the cave top, shaking its
solid walls. Rocks and dust rained down at Laiva and Mynor, a
particularly big one missing Laiva only by inches. She felt something
hitting the back of her head and every went black.

The thing Laiva heard first when she regained consciousness was
Mynor’s low and threatening growling. She started freeing herself from
the debris covering most of her body. Laiva wasn’t sure what was going
on, but she knew that her head hurt worse than she’d ever imagined
possible. Slowly it came back and she remembered what had happened.
She groped the back of her head; the lump was huge and hurt like hell
when she touched it. The growling became even more threatening now,
but still Laiva didn’t react. Her body was hurting as well, but she
seemed to have gotten away without larger injuries; nothing seemed to
be broken and despite the pain it could have been worse. Mynor’s
growling reached another level and finally managed to draw Laiva’s
attention to their current situation. He was standing on a pile of
stones and dirt, blocking her sight at the entrance of the cave;
obviously he was trying to keep whatever he was growling at outside.
Laiva combed the rubble around her for any of her weapons and finally
grasped her staff; better than nothing. Ignoring her aching limbs she
started crawling towards the mouth of the cave. It was much smaller
now, since most of it had collapsed when the tree hit it, but still
large enough for the enormous scaled snake head which had been pushed
deep into the entrance and was fixating Mynor with its cold eyes. It
is said that snakes are able to hypnotize their victims, but either
that was only a myth or Mynor didn’t feel like getting hypnotized. The
head turned, now gazing directly at Laiva, who was seized by an
overwhelming urge to escape its look, but suddenly couldn’t move
anymore. However, that didn’t last very long. The same moment the head
turned away from Mynor, he darted forward and dug his jaws deep into
the place you would have supposed the throat to be; the beast
retracted, pulling Mynor with it and out of the cave. Laiva raced
after Mynor and was almost hit by the ball of fire that suddenly
raced through the entrance and into the cave. She hardly managed to
throw herself aside before it hit her. Hastily she put out her smoking
hair and, ignoring its smell, hurried outside. Instead of the giant
snake she had expected to see, there were now three of them, attached
to an even bigger, scaled trunk with a tail and and pair of wings
attached to it. And Mynor was still dangling from one of its throats.
Laiva dodged another one of the fire balls the creature was covering
the area with. There was only one thing to do.
‘Mynor, run!’
As she shouted it turned one of its ugly heads towards Laiva,
the two other ones still concentrating on Mynor, but she had lost no
time and was already running as fast as she could. Out of the corner
of her eye she saw Mynor loosening his grip and doing the same.

Trees flew past her as she was running, but still she could feel the
hot breath of the dragon behind her. Now and then a fireball shot past
and set part of the forest on fire; if Laiva hadn’t been zigzagging,
she would have been roasted by now. And still the dragon came closer,
being able to fly above the trees. She and Mynor had split in order to
shake it off, but unfortunately its mental trinity hadn’t stopped it
from deciding that Laiva was probably the bigger bite; it was only a
matter of time until it got her. Keeping up this speed for much longer
seemed impossible as well; she already was out of breath and the heat
didn’t help either. What would happen when she faltered she didn’t
even dare to imagine. Suddenly the forest ended. Laiva managed to grab
a low hanging branch just in time to prevent her from falling off the
cliff. The dragon shot past her, but, flying a wide arc, came back in
no time. It hovered in front of her, watching her with its cold
reptile eyes; trapped. For a moment she looked down at the thundering
river far below, but then the dragon opened its ugly mouths and Laiva
watched the glow of fire moved upwards it gullets. She closed her
eyes, waiting for the fire to come; it surrounded her, burning her
skin, filling her lungs. So this was the end. She jumped.

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