Engrossed in polishing the text of ‘Shapers,’ the latest idea for a post is as yet unwritten. To maintain my blogging rhythm, I thought I share another excerpt, leading on from … A taster of ‘Shapers’ …
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The underground lake
Gart pondered the word he hadn’t come across – misgivings …
‘You see yourself in others as through a broken glass,’ said Rat, alert to his puzzlement.
‘Not in Mesa I don’t,’ Gart was quick to say. ‘And Leo, I despise him. I know how his mind works. I’m nothing to him. He used me to gain power in Rhonda.’
Rat shook its pelt and scuttled ahead into the tunnel. ‘Come along, you’ve got to cross the lake. There lies an answer.’
Gart struggled to his feet, limbs stiff from what seemed endless hours on damp rock. He recalled Oruba talking of a junction with a slab in the middle – and a password. ‘Not so fast!’ he shouted. Stumbling, he fell flat on his face. The glower shot from his hand and rolled yards ahead, a little spot of light before the blackness of the tunnel beyond. He touched his nose, wet – blood. There was no pain, only numbness.
‘Don’t fret. It’s useful to be visibly injured when you attempt to cross the lake.’ The silhouette of Rat loomed like a giant keyhole from where Gart was spread on the ground. ‘Not far now, hurry.’
Gart wiped at the trickling blood with his sleeve and then crawled towards his glower. Not far was an understatement. He followed the tail of his guide along three more junctions before a square slab signalled the gateway to the underground lake. Now where was the password? He sampled his pockets for the scrap of paper. ‘Lost it, must have happened when I fell.’
‘Didn’t you memorise the code?’ Rat sounded alarmed.
‘I only glanced at it.’
‘Try a few words, as they come.’
Gart shook his head. ‘It was short, that’s all I know.’
‘This place is dangerous to loiter in,’ Rat twittered. ‘I’ll race back to see if I can find the note. Your light may attract unsavoury entities. Turn it off! Whatever happens, don’t give in to fear!’
He did as told. In the blackness Rat’s last word echoed – fear – it came, consumed his reason, a snake. Kill it – kill it – he heard his own voice demanding. A blazing sword, not his, swished through the air and severed his right hand. Gart screamed and a thousand screams returned from the walls around him. Something shone in the darkness and slithered towards his lone hand. Voices murmured close to his ear, faces crowded in, concerned, until one face loomed over him, erasing all others. It was the menacing sneer again, the bane of his life. Gart coiled up and clutched his knees, whimpering, ‘Leave me. Go away.’
‘Got it, got it.’ Rat jumped onto the switch of the glower light and dropped a crumpled note at Gart’s feet. ‘You saw him, didn’t you?’
‘Saw who?’ Gart said, wide-eyed, looking for his hand, surprised it was still attached to his arm.
‘Say it, now. It’s the code for opening the gateway. Say it loud.’ Gart straightened the note. Letters jiggled, foiling his comprehension.
‘Must do, must do. Get on with it!’ Rat chased its own tail in frustration.
Gart pressed the password through his lips – Batin. A grating noise emitted from the slab as it slid apart.
Rat disappeared down steps hewn into the rock. ‘Quick. Not much time.’ The cavity below brought a whiff of cool air. An overhanging rock barred the way and Gart had to crouch low. He choked and his chest cramped in panic of being crushed. His muscles tightened, ungiving, like tough leather, and a stabbing pain in his shoulder made him cry out in pain. Fragments of a blurred shape drifted by, leaving a bitter smell, and then it was done. He stood upright. Taking a deep, long breath, Gart gaped at a cave towering high into a vast crystal vault. In the middle lay a body of water, motionless, like a sheet of glass. Tied to a jetty was a blue boat, and in it sat a hunched figure, a pale, wizened old man in rags that showed bits of brittle brocade. Too weak to raise his head, he turned his neck sidewise towards the presences and uttered a lament. ‘Have you come to lift the curse?’
It seemed impossible that this face terrified him earlier. The cruel dark eyes had changed into maudlin pools of tears. The sight disgusted Gart. Every fibre of his body twitched with a desire to drown the pitiful apparition.
‘I must leave you here, friend. Be careful now,’ said Rat.
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I won’t give away the story, especially since the first book in the series still awaits the light of day. But I welcome feedback. Recent comments were precious gifts, thank you. All helps in the polishing.