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The Valley of Humanity – Part 8

February 21, 2015

Drala and Kele reached the landing outside Kele’s chamber as the unseen enemy were climbing fast. Kele felt his heart struggling to calm down. Drala was pushing an empty display cabinet across the wall opposite his chamber door, it was only then that he really noticed it; he’d always just assumed it was there because there was no room for it anywhere else. The footsteps grew closer, but slower, as if stealth was now of importance to the attackers, Drala stopped for a moment and turned her head toward the stairwell, then as if woken from a trance went back to the bared stone wall. With one look, she pushed a stone four up from the bottom, about waist height and a section of the wall slid into a gap in the floor revealing a crawlspace. Drala snatched Kele by the hand once more, only now she forced him into onto his hands and feet. ‘Hurry, get in and keep moving downward, and be very careful, the steps are steep’. Kele did as he was told and moved into the dark narrow tunnel. The light from behind revealed the tunnel turned downwards in a spiral, the same as the outside stairwell. Beyond was bathed in darkness; only the first step could be seen. Kele crawled forward a few feet then looked back in relief when he saw Drala follow him. She dragged the cabinet from underneath back over the wall as much as possible hoping to at least temporarily elude the attackers.

Blackness was all he could see when he reluctantly felt for the first drop. He prepared to push back to stop himself from tumbling down into the darkness. The air was stuffy and warm, Kele felt his body heat up with each careful reach he took; he couldn’t see anything around him. The footsteps of the attackers vibrated through the creaky uneven wood underneath him, there was a low screech. Kele guessed it was his door being slowly opened. He looked behind him, ‘Don’t look back!’ Whispered Drala, she was panting. ‘Just keep moving!’ Suddenly there was shouting and the sound of furniture being thrown about, Kele moved faster as the attackers hurried back down the outer stairwell only a few feet from where he was now; so close, and yet so blind to my presence. He tried to stay to the right as much as possible to make use of the wider part of each step, all the while trying to keep his knees and feet firmly in some kind of gripping position. It was hard work, his brow was sweating and his arms were tiring from the weight of his own body trying to overtake him. Behind, Drala whispered again, this time with more urgency. ‘Hurry Kele! They’re gaining control of the palace as we speak; it’s only a matter of time until they find every way out of it’. Kele could hear Drala’s breathing increase, feeling almost ashamed of his own struggling. ‘Where are we going?’ he asked with what little breath the winding tunnel would allow. It was then he thought of his Mother and Brother, and a sudden pour of dark thoughts seeped into his mind as if they came from the darkness around him; he had to know what was happening. ‘What about my Mother and Nelco? Did you see them, are they ok? What’s going on Drala?’ His voice broke away from a whisper and into a normal pitch, Drala let about a long shushing sound in an effort to quieten him down. ‘After we get out of the palace, after I’ve put you in a safer place, then I will go and find your family. Your mother said to come for you in case this happened, I’m to take care of you; I will search for your mother and Brother, but if I can’t…find them, then I will be taking you far from here.’ She stopped and steadied her breath before continuing. ‘Now keep going until you come across a larger step, once there look to your right and you should see some lines of light shaped like a rectangle from a distance, it’s at the end of another tunnel. Don’t go down there just try to get as flat against the inner wall as you can so I can get past and go down first, then follow me when I say. Use your hand to find my boot, but don’t grab too tight. ‘I won’t’ said Kele, still thinking of his Mother and Nelco. He wandered if Feran was with them, if he had managed to take them to safety or if he was still fighting the attackers; he struggled to fathom who they were. Who are they? Raiders from another village come to plunder and destroy us? Or maybe someone worse… He kept climbing down, now fully drenched in sweat, his arms about to give way. He began to wander how much longer until this large step would appear, and then it did, with a rather stunning shock to his hand. Kele kept crawling until his entire body rested on the large step then he looked to the right, staring intently into the darkness. ‘Do you see the lights?’ asked Drala. ‘Yes, I see them now, I’ll move out the way’. Kele pressed himself against the inner wall of the tunnel; he could hear Drala’s armour shuffle and scape past him, the metal plating felt cold on his exposed legs. He took a moment to cool down, to catch his breath, then her boots pushed him further into the wall, he lightly grabbed one of them and repositioned himself in preparation to follow her down the tunnel.

Light welcomed him when Drala opened whatever door the light had come from. She climbed out, beckoned him forward and pulled his hand once more, ripping him from the darkness. Kele breathed deeply and relished the cool air over his skin. He took in his new surroundings: a number of hollow armoured soldiers lined the walls, and the floor was littered with various fabrics and chainmail and leather. Three small lamps lit the room from the ceiling, sending soft shadows into the corners; they were in the armoury.

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