-1The Legend of Ajira

By Madame Ergoth

Chapter 23: Karkal

Kark whooshed in to a cold underground dungeon. Soggy moss grew on the walls and torches hung on the wall in regular intervals. The dungeon smelled of rats and defecation. Shallow puddles of water collected on the cold concrete floor. A long hall lie ahead of Kark, only illuminated by occasional torches for as far as he could see. Looking nervously around, Kark took a few bold steps forward. A family of spiders scattered as he drew near them, scurrying up the walls and onto their webs. Suddenly a deep booming voice echoed throughout the dungeon. SO...MY SERVANT HAS RETURNED...

Kark heard this and didn't flinch. He wasn't scared.

COME FORWARD...

Taking a deep breath, Kark advanced down the long creepy-looking hall. He thought he could hear someone screaming as he passed door after barred door. And a horrible scream it was: a scream of torture -- pain -- death. He also thought he could hear some old rusty chains moving as he passed another door. I'm going crazy, Kark reassured himself. I'm imagining things.

STOP.

Kark obediently listened to the omniscient voice and stopped short, breath coming in gasps now, having to lean on the wall for support. He wasn't at all tired; he hadn't walked a very long way at all. It's this dungeon. It's messing with my mind.

SPEAK YOUR NAME, SERVANT.

"Karkal Novak Lazarath." He grinned evilly, revealing the Mark on his forearm.

WELCOME.

A giant iron door began to open, moaning and creaking as stale air rushed out and attacked his nostrils. Dust and dirt rained down from the ceiling as a result of the heavy vibrations from the door. After a long painful pause, the door was fully open, but nothing was to be seen but cold black darkness. Karkal could see his breath now; it was growing chillier and it was becoming harder to breathe.

ENTER, KARKAL NOVAK LAZARATH. I'VE BEEN MEANING TO SPEAK WITH YOU.

Karkal held his head high and bravely stepped into the darkness. A slow moaning creak closed the doors behind him.

Karkal walked blindly through the darkness. He thought he could see a light, but it was very far away. How far he couldn't tell; this dungeon had messed with his perception. The stone floor was rough, uneven, and slippery. Karkal nearly lost his footing several times. He grabbed a torch from the wall. He swung it around desperately, trying to see where he was going. His efforts proved to be fruitless. This was just a long, frozen hall. Karkal replaced the torch into its holder and decided to just keep going toward that hint of a light he thought he could see so far off in the distance.

With nothing to look at except the tiny light in the distance, Karkal quickly lost track of the time. He wasn't even sure he was moving. His only reference point, the light, wasn't getting any bigger. His legs grew tired and stiff. It seemed like he had been walking for hours. Sweat dripped from his forehead though it was frigid in the dungeon. His eyes were tired and burning from having looked at constant nothingness. He had to stop to rest. Soon. Karkal walked for probably ten more minutes (it was hard to tell) then sat down carefully on the cold murky floor. The half-frozen puddles soaked quickly through his clothes and made him miserable. He didn't care; he had to rest. This hall was longer than he thought. Trying to count on his fingers, he tried to calculate how long he had been walking. He scratched his head, sighed, racked his brains for how many steps he'd taken or how many torches he'd passed -- anything to give him the time. He guessed several hours. But was it hours? Days? Weeks? All he could remember was walking, walking, and walking...Wait a minute. Why was he walking?

The light off in the distance shimmered and flickered, as if calling him to it. Oh yeah... Taking a deep breath and wiping the sweat from his forehead, he painfully got up and leaned against the wall for a moment. It was now that Karkal wished he had kept the torch he had found back in the tunnel. There were no more as far as he could see. Only complete darkness. He could try to go back and find one, but that would mean losing time and energy. He had to speak with Dakosh. Besides, Ajira and Lini were still waiting for him.

What fools, he thought with a little chuckle. They thought I was Kark. My filthy angel brother Kark. I will never be like him. Mom always liked him best, the little goody-goody. Now that my stupid brother's out of the way, I can lead Ajira and Lini right into Dakosh's hands and they won't suspect a thing. Lini is too young, and Ajira is too blindly in love with my stupid brother. She trusts him. I can make her do anything. When He finds out, he will be so proud of me. I will be honored as a hero!

Grinning, Karkal trudged on, running his paw across the wall to ensure he was going in the right direction. His breathing was still labored, but he sensed his heart rate had slowed some. The light at the end of the tunnel seemed within reach now; it was growing larger all the time. I must be getting close.

He stopped, feeling the room grow suddenly many degrees warmer. It was as if he had walked out of a freezer into the rain forest. It was still deathly humid. Karkal took a few steps back into the icy chill. Why the sudden change of temperature?

KARKAL NOVAK LAZARATH...COME FORWARD. WE MUST SPEAK.

Suddenly the tiny light was growing larger and larger at an alarming rate. Karkal stopped moving. It was coming toward him! The brilliant white light grew closer and closer, blinding him. Before he knew it he was spinning through blank white space. His eyes were closed but the light shone just as brightly through them. Karkal feared he would go blind. There was nothingness, total nothingness...his eyes were going to burn out of the sockets! He was falling, falling...!

With a sickening bone-crunching thud, Karkal hit the stone floor hard. Splintered of pain shot through his body. Dazed from the fall, he struggled to get up. This place was brighter, but not by much. Feeling the sweltering heat upon him once again, he felt a desperate desire to shed his clothes in favor of becoming cooler. He resisted the urge. No good could come from Karkal presenting himself naked.

Besides, Dakosh would strike him down in an instant. For some strange reason that he was obviously not permitted to know, Dakosh favored wearing lots and lots of layers of heavy clothes. He wore fur coats, sweaters, all of it. Sweat pouring down his forehead, Karkal was truly amazed that Dakosh did not have a heat stroke or die. It had to be over 100 degrees! Through the dim illumination of the dungeon and his blurred vision, he could just barely make out some sort of glowing throne, about 100 feet away from him, as far as he could tell. Staggering forward in slow, clumsy steps, Karkal weakly walked toward the throne. Suddenly out of the shadows rose his master: Dakosh.

AH...YOU HAVE FINALLY ARRIVED. COME. SIT. WE MUST TALK.

The old fear engulfed Karkal once again. It was natural to be afraid of such an unfathomably evil ruler, especially when he was the one giving orders. One false move and he could kill in a instant without so much as batting an eyelash. Dakosh did what he pleased, and no one would tell them otherwise. Karkal clenched his teeth together so hard that it hurt. He was trying to stop the uncontrollable shaking that had overtook him. With a deep breath to calm himself, Karkal followed Dakosh the extra 50 feet or so toward the glowing throne. He now realized there were two thrones ahead of him; one was just not illuminated. Hadn't Dakosh always worked alone? Who could the second throne be for? Guests? He doubted it.

Dakosh waved a bony hand toward the second throne. SIT. Karkal reluctantly sat down on the hard wooden throne. It felt so awkward, like he knew he wasn't supposed to be there. HOW DOES IT FEEL?

"How does what feel?" asked Karkal, confused.

HOW DOES IT FEEL TO SIT ON THE THRONE OF ETERNITY? COMPLETE YOUR MISSION, AND THAT THRONE MAY VERY WELL BE YOURS.

Karkal gaped. A promotion?

THAT'S RIGHT. A PROMOTION. YOU WILL BE POWERFUL, YOU WILL BE RICH, AND YOU WILL BE MY SECOND-IN-COMMAND. THE WORLD WILL BE YOUR MASTER. He paused. ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS...BRING ME THE ONE WHO SEEKS TO DEFEAT ME. SURELY THAT IS NOT SO HARD.

Easy for you to say. "Yes, your Highness. I have news, I-I have information."

DO TELL. I MAY BE ABLE TO USE THIS "INFORMATION".

Karkal took another deep breath and began speaking. "The one you seek is named Ajira Ann Swhen. Her companion is Ashikarilini Alysa Kalee. Their mentor is Kark Allen Lazarath."

The mention of the name Lazarath caught his attention. YOUR BROTHER? He asked incredulously.

"Yes, sir," added Karkal, bubbling hate rising within him again. "My filthy angel brother."

I DID NOT KNOW THIS. HOW DO YOU PLAN TO GET TO THIS "AJIRA" GIRL WITH YOUR GOODY-GOODY BROTHER IN THE WAY?

Beaming, Karkal replied, "Already taken care of, sir."

WHAT DO YOU MEAN, "ALREADY TAKEN CARE OF"? SURELY YOU DIDN'T...

"No, your Highness. He is not injured. I know of the repercussions that would have upon us. You think I would risk it? No, I chose a much smarter solution."

OUT WITH IT, THEN! I DON'T HAVE ALL DAY!

Karkal cringed. "Yes, sir," he whimpered. "Kark is imprisoned in an onyx amulet in the world of Taryngoth. The amulet is currently for sale in a place called Firelad's Potions. Once the amulet is purchased, it will be carried far away, never to be seen again." He paused for effect. "Brilliant, isn't it?"

One look at Dakosh's mangled face told him he had done something wrong.

Dakosh, struggling to keep his voice calm, cried, YOU IMPRISONED A HIGH ANGEL IN A SILLY AMULET? FOR SALE? DO YOU KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS?

Karkal was silent.

THOSE GIRLS CAN JUST WALK RIGHT OVER TO THE LITTLE SHOP AND BUY HIM RIGHT BACK!

"But they won't be able to free him! It's very obscure magic, only known to few."

AND YOU THINK THIS FIRELAD CHARACTER HAS NO IDEA HOW HIS AMULETS ARE MADE?

"He can't possibly know. Besides, I wiped his memory. He doesn't know a thing."

IF THIS AJIRA IS TRULY THE CHOSEN ONE, THEN THERE IS NO DOUBT THAT SHE WILL FIND A WAY TO FREE HIM, AND THEN ALL WILL BE LOST! YOU WILL RETURN IMMEDIATELY TO TARYNGOTH AND MAKE SURE THAT AJIRA AND HER FRIEND NEVER FIND THAT AMULET! STRING THEM ALONG AS YOU WILL TO GAIN THEIR TRUST, THEN BRING THEM TO ME. SUCCEED AND I WILL NOT HAVE TO PUNISH YOU. BE GONE. YOU DISAPPOINT ME.

A lump formed in Karkal's throat. Punishment? That didn't sound pleasant. He did not want to find out what Dakosh's idea of punishment was. With a bow and a grimace, Karkal teleported out of the dungeon back to Taryngoth. He began walking toward the House of Azhbar exhaustedly. I have a lot of work to do...