Chapter 56: Up the Shaft, Down the Tubes
One may as well fight
The ocean, or the typhoon,
As one's given fate.
~ Miyara Miwa
Kyosuke suggested that we let the rocks fall on Gadurik's body to make it look like he died in an accident. I said that was a poor idea -- simply crushing the body with rocks will not obscure the fact that he recently died of wounds inflicted by blades.
Above us in the shaft was a load of rocks held up by timbers. Hosei said he could send up a fireball and burn the timbers, making the rocks fall and clearing our way. Of course, the smoke and noise will alert any faerie around.
Unfortunately, the rocks completely blocked the shaft. There are only two ways to continue: two to four days of digging through the cave-in, while Menduri approaches and the Royalists increase their guard; and up this shaft. In short, wait and be discovered tunneling into the faerie's holy shrine, or make a lot of noise and be discovered climbing up into the faerie's holy shrine.
I was not pleased with our situation. However, the White Faerie's visions made it clear that the faeries must not come into possession of these crystals lest the entire western world suffer. And I was certain the chaos, and death and destruction, would spill into my own world as well.
I signaled, and Hosei created a fireball. We all moved well out of the way of a potential rain of rock, and he tossed it up the shaft. It burned for a minute, then was extinguished. He cast another up. This time, rocks and smoldering timbers tumbled down.
Loudly, as I had feared.
When all seemed quiet again, the White Faerie moved up to assess the damage and relative stability. It was very dark and he could not see, so Kyosuke looked up instead, and we shielded our lights so as not to backlight him.
He whispered that he saw a ceiling up there. The rockpile ended about 10 feet below the top of the shaft. The White Faerie threw Kyosuke up the shaft, and we waited a moment. His face appeared and he called down quietly, "Come on up, but be quiet".
Hosei had the White Faerie throw up his staff, with a rope attached to it. Kyosuke said there was not anything to tie it off to, so he laid the staff across the hole. The White Faerie carefully climbed up the rope, and then he pulled the rest of us up, one by one.
Res Li first, so he could look through the walls at the surroundings outside the room. When only Ashe and Baku were left, they sent up first the chest, then the dead king. The room was about 8 feet by 10 feet, with a door in the east wall. The room was somewhat smoke-filled and contained a few boxes.
Res Li whispered almost soundlessly, "There are about 20 faeries outside the door, waiting for us." Damn, just what I had worried about. Now what? Then Res Li motioned us all to be silent, and he went up to the door and placed his ear against it, then pointed outside. Apparently one of the faeries was listening to us through the door. 20 angry and battle-ready faeries, and we were trapped in a very small room in which we could not effectively fight at all. Perhaps the two to four days tunneling had been the better choice. But no; I was certain we just did not have the luxury of time.
Still, we could not fight here. I pointed at everyone here and then motioned down the shaft: everyone down now. If they follow us, we can fight much more effectively as they have to climb or jump down the shaft one at a time.
Instead of following my orders, Kyosuke remained up, by himself, and began tossing the boxes, which Res Li said contained food, down to Ashe and Baku. I was furious, but I could not loudly order him down, thus bringing the faeries in to attack him.
And it did not matter, of course: they burst into the room anyway. He kicked the staff down and tried to jump down after, but was dragged back by the faeries. Now I had to place the search for the Crystal of Water in jeopardy to rescue my cousin.
Hosei said there was no way to get the White Faerie up to rescue Kyosuke. Ravena unexpectedly said, "Yes there is", and took out the Crystal of Air, which filled the room with light. And almost certainly send a beam of light up the shaft. And alerted the faeries that we had something magically powerful down with us. I cursed in my native tongue. What else could go wrong? From above, I heard Kyosuke yell, as if to the faeries he was fighting, "Escape while you can! Stick with the plan!" As if I could abandon him.
Ravena conjured up an air elemental and sent it up the shaft carrying the White Faerie. From above, we heard him yell, "Tell it to put me down!" Ravena did so, and then told it to attack the other faeries up there, but not the one it had carried up. From the noise, it sounded like it obeyed her. Through the chaos and noise, I heard a faerie tell the White Faerie to give up or he would kill Kyosuke.
Res Li said to send him up, too, and Ravena produced a second elemental and sent them up the shaft. I felt this battle going rapidly out of control. But the elemental stopped half way up, and the second one joined it almost immediately. Hosei said there was some sort of magical wall that was blocking the elementals: nothing magical could get through it. And so things got even worse. Hosei said he would try something else, and said it would take about ten seconds to cast another spell.
From above, I heard the voice of a strange faerie. "We have your friends. We'd like you to surrender." Agonizingly, I waited silently for Hosei to finish his spell.
Silence up there as well, then Hosei whispered, "There are two mages up there." I asked him what he could do about them, and answered, "Nothing. I don't even know what that magical wall-thing is." Disgustedly, I said, "So, two of our party are being held hostage, we can't get up there, the air elementals can't get up, fireballs can't get up." Hosei helpfully pointed out that we're probably surrounded by faeries, too, and we'll probably be attacked from the rear any minute now.
I reviewed my life and considered that I was merely an example to others on exactly what not to do with their lives.
Hosei called up in Nipponese and told Kyosuke and the White Faerie about the two mages up there with them. I called up, also in Nipponese, and asked if Kyosuke was free or if he was being held. He answered us, "I am demonstrating my fighting technique." That was all I needed to know: they were apparently not in control of him at that moment.
Hosei thought about flying Res Li part-way up the shaft and seeing if Res Li could then get the rest of the way up. But he was too heavy for Hosei to carry while flying.