It always stormed in that place…
Daniel’s head poked out from below the well. He looked around. The drenched village was deserted, as it always was when it rained. He heard water rushing beneath him and saw that the well was filling up again. He jerked his head back forward and climbed up before the water could touch his feet.
He leapt out from the horrid place and looked around. What now? The people would soon follow and going back to his home would be the first place they’d look for him. No one else in the village would take him, so he made the easy decision to leave.
He ran for the gate that led to the unknown. He knew the castle was nearby. Surely there was someone there that would be willing to help him. He went down the stairs and was instantly greeted by a large, beautiful field. It was not raining.
He looked to his left and saw the huge castle. It was positively gorgeous. He shook his head, not wanting to get too caught up in seeing the world around him for the first time. He went towards the caste. The drawbridge was open. A lone guard stood there. He did not speak. He didn’t even try to stop him from entering.
Daniel smelled a familiar scent coming from the door near him. “It can’t be,” he thought. He opened the door to a room full of uniforms and small brown pots. It was barely lit from the small square windows on the right wall.
There she was.
His mother, passed out on the floor.
Daniel didn’t know what to do first. The only thing that came to mind was to kick her, roughly. And he did. She coughed up some of that vile drink she always carried around. She looked up with glazed eyes and saw her son.
“What’re you doin’ here?” she asked, propped up on her arm.
“I know it was you!” he yelled. He kicked her again, knocking her off her balance. “How could you? The only thing you have well to your name and you use it to save yourself!”
“Shut up!” she said lazily. “You two are nothing.”
“No…you’re nothing. You set that house on fire and blamed it on James!”
“I did no such thing. It’s that damned village that is so quick to suspect the most likely deviant.”
Daniel didn’t even feel the sting on his hand until a second after he was certain he had slapped his own mother. She put her hand on her face. But she merely snickered. “At least one of you has the heart to reach out.”
In a fit of uncontrollable rage, he leaned down and grabbed his mother by the collar of her shirt. He held her close to his face. He could smell the vomit and alcohol coming from her mouth but he didn’t care. “Where…is…my…brother?” He made every word clear; intensifying the one more before the last.
“Hell if I know. I don’t care.”
Daniel groaned as he threw her back down to the ground. She wasn’t going to do anything for him. With a swift kick to her again, he left as fast as he could. When he rushed out of the door, the guard stopped him this time.
“Wait kid, where do you think you’re going?” he asked as he held his shoulder.
“You had no trouble with me before,” said Daniel. “What is the problem now?”
“I heard screaming. What happened?”
“Nothing. It was just a little confrontation-”
“I think you should leave,” the guard cut him off. “We don’t want trouble makers like you hanging around here.”
Daniel didn’t want any trouble. He scoffed and left. He didn’t want even more people hating him. He thought a moment. The only lead he had was most likely still back in the village. With a quick thought, Dampe’ first came to mind. He was hinting about something sinister that happened in the blind of eyes of the people.
When Daniel made it back up to the stairs, he saw that it was still raining. They were probably bringing James out of the well. As he thought, the village was still empty but he looked around just to make sure.
In a quick dash, he ran up to the Graveyard. It was raining even then. By now, Daniel was already soaked. His brown hair was hanging in his face and his large clothes were drooping on him. But he was determined. He had to find his brother.
When he reached the plots, he saw Dampe’ about to go into his house after a days work of maintenance. In a fury, he dashed towards him until he was under the porch with him. He pushed him in the back. “Dampe’! I need you to tell me of the well. What can you tell me of the well?” Daniel asked, getting increasingly hysterical.
“What’re you talkin’ about?”
“I was taken down that well and my brother had to get down there and save me!” he grabbed Dampe’s collar. “There’s something you’re not telling me! To anyone!”
Dampe’ shoved Daniel back and he tripped on his bottom and into the rain. Drops dripped off of the tip of his nose and strands of his long brown hair. He leaned back on his hands and looked at Dampe’ approaching him.
He put his foot to Daniel’s chest and knocked him flat on his back. “What did I tell you ‘bout matters that don’ concern you?”
Daniel dug his hand into the soft, wet ground and pulled out a chunk of dirt. He threw it into Dampe’s face, causing him to cover his eyes and step back. Daniel got up and pushed him up against the front of his shack so that they were under the porch roof. He grabbed his collar again. Water dripped from his face. He was looking straight at him. He looked normal. He may have been on the older side but his face didn’t show much trace of age.
“They took my brother! What are they going to do to my brother?” he screamed.
“Listen, kid, I don’t know nothin’ bout what goes on down there,” said Dampe’. “Honest I don’t.”
“This is my brother I’m talking about! He’s all I have! Now tell me what you know!”
“All they do is come ‘round here when someone has done something real terrible and I grant ‘em access to…” he paused.
“…to where?” asked Daniel.
“The temple,” he said hesitantly.
“What temple? There’s no temple around here.”
Dampe’ nodded. “I wouldn’t doubt a moment that if yer brother interfered with something in the well that they’d be bringing him there.”
They both heard an approaching crowd. “Now you’ve done it,” said Dampe’. “Get in the house and keep quiet. I’ll take care of this.” Daniel went inside the tiny shack. To his left was a small wooden desk with a bed next to it. It was quite dank and dark. A tiny crack allowed some light from the outside in. It was a slanted piece of wood that allowed Daniel to see outside.
He saw the hooded people with a limp James hanging from one of their shoulders. They were talking to Dampe’. “We’ve had some trouble with this one,” said the one holding James.
“Oh really? What’d he do?” asked Dampe’.
“It wasn’t really what he did; it was what his little friend did. He set a house on fire and this one came and got him out.”
“You have any clue where he is?”
“Unfortunately no. We checked his home for clues but all we could find was garbage.” The guard searched Dampe’s eyes. “Unless….you may know something we don’t…”
Dampe’ caught on real quick. “What’re you gettin’ at? Do ya not see its pouring? How am I ‘sposed to know where some kid is?”
The guard scoffed. “I suppose so. Well, we’re taking this one to the temple for his execution.”
Daniel, before he could stop himself, gasped really loud. When he realized he had done so, he covered his mouth quickly. The guards’ eyes were averted to Dampe’s shack. “Now hold on, fellas. You wanna git rid of him that quick? Don’t you want ‘em to suffer a bit? I mean, he did interfere with you guys.”
“I like the way you think but that’s hardly any of your concern. Just let us in the temple.”
“Very well.” Dampe’ went into his house. As he was inside, he moved as if no one else was in there. He reached for an instrument. As he did, he quietly said to Daniel without even looking at him, “Stay put. I’ll be right back and don’t you go making any noise.”
Daniel sat in the corner, hugging his knees. At least now he had help in getting his brother back. He looked back out of his peep hole and saw Dampe’ with some odd seven guards from the well. Dampe’ pulled out an instrument that looked like something of a harp. He played a melody and some sort of matter came below all of their feet and carried them up to a fenced off area that Daniel never seemed to notice.
It took some time, but eventually, Dampe’ returned. As soon as he did, Daniel said, “So that’s where they’re taking him.” Daniel was starting to stand up. “Take me there, I’m going to go get him-” Dampe’ shoved him right back down.
“Yer not goin’ anywhere just out of determination. That temple is loaded with tricks of the mind and such. You wouldn’t survive a minute without the Eye of Truth.”
“What’s the Eye of Truth?”
“It allows you to see more than meets the eye. You were in that well yourself. You know there are things down there that don’t meet the eye.”
“So that Eye of Truth will help me see?”
“Yes. But it’s in the Well. So yer gonna have to go back an’ get it.”
“I’m not going back there. I barely survived the first time.”
“Then I’m goin’ with you.” Dampe’ grabbed a shovel. “Le’s go.”
Dampe’ and Daniel emerged from the shack. “What’s that for?” Daniel inquired about the shovel.
“I don’ go anywhere without it.”
It was still raining. The two took their soaked bodies up to the well that was still drained of water. “People are going to wonder why the rains are going for this long,” said Daniel.
“Don’ worry ‘bout it. As long as it’s fallin’ no one is comin’ out of their house,” said Dampe’ as he inched his way down the well. Daniel followed behind. Once they walked inside the well, the gate shut behind them.
“Take me to the room where they torture ‘em,” said Dampe’.
“I…I can’t remember well. All I remember was leaving,” said Daniel.
They took the exact same path as James had. They went through the wall and then Daniel found himself in the same hallway as he did not long before. The water was soaking their feet.
“Do you think there’s anyone down here?” asked Daniel.
“Keep quiet,” Dampe’ hissed. “’Spose there are. You don’ want ‘em to hear you.”
Daniel reluctantly nodded. “I think it was over here,” said Daniel. He pointed to the wall.
“Over where? There’s nothing but a wall there,” said Dampe’.
“This part of the wall looks different than the walls around it.” Daniel thought, “Is this wall fake too?”
He put his hand up against it. He pushed forward slightly and looked in horror that his hand was going through the wall! He yanked his hand back. He could feel his heart pounded. Dampe’ came up next to him. “I told you there’s more than meets the eyes,”
Daniel poked his head though. Sure enough, he saw the X in the middle of the room. There were the cages on either side of him and two doors on the other side of the room in front of the cages.
“It’s in one of those rooms,” said Dampe’. “You take the left, I’ll git the right.”
Daniel nodded in agreement. He had a direction to go now and he planned on following through. He put his hand on the knob of the door. Thankfully, it was unlocked. Before he opened it, Dampe’s voice came.
“’ere kid, take this,” Dampe’ said as he tossed his shovel to him. Daniel caught it with ease and nodded. He inched the door open with ease, trying to be quiet. But as soon as it moved, the door made an unnaturally loud squeak. He knew if anyone was in there, they’d hear him by now anyway.
He swung the door open forcefully and there was a man, not cloaked, heading towards him. In a fit of surprise and anger, he swung the shovel on his head. Some blood sprayed on Daniel’s face. He didn’t even wipe it off as he looked around the room. He didn’t know what this lens even looked like. So he just stood there, holding the bloody shovel.
He felt someone’s rough hand on his shoulder. He felt his heart leap until he heard Dampe’s voice come from behind him. “I see ya took care of him,” said Dampe’ almost humorously. “Anyway, I got the lens right ‘ere. There was no one in the other room.”
Dampe’ had in his hands a purple lens with red horns on the top. It was an attractive looking artifact. Daniel questioned how it was able to be used.
“They must all be in the temple,” said Daniel, catching his breath. “Let’s get out of here.” On their way out, Daniel put the lens up to his eye and saw all of the pitfalls the well had been masking. It frightened him to think that one misstep could’ve sent him and his brother deeper into the horrid place. When he took the lens away, he felt a little drained. He leaned on the shovel for support.
“That there lens takes energy to use. So don’ use it too much at once now,” said Dampe’. “Or you’ll find yerself passed out wit no help.”
Daniel nodded and handed the bloody shovel back to Dampe’ and followed him out.
James had been conscious when the hooded guards took him to the temple. But they had put a cloth over his eyes and bound his wrists so they could not see. He was instructed not to make a sound, so he did not. He did not struggle or try to talk his way out. He merely stayed calm and awaited his fate.
They finally ripped the cloth off of his eyes. He was standing in a large room. It was cold and James could smell the death. There were torches in the shape of skulls spouting blue flames. They were aligned in a circle with a crow statue in the middle.
On the other side of the room, there was what appeared to be an abyss. There was a menacing lizard face, like the one he saw in the well, with his long tongue sticking out. It was dark and he couldn’t make out much else.
There were whispers among the group that brought him there. Finally, one of them came out of the small crowd. He seemed shorter than the others but he took James by the shoulder and moved him towards a room to their left. The leader accompanied them and the others were dismissed. As they stepped away, James noticed something strange about all of the men. Their boots had some odd padding underneath them. He wondered what they were.
James stumbled toward the door. The smaller guard held onto James’ shoulder while the leader opened the door. They walked through and it closed with an ear-shattering clang behind them. At least that’s how it was to James.
The walked down a small hallway. The room’s walls were oddly designed. They were brown with a sort of skull with glowing teal eyes all about. Without the slightest doubt on where to go, the two led James through a wall. The ground was made of dirt and it was cold. There weren’t any chains of the sort in there, but the whole place seemed be of dirt.
The man holding him let him go gently. But the head of the operators of the temple shook his head to the man and shoved James to the ground. Since his hands were bound he fell flat on his face. It made his nose bleed a little.
“You must not show any mercy,” said the leader.
“I know. It just…he’s so young,” by his voice, the shorter man sounded timid.
“You were appointed by the head personally to be an operator here. You must not show doubt or compassion for what you’re doing here. I want you to stay here and guard him. We’ll return shortly to commence the rituals.”
The shorter man bowed as the leader left with the timid man. He stayed on the outside of the door, leaving James on the inside. He looked around. He knew the man was on the outside and the door was locked anyway. He had to think of a way out.
Thankfully, he broke free of the binds after some time. His wrists were raw and some of the flesh had been rubbed of, but he was alright. He took the rope and tried to think of a way to use it. He thought a moment. But tore a long strip off of vest and kept the rope next to him. His plan had to go perfectly or he’d be in big trouble.
James knocked on the door that led outside. “Excuse me,” he said, “there are bats in here, is that supposed to be normal?”
He stepped aside as the door opened. The man walked a step inside when James tripped him. As he was falling over, James mounted on his back. The man landed on his front side on the floor with James on top of his back. He took the rope and tied his writs behind him. Then he took the cloth he had torn from his clothing and gagged the man. The man kicked and struggled.
“I’m sorry, but I will not fall victim to this place,” he said. He searched the man and found the key he was holding. He took it and also the cloak he was wearing. Underneath, the man wasn’t that much older than James. He wore a black tunic with a white under shirt and pants with those strange boots.
James draped the cloak over him to hide his face. He took the keys and left the room and locked the door behind him. It wasn’t until he was out that he felt how fast his heart was pounding. He had no clue where he was going however. The walls certainly did hold many secrets.
He paced around, trying to find the way out. It was too dark to remember the steps he did to get in. He felt the walls with his hands as he walked. As he did, he felt his had be relieved from the cold brick. It was another false wall. He looked inside. It was a small room-like opening.
There was nothing in there but the boots with the odd padding the temple operators wore and some bloody chains. James shuddered at the thought of how those chains were used to draw blood. He figured the boots would come into use however; seeing as how everyone else in there was wearing them. He took off his own and put them on. They were a little big, but he was able to walk comfortably.
When he stepped out of the hidden room, he slid a little. What were under these boots? He heard banging come from the direction he did. The man he tied up must’ve been trying to signal for help.
James didn’t have time to think things through; he ran with the sliding boots and tried his best to backtrack his steps. He came up to another steel door. With great apprehension, he opened the door. Thankfully, he found himself in the same room as before. The crow statue was still perched on its block and the torches were still about him.
He let out his sigh of relief. He was almost there! He went into the direction he came from when he first entered the temple. He was almost there! As he lifted his leg to make that first step to freedom, he heard a commotion come from that direction. His heart stopped. What could he do?
He already stopped that first guard, so he couldn’t go back that way. And if there were more operators there, they’d easily stop him and his punishment would be far more severe. Even with his disguise, close up they’d see this “operator” was too short. He heard the sound of clangs coming closer.
He looked into the direction of the abyss with the lizard-like animal on the other side. It was too far to jump. In desperation, he looked at a chain dangling from the center of the ceiling. If he could jump to that, he might be able to swing himself over. It was a long shot, but he had to try.
He walked back as far as he could, and then dashed as fast as his feet would carry him. He neared the edge and closed his eyes tight. He was going to jump when he felt the ground below him end, but it didn’t. He continued to run.
In confusion, he opened his eyes and looked down. He was walking on the air! Impossible! He looked up and ahead of him. The lizard’s tongue was an extended walkway. Suddenly, the “ground” below James vanished. And gravity pulled him down. He managed to grab onto the ledge. He dangled by one hand above an endless pit. Catching his breath, he took his other hand and pulled himself up with great effort.
He sat on the edge of the tongue and looked down at his boots as he breathed heavily. Things just seemed to be getting stranger. He turned around and ran through the opening; going deeper into the temple.
“Did you hear that?” asked Daniel.
“Hear what?” asked Dampe’, as they walked down the steps into the entrance to the temple.
“It was very faint, but I thought heard something.”
“Probably from in there.”
“You don’t think its James….do you?”
“Possibly. That’s why we got to get in there.”
“How do we get in there?”
The room they were in was dark and they could hear the rain clattering outside. There were unlit torches surrounding a platform with a flame insignia. There was white writing around it. Daniel couldn’t understand it. Before them was a large stone door with the same symbol on it as the Lens of Truth.
“Use that lens thing. It might help you decipher it,” suggested Dampe’ as if reading his thoughts.
Daniel held it up to his eyes. Beyond the glass, the lettering was changed into a language he could understand! The lens was truly remarkable. It seemed to be written in riddles, the writing. “The flames of death this temple fed, all at once will guide you ahead…” Daniel read. “I don’t know what it means.”
“Yer a slow one,” said Dampe’. “It means you gotta light all them torches at once.”
“And just how are we supposed to do that?”
“Hell if I know. If you’re smart enough to read you should be smart enough to figure this out.”
Daniel looked at the brick platform with the flame insignia on it. He felt the rough surface with his hands. “Whatever you do, it’s supposed to happen right here,” he said.
Dampe’ approached him and looked at the platform as well. “Looks like you need to put a bomb or somethin’ here.”
“We don’t have any bombs,” said Daniel.
Dampe’ shrugged. “Well then yer gonna have to think of somethin’ else.”
“Alright, we’ll try it your way. Do you have any bombs on you?”
“No I don’. I dig graves, not blow ‘em up.”
“Then why would you suggest that stupid idea?”
“Its not like you got anythin’ better.”
Suddenly, the torches around them all flared up at once and they both looked up to see the door opening! Someone was coming out. Daniel turned to try and hide, but Dampe’ grabbed him by his sleeve. “There’s only one of em’. We can take em,” he said.
Daniel and Dampe’ charged at the hooded person emerging. As soon as he saw them, the person took out a dagger and readied himself. Dampe’ used his shovel to block his swings while Daniel picked up a stick and started beating him with it.
Dampe’ did well to keep up with the man, but Daniel knew he would others would soon hear and come to their comrades aid. He looked up and saw the door closing! Daniel was behind the hooded person and grabbed for the collar around his neck.
He pulled the man back from Dampe’ and knocked the dagger out of his hand. It skidded onto the floor. Quickly, Dampe’ swung his shovel over his head and knocked him out. He drew a little blood on his temple. It stained the hood.
Daniel wanted to grab the dagger so he’d be armed with something, but the door was almost shut. Dampe’ took Daniel’s hand and led him into the temple just before stone door closed behind them. “We should’ve taken his cloak for disguise,” said Daniel, catching his breath.
“Well then you’d still be out there,” Dampe’ said disgustingly.
They walked forward through the short hallway. When they reached to where they needed to turn, there was a large gap between them. Across was the purple face like the ones Daniel remembered seeing in the well. He didn’t need his lens to know it wasn’t a real wall. How else would people get in?
“How do we get across?” asked Daniel.
Dampe’ looked as confused as he did. “Beats me,” he said.
Daniel looked around. He noticed a chain hanging from the ceiling. It dangled there over the center of the abyss. “If we can jump and reach that chain, maybe we can swing over to the other side.”
“It just might work.”
Daniel went as far back as he could, then he dashed forward and jumped from the ledge and grabbed the chain. He swung forward once, then back once. Then as he approached the other side, he let go and landed perfectly on the other side.
“Ain’t you the brave one?” asked Dampe’ with a laugh. “If yer brother is as smart as you, I don’ think he’d be in much trouble.”
“Alright, your turn.”
Dampe’ told Daniel to duck. When he did, he tossed the shovel on the other side. With his hands free, he walked back as Daniel did, and ran over the edge. He grasped the chain and he began to swing. As he was making his way to the ledge, the chain snapped.
Without thinking, Daniel grabbed it barely while in midair. Dampe’ hit the wall with a thud as Daniel was on his stomach. Half of his body was over the edge holding Dampe’s lifeline.
“Good catch, kid,” said Dampe’, not even seeming concerned.
“You’re…very heavy,” Daniel struggled to say. Daniel got to his feet with the chain in his hands. He stepped back slowly as he pulled the chain with all of his strength. After a few paces, Dampe’s head emerged from over the ledge. When Dampe’ pulled himself up, Daniel fell on his back, exhausted.
“Yer one strong little guy,” Dampe’s said, helping Daniel up. “Now lets go get yer brother.”
Both went through the false wall and found themselves in a room with a stone crow statue surround by blue-flamed skull torches. Across a black abyss was a lizard head. It was eerie. “If yer brother was just taken here, he wouldn’t be over there just yet,” said Dampe’. But knowing him, he’s probably over there right now.” Dampe’ couldn’t help but chuckle.
“What should we do then?” asked Daniel. “Go over there or go over there,” Daniel pointed towards a hallway that was on their side of the pit. There was a faint sound coming from that direction.
“I hear it too,” said Dampe’.
“Maybe it’s James!” Daniel said excitedly, running towards the door. He and Dampe’ went through, following the sound. It came louder to their right. Finally they came up to the door where it was coming from. Someone was kicking on the other side.
Almost certain it was James, Daniel reached for the knob. It was locked. “Stand back, kid,” said Dampe’. Daniel did so. Dampe’ took his shovel down on the knob and broke it off. It bounced on the floor.
“Now who’s the smart one?” said Daniel jokingly as he opened the door. He was greeted with a two-footed kick to his stomach. He flew back against the wall. Dampe’ knocked easily with his shovel. He didn’t kill him or draw blood, but he was out cold.
“Just as I thought,” said Dampe’. “This isn’t yer brother. He’s probably on the other side.” Daniel clutched his stomach and staggered over to the door. “Look at his boots.”
“What’s that under them?” Daniel asked.
“Don’ know. But maybe they’ll be of use in ‘ere.”
Daniel slipped them off the man and put them on. When he stood, he slipped as if he were on ice. “Just how are slippery boots of any use?” He kicked them off in anger. Looking around, he took the rope off of the man’s wrists. “Let’s go.”
As they walked through the hallway, Daniel looked at the rope. It was certainly long for just binding someone. “Maybe we can use this to get across,” said Daniel. “It looks long enough to be able to reach over.”
“What are you gonna use to keep it from fallin’?” asked Dampe’.
“Hmm…your shovel might work. If I tie one end to it, maybe we can find a hook or something on the other side and throw it over there. When they found themselves in the same room as before, Daniel had already tied the rope to the shovel.
What they weren’t expecting was a group of operators holding the body of the one they fought before to be in their path. They were at the entrance, dumbstruck that the intruders were right in front of them, plain as day. Dampe’ ran to the edge of the black pit and chucked the shovel with the rope to the other side.
It was a miracle that the shovel was on two prongs with the rope going in between. “Run kid!” yelled Dampe’, handing Daniel the rope. “I’ll take care of ‘em here.” Dampe’ pushed Daniel off of the edge. The long rope swung him over. He heard Dampe’ fighting the operators. He used all of his strength to climb up.
As Daniel was climbing up, Dampe’ prevented the others from going over there. He pushed all of them back near the statue. One of the men yelled, “Stop him!”
One of the men got to his feet and pushed a square slab of stone near the crow statue. He managed to get it to budge. The rest of the men tried to stop him all at once. Dampe’ used this chance to get back. He glanced back at Daniel who was already at the top. When the slab was moved to face another torch, the ground beneath them opened up, plunging all of them down into a bottomless pit.
Then a gate came down behind Daniel. He made it! He looked back behind him and saw Dampe’ on the other side of the pit. He yelled to him. “Are you okay?” he aked.
“I’m alright, kid,” he yelled back. “You go and find yer brother! I’ll head back to the village!”
Daniel nodded. He picked up the shovel and dashed down the long corridor. He was alone now.