Jonathan’s Dream (An Adventure Novel) – Chapter Eight, Part Eleven

Jonathan’s Dream (An Adventure Novel)

(Copyright 1984, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Chapter Eight, Part Eleven

~~~~~~~~~~

The work of building a raft started right away, as logs were moved to the river’s edge to begin construction.  There were three lengths of rope between them, in addition to the guide rope that was connecting the company together.   It was decided to create a simple, flat raft of eight logs, secured together by lashing ropes at each end and in the middle.

Their gear was cinched down tightly in their bags to prevent it from floating away if immersed in the river, and a decision was made to remain roped together while aboard the raft.  Everything they were about to do carried great risk: floating the river in pitch darkness into a tunnel with no guarantee of exit, remaining roped together and getting pulled underwater if the rope snags, unroping and risking individual members of the group getting washed overboard, or having the raft flip or jam up against unseen obstacles in the darkness.

Siyall reminded everyone of the course of action they had agreed to, “The plan is to stay low on the raft, lying down and holding on as tightly as we can to the lashing ropes.  We can’t know if there’s much headroom in the tunnel above the water level, and can’t risk hitting the rock above us in the dark.  There will be no light while on the water, as our Talspars and Jonathan’s Talspin must be secured within our clothing where it can’t become lost in the water.  If we fall into the water, or if the raft flips, hold on to the raft at all cost, grabbing hold of the lashing ropes.  I can only wish us good fortune, for our quest is to return Light to Myllanthar, and may the Light shine upon us here in this hour of our darkness…”

Once the raft was ready, and their Talspar stones securely stowed away, there was only darkness in the cavern – along with the silence of their individual thoughts concerning what they were about to do.  As discussed, Siyall, Sammy, Jonathan and Dija were first on the raft once it was pushed partially into the river, leaving Siyth and Rulyan to provide the final push and climb aboard.  They each lay as flat as possible while holding tightly onto one of the lashing ropes, praying this wild ride on the river would be successful.

The river’s current quickly pulled the raft away from the shore and into the flow, initially banging into the side wall of the tunnel as the raft was carried along.  They soon encountered unsettling rapids in the pitch black environment, striking against unseen rocks and being turned in circles while pitching out of control.  Siyth was knocked overboard in one collision with an obstacle the raft hit, yet he was able to cling to the lashing line as Ruylan hauled him back aboard.

The water was icy cold, and they were immediately as drenched as if they had all been thrown overboard.  Every minute or two they called out their names in the dark to ensure no one was lost, with Jonathan answering for Sammy as they were secured together at the chest.

Just when they seemed to reach a stretch of smoother water, the raft went over what must have been a series of steep rapids or waterfalls, with everyone spilling off the raft into the turbulent current.  Luckily, Ruylan and Siyall were able to retain their grips on the lashing ropes, and quickly began helping the others regain theirs, too.

One of the outside lashing ropes had broken in the spill over the falls, and the logs were beginning to separate, trapping Siyall’s arm between them.  Dijia helped free her arm, allowing her to re-position her grip on another portion of rope at the end of the raft away from the loose logs.  As the water became smooth and calm again, Ruylan was able to pull himself up onto the raft and assist the others aboard, too.  A reassuring roll-call confirmed that everyone was once again safely aboard.

The smooth water seemed to last for hours without incident, however, the frigid water was beginning to take its toll on the entire company.  Everyone was chilled to the bone, and it was hard to maintain their grips on the lashing ropes with frozen fingers.  The constant darkness and cold water were numbing their will to endure this odyssey, as not knowing their surroundings or what perils lay ahead was paralyzing them with a primal fear.

The raft seemed to hang up in shallow waters, or perhaps on a sandbar, yet there was no way of knowing for sure.  All they knew was they weren’t floating anymore, and seemed to be stuck.  As they discussed the possibility of getting off the raft and attempting to push it back into deeper water, Sammy barked once, and then continuously.

At first Jonathan tried to quiet Sammy’s barking, and then decided to look around in the darkness to figure out what the source of his concerns were.  When he turned his head and looked behind him, he saw it – a single thin, faint shaft of light off in the distance.  “I see light!” cried Jonathan to the others.  “Look, a faint shaft of light in the distance.  That’s what Sammy’s barking about – he wants us to see it!”

Jonathan then carefully took out his Talspin pendant and after allowing his eyes to grow accustomed to its soft blue glow, he realized they had washed up on a riverbank.  Soon they all began to become aware of their surroundings after having been immersed for so long in total darkness, and carefully made their way onto the sandy shore where they completed a headcount, and an inventory of their gear.

Amazingly, they seemed to still have everything with them – even their swords and weapons.  Luckily, no one was badly hurt, suffering only an assortment of bumps and bruises, along with being chilled to the bone.

Siyall and Ruylan took out their Talspar stones, and it soon became clear that they were once again in a large, underground cavern, yet there was a single crack on the cavern’s side that let in a sliver of light.  After proceeding towards the light, they determined that the roof and side of the cavern had caved in, and by climbing up through the pile of debris they were able to reach the immediate opening to the world outside, yet there was not enough room for a man to wedge himself through the opening.

It was decided that Jonathan, Dijia and Sammy would be sent up through the crack to see if there was a way to reach the outside, while Ruylan, Siyall and Siyth awaited their report.  As soon as Jonathan crawled through the crack into the sunshine above, he could see there was yet another opening a short distance away, and directed the others below ground to find it.  This opening was larger than the first crack, and before long the entire company was standing in the sunshine!

(End of Chapter Eight)

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Jonathan’s Dream (An Adventure Novel) – Chapter Eight, Part Ten

Jonathan’s Dream (An Adventure Novel)

(Copyright 1984, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Chapter Eight, Part Ten

~~~~~~~~~~

The dark passageway remained straight and level as the company journeyed along it, while a number of side passages led off in different directions to unknown destinations.  It was unclear how long they had traveled in this easterly direction, for time lost all meaning deep under the Tregarron Mountains.  Only when Jonathan felt he was too tired to continue on, did they pause to rest – deciding to sleep in shifts with at least two members of the company alert and standing guard fore and aft at all times.

The first sleep rotation was given to Siyth, Jonathan, Sammy and Dijia, while Siyall and Rulyan kept watch.  They had actually traveled for sixteen straight hours this day since beginning their journey, although none knew the time here in the caverns of misery – for the putrid smell of death permeated their every breath of foul air. There was also a distinct lack of oxygen within the stagnant air, causing them all to feel weak and lightheaded, while the unidentified stench made them sick to their stomachs.

After a time the sleeping shifts were reversed, and it was now Siyall and Ruylan’s turn to rest.  The others stood guard with their Light swords, along with the comfort and security of the Talspar’s soft blue light illuminating the immediate darkness around them.  Only after the entire group had gotten a chance to get at least a little sleep, did they set off again down the underground corridor.

The group traveled on for a number of hours before reaching a dead end, almost walking into a stark wall of solid rock that they didn’t expect to encounter in the dim light and all consuming darkness underground.  Shocked at the discovery of the end of their eastward tunnel, they had no choice but to backtrack and look for an alternative passageway.

The company went back to a descending side tunnel they had passed by earlier, that went off in a southerly direction, and had no choice but to follow it.  There was no way of knowing if this labyrinth of underground catacombs would lead them to the Kingdom of Pengarth and sunshine again – or if it would simply turn them in endless circles to their deaths.  The foul, damp air they were breathing in spoke to the latter of the two options.

The other concern now was their limited water supplies, for each began the journey with a wine skin filled with fresh water, but how long it would last was anyone’s guess – perhaps three days at the most.  Water was obviously their most critical need now, along with fresh, oxygenated air, but at least the Talspar lights seemed to keep the fell creatures lurking in the shadows at bay.

Occasionally, the Talspar’s light revealed ghastly, lurking red eyes leering at them from the shadows, yet they seemed to be repelled by the light – at least for now – just as Siyall discovered on her perilous first encounter underground.  Whether they would soon gain an evil form of dark courage to challenge the light and attack them, was unknown at this time.  Whatever happened from here on, they must not lose their Talspars, or they would quickly perish in the pitch blackness of this cursed underground graveyard.

The farther along this southerly passageway the company traveled, the damper the air became, despite the cool temperatures at this depth underground.  Over time, the air continued to get thicker with moisture, and condensation began dripping from the passageway’s ceiling above them.  Along with the increase of moisture, there was a progressively fresher and more oxygenated smell to the air.  After another day’s worth of traveling down the tunnel it opened up into a great underground cavern, along with the refreshing sound of flowing water.

The Talspar stones failed to illuminate the height or length of the cavern, for it was too great in size to reflect the stones’ dim light, yet there was clearly a river running through this cavern deep below the Tregarrons.  Moving carefully up to the bank of the river, it appeared to gently flow in an easterly direction at a slow and measured speed – neither rushing, nor lingering in a stagnant pool.

Along with this new, fresh, humid smell of pure water deep underground, there was a distinct aroma of freshness to it, as if an opening existed somewhere to the outside. But where?  There was no way to know for sure, and it was simply impossible to discover the source of this sense of freshness in their current situation.

After tasting the river’s water to assess its purity, Ruylan suggested they should follow along the riverbank in an easterly direction explaining, “We have no other options at this point, other than to remain rats in this hellish underground maze, endlessly searching for a way out.  We have neither the time, nor the strength or energy to pursue every direction and possibility, and must not split up the company, as it would be our downfall.”

Siyall added, “We shall rest in shifts here along the river prior to continuing our journey, for we have no idea what awaits us and we need to remain alert at all times. Do not untie yourselves from the guide rope, for one slip into the river will carry you away, with no hope of rescue in the darkness…”

After each of them had garnered a portion of restless sleep, they ate some of their provisions and refilled their wine skins with the river’s water.  It was a risk they discussed, yet there were few options other than slow dehydration and death awaiting them otherwise.  Moving cautiously in an easterly direction along the river’s north bank proved to be more precarious than they first thought, as each of them occasionally slipped and fell on the damp, slick rocks, even as they tried their best to maintain solid footing beneath them.  Had they not been roped together, any number of them might have already been swept away into this river of perpetual darkness.

Eventually, after a half day of traveling, the riverbank simply ended, as the river seemed to be funneled into a tunnel at the end of the cavern.  From their calculations, the water was a good stone’s throw across, yet there was no way to be certain.  Even if they found a way to cross to the far side, it was unknown whether a riverbank existed on the other side or not.

The river seemed to have picked up speed as if it was being funneled into the tunnel beyond the cavern after freely flowing without restrictions, yet that was conjecture as they had no way of really knowing.  All they knew for certain was they had reached a second dead end in two days.

Siyth tried to assess their situation saying, “It’s clear that the river’s high water mark is considerably higher than the water level that exists here today, which makes sense as the spring runoff would increase the flow many times over.  My thoughts are that the only way forward appears to be to float the river until another option exists, yet we have no way of knowing what awaits us downstream in the dark. Either way, if we stay here and keep turning in endless circles to find only more dead ends, we are sure to perish underground.  If we find a way to float the river, we have a 50/50 chance of either being successful or of drowning, but at least there’s hope…”

Dijia added, “In my country, there exists the Inland Sea of Pengarth, which seems to match the general direction this river flows.  The Inland Sea lies in the western regions of the Kingdom of Pengarth, and in a southerly direction from the center realm of the Tregarrons.  It is known to be fed from spring runoff from the mountains, but at the same time it never goes dry in summer – always feeding the River Pengarth with a steady flow of water traveling to the Sea of Tollvar.”

“My guess is this river is the underground source of the Inland Sea, and following it will lead us to freedom above ground, for there are a series of smaller lakes and pools leading from the Tregarrons to the Inland Sea.  If I’m right, this underground river surfaces southeast of the Tregarrons, and is the source of the pools – connecting them each underground – before reaching the Inland Sea from below ground.”

“Yet, we don’t know if we shall drown before reaching the first pool on the way towards this Inland Sea, Dijia,” clarified Siyall.  “If we get wet in the river, the chill will kill us long before we reach freedom.  We must choose carefully here, for there will be no second chances – no matter what decision we make.”

Jonathan listened to the discussion while looking around the cavern’s littered floor they had been traversing, covered in broken and fallen rocks from the unseen cavern’s roof, and littered with deadwood and logs that had been carried away by the water and cast ashore during countless seasons of flooding.  “Look around us,” replied Jonathan, “there are any number of logs we could lash together into a raft to float the river.  I think Dijia’s right, this may lead us to sunshine and fresh air again. We have a number of ropes with us in our provisions, and by tomorrow we could build a raft and float to freedom…”

Jonathan’s Dream (An Adventure Novel) – Chapter Eight, Part Nine

Jonathan’s Dream (An Adventure Novel)

(Copyright 1984, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Chapter Eight, Part Nine

~~~~~~~~~~

An updraft of cold, clammy, stagnant air met them as the company began their quest down a broken and ragged, roughly hewn stairway carved out of rock as it spiraled down around an open center void, into what appeared to be a giant bottomless well into the darkness below.  Siyall led the way, holding her sword in her right hand, while in her left she carried the Talspar, allowing its soft, blue light to illuminate the eerie landscape of cold, sharp shadows, and dark craggy places.  Siyth followed close behind her, with his sword drawn and raised like a torch in front of him, allowing its silver sheen to repel anything lurking in the darkness.

Jonathan followed third in line, keeping Sammy on a very tight leash at his left side, while holding his sword of Light down and to the right.  It was best not to be caught off guard or taken unawares, thought Jonathan, who had no intention of being taken captive by anything looming in the darkness.  His every intention was to return home to Hampton one day – even if he had to reach it through these caverns.  His Talspin pendant provided an additional soft blue glow in the middle of this company of travelers.

A few paces behind Jonathan was Dijia, who carried his gleaming silver sword out in front of him, while not too close to Jonathan or Sammy.  Dijia was ready to counter anything that might suddenly attack them from any direction.  He accidentally kicked a rock with his foot that had been sitting on the broken and crumbling staircase, and immediately realized his mistake as it cascaded over the side of the open stone steps that spiraled down into what felt like an endlessly deep well.  The center void of the well was easily a good stone’s throw across in width, and the company paused as echos regurgitated out of this abyss of black nothingness from the rock occasionally ricocheting off unseen rocks as it plunged deeper into the pitch blackness below.

Ruylan’s nerves were on edge from his position of guarding the rear of their small company, carrying his Talspar with its blue light in his left hand, while holding his silver sword in his right – constantly on guard from all directions to prevent an attack from the rear.

As the final echo from the cascading rock died out, there followed a rush and whirling in the air like a distant windstorm, and a moment later a swarming darkness of countless huge, black bats came streaming up from the void below – as if disturbed by the falling rock, or alerted by something more ominous deep in the unfathomable bowels of the mountain.

“Brace yourselves along the outer rock face everyone!” called out Ruylan to the rest in an attempt to back away from this inner well-like void by pressing themselves against the outer rough-hewn rock wall to avoid this venomous flow of winged vermin, each the length of a man’s arm in width.

“Help!  Something’s grabbed Sammy!” cried out Jonathan, desperately tugging at Sammy’s leash and front paws, while something in the shadow of a crack along the rock wall pulled Sammy, wild eyed in fright, into the darkness.  Siyth whirled around and stabbed his Sword of Light into the opening, twisting and turning it in a battle with some unseen foe that finally let out a frightful screech and released Sammy unharmed.  The tip of the sword’s silver sheen was covered in a thick, black goo running along the blade’s sharp edge from the point, with coarse black hairs matted in it.  “Don’t touch the foul blood anyone,” directed Ruylan immediately to Siyth and the others, “It’s a poison and curse!”

Siyth ripped off a bit of the fabric from his sleeve, wadding up the material and used it to clean off Ruylan’s sword without contacting the foul blood.  The endless flow of flying pests finally streamed past, much to everyone’s relief.  After carefully looking Sammy over to ensure he was okay – which he was, but frightened from the experience – they regrouped to gather their courage.  The company then continued carefully down the decrepit and crumbling stairway until reaching a series of connecting side passageways, as dark and unwelcoming as the night.

Siyall took out the Sylathal from the inside pocket of her armored leather jacket, and held it in her palm while illuminating it with the Talspar held in her other hand. After a moment, the Sylathal cast a faint, green light along one edge indicating magnetic north, so they all proceeded to take the passage to the immediate right of the glowing stone, eastward – hopefully, towards the Kingdom of Pengarth…

Jonathan’s Dream (An Adventure Novel) – Chapter Eight, Part Eight

Jonathan’s Dream (An Adventure Novel)

(Copyright 1984, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Chapter Eight, Part Eight

~~~~~~~~~~

Sleep evaded Jonathan that night as he pondered all that had been decided in the meeting with the Foyanthyl village elders earlier that day.  The journey to the Kingdom of Pengarth was not feasible at this time of the year, as winter storms were already frequently assaulting the Tregarrons.  The only possible course of action was to continue under the mountains, yet the system of passageways connecting the hundreds of Slejuv villages didn’t extend far enough to clear the precarious winter snows.

For this, they would have to travel deeper under the mountains, into dark places where few have ever traveled.  Only Siyall had been to the depths of the nether realm before, and not of her own choosing.  Years earlier, she had been taken by foul things down into the depths, and only through her cunning and skill was she able to return from the shadows below.  This is why she was chosen to lead the journey, for she volunteered to reenter the darkness in the hopes of guiding them to Pengarth – but no one knew the way…

For this, Siyall required the rarest stone of all – the Sylathal – of which only a single thin vein of rock existed.  The Sylathal always glowed a faint greenish glow on the side facing magnetic north.  This was necessary for traveling through the depths of darkness below, in order to determine which way was east to Pengarth.  Without this stone, they would be hopelessly lost underground, even with the lights of the Talspar and Talspin to illuminate the darkness.

Each of them – Siyall, Siyth, Jonathan, Dijia and Ruylan – were given Talspar rocks to carry, and in addition, Jonathan was given a sturdy leash to keep Sammy close to his side at all times.  None of them would survive without light in the darkness below. Only Siyall would carry the Sylathal, for there were few pieces available to spare.  The group was also provided with a guide rope to secure themselves to, so that none of them would get separated in the dark caverns below.

Siyall had also explained to the group about the stench and foul environment they would find underground, and each was armed with not only their personal swords, but also given additional leather armor and weapons to carry.  The silver swords of the Light Bearers would flash their brightness underground regardless, as the Light was within them, and Jonathan still had his Talspin pendant from Gramps to provide additional light.

It was the Talspar’s light that had helped Siyall escape capture after being taken below, as the unmentionable things that lived in the darkness would not approach the light.  Only in this way was she able to escape the creatures that had captured her unawares from a commonly used Slejuv passageway – for at the moment of her seizure, Siyall’s Talspar was tucked away in her pocket.

All this was little consolation to Jonathan as he lay awake in the night, realizing what the morning would bring.  In theory, as long as the travelers maintained their illumination underground, they would have safe passage through the bowels of the mountains to emerge beyond the Tregarrons and into the fertile land of Pengarth. However, it was only an assumption, for no one had ever attempted such a journey, let alone lived to tell the tale.

Sammy shared Jonathan’s restlessness, for he could smell the foul air wafting up from below even within the village of Foyanthyl, when none of the others could. Whimpering aloud in his nightmares, Sammy made running motions in his asleep, fueling Jonathan’s concerns that Sammy’s dreams were a prelude of darker things to come…

Jonathan’s Dream (An Adventure Novel) – Chapter Eight, Part Seven

Jonathan’s Dream (An Adventure Novel)

(Copyright 1984, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Chapter Eight, Part Seven

~~~~~~~~~~

The group traveled all day through underground passageways, traversing subterranean chambers of all sizes, climbing and descending endless stairways, and carefully following alongside rivers that flowed out of the darkness of the rock itself. Occasionally there was an air shaft bringing in fresh air, and a window or doorway to the outside, but there was always this looming and endless darkness that was never removed from their immediate thoughts.

Siyth and Siyall lead the small band of travelers carrying the blue Talspar stone to light the way – setting a very quick pace for the others to keep up with.  Ruylan brought up the rear carrying Sammy behind both Jonathan and Dijia, ensuring that no one got lost along the way.  There were endless side passages and stairs leading down into the pitch darkness beyond the range of both the Talspar and Talspin lights, along with the ever present cold, clammy, stagnant air that rose up from the depths of the darkness.

A terrible stench of death and decay wafted in the foul updrafts from the depths below, reminding Jonathan and Dijia to not get lost along the way.  This eerie feeling of something lingering in the darkness was on everyone’s mind, and the icy fear that filled Jonathan and Dijia’s bones encouraged them to go faster, the deeper they traveled under the mountains.  Eventually, they arrived at a civilized underground region of lighted chambers, frequent openings to the outside, and a virtual village existing within a vast array of chambers and rooms.

Pausing to give an explanation of where they were Siyall said, “This is our village of Foyanthyl, Dijia and Jonathan.  Ours is but one of hundreds of Slejuv villages that exist under the Tregarrons.  During eight months of the year we spend most of our time outdoors in the sunlight and under rays of moonlight, caring for our livestock in mountain valleys and growing crops to fill our underground storerooms.  The other four months of the year are spent mostly underground with our families and livestock.  It is a time to tend to our animals, for doing craft work, for mending what needs repaired, and for teaching the children.”

Siyth added, we’ll soon introduce you to our village’s leadership and spend the evening explaining all that has come to pass in Myllanthar in recent times.  We will also plan the next steps of the journey, for Rulyan and I are to help guide you to Penmarth, and the throne you are called to ascend to, Dijia.  For the moment, we will visit with my family and rest a little while from today’s journey.”

They made their way along a side passage to where they entered a cavern carved back into the mountain belonging to Siyth and Siyall’s extended family.  It was a unit of numerous smaller rooms and chambers, seeming to be a small village itself within the much larger village of Foyanthyl.  After a series of introductions to seemingly countless numbers of family members welcoming them all safely back home Siyall explained, “The Slejuv all live in extended families like ours does, Dijia and Jonathan.  We simply carve additional chambers deeper into the mountain as our families grow – it is the way of the Slejuv.”

After a meal and a few moments to rest and relax from the day’s journey, the five travelers along with Sammy – who now had the opportunity to use his legs again after having been carried all day – met with the leadership of the village to discuss the plan going forward, and all that had taken place during the Council of Light. There was much discussion of King Tucar’s ruthless grasp for power; the axis between the Kingdoms of Nierron, Dorrimar, and Talgar; the assassination of Dijia’s father, King Tyijar of the Kingdom of Pengarth; of Myllanthyl’s organizing the Council of Light and the participants involved; the current movement and intentions of the Light Bearers; and of Dijia and Jonathan’s journey thus far.

At last, after much discussion and explanation to bring everyone up to date with the happenings of the past months, there was an agreed upon plan of action going forward.  Siyall would remain with the travelers in the journey ahead, as the choice of action was of great risk to everyone involved, and her skills were required to lead the next leg of the journey.  There was no time to waste, for it was decided they would depart at dawn – yet, it was the fear of the unknown that lay ahead of them, that kept them from sleeping well during the night…

Jonathan’s Dream (An Adventure Novel) – Chapter Eight, Part Six

Jonathan’s Dream (An Adventure Novel)

(Copyright 1984, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Chapter Eight, Part Six

~~~~~~~~~~

“It is our esteemed honor to accept your offer of assistance and hospitality, Siyall, for we will otherwise perish here in the Tregarrons,” replied Dijia gratefully.  It was in that moment that something caught Jonathan’s eye, a blur of movement – and looking up, he caught a glimpse of a raven launching itself from the cliff ledge high above them, and watched it disappear from view.

The movement didn’t escape Siyth’s notice either saying, “The rocks here have ears, so we all need to move to safer ground.  Please follow us, Dijia and Jonathan, and we’ll take you to a more secure location to plan our next moves.”

“One more thing – I forgot to introduce my dog, Sammy, to you,” interjected Jonathan.  “We always go on adventures together.”

“You’ve found yourself in a very dangerous adventure here, young Jonathan,” replied Ruylan.  “My advice is to pay close attention to everything we tell you, or this will be your very last adventure as well!  We went searching for you once the weather began setting in, and have brought with us two sets of snowshoes for your use.  I will carry Sammy over my shoulders so he doesn’t have to try to keep up with us in the deep snow.”

Siyth and Siyall led the way back across the mountain saddle, with Dijia and Jonathan behind them, and Ruylan following in trail carrying Sammy behind them – clearly keeping watch to ensure everyone’s safe passage after being exposed to prying eyes and ears out in the open.  They traveled most of the morning along steep mountain paths and high valleys, until at one point when they went around the spur of a rock formation revealing an opening between two distinctly different types of rock.  A third type of material, sandwiched between the two types of harder rock had crumbled away, creating a fault in the mountainside that over time had expanded into a narrow opening.

The opening was very tight, and after everyone removed their snowshoes, the men needed to carefully turn and narrow their shoulders while crouching lower, while Siyall, Dijia, Jonathan and Sammy had little problem going through the opening and into the darkened passage behind it.

Siyall took out from her pocket what appeared to be a large, cut, blue sapphire that she held in the open palm of her hand.  After a moment, and once everyone’s eyes adjusted to the darkness around them, the stone began to radiate a soft blue light, such that after a time they could see every feature of this tunnel running deep into the mountain before them.

“I have a similar light, Siyall – Gramps gave it to me to use in times of darkness.  He called it the Talspin,” mentioned Jonathan as he pulled his pendant out from under his clothing to allow it to hang freely in the open on its chain.

Siyall took a closer look at the Talspin and said, “This was a gift to Myllanthal from the Slejuv in the First Age, Jonathan, for it was the very first of its kind, found only here in the Land of the Slejuv.  There is a single vein of this Talspar rock that has been discovered deep under the Tregarrons, and we all use the light captured within it to travel underground.  In ancient times, this rock was molten, and as it cooled and hardened it captured the sunlight within it.”

“There is a second type of rock that is even more precious called the Talspan.  It is of the same substance, yet it was nighttime when it originally cooled and hardened, so it trapped the moonlight within it.  This stone is a very pale blue, ranging from nearly white, to a light blue, depending on the phase of the moon at the time. Talspan which formed under a full moon is nearly as powerful as the Talspar.”

“We will travel now under the mountain, Dijia and Jonathan, to a place of safety.  It is a distance to travel, but an easy journey.  Stay close behind us as we lead you, and do not venture left or right of the route we take.  There are many chambers under the mountain, yet some are not safe to travel.  I say this with great caution to you, for if you get lost under the mountain in the darkness, you will never see daylight again…”

Jonathan’s Dream (An Adventure Novel) – Chapter Eight, Part Five

Jonathan’s Dream (An Adventure Novel)

(Copyright 1984, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Chapter Eight, Part Five

~~~~~~~~~~

“Now what do we do, Dijia?” asked Jonathan with a hint of fear in his voice.  “We can’t travel anywhere in this waist-deep snow, especially here in the highest regions of the Tregarrons.  Should we just wait it out and hope it melts just as quickly as it came?”

“I don’t have an answer for you, but I think someone else does, Jonathan,” replied Dijia, as he watched three hooded strangers approaching them on snowshoes from across the saddle.  “I think they’ll answer your question directly, and hopefully in a friendly manner – or this is the end of the road for us.”

“Never give up hope, Dijia, you said so yourself.  Remember, there’s always hope – right?”

As the three hooded figures approached them across what was now a blindingly white landscape surrounding the small pond and stunted pines, an avalanche of heavy snow broke off near them and slid silently away down the steep mountainside. The strangers didn’t flinch at the avalanche, simply continuing to walk a narrow line directly across the middle of the underlying mountain saddle towards Jonathan and Dijia.

Sammy boldly stuck his head out from between the boys, and while more than willing to run out into the deep snow to investigate, Jonathan held him back because of the precarious situation they were in.  The last thing he wanted to do was have Sammy start another avalanche and slide off the mountain – or provoke the strangers who looked like they meant business.

Dijia and Jonathan stood up in front of the outcrop of rocks to meet the approaching figures, while Jonathan keep his hold on Sammy, not wanting an accident or misunderstanding to occur if Sammy suddenly lunged forward thinking he was protecting the boys.  The strangers stopped at the distance of about five spans of a man in front of Jonathan and Dijia, yet they were unrecognizable in their layers of leather garments, robes, and cloaks with oversize hoods obscuring their faces.

For a moment, the silent standoff felt like it marked their fate, as the boys watched the two outer, and larger, figures draw their swords from underneath their layered garments.  It was in that moment that Jonathan first saw the glint of their gleaming silver swords, and exclaimed aloud, “Look, Dijia, silver swords, just like ours!”

It was a burst of youthful exuberance, not the careful calculation one might take when strangers draw swords in silent confrontation – yet it was said, and couldn’t be retracted.  At that Dijia replied, “We’ll show them our blades, Jonathan, and perhaps they’ll see as comrades, not enemies.”  He and Jonathan then drew their swords, matching the shine of the strangers’ blades in reflective brilliance in the bright sunshine.

The middle veiled figure, in what was clearly a female voice, then addressed them saying, “State your names and intentions for entering our land, for this is the Land of the Slejuv.  No one enters, or leaves, our land without our consent.  Who sent you, and what do you want here?”

“I am Dijia, the rightful heir to the throne, and King of the Kingdom of Pengarth,” boldly stated Dijia, with a richness of voice that echoed off the mountains around them.  Jonathan was quick to add, “I am Jonathan of Hampton, Ohio – Gramps sent us here for your help and assistance.”

The cloaked stranger to the left then threw back his hood, revealing youthful, blond locks atop his tall frame and exclaimed, “Gramps?  Do you mean the one known as Illandor, Arrydor, and Myllanthal?”

“The very one,” quickly added Jonathan.  “He told us to seek the aid of the Slejuv People under the snows, for they will help us reach Pengarth.”

At the speaking of Gramps, the second outside figure lowered his hood as well, and the two swordsmen sheathed their swords.  He was solidly built, with brown hair cascading to his shoulders, contrasting with the looks of his thinner comrade – both of them appearing to be maybe twenty years of age.

The third, smaller figure standing between the two men, was clearly that of a woman, wearing a suit of leather body armor, over-layered with a traditional Slejuv robe and cloak, with her own sheathed sword hanging at her side.  As she lowered her hood, she revealed a youthful, fair appearance, with a piercing determination set in her steely blue eyes, while her braided, blond hair cascaded down her back.

It was the young woman who stepped forward to speak saying, “I am Siyall, cousin of Siyth,” motioning to the tall, blond man beside her.  “We are of the Slejuv People. This is, Ruylan, of the Land of Sojar,” motioning to the other man with flowing brown hair to his shoulders.  “All four of you are Light Bearers, and it is our honor to assist you, Dijia and Jonathan, to bring Light to the people of Myllanthar.”

Jonathan’s Dream (An Adventure Novel) – Chapter Eight, Part Four

Jonathan’s Dream (An Adventure Novel)

(Copyright 1984, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Chapter Eight, Part Four

~~~~~~~~~~

The end of the cart path was a stark reality of what awaited Jonathan and Dijia, for the highest regions of the Tregarron Range were directly in front of them.  From this vantage point, they could see a number of towering peaks ahead in the distance, while the valley they’d been traveling through came to an abrupt end at a wall of rock.  From this point onward, there was little more than a precarious mountain goat path for them to follow.

Daylla said it was a five day journey by foot to reach the Slejull Pass, but what she failed to add was that it was almost straight up!  The cool breeze had since turned into an icy wind as they began the climb, carefully watching their footing on what soon proved to be even unrecognizable as a goat path, as it was all rock and no dirt. It was an endless climb, for nothing indicated to them how far they’d gone, or the distance they’d have to travel.

Sammy didn’t have any problems with his footing on the rocky path, yet he wasn’t his enthusiastic self either, being unable to explore anything beyond following Jonathan.  The puppy in him wanted to go everywhere at once, yet stepping off the path risked a fall of hundreds of feet at even this early point in the climb.  Jonathan and Dijia had problems maintaining their balance and footing while carrying their gear bags, needing to secure each step for stability prior to taking the next one, as the rocks shifted easily underfoot.

“It’s a five day climb to the top of the pass, Jonathan,” said Dijia who had the lead at this point.  “What we don’t know is how far we’re required to go each day to count, but I think it’s a full day’s effort.  My guess is we have to continue until nightfall each day, and hopefully we’ll find a place where we can shelter each night.”

“I feel the weather’s changing, Dijia.  The cold wind seems to be growing stronger, and I smell a storm approaching from behind us.  Keep a look out for anything you see that looks like a cave or an overhang, where we can take refuge if a storm suddenly hits…”

“My guess is we have a few hours yet, Jonathan, so let’s make as much time as we can today while the footing’s dry, but be careful not to slip and fall…”

Up to this point, they’d only needed to walk carefully through the rocky terrain and while following the narrow path, but now the steepness of the way required them to use their hands to maintain their balance along the cliff face to their left, without looking down at the vertical drop to their right.  It was a point of no return, for here they didn’t even have the room to turn around had they wanted, or needed to.  It was all they could do to hug the rock face and not lose their footing, it was that precarious.

After an entire morning of climbing without breaks, they reached a wider area that opened up into a narrow saddle between two lesser peaks.  There was a small pond of crystal clear water remaining from the spring snowmelt, along with a few stunted and twisted trees broken by the fierce winds and weight of the winter snowpack. The snow level at this point at the beginning of autumn was another thousand feet above them, and the mountain peaks appeared to go higher than ever in the distance ahead of them.

“This region of the Tregarrons is the highest of all Myllanthar, Jonathan.  They say the peaks are higher than 3000 times the height of a tall man above the sea.  Others say the highest peaks have never been seen, and must go as high as 4000 spans of a man above the ocean.  It’s said there are blizzards in the high regions all throughout the year, even when it’s summer in the valleys.  This is a place where no one travels, as none are known to have ventured and returned to tell the tale of their journey.”

“It’s also the Land of the Slejuv.  Somehow, they survive in this terrain, and many think they live underground in tunnels under the snow that go deep into the rock. Even now, you can bet that we’re being watched, Jonathan, for no one travels into their region unnoticed, and all trespassers meet the same fate – either falling victim to the weather, or at the hands of the Slejuv – for they are known to be fierce warriors.”

“Let’s hope Siyth and Ruylan have announced our intentions to the Slejuv, Dijia. Besides, Gramps told me of this way earlier, and said it was dangerous, yet suggested it as a possible route under the winter snows.”

“Yes, it is our only way, Jonathan, but the dangers are many.  Even if the Slejuv offer us shelter, and guide us underground, there’s more hidden in the darkness under the rock and snow than the simple tunnels of the Slejuv.  It is said, that everything underground in Myllanthar is somehow connected by endless passages to the Wastelands of Fell Ignar – known by many as Kriegareth – a deep pit and bottomless opening into the ground between the Kingdoms of Nierron and Errayllor, near Sylthar Wood.  No one enters that darkness on accord of their own will – and those known to have been taken into it at night by force, never return…”

“Gramps has, Dijia, he told me he was there once – but said he wouldn’t speak of it…”

They rested for a time by the edge of the pond under the thin shelter of the stunted and twisted trees to eat the granola, fruit and vegetables Daylla had given them, but the cold wind soon began spitting an icy drizzle – an omen of winter’s arrival.  Ice rain soon turned into flurries, before intensifying into a full-scale blizzard. Jonathan, Dijia and Sammy moved to the other side of the gnarled little grove of trees to shelter beside a low, rocky outcrop, where they huddled together at the base of the leeward, or eastern side, out of the direct brunt of the storm.

They put on all the extra clothing Daylla had given them, while sheltering against the ridge of rock and pulling their cloaks tightly around them.  Sammy burrowed deeply between the two boys, seeking the warmest place to weather the storm.  Yet by morning, when the blizzard finally subsided and the sun broke through the overcast, the area was blanketed in waist deep snow…

Jonathan’s Dream (An Adventure Novel) – Chapter Eight, Part Three

Jonathan’s Dream (An Adventure Novel)

(Copyright 1984, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Chapter Eight, Part Three

~~~~~~~~~~

Once everything was packed, Dijia and Jonathan said their goodbyes to Nactar and Blaze – assuring them that they would be very well cared for, and thanking them for their steadfast service.  They then gathered their gear and carried it over to the cottage to say thank you and goodbye to Daylla for sheltering them, and she met them at the door with two small burlap bags containing food for their journey.

“It isn’t much, boys, just fruit from the garden, an assortment of vegetables, and a bag of granola – it’s all I can do,” remarked Daylla.

“Thank you so much for the food, Daylla, you’ve been very kind and generous to us,” replied Dijia.  “We would like to thank you for all you’ve done for us.  Your hospitality has restored our strength and provided us safety, as well as a stable for our horses during the coming winter.”

“It’s what anyone would have done for you in the same situation…” said Daylla, her voice overcome by sadness thinking of the dangers that awaited them, and the high stakes resting on the improbable success of their quest.  She couldn’t bear facing the impossible odds of their succeeding, nor their fates if they failed – as well as all those who depended on their success…

Daylla didn’t have to be directly told that this boy was on his way to claim the throne of the Kingdom of Pengarth.  Everyone knew the current state of affairs of the lands immediately surrounding them as news traveled fast even in this rural area. Nierron’s riders had been terrorizing the entire region from even before the assassination of King Tyijar, and no one knew the fate of his son.  She looked upon them now with a sadness of doom, for what hope could there be for two boys alone against a kingdom determined to stop them…

Dijia filled the wine skin from a bucket of water, and placed it into one of the two bags of gear to prepare for departure.  They put on their swords and hooded cloaks over their robes, and hoisted the gear bags over their shoulders.  Standing before her, Dijia and Jonathan no longer looked like two young boys to Daylla, but rather road hardened adventurers.

Jonathan adjusted the wide strap across his chest to the bag now slung over his shoulder, and seeing the look of sadness in Daylla’s eyes said, “Fear not, My Lady, hope is not lost!  Gramps has sent Siyth and Ruylan to help us, and even now the Rhayander – the eagles of Glandwr – watch over us from great heights,” pointing upwards at two circling eagles high above them for effect.  “Besides, Dijia’s word is his bond – he will not forsake you, nor those who need his help.  We will both do all we can to make this land a welcoming place, just as you have welcomed us!”

Dijia smiled at Jonathan’s buoyant outlook at the situation, while knowing the true depth of the darkness that gathered to prevent their success – but his friend’s optimism was infectious, even bringing a welcome smile to Daylla’s face, while adding, “If Jonathan says it’s so, My Lady, then it is, indeed!  We will not falter, nor fail in our quest, and you will see a new day for this land once we succeed!”

After hugging both boys and kissing them on their foreheads, she stood back and looked at them both, while holding their hands before her saying, “You are a wise, young man, Jonathan – with your confidence, I believe in you, too!  I know you will not fail in your quest, Dijia, nor forget us…”

With that, she bid them farewell, and the two young adventures walked through the courtyard, turning to wave one last time upon reaching the cart path and turning east – only to see the path disappear a stone’s throw in front of them…

Jonathan’s Dream (An Adventure Novel) – Chapter Eight, Part Two

Jonathan’s Dream (An Adventure Novel)

(Copyright 1984, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Chapter Eight, Part Two

~~~~~~~~~~

Daylla had lived her entire life in the shadow of the Tregarrons and knew them by heart.  The map she drew was from memory of traveling into the Land of the Slejuv years ago, during a time when the entire area was one of peace and harmony between all local regions.  It had been years since she traveled that way now, as nowhere was safe today, and it took all she could do to simply exist in what was now a dangerous world.

Jonathan and Dijia woke early the next morning to find Daylla preparing breakfast, even before the sun had risen.  She filled their bowls with a homemade granola she stored in a burlap bag, and poured cups of fresh milk for them from her goats that morning, along with apples and dried plums from the trees in her garden.  Meanwhile, Sammy enjoyed chewing a bone on the floor beside them as they had breakfast at the table.

“When are you heading out to Slejull Pass, Jonathan and Dijia?” asked Daylla as the boys ate their breakfast.

“As soon as we can be packed and on our way, Daylla – it’s important that we not linger here knowing that Siyth and Ruylan are waiting for us,” replied Dijia, with an undertone of purpose and urgency Daylla picked up in his voice.  She knew all along who he was, from the earlier inquiry and the searching of her property by riders weeks ago looking for the ‘boy king.’

Daylla met Dijia’s eyes with her own and said, “I won’t divulge your visit here or the direction of your travels to anyone, Dijia and Jonathan – for I want your journey to succeed as much as you do.  We need kings who rule with kind hearts, not iron fists…”

Dijia’s eyes shone with an appreciation of Daylla’s knowing awareness, without having to specifically acknowledge the focus of her remarks, as he replied, “Kindness always repays kindness, My Lady – and kindness never forgets.  May our blessings be with you forever.”

After breakfast, the boys went out to the shed to sort through their possessions for the next leg of the journey.  They’d have to travel light on foot to the Slejull Pass, so they’d only take the most necessary items with them on the next stage of the journey, including Daylla’s map, the silver swords from Sylthar Wood, their knives, rope, cloaks, a wine skin for water, and the bags for food and for carrying their gear.

Jonathan also had an assortment of items with him in his small backpack, like Jonathan’s original compass, tribal knife, lion’s tooth, rope, cotton gloves and handkerchief – along with a leather pouch with flint and tinder for starting fires.  Jonathan had lost his watch and flashlight in the river with Majeka at the beginning of this adventure, and still having the items given to him by his Grandpa Spencer meant so much to him.

Taking the compass in his hand, Jonathan tried to determine which way was east towards Slejull Pass, aside from the direction of the rising sun – but the compass only silently spun in circles.  Being well versed in using a compass, he thought it odd that a compass couldn’t determine magnetic north – but this was Myllanthar after all, and perhaps there was no magnetic north in this world.  So Jonathan put it back in his bag of keepsakes along with his other prized possessions.

Daylla gave them two wool blankets, mittens, hats, scarves, and leather wrappings to protect their feet in the snow – all items that had belonging to her sons.  They’d need the extra clothing to stay warm while traveling through the high country of the Tregarrons.  Hopefully they’d find help through Siyth and Ruylan, as well as the Slejuv People once they arrived at the pass, otherwise they were doomed by the approaching winter.

Jonathan thought of the snow they’d encounter in the peaks and glaciers of the Tregarrons, and recalled the day he once built a snow cave at home in Hampton.  After a big winter snowstorm in Ohio one year, he shoveled ever more snow on top of a snowbank behind the house, and packed it down tight until it was as high as he was tall.  Jonathan then carved out a cave that was long enough for him to lie down in.  He punched an air hole through the roof with a broom handle, before lining the cave’s floor with every throw rug his mother would give him from the house.

He used a round, metal trashcan lid like a shield to serve as the cave’s door, and sprayed water over the top of the snow to ice over and freeze solid.  That night he bundled up in extra clothes and gathered his sleeping bag, blankets, snacks, a transistor radio, and a flashlight to spend the night in his snow cave.  It was very chilly the next morning, but Jonathan considered his night in the snow cave as a real adventure.

The truth was, it had only been a prelude to this adventure he and Dijia now shared, realizing that if they couldn’t find a way to survive in the difficult terrain ahead, it would also be their last adventure…