Chapter 39:

Volcano IV

Sword Quest

A low growl resounded from the trees around Cedric, who stood at the base of the time-worn volcano, staring into the pitch-black entrance under a low stone archway.

Upon hearing the growl, he slowly turned his head. His eyes widened as he looked upon a dozen scruffy-looking wolves stepping out from beyond the trees, surrounding him.

Ha…guess I don’t have a choice, then.

Whatever is in here…whoever is asking me to do this…

We’ll just have to see where it takes me, huh…

Holding the sword out in front of him with a tight grip, he turned to face the wolves and began taking slow steps backward.

The wild animals wore bloodlust on their maws as they paced toward him, several stepping closer than the rest before slightly retreating. Finally, the smallest of them leapt forth. Despite Cedric’s surprise, he slashed the sword down strongly, cutting into the wolf’s neck.

Sensing a collective attack, he turned and darted into the dark entryway, slashing the sword wildly behind him.

He ran into the cave-like base with no sense of space, merely feeling around the dark with his left arm, hoping not to run into anything. Several wolves met the other end of his blind strikes, while few managed to nip at his legs and arms, drawing blood. As the terrain began to slope uphill, he noticed the remaining wolves slow their advance, growling from a distance. With no time wasted he climbed the rocky ascent and squeezed between two large rocks into a torchlit path.

There was no longer any sign of the wolves. Cedric stood catching his breath and feeling his wounds, before surveying the torchlit path- a narrow walkway lined with large boulders on each side. He could see nothing else, aside from the path that lie ahead.

He walked forth without hesitation, gripping the bright red sword tightly. The path continued for several minutes until an end came into view ahead. Some twenty meters away, there looked to be a dead end, a rocky wall with no entrance nor slope to climb.

As he drew closer, thinking he might have to turn around, a noise came from the path behind him. The sound of fast-approaching, heavy footsteps.

Instinctively, he jumped off the path behind a large boulder, and peered over it carefully. The owner of the heavy footsteps came into view, heading down the path toward the dead end.

Twice his height, the lanky, red-skinned beast ran with vigor. Before it reached the dead end, Cedric barely caught a glimpse of its bald face and head, which looked largely like a human’s, with the exception of its lone eye and a horn jutting out from its forehead. Its barbaric visage matched the dirty loincloth it wore around its waist, as well as its sloppy, gangly running form.

The beast ran directly into the stone wall at the end of the path at a low angle. The impact shook the rock Cedric was hiding behind, almost ejecting him from its cover. As he regained himself and looked the beast’s way, he barely caught a glimpse of it.

A section of the stone wall had retreated upward, like a sliding door. As the large creature descended into the path it left, the slab of rock sunk back down into the earth with a thud.

Cedric waited a moment, before coming out from behind the rock and scanning the area. The torchlit passage was completely quiet. He walked up to the stone wall and felt it over carefully. On it were several ridges and slopes that would allow leverage to push upward.

Thinking he ought to wait a bit in case the beast was still close by, he leaned his back against the wall, and glanced at the sword. Its red face that, moments before had the word “VOLCANO” etched onto it, now bore no word or symbol.

After several minutes, he took a deep breath. Turning to face the wall as he exhaled, he crouched down low, placing his hands under two of the ridges in the wall. With a heave, he pushed up on the ridges, until the slab began sliding upward. He continued lifting the slab with great effort, until it was raised above his head.
He stepped carefully to the other side of the wall and began guiding the slab back down slowly. It took much of his energy, but he was able to set it down without letting it slam into the rocky ground the way the beast had.

Taking a breath to recover, he eyed the other side of the wall. A rocky, winding uphill path lay before him, slightly illuminated by narrow red walls with magma slowly seeping down them. He immediately felt a difference in the state of the air in this space, as it was much hotter than the first.

Glancing at the sword in his hand, he took careful steps up the path. Thinking the volcano to be inactive, he hadn’t expected to see any magma. Despite reflecting on what danger could lie ahead, he continued up the path slowly.

After some time, he began to think there was no end to the path- when another rocky end came into view. He picked up his pace despite the rising temperature and reached the wall, another rocky barrier. He wasted no time in grasping two ridges and lifting the makeshift door upward.

As he raised the door to his shoulder, he heard the previous door slamming into the ground at the bottom of the path he’d just traveled. He froze, sweat dripping down his wide eyes.


How did that thing get back down there?

Or is it…someone else, following me?