[NorthWorld] Thorgaut Kabbisson: Chapter 26 – Underground!
Thorgaut tried to keep his breathing quiet so the men wouldn’t hear him when they entered the house. He felt around in the closet for anything he could use as a weapon to defend himself. There was nothing but dresses and a couple of rag dolls.
He wanted to kick himself for not having taken one of Arnulfr’s swords with him on his way out to bathe. But everything had been so calm and peaceful out here in the middle of the woods; he hadn’t even considered it.
Thorgaut thought about running into the kitchen to grab a knife but heard the front door squeak open. He pressed his back up against the wall in the darkness. He rearranged the dresses hanging in front of him to block their view if they opened the door to his hiding place.
He heard the men banging around in the kitchen close to the wall he had his back pressed up against. Runa’s closet was just on the other side of the kitchen close to the stove, so it was a warm, comfortable position to be in.
There were several loud knocks on the wall a little off to the side.
“What were these guys looking for,” Thorgaut wondered. “They must be gathering the food in the kitchen.”
He hoped they would take what they needed and leave soon. But the banging got closer to his position, so he shifted his body away from the wall and back towards the door.
The tapping stopped for a minute, but then picked up again around the area he had been just a moment ago. There were two final loud thuds and then silence.
Thorgaut realized the two men weren’t looking for food. The pantry was on the opposite wall. “There was no reason for them to be tapping on the wall where he was hiding unless…”
Suddenly, he realized that the men were looking for him. Their little black object must be directing them towards him for some reason. But why?
Thorgaut stepped across the closet to the other side. The tapping started up again, moving back in his direction.
“Schmack!” he realized. They were looking for him. He was a sitting duck if he stayed in here. They probably had him surrounded. One of the men was tapping to shoo him out the door. The other was most likely waiting outside the door with a weapon to take Thorgaut down.
He crouched in the corner considering his options while trying not to panic. He didn’t even realize why. He was a Viking warrior and should be facing his enemies with a sword in hand. Here he was hiding in the dark like a little girl.
Thorgaut heard a whisper in the dark that set his hair on edge. Something reached out and brushed against his leg. He stifled a yell and stood up to back away from it.
“Shhh, Thorgaut Kabbisson. Come with me.”
He peered down at the floor and saw the faint outline of a head. That was freaky. He considered kicking it, but a tiny head didn’t seem as dangerous as the warriors outside.
Thorgaut crouched back down to take a closer look. There was a trap door leading down into the ground. The head belonged to a young boy.
“Svart?” he whispered. The boy put a finger to his lips and tugged his hand to pull him down through the trap door. The banging kept getting louder. Then the head of an ax crashed through the wall above his head letting in a little light.
From the angle he was at, he could see someone’s feet outside the door. They were definitely trying to flush him out. He felt relieved at not having tried to flee. The man would have put him down before he could even have gotten the door completely open.
Thorgaut sighed with relief at his latest brush with death and pulled the trap door down behind him. He followed Svart down the ladder and into a chilly, dank open area.
Thorgaut squinted in the darkness waiting for his eyes to adjust. They were in a small, dark cave-like area. There seemed to be several branches going off in different directions. They heard the men crashing through the door. They jabbered loudly when they didn’t find what they expected.
It wouldn’t take them long to find the trap door, so Thorgaut motioned with his head for the boy to move along. He shrugged as if asking the boy which direction to go.
Svart pointed in the direction of a large tunnel, and the walked towards it. But the boy didn’t go through the tunnel though. He laid down and pulled himself through a hole in the wall. It looked barely large enough for Thorguat to pass through.
He shrugged though and started walking in that direction. It was just as well because it would make it harder for the men to pass through with their weapons. They would have to remove their swords and bows before squeezing through the hole.
Thorgaut had to duck down and squirm his way through a tight hole to make it through the first short section. After that though, the tunnel widened considerably into another small open area.
Thorgaut pulled his upper body out and sat up. After drawing his feet through, he stood up and dusted himself off. He bent over to look back to see if their pursuers were coming. He couldn’t see anything, but they were carrying on a heated discussion off in the distance.
Svart pushed him out of the way and pointed to a rope. Thorgaut looked up and saw it was tied to a pole that was holding up a large rock over the opening. It looked like a sophisticated trap Arnulfr set up to block attacking NightWalkers. Unfortunately hadn’t done him any good when they finally did attack the night before.
The boy grabbed onto one end of the rope and gave it a light tug. He motioned with his head for Thoragut to help him pull it. Thorgaut shook his head and frowned.
“It will make a loud noise, and they will know where we are,” he whispered. “Right now, they still don’t know which way we went, and they’ll probably go down that other larger tunnel.”
Thorgaut stood off to the side. The warriors were probably trying to use their little black object to hone in on his location. He didn’t know if it would work underground or through the cave walls, but there was only one way to find out.
“Crawl out just a little and watch what the men do when I walk that way and then back over this way,” Thorgaut told the boy. Svart looked at him like he was off his rocker, but went ahead and did it anyway.
Thorgaut walked over in the direction of the main tunnel and waited. After a minute the boy came back with a grin on his face.
“They are pretty confused right now. The men keep watching this little thing in their hands that seem to know where you are. They think you went down the big tunnel and headed that way.”
“Where does it lead?” Thorgaut asked.
“It comes out in a small cave down by the lake,” Svart replied. “We can go back out through the house, or we can follow that smaller tunnel out into the woods.”
“Neither of those options is very good,” Thorgaut said. “They’ll be able to track us wherever we come back out. What about this cave back here?” he asked. “Where does it lead.”
The boy shook his head. “I don’t know. Arnulfr never found a way out. He said he came to a river, but it went down and down and down into the center of the earth.”
“The center of the earth. Huh?” Thorgaut said. “Why did he say that?”
Svart shrugged. “Arnulfr always made stories up for us. So, I don’t know if it was true, but he claimed to have found a lake of fire. He told us that there were dragons and trolls down there. And lots of gold.”
“Gold,” Thorgaut prompted. “Did you ever see any of this gold.”
“No. Arnulfr claimed he lost it when they chased him out. He came down here almost every day looking for the gold again, but he never found the lake of fire again. He thinks the trolls put a spell down here to confuse him so he couldn’t find his way back.”
Thorguat pointed to the rock still hanging over the entrance. “How were we going to get out of here if we had pulled the rope? Is there another way out?”
Svart grinned foolishly and shrugged. “We’d have to find another way out of here. Or else continue down to till we found this lake of fire.”
“Um, what would we eat?” Thorgaut asked. “Seems kind of silly to lock ourselves in here without having a way out.”
“I think he had a way to move the rock or else a tool to break through it after he thought it was safe to come out again,” Svart said.
He walked over to the other side of the cave and pointed to several bags stashed in the corner. Thorgaut opened one and ran his hands through it.
“Oatmeal?” he asked.
The boy nodded. “Arnulfr left dried food down here in case he ever had to use it. He said it was enough to live in here for several weeks. There’s a small underground river to drink from down that way.
“Why don’t you call him Uncle like your sister?” Thorgaut asked. “And how do you know all this.”
Thorgaut sat down and leaned back onto bags. He felt tired and had so many unanswered questions. He wanted a moment to process everything that was going on.
“This farm belonged to my father. Several years ago, Arnulfr and his brother came here. They said they were hunters. So, my father let them spend the night. They asked my father to take them out into the woods. And he never came back.”
“What?” Thorgaut exclaimed. “They just came back without him?”
“They said that the NightWalkers had taken him. We knew that wasn’t true, but momma didn’t want to fight them. I was too little to stop them from living here. They made momma, Runa, and I do all their work around here.”
“And they looked for gold down here in the caves.” Thorgaut finished.
“Father knew where there was gold. He traded with the dwarves and brought supplies for them.”
“Wait! Say what?” Thorgaut demanded. “Where did these dwarves come from?”
Svart smiled at Thorgaut as if the answer was obvious.
“So, your father traded things for gold in the city, and these greedy jerks came here to find out how he got it.” Thorgaut continued.
The boy nodded. “These caves go deep underground and cover the entire land. Father said you could travel underground to any city in NorthWorld if you knew the way.”
“And the dwarves showed him the way to Sjoland so he could trade for them?” Thorgaut asked.
Svart shrugged. “I don’t know the name of the town, but the dwarves did show him the way. I always stayed here with mother. But they would all go together and bring back carts full of stuff. Then they would pay father and go back down towards the dragons and the lakes of fire.”
Thorgaut shook his head at all this mindboggling information.
“No wonder you hated your dear, old Uncle Arnulfr,” he said ironically. “I would have hated him too.”
They sat in silence for a few moments. Svart pulled some dried fruit out of a bag and offered some to Thorgaut. He wasn’t hungry though and declined the food.
“So, where do the NightWalkers fit into the story?” Thorgaut finally asked. “I mean, why did they attack the brothers.”
“Arnulfr and Ingolf didn’t come for the gold. They were hunters like those two men out there now.”
“You mean monster and demon hunters?” Thorgaut interjected. “Like the famous Grimm brothers?”
Svart nodded. “I don’t think they ever hunted monsters before though. They had a little black object they called their NightWalker compass. They wanted to kill one and take it back to town.”
“They learned about the gold and decided not to hunt monsters anymore,” Thorgaut said. Then he spat angrily, “That’s messed up. Those turkeys deserved everything they got and then some. I’m sorry about your family.”
The boy shrugged and took another bite of whatever dried fruit he had pulled out of the bags.
“So, why didn’t you go with Runa and your mother last night?” Thorgaut asked.
“I don’t want to become a NightWalker,” Svart retorted. “I don’t want to be a living dead person. I doubt the NightWalkers would have accepted me though. Momma and Runa have special abilities. So, the NightWalkers wanted them to come on down.”
“What do you mean, come on down?” Thorgaut asked nervously. He knew he wasn’t going to like the answer. “Do they live down here in these caves?”
Svart shook his head vigorously. “No. They live out near the Black Raven Mountain Range. But they do use the caves to get around during the day. They can’t be in the sun because it irritates their skin and kills them if they are exposed too long.”
“That’s why they’re called NightWalkers. Huh?” Thorgaut mused.
They were interrupted by the sound of people talking. It was getting louder. Thorgaut put out his hand to cover the boy’s mouth. He pointed to the small hole they had come through. The men must have followed the cave out to the lake and come back looking for them.
Their loud jabbering annoyed Thorgaut. He was starting to get tired of their loud voices and strange language. He looked around the bags of food for any weapons but didn’t find anything useful though.
He looked back at the hole and saw the soft glow coming their way as one of the warriors tried to squeeze through.