Authors: B. V. Larson
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Horror, #Dark Fantasy, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Fantasy, #Epic, #Magic & Wizards, #Arthurian, #Superhero, #Sword & Sorcery
Fantasy Books by B. V. Larson
THE HAVEN SERIES
(First three books:
Amber Magic, Sky Magic, Shadow Magic)
(Books 4 thru 6: Dragon
Magic, Blood Magic, Death Magic)
Visit BVLarson.com for more information.
B. V. Larson
This book contains the complete versions of books 4 thru 6 of the Haven Series.
Copyright © 2013
by the author.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. All rights reserved. No part of this publication can be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, without permission in writing from the author.
Translated from the
the compendium of Kindred wisdom:
Some worry that we drill too deeply. Nay, say I! Ever has it been that our strongholds do not grow upward, nor outward, but always downward and
. The Kindred derive their strength from the rock itself, unlike the many other races that scurry bug-like upon the cooling crust of the world. They think of us as living in cramped holes. Nothing could be further from the truth! Our worlds are infinitely larger than the surface dwellers can conceive. They stand proudly before stone towers five stories high, while the Kindred scoff at such miniature achievements. We do not need to build a city, we simply dig it out! Our walls are thousands of feet thick, our towers are as tall as we wish them to be, and a good team of Kindred miners can dig a new stone keep in a month.
Certainly, it can be argued that the creatures encountered grow in strength and ferocity as we go deeper into the Everdark. But that is only to be expected! If we keep our lanterns bright, our axes and picks sharp, we shall overcome everything that bubbles up at us from below. Let no goblin, nor spine-fin, nor tentacled thing, trouble our thoughts. The Kindred shall defeat them all in time, as we always have.
Have a care with the great wurms, however. Should one be encountered, very rare though they may be, the tunnels had best be blown down. Cleanse the dreaming mind of fantasies! The wurm means only death, not riches and glory! Fill the hole with bedrock, iron pellets and lime, then melt it all with coal-fire to make the plug hard and seal off the entrance forever against the dragon’s fire. Too many of our brethren have been burned to ash by wurms, and ever afterward our folk have sworn to never forget the lesson.
Ursula of the Talespinners, written circa the Fourth Era of the Earthlight
The Ruby Tunnel
Modi’s expedition was in its third week into the Everdark. Things had gone well at first. Few monsters had been encountered and those that did come at them were small of jaw and short of tooth. The blind, croaking things that had wandered into their camp seeking a meal had been easily dispatched with flashing picks and snapping crossbows.
Along with light resistance, Modi’s company boasted many excellent finds in the deep. Milky chambers of crystalline helicates of every hue, taller than pipe organs, drew gasps of appreciation from the adventurers, but were of little value. Rich tunnels, laden with gold-flecked ore, were of somewhat more direct interest, but too heavy to be easily transported out. The nuggets of purest gold had gone into Kindred pouches as souvenirs, of course. Gemstones were plentiful, but of the less valued sort: garnets, turquoise, onyx, fiery opals and chunks of green jade crunched under their heavy boots. These thin pickings had long since been gone over by a thousand dirty hands before them.
It was only upon the third week, after they had entered and passed the region known as the Magnesium Bowels, did they find jewels that brought real smiles. Emeralds came first, only in small nodules, but often gleaming and unscratched by any pick before. Deeper still they found a network of twisting tunnels clustered with rubies. It was there, as they excitedly picked at the walls and gathered a rich harvest, the first of them fell.
A spine terror, of the sort the Everdark was famous for, took the hindmost of them unawares. Githa, their youngest and least experienced miner, was too focused on her work as she struggled to loosen a ruby as big as her fist from the ceiling. Impaled upon a six foot spine, she bled and called for aid. The rest of them set upon the beast and killed it in the normal fashion, driving a dozen pitons into the stony body and pulling the terror apart with ropes and hooks. Mindful of the thrashing spines, none of the rest of the crew had been seriously injured. But their vengeful shouts were short-lived, because Githa soon lay dead and cold upon the gritty floor of the tunnel.
Over the following days, their progress slowed as they wrapped the body and carried it with them, as was their custom. Never was a Kindred left behind in the endless dark to be gnawed by blind things, not unless no other recourse was possible. Githa would be carried up to the Earthlight and given a proper cremation, or at worst, slid down an available hot volcanic shaft if her body became too great a burden. Such were the ways of the Kindred.
Saddened by the fall of their youngest, the team gathered around Modi. Delicately, they suggested to the touchy warrior that they should head back home. He had glowered at each of them in turn, until they dared not meet his burning eyes.
“We’ll head back up,” he said finally, when he had satisfied himself that they had all felt his disdain. “But only after we’ve come to the end of this fine tunnel. We’ll take back a king’s ransom in rubies, and each of us will give an extra tenth-share to the bereaved family.”
They had eyed one another over this idea, but quickly came around to it. Having a debt to repay made them all the more willing to stay longer and gather as much as their bulging leather sacks could carry. Feeling they were carrying on for a good cause, their spirits lifted and they sang a tune that rang from the tunnel walls, as the Kindred are apt to do in both the best and the worst situations.
Modi, for his part, did not want to return without the mission being a clear success. A death amongst the crew was not a devastating blow, such trips into the Everdark were always assumed hazardous. But his father had all but forbade him to go, and that gave him his true motivation. He wanted nothing more deeply than to prove his aged father wrong. His father was fully seven centuries old, while Modi had barely reached his second. Such an age difference between two Kindred made for a great divergence in their modes of thinking. The young were always impetuous and headstrong. And while the old were by no means weak, they were certainly more cautious.
It was Modi’s intent to demonstrate that a strong will and a mighty arm could conquer anything the Everdark had to throw at him. And so Githa’s death made him all the more driven to find something bigger. Something much more impressive than a sackful of gems. He sought a hoard that would make everyone forget Githa’s death. A hoard that would cause them to draw in their breaths and widen their eyes when they saw it.
They followed the tunnel for two days on a winding, drifting track. As they went, they soon filled every sack with red jewels of the finest quality. This didn’t stop them from mining more, however. As they went, they carefully dug through their sacks, appraising each stone with cold eyes. Anything found smaller, anything found with the slightest flaw, was discarded in favor of each newer, superior find. Most of the emeralds and even the best of the gold nuggets were dropped, replaced with blood-red rubies fit for crowns.
Modi led them down the tunnel, and he was the first to feel the all-too-familiar puff of heat in his face. It served to dry his sweat, but was otherwise an unwelcome sensation. He said nothing to his crew and pressed onward. But soon there were whispers behind him, and these whispers turned into mutterings. He fought against the urge to stop and demand them to speak plainly. Then he would thrash the first of his crew who dared open his mouth. They sensed his darkening mood. For a full day, they stayed relatively quiet.
But then the sounds began behind them. Chittering noises at first, the sounds that falling pebbles might make. Everyone was filled with disquiet. On the third day after Githa’s death, the facts couldn’t be ignored by anyone. They were heading into a hot zone, quite possibly a lava chamber, and they were being followed by...
. Most likely, from the growing volume, a lot of
Whenever the tunnels forked, Modi took the cooler route, the direction that flowed less hot air into his face. But still, the heat grew with each passing hour. They began to sweat, and then as the heat grew greater still, the sweat was dried from their brows as quickly as it formed there.
In a relatively cool twist of the tunnels, they found the plug. It was the end of the third day. And no one was happy to see the plug, save for Modi. It was a large black thing, as burnt, beaten and melted as an old iron kettle. They stood around it gazing upon the rough surface, and none spoke.
Such plugs were not unknown. In fact, many were mapped by the Kindred, for they were the ones who created them. Always a plug of this type, formed of iron and melted slag, represented a sealed off region of the caverns. Below this plug in the floor, which was a good dozen feet in diameter, had once been discovered something that had given their ancestors great trouble. The fact that this plug was not on any known map, that they had no knowledge of what was beneath it, was the most disturbing thing about it.
The Kindred are not a cowardly folk. Anything but, most will tell you. But when faced with lava ahead, the unknown below, and the creeping sounds of creatures following behind, even their brave hearts will fail them eventually. And so it was that upon the end of the fourth night after Githa’s fall, the crew approached Modi and made their plea. They wanted to turn back and head up the way they had come. They wished to make all haste, casting aside all unnecessary gear and carrying nothing but weapons, climbing necessities, Githa’s body—and of course, their rubies.
Modi eyed each in turn with disgust curling his lip.
“One more day,” he asked them. “Follow me one more day. I have a feeling about this shaft ahead. I know it looks worrisome, but I ask you for patience. I have led you this far into the Everdark and I ask that you don’t abandon me now.”
They looked to one another, uncertain, but in the end none dared to face his will, nor his very possible wrath. They gave him one more day.
Before their delicate mechanical contrivances told them that one more day had passed, they reached the lava chambers. The tunnel did not pass through cleanly as all had hoped. Instead, it ended here, in a fiery pit of molten rocks and unstable ground. Chimneys rose up from the chambers to fresh tunnels above, but none of them could be certain what lay in that direction.
Modi faced defeat. He ordered that Githa’s body be cast into the fires they found there, which glowed a lurid red upon the walls. None of them argued. The heat had set the body to stinking and none of them wish to drag home her corpse to her family in such a state. When her body slipped into the liquid stone from whence it had originally come, there was a flash of yellow flame. He faced his crew again, and everyone was crestfallen.
“At least it was a proper burial. I did not wish to turn from our path, but the Shaper of the Earth has sought to change my mind. We will return up the passage the way we came.”
After this pronouncement, audible relief swept through his company. But it was to be short-lived.
“You, Gamal,” he said, pointing out a relatively skinny miner who had long been the quickest to complain. “You are light of foot and quick of mind. You have a special mission. You will shed everything but the equipment required to climb. Follow these chimneys up to find tunnels with sweeter air above.”
“Alone?” asked Gamal. Some thought to hear a tiny quaver in his voice, but they would not believe it afterward. None of the Kindred quailed from a dangerous task rightfully given.
Modi’s smile was grim. “I can only spare one. You will carry a message to my father. We don’t know what is following behind. We can’t all go up the chimneys, as we don’t know what lies that way, and we would have to abandon all our riches to do it.”
The others looked troubled, but had to agree with his logic. They liked the idea of aid coming down their way. Modi knew, of course, they would never agree to abandon all their rubies, not unless death faced them clearly. Even then, that was a command they might not have followed. Also, everyone but Gamal liked the idea that Gamal would be the one to undertake this very hazardous duty.
Gamal drew in a breath and arranged his bristling beard. He nodded, and it was agreed. They used ropes and tackle to hoist him up the first chimney, and he called back he had indeed found a tunnel that was passable. A ragged cheer went up from the crew. He waved at them from the top of the shaft and they waved back. Then he was gone.
Distributing the weight of Gamal’s rubies evenly, and relieved of the burden of Githa’s body, their spirits rose. They turned to face whatever it was that had followed them for nearly a week now.
Skittering sounds came from the dark tunnels ahead. Grimly determined, they followed Modi back into the tunnels from which they had come and left the lava chambers behind.