The World Below

Pelthe 4, 5682---He’d lost every scout and quite a few soldiers from the first five companies to attacks from the people living in the cave, but Commander Toparez now knew the location of the entrance to the Underground, and had the army marching toward it. The attacks were swift and deadly during the initial stages of the cave exploration, but against a long procession of thousands of soldiers, they were only sporadic individuals blinded by the light and throwing themselves at the army. Once they passed through the doorway to their destination, the attacks would cease.

Fortunately, there was no sign of an enemy army waiting for them in the Underground. With a thousand foot soldiers now guarding the entrance to the Underground, and a thousand horsemen reconnoitering the surrounding area, Commander Toparez would reach the Underground prepared to deal with almost anything an enemy army could conceivably send at him. As he led his horse through the cave, he could already see the opening in the distance, and although the going was slow, soon stepped into a completely new world.

An uncanny light illuminated the foggy cavern. He could not see far into the distance, but it was far enough to realize the Underground contained its own flora and fauna. Grass grew on the ground, and some nearby shrubs were visible, although all of it appeared very different from the plants he knew. A road led away from the cave, disappearing into the fog.

“Form the camp an eighth of a nura from the opening,” he ordered the soldiers. “Maintain a guard of three companies at the opening at all times.”

He continued down the road a short distance, leading his horse. When he reached the point where he planned to form the camp, he stopped, and led the horse off the road. “I have to leave you here,” he said, apparently to no one in particular. “I brought you in, but you’re on your own from here. I can’t see you, so I won’t be able to protect you. See that you don’t stay hidden, or we’ll have to leave without you. I’ll try to make sure we retrieve you, but you need to make it possible.”

“Don’t worry about me,” a woman’s voice replied. The saddle on the horse wiggled as if someone was dismounting. “Rarla’Nun will see that I get out.”

“I wouldn’t trust that old woman,” the Commander said. “Even if she is the only one who can see you, I expect she has plans of her own concerning this incursion. Do what you came to do, learn what you can of this land, but make certain you leave when we leave. Ask the help of any soldier to make sure you return on time. If you notice any Dark Magicians, seek out Captain Corgata. He’ll bring me the message for you.”

“Three days,” the voice replied. “I know we are limited to three days if the Dark Lunari awoke as we entered. I hope to be back before then.”

The Commander nodded. Several plants rustled as something moved away from him. Good luck, Niahla’Sen,” he said softly.

Commander Toparez led his horse farther from the road, and gave the reigns to one of his soldiers. It was time to supervise the camp setup.