Only Fools Complain
I Cannot Worry
One rule that my king maintained was never to allow negotiations to break down into surrender. He preached that he defeated his land of Thiminy, then conquered his additional lands of Fedrukin and Serussdal. None of them were gained by negotiations. Since none of the lands he rules were gained by peaceful means, he would only release them by someone able to defeat him. I remembered laughing with the other soldiers upon hearing those words, as it was usually followed by a compliment to the corpses of the desert people for trying to do just that. I drew my sword from my sheathe, but not with any intention of laying it down in surrender.
I moved down where the path widened so I would have more room to maneuver as I said, “I believe that you have the wrong idea about why I came down here. I did not come down here worrying about other citizens dying. I came down here to assure that the threat upon the citizens at large would die. That means you need to be concerned for your own life, and not the lives of those you have not yet eaten.”
“Then I will begin feasting.”
“Go ahead. I believe it will be easier to kill you when bloated with food.”
The only real information that I had on these creatures was from a conversation with some dwarves. I had never before even seen these monsters. I simply made my statement from general knowledge of creatures in general, including us men. I guess the information was correct however, as instead of making a statement in return the large kormesh taugh sent a psychic signal that caused a number of the remaining creatures to rush upon me.
Only a few actually flew upon me. I noticed a number hold back. While it was nice that they gave me a breather, I knew better than to trust my enemies. In wondering what the others worried about, besides the fact that I would kill them, I thought about my own concerns. One of my reasons for dropping down was to avoid traps set in the path. Looking to one side, I noticed a suspicious stack of rocks instead of the bare bedrock face. Before any others could rush upon me, I picked up the tentacle of a dead kormesh taugh and threw the body along the ground.
Not only did the rocks begin to fall, but nets to each side dropped. My first thought was to send my sword up to cut the strands of the covering descending upon me. Wanting to assure the fear of my opponents, I however sheathed my dagger and had the hand lift to catch the trap of ropes. I then moved my whole body to sling the net toward those who had not advanced into battle.
I actually got a couple. Did not expect it. My experience with nets came from dealing with the slavers, as they really did not want to kill those they targeted. I thus had learned some tactics in dealing with nets, but no actual training in using them as weapons.
Now another mass of kormesh taughix came upon me. While I had some success, I did not let any sense of confidence fill me. Trusting in the training that had gotten me this far, I fell back into the steps that had gained me victory earlier. The kormesh taughix did not display any new tactics, so I did not try any additional routines. As if nothing but a newly recruited soldier performing a basic drill, I worked through the mass of monsters until again finding myself alone.
I did not brag about my accomplishment. In fact I did just the opposite. I allowed myself to pant heavily, drink some water with some splashing on my face and neck, and otherwise look as if I was at the limit of being able to have my body function. As hoped, a few more kormesh taughix got the idea that they would be able to brag about their accomplishments, so a few more enemy died at my hands.
When things had calmed enough that I was again feeling able to continue, I again studied my terrain. This time I saw none of the kormesh taughix. That was actually a smart move on their part. Knowing that there were indeed traps along the path, I studied the rocks around me before making any move to continue.
It was actually the sight of another stacked set of rocks that had me notice an entrance in the bedrock beyond. Hoping to kill a few more kormesh taughix, I looked for a way to safely reach the niche. Keeping things simple, I grabbed a rock and threw it at the other rocks. That actually did not work. I then grabbed a substantial stone and managed to send it flying, then sliding along the surface of the path. The sight of rocks and nets falling had me smiling while thinking of future lectures to recruits about following basic rules to assure survival.
No kormesh taughix came to fight me, although combat did start with a few that were hiding in the niche. What surprised me however was to find a few humans working at what best could be called meat processing. A lady cried while two men sat and wept. It seemed that the monsters did eat peoples’ brains, but they would also devour the rest of the flesh. The humans had to clean the guts of fellow humans, then grind the meat to make sausages for the kormesh taughix to consume at their leisure. The work had deeply troubled those forced to perform the labor, and with the end of combat they finally felt able to release the tension of the cruel activity.
When a man asked if they could leave, I warned them about the traps I had encountered, to which the lady asked, “Where are you going?”
“Nowhere. I mean, there is the need to remove the shell. I would thus like to study it, but cannot do it safely until the kormesh taughix are gone.”
A man asked, “The what?”
The three chuckled with the other man saying that they did not call them that. I mentioned hearing of the creatures from some dwarves. They chuckled with my story, then the lady gave me some information.
“The path on down is safe, as we needed water for various purposes. There is no other path to get elsewhere.”
Not what I wanted to hear, but having a source of information I decided to get what facts I could. “Can you walk on the shell?”
All three told me no with one of the men saying, “Even the tentacle faces don’t go near the shell.”
“Okay. Thank you for the rest. I am now heading on. If you head up, I cannot promise that everything will go well. Be careful.”
As they wished me luck, I saw something that I had to ask about. It was an ugly pair of gloves set with teeth, bone shards, and rocks. The men said that it helped protect their hands from the grinder as well as grab the meat even when wet. I asked them about their knives. They mentioned needing a sharp blade to cut the meat. I told them to carry something to cut nets or fight, but I wanted a pair of the gloves. They told me to take what I wanted while again wishing me the best.
I actually did trust the lady, but I did not trust the kormesh taughix. Following the path down to the water, I thus stepped carefully. The route however was not trapped. I thus reached the water safely as the lady said, although continued to watch for kormesh taughix.
The water was cold and clear. I was thirsty, and trusting the words of the people I took a drink. The liquid went down my throat and cooled my body without having my feel any discomfort.
Looking into the water to the yellowish tendrils of the shell some feet below, I saw something that did not appear to be solely explained by the distortion of the liquid. I tried to find a distant view of the shell where I could check some of the things I felt that I saw below the water. The shell however moved through the rock where I could not determine anything about its nature. I looked again to the water, but had to stay satisfied that it provided refreshment.
I now turned to study the rock around me. While I was down deep beneath the city, the flowing water had eroded a rather large cavern. Looking up, I could see a number of paths worked into the rock. They did bother me, as the tentacle faces did not give the impression of doing the labor necessary to cut the stone. I saw how the various paths flowed along the walls of the cavern, and found myself having to admit that for most I could not get there from here. Remembering those I rescued saying that they were allowed to the water, I looked to shore of the pond and saw another path. Hoping to kill more tentacle faces and free more people from their dominance, I studied the surrounding rocks for a way from where I was to where I wanted to be.
Luckily the flow of the stone was not smooth. Nothing in my training prepared me for rock climbing, although the mountains surrounding my home had given me some experience. My home of Serussdal was in the wide expanse where the tall peaks spread apart as the river valley met the desert. I grew up and worked around desert dunes and easy mountain slopes. I did have good hand and foot control, and did not feel that there would be any traps along such a route. I thus took my chance as I set myself to move along the rough almost vertical surface.
My inexperience with rock climbing had me move rather carefully, which meant slowly. I took my time not only searching for the proper places to put my hands and feet, but also for kormesh taughix. If I saw a group of regular ones, I would have sped up my progress to get to a place where I could fight in a manner that I knew would bring me success. Seeing one large monster float in my direction, I continued my careful movements while thinking of another tactic.
“You will now die.”
I felt those words in my mind as it floated near the center of the pond. I stopped my movement, and began putting on the gloves that I had gained. As hoped, it did not rush to attack, but stopped to wonder what I was doing. To assure that it gave me time, I said words of my own.
“How much do you like water, or the shell?”
“You will not drag me down. I can carry you.”
“Probably, but these gloves will make sure that you do. They will bite into your hide. Effectively, you won’t be carrying me, but I will be riding you. I however figure that as I hurt you, your ability to lift me will diminish. I thus expect to get wet as I ride your tentacle form into the shell.”
There are two types of threats. There is the actual display of strength or skill that gives the opponent pause. There is also the statement of possible action that will force the opponent to reconsider the situation and its outcomes. I believe that I presented the large kormesh taugh with a combination of both types of threats, as it suddenly stopped any advance.
I went back to moving. With the gloves on I could not feel the surface, but the wall was not smooth at all. I could thus trust in the power of my grips and did not need to rely on having my fingers on fine indents in the rock. Making it to the other path, I actually had to consider whether it would benefit me more to drop the gloves or keep them on. Feeling that the monster would carry any fight over the water, I kept the gloves on. Seeing the monster continue to hold its place, I decided that I needed to taunt it into moving to me.
“Well? If you’re just going to stay there, I will go on about my business. I guess it does not bother you to witness the death of others of your kind.”
“I sent word to your people of your incursion. They will consider you their enemy.”
It was a possibility, but not one that I could allow myself to believe or care about. “No. I’m sorry, but we humans are bothered by the death of other humans. We can be stupid, but it is a fault we usually overcome. You’re killing fellow humans, while I am killing you creatures. I thus believe that my fellow humans will end up realizing that I am not their enemy.”
As an officer, it was my job to inspire my troops. I also found myself associating with my superiors. Some skills in protocol and public speaking had thus been developed. In those cases I was dealing with others of my own kind. I had no idea about my ability to interact with monsters. The words must have struck a chord however, as they did their job of inspiring the kormesh taugh to attack.
Berair learns that his fight is not just with monsters.