Kulan of Reolia Part 1
Note: This is part of a series of short stories based in the world of Ivanturia. The primary purpose of the stories is to explore the world, so more focus has been given to that than plot.
Crash, Kulan heard the tunnel behind him collapse. He spun, watching billowing clouds of dust obscure the disappearing structure.
“Again?” he yelled, lifting his hands towards the approaching front. Strands of rock erupted from the earth, connecting the ceiling and floor. They expanded, rock flowing from the ground up to the ceiling. Within a minute, a new wall had formed, halting the tunnel’s collapse.
Kulan flapped his wings a couple of times, clearing the dust from around his face. Honestly, fairies should never work underground, he thought. Damages the wings. No sense in returning to the surface too quickly. No doubt the rocks could collapse further if disturbed, and its not like anyone could tell if he took a quick break. He settled down, opening his pack and removing the bread and cheese his wife had packed that morning. Taking stock of the situation, he calculated the amount of mass he lost moving the rock, he estimated a few ounces, horribly expensive for such a simple task. But speed and efficiency rarely went together and he valued his life over a bit of fat.
After adjusting the rock wall to form a more comfortable seat, Kulan settled down to enjoy his meal. Just as he bit into the sandwich, he noticed something strange across the room from him. The ore vein which he had been mining quivered, then started growing out from the wall. Kulan leaped to his feet, and began pushing the rock away from the vein, creating a small tunnel. No miner would move metal away from himself; someone needed help. The makeshift tunnel burst into another tiny cavern.
“Thank Toyoi, I thought I was dead,” a man, half-buried in rubble, exclaimed. Kulan studied the stranger, a sturdy dwarf with reddish hair, fair skin. Relief filled his hazel eyes as he looked up at his rescuer. Without hesitation, Kulan pushed the rock away from the dwarf, causing it to melt away, disappearing into the mountain. No doubt it would fill in some crevice part way through mount, Kulan didn’t really care.
Above the dwarf, a cage-like structure, made of metal, melted away, puddling on the ground. The dwarf stood up, dusting himself off. Ah, that’s why he’s not hurt, Kulan realized, he used the metal to protect himself. Clever.
“I’m Loshky,” the dwarf said as he proffered his hand.
Kulan received it, “My name’s Kulan. I don’t recognize you, what miner’s battalion do you hail from?”
“Errrr, the 5th?”
Kulan narrowed his eyes, “We name our battalions using letters.”
“Oh,” Loshky stammered, “I’m, uh, from, um–“ Fortunately for him, he didn’t have to finish the sentence. Beside Loshky the wall cracked, wide web-like fissures covering the rock.
“Move!” Loshky screamed as he dashed toward the tunnel Kulan had just made. Kulan followed without a moment’s wait.
“What is that?” Kulan yelled over the cracking of the rock.
“Vorcan digger,” Loshky responded, “he’s loose down here, caretaker must have died in a collapse.” What kind of digger, Kulan worried.
Loshky nearly slammed into the collapsed tunnel as he re-entered the room.
“What! I thought you were a miner!”
“I am,” Kulan replied, nervously glancing behind them, “but the tunnel just collapsed.” Even in his agitation, he remembered to keep eating. He slipped off his pack and removed the cheese and bread from earlier, and quickly started munching. Loshky didn’t stop either; he pulled the ore from the mountain, forming it into fearsome spikes, pointed towards the approaching monster.
“Can you open a path, quickly,” Loshky chattered. “We need to move, I don’t need to meet them again.”
Kulan shook his head, and began moving the rockface. He smiled, feeling the rock shift through the mountain, passing through to fill spaces and even bubble onto the surface. Wait, something wasn’t right. Tentatively, Kulan pushed on a specific joint.
“There’s a cavern!” he cried, and began pushing aside the intervening earth, aiming for the possible safe haven. In his excitement he didn’t notice Loshky turn a deathly pale.
“Uhh, aren’t caverns dangerous? Shouldn’t we just try to reach a mining tunnel?” he suggested.
“Nonsense, some miner might have made a tunnel into the cave. We don’t have time to dig a proper tunnel. I’m almost there.”
They heard a crunch, as the digger crashed into the first of the spikes. A low growl emerged from the tunnel, but the creature didn’t stop coming.
Loshky switched tactics. “Stop!” he cried. Kulan’s training kicked in, and he released the rock, instantly stopping its movement.
“The ground’s unstable, if you keep going we’ll fall!” Loshky explained.
Kulan didn’t look convinced, “And I’ll catch us. I may not have a lot of bulk, but I won’t run out today. Do you want to face that thing?” Loshky simply shook his head. Kulan continued clearing the rock, pushing towards the tantalizing tavern. Finally, he broke through, and was blinded as light streamed out from the cavern overwhelming his small lantern.
At that moment, the diggers broke through into the cavern.
“Well, well, well, who do we have here?” a new voice intoned. Kulan looked up, surprised to hear a Vorcan creature talk. His surprise increased when he saw a man drop off the digger. The beast didn’t seem overly problematic. It looked more like a cargo beast than a tunneler, made for traveling down pre-created tunnels. It had a sturdy head with an enormous mouth. It seemed rather like a worm. Appendages protruded from each side allowing the monster to push itself through the dirt. A shelled command capsule surrounded the head, providing bulk and a place to store passengers and cargo. From within this capsule a soldier had emerged, inspected the two miners.
“Prest,” the soldier said, nodding towards Loshyk, “glad we could finally meet. I can tell you the master will not like the way you treated his poor turtle worm.” Loshyk, or Prest, paled as he nodded in return.
Then the soldier turned to Kulan. “And who might you be,” he inquired.
“Kulan of Mining Battalion B, sir,” Kulan reported, wishing he knew how to salute.
“A miner, eh? I didn’t know you all even knew we were here.”
“With all due respect sir, we don’t. I simply found Loshyk, err, Prest, in a tunnel collapse,” Kulan answered nervously.
“Well then, miner, I thank you for your service. I regret to inform you that I must take you to meet the master, along with dear Prest here,” the soldier glanced at the tunnel Kulan had made. “Thank you kindly for creating such an easy passage. Now kindly let us down.”
Kulan immediately obeyed, using his abilities to form a rock platform blocking the hole leading to the cavern below. The soldier beckoned to Prest, who apprehensively climbed down onto the rock. Kulan followed, with the soldier right behind him. Apparently, someone else had stayed with the worm, which turned and retreated back the way it had come.
“Take us down,” the soldier commanded. Kulan cut the connection to the mountain and allowed the platform to begin to fall. Immediately, he began pulling rock from the bottom of the slab to the top slowing the descent. He could almost feel his body burning away, and he let the rock drop as fast as he dared.
As soon as he could, Kulan pulled pillars up from the floor below, catching the platform in its plummet. With the intense task over, he looked up to view what the group had fallen into. He gaped at the huge camp which sprawled over the man-made cavern. Tents, and the occasional Reolian crafted building, filled the artificially expanded cave. At least a village’s worth of people moved about, with torches and Drotarian mechanical contraptions providing light for the hidden populace.
“Welcome to the Toric branch of the League of Defenders,” the soldier said. “And pray the master has mercy on you.”