Only Fools Complain
Chapter Eighteen
Back Underground

I really did not learn anything new about women, but I let my wives know that just because they could not share my bed that I would not ignore them. I hugged and kissed Mersidda as much as possible. The smile on her face said that she appreciated what I did, but she never said anything about challenging Aden concerning certain activities. All that my young wife would say was that she looked forward to her time of having me all to herself.

We spoke some more of our families as the day passed. I found myself growing as eager to meet the families of my wives as they did to introduce me to them. The desire intensified when Mersidda’s mother showed up before supper, as she also wanted her husband to meet the man that had married their youngest child. After the meal when I again had my wives to myself, we spoke of our dreams for what we wanted our own family to become.

Having Aden alone in the bed was not the same as when I had both. There was a passion in her that tried to drain me. I almost fell asleep along with her after our time was finished, but I forced myself to rise. Mersidda was waiting for me, and I spent time letting her know that she was not forgotten. When I returned to my bed, I however allowed Aden to become fully attached to me and with her warmth upon me I slept the night.

The next morning I again dressed in my uniform and armor. Honestly, being in the military I usually dressed that way. I really had few regular clothes. When both of my wives mentioned getting me some civilian garments, I told them to wait until this mission was finished and I spoke to my king concerning my future. They agreed, checked my appearance, then wished me well.

I really did not know where to go, but I followed the path Aden had taken me a couple of days earlier knowing that it would put me in the proper general direction. When I met the first guard station, I told them who I wanted to see, although allowed that I would see another if deemed necessary. The soldiers just directed me on, and after a few more such inquiries I found the man I was looking for.

“General Shobirth, I am finding myself with questions about the monsters I fought my first day here. I am thus interested in going back underground. What I would like is a map, or a soldier with a good understanding of how the paths run down there.”

“Don’t have either, Major. I can say that it should be clear down there, but we did nothing more than move about and assure no monsters remained.”

I will not deny that I had a disappointed expression, although cannot say that it was the general being concerned about my feelings that had him say, “Would you like some men?”

Without any hesitation I answered, “Yes, I would. Thank you, General.”

“No problem. With the shell around I lack a number of assignments for the men. Honestly, I’m glad that you reminded me of the underground. Get some men down there, check it out, and from your report I believe that some work assignments can be arranged.”

“That sounds like something that should solve immediate and future problems. Glad to be a part of that.”

“Strange you should say that, Major, because that seems to be what brought you here.”

I really wanted to ask the general why he said that. I had come to that conclusion myself, although I felt my conclusions would not be the same as the military officer. I however did not feel that he would give an honest answer. What I did was to make a vague statement that I hoped would pull out an inner opinion.

“Well, when I met you the first time, you said that my wife, Aden, was one the baron never intended to listen to. I however am finding that she is rather intelligent.”

“And her heart is in the right place. If you find yourself ever speaking against her, Major, you had better check your heart.”

Not the type of response I desired, but I let it please me. “If I find her not in it then I will truly be alone.”

“How about that other wife of yours?”

“I won’t say that I don’t love her, but she does not have the depth of Aden. The young are a gift in themselves, but it is a fine lady that even time respects.”

“As you heard earlier, I respect Princess Aden. I heard her argue for you, and all reports say that she still gives you her support. Thus, you have my full support.”

Not the response I expected. Worse, all he said was something I already knew. I thus took the hint to go on about my business. I had him assign me about a dozen men, thanked him, then listened to usual response to give a report upon my return.

I found the lieutenant that joined me to actually know something about the tentacle faces. He could not answer my questions, but knew enough to direct me to an opening in the castle. After an initial check for any movement, I began looking around for other paths. Once the lieutenant recognized what I wanted to do, he sent men for climbing equipment.

The soldiers seemed glad to be about actual work. After a period of just getting their blood flowing, they took to the duties I assigned. A few of the men were able to speak of those rescued, and it helped us enjoy the work as we spoke of recent memories clearing the cavern.

I did take time looking through the water to the shell below. Spoke to the men about where the water could be coming from. They spoke of feeling the spray of rain through the shell. While there did seem to be some resistance to the flow of liquid, an equilibrium had been gained as the water level stayed constant.

Walking up the path, I kept an eye up making certain that all alternate paths were accounted for. The men did not challenge me, but pointed out flags or agreed to again make a climb to a path to assure we had checked it. A number of men however made exclamations of wonder when I pointed even further up and asked about what appeared to be a suspicious hole.

One soldier blurted out, “There is no path to that, Major.”

“The monsters could float about. One even said it could carry me. Their slaves certainly could not travel that path, but the monsters could move through it. Where would that go?”

The lieutenant did not challenge me, but immediately began ordering men to scale the cavern to what appeared to be nothing more than an indent in the ceiling. I did nothing but stand and watch as the soldiers went through the work. It did surprise me when the one that reached the pocket proved it to be a chimney by heading up into it without me needing to state the command.

Things just stayed quiet for a number of minutes, then the sounds of him returning could be heard. The soldier did not say anything, but only waved upon dropping out of the hole. I believe we all wondered what type of report he had to give, although quietly waited for him to regain solid ground.

He looked to the lieutenant, said, “Sir,” then remembered I was present so turned to me. “Major, that hole comes out beneath the baron’s bed. It seems that the baron or somebody attempted to board it up, but I could see through the slats and heard the baroness speaking to a maid.”

“Thank you, Footman. It was already known that the monsters were threatening the baron, so now we know how. Now, how about you men heading over to that hole over there?”

That one ended up being nothing more than an indent in the roof of the cavern. I then had the men check out a curious section of rock. While I just thought it was an odd cut high in the cavern wall, marks could be seen as if some work had been done to the stone. I thus directed the men to check it out. As they set the spikes to secure holds near the place, the one doing the climbing mentioned that he saw a passage.

Again there was a wait with this one being slightly longer than the one before. Finally, the man did return. Once again he did not yell down his findings, but I had to wait for him to descend to where he could speak normally.

“Major, this one went to Prince Therlik’s apartment. An armoire was set against the opening that I pushed aside. The apartment has been cleared, so I did not recognize it. Soldiers watching over Prince Aneron’s apartment asked questions of me when I stepped out into the hallway. I had them put the armoire back in place when I made my return.”

That actually answered a question that I had, and I let the soldier know that this finding would not be ignored. “Thank you again, Footman. That is something that I will check out with my wife, Princess Aden. I know that you have been working hard, but are there any other openings up there we need to check out?”

There were not. I had done my best to study the surrounding rocks as I watched those working to secure the ascent. I however listened for visual reports from others. All seemed satisfied that we had checked the cavern out rather well. I had to concede that there was not anything more to find, so called an end to the assignment.

I went with the men back to their barracks. As I thanked them again for their work, I saw General Shobirth approach. Without any argument, I went with him to his room.

He had me take a seat, then pulled out a bottle of whiskey. I cannot say that he knew something about me, but accepted the drink as a usual method of one soldier making another feel at ease. I thus took a sip from my glass, and I as I did so he took a seat while asking a question.

“Did you find anything troubling, Major Berair?”

“I did not go looking for trouble, General. I went hoping to find answers. Cannot say I did, but there are things that I need to check out.” He just sipped his whiskey, so I went ahead and made another comment. “There are too many people involved in this situation. I am finding a need to know how the pieces fit.”

He silently sat for a moment, then asked, “How about getting through the shell?”

“I am going to boast that I can get us through the shell. The method however involves removing the oozes, and I have yet to determine just how many of those things they are and whether or not more will appear should we start removing them.”

“I have men that want to fight them. Most of my men that advance on the shell are overwhelmed with some deadly fright, but a few considered the mental image to be a challenge. What if I have them start?”

Honestly, I had considered little sparring matches with the oozes as well. “Yes, but only a few each day. Not only for the safety of the men, but just not to tip our hand too early. While we are being proactive, start having whoever makes that salve to make more.”

“Okay, but why don’t we go ahead? This being captured does not sit easy with me and a number of others.”

The general had done enough to convince me that he was a supporter of my mature wife, if not me. What I did not know was how much he spoke with others in important positions. I thus convinced myself to release a fact, but only in a guarded fashion.

“I told you that I am finding this situation not as simple as my basic mission indicates. No one is being hurt right now, so I consider it wise to tread slowly.” I drained my glass, then had him refill it as I released a fact. “The one that created this shell expects to gain Aden as his wife. He did not recognize me as her husband.”

“Oh.” The general had been about to take another sip from his glass, but with the air released to make the exclamation he set his drink back down. “That answers questions in my mind – the most important being why she was given to you.”

“I am believing that as well. From what I have heard, the baron had every intent of bestowing Aden as my wife while knowing nothing about me. The reason I gained Mersidda as well was that the baron did not consider Aden to have enough value to satisfy me.”

“Would it have been?”

I could not fault the man for seeking to gain more information about me, so answered. “Cannot say. It was Mersidda that I saw first, but I remember pushing her off me. I want to say that I would have refused either one, but finding myself with two wives, neither of which are something a sane man would reject, intrigued me enough that I let the chance to decline them pass.”

“How about now? If you were given the chance?”

“Mersidda is young, but as far as I can tell that is her only fault. I believe that I will come to cherish her. Aden I cherish already.”

He nodded while finally finishing his glass. I had barely sipped the liquid in mine, so waved off an offer to freshen my drink. The hope was that the general would feel that I was preparing to leave. As hoped, in refilling his drink the general provided some information.

“Prince Therlik, Princess Aden’s first husband, was a fun man. Loved to play jokes. He constantly sought attention however, although I came to feel that he did not seek it from his wife. She made her reputation with the people, including us in the military, by caring for those who might be hurt or troubled by the pranks of her husband. I remember Prince Therlik being quite displeased with Aden as her concern had a couple of his greater stunts without much of an audience.”

Feeling that I had a source of information for something that truly troubled me, I asked, “So, Prince Therlik going into the gambling den with his son would not be considered unusual?”

“Not really. If things would have gone differently, I believe the lad would have grown up to be a wonderful child. Probably would have gotten himself killed in some mischievous action of youth, but he and his father would have been a pair.”

Honestly, I had enough information for the moment, so finished my glass before saying, “Thank you, General, for your time. I hope to meet again, but I need to check on what I have learned and plan my next steps. While my original mission might have been to simply take my wives home, I really do not like leaving troubles behind me. For my own satisfaction, I will figure this problem out.”

And Berair has his to help him.