Part 103 – Bridge Before the Storm
“There’s one behind you,” yelled Eleswith to Magla over all the growls and sloshing sounds of the sludge in the chamber which also echoed terribly. The clangs and smashes of the weapons only added to the loud sounds as the group of six tried to fend off the evil creatures attacking them. Magla, who was hammering his enemy turned at the warning from Eleswith and swung his hammer, Siladam, back which pierced the creature with the metal spike on the other side. He quickly pulled the spike out of the creature and swung it back around and smashed another beside him as the “clank” from the metal hammer smashed the thick skulls of the creatures.
“Eleswith, duck!” Helesdir yelled to her as he aimed his bow to a large creature beside her. She dropped to the ground as Helesdir’s arrow flew past and hit the other creature.
“The exit is blocked,” Sergee said after he looked during there was a lull in his fighting. “We cannot reach the exit. We must turn back.”
“No!” Helesdir yelled, “we must fight on to the exit as Theomin said.”
Estonethiel shot another arrow and continued, “He is right. Those creatures have blocked our path. We must turn back and find another way.”
Sergee and Eotheron led the retreat back the way they came. Helesdir, who was hesitant to retreat, followed along with Estonethiel as both shot anything that moved to the sides of them while Teryndir, Eleswith and Magla fended off the creatures following them. Tired as they were, their arms felt the sharp burning pain of exhaustion as they battled their way back out. Their advancement was halted by the advance of another onslaught of the nameless creatures.
“Fight through them,” Eotheron yelled to his companions.
They slammed into the assault of the creatures who were much easier, slower and less aggressive than those other creatures in the dark pools. Estonethiel and Helesdir shot off their arrows in an attempt to clear some of the path. At last, they finally cleared the threshold of the chamber and ran through the corridor toward the ramp that led down to the lower chambers. Another onslaught of the dark creatures came toward them. They readied their weapons when a strong gust of wind swept them off the ramp and far down into the pits far below.
“What was that?” Eotheron was suddenly halted in shock.
Theomin came running up the path toward them followed closely by Aches.
“Theomin!” Eleswith said with relief as she hugged her friend.
“We have not much time,” Theomin said. “An army is not far behind. Those dark things are from the time of Morgoth. An entire army they have and an entire army we cannot fight with just the seven of us. It is no doubt that if they were to get out, they would wreak havoc on Eriador and possibly all of Middle Earth.”
“Where do we go?” Eleswith asked.
“I hear there was a trap back in that next chamber,” Theomin said.
“That is true,” Sergee said. “We just came from there and that way is blocked.
“We could…” Theomin started to say when a large jolt rocked the platform they were on.
“What is that?” panicked Teryndir.
“It’s something very large behind us,” Estonethiel said.
“Thanks for the update,” Teryndir mocked.
Another large jolt rocked the bridge they were on, “It’s collapsing,” Theomin yelled as he saw a large crack form in the middle of the bridge. “Run!”
“Where?” Eotheron asked.
“Back up to the top!” Theomin yelled.
The seven ran back up toward the oily chamber as another jolt shook the earth beneath them as they all fell from their feet. Soon, a large creature, much the same as the other that Theomin fought before, came through the other side. It continued up the path as the rest of the group got to their feet and ran up the pathway up to the entrance to the cave. The sludge filled creatures came from that entrance as Estonethiel and Helesdir shot their arrows at the few creatures spilling forth from the entrance. Eotheron, Magla and even Aches ran to the corridor to engaged the rest.
As the large creature from the other entrance attempted to cross the already fractured bridge, more cracks appeared and it began cracking even further as massive chunks of it began falling from the underbelly of the bridge and crashing down onto the floors far below.
“Quickly!” yelled Theomin as he, Sergee, Eotheron and Estonethiel reached the other side while still battling the sludge filled creatures.
The creature reached the center of the bride, Theomin raised his staff which let in a very bright light from above which stunned the creature. Theomin raised his staff a second time and released a large bolt of lightning down into the head of the creature. Dead, it then fell facedown onto the bridge as the rest of the bridge began to collapse. The quake knocked Eleswith off her feet and as the bridge began to collapse beneath her. Helesdir and Teryndir ran to her aid but they too were caught in the collapsing bridge.
Soon, the bridge broke apart chunk by chunk with the bridge under the large creature began falling first into the depths of the chasm. The collapsing continued along the rest of the bridge ward Eleswith, Helesdir and Teryndir as they scrambled toward the other end of the bridge, barely getting to their feet. But they were too slow. The bridge collapsed under their feet as they plunged into the depths of the chasm.
Loud thumps and tumbling sounds of the collapsed bridge echoed from the depths below. Silence then followed and the four that were left on the chamber above were at a loss of words and of breath. Not even the creatures from the chamber of the pitch had advanced toward them.
“Eleswith!” Theomin yelled and waited for a response. He then yelled out, “Helesdir! Teryndir!” He then waited for a response.
Another group of the sludge filled creatures then came forth from the tunnel as Estonethiel and Magla made short work of them.
Soon, a very faint echo came from below. “We’re okay!” said Eleswith’s voice. “We’re on a small platform with a tunnel leading to it.”
Theomin conjured up a small ball of light with the aid of his staff. He then threw it down to the depths of the chasm. The light passed Eleswith, Helesdir, and Teryndir who were indeed on a small platform. Being maybe fifty yards down they were too far below to render aid with the help of any tool they could conjure up.
“Follow the tunnel. We will hope it leads up here!” Theomin yelled down to them.
“What do we do?” Sergee asked Theomin.
“Perhaps that tunnel leads to the other side. Upon looking at that map I saw some of them intersect with each other. Maybe they do not run directly into the other but perhaps they come close enough to where we can catch them.” He removed the map. He placed a finger on where they were. “You see these two tunnels. The one we are in is the one that runs here,” he said as he pointed to a piece of tunnel that almost looked nonsensical, “but there is another that ends just next to it. I have a feeling their tunnel is that one that ends there. I believe it either comes close or intersects with that elven village we saw.”
“I see,” Sergee said. “That would mean we would have to make it to the other side of the chamber with those sludge creatures.”
“It is okay,” Theomin assured Sergee.
“How do you know?” Sergee asked. “What’s the difference between now and when we last went through?”
“The difference is that you have me,” Theomin said with a sure tone.
The tunnel stretched far and dark but straight. Eleswith, Helesdir, and Teryndir followed it quietly. Not a person spoke as they walked through the small tunnel. It continued through smaller and larger tunnels, none of which held anything spectacular in terms of architecture. It all looked as though it had been quickly carved out. Even the ground they were walking on seemed quickly carved. Through the caves there had been designs symmetrical in the ground of the caves. Not the one they were in. It had all been chiseled out fast with no time for designing it. Even the scratch marks were still visible on the walls ceiling and ground of the cave.
It finally came to an incline and turned to the right and continued going up. It continued along for a while ever increasing up the pathway and then came to a large empty cavern. The pathway continued up along a bridge and through another tunnel entrance on the other side.
The three started across as Eleswith looked down. In horror she began to shriek but Helesdir caught her mouth. Below the bridge were piles upon piles of bones. Some were of animals, boars, aurochs and small rodents. But many were human bones, perfectly preserved all in large piles. Where they came from they could not see. Above the chamber was all pitch black as no light was even entering the chamber from above.
“What did this?” Eleswith whispered. Even her whisper echoed through the chamber.
“I know not,” Helesdir whispered back.
“I care not to find out,” Teryndir too whispered.
They continued to the other side of the chamber quietly. All that echoed through the chamber was their breath and their boot steps in the loose gravel of their pathway. Inside the next tunnel was much the same as the other but the tunnel was in need of supports. Wooden slats were placed on the walls and ceiling every few yards or so. They looked old, much too old to support the weight of millions of tons of rock above them. But somehow they were able to.
As they continued down the tunnel, Helesdir had flashbacks of the trek through the valley where the dragon had been only a few moons ago. He felt an uncomfortable unease while walking before Teryndir, as he their companion could do something that would end their lives and then after word make up any story he would like. Helesdir then paused.
“Go ahead,” he told Eleswith and Teryndir. “My boot feels a little like there’s a rock in it.” He said that so he could let Teryndir before them. He cared not that Teryndir was traveling with them. He had no trust in Teryndir. He never did; not since they first met up in Esteldin so long ago, before the retaking of Annuminus. He finally stood and continued behind the other two down the path that snaked upward through the continuously long corridor.
Smashing and whacking, the rest of the group continued to slowly make their way over to the other side of the chamber where the creatures of sludge were. Though slow, they had made their way at least to the center of the chamber. Every so often, a new batch of creatures would emerge from the sludge just beneath the surface.
“Where are all these creatures coming from?” Sergee asked.
“Have an idea, Estonethiel?” Theomin asked.
“I cannot sense any creatures resting inside of this muck,” she said while she shot an arrow at another creature. “I can only guess they are coming from some other place, not from inside these pools but someplace else.”
“Of course,” Theomin said as he smashed through another two from the pools. “This must connect with another pool in another cavern.”
“How do we stop them?” Eotheron asked after he sliced through two more creatures.
Theomin thought for a while. It took him another hit with his staff before he could figure it out. “We must burn the pools.”
“Wait,” Sergee said, “You said if we used fire the entire place would explode.”
“I did,” Theomin said as there was a small lull in the combat. “If we could get those doors closed, it may contain the explosion.”
“But how do we close them?” Eotheron aslked.
He pulled out the vile of sludge he collected on their way inside. “I can use this to shut the doors. I will stick the phials on the doors using the thick muck and then set fire to it. With hope, the blast could force the doors to shut. If that works, I can do it to the other end too, affectively sealing it.”
Sergee stayed quiet for a moment while Estonethiel and Eotheron continued to fight the creatures that continued to come forth through the muck. “We cannot let those things out onto the soils of Eriador,” he tried to reason. “If we set one of those things off, what could happen to this place if we were to ignite this stuff?”
“With luck it would only force the doors to shut,” Theomin said with uncertainty.
Eotheron slew his last creature when he turned to Theomin. He had been listening to the entire conversation. “What does ‘with luck’ mean?” he said with doubt.
Theomin knew what could happen but had trepidation saying it. He could see the urgency in his companions’ eyes which forced him to continue, “It means the entire chamber and even the cavern could ignite in an enormous explosion which could bury all of us under the watchtower.”
Theomin’s companions’ eyes were wide with shock. It had been much worse than any of them imagined as panic was truly seen on each of their faces. Suddenly, regardless of how he felt about the news he had just heard, Sergee composed himself, forced a stiff upper lip and said, “Let’s do it.”