Tag Archives: fortress

The Mansion in the Summit – Fantastic Travelogue #15

Sometimes you have some amazing adventures you just have to tell everyone about. Read the rest of this account here.

Synopsis: I was hiking in the mountains of Korea when I found myself in another world. I met a young woman there named Ain-Mai. We eventually got captured, along with her brother Sing-ga, by a sorceress named Hengfel, who took us to her world. We got away from her and hid in the air tunnels. Sing-ga died after being attacked by small spider-like creatures. Ain-Mai and I found our way to the outside of the huge fortress where we sheltered in a small hollow. I woke up to find a small winged creature looking at me.

15 Peak Mansion

The Mansion in the Summit

The winged creature perched on the entrance to our hollow put its hands over its eyes and bowed deeply. Then it fluttered forward a few steps and took off one of its bracelets, offering it to me.

Ain-Mai woke up when I tried to stand and she gasped at the sight of the thing. I was nervous as well, but it kept offering me the golden bracelet, so finally, I took it. It mimed for me to put it on, but it was too small to put around my wrist and I had to stick it on four of my fingers.

That is better. Now we can talk, the creature said suddenly. The meaning of the words went straight to my mind, without it moving its mouth at all.

Who are you? I asked. It was strange to speak in my mind and have him answer there. I didn’t like it; it was as if someone was snooping on my thoughts.

My name is Drovoi and I am a diplomat in exile. At one time, we met with peoples from many worlds until we were conquered. I will tell you more later, but right now you are hurt and hungry. I will take you to somewhere where you can rest and get treated and then we can talk a little more.

Ain-Mai put a hand on my arm and gave me a questioning look. I took off the bracelet and handed it to her. I saw her eyes widen and I knew that she was conversing mentally with Drovoi. After a moment, she gave it back to me.

I have a transport coming to take you to our refuge, but we must hurry; the dragons are often about in the morning and I do not want to get drawn into a battle.

Because we were conversing with ideas instead of words, I got a mental picture of the “transport” just before it appeared. Still, it was a shock. A curved, furry leg reached over the edge of the hollow and a creature like a huge tarantula appeared. It was covered in white hair and its legs ended in small hands that gripped at the rocks as it moved.

You want us to get on that thing? I asked.

It is not dangerous and it will travel quickly where we need to go—much quicker than you can alone. Do not worry. See?

Drovoi took off his bracelet and held it against the creature’s head. I did not feel thoughts—only simple emotions coming from it—but I could tell that it was tame and amiable, with the temperament of a St. Bernard rather than a predator.

I let Ain-Mai feel this as well, and then we both hobbled forward and slowly climbed on its back. It was the strangest thing I have ever done in my life, even including my adventures of the previous week. The white fur was as soft as silk and it had a harness and back support attached to it. This turned out to be a very good thing as the creature began to climb up the steep side of the tower. Its leathery tail came around and held us in place so that we did not slip off its back.

We climbed for twenty minutes, the white spider-mount moving upwards steadily, never slowing or speeding up. The air began to get thin and the wind increased. I was freezing and my arms were starting to ache from holding on tightly. Drovoi had flown on ahead, it seemed. I looked down behind us and saw dragons flying around, thousands of feet below us.

Finally, we reached the summit of the tower and I could see that we were in the middle of what had once been a huge city. It stretched away for miles on all sides. There were other huge towers visible in the distance, but those had been broken down, so that only the lower parts were still standing.

Drovoi appeared from behind a rock. Please come in. You must be very tired, he said. The wind was screaming and threatening to blow us all off and we followed him behind the rock. There was a door, camouflaged to look like the rock. It was open, but I could see that the cave beyond it was only a few feet deep. Still, I followed Drovoi inside. He suddenly disappeared, but before I could even react, everything around me changed.

15 Mansion

The wind was gone. The air pressure was normal again. We were standing in a wide room with a pool of water in the middle. The floors were smooth stone and water was falling from above. The air was bursting with the fragrances of flowers and fruit. A moment later, men and women came towards us and escorted Ain-Mai and me to separate rooms.

What came next was like being in a spa, hospital, and restaurant, all rolled into one. The men bandaged my injuries with cloths and medicine. Then they helped me change into clean clothes and served me all sorts of food that I could not even begin to describe accurately. There were meats and fruits and other things I could barely have imagined: foods that were like eating cold, flavored air or others that looked like square diamonds until they melted in my mouth in a burst of sweetness.

After I had been treated and had eaten as much as I could, a woman came into the room. She was tall and wore a red cloak, with long, dark hair hung down the back. She was beautiful, although her face had a timeless look to it. She handed me a golden bracelet that was big enough for me to put on.

How in all the million worlds did you end up on the outside of that tower? she asked and her eyes bored into me as if she was trying to read my mind.

It’s a very long story, I said, mentally. I’m not totally sure myself.

She was still looking at me very hard. Suddenly she said out loud and in English, “Where are you from?”

I had not realized it until then how long it had been since I had heard English spoken and my shocked expression must have shown my comprehension. She only nodded.

“You speak English,” I said, like an idiot.

“I speak many languages,” she said, “and I have been to your world before. My name is Klista.”

 

(to be continued…)

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A Night of Loss and Grief – Fantastic Travelogue #14

Sometimes you have some amazing adventures you just have to tell everyone about. Read the rest of this account here.

Synopsis: I was hiking in the mountains of Korea when I got lost at night and came out in a strange valley. I couldn’t understand anyone, but I found out they knew Chinese characters. I met a young woman name Ain-Mai, and later, her brother Sing-ga. While I was there, a creepy woman appeared. Ain-Mai and her brother told me that the creepy woman was named Hengfel and came from another world. Hengfel eventually captured all three of us and brought us back to her world. They separated us, but Sing-ga and I got out and rescued Ain-Mai, although I got quite injured in the process. We took shelter in the air vents. Sing-ga went to find water, while Ain-Mai bandaged me and took care of me. Sing-ga finally came back, bleeding badly and very injured.

Night of Great Loss

I had never seen anyone die before, but I was there, kneeling next to Sing-ga when he died. I heard his breath catch, as if he were choking on something and then it just stopped. I kept waiting for him to breath again, but he didn’t. Ain-Mai, on his other side, was starting to become frantic. She was hyperventilating and shaking him, calling his name. Finally, I reached out and touched her arm and she wilted, her arms falling down to her sides.

In the faint light of the moon and stars that was coming in through the opening, I could see that Sing-ga’s arms and face were covered with circular bites. If he had been attacked, how had he gotten away? And could there be things that were still looking for him? I wanted to get away, but I wasn’t sure where to go and I was in no shape to travel.

A light, skittering sound came from up the tunnel. Ain-Mai didn’t seem to notice. She was smoothing back her brother’s hair and crying softly.

“We should go,” I said. She paid no attention.

Something the size of a dinner plate flew out of the darkness at me. All I saw were thin, clawed legs outstretched towards me before the thing wrapped itself around my arm and I felt the sharp pain of it biting into my flesh. I shouted in terror and ripped it off, hurling it savagely out through the grating and into open space. More came leaping at me and I fought them off desperately, pure adrenaline overcoming the pain of my injuries. From what I could tell, they were like huge spiders, with clawed legs and a sharp-toothed mouth in the middle of their body. Even now, I sometimes have nightmares about those horrors jumping out of the darkness at me.

Mouth spider

One got caught in Ain-Mai’s hair. She screamed, but it roused her to action and she fought back, lashing out at the monsters when they jumped at her.

“We have to go!” I shouted, not caring that she couldn’t understand me. I started to move in the only direction that was open to us, out the opening and onto the sheer outer side of the tower. I hesitated when it came to actually stepping out of the opening and onto the rough plates of the outer wall, and it was Ain-Mai who took the lead and held out her hand for me to come out.

I had just taken her hand when one of leaping spider-mouths latched onto my shoulder and bit in deeply. I writhed to get it off and felt myself slipping. Ain-Mai pulled me back to the wall and reached down to rip the vile creature off my shoulder. It gave a thin cry as it disappeared into the darkness far below us.

I did not wait to see if more were following us but gripped Ain-Mai’s hand and followed her along the ridges of the wall. They stuck out at an angle from the wall and were easy to hold onto, but they were also irregularly shaped. My right foot was bandaged and extremely sore, so I hopped along on my left.

The spider-mouths didn’t follow us out. I thought this was strange until I remembered poor Sing-ga’s body lying just inside the tunnel. I was sick with horror, but it came out as anger. I shuffled along, swearing under my breath, spitting out profanities with every hop. I’m not even sure who I was angry at: at the spider-mouths; at Hengfel for bringing us to that terrible place; at myself for getting Sing-ga and Ain-Mai caught with me and in doing so, causing his death. I was thankful for the calming effect of Ain-Mai’s hand in mine, which kept me from doing anything stupid.

We came to a hollow in the outer wall a minute later, which was fortunate because I could not have gone on much longer in my condition. It was probably a dragon nest at one point, but it was deserted and we collapsed into it. I put my back against the stone wall and tried to regain my strength and calm my mind. Ain-Mai slumped down by my side, sobbing. I put my arm around her and she drew closer.

Night of Great Loss

Ten minutes later, she had quieted and lay still against me. I had my eyes closed when I felt her stir. The next thing I felt were her lips on mine. She was kissing me in a quick, breathless way, not romantically, but as someone desperately needing comfort in the midst of despair.

For a moment, it was as if time stopped and the Choice stood in front of me. We were alone together in an alien world. Ain-Mai had just lost her brother and was overwhelmed with grief. She needed me. As for myself, I was lonely and tired and she felt so good next to me that in that moment, I wanted nothing more than to abandon myself to her kisses and caresses.

But then I thought of my wife–by herself and worlds away from me. I imagined her going about her daily life, wondering where I was, hoping I was safe, and I realized that she was the only one I really wanted. Still, it was one of the hardest things I have ever done to pull away from Ain-Mai’s embrace. “I,” I said, and then took her hand and drew out the character for “married” on her palm. I guess she understood my meaning one way or another; she nodded and then put her head back down on my shoulder. She started crying again, very softly, and I put my arm around her again. I didn’t know what else to do.

The next thing I remember was opening my eyes to see the sun breaking over the far horizon. Ain-Mai was sleeping with her head still on my shoulder. Then I noticed with a start that a large bird-like creature was perched on a wall plate next to the hollow. It had wings folded behind it and small arms in front, each with a large golden bracelet on it. We looked at each other for a moment until it put its hands over its eyes and bowed deeply to me.

(to be continued…)


Ain-Mai – Fantastic Travelogue #13

Sometimes you have some amazing adventures you just have to tell everyone about. Read the rest of this account here.

Synopsis: I was hiking in the mountains of Korea when I got lost at night and came out in a strange valley. I couldn’t understand anyone, but I found out they knew Chinese characters. I met a young woman name Ain-Mai, and later, her brother Sing-ga. While I was there, a creepy woman appeared. Ain-Mai and her brother told me that the creepy woman was named Hengfel and came from another world. Hengfel eventually captured all three of us and brought us back to her world. They separated us, and gave Sing-ga and I a drink to subdue it, but it had the opposite effect on me. We got out and I rescued Ain-Mai by fighting off dragons by punching and kicking them. We escaped into the air vents where the potion wore off, leaving me in terrible pain. Eventually we collapsed and slept.

13 Ain-Mai

I woke up, thinking that my wife was calling me, but instead I saw Ain-Mai bending over me, her long hair forming a curtain around my head. I tried to struggle up and almost screamed at the blinding pain that erupted from all over my body. I had never been in such total pain in all my life. I fell back, gasping and trying not to cry.

Ain-Mai took my hand and caressed it, murmuring soothing words like a mother over a child. It worked, at least enough to calm my mind. It was frustrating to have to lie there, when only hours before, I had been doing feats of superhuman strength and endurance. There is a price to pay for everything, it seems.

The light was greater than before and the tunnel was brightly lit. I noticed Sing-ga wasn’t there.

“Sing-ga?” I asked.

She pointed back down the tunnel and said slowly, “Govre hilisru swai Sing-ga.” I recognized the word swai as “water” from hearing them talk before and I nodded. He had gone to get water, I assumed.

We sat there in silence for a while. The floor near the open end of the tunnel was covered with a dusting of fine, brown powder and I pulled myself onto my side enough to write in it with my finger. “Do you have a mother?”

“I have a mother and father,” she wrote in Chinese characters. “I have two siblings, Hi-Run and Sing-ga.” She read each character as she wrote it so I knew the pronunciation of the names.

“Are you married?” I wrote after a moment. She shook her head and gave me a radiant smile that made my chest hurt a little, it was so beautiful.

“Do you have a mother and father?” she wrote after a moment. I told her about my mother and father and my sisters and as much about my life as I could back in Korea and when I was young. But I did not tell her I was married. It’s not that I was planning on cheating on my wife; the thought had not even entered my mind, but I remembered the smile she had given me and perhaps I thought she would act differently towards me if she knew I was married. I’m ashamed to say it now, but that’s what happened.

My throat was dry and screaming in pain for even the least amount of moisture. I had been holding out, hoping Sing-ga would be back at some point soon, but finally I mentioned it to Ain-Mai. She nodded and put a hand on my forehead for a moment, then stood up and said something. Then she was gone, down the tunnel, leaving me alone, in pain and dire thirst.

I must have dozed because the next thing I remember was warm, but blessedly refreshing water trickling into my mouth. I opened my eyes and saw Ain-Mai leaning over me. She had removed her outer shirt and had soaked it full of water. She squeezed it slowly into my mouth. Normally this idea would have seemed rather disgusting, but I gloried in the water and thanked her over and over again.

Next, she took off my boots and washed my right foot that had been scraped and torn by the dragon’s teeth. The right boot was barely there at all; pretty much all that was left was the upper part, still laced together, and a few scraps of leather. Ain-Mai torn thin strips from the bottom of her long skirt and wrapped them around my wounds. She had the gentle touch of a born nurse and I reveled in the comfort that her ministrations brought. She moved next to my hands, which were a brutal mess of dried blood and bruises. I couldn’t have made a fist with either hand if my life had depended on it. She washed them gently and wrapped them with more strips of cloth from her skirt. I stopped murmuring thank you and just closed my eyes and let her work. Later, I felt her washing my face, her delicate hands running gently over my skin. I remained still, hoping she didn’t notice my heart beating faster.

I woke up suddenly. The light outside was fading into black night and through the steel crossbars, I could see bright, blood-red stars hanging in the evening sky. I moved my hands and found them totally bandaged with strips of cloth. A deep scratch on my arm that I don’t even remember getting was also bandaged.

night window

There was movement beside me in the dark and I realized that Ain-Mai was lying curled up next to me, her back against my side. I looked around for Sing-ga but there was no sign of him. I forced myself into a sitting position, ignoring the protests of pain from my body. I heard Ain-Mai wake up suddenly as well.

“Sing-ga?” I asked her. “Sing-ga? Where?”

Ain-Mai jumped up with a start. “Sing-ga,” she said—the worry evident in her voice—and started down the tunnel. I sat up, trying not to groan, and listened. The world had gone quiet; even the wind seemed to be holding its breath.

The next sound I heard was a distant scream that stabbed at my heart like a needle. I tried to stand, but fell down with a fresh burst of agony. Still, I struggled down the tunnel until I reached the intersection. In the cold light that filtered down into the tunnel system from behind me, I saw Ain-Mai appear, trying to support Sing-ga, who staggered and fell with almost every step. He was covered in blood and my heart seemed to freeze when I saw how much blood he was leaving behind on the stone floor of the tunnel. I took his other side and the three of us struggled back up to the opening.

(to be continued…)


Like Rats in the Air Vents – Fantastic Travelogue #12

Sometimes you have some amazing adventures you just have to tell everyone about. Read the rest of this account here.

Synopsis: I was hiking in the mountains of Korea when I got lost at night and came out in a strange valley. I couldn’t understand anyone, but I found out they knew Chinese characters. I met a young woman name Ain-Mai, and later, her brother Sing-ga. While I was there, a creepy woman appeared. Ain-Mai and her brother told me that the creepy woman was named Hengfel and came from another world. Hengfel eventually captured all three of us and brought us back to her world. They took Ain-Mai away and put Sing-ga and I in a room with a bunch of other men who all looked drugged. It looked a bit like a harem. They gave us something to drink, which made Sing-ga very sleepy but had the opposite effect on me. We got out and found Ain-Mai in a cage, hundreds of feet above the floor, in a room with thousands of cages. I rescued her, fighting off dragons as I did. We got away, but they tore my right foot up a bit.

Rats in Air Vent

I have never been on drugs, so I don’t know what it’s like to come down from a high, but after my experience in that cavernous, dragon-infested fortress, I think I have some idea.

Ain-Mai, Sing-ga and I were moving as fast as we could down the corridor we had come from, away from the room with the cages. I was in the lead and was at first thinking of going straight back to the round transporter room—just powering through everything and risking everything to get back right away. Then the pain started. This was troubling, since I hadn’t felt any pain since they had forced that potion down my throat, even when I was punching dragons in the face.

It started as a dull ache in my foot and hands and just kept growing. I looked back and realized I was leaving bloody footprints from my right foot where the dragon had ripped off my boot. After that, it only took a few minutes for the pain to grow to the point where I could barely walk. Sing-ga was still lethargic from the potion they had given him, and Ain-Mai was shaken up from being in the cage and being attacked by dragons, so none of us were in great shape.

The pain was starting to overwhelm my senses. I felt Ain-Mai take me by the arm and lead me to the side, into darkness. We were walking through a small, fetid passage, barely big enough to stand up in. The floor was rough and bolts of pain shot up through my injured foot with every step. After a while, we were in total darkness and felt our way forward with our hands outstretched. The air was moist and warm and smelled like mold.

I don’t how long we went like that, but it was probably about an hour. Before long, I was crawling on hands and knees. We passed shafts cut in the walls with water pouring down through them and even drank a little. The water was hot and tasted metallic, but it quenched our thirst. Ain-Mai was leading us now. I don’t know where she thought she was going, but we followed her instinctively, going further and further into the dark labyrinth.

We seemed to be in a system of air vents. They criss-crossed at intervals and strong, warm wind blew in from some. We heard snatches of sound from cross-tunnels: rumbles and roars as of huge machinery, and screams and yells of monstrous beasts, or something worse. The sounds rose and then faded and died away, like the turning of a radio dial.

At last, when I thought I could go no further, we saw light ahead: warm, tan daylight. It was coming from a cross-tunnel and a strong, dry wind blew out of it. We pushed against the wind until we came to the end of the tunnel and looked outside.

Rats in Air Vent

The opening was barred with a cross of metal, but we still could have squeezed outside if we had wanted to. We were very high up—at least 5000 feet, I would guess, and I looked out over a wide, desolate landscape. Far below were the remains of towns and cities, dry riverbeds still crossed by bridges, and roads bordering dead fields. Everything I saw was brown and withered.

As I watched, a dragon floated into view far beneath me. I craned my neck to see where it was going and saw that we were in some sort of monstrous tower, with walls that fell away almost straight down. The outside surface was covered with plates that stuck up, just like the cage room. Here I could see dragons hanging off them and I realized that was what they were for. The dragons used them to hang on and rest, like birds perching on a branch.

Sing-ga was already lying down on the passage floor. I mimed sleep to Ain-Mai and she nodded. She lay down in front of Sing-ga and motioned for me to lie down in front of her. I lay down on the hard floor and felt her warmth behind me. Just before I drifted off to sleep, I felt her hand on my shoulder. With that simple act of human contact, I realized how much I had missed it. Ain-Mai’s hand on my shoulder filled my mind with peace and helped to soothe some of the throbbing pain that wracked my body. Still, when I finally fell asleep, I dreamed of my wife standing far away, across an abyss that I could not hope to cross.

(to be continued…)


Cage Jumping and Dragon Punching – Fantastic Travelogue #11

Sometimes you have some amazing adventures you just have to tell everyone about. Read the rest of this account here.

Synopsis: I was hiking in the mountains of Korea when I got lost at night and came out in a strange valley. I couldn’t understand anyone, but I found out they knew Chinese characters. I met a young woman name Ain-Mai, and later, her brother Sing-ga. While I was there, a creepy woman appeared. Ain-Mai and her brother told me that the creepy woman was named Hengfel and came from another world. Hengfel eventually captured all three of us and brought us back to her world. They took Ain-Mai away and put Sing-ga and I in a room with a bunch of other men who all looked drugged. It looked a bit like a harem. They gave us something to drink, which made Sing-ga very sleepy but had the opposite effect on me. We got out and found Ain-Mai in a cage, hundreds of feet above the floor, in a room with thousands of cages.

Cage Jumping Dragon Punching

I leaped, straight out over two hundred feet of empty space and landed on the top of the nearest cage. It was a crazy thing to do, but luckily my confidence in that accelerated state was equally matched by my ability. The cage started to swing as it reached its apex, I leapt again, bounding from cage to cage, towards the cage where Ain-Mai was trapped.

As I was jumping from cage to cage, I began to notice details about the room and cages. The ones I had landed on were empty and the bottoms were open on all of them, as if the bottom had split into four parts and fallen open. There was a wide lever on top of the cage that I could see was connected to the cage floor. The floor of the room far below was stained and splashed with red and tiny white bones were scattered wantonly around. It didn’t take long to put all these implications together.

This was the dragons’ feeding ground. People were kept in the cages until a dragon pushed the cage’s lever and the prey fell and died on the hard floor, far below. Then the dragon went down and ate them.

They’re like vending machines, I thought with horrified fascination. I am still glad that I never saw one in operation.

empty cage

I was getting closer to Ain-Mai’s cage. It had stopped descending about ten feet above my current level, just five cages away from her. I couldn’t tell if I had been spotted or not, but I couldn’t turn back now.

Ain-Mai saw me just before I leapt onto her cage. The look of hope and amazement on her face was clear. I jumped and landed on the side of the cage, my fingers clinging to the bars. I tugged at them, but even as strong as I felt, I couldn’t tear steel bars away.

“Hold on!” I said, miming for her to hold onto the bars with her hands and feet. When I saw that she had, I climbed up to the top and stomped on the iron lever. The floor of the cage collapsed and Ain-Mai gave a little scream.

I was still just working off adrenaline and drug-induced bravado, which was probably good, since otherwise I would never have had the nerve to do what I did next. I climbed down the side of the cage until I was hanging from the very bottom. Then I reached inside, through the pieces of the collapsed floor, and grabbed onto the bars on the inside. I swung down and started climbing up the inside of the cage, next to where Ain-Mai was clinging on for her life. She was crying and holding onto the bars with a death-grip. It took me a lot of coaxing to get her to take her hands off the bars and scramble onto my back. Then she was on and death-gripping me around the neck instead.

She was pretty light, thankfully, but going back was much slower. There was a very tricky moment at the bottom of the cage. I was hanging on by one hand on the inside and reached out to grab the outside of the cage. However, with Ain-Mai on my back, we couldn’t fit through the triangular pieces of the floor that were now hanging straight down. I yanked and jerked us back and forth, scraping her back and my front pretty badly against the metal floor plates. Finally, what I had to do was relax and let myself hang down as far as I could go, all our weight on four of my fingers. Then, finally, we slipped through and I could start to climb up the outside again.

I had been too busy to notice before, but we had definitely been spotted now. People were shouting above us and I could feel the cage start to rise. I leapt off, just making it to the side of the next cage. My hands didn’t hurt, but I could see that they were pretty badly scraped and both were bleeding.

Then as if that wasn’t enough, here came the dragons. I guess they didn’t like me running off with their food. The first few just flew nearby, but then one came straight it us and I kicked it in the snout. I couldn’t jump as far now with Ain-Mai on my back so I had to get the cages swinging and wait until they were close to each other to jump across. It was slow going.

They were a bit like this, except with no ridge on the back and their legs were shorter. Source.

They were a bit like this, except with no ridge on the back and their legs were shorter. Source.

On the fifth cage, two came at me at once. I punched the one under its jaw and tried to kick the other one, but it bit into my hiking boot and ripped most of it off, tearing into the sides of my foot with its teeth. This was how things went for another five minutes or so. I fought them off as best I could and slowly, cage by cage, moved back towards the wall. I was mostly worried about Ain-Mai, that one of the monsters would come up from behind and snatch her off my back. I kept whirling from side to side, keeping them all in sight.

I looked ahead to the wall and saw that Sing-ga was climbing up the plates on the wall. Idiot, I thought. There was no way he could do anything except get himself killed. He was moving painfully slowly. The dragons were still intent on me, but if they saw him, it would be like a drunk geriatric fighting a tiger.

I made a leap to the last cage, only to see a dragon rushing at me from below with jaws open wide. I manage to twist in the air to avoid getting my legs bitten off, but then I was falling. I reached out blindly and grabbed the dragon’s body as it went by.

There wasn’t anything else I could do, but this was danger of an insane level. The dragon responded by snapping its body violently like a whip, trying to shake us off. Ain-Mai was gripping my neck so hard it was cutting off my air. I reached around the dragon as far as I could reach and started squeezing it with all my strength. I heard a few bones crack and the dragon gave a roar. It slammed us against the nearest cage and then headed to the wall to scrape us off there.

It turned towards the wall, and there was Sing-ga, clinging to the wall and swaying like a drunk. The dragon seemed to forget about us for a second and went straight for Sing-ga, jaws open. Just as he got there, Sing-ga stuck out his hand and I saw for the first time that he had a piece of broken spear in his hand.

When had he picked that up? I marveled at the presence of mind he had to pick a weapon on our way out of the room. His hand was shaking as he held it but the dragon did not have time to turn away. The spear went straight into the dragon’s mouth and out through the back of its skull. I managed to leap from its back and grab the wall plates as it crashed down.

I learned something about dragons that day: they are cannibals. As soon as the dragon we had been clinging to plummeted to the floor below, the rest of the dragons sped straight down, fighting each other to get at the body first. Apparently dragon meat tastes delicious.

Ain-Mai slid off my back and onto the plates on the wall, but she was shaking so hard I had to keep an eye on her, as well as Sing-ga. Somehow we all got back down to the corridor. I was bleeding from my foot, my hands and several other places and the other two were exhausted and Sing-ga was still not doing well. My dizzying self-confidence was starting to dim a little, but there was nothing to do but go back down the corridor. So that’s what we did.

(to be continued…)

 


I am . . . a Superhero – Fantastic Travelogue #10

Sometimes you have some amazing adventures you just have to tell everyone about. Read the rest of this account here.

Synopsis: I was hiking in the mountains of Korea when I got lost at night and came out in a strange valley. I couldn’t understand anyone, but I found out they knew Chinese characters. I met a young woman name Ain-Mai, and later, her brother Sing-ga. While I was there, a creepy woman appeared. Ain-Mai and her brother told me that the creepy woman was named Hengfel and came from another world. Hengfel eventually captured all three of us and brought us back to her world. They took Ain-Mai away and put Sing-ga and I in a room with a bunch of other men who all looked drugged. It looked a bit like a harem. They gave us something to drink, which made Sing-ga very sleepy but had the opposite effect on me.

I am a Superhero

Sing-ga was acting like he was drugged. He was moving slowly and unsteadily and seemed to be having trouble staying awake. I was having the opposite sort of experience. Whatever they had forced us to drink had made me faster, stronger, and smarter than I had ever been before. It was the same liquid, so obviously, the stuff had a very different effect on my physiology than on the others. I honestly think that while I was in that state, I could have learned a language in a day. At least that’s how I felt.

I tried to explain to Sing-ga how I wanted to escape, but he was not in any state to communicate. Not that my plan was all that complicated: punch the guards and run out, try to find Ain-Mai, then get back to the circular room and . . . I honestly don’t remember now if I had an ending to that plan. I had a lot of confidence though.

The guards came back ten minutes later and I could tell immediately they were furious that we hadn’t changed. The lead one started yelling at us and lowered her spear at me. I grabbed it by the shaft and pulled it out of her hand. Then I cracked it in half. I can tell you, there is no greater feeling of satisfaction than snapping a two-inch-thick spear in half like it’s a candy cane.

It was on then. Forget getting me to change clothes—they were trying to kill me now. I ducked under a spear, punched the lead guard in the chest, probably breaking a few ribs. The other guards backed off a bit and then I was suddenly surrounded by guards, maybe fifteen of them. However, I could tell that some of them were illusions. They all moved the same way, like puppets on the same string. That must have been what had happened in the forest when I tried to escape.

Honestly, I don’t exactly remember much about what happened next, except that it felt really good. It was a confusion of ducking spears, punching, and kicking whenever I saw an opening. The next thing I remember clearly was the guards lying around, unconscious, injured and bloody. There was also a man on the ground whom I had apparently punched in my excitement. Oops.

None of the other men had really reacted, although they were all watching by now. I felt like uttering a William Wallace yell and leading this rag tag army to freedom, but I knew it wasn’t going to happen. So I grabbed Sing-ga and pulled him out the door, taking one last look at the defeated guards lying on the ground as I left. Man, I wish I had my camera!

I didn’t know where Ain-Mai was, but I went in the direction I had seen them take her. Sing-ga seemed to have recovered a little and was trying to keep up with me, although it was hard. I was probably sprinting. The corridor we were in was mostly deserted. I say mostly because every now and then, we would come across one of those funny little four-legged creatures about a foot tall that moved really slowly. We flew by them and they didn’t seem to pay us any attention.

The corridor ended before too long, opening into a monstrously big room and even as hyped up as I was, I stopped short in amazement. I couldn’t tell how big the room was—perhaps half a mile square and a few hundred feet high. It was filled with thousands of cages suspended by chains from the ceiling. A lot of the cages were empty, but I saw figures in some of them. At the same time, there were cages being raised and lowered from holes in the ceiling.

I didn’t know what to do. The corridor ended here and I couldn’t see Ain-Mai anywhere. Sing-ga was gasping and reeling behind me as if he had just run a marathon.

empty cage

A cage began to descend from the ceiling, about two hundred feet away from us, and inside I saw Ain-Mai. She was crouched in the corner of the cage and a few strands of her long, black hair came out through the bars and floated in the open air.

I didn’t think hard on the situation; I just acted. The closest cage to me was about fifteen feet away horizontally, but also about twenty feet up. The walls were covered with overlapping plates that stuck out and gave a lot of good hand and footholds. I bounded up this, and then, when I was a little bit above the closest cage, I leaped.


The World of Darkness and Dragons – Fantastic Travelogue #9

Sometimes you have some amazing adventures you just have to tell everyone about. Read the rest of this account here.

Synopsis: I was hiking in the mountains of Korea when I got lost at night and came out in a strange valley. I couldn’t understand anyone, but I found out they knew Chinese characters. I met a young woman name Ain-Mai, and later, her brother Sing-ga. While I was there, a creepy woman appeared. Ain-Mai and her brother told me that the creepy woman was named Hengfel and came from another world. She came there to eat a certain fruit called gaan-shi and also kidnapped all the men she found, which was why the men hid when she came. The brother and sister tried to help me escape but Hengfel’s guards overtook us in the woods and captured us. I tried to escape, but the guards seemed to be insanely fast, and recaptured me. At night, Hengfel stood on the stone circle and when she held up a medallion, light gathered around her. Then she was gone. The guards pushed us onto the stone circle too, and the light surrounded us.

World of Darkness and Dragons

I think I’m dead, I thought.

The brilliant light coming from the stone circle had enveloped me and for a timeless moment, I felt suspended in a world of empty light that seemed to burn out the inside of my head. Then I found that there was something solid under my feet and the utter brilliance faded to a blackness filled with the kind of flashing colors you get if you look at the sun for too long.

I don’t know how long it took me to recover, but slowly I began to hear voices around me. They had an echoing quality, as if we were in a cathedral. I realized that I had fallen to my knees when someone grabbed my arm and pulled me to my feet. I opened my eyes and looked around.

Even under the circumstances, I was blown away by what I saw. We were standing in a huge round room a few hundred feet in diameter and at least that tall. The floor was carved like the stone circle in the forest clearing, only much, much bigger. Around the outside was a trench or chasm, so that the only way to get to the outer wall was by three bridges that spanned. Strips of light around the walls and on the floor lit up the fantastic scene.

The strangest thing were the creatures that were moving around in the open air above us. They were about fifteen feet long and looked like thick, hairy snakes with clawed legs and horses’ heads. In fact, they looked a lot like the Chinese version of a dragon.

Ain-Mai and Sing-ga were both standing next to me, staring around them with a disbelieving expression that was probably very similar to what was on my face. Now that we were here, amazement temporarily drowned out our fear.

The world of darkness and dragons

Then I saw Hengfel, the old witch herself, and all my fear and apprehension came flooding back. She was on the back of a large red dragon and flew straight out one of the three large doors. That made me feel better, for the moment. The further away she was, the happier I was.

A procession of little creatures was moving slowly towards us from the opposite direction. They were dark gray and very short and broad—about a foot tall and about as wide—with flattened heads, four legs and two long arms. They each took one of the baskets of fruit and moved slowly back. It was a weird sight.

The guards herded me, Ain-Mai and Sing-ga towards the third door. As we went over the bridge, I looked down into utter blackness. The bridge was about twenty feet wide, but had no railing. Beyond the bridge were two doors that opened to each side as we approached.

Everything in that place seemed to be huge. As we walked through the towering gate, I saw we were on a stone path fifty feet wide and hundreds of feet high. Everything was lit by strips of pale-yellow light along the walls. Next to the path was another trench that went down out of sight. It was lit up and I tried to go to the edge to see how far down it went, but I was pushed back into place.

We probably walked half a mile along that path and then through smaller corridors until we came to a large door with windows on either side. Inside, I could see a well-lit room filled with men sitting around or standing. The guards opened the door and pushed me and Sing-ga inside. I heard Ain-Mai’s anguished cry just before the doors shut. We ran to the windows and watched as they led her away.

Even today the thought of that room makes me shudder a little. It was well lit and nicely decorated in green and gold. There were probably forty males in it, just sitting listlessly or wandering around slowly. I say they were all male, although they weren’t all human. You know how you can tell if someone is male or female in a glance, but you might not be able to articulate why you know that? It was like that. I could tell they were male, even though I wasn’t sure why I knew.

They were all dressed very nice, but the way they were moving reminded me of a movie scene of a mental institution, where everyone is drugged up or catatonic. Still, the overall effect of the room brought a very uncomfortable word to mind: harem. If the guys were all replaced with nubile women, I wouldn’t have doubted it at all.

Sing-ga started running through the room, looking at all the men and calling something out over and over again. None of the men said anything to him and very few even looked at him. They were almost like zombies, although less interested in the world around them.

He finally stopped and sat down on a bench by the wall. I went and sat by him.

“You are looking for someone?” I wrote—or tried to—with my finger on the cushion of the bench. Still, he understood.

“Father,” he wrote. “He was taken when I was small. I thought he was here.”

I wanted to say I was sorry, but I didn’t know how to write it, so I just nodded.

Then he pointed to himself, and then drew out the Chinese character for woman.

He’s a woman? I thought. However, he kept going, drawing earnestly with his finger again and again until I understood. He had a wife, back in Dwengshink. And two children. My heart sank more and more as he kept going. He had risked himself—both he and Ain-Mai—just to help me. Now we were all paying for it.

I told him I had a wife too and we silently commiserated with each other, drawing out characters with our fingers on the cushioned bench where we sat.

The guards interrupted us a few minutes later to hand us new clothes to wear: green satin overalls that belted around the chest, waist and legs. I was wearing jeans, an increasingly dirty T-shirt, and a hoodie, and I had no intention of changing into anything else. So I spit on the guard: a big loogie right in the chest. She didn’t do anything, except pull out two small metal vials and hand them to us, making motions to drink. I poured mine on the ground.

Yeah . . . that apparently wasn’t a good idea. A minute later, I had bruises forming all over me, a slight concussion, and I had two guards holding me down while another poured another vial of liquid down my throat. I tried to struggle but they held me like a vise. I saw two more doing something similar to Sing-ga.

The liquid they poured down my throat tasted slightly sweet, with a bitter aftertaste. As soon as I had drunk it, they let me up, pointed to the clothes, and then left.

Sing-ga started to get drowsy right away. I could see it in his face and the sudden unsteadiness of his movements. He looked at the clothes, gave a little shrug and started to put them on, until I stopped him. I didn’t feel any difference at first, but then I started to feel really good, as if I had all the energy in the world. I almost felt like I could fly. The ceiling of the room was about fifteen feet up and when I jumped, I almost touched it. I punched the bench where we were sitting and my fist smashed right through it. It didn’t hurt at all. Whatever they had given me, I loved it.

And now I couldn’t wait for the guards to come back.


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