Saturday, September 4, 2010

Dark World: Delvings Deep

(The story begins here.)
(The last recap is here.)

Once they were outside, Lassiter asked Shafer, “Are we driving or walking?”

“Oh, walking’s okay. I guess we’ll do this the quick way.”

Shafer led them into a nearby copse and with the aid of some flashlights soon found a rocky outcropping. “You see, the classy way is to go to one of the 500 or so buildings in the country with an elevator that goes below the basement. But this is quicker, and you avoid the crowds.”

He pushed through some greenery and into a small tunnel or cave.

“You mean there are 500 buildings in this country that are specially constructed for...” Darren stopped, unwilling to guess at the arcane purpose.

“I think so. Let’s see—fifty states, though Alaska and Hawaii—”

“Forty-eight states, and Alaska and Hawaii aren’t among them,” Clio corrected.

Shafer paused briefly; then he laughed. “Oh, yeah: nineteen thirties. Yeah.” He continued into the cave.

The entrance opened out slightly—just enough for them to all crowd into the slightly subterranean chamber.

“It’s got to be underground, and it’s better if it’s natural, not a building. If you’re really into Tehros, you could get in from a mountaintop or maybe even a skyscraper roof, but it burns miles.” He looked around at the others. “Okay, this is where you close your eyes and hold hands and sing.”

“Sing?” Clio asked. “Sing what?”

“It doesn’t matter. You don’t even have to sing; it’s just more fun. Come on: ‘Merrily we stroll along, stroll along, stroll along...’”

Darren counted the steps they were taking. The chamber had been large enough for perhaps four steps forward. They had gone twelve when they stopped. “Why twelve steps? And how?”

“Well, ’cause thirteen’s unlucky. You can open your eyes now.”

Darren did. They were standing before a large, actual room—not a cavern—and an odd device barred the entrance. A glance back hinted dimly at the small cave they had come through.

“How did you know this was here? And how do we get past that thing up ahead?”

“I can’t remember how it all works; it gives me a headache. You’re supposed to use a mystical talisman to pass the barrier—a to-ken. But I usually just jump the thing.”

He demonstrated, and the others followed suit.

“Now what?” Darren asked.

“Now we choose,” Shafer said, and he seemed suddenly serious, more awed than odd for once. “This is the entry to Tehros.”

Next: Choice of Tehros

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