The Sewers

This immediately follows Toward the City. I originally meant to publish it the next day, but somehow I managed to forget.

I have no cloth to cover my face, and Garth doesn’t provide me with one. The smell is unpleasant, to say the least. I bring my hood around my face and breath through that. It barely helps, but it does help. I worry about the food in my pack. The smell is so strong that I worry it will stick to my food and I’ll have to taste it later.

Garth steps carefully along the sides of the pipe to avoid the stuff flowing down its center. I try to follow suit, but he is taller than me, and more able to brace himself against the ceiling and the walls. More than once I lose my balance. The edge of my shoe, one of the new ones Kana gave to me, touches the sludge. I want to cry.

We walk through the pipe in silence. Neither of us want to open our mouths and invite the taste of the human waste into our lungs. My muscles begin to ache from maintaining the gait that allows me to avoid the worst of the stream at the center of the pipe. I imagine that Garth’s do as well, for he is forced into an awkward hunch by the height of the pipe.

We reach the end of the pipe. The space beyond it is wider than I anticipated. Garth is forced to step into the waste in order to boost me up to a platform that runs along a channel, which feeds into the pipe. He takes my hands and pulls me up alongside him.

Now we stand in what almost looks like a cavernous hallway of brick. I dismiss my eye, which has been watching over Garth’s horse, so that I can bring it back closer to me. I send it around the space, choosing a tunnel at random. They all look the same, though: brick walls arc over platforms, with wooden bridges which span over a channel of human filth.

“Now what?” I say, though my voice is muffled by my hood.

“We keep moving,” Garth says. “We’re not there yet.”

So I follow him as he presses onward. The first time we cross one of the wooden bridges, I shake with anxiety. It does not feel sturdy beneath my feet. I don’t think the fall to the thick liquid below is far enough to harm me, but having stepped in it is enough. The thought of it covering my entire body nauseates me.

Even with my eye exploring ahead and around us, I am quickly lost within the network of the sewers. I have so little experience with wandering around and keeping track of my body. I feel completely disoriented, like I’ve lost all track of where it was we came from, or even the vague direction from which we came. Then, every time I think Garth is leading us in one direction, we take a turn I did not expect.

I try sending my eye out ahead to see what is to come, but the constant change in direction prevents me from doing so. I still keep it deployed, but all of the sewer looks the same to me. The only landmarks are the intersections, the wooden bridges, and the occasional metal ladders that lead upward, presumably to the surface. My eye provides me with so little information that I quickly decide it is useless. Still, the dark, heavy atmosphere of the sewer frightens me, and seeing the emptiness of the sewers with my eye gives me some comfort.

“How much longer do we have?” I ask. It has begun to feel like hours have passed, though Garth said it would not take long.

“We are almost there,” Garth assured me. “Don’t worry.”

But I am worried, of couse, because I do not like this place. I don’t like the smell, or the darkness, or the winding paths that have me so thoroughly lost. I feel like I want to run, though of course there is nowhere to go, and Garth is the only beacon of comfort and safety that I possess.

We are passing through a section of the sewer where the ceiling is lower than it has been elsewhere when Garth does something unexpected. He turns, without interrupting the motion of his gait, and picks up a metal rod hanging from a ladder we are passing. With a hard, sharp motion, he bangs it against the ladder.

I cover my ears at the sound. The ladder rings, loudly. Garth strikes it again. I wonder, briefly, if he is attempting to attract the dragon kindred patrols he spoke of earlier. I am wrong. Above us, something metallic and heavy shifts. I quickly dismiss my eye, which is off around a corner somewhere, and bring it back to me, where I resummon it so that I can send it upward to see what has opened the sewer.

While I am distracted, Garth turns to me. His hands produce something — the bindings with which we misled the King’s patrol on the way here. Before I can even react, he has fastened my hands together.

“What are you doing?” I cry. I begin to struggle, but he holds the center of the bonds. He is much stronger than me. I send my eye upward.

“Garth here!” he shouts, and not to me. No, he is calling upward. “I come with a prize.”

My eye dispersed by something dropping downward, some physical object that, by chance, passes throgh my eye and breaks it apart. The sudden loss is disorienting. I blink. “Let me go!” I shout.

Garth grabs whatever it is those above have dropped down. In my heart-pounding panic I don’t really look at it or register what it is. A metal hook? A clasp of some kind? He attaches it to the center of my bonds.

The hook jerks upward. My bonds tighten and pull, and my feet leave the ground. I scream, because the bonds cut into my wrists. I scream, because the fear I felt in the sewer has transformed into terror. I scream, for I know now that I have been betrayed, and that Kana and Telal’s trust in this man was misplaced.

My head, shoulders, and back strike stone in turn as I am hauld up out of the sewer. Men wearing light armor of leather and steel surround me. Some hold spears. All of them have swords at their wastes.

Garth ascends the ladder swiftly, coming up just behind me. From within his jacket he produces the document that he showed to the soldiers on the road, the same one he told me was a forgery designed to ensure our safe passage.
“I have brought a gift for the King, may he live forever,” Garth said.
One of the soldiers nods. He has a golden insignia on his chest, making him stand out from the others. “Garth. It’s been a while.” He does not look at the document in Garth’s hand.

My wrists hurt. My head, neck, and back hurt. I am in a cloud of pain, and I sob openly. It is not the physical pain that overwhelms me and shuts me down, though. The world around me fades away, but not because I struck my head, or because my body is terribly injured. Garth gave me hope, and he stole it away with lies and deception. He gave me the greatest hope I have ever known, and then killed it, coldly, in front of me.

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