The Pit and the Pendulum
The sun was too hot; in a metaphysical way: by the time there was life upon this world, the sun would have passed in two a red giant phase. This was not known to any of the companions – because the two humans had not technologically reached the conclusion with their minds, and the elf would never think that way because she was magical. But, there was a point – and everyone scurried under the trees from Nolomar - which was the name of the yellowish disk – as it beat down on everything beneath it. Stars which had natural life, that formed a consciousness by physical rules need someplace slightly cooler – which is why the earthmasters chose this place – because they knew that no life would form here, and they could to what they wished. Or their gods wished, because they had a resonance which was beyond words with that thing that they worshiped.
When young, the legionnaire lived in the days of wine and marching – for that was all he could enjoy. Occasionally he would taste of a prostitute – but it was not something he enjoyed, until he trained more and more, and had to get peccadilloes less and less. Until finally such pleasures revealed their weakness – and he realized he had not enjoyed them all that much. Now was changing still, and in that changing discovered something that was, for him, unusual. He knew that like to search and explore – now he was finding out the exquisite pleasures of classifying what he found, and writing it down in his tablet. This was unusual for him, and he did not expect it. Then he put the memory aside, and looked once more around him.
There he saw the arrangement. He was outdoors, but once, a piece that added up to some rooms. It is a ruin now, of shops attached to a marketplace of Ekall-Anuz. Looked from above, one can see four shops – though one is almost disappeared, and with maple trees growing shade. Three of the shops however, are joined together – in apothecary, a tavern, and what was once a jewelers shop – though no one would recognize it. These three stores share a circular stairway, but it only goes up to a second story which no longer exists. The downward steps are covered with rocks and debris. There is a bush in the fourth store, one that has currants.
When he finally sat down, and to some strange stones that he found – he also looked up at Gwynwyffer – who was examining some obviously pointed sticks. She looked down the length of them, and it was almost as if she were trying to figure out whether they were designed to inflict injury. The sky was grey, and there was a pall across the area. Then something interesting happened, on the Valley floor – inside the walls with ornate mosaics – they found what looked like a set of stairs, but covered with debris. They did not know how long it had been like this, perhaps since the people who had followed the Foulspawner to this place. They also found Loria checking each depression for some sort of access. Gwynwyffer wandered to the north side of the building, to examine some things that did not make sense. That left the legionnaire and the elf staring at each other.
In dancing there was a beat before anyone moves, and it was just so long before Loria looked up at him, raised an eyebrow, and then settled back to work. While doing so she commented to him: “It would be really nice if you of the human race could look above the situation. You will, of course, do so, but only when it is a matter of techne rather than magical. You do not really think in magical terms, though you pretend you do.” The voice was very dry, and he could not tell if it were serious – or funny – or some combination of the two which only elves really knew.
“I do not understand.” Normally he would voice more than this, Though he was not loquacious has either of the women. He then understood that this was on his mind constantly, among men – soldiers particularly, and most particularly among the legionnaires which he commanded, he would not have any problems.
“If that is all you are going to explain, it would appear that it would be wiser for me to play among the burrows, and let the two of you sort things out between you. Or did not realize that the temple – Which is not what is, but will do for now - is right now clawing its way through my brain. And in case you did not know, it is painful – very painful indeed.” She continued to press the floor, which after 600 years was eminently fragile.
“Is this a conversation?” Again, he voiced little of what he was thinking.
“You know I keep forgetting that my people forgets what is held by the same body – whereas your way through the world is to form a new body and deeply learn. There is a large difference, but unfortunately, humans need to learn this in pieces over thousands of years.” Through all of the talking, her eyes remained said on a moss-covered bit of floor, apparently, there was something intensely interesting to her about it.
One boot moved other traced over the roughened oak, but he did not know what she was looking for. Finally, he asked bluntly:
“What is it that you are looking for?”
“Tell me, do you always ask such certain questions? Or is it an inverse response – you tell short-lived humans a long question – and you tell long-lived elves very short questions? It would seem to me to be rather better to reverse the order of the questions that you ask. It is just a thought, mind you. But you have so little time on this world – or any world – that you had better think on this subject with due rapidity.”
“I think you would be wiser to not let your human companion give you advice on how you speak. She does not sound as other humans do. You do realize this, yes?”
Not looking up from the floor, she responded gracefully – in fact to gracefully for a legionnaire – it was a bit disconcerting to him. “ this may not have occurred to you, but in general, speaking to a large group – especially of humans – is not a thing of habit. I would much rather talk one on one. And by this measure, the melodious tone of her voice is fine. You are a soldier, and thus speak to your subordinates frequently, and in large number. So your pattern of speech is fine for you, and maybe find for a group of soldiers.” What she did not say, was that it was not fine for her. This explanation shook the legionnaire, it was almost as if he was talking, and she was talking, and there was only a little bit of communication between them. He wondered if he should start over, because it seemed as if he had done something wrong. It seemed that the short sentences – it was not confusing, but it was disturbing to her.
“My apologies if my words were not understood.”
“So what is it that you would wish to say? As you can see, the floor seems odd – and the pair of you have two listen to me on something else as well.”
“Why do not you stop looking at the encrusted floor, and say what you wish us to hear?”
“Because there is only one, not two, present. And again that you could pull your self upwards, and see the greater picture, it will be so much easier to talk to you.”
“I come from a different world.”
“No, I come from different world, you are born to this one.” She looked up with a serious demeanor on her face, and he realized that whatever humor was in her voice moments ago, was drained now. He had heard of different worlds, including Yashain – where dead humans go, but he did not know for a fact that they truly existed. But obviously the elf did, and he would never question that again.
Nothing was easy with this elf, every twist and turn was different from a soldier – or even such a dizzy person as Gwynwyffer, even darker then a gargun – because she was immortal – and nothing else was, even a Khuzdul had a limit to its life – all it was longer than a human, there were trees older than that. And he heard a tale from Gwynwyffer that some of the trees could walk and think like we could. But this meant he finally had no more words, and simply sat and stared.
So the elf spoke again: “Have you nothing to say to me? Should I just go back to the Barrows?”
Strangely enough, this question actually sounded quite human. It was a thing that any woman might say when she could not get a response from the man she was talking to. So he started to speak, but nothing came out of his mouth – he realized he did not have anything to say. The mouth was open, but the brain did not have any words to fill in. teaming with words was the elves hidden gift, so she continued to talk.
“You do not know what to say. It is almost as if you were a bird or some brief living mouse, who will forget what you said by the time finish saying it. Should I even bother talking with you?” she went on in this way for several paragraphs, each one slightly different from the other, but all the same thing in that she was questioning, not him, but herself. She was wondering if it was even possible to talk to him. Finally, she grew peaceful, and simply waited for him to respond. But before that happened, Gwynwyffer came out of the wood, and she began to talk – and she really did not care if anyone else was listening. This is the difference between all men and all women of talking races. One will have two speak to an expert on birds, though – for they have different features, since a male bird is actually like a female human, and a female bird is like a male. But this is something that few know in the world, it is a secret known only to Sindarin and Shek-Pvar, and one or two others who do not have a name.
Then, in an instant, Gwynwyffer stopped talking because she noticed that the other two were not. And nothing disturbed her more than being the only one talking – in her mind a gregariousness of many people talking was normal. So she looked at the two of them, and her face was asking the question of why they were not conversing.
It was the legionnaire who responded, and in an even low pitched sort of way. It was obvious by now he was calm, though some tremolades in his voice said this was only recent. “ the elf has many things she needs to say to me – but has instead been going on about why she bothers talking to me. This is not of interest to me, so I stopped talking. And then she did as well. So we stopped conversing, largely because each person wished to speak about something that was not of interest to the other.”
At this point the silver owl was in somewhat of a quandary, deciding she would rather berate with her voice. Each of them was a good target – so she to stop and stared. The elf then began, having heard something that enlightened her fancy – though neither of the two of the humans knew what it was.
“Seems that information is what the soldier wants, and he shall get information that – though that is a waste of the gift that is language.” Loria was speaking in an even tone, but not one which was polite – or indeed politic. “ the first point of information is that the two figures which are servants of more you have will attack tonight. It is obvious from the way you have been up all night, that must have encountered them last night.” At this point she stopped and allowed this to sink in – and then begin with her second point. “ it will however not be just the two, bought also a horde of undead gargun, which they have made that way. It is a spell which is difficult, but in all of the common books of Morgath spells – though it frequently goes awry when someone tries to cast it, it being very difficult.”
Again she stopped and allowed this to process. “The undead Gargun will be seen immediately, because their eyes will be glowing and yellow. This is the result of the spell.” at this point the pause in her speaking was a kind of cadence. Then she began again: “ thus we must go to the Temple, but there is another problem: some living gargun are camped out at the temple, because they chased us before, and know that the temple is where we must go.”
“Why is that?”
“Because they know that at least one of us is an elf, and the Temple is the only place we can go, to stop the noise that it creates. The gargun also have the same problem that my species does – they can hear the humming that tells them that it grinds the worlds in ways that are not normal. So they know that any elf or gargun will immediately had to the Temple to use the pseud-stone, and then leave this place for blessed silence.”
Gwynwyffer asked a question, though she probably knew the answer: “Does that mean that gargun and elves hear the same thing?”
“You will have to ask someone whose specialty is the basis that the gargun were made, if there are any. But it is likely that their caller knew that the cargo would respond the same way as elves do. And since I am from a different world, and have no human blood in me, the few of us from there respond quite strongly. The native elves of this world do not.”
Realizing that this was the only chance would get for information, the legionnaire asked: “Is there any other piece of information which you have left out? It seemed you were staring at the floor, why is this?”
Stopping and taking a thought, Loria realized that some information that was obvious to her, was not obvious to the two humans. “Lothrim went into the temple, not from the main entrance, but from a hidden tunnel. It was that that I was searching for.” She said had this as if it were clear to any that heard it, though, of course, it was not.
A leaf dropped down, though it was high summer. The two women froze, as if the had the same thought. It was to the legionnaire to ask: “Does that what I think it means?” because he felt something in his head, when a ritual must be applied – rather than, as the women did, his heart.
Loria shafted an arrow, and with great deafness and extreme quickness, plunge it through the leaf – wedging it into the ground, though the leaf did not actually hit it. They could see – all of them – that the we was as black, but otherwise of normal form. It was a miracle, of a different kind. They hushed, and felt the breeze go through the boughs. It was a sound that did not come from this earth, instead it played upon other strings. The strings of Yashain – where the two planets came close to aligning – and for a moment one could feel a magical air about this place, which came from another.
But then it slipped away, but was somehow close.
No one moved, but Loria rather grimly said: “We must get away, through the Temple – because the servants of Morgath are here. They are beginning to call the undead of their command.”
It was at this point that Gwynwyffer said an obvious fact: “So what do we do now?” restraining her voice to the essential features.
“Before our conversation, it was apparent that going down through the stairs should be easy. If only we could find a mechanism, or brute force, that would take us down the stairs.”
“Is that that all? Why did not you say something, it is clear that the stairs downward are hinged by a lock. One that is easily picked, now that the floorboards have been warped.” And then immediately she was completely prone, and got out a plumb line, and drew from it a twine. Then she measured each board, looking for the one which was slightly enlarged from the others. This would indicate a lock in the middle – a lock which once the debris and dirt once pushed away, could be picked. At least by her, anyway.
When she had found what she was looking for, and cleared away the soil – there was cleanly put a bolt through mechanism, which clearly was the underside of a lock. It took several minutes to burrow down until she had the underside – because she had to pick the lock from down below. Then her motions grew gentle, and her eyes Fixed as small slits, to measure the minute movements that to lock picks, which had grown from two bands that covered her wrists, were making. Clearly this was something that she practiced – alone, because she did not want anyone else to know that she could do it. She tried several ways to do it, and then finally found the right operation – and then it was done.
The boards moved quickly and fell downwards. It was obvious that they had been moved before, but it had been several decades. They were all staring down a yawing pit, with the door as the only thing which was visible. It was clear that Loria saw more than the other two, but she did not see much more.
A murder of crows flew out the of nooks and crannies - ingrates that spiral up from the ruined staircases. For a moment wings obscured it all. It was then that the legionnaire said: “There is a spell on the floor, it keeps us from perceiving the bottom. And sent the birds flying.”
The below them, a pit beckoned them, as a whirlwind grew up around them – and how it there cloaks spinning around. It felt like autumn, even though there was no reason for it to be. Overhead the clouds grew at an unnaturally fast pace, and quickly the air grew heavy and the light grew dim. The silver owl jumped first, as if she no longer wanted to be on the surface.