i_love_freddie: (Freddie)
[personal profile] i_love_freddie
Kane Theaza groaned and opened his eyes. And then blinked and shook his head, confused. Everything was completely black. He raised a hand up to his face – nothing. What happened? Am I blind?

“It's all right,” Benny's voice was a reassuring sound in the darkness. “Jonas, can we have some light?”

There was a low murmur and finally a faint reddish glow pierced the thick blackness. Benny was kneeling over him, looking concerned. Jonas stood a little way back, holding his staff up to provide the light. He looked more than a little annoyed. Cory, the half-elven assassin, was sitting on the ground a little way off – his wrist roughly bandaged. Valia was looking around groggily, her face scratched and bruised.

“Glad to see our leader is awake and in one piece,” Riandur said drily. He and his smaller companion, Phellan, were over by a wall that Kane realised was made of rock. “I hope you are ready to hear some really bad news.”

“I...” Kane sat up, feeling a sudden stabbing pain in his ribs. “Where are we? What happened?”

“Well, here's the thing.” Benny sighed before reluctantly continuing. “You remember that dragon we were fighting? It went a bit crazy and brought the whole ruins down on top of us.”

“In short,” Riandur continued expressionlessly, “the entrance is blocked and we appear to be trapped down here.”

As the disorientation wore off, Kane was able to get a good look around him. They were in what appeared to be a series of small rocky caves. At one end was just solid rock, at the other was a pile of mud, stone and rubble. The roof was low, at six foot tall he could just barely stand up straight without hitting his head. “Oh rats!”

“Yep, that's what I figured,” Benny nodded, “they are way too big for mice.”

“What? Where?” Looking around the dark cave, Valia let out a piercing scream as she saw the furry black bodies slinking away. She hated small furry things with a passion.

Riandur charged after them, pouncing and spearing them both with his sharp claws. Within seconds both were dead. “We might want to eat these later.”

Valia, Cory and Jonas looked slightly sickened at the thought.

“Well, maybe we shouldn't jump to conclusions,” Benny tried to be the optimistic one. “Let's all search a bit of the cave and see if there's any exit before we all start panicking.”

All seven of them split up and began to search the rocky walls for any opening or passage or even a glimpse of sunlight. It was not an easy search, for neither Jonas, Valia or Kane had the ability to see in the pitch blackness. Cory was beginning to feel the first signs of claustrophobia, and his hands were shaking badly enough that he wasn't quite sure what he was touching half of the time. But despite their best attempts, the search revealed nothing. One by one, they returned to the centre of the cave.


“I couldn't find anything.”

“There's no exit over there.”

“No luck.”

“We are trapped, aren't we?” Valia said fearfully. “We can't get out. We're all going to die down here. I can't breathe,” her voice raised drastically, her words becoming more shrill, “I can't breathe. We're going to die, aren't we?”

Slap! Riandur's paw connected with her cheek. Looking completely stunned, the young druid fell silent and raised a hand to her stinging face. Everyone else just stared in disbelief.

“Sorry,” Riandur directed his apology to Kane. “Someone had to do it. She was getting hysterical.”

“Ah, forget it. Come on, we have to stay calm and think things through without hysterics. You okay, Val?”

“I... yes, I'm fine now. I just... don't like it down here.”

“Me neither,” Cory agreed. “Being underground makes me edgy. I feel like the walls are closing in on me.”

“It's not just that. I also really need to... you know...” she blushed bright red.

Kane shrugged dismissively, “Go behind a rock.”

“But... the rats...”

“Oh, the rats won't look,” Phellan said cheerfully.

Valia shuddered. “I think I'll just hold on until we get out. Someone will find us, won't they?”

“Oh sure, people must pass through here all the time,” Kane said, trying to keep the sarcasm out of his voice but without much success.

Cory immediately jumped to Valia's defence. “But maybe someone from the guild or...”

“They know how our life is,” the warrior shook his head. “They might worry in a few weeks, but even then no one will know where to find us.”

“By which time we will be completely out of food and water anyway,” Jonas added.

Cory reached out and took Valia's hand, squeezing it reassuringly. Phellan pressed close to his leg. “Are we going to die?” the younger wolf-man whispered. Unable to answer him, Cory just reached out and buried the fingers of his free hand in Phellan's soft fur.

“Come on,” Benny said, trying to keep his voice cheerful. “If there is a way out of this, we'll find it. We are survivors, aren't we?”

Riandur laughed sardonically. “In theory, yes. But then we've never done the whole 'trapped together in an enclosed space' test before.”

There was a long pause. Jonas looked at Cory and Phellan. Valia eyed Riandur uneasily. Riandur was watching Jonas very carefully, while also keeping a steady eye on Kane. Kane glared over at Jonas. They all worked well together as a team. Threads of friendship and loyalty held them together. But there was always an undercurrent of tension, minor conflicts and dislikes that had the potential to begin blazing without much fuel.

“Well, we can't just give up,” Cory finally found his voice. “We need to escape.”

“That's a great idea.” Jonas looked all around him. “How, exactly, do you propose we do that?”

“We could shout for help,” Phellan suggested timidly.

“What good is that going to do?” the wizard retorted scornfully. “We are miles underground – no one is going to hear us!”

“But what about that other adventuring party?” Kane said suddenly. “Maybe they could be camped somewhere nearby.”

“And there's that small village on the mountain,” Cory remembered.

“All right, all right. What do we shout?”

“Does anyone have anything against 'Help?'”

Jonas turned to Riandur, rolling his eyes in the darkness. “It is hardly very original, is it? Doesn't everyone shout 'help'?”

“No, not everyone. Only the ones who got rescued.” Fear was making Valia irritable. “All the rest died because no one knew what they were shouting about!”

“Fine! On the count of three, let's all shout in unison.”

“No, I think we should shout help,” Cory said seriously. Jonas gave an impatient snort.

“In unison!”

“But no one knows what that means.”

Benny gave a laugh, which he quickly attempted to disguise as a cough.


“Right, here are our supplies.” The seven of them huddled in a small circle, lit very faintly by the tiny orb on Jonas's staff. “Seven flasks of water. Half a loaf of bread. A bag of berries. Four strips of jerky and a handful of nuts.”

“And two dead rats,” Riandur added.

“Two dead rats,” Kane agreed. “That's it.”

“That's it?” Jonas repeated. “That's not even going to last seven of us for a couple of days.”

“Well, an average human can last without food for three weeks,” Benny said calmly. “It is dehydration that kills people, so it is important to ration the water.”

“That's not going to last long either!” Valia cried, a touch of hysteria making its way into her voice again.

“We know that!” Kane glared at her. “Why don't you and Jonas quit being so negative? Either shut up or help!”

“Some people stay alive by drinking their own body fluids,” Benny offered. “You know, urine. And drinking blood can provide very basic nourishment, in an emergency.” Everyone except Riandur gave him looks of horror and disgust. “I'm just saying, that's all.”

“How do you know things like that?” Phellan asked, his curiosity raised.

“Don't ask,” Kane said quickly. Too quickly. “There are certain things no one ever needs to hear. Particularly not in these circumstances.”

“But what are we going to do about the food and the water,” Jonas snapped impatiently. “There's just not enough for seven of us to last for more than a couple of days. Some of us are going to have to go without.”

“Fine, nice of you to volunteer,” Kane snapped back, with no trace of irony.

“I didn't volunteer! I vote that the most useless of us should be sacrificed first...”

“Exactly my point. That means you go first!”

“See, this is what happens,” Valia said fearfully. “I've read about this. People snap, and then they turn. They turn nasty, just like that!” She backed away from them all, until her back was pressed against the cave wall. “Then before you know it, someone has run amok and grabbed somebody by the throat and strangled them -” Grabbing her own throat, she began screaming. “Leave me alone! Leave me alone!”

The guys just stood there, frozen in surprise and horror. It was Cory who sprung into action, grasping her hands and pulling them away from her neck, before spinning her around so that her back was against his chest. “Come on, Val,” he whispered firmly. “Relax. It's going to be okay, we are all in this together. It's going to be fine.”

With him holding her, the druid quietened down – apart from the occasional sob. The scene had stopped the argument between Kane and Jonas in its tracks. Gloom and misery and despair seemed to penetrate the air, and no one spoke for a long while.

“Look, Valia, Cory, Phellan, why don't the three of you try to get some sleep?” Benny suggested finally. “It'll do you some good – and there's nothing we can do right now.”

“I couldn't sleep a bit,” Valia declared, though she was trying hard to stop herself from yawning. “It is too creepy and dark down here.”

“What do you expect, we're about fifty miles underground,” Jonas muttered sulkily. Everyone pretended not to hear him.

“It is cold though,” Cory said softly. Shivering, he rubbed his bare arms. “Here, Phellan, come and keep me warm.”

“Are we going to be here for long?” the wolf-man whispered, as he willingly stretched himself out beside his friend. “I don't like it down here.”

“I don't either,” the half-elf admitted, trying to get as comfortable as he could on the stony floor. “Elves aren't meant to be underground. It's not natural.”

Phellan licked his hand comfortingly.


Time seemed to drag on and on. Despite their protests, both Cory and Valia had quickly fallen asleep, cuddled either side of a dozing Phellan. Kane and Benny had both willingly relinquished their riding cloaks to give them a little extra warmth and comfort. The damp and the cold did not bother them much, both had survived far harsher conditions. Riandur – with his thick fur – didn't feel the cold at all. That only left Jonas, who sat huddled in the corner with his fur-lined cloak wrapped tightly around him.

“I wish we could just do something,” Kane said finally, breaking several long minutes of silence. “I hate just sitting here doing nothing.”

Riandur looked up wearily, “Well, what do you suggest?”

“Maybe we could play a game?”

“Oh yeah,” Jonas said scornfully. “Let's play a nice game of I-spy or hide-and-seek. Or...” his voice took on a malicious twist, “we could play 'What would I do to Valia if I was alone with her right now?'”

Kane launched himself at the laughing wizard. Benny leapt between the two of them, while Riandur caught hold of the furious warrior. “Easy,” he said warningly, “come on, no fighting. You can kill him later.”

“That's not funny,” Benny sternly reprimanded Jonas. “This situation isn't easy for anyone, but there's no need to make it worse.”

“It's not my fault he has no sense of humour,” the wizard muttered, glaring at Kane.


“What time do you think it is?” Kane asked, after another long silence.

“Time for something to eat?” Jonas suggested, a pleading note in his voice. “It must be, I'm starving!”

“Maybe in a while,” Benny said absently. He seemed distracted by something. “We need to watch our supplies.”

“Well, we all know what's the best source of protein around,” Kane said seriously, his fingers stroking one of his daggers while he stared intently at Jonas.

“What are you staring at?”

“The best source of protein around.” Riandur nodded, a glint in his eyes. “I've heard tales of what men will do to survive – desperate times. The animal instinct kicks in when it comes down to life or death. Human flesh suddenly looks very interesting. Don't you think, Kane?”

“Oh yes. I've always wondered what human flesh tastes like. Apparently it is just like chicken.”

“Shut up! Benny, tell them to shut up!”

The shapeshifter glanced up, frowning as though he was seeing them for the first time. “I don't think we need to start resorting to cannibalism just yet. We have bigger problems.”

Kane, Riandur and Jonas all looked at him, suddenly alert and focused. “What problems?” Riandur asked.

Benny glanced over to where their three companions lay sleeping. “I've been thinking about the air down here. It's not – well, it's not going to last forever.”

It was a grim thought indeed. “How long do you think we have?” Kane asked quietly.

“I don't think we are in any immediate danger,” Benny replied carefully. “But I'd worry about us dying of suffocation before we starve or dehydrate. Maybe twenty-four hours or so.”

“So we have to get out,” Riandur said, with renewed determination. “There is no way I am dying down here.”

“We need to think of something, and quickly. What about magic? Jonas, can't you blast us a way through?”

“The problem is, it isn't going to take much to bring the whole roof down on us. These caverns are so unstable anyway. I could try it, but it'll be a huge risk.”

“Perhaps we should keep that as a very last resort,” Benny suggested. “Come on everyone, we need to think.”


The four of them were still trying to think of a plan when Phellan and Cory woke up. Unfortunately, a few hours of sleep had renewed their energy and made the two of them quite impossible. They were tired of being stuck underground, they were hungry, they were thirsty, they wanted to play. Phellan reverted back to constantly asking questions: “When can we go outside? Has the sun gone away? Why is everyone upset? When can we have something to eat? Is there any water?”

In his boredom, Cory found some small amusement in annoying Jonas, his older brother. Phellan, as always, followed his lead. The wizard tolerated it reasonably well, up until they began poking him in the darkness.

Poke. Poke. Poke.

“Cut it out,” Jonas growled, his temper rising. “Whichever one of you two is doing that, stop it!”

Poke. A brief pause. Poke. Poke.

The wizard screamed in frustration. A red mist clouded his thoughts and sparks began to shoot from his fingertips. Crying out, he took all his bottled up rage and created a fireball which he launched at the far wall of the caverns without thinking. There was a loud crash and rock began to fall.

“Out of the way!” Kane yelled, grabbing a still-sleepy Valia and pulling her into a corner. Benny and Riandur ducked behind rocks, while Cory and Phellan dropped flat on the sandy floor. Dust flew everywhere, blurring their vision and making them cough, while the roaring of the cave collapsing hurt their ears.

After what seemed like forever, but was actually only a few minutes, everything seemed to settle. Tentatively, those hidden raised their heads, marvelling at the fact that they were still alive. Jonas stood erect in the middle of the caves, breathing heavily, his robes covered with dust and sand. His expression was a mixture of shock and happiness.

Sunlight was beaming down through a large hole in the cave roof. Shouting happily, the adventurers scrambled up the pile of rubble and stepped out into the fresh air. A slight breeze ruffled their hair. Kane hugged Valia. Jonas jumped wildly into the air, throwing his staff aside. Riandur rolled in a patch of grass, enjoying the cool sensation. Cory gave a shriek of delight and tackled Phellan; the two rolled over and over, struggling like a pair of puppies.

“See?” Cory pushed a grubby strand of hair out of his eyes and grinned. “What would you do without me and Phellan, eh?”

Even Jonas could not help but laugh, so great was the relief at being free once again.
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