CHAPTER VI: TO LIGHT THE WAY

A SANTHARIAN NOVEL

 
Darkling Abroad   
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Introduction. While the passage to Tyr Thromgolin is not a dangerous one for the most part, the caution of travellers is intensified as things beyond their control fall out of place. Viresse steps up to take action - to deter her thoughts away from other things...

 

he wagon rolled easily along the worn trail, as the flaming orange of the descending sun licked across the low lying land and splayed across the swift-moving river. A sturdy bridge appeared in the distance, and took the trail across and meandered alongside the river and into the Argor Pass. Viresse sat higher in her seat as she tried to spy Tyr Thromgolin, but could see nothing.

Rube glanced over at her. "You're never going to see it that way."

"Why not? Am I doing something wrong?" Viresse asked and looked over at him.

"You'll never see Tyr Thromgolin from a distance. Because Tyr Thromgolin isn't visible from the surface," he answered. A smile crept across his face. "Tyr Thromgolin is a dwarven town. Meaning it's going to be underground."

"What?" was all Viresse could respond, her voice high with a hint of surprise, and perhaps even fear.

"We'll hit a large cave and ride underground for a while, and enter the massive underground chambers in the hills across from the Argor," Rube explained

"Why is it THERE?" she asked.

"The dwarves are miners and the rocks in the hills across from the Argor are rife with gold veins. They're very prosperous in Tyr, but are only mildly pleasant to travellers. So we have to be careful. You may want to keep a low profile."

Viresse nodded, then did a double take at Rube. "Are you implying I'd stand out?"

Rube looked her over and shrugged. "Uhm. Yea. You're tall. Taller than a dwarf, taller than a human. And you'll be in black, with pale skin and features that more than faintly resemble a drow. You'll stand out for sure. But I'm sure if you keep quiet and try to blend in, then we shouldn't have any problem doing dropping off the goods here."

Viresse shook her head slowly. For a while she had thought that Rube could look past her appearance. But it seemed it was extremely present in his mind - he just chose when to bring it forward. She sighed. This was not a good direction they headed in. Not just in terms of a dwarven establishment, but in terms of their relationship.
 

Could she even call it that? Did she want to? He was just a human wagon-driver. She looked up quickly, her mind aswim in a new thought.

So - is that what Rube did? In an effort to dismiss her, he brought out her obvious flaws. Which was very cruel. But, unlike her, he did it for a reason - to protect her, to show her what to expect. She just did it out of spite. She rolled her eyes at herself, and pulled her hood quickly over her head, lost in her own slight self-loathing.

"Hey... Viresse... I'm sorry I had to bring that up, but they don't really know you like I do." Rube said, then paused. "I mean, I don't even really know you, but I like to think I know something." He seemed to be very uncomfortable as she felt him shift his weight, then called to his horses to quicken the pace. The last flaming sun beams slipped behind the hills, and the land was no longer alight. Only the sky glowed with the bright beams of the InjŤrŠ, broken up by hazy pink clouds that lazily drifted across the darkening skies. Viresse looked up, and an excited shiver ran through her. Nightfall. And if they were to go underground, it would be as if it was truly night. She pondered what it would be like... underground. Permanent nighfall.

As the wagon trundled across the bridge, Viresse heard a spot of commotion. Over the hill they spied a massive dug-out tunnel in a hill. An arched doorway carved meticulously into the face of the hill with rough-hewn dwarven figures and sharp angled dwarven lettering - it was assumed that it said "Tyr Thromgolin" then another line of other words that due to Viresse's lack of knowledge on dwarves made her unable to decipher. The arched entrance was flanked by massive pyres that were set into niches as tall as a man, dug into the face of the hill itself. There were only a couple of other wagons ahead of them, but they had balked at the entrance to the tunnel. Rube pulled up alongside and stopped his horses, and called across the wagon to the others as he parked restlessly.

"What's going on?" Rube asked.

A scruffy-looking wagonmaster, who smiled but had seemed to have lost a few teeth in his journeys, called back to Rube. "Not entirely sure. Some say the tunnel-lights are out - don't want to risk riding in the darkness, especially underground. Sent my boy Naghib in with a torch to advise the dwarves at the halfway point about the pyres out, but he hasn't made it back yet." He swalloeed heavily, probably in fear of his on child, but continued. "Lighting the pyres along the trail alone could take an hour or so- and that'll be too long. The sun's already down and anyone with a good brain and a great sword can rob us all blind." He shrugged. "A couple of us are pondering dropping camp here - a few others are thinking of break-necking it to Elsreth."

Rube shrugged, and looekd to Viresse. "We too can camp here, but it's going to throw us off scheduele in a bad way. What do you want to do?" He swallowed and looked to Virese, hoping she would have a decent answer, though asking her advice on wagin-trips may not have much effect on the outcome.

After a few seconds she looked up at him, her dark eyes alight. "Do you have a torch?" She asked. She stood up and looked over the wagon bed, hoping to find one.

"No, I don't think so, but maybe one of them will. What do you have in mind?" Rube asked. He rummaged in the wagon anyway, hoping one would turn up.

Viresse turned to the toothless old man. "Sorry to be a bother, sir, but do you have a torch? If you let me use it I promise I'll help you out as well." She cocked an eyebrow, and tried to look as friendly as possible.

The old man did a double take, but nodded slowly. " Well now, a drow! I haven't seen one of you guys in a long time, not since..." He made an awkward face, as if sharing an inside joke. "You guys can see in the dark, cain't cha?" He raised his brows excitedly, and called over to a couple other of the wagondrivers. "We've got a drow who can see in the dark!" he called, and several of the people cried out - some cheerfully, others in shock. But the toothless wagonmaster seemed openly excited. "You can, can't ya?"

"Well... Not completely, just better than others," Viresse answered. The wagonmaster lit her torch with one of his own and Viresse hopped down from Rube's wagon. She stepped about 5 peds away from Rube's wagon and explained. "I'm going to lead the way. Everyone should have their own torch so they can see how close they are to each other. If you're really afriad of getting lost, tether your horses to the wagon in front. At the halfway point, we'll stop for a break, then continue on. Hopefully the torches won't be out from then to Tyr."

Viresse looked at the other wagons, who were making the necessary adjustments for the dark tunnel journey. She sighed heavily, hoping she could do this. She walked up to the larger horse on Rube's yoke, and grabbed one of its lead ropes. She then stepped ahead, held the torch high, and walked toward the mouth of the cave.

The tunnel was wide and spacious. Two wagons could have rolled side by side here, but it didn't make much sense at the moment to do so. With her her adjusted eyes, she could see the niches in the walls, as big as the ones outside, where flames were meant to be burning brightly - they would no doubt have bounced across the walls and easily illuminated the tunnel. She spied reflection of the torchlights on the walls as well - perhaps they were naturally imbedded with quartz. Which would make the hall even brighter, but must have been a pain beyond all pains to dig through. Unless they were walking in a dug out vein of a softer material. Perhaps it was even an old gold or sSilver vein, that the dwarves expanded to accomodate travelling.

At several points her torch light flickered, as if a gust had touched it. She paused, and called out to the others to do the same. She asked Rube what it was.

"There are several massive caves down here, that this road travels past. There are stone rails to guide us away from the edge, but keep an eye on your flame - if we move too fast they'll blow out." Rube gently told her, and Viresse nodded. She then realized that her nod may not be visible, so she called out an affirmative, then led them on.

As she reached one of the spoken-of caverns, her flame danced as if it was truly alive, and there was a great expanse to her left where no refracted light returned from - she assumed it to be the drop-off. Viresse was awed by it, though she could see nothing. These dwarves were resilient and amazing people. Rube's horses stirred uncomfortably, but with some scolding from Viresse they shook it off and continued to move on.

The walk was long, but Viresse was happy to be off the wagon. Not only was her back end sore from the bounce and roll, and the lack of give on the wooden seat, but the tension that had begun to rise between her and Rube was annoying her to no end. She thought about it, and decided she would chronicle it, despite her last efforts that simply were blotted away by the unexpected rain. She didn't want to encounter a situation like this again, so she felt that if she wrote it down, then she would have physical descriptions of how and why it happened so she could avoid it in the future. At least, that's what she hoped.

She soon came to a point where the road widened, and there were hints of torchlight scattered ahead. A few of the wagonriders in the darkness cheered behind her - they must have made it to the halfway point. But it was quite dark, she had assumed it to be more lit than this. What was going on?

She turned to Rube and told him to wait, then walked ahead to scout out. As she got closer to the torches, the flames danced and moved oddly, as if those that held them were running about in a very unorganized fashion. She paused about ten peds away so her appearance wouldn't startle them, and called out.

"Lo! The flames are out from the Tyr entrance and we were hoping you'd all help us out!" she called out, a pale hand (though not entirey visible in the darkness) cupped to her mouth. One of the torches sprinted over to her location.

A squat, round dwarf with a long red beard held his torch high, a bit closer to her face than she would have liked. She stepped back and listened to the little dwarf man speak, his voice deep and gruff.

"Got a bit of a problem with the command order here at the moment. Mithmor thergerim fell down the steps and did a bit of damage to his eleng - er, arm. You'd a think that a thergerim wouldn't break as easily as some, but that's sometimes the way the quartz shatters. We heard from a little human kid that ran through here a bit ago about the thuuth in the front corridor, but we sent him on ahead of our main brigade to Tyr Thromgolin to get help for Mithmor Dan Feffin. The kid moves much faster than we do, so we're hoping he'll come back as soon as possible. At the moment, no one wants to leave him, and usually thuuth goes to the coten, but we can't really figure out who that is at the moment."

Viresse furrowed her brows. She didn't understand thergerim, the dwarven language, at all. But she was thankful that the darkness hid her confused expression. "Why don't you do it?" she asked.

"Me?! Ha! I'm Ave Mithmor! I'm not bowing in because some silly cherk won't do his job!" He made a grunting noise, and turned to leave.

"Well, someone needs to do it," she snapped. " Whoever will do it, I'll give them 20 san."

The dwarf turned around, and looked at her. She couldn't see his eyes due to his thicky furrowed brows, but his cheeks seemed turned up as if he was smiling. "Make it twenty san worth of Aril, and I'll do it!" He came walking back. They shook hands, and he quickly turned to the gathering of torches. "Danzig, Mason! Let's go light the thuuth. NOW!"

Two torches came boundign away from the main group and approached Viresse and the deal-making dwarf. "Go fetch the ladder, I'll go lead the way." He turned to Viresse. "The Tyr isn't so big, so don't think you can get away with it... "He smiled cheerfully, and started to walk away.

He paused and turned around, and looked at Viresse. "If it's not too much, can one of your empty wagon drivers carry Mithmor Dan to the Tyr? He's not going to walk on his own, and if the boy we sent just got there, it's still going to be another half an hour by foot. I'd appreciate it." Viresse nodded solemnly, as the two dwarves carrying the ladder scampered behind the dwarf with the torch leading the way.

Viresse returned to Rube and told him of the situation - the injured dwarf commander and his need to get to town in a hurry. She also told them about the boy. Rube completely understood, or it at least seemed he did, so she took up the rein on the horse and led them on.

A large stronghold-like building was deeply rutted into the rock, it's surface was straked with strains of quartz, coal and even veins of gold. It had a high central room, and beneath that was a small room with a heavy wooden door. The central room had steep ramps that ended at the bottom floor near the central room. The lower room seemed to be serve for storing goods, while the upper seemed to be an excellent vantage point. A couple of small ponies were tied up near the stairs around a carved outcropping of stone. the rooms were burning brightly, and there were some lamps and ground-planted torches that still burned, but there were far more that were out, making the place seem very ominous.

The group passed near the cluster of torches, the dwarves' combined torchlights casting a decent amount of light in the area. One of the the dwarves stepped aside - he had a cape and an elaborate steel cap upon his head and thick braids in his beard - and revealed the injured dwarf.

The injured dwarf looked a lot older than the ones present, with a salt and pepper beard and a large nose red with the look of a heavy drinker. His face was twisted in pain and he grunted angrily, cursing vehemently in thergerim. Viresse knelt down and sat the dwarf up, and looked to Rube.

Rube took the nonverbal cue and jumped down from the wagon, and the two of them explained to the dwarf cluster what they were planning to do. With some assistance, Viresse, Rube and a few of the dwarves loaded the injured Mithmor into the back of the wagon. Some of the dwarves were inquisitive as to what was wrapped in the back of the wagon, but Rube shooed them off.

"It's all going to Tyr anyway, so just be patient and wait till we get there, thanks." He snapped, and then jumped out of the wagon. He sat back up onto his seat, Viresse taking the lead with the horses again and they left the halfway point - the dwarves' torches slowly dimming in the tunnel's darkness as they moved on away from them.

As they left the halfway point, Viresse noticed a dimly lit torch niched into the wall ahead. The torches from the halfway point to the Tyr were still lit - although faintly. More cheers erupted from the wagons as the faintly lit fire was seen by All. They began to break into song - at first a few voices, but soon the cave reverberated with their cheerful song.

Iím a rover, Iím a rambler,
And I rove
From town to town,
With my wagon and my ponies,
Thereís no place
Iíd settle down.
Iím a rover, Iím a trader,
And I trade
my goods divine,
for foreign foods, cloth and trinkets,
to be traded
again in time.
Iím a rover, Iím a crafter,
And I make
Bright jewelry fine,
Brooches, buckles, rings and pendants,
Crafted to
My own design.
Iím a rover, Iím a rambler,
And I rove
From town to town,
With my wagon and my ponies,
Thereís no place
Iíd settle down.

Viresse listened quietly as they sang. They were a cheerful lot. Which surprised her - she assumed that all wagon traders had a hard lot in life - but perhaps it was less awful than she thought. Perhaps there was a sense of freedom that wagon-traders had. Only one thing to do and they could do it any way they pleased, as long as they did it. She thought about that. It was kind of nice. But then she turned for a second and looked to Rube. But there must be times they hate it too, having to deal with people they don't like, having to be rushed and carrying things they didn't know they would, like Viresse being sprung on Rube. She wondered if he knew of her travelling with him. She wondered if they held off on telling him until the last minute so he couldn't back out. She assumed they did. Why? Well, like Rube had said, no one tells the laymen anything.

As she led the wagons forward, a glowing light seemed to break ahead. As they continued moving, Viresse realized that the light was getting brighter, and soon the opening of the cave crested, light spilling out toward them in a friendly illuminated embrace. The bright, flaming torches of Tyr Thromgolin reached them, and soon the song changed into happy cheers from the traders. Viresse smiled under their cloak, for she was happy to have done it. They would not have made it had it been for her - and she was a drow. She wondered how many knew other than Rube and the toothless wagonmaster. Not many, she assumed. And it may be better that way - for if they found out, maybe they were more liable to be upset with her. But she hoped they wouldn't, she did just save them a whole lot of time.

The group made their way into town and Viresse saw a boy standing near the main road with a small brigade of dwarven men. She smiled to him, and waved gently, then jerked her thumb back to gesture to where his father was. He smiled and took off running, and clambered into the wagon beside his father. Viresse guided Rube's horses to a stop before the dwarven men, who moved as a unit to unseat the injured dwarf they transported. The dwarven man seemed far more relieved than he had in the darknes of the tunnel, and was cursing far less. Perhaps shock had set in, or maybe even he was glad to be in town. Either way, he was carted off to be taken care of. Viresse waited for the brigade to disappear before she jumped back up into the seat beside Rube.

The toothless wagonmaster pulled up beside Rube. "Thank ya so much, ma'am. We'd a been stuck outside all night, and I'd not known where my boy was. If you ever need anything - just tell any trader you know Mr. Ian Woon, and they'll accomodate you as if you were their own sister! At least they better, if they don't want their pearlies lookin' like mine! " He cackled at his own joke and rolled off into the center of town. "Welcome to Tyr Thromgolin!" he called behind him as he rumbled into the crowds, then began to sing the song they sang in the tunnel.

Viresse sat for a few seconds, it felt good to be nice sometimes, even if it was to strangers.

Rube turned slowly to look at Viresse. " Mr. Ian Woon!" He muthed the words a few times as a wabe of surprise and shock washed over him. With maybe a hint of awe. "Wow, Viresse. You saved Mr. Ian Woon from trashing a shipment!" He sunk his head and could only mouth the name Ian Woon to his self and shake his head. He seemed overhwelmed by the idea.

"Who's Ian Woon?" Viresse asked.

Rube quickly turned to her, surprised. "He's one of the greatest traders I've ever heard of. It's rumored he can ship a wagon from Strata to Nyermersys in thirty days. I'd never met him before - I don't know anyone who has either, at least, not until now." He smirked. "And I believe it. He's a good, quick man. And you saved his royal trader behind from a doomed shipment."

Rube outlined what he had heard of Mr. Ian Woon as they travelled through Tyr Thromgolin. Ian Woon had apparently fought off a tribe of orcs with a crossbow and a kev'lor horse. He was known by the Maeverhim as to be one of the most kind and trustworthy traders of the human race. He had even been known to travel through the Paelelon without incident - which piqued Viresse's interest. She was amused by Mr. Ian Woon, and remembered to keep his name in a corner of her mind.

Viresse and Rube clattered up to a large building, if that's what one could call it, for it was built into the massive cavern wall. It was intricately built, with dwarven runes carved into the face and was rife with grains of gems, silver and gold. It seemed that this corner was chosen for this building.

Rube halted the wagon and jumped off. He started to walk toward the door. Viresse was ready to follow but Rube quickly and silently gestured for her to keep put. He then quickly turned around and walked to the door of the place. He knocked, then waited impatiently as he seemed to fidget uncomfortably as he stood by the door.
From what Viresse could see, the door opened, and a human answered. Which surprised Viresse - this was a dwarven town, wasn't it? Rube gestured to the shipment, and then spoke to the person at the door a bit longer. The person nodded, then closed the door. Rube turned away and returned to the wagon.

"This is where this stuff goes," he noted, and then turned back toward the door.

"That was a human..." Viresse noted.

"Yeah," Rube answered, still watching the door.

"Why are they here?" she asked.

Rube turned around. "Sometimes we wagonmasters don't ask questions. We just do what we're told and ship what we're given. That way if something goes down, we have no knowledge of the situation." He bowed his head in thought, then looked up. "Well, it's goign to take a while to unload this wagon, so go ahead and entertain yourself with the Tyr. It's not too big, so don't worry about getting lost. If you get bored, go ahead and come back here, but keep a low profile."

Viresse furrowed her brows. She was confused by Rube's cold turn of self, but she shrugged. This was business yet again, and she didn't want to ruin his business by her presence. "Fine," she said, and climbed down off the wagon. She turned and left Rube and the wagon, and wandered off into the Tyr.
 


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