Double Aught – Rykson’s Story of Survival
“Remember, once we reach the other side, we’ll put the ring of water-breathing in a sack and tie it to the end of the rope. Two sharp tugs is the signal to pull the rope back. We’ll meet you out there.” Creed’s husky baritone echoed in the chamber.
Rykson knew the plan well, but understood that his friend was only concerned with his safety. The gruff chaplain was protective by nature; he reminded Rykson of his father.
“Yes, sir, I will remember. Do not fear, I am sure that I shall be fine. You will check on Kongo for me?”
“That I will, but you just make it back to us safely.” The grim cleric turned to Moradin, “Are you ready?” The dwarven knight replied, “Ready? To leap into freezing waters, fully armored, with only some magic bauble to keep me from drowning? Sure. Why not?” With a mighty splash, they leapt off the short ledge. Rykson watched the light of Creed’s enchanted hammer beneath the water as they plodded across the floor of the cave. Too soon, his friends disappeared into the long tunnel that would take them back to the large cavern with the rickety bridge, where Tudor and Kongo awaited their return.
By the meager light of the candle he found with the hag’s captive, Rykson peered across the grotto to the small ledge, littered with the vestiges of the hag’s past meals. There the body of the handless man lay in his final resting place. The halfling felt ashamed at leaving his remains in such a terrible place, but knew that they had little choice. His guilt over the man’s fate weighed heavily on his diminutive shoulders. Rykson felt as though he was still being pulled under the water by the weight of the stranger’s limp body when he attempted to rescue him.
“I am sorry to leave you here like this, friend. But I am even sorrier that I could not save you from this evil place. Though I am not a believer like our chaplain, I will say a prayer to Iynmar for you. But I think I have to wait until I am under the open sky. I fear I do not know how it works. Perhaps you prayed to that god as well, back when… well before you came to be here.” The lonely ranger knew that he was rambling, but wanted to fill the cold silence and the echo of his own voice made him feel less alone.
He knew that his feelings of sadness did not come only from the death of the poor stranger, but did not want to dwell on what was truly bothering him. The massive field of debris left from the shattered island of Egremont. The tale of tentacles as large as mountains pulling the land beneath the waves haunted his heart. His clan was on that island… his brothers and grandfather. His father. As the despair that he so feared crept in around him, threatening to break him, the rope looped around his arm began to tauten and he knew that his companions were nearing the end of the tunnel.
With a quick breath of preparation, the halfling dove into the frigid waters and swam the short distance to mouth of the tunnel that would take him away from this awful place and back his comrades. He tread on the surface and waited for what felt like a long while, the chattering of his teeth reverberated across the chamber. Finally, he felt two sharp tugs on the rope, signaling him to begin pulling it in. As quickly as he was able, he pulled the rope hand over hand, knowing that his salvation lay at its end. He looked over his shoulder, to the ledge that held the body of the dead man. “I will not forget you, my friend.”
The rope felt lighter and lighter as drew nearer to it’s end, much lighter than he expected in fact. Dread began to shadow his thoughts as pulled in the last few feet of the rope. As he reached the end, he was struck dumb by what he saw.
Holding the last few inches of empty rope before his eyes, he could only stare in complete, utter disbelief. When his sense returned, his mind was flooded with a rush of thoughts.
Did they do this to me purposely? Do they wish me to die in this place? No, that’s ridiculous, Finn. They are your clan. This was an accident. He took a deep breath to steel himself, but the thoughts continued.
Perhaps they will come to rescue me. Of course they will, but how will we find our way out of this place. They will only trap themselves as well. Without the ring we cannot make our way back through the tunnel, the current is too strong and the way too far. Please do not come back for me, my friends. There is no way out for us. Now, he was feeling truly desperate.
With luck, I may survive the other way out. The current is so swift that it would take me out to ocean quickly. Surely, I could hold my breath until I made it. No, that way is death assured. If I managed to avoid being dashed against the tunnel walls by the current, I would surely be crushed against the rocky shoals once I reached the sea. If I reach the sea before I drown. He looked back to dark tunnel leading to his companions.
I’m a strong swimmer… well, perhaps not strong, but I can hold my breath for a long time. Maybe I can make it back. In his heart, he knew that chances were slim. It was a long way, and slow going against the current. A hopeful thought struck him.
Maybe I will see the sack caught on a sharp rock in the tunnel, and the ring will still be inside. The hope fled quickly however, as he realized that taking the time to look for the sack by the feeble light of the magic candle would cost him valuable time. The bleakness of his situation caused him to feel lightheaded. His breath began to come in very short gasps, and his vision began to blacken at the edges. He knew that he was beginning to pass out and slapped himself sharply across the face.
Calm down, Finn. There is always a hope, and if you die… at least you’ll see father again. Thinking of his stoic father helped the outrider to focus on the task at hand and overcome the fear that had seeped into his thoughts. He thought then of Tudor, Viktor, Moradin, and Creed. And he thought of Kongo, too. All of them were waiting for him to return. Well, not Viktor, as he was on still aboard the Albatross, but still…
Iynmar, I know that I am not of your flock, and that I have not prayed to you before. But, if you hold Creed in any regard, please hear me now. I need your help, or I fear that I will not make it out of this place. Please hear me. Please. As he waited for some kind of sign from the god, hope fled again.
I am not under the sky. He cannot hear my prayer in this place. Father, I do not know what to do.
At that moment, Rykson closed his eyes and began to sink beneath the dark, icy waters. Suddenly he felt something small and hard brush against his hand. His eyes flew open and he held the candle in front of eyes. There, tumbling in the water’s current was the gold ring. He watched, stupefied, as the ring slipped neatly onto his finger, as if with a mind of its own.
While still below the surface, he could feel air fill his lungs and he knew that he was saved. With a rush of relief and monumental elation, he made his back to his companions.
Thank you, Iynmar.