Eating Clouds

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Chapter 13: The Underground Castle

Chapter 13: The Underground Castle

“Underground?” Ozzy said in surprise. Dawn nodded, slightly annoyed.

“Yes, that’s what I said. Buck and I both have our rooms underground, and close to our armoury there is a cave with an underground lake. Buck’s busy today with some other business, so he asked me to take you there. The water in the lake is supposed to heal the physical wounds. It might even slow down the process of the….” She hesitated, and seemed to choose different words to say the same thing. “...shadow’s mark.”

Ozzy gulped. Every mentioning of the bird thus far had let to the boy falling into some kind of trance where he couldn’t get out of by himself. He felt guilty every time it happened, because he’d cause so much worry for the demon hunter and the girl. They had done so much for him already.

So he too tried his best to keep the scary memories and thoughts away. It didn’t help much, but at least he was trying. That’s what he kept telling himself.

“So, eat up” Dawn said, handing him a sack. It contained bread and cheese. Ozzy’s mouth felt dried out. Ever since Dawn had given him a dark blue garment to keep him warm, he didn’t dare to insult her anymore, but he couldn’t resist but to ask if he could get something to drink. She shook her head. “Nope, sorry. It’s dangerous entering the sacred water with different water in your stomach. It’s better not to.”

Ozzy sighed disappointed, and ate a bit of breakfast. Eddy had gone off somewhere early in the morning saying he would try to find the fastest path to Gilmore. That was, of course, the initial goal and still the quest the boy and the little elf were on. It was sad that something like this had to come between.

A voice in the back of Ozzy’s head was saying that the little elf might be avoiding having to answer questions about the war with the gnomes. Because Ozzy had a lot of questions.

He knew about the rivalry between the gnomes and the little elves from the book he’d read back in Gerald’s store, but there wasn’t anything implying they were at war.

Ozzy broke off a tiny piece of cheese and chewed it for some time as he was lost in thoughts. Now that he thought about it, there also wasn’t any mentions of the bird. It was almost like the book didn’t know that much as he first thought. There was only one fact which had proven to be correct thus far; the little elves did magic and were prepared to teach other creatures the art.

But after everything that had happened, the boy wasn’t sure what to believe.

He stared over the grand field and had to squint his eyes against the bright sun. It was still sunny weather, and although he couldn’t exactly feel the heat through the magic sphere, just like he couldn’t feel the breeze going through the trees, it must’ve been a hot day. Not far away from him, Dawn was squeezing out some of Buck’s shirts and hanging them to dry at a tiny rope. She kept glancing at him, almost unnoticeable. When she caught the boy staring back, she quickly pretended to be very concentrated on her work.

Ozzy figured he could ask her some things, now that they were all alone.

“Dawn?” he said. The girl acted annoyed again and quickly regretted every lying eyes on the boy. She folded up a shirt against her chest and only responded with a ‘Hmm?’

“Can I ask you something?” Ozzy continued. Dawn threw the folded clothing on the pile with the rest and sighed.

“If this is about the gnome-elven war, you can save that for Eddimeus.”

Ozzy felt his cheeks turning red. How did she know he was going to ask about that? “Well, you must at least know something, right?”

Dawn turned to look at him, her brown eyes narrowed. “I only know that it’s been going on for quite some time. If you’d ask Buck about it he would say the same. What happens between the little folk is none of our business. And besides, they’re all really strict about their information. Why do you think the gnomes hired a mercenary to spy on the enemy?” She paused to sigh again. Then, for some reason, her eyes softened. The thin harsh stripe her mouth had been the entire time slightly turned downwards. “War really is a horrible thing. So many innocent people die for such stupid reasons…”

She stared at Ozzy, but didn’t really see him. She seemed to be somewhere entirely else. When she realized she was still having a conversation, she snapped her head the other way. “That’s why we don’t get involved. And neither should you.”

Ozzy took another bite of the bread, chewed, and then put the remaining piece back in the sack for later. “How am I supposed to do that? I’m going to the village anyway.”

Dawn’s face got a grim expression. “It’s easier than you think. Like I said: they’re strict about information.”

She threw the last folded shirt on the pile and placed her hands on her hips. “Now stop interrogating me and get up. We’re going.”

Ozzy placed the sack under his arm and crawled onto his feet. He was aware of the coldness surrounding his spine, which had gotten more intense overnight. He hoped the water would take care of that.

Dawn strolled over to a spot in the field where she’d come out from as well. Kneeling down, she searched with her hands in the grass, till she got grip over a rope. With a slight pull, a piece of earth plopped out, like a piece of a puzzle. When Ozzy leaned over the hole he could see nothing but darkness.

“Jump in” Dawn mumbled, holding the ‘door’ open for him. Ozzy looked from the hole back to the girl, and the girl grunted. “Alright, I’ll go first. I didn’t know you were afraid of the dark.”

“I’m not!” Ozzy snapped back. “It’s just….I don’t know what’s down there.”

Dawn rolled her eyes, before agilely jumping down. There was a soft thud as her feet landed not far below ground level. A second later a light shone in the hole, revealing an underground tunnel big enough for someone Buck’s size could pass through. And considering that, it must be a great jump.

Dawn’s face appeared in the dark, holding a lantern to lit her path. “Still scared?”

Ozzy grunted something back as he shivered on his feet. His jump was more like a fall, and he collapsed onto his knees. Dawn opened her mouth to say something about Ozzy dirtying his new robes, but changed her mind.

Instead, she started walking down the tunnel, without waiting for the boy to get back on his feet. He swiftly jumped up, holding the sack with food close to him as he ran after her. The lantern only shone a few feet in front of the too, revealing nothing but dirt and a few poles to keep the tunnel from collapsing. It seemed well crafted and very stable. The dry dirt was carefully polished and almost seemed like concrete walls from afar, but when Ozzy accidently touched it, the sand got loosened and crumbled.

The tunnel made a turn to the left, and then revealed a bigger space underground. The ceiling seemed higher, or the two had just gone deeper into the ground. There were five separate spaces carved out into the ground, which had become more like rocks the more they had walked.

Ozzy stood in awe at the entrance. Dawn casually walked in and lit some more lanterns around the space, revealing pieces of furniture and several other household object. It seemed almost like a normal home.

“Wow” was all Ozzy could say. Dawn placed her lantern on a table in one of the spaces, which appeared to be a kitchen. “So this is where you live.”

Dawn snorted. “Yup. Our underground castle. I need to refill. You can drop the sack here,” She pointed at a corner of the kitchen, and with a little hesitation, she added “if you’d like.”

Ozzy didn’t clinch to the sack as much as before. He placed at a stool in the corner Dawn had pointed at and looked around the kitchen. At one side, some kind of faucet was carved in stone, it even had some drawers. At the other end stood sacks, made of the same raw material as Ozzy’s food sack, all stuffed to the top with vegetables. One giant lantern hung from the ceiling.

Dawn stood at the faucet, emptying her belt’s pouches and filling them again with seeds and several dried leafs. Sometimes, she lifted on of them up to smell it, and either put it in one of the pouches or put it back in the many jars that were stalled out.

Ozzy walked back to the main space and peeked in every of the different spaces. Two of them contained beds, and seeing the sizes he knew which one was Dawn’s. The girl glanced at him from time to time, making sure he didn’t get his fingers on any of her belongings.

“It is really amazing” Ozzy whispered, as he headed over to a place where all kinds of weird objects and weapons were stalled out. Dawn cracked a grim smile.

“It can get claustrophobic sometimes. I barely come here during the day. Otherwise I won’t get any sunlight at all.” She finished getting everything she needed and blew out the lantern in the kitchen. “Now stop lurking around. This way.”

She walked past her own ‘room’ with a lantern held in front of her. Ozzy peeked for the last time. When passing the girl’s room, his eyes caught sight of a piece of jewellery carefully placed next to the bed, in a hole in the wall. It was a silver medallion, with a black stone in the middle. It was about the size of his palm and flickered when the lantern threw its light over it, revealing ancient encryptions. It was only a split second he saw of the thing, and it had already left Ozzy’s mind as soon as they continued their journey to the underground lake.

The further they went the darker it got. The ceiling seemed to get lower and Ozzy started to understand why Dawn didn’t like to be down here. After some time, a blue light started to appear at the end of the darkness. It became greater and greater as the neared the end of the tunnel. Ozzy couldn’t see much over Dawn’s silhouette, who was taller than his.

When they reached the next open space, Ozzy felt as if he was outside again. Dawn stepped aside to reveal a great cave, tallest than any building Ozzy had ever seen in his life. He imagined even a giant would bump his head in the ceiling.

The blue light came from the reflection of the sun shining from a hole above, through blue crystals, which hang from the ceiling. Some even went as far as to touch the ground and had grown into shiny pillars. The grey stones seemed a dark blue shade through the bright filter.

Around and between the pillars was a silent water. This was glowing of itself as well, as if it was toxic to some extent. Ozzy walked over to the banks of the lake. It was so deep he couldn’t see the end.

“Pretty, isn’t it?” Dawn suddenly said, her voice sounding soft. Ozzy glanced at her, seeing her stare into the water. The light made her brown eyes celebrate, and she looked much prettier when she didn’t seem annoyed.

This sight disappeared as soon as it had come. She turned away from the water to look at Ozzy with a strand expression on her face. “Take off your clothes.”

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