The Amazing Adventures of Sara Corel
A novel by Toomey
Nineteen: The Land
Maurdur was in
turmoil. From the moment Sara's frozen form had mysteriously appeared in the
last Elvish haven, the ever-suspicious Lord of Midgarde had been marshalling forces to meet
uncertain contingencies. He had perceived a threat immediately, but
Gundolf had somehow
shielded enough of his tortured mind to cast doubt and confusion about the exact nature of
her mission. Soraun had known the outlines of her itinerary and had seen its
accomplishment at every turn, helpless to hinder it, and now had lost the treasure the
Dwarves had been preparing for Him, as well as His most powerful servants.
It had been folly to allow the old Wizard
and his companions to live, hatching plots until they had somehow attracted unlooked-for
aid from the unknown Cosmos. He had taken pleasure in their helpless self-punishment, but
had underestimated the resourcefulness of His cornered prey. His attention had ever been
on the dreadful works at hand rather than the esoteric pursuit of tenuous knowledge from
far-off worlds — which he had left to Soloman — so His intelligence of her powers,
abilities and motivations was vague, formless and apprehensive.
Now, in desperation and
confusion, He had thrown up every defense at His disposal, useful or not. The greater part
of His army had been streaming in fearsome haste to Udynn, knowing only that His enemy
would arrive soon to force the entrance to His realm.
Sara streaked east in the darkness. From
far away, she could spot her destination easily, as the bonfires atop the two
watchtowers that guarded the Maurdur gate at Murranon blazed fitfully. Behind, in
the haunted pass of Udynn, the lesser fires of a thousand camps lined the road to the
inner gate of the Ysenmouth. Little moving points of countless torches told of
reinforcements moving up under the lash from every direction. And within the confines of
Maurdur itself, Ordruen, the Mountain of Fire, had awakened from its slumber to cast a
spreading cloud of darkness over the Plateau of Gyregyrath from its red-glowing summit.
Gundolf had told her, "Do not simply
fly into His realm as a bird would. You must cast down the iron gates of
Maurdur. You must
break the will of His minions that cause the gates to stand, and face the misbegotten army
that defends them." It looked to be some forty miles from the outer wall to the
inner, about a ten hour hike if she didn't stop or slow down. Which she didn't
plan to do, even though the road was more crowded than the Katy freeway at rush hour.
At least, she thought grimly, she
wouldn't have to worry about 'collateral damage'.
Goblins and Trolls and
whatever foul beasts and entities had entered His service could look out for themselves.
She didn't think she could bring herself to just murder them helplessly by the
thousands, but she wouldn't go out of her way to avoid hurting them, either. With the
fall of Soloman's Progress experiment west of the Ayndruen, these gathered hordes would
wreak terrible havoc on the survivors in a campaign to reestablish their Master's
dominion, and so must be somehow broken.
Well, first things first. Even before she
touched down before the three iron doors of the Murranon Gate, alarms sounded from one end
of the valley to the other.
So much for surprise.
In the confusion of darkness lit by
flickering fires and rushing multitudes eager to find an enemy to engage, chaos swirled
about Sara as she stood considering how she should begin. It took some time for the
commanders of the watchowers to brutally restore order and identify their lone target. They
and she finally came to regard each other in a sudden lull before the first assault was
unleashed as she turned her back on the gate to confront them.
Their General, the odious
Herald of Soraun, now
appeared high atop the loftiest battlements above her. Quiet swept the assembled army. She
turned again and looked up at him, and he addressed Sara in a loud, echoing
"What business do you have at the gates of our land? You have destroyed the Dwarves
and brought down their mightiest works. You have murderously betrayed the leaders of the
West and brought disorder and lawlessness to the people. You have slain your friends and
those who reached out to you in friendship, and stolen tokens of great power from their
dying hands. Extinction and ruin litter your wake.
"Go back to the cruel coldness of
Space from whence you came. Return your lifeless substance to the dead starcinder that
begot the disastrous engine of your form. Your arrogant and vexious makers have no right
to meddle in our affairs. Trouble our world no longer."
Sara stamped her foot contemptuously.
"Oh, stuff it, pit-breath. If you didn't have me to worry about right now,
you'd be out kicking little old ladies just for grins. I'm gonna knock your doors
down here, then take a stroll over to Ysenmouth and knock that gate down, too. You'd
better just stay outta my way."
Soraun's general replied in a
terrible voice, "By the power of Almighty Soraun the Great, I will not allow you to
invade our homeland."
"Oh, yeah?" she taunted,
"You and Whose army?"
The Herald of Soraun
knew somewhat of Sara
by now — that all his vast soldiery could not harm her, could not stop her, could not slow
her down. They were mere flesh against the practically unlimited star-born potency of
technology and science so advanced that a million generations of research by entire
nations of scholars would not uncover the secrets of her construction. Even the sun-like
Dwarven weapon that had laid waste their undermountain kingdom had had no more effect on
her than a snowball would against a Rock Troll.
But he also knew that she might have one
weakness. It was evident from the reports out of Muriah before its collapse, and Haughz
after the fall of the Nazghoul, that this creature had perhaps one flaw that could be
It seemed that useless death appalled her.
She was reluctant to kill the wolves that would have torn Gundolf's throat out. She
had not purposely killed any of the Dwarves, and had actually tried to save them after
claiming their Rings — a useless waste of time. She had tried, futilely, to restore
order and minimize damage in the burning city. She had let the receptionist live.
And so, in unavoidable obedience to his
Master, he prepared to execute his defense born of desperation. She was constrained to
walk among his troops through the long valley, he knew. They would hurl themselves at her
until the tide of their senseless deaths horrified her. Pity for these wretched slaves
would stir her to forbear from being the cause of such horrendous slaughter, and she would
thus abandon Gundolf's designs and quit the field, buying more precious time for
He didn't know about the
Little People. The
Goblins who had eaten her friends had perished suddenly, before any awareness of the cause of
their demise could have been broadcast into the peculiar ether of
world-magic. The destruction of a few Goblins was, at any rate, an event too insignificant to
have been noticed by the seers in Barradour.
Compelled and strengthened by
Soraun Himself, he gathered unto himself all the power of command over his minions that had been
bred into them for countless generations. Great was the focus of magical energies which
were summoned to his bidding, reaching deep into the very fibers of every creature's
existence, binding them to his will beyond the limits of their own minds and bodies,
acting directly upon the utmost particles of their essences. They would have no other
focus but obedience to his will, even in the passing from life into
death, even beyond his
own inevitable destruction.
For in unleashing this ultimate spell of
hatred and downfall upon His enemy, the Herald of Soraun spake words of evil portent so
foul in the hideousness of their unclean origins in a time shunned by memory, that the
very breath that carried them was broken into cruelly splintered shards. Birds of the air
and beasts in the fields far from earshot perished in unquenchable agony. Trees and plants
shriveled and grew no more. Stones were sundered, the ground trembled its horrified
objection, and distant Mount Doum flared in sympathetic spasms of flame and boiling rock.
His screaming body writhed and melted,
bursting into dark flames of a color only Sara could see, as his condemned soul was unmade
by such an act of blasphemy and corruption. Every creature subject to his obedience, far
across the fractured plain of Udynn, was stricken by violent seizures as reason, feeling,
reflex, instinct and even self-preservation was stripped from them, replaced by an
overwhelming, thoughtless and basal need to rend and tear — heedless of any
consideration — at the body of their enemy.
The light of reason, of intelligence, of
cunning, even of cruelty, went out of their eyes. Weapons dropped from insensate hands as
their owners reverted beyond the capacity to wield them. Rank and order were made
meaningless by the single purpose of their primal compulsion. All had but one task, one
unquenchable desire, one driving hunger. To get at Sara and strike her with all the might
of which they were capable, with a violent and unrestrained expenditure of
would burst their hearts and break their bones in its execution. They would die
by the effort of smiting her, and tear each other to pieces to
Sara endured in paralyzed
horror the swarming tide of gruesome
monsters that quickly piled up over her head. The first to strike were consumed by their
efforts and fell, used up, to be replaced by the ones behind. Those in the outer reaches
of the mob tore at the ones in front of them in frantic efforts to reach their target.
Those who were thus disabled, even to the point of ordinary incapacity to continue,
continued nevertheless until they had been reduced to fragments in the pulsating melee.
The towers emptied, the caves and warrens
on either side disgorged every lurking occupant, guards leapt from the walls and
battlements, their dashed remains crawling forward in unstoppable obedience.
Pounding could be heard through the thick iron doors from the other side of the gate as
defenders hurled themselves uselessly against the cold unyielding mass to reach their
quarry, those nearest crushed by later arrivals. Piles of their remains soon gave the
rearmost echelons a path over the walls for them to plunge into the mountain of corpses
now enveloping Sara.
Throughout the length and breadth of the
pass beyond the wall, camps broke instantly as troops began their own marches toward the
Murranon, tramping without thought through campfires, into pitfalls, over the myriad
obstacles of the sterile landscape. There was no preparation —
they simply went,
dressed or undressed, sleeping or attending to some chore, oblivious to bodily needs,
guided only by the unerring beacon of her presence.
Thus was the cynical plan of
General nearly brought to fruition, as Sara recoiled from the devastating consequences of
her mission. 'Misbegotten army' they may be, but the butchery was unbearable.
She could not carry on in the face of such wanton carnage. It sickened her as nothing else
could. It made her cry out in rage that such mindless savagery could be directed at her.
She had to escape, get far enough away that they couldn't continue, or at least she
wouldn't have to witness it.
Only the memory of Nob's dead,
accusing eyes atop the scrap heap found her inner core of determination. The fate of all
the little people of this world would be left to such as these, who were sacrificed to
preserve an even greater evil. Sara hardened her heart at the realization that there was
no longer any substance left in these creatures that could suffer. They had been utterly
destroyed by their Master. Only His overthrow would prevent Him from
Sara pushed her way through the bleeding,
twitching mass until she broke free in front of the left door. She pushed against the
bottom, shattering its mounting and the walls that supported it. As it fell on top of her,
she met it at the balance point and then cast it high into the air in a soaring arc,
spinning as it went like an insanely huge giant's playing card being idly tossed into
an impossible hat, to land flatly on top of the leftmost tower, crushing it instantly and
completely. With the right door, she quickly disposed of the remaining tower in the same manner, then turned
her attention to the center door, nearly covered on both sides by grisly remains.
Smiting the already broken wall on its
right, she yanked the massive iron monolith away. Then, reaching deep into one face with
her bare hands — parting the metal itself to make her own
integral handles — she used it like an enormous bulldozer blade to
level the remnants of the fortifications and bury the piled bodies in a mass grave. When
she was done, the once-proud Murranon had become a parking lot.
The shuffling remains that constituted the
first wave of the oncoming Army of Maurdur were only a few minutes away. The sun would rise
in a few hours, but would not be seen below the volcanic reek of
Ordruen. Sara set out on
her forty-mile journey through hell at a steady pace, slightly faster than the zombie-like
gait of the oncoming creatures.
They packed the road, spilling out on either side
— in places, completely across the traversible center of the valley. It was impossible to
avoid the bulk of them as long as Sara remained afoot. She was
forced to endure the almost
continual rain of blows from those she just couldn't avoid, and try to maintain her
pace so as to bypass the rest. Those who were left behind tore at each other briefly,
attempting to reach her as she went by, and the survivors turned after her in hopeless
A little more than five hours after she had set out, she had passed the midpoint
of her trek and the last of those who had come from the vicinity of
Ysenmouth. The rest
of the way was clear, as she outpaced the remnants of Maurdur's army trudging behind
her. When she finally reached the inner gate, the vanguard of the pursuing mob was more
than an hour away.
The gate was closed. The remains of its
defenders who had leaped from its high walls to join the assault on Sara littered the
ground. Some, whose broken bodies had miraculously survived the fall, had dragged
themselves a few hundred meters down the road before the terrible compulsion that ordered
them had nothing left of their bodies to command. In spite of their evil countenances and
intent, she could not help but feel a raging pity for the poor bastards.
The old outer gates and towers of
Murranon had been built long centuries ago by Men to guard against armies issuing from
battlements of Ysenmouth had been rebuilt by Soraun after the war to secure His domain
forever and serve as a monument to his power. They were a mightier work, constructed at the cost of thousands of lives and
Smooth, adamantine walls issued from the
flanks of mountain cliffs on either side of the defile, higher than the skyscraper of
Soloman and wider than the great river Ayndruen. Within the gaping dark tunnel that pierced
the barrier were two massive doors of hardened steel, each a single slab as thick as a
tree was tall, extending far above and below the vast opening in the dam-like wall. All of
Soraun's hordes could pour forth unhindered to meet His enemies through the wide
passage when the doors were open. No force of Midgarde could pass when they were
The doors were designed to slide apart,
withdrawing into the walls on either side. Great drawbridges on the
Maurdur side were
lowered to fill the gap in the roadway into which the bottoms of the doors were set. The
doors themselves extended through the centers of the surrounding stonework and far into
the mountains on either side, like movable walls within walls. To move each gargantuan
expanse of solid steel, in chambers far beneath the summit of the mountains on either side
there dwelt imprisoned two titanic gods of a vanished race, bent by
Soraun to His service
by the power of the One Ring.
Long, long ago these deities had consumed
their worshippers unto extinction for the psychic sustenance their
provided. After eons of imperishable and tedious endurance, Soraun
sacrifices of conscious beings to assuage and inflame their hunger, and made of them the
warders of His realm.
They were rooted together with the mountains' roots, and could not
be moved. The energies they drew from the almost limitless
reservoir of Midgarde's world-magic crackled along the lengths of their steel burdens, reinforcing
the matter thereof far beyond the strength of any terrestrial materials.
Sara stood before the doors, kreening
their workings. Even through the immense rocky shrouds of their prisons, the intensity of
the two gods' malevolent force was clear as beacons. She would have to pry the doors
apart against their wills. She would see what happened after that.
Sara jammed her hands into the seam,
ringing the vast structure like eternity's bell. This act of sacrilege stirred the
wrath of the gods. They put forth their power to mend the imperfection her intrusion had
caused, but her hands would not be crushed — and the straightening of the doors' edges
caused them to move an inch apart, accompanied by the shattering scream of sliding metal
If the gods were surprised, they did not
show it, instead adding rage to their efforts. Sara was astonished, though. She'd
expected to simply rip hand-sized chunks of metal away — but this was different.
Something was binding the whole substance of the doors together,
something far stronger than the metal itself. They would not break, or
even bend, as she applied more force to them. She slowly pulled her hands apart and
widened the tiny crack between them to the accompaniment of grinding shrieks.
For the first time she could remember in
either existence, Sara was physically challenged. The resistance of the massive doors was
almost inconsequential to her, but the power of the gods made her set her jaw in
determination. They redoubled their efforts to close the doors, then redoubled them again
to slow the inexorable movement apart.
Finally, when the opening was barely
enough to slip into, Sara darted into the center of the crack, bracing her back against
one door and her feet against the other. Seeing a chance to end this affront, the gods
poured every bit of their strength into closing the doors and smearing her between them.
The steel blazed and shook, shattering the walls into which they had been set. They would
not allow the doors to deform around her balled-up body, creating pressures on her that
would unmake any other substance found under the heavens. Sara found herself
fighting to keep the gap from closing.
But she had the position she wanted now.
The stores of her great energy which alone could move the substance of her limbs was
called from every rolled-up hyperdimensional n-space that made up her body at the quantum
level. As efficient as her internal mechanism was in its application, waste
forth as heat and light with such bright intensity that the doors would have vaporized if the gods had let
them, but their atoms remained bound by something greater than the electromagnetic force.
The hellishly-bound molecules of the doors glowed along their
whole lengths, first red, then rapidly progressing to white and beyond.
The remnants of the broken wall melted and ran, the surrounding cliffs
crumbled. Light blazed forth with the terrible intensity of the
sun come to earth. Oncoming Trolls yet miles distant along the road through the
haunted pass were turned to
stone, hot winds swept away their companion Goblins, and far off
the Unblinking Eye of Soraun was turned away.
The gods would not relent. Employing every
art learned through countless æons, they furiously set themselves against her unabating
force. Earthquakes trembled ceaselessly, creating rolling waves across the Plateau of
Gyregyrath like upon a wind-swept sea. Volcanic Ordruen blazed
like a mad thing, fires roaring from its molten vent as if the
mighty engines of the planet itself had been engaged to support
The gods reached
ever deeper into the solid rock to anchor themselves. They would not move. They could not
be moved, unless the mountains themselves were carried with them.
Sara had reserves of her own. Straining as
she thought she would never be called upon to do on any world, she pushed her legs and
straightened her back, eyes closed in concentration. She became one with her indomitable
will to drive these gods back into the forgotten void from which they had sprung.
foundations of the mountains trembled and shook. And then —
impossibly — they moved. Imperceptibly at
first, but unmistakably to the now frantic gods.
The unbelievable was happening.
not be. Rallying from a defeat they could not accept, the gods made a supreme effort to
forestall the inevitable. It made no difference. They could not stop Sara. The mountains
continued their agonizing retreat until she had nearly stretched out to her full length.
As one, the minds of the gods snapped like
fragile things. Their thoughts were forever broken, doomed to echo senselessly in their
immortal bodies. They became less than mad, unable to do more than exist in frightening
chaos, to wait eternally for an end they could not achieve.
unnatural bondage, the superheated material of the doors exploded violently, blasting out
a deep crater where once the inner gates of Maurdur had stood. Only the farthest cohorts of
still advancing soldiers survived the shock waves. Blinded by the flash, they went on
engaged and overthrown Soraun's armies and His Ring-spawned
works by walking into
Maurdur, Sara now flew to Barradour. Still white-hot, she blazed like a celestial being,
now ascending unto the heavens, now plunging back to earth in righteous vengeance.
Soraun in His loftiest tower could not withstand the awfulness of her coming, for she perceived
Him from afar and set her trajectory to the window of His chamber.
She had become terror unto
Terror Itself, and
Her glorious arrival brought instant ruin
to the tower upon which she alighted. The whole of the gigantic city-fortress of
Soraun's unwholesome administration trembled, as His controlling malice
abandoned His minions to attend single-mindedly to His own survival.
functionaries, guards and attendants, sorcerers and necromancers, slaves and sycophants,
bureaucrats and ambassadors, politicians and lawyers — all the vast machinery of His
evil empire routed in mindless panic, leaping from high windows, hiding stupidly behind
inadequate veils, groveling senselessly, running to and fro with directionless abandon.
She could sense the flight of His Ring as
He descended before her, but It flickered confusingly from one instant to the next, as if
Its image in her mind was being reflected in a hall of distorting mirrors. She was not
constrained to follow His passage, but made a devastating beeline to wherever she thought
she could pin Him down, only to discover in every instance that He was already gone.
She crashed into His throne room and cast
down His iron seat as His ministers perished. She burst into His treasury and
scattered its contents to the winds. She broke the walls of His study, setting every
ill-omened text of unclean lore alight. She shattered His laboratory, unleashing deadly
fumes and chittering nightmares.
She pursued Him
through the kitchens, where
the preparation of ghastly delicacies had been hastily abandoned. She pursued Him through
the stables, where stinking winged monstrosities made their foul nests. She pursued Him
through the low-ceilinged torture chambers, where victims of His whims cried out for
the death her still potent radiance mercifully bestowed.
As she had followed
Soraun, so, too, had
she been followed by Death, who touched in her wake all the willing vassals who had
entered His service. Death had ever been the servant of His servants, and now it had come
to collect its due. The brilliance of her passage extinguished the darkness of their
minds, and they could endure their servitude no longer. They died in terrible guilt and
shame, they died in hateful bitterness, they died cursing and flailing, they died weeping
and pleading — but they died. The cruel reign of Soraun that they had administered
was ended. The castle was soon empty.
Still downward her fleeing quarry led her,
into the unbreakable foundations of His failed capitol. The heat of her body was gradually
absorbed by the masses of rock through which the labyrinthine maze of passages led,
turning instead to a cool whiteness that brought the first light to this region its
scurrying denizens had ever beheld. The disgusting things that dwelt here could not abide
such a pure essence and perished from the wonder of it.
Chambers there were here of mysterious and
uncertain function, filled with unsettling devices and manned by shadows that went out
forever as she approached. Barracks were there for guards, and cells for prisoners who
were made to perform shameful labors. She passed them all in her
relentless pursuit, leaving peace in her wake. Eventually, she descended to the lowest levels where
the special dungeons were.
These were the places set aside for
Soraun's most hateful excesses, against those who had somehow merited His especial
attentions. One sight stopped Sara in her tracks, as Soraun had guessed it would, allowing
Him to make His escape through a secret tunnel that led straight to His ancient forge in
Ordruen where He would prepare His last stand.
Among the wretches who filled this place
of hopelessness were two Little People. Their mouths had been sewn shut, but Sara could guess
"Froudo?" she called softly,
"Samm?" They stared at her, blinking, finally nodding fearfully as if being
summoned to some new round of unending punishment.
A Man prisoner lying propped against a
column nearby looked up at her. His gray beard and unshorn hair was filthy, tattered and
matted, and his clothes mere rags, but he had a scabbard incongruously strapped to his
waist, jeweled hilt gleaming under layers of grime. He squinted in the unaccustomed light.
"Who…? He croaked, as if he
hadn't had the need of speech in a long time. "Who calls for the
"I'm Sara, from another world.
I’m after Soraun. It looks like He got away," she said, "but not for
He looked at her, incredulity
slowly coming into his expression as the implication dawned on him.
"You're…" he struggled, "You're after
Have the High Elves finally come? At last! What is happening in the world above us? Where
are the others?"
"No," she answered,
"It's just me, I'm afraid. And I was sent far too late, if you ask me. Too
much evil has occurred to ever be put right."
Curiosity overwhelmed her. "Why
are their mouths sewn up like that? Who are you? Are you all right? Is that a sword?"
Sara had so many questions, she didn't know where to begin.
Soraun could wait — she knew where to find Him.
The Man struggled to sit upright, telling
her, "I am appointed to be their keeper and protector, a duty I failed in another
life and by which I am mocked in this one. I have been allowed to keep my sword for this
purpose. It was broken once, but is mended now. Its presence mocks me as well."
held up the stumps of his arms to show Sara where his hands had been. "I
was known as Stryder," he laughed mirthlessly. He had no feet.
Sara's eyes widened at the
heartbreaking revelations. "Stryder! I know you! The King whose sword was
broken, but was forged anew."
Stryder answered, "Uncrowned King of
a fallen land. How do you come to know of this?"
"Oh, this isn't going to make
much sense, but I read the book, or something like it. I was sent to Gundolf and he gave me this mission
— to collect all the Rings and then take out Soraun."
"Gundolf lives?" His eyes opened wide
"No," she answered, looking
down, "He made me take his Ring, and then he…" she trailed off.
"I understand," said
looked at her hands, squinting at the light from them. "So you have his Ring? And, I
suppose, Eldron's and Gladariels's, too." He added, wonderingly, "And the
Sara said, somewhat embarrasedly, "Yeah,
quite a collection, huh… The rest of them are on my toes, mostly from the Dwarves
'cause they're closer to the earth that way, I guess. Only one I'm missing
is, you know, His," she jerked her head in the direction of the fiery mountain
outside. "I'll tell you about it sometime."
Stryder nodded dumbly.
"You gotta tell me," she
insisted, "What's with Froudo and Samm? Why are they like this? How can they still
be alive if they can't eat anything? Is there anything I can do?"
"They have no need of food. They have
another means of sustenance, I'm afraid. Even now, the serpents approach.
Sara saw them. Two huge,
creatures crept toward the Little People, who made no effort to escape. In fact, they seemed
resigned to their fate, dreading and welcoming them at the same time.
"Don't worry," she said,
"I'll take care of them."
"Do not interfere. Their need is upon them."
Sara stopped her laser spears just in time
and turned to look questioningly at Stryder. He nodded at her and she turned to watch as
the serpents closed in, baring their fangs as the Little People presented their arms.
Only they weren't the fangs she was
expecting to see. Each had but a single long, very slender tooth, more resembling a
hypodermic needle than a fang. These were jabbed unerringly into veins on the
two Little Peoples' unflinching arms, and fluid began to pump into their bodies.
They began to writhe in obvious agony,
alarming Sara. She cried out and started to move to help them, but
Stryder again called
Sara looked at him with exasperation, but
he began, "The venom burns as it enters their blood. I know they feel its
excruciating journey through every vein and artery, but it nourishes them and prolongs
their lives, probably forever. It also makes them feel an overwhelming need for the next
such treatment. A need stronger than any other desire, even for death, for to die would be
to deprive them of their need, and they cannot abide the thought of that.
"Not far from here is an open door to
freedom, if such there is anymore. I cannot make the journey, and they will not.
They are bound by their addiction more strongly than by chains."
Sara could only stare mutely at the
grotesque scene, her light dimming in reaction.
"To maintain their crawling
'benefactors'," Stryder spat, "they must steal into the dark chambers above
from time to time to secure the serpents' provisions, which must
flesh. Our once-human jailers periodically rape the women brought here in servitude
— whose numbers must be replenished constantly from being used up in toil
— and they
are brought within reach of our curséd citizenry to give birth to what becomes the
Sara was aghast. The serpents had
completed their feedings and withdrew. Froudo and Samm rolled fitfully on the slimy floor
until they lapsed into exhausted comas. She felt completely helpless.
"They will sleep senselessly until it
is time to forage again," said Stryder. "As for me, I periodically have a tube
forced down my throat and am filled up with the putrid liquor of the
Goblins. It is enough to
keep me alive and maintain my own needs, for I am the town drunk of this place. It gives
me no compensating pleasure — for I am a foul drunk, full of impotent rages
— and serves to further annoy the others, I suppose. I am singled out for speech because it
amuses Soraun to have me brought up from time to time to tell Him how His
If Sara's makers had provided her
with tears, they would be flowing uncontrollably. The effect on her emotions was the same,
and she sobbed disconsolately. She got down on the floor with them and gathered all three
to her bosom, trying to give what comfort she could. Others with sutured lips came out of
the further reaches of the dungeons to watch in wonder until her light faded and went out.
When she could cry no longer, she asked
Stryder, "What can I do? I think everybody above this level is probably dead, so
there won't be any more jailers or…" She couldn't mention the rest.
Stryder told her, "There is only one
thing you can do. If it is in your power to destroy Soraun and His Ring, you must tarry no
longer. We have been extinguished for a long time. There is no hope for us but an end to
Sara made them as comfortable as possible,
then began the long return to the air above, her mind terribly focussed on her mission.
"I am coming for You, You
bastard," she shrieked as she rose high above the tomb she had made of
He was waiting.
© Patrick Hill, 2000