Authors: Michael Dean
“How in the world did you get here? How did you know?”
Seeing my old friend Scruffy must have really energized me because this was the first time in a long time that I was able to string this many sentences together in one go.
on’t ask. I’ll fill you in shortly. But right now, we need to figure out how to get you out of there. First of all, how do I get down there without shattering my ankles from a fall?”
“Cli-climb down the waterfall…it-it’s
the only way.”
Scruffy scooted around the top of the hole
so he was directly over the rock waterfall I was chained to. He looked reluctant to take my advice because the top of the waterfall was still a few feet below the top of the cavern. It would require Scruff to hang down from the opening and hopefully grab onto the waterfall with his legs somehow so he could climb down. I had the distinct feeling this was going to end up a disaster.
“Are you sure this is the only way in?”
With a fearful groan, Scruffy began to cautiously slide his body down through the hole while hanging onto the edge of the opening.
His legs dangled aimlessly as he tried to seek out the top of the waterfall with his feet. After a few tries, he managed to get his feet locked onto the top. He was still hanging onto the opening with his fingertips as he cussed and complained the whole time.
I winced as I heard
him say, “Here goes nothing,” and he released his hold on the edge of the hole. He slid down a bit as his body weight came to rest upon the waterfall. He bear-hugged the structure in a panic and I thought he had safely made the transition. Apparently, so did he.
“Well, that wasn’t so bad.” His voice trembled in relief as he let out a nervous laugh.
Just as we both thought the coast was clear and he felt confident enough to climb down to me, I saw his legs come loose. He let out a yell and started sliding down the rock formation. Every time he hit a rock his voice vibrated. The next thing I knew, he landed on my head, which jarred him off the waterfall, landing him into the pool right in front of me with a big splash.
Scruffy immediately stood
, looking completely stunned as he wiped the water from his face. He hunched over in pain.
“Oh man, that was bad, that was very bad. Owww, owww.”
He placed his hands between his legs and remained bent over.
That was an entrance that only Scruffy could make.
“How-how did you ever manage to learn to walk upright?”
I mumbled, taking a cheap shot at my friend. My head sank back down.
.” He tried to straighten back up and smiled. “It’s good to see you, Leo.”
I raised my head back up and mustered a smile
“What do I need to do to get you out of here?”
“Go…go…behind the waterfall…levers or something…pull them to stop the water…hurry.”
, limped out of the pool, and went behind the waterfall. I heard him fumble around for a second.
“There are two levers. Which one do I pull?”
Annoyed, I managed to scream at him. “Just pull them, hurry!”
Of course the first lever he pulled activated the drainage system that surrounded my pool. The floors beat and banged
, then angled like they did when the storm was in full effect, in order to drain when the room filled with water. I was worried that all the noise might attract the attention of Murgit. As frequently as the watchman came into my cell, I knew we were on borrowed time before he came in to check on me. I watched as the floor leveled back out again. Then, for the first time since I had been chained in this living hell, the water falling upon me slowed to a mere drizzle.
Scruffy came around the side of the waterfall
. “Did I get it?”
I nodded and immediately started to feel some of my strength come back; enough so I could speak with a little more authority.
“Take your shirt off. Wipe some of this water off me…hurry.”
Scruffy did just that and patted me down with his shirt before putting it back on
. “Now what do we do?”
“I’ve gotta get out of this pool.”
I could feel my power beginning to return to me in a rush. Even though I was still ankle deep in a pool of holy water, it wasn’t enough to hold me any longer. I started to pull my arms together in an attempt to break the gigantic chains that had held me for months. Creaks and cracks began to sound around the cavern as the chains ripped apart. Finally, with a thrust, I felt them bust and I could place my arms together once again. The rest of the links that were attached to the cavern walls swung and banged into the rock walls. I knew we were making too much noise.
“We’ve gotta move fast
, man,” I urged him as I ripped the chain link cuffs from around my wrists and ankles.
“So, it’s true then
—that stuff in Shade’s little book?” Scruffy looked at me inquisitively.
We stumbled to get out of the pool
. “All the answers are coming, bro. I’ll fill you in later. But for now, we’ve gotta get you out of here before Murgit comes back.”
“Murgit? Who’s Murgit?”
“One of the many hundreds, more like thousands, of tyrannical vampires that are crawling all over this place.”
I was walking by him as I mentioned this, studying the exit above us as Scruffy
absorbed what I said.
“Wait…vampires? What do you mean…vampires? Those things are real?”
“Yes,” I whispered, “and if we don’t get you out of here, you’ll become their lunch.”
Scruff just looked around the cavern with his mouth open.
“Wait…wait…wait. Argento didn’t say a word about vampires.” He panicked.
“Well, they’re here…hold on
“Forget Argento! Get me the hell out of here if there
’re really vampires around! First I have to deal with your little attitude, then I get put directly into harm’s way—”
“Well, if you hadn’t acted like such a spoiled little brat and been patient and waited for me
Then Scruffy interrupted me
. “Spoiled brat! If you would have been a big boy—”
The next thing I knew we were shouting over each other in a very immature and
ill-timed little catfight. I started to shush him when I heard the sounds of the steel doors being tampered with.
“See what you’ve done
,” I whispered and smacked him in the chest.
“What I did? That’s the gratitude I get for saving your butt. I don’t wanna die in here.
Let’s fly out the hole up there. Get me as far away from here as possible, Leo.” He began to pace nervously in a circle.
Then something came to mind
. “I’ve got a better idea.”
“And that is?” He stopped pacing.
“You’re gonna be the bait.” I grinned at him sadistically.
he shouted. I had to shush him again.
“Don’t worry, you’ll only be a distraction
so I can get the jump on who comes through that door. You’re gonna be just fine.”
“Why is it
every time you tell me not to worry…I worry?”
I could only smile at him and directed him to stand at the front of the pool facing the steel doors.
I flew to a spot on the ceiling just above the door and held on. Scruff stood in place, shaking in anticipation. I knew it was probably Murgit coming through the door. The doors beat and banged a little more and began to slide open. I could tell it was indeed Murgit because he was humming as he started to step foot into the cavern.
“What’s this? Who are you? What are you doing here?” Murgit shouted at a sheepishly grinning Scruffy
who innocently waved at him.
I watched Murgit shuffle into the room.
“What is a human doing…?” Murgit glanced behind my friend and noticed the chains were broken and I was no longer there. “What have you done?” Murgit screamed.
“You mess with my boy, you mess with me.” Scruffy tried to sound tough but it came out more like a plea than an order.
Murgit shot over to him in a flash and grabbed him by the throat. “I will suck you dry, you ignorant kid.”
Scruffy’s fearful eyes glared at him as he whispered, “Go for it.”
I rolled my eyes and shot from my hiding spot. I grabbed Murgit by his jaw, turning his face back to me.
“Just like you
, blood blister, he’s got
powerful friends.” Murgit could only gurgle a response as I squeezed him a little tighter. “You aren’t laughing now, are you…ya little peon.” I reveled in anticipation of my revenge.
Murgit released his
hold and Scruffy started to taunt the odd vampire. “Yeah, take that…mess with me and see what happens.”
I glanced over at my friend and gave him a
dirty look. Just as I was about to plow my fist through Murgit’s body and rip his heart out, I thought about the humans that may be trapped in all those cells I passed up. I wanted to set them free and thought it might be a better idea, for now, to keep our ex-prison guard around and then send him as a messenger back to Shimmer. I unclenched my fist and spun Murgit around, punching him in the face. The force of the blow shot him across the cavern and he crashed into the wall.
“Yeah! That’s my boy!” Scruffy cheered me on.
I simply looked at him again and Scruff just shrugged. I marched up to the stunned vampire, picked him up with one hand, and pulled him to me.
“I could kill you right now…and I should, but I have a better use for you.”
Scruffy heard what I said and quickly went into a panic. “You’re not gonna kill him, Leo? You gotta! He’s gonna come after us…me!”
“Don’t worry, man
—I got this.” I stared into Murgit’s eyes. “I’m going to release every prisoner in the Caverns of the Forgotten…and you’re going to take me to all of them. After that, I’ll release you and you can let your master know that I’m coming for him…and for Shade.”
Murgit started laughing
. “We’ll just hunt them down and kill them as they scramble through the countryside like rats. You’re dooming them to an immediate death if you do that! Then my master will kill your beloved.” He continued giggling.
I pulled him closer
. “No, he won’t. He’s invited too many of you blisters here for an event. Shimmer is a showman, he’ll come through with his promises…one way or another. And another thing, you won’t hunt the humans we’re about to free, because if you do, you’ll be the first vampire I kill today. Understood?” I grinned at him.
His eyes just darted from side to side in fear as he stopped laughing and nodded in agreement.
“Leo, I don’t mean to sound heartless or anything, but I want out of here first. I don’t want any more of these…
to come in here looking for you.” He pointed at Murgit, who I was pulling out of the cavern doors by his neck.
“I need you to lead them out of here. You can’t leave yet.”
“What? What do you mean? I’m not familiar with Romania!” He jogged up to me as we approached the first door in the corridor after leaving my cell.
“Don’t worry, I
’ll show you where to go.” I reached over with my free hand and ripped the small steel door off its hinges.
“It’s okay, you can come out. Don’t fear any harm
,” I called out to the cowering person kneeling down in a corner of the darkened cell.
Very slowly, the figure stood a
nd walked toward us. As she neared, she fully came into view. I realized this girl went to school with us, and apparently so did Scruffy.
“Meredith, is that you?” Scruffy sounded shocked.
The girl exhaled in relief and hugged him, “Mark! I can’t believe it’s you! Were you imprisoned here, too?”
“No, I’m here to help.” Scruffy patted her back.
“There are more of our friends in the cells. They brought us here after the party that night.”
It seemed that Scruff’s anxiety subsided
about sticking around to aid once he realized that people he knew were trapped in the caverns.
“What do I have to do, bro?” He looked to me for instruction.
“Once we free them, take them to the town a few miles away. I’ll show you when we get out of here. Run as fast as you can with them and find a way for them to call their relatives, friends, or whoever from back home. If there are people that aren’t from our town, have them do the same. Don’t count on the local population to help you, they’re slaves to the vampires and won’t help you for fear of backlash. Wait for me wherever you go and I’ll find you.”