XX: The Journal

Dave grunted and groaned as he painfully slid the final few meters into the open, clear space ahead. He had just finished the latest part of his grueling journey, having crawled successfully under an entire field of spiked owl traps for the last hour and a half or so. His hands and knees were severely scraped, but that was worlds better than the alternative. He slowly tried to stand, but found that he had lost feeling in his legs a long ways back, and decided to remain seated as he was for the time being.

‘At least I’m safe…for now.’ He thought as he tried to size up the situation around him. Listening intently, but not really being able to make out much through the still musty and dusty gloom, he could faintly here the rotating spike traps behind him, whirring away. However, as for ahead, there was nothing to be seen or heard- at least, not that he could see or hear.

‘I sure hope that there isn’t anything just waiting to-‘ He stopped abruptly as a stone skittered across the ground to roll to a halt at his feet.

“Wait a second… Who’s there?” Dave groped around in the semi-darkness, feeling for the stone, seeing what exactly it was. A message of some sort maybe? Or perhaps actually some key or some other important object? Alas, it was no good to speculate, as, as soon as his fingers brushed against the thing, he felt only the smooth surface of a river rock or sandblasted stone.

‘Oh, well that’s odd… How’d that wind up in here anyways? It’s surely not rubble or anything- much too smooth for that. And there can’t be a river near-‘ Again, Dave stopped midthought as he strained to peer through the gloom and to hear any sounds, however miniscule, in the darkness. There! At last, he heard it- the far off rumble of water in the distance. There was some sort of river or body of water down here after all!

Dave slowly made his way to his feet, groaning softly as the blood finally flowed freely, without being hindered down his legs and into his knees and toes. He placed the smooth stone inside his pocket and slowly trotted off, looking for the source of the rumbling water, and hoping that it could only mean one thing- escape.

*****

Some time later, Dave paused, sensing a change in the structure of the long corridor-like room he had been following for the past half hour or so. He sniffed around, letting his adventure senses get the better of him, slightly. Off to his left, he found what he had sensed- a room, branching off from the main hallway. Dave stopped, pondering whether it was worth it to explore the cracks and crevices of the small room, or to continue on his way towards his eventual escape.

‘It’s not as if the water will be gone by the time I get done searching this room, right? Plus, I could probably find some valuable materials or tools in here anyways…’ He thought, his mind made up. He walked into the room, immediately noticing that it was not so gloomy as the rest of the citadel. ‘Well, that’s never a bad thing.’ Dave thought, counting his blessings and hoping for more things good to come his way in the near future. He groped around, hoping for a torch or something of some sort, and maybe some dry kindling he could use to scratch against something to create a small fire by which he could light his way and be able to peer into any alcoves. No such luck.

Dave continued groping around the outside walls of the room, knowing that there was a more likely chance that something would be there as opposed to the center of the room, and also wary of triggering any more traps- having already had his fill for several days. “Aha!” He crowed triumphantly, finally grasping the corner of a small wooden table, and soon finding a wooden bench as well to accompany it. Upon closer inspection, it seemed akin to a small craftsman’s table of some sort, almost like a little table that might be found in an architect or designer’s workshop. He seated himself gingerly, having no way to measure just how old the bench was, and whether or not it was brittle enough to break under his weight. Luckily, it held.

He spread his hands on the table, still not being able to see well enough to pick out individual, tiny objects in the still dark gloom. As much brighter as it was than the outlying rooms and corridors, it was still quite gloomy in the room as well. He grasped first a pen or quill of some sort, then an inkwell, and finally a small tome or journal which he pulled close to the bridge of his nose for further inspection. The front cover was pretty nondescript, having a faded pink tinge- probably red at one time, long ago, and several long gouges and scratch marks etched deep within the siding and binding. The binding seemed to be in better condition than most library books Dave had ever borrowed, which was quite an accomplishment for a book surely several decades old at the very least, but most likely over a century or two, judging by the architecture and feel of the place he was currently stuck in.

He flipped the book, journal, whatever, open to its first page, and gazed in wonder at the strange hieroglyphic-like markings laid out before him. They didn’t seem to be too terribly hard to understand, assuming he was interpreting them right anyway. Luckily, he had taken a class or two on ancient picture-based languages in order to aid in his routine explorations. Just like now, you never knew when the skill would come in handy.

As he read left to right, left to right in what dim light there was, one thing became increasingly clear with each passing symbol.

‘Oh no… The water… it isn’t a way out- it’s a portal to the center of the planet!’

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