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Perry Rhodan. Thus it is a time in which the inhabitants of Earth are yet submerged in primitive barbarism, knowing neither of the stars nor of the great heritage of vanished Lemuria. By contrast—and despite the great war against the Maahks—Arkon is in its fullest prime. The present Imperator of this vast domain is Orbanashol , a man of brutality and cunning who is rumoured to have instigated the death of his brother, Gonozal VII, in order to take over the rulership for himself. Atlan, the rightful heir to the throne. It is here that they have arrested the old physician without any warning.
No one will suspect you if you go now. Fratulon seemed to be more horrified than before. He probably realized that he had no other choice since we had killed the three guards.
Download pdf Perry Rhodan Silber Edition 48 - Ovaron
In his mind this meant that there was no salvation either for him or for us. After the bars were melted through it only required 10 minutes for them to become cool enough so that he could come out. He studied Farnathia for some time before he spoke to her. Then you are braver than your father. You must think a lot of me to have taken such a risk. Meanwhile Ice Claw joined us. Now Fratulon took over the leadership. Perhaps we can conceal ourselves for awhile in my quarters.
And with good reason. Coming from the direction of the main corridor we heard the distant sounds of marching feet. Ice Claw darted up the passage to the corner of the intersection and cautiously took a peek. Then he ran back to us swiftly. What do we do now? Follow me quickly! We had long since passed beyond the regions that Farnathia knew about—even those parts she had merely heard about from others.
We were now penetrating completely unknown territory. It was my guess that Fratulon had been down here more than once in the past. He led us ever onward with the unfailing certainty of a sleepwalker, finding narrow side tunnels and secret doors that he opened with practiced ease. Finally, after a strenuous march through an unlighted passage, we came into a large chamber. To our great astonishment it was still furnished with ancient, half crumbled pieces of furniture.
Fratulon watched us with visible enjoyment as we looked around in stupefaction at the great wardrobe cabinets and the chests and bed stands. It was not exactly cold here but I was freezing nevertheless. And of course the same was happening to Ice Claw, not to mention Farnathia. Fratulon waved a hand at the beds. Here we are safe for the time being. Atlan, what are you carrying in that sack? You can rest assured that no one will look for us here.
Fratulon shook his head negatively. Within half an hour I can be at my apartment. In fact, I can get directly into my own room through the wall. He looked at me, it seemed, almost with forbearance. I wanted to find out how it came to be and who built it. The end result was that I never found out but in the course of my searches I came to know almost all its parts and levels.
Tarkihl is so tremendous a structure that if it were ever to be fully renovated there would be room here for millions of people.
I know that there are secret passages and listening posts around the council hall. So you saw it all— why do you ask? Besides, you know, I was personal physician to Gonozal. I could see the small mass of nutrition slip down his esophagus. Instead, you will describe the route to me! Nobody suspects me and everybody knows that I often wander around in Tarkihl. But now you just think it over: But nobody will be able to accuse me of a thing.
Apparently Fratulon had come to the same conclusion because without further discussion he proceeded to explain the way to her. He had hardly uttered three sentences before she stopped him. No one may have noticed your absence yet and you would be safe there. We three will remain here. Later when the furore over my escape has calmed down you can let us know. By that time nobody would get suspicious if you were to go on another of your little trips into Tarkihl. Expect me back in an hour—maybe two.
I wanted to hold her back but Fratulon grasped my arm. She has a mind of her own. In a short while I fell asleep. It gave her access to the ascending staircase, which she followed to the next landmark. Then she had to travel a distance in a horizontal direction until she made a sharp right turn and reached a corridor that was familiar to her.
From here it was just 15 minutes before she saw her own living quarters before her. She opened the door and went in. With a sense of tremendous relief she fell onto her bed and stretched out on it temporarily. The temptation to simply close her eyes now and think of everything that had happened as merely a bad dream loomed gigantically within her but the concern she felt for her friends was greater.
Hastily she got up then and turned on her video receiver.
She was in time to catch a local newscast and there on the screen was the insidious, goggle-eyed face of Sofgart the Blind. She had never seen the Blindman before in her life but my description of him enabled her to recognize him instantly.
The loathsome aspect of the human monster frightened her to the point where she would have preferred to turn off the video but she finally forced herself to listen to what he was saying.
This he was forced to do because Sawbones was so well loved everywhere that very few, if any, might be enticed to betray him. At the same time the leader of the feared Kralasenes announced a general condition of emergency, which at his bidding the Tatto had declared officially. The hunt for the fugitives had begun. Farnathia breathed a sigh of relief as the repulsive face disappeared from the screen. It was like recovering from an illness, moments later, when she saw the captain of the Palace Guard take his place.
The latter proceeded to transmit further instructions to the public in regard to the alert status that had been proclaimed. Farnathia was soon able to observe that everything had become quite topsy-turvy. There was a knock at the door. Had they already suspected her of something? She went to the door and opened it.
It was her father, who was relieved to find her here. She closed the door and followed him. He pointed to the viewscreen. Fratulon was able to escape.
(novel) (ebook) - Perry Rhodan - Atlan 02 - Flight from Tarkihl
You can rest assured. After all, where can he go? Tarkihl is surrounded. Nobody can get through. No one can go against the will of the Emperor without suffering dire consequences. I was not able to lift a hand for him but now it looks as if others have done it for me. Three Kralasenes were killed by the unknown rescuers. We just found this out. When the news was brought to Sofgart he flew into a rage. What that means for them we all know. He stared at her quizzically. But who could have helped him?
Even Ice Claw is missing, although the two of them entered Tarkihl after the arrest was made. How much does Atlan know about it? Why do you ask, father? Betray him? He would remain neutral not only for his own sake but above all for the safety of his family. He turned toward the door. As she watched him go it was with the helpless awareness of having seen him for the last time. On the other hand, if she were to stay here now and forget everything connected with Atlan and Fratulon, she would have nothing to worry about.
Nobody could accuse her of anything, not even this hideous Sofgart and his accursed guards. She sprang up and carefully locked the door so that no one could surprise her. Then she looked through her small pantry for suitable food supplies. Having made a selection, she packed everything together in a bundle and fastened it with straps so that she could easily carry it over her shoulder.
She went through her rooms once more. She suspected that these, too, she was seeing for the last time But it was quite likely that no one would become suspicious of her absence even if she disappeared for some time. No person in his right mind would make any connection between her and Fratulon. She finally took her bundle and opened the door.
And stood facing Sofgart the Blind. For one long moment she felt as though she were going to faint. Her knees began to tremble and she closed her eyes to shut out the sight of his thin figure and that terrible face. But then each passing second brought her closer to the stark realization that everything now depended upon her alone—upon her presence of mind and her entire comportment with this fiendish persecutor.
She forced a smile. The ugly grin on his face became a grimace. I always take walks through Tarkihl when I get bored. She did not interrupt as he continued: Were you ever in the Blue Section?
I am not permitted to go there. My father has forbidden it! I am an obedient daughter. Your excursion can wait, I presume? Then she found her voice: He closed the door behind him. What do you have in the packages? He snatched the packages from her unresisting hands and opened them.
You must have an awfully big tummy. Frantically she strove to find an excuse. I almost starved to death. You know where Fratulon is hiding and you wish to help him. Lead me to him. His right hand and the impulse weapon strapped to his forearm were mere centimetres away from her body. She glanced about her in desperation, looking for a weapon. Over her head on a narrow shelf was a metallic figurine. It was a representation of the extinct 4-legged beast which was used in Tarkihl to mark the entrances to many secret passages.
It was 20 centimetres in height and was very heavy. He could not see as well or as quickly with them as he might have with normal vision. And that could be her salvation. He leaned closer to her and began to unfasten her cloak. Apparently he had trouble in finding the fastenings. For a moment all she saw of him was the leather cap that covered his head. She jerked herself upward as though to get away from him and without looking up he sought to force her down again but at the same time she reached out with her right hand and grasped the metal statue.
With all her strength she brought the heavy object down against the leather cap. Sofgart the Blind collapsed instantly and fell across her. She could only free herself from under his weight with an effort.
Sofgart was either unconscious or dead. At any rate, he did not move. On his forehead was a trickle of blood. As swiftly as she could she packed the provisions again and went out of her room. She locked the door and placed the key in the pocket of her cloak. With a few hurried steps she reached her secret passage again and seconds later she disappeared behind its panel. The way back was traversed without further incident. I sprang from the bed and hurried to her, taking her gently into my arms.
You are here with us again. Her body seemed to be shaking from convulsions. I carefully guided her to my bed and made her lie down. That was a long trip for you. I glanced at him angrily.
Instead she fell back onto the pillow. Fratulon had turned white as a sheet and he stared at me helplessly. Undisturbed, Ice Claw turned his attention to the food packages and began to investigate their contents. Several times he grunted with satisfaction. There is time now, do you hear? She thought she may have killed Sofgart the Blind but had she really? In any case she had had a fight with him and had gotten away from him.
Of course this meant that for the time being she could not go back to the palace, perhaps never. Now she was bound to us for better or worse. I did not yet know how true this was. Fratulon whispered: Maybe his leather cap cushioned the blow. At any rate, he was unconscious. But if he regains consciousness he will know that you are here below in Tarkihl.
Even if we managed to get to the surface without being observed there would be no way of escaping. For the present there can be no thought of getting away but we can hide. That hiding place will have to be in the unknown depths of Tarkihl. Only there will we be safe. I proposed that we extend our rest period where we were so that Farnathia.
We ate only a small snack and packed the rest of the food for carrying it with us. Suddenly I was assailed by a frightening thought. Farnathia forgot to bring any. Besides, where we are going I can assure you there is more water than we can drink. Which left me no other choice than to follow his example. However reassuring as this was for us fugitives it only served to deepen the mystery surrounding my foster father.
By now we had dispensed with the necessity of having to use concealed secret doors and passages. We walked through wide corridors and extensive halls whose ceilings glowed with a yellowish light and were often more than 10 meters above our heads.
In many of the larger chambers and halls we encountered machines and apparatuses whose purpose none of us could even guess. Even Fratulon was unable to tell us what they signified or who had placed them here long ago. Or at least that was what he led us to believe. Far beneath us under the solid rock was the source of a constant vibration and a barely audible humming sound as though motors or engines of some kind were in operation.
Ice Claw ventured a guess that there might be perpetually functioning energy plants here somewhere which lighted the passages and provided all Tarkihl with power. Farnathia was walking beside me. She had recovered by now and seemed to have regained her selfassurance.
Having gotten over her initial shock she was now reconciled to the prospect of never being able to return. Suddenly Fratulon came to a stop. But now we have time—lots of it. The corridor had widened out still more than before. It began to remind me of the great streets and avenues that I had seen in video films which had shown other planets of the Imperium and their gigantic cities.
Here too there seemed to be a number of vehicular roadways but the vehicles themselves were missing. Positronic guide rails divided the smooth metallic surfaces into 5 separate lanes, each of which was 5 meters wide. On the outer edges of each roadway were travelling slidewalks for pedestrians but at present these conveyors were motionless. Then the boulevard we were following opened upon an unimaginably tremendous cavern.
At the moment there was no more appropriate description I could think of for what I saw before me. There lay a city, an actual city down here several hundred meters beneath the surface of Gortavor. The boulevard inclined downward into its centre and we found ourselves at an elevation where we could view almost its entire extent. There was a well-arranged network of streets lined with symmetrical buildings which were separated by various plazas and parkways whose blooms had long since withered away.
Above it all arched a synthetic sky that was dominated by a brilliant atom sun. The diameter of the city must have been about 2 kilometres.
Fratulon took obvious pleasure in our speechless astonishment. He directed us to an outjutting observation point and we followed him. We came to where we could see the entire city. Which leads me to believe that the memory of it has been lost. Both its age and its creators are unknown.
It may not even have been Arkonides or their forebears who built this but beings who belonged to an unknown civilization that came to this world long before we did. When I first found this place I was mystified by the fact that the vehicles were missing which undoubtedly filled these streets at one time. They have disappeared like the people who once lived here.
To think that people had been living entire decades in a vast palace and had failed to suspect that the remains of a once proud civilization lay under their feet.
We took a break and had something to eat. But I was gradually getting thirsty and mentioned it to Fratulon. He dismissed the problem with a wave of his hand.
Fresh water. The supply system is still working. Why had the designers and builders of such a city lived beneath the surface of their world when the conditions were better up above? What circumstance had caused them to retreat into these subterranean depths? And what was more important, where had they disappeared to? Fratulon appeared to have read my thoughts.
The city is here. No more can be said. Nothing could hold me back from entering one of them to get a drink of water although Fratulon indicated that we would soon be coming to a fountain.
The rooms were even still furnished. I was able to discern the purpose of most of the furniture pieces while others I could not figure out. But I found the water dispenser. When I pressed the release button, ice cold fresh water gushed out of a spigot. The others had waited outside. Almost before I joined them they all started out again. Fratulon wanted to take us to a definite location that he knew from his previous visits here. The intelligences who built Tarkihl have thought of everything, even to such an extent that one day we may use a certain means of escape from here.
Here was a circular plaza where many of the streets converged and rows of houses surrounded the place. It was the focal point of the entire city.
The artificial sky above us was blue and the nuclear sun now hung suspended directly above the circular plaza. I estimated that it might have been some meters overhead but I could have been mistaken. The "horizon" was obscured by the buildings but it was easy to conclude that it consisted of walls of rock.
Farnathia was enthusiastic. Probably from this point they ruled the whole planet just like the Tatto does today in the name of the Greater Imperium. Down here nobody will find us and we are safe. At least the sun stays in one spot—I hope! The automatic control for it is hidden somewhere deep down in the rock. It must be connected to the central energy station.
A wide stairway led us into its interior. Everything here was in a surprising state of preservation just as though the original inhabitants might be returning at any moment, perhaps from a picnic excursion.
Two hallways branched off from the large entrance foyer but so far I could see no doors. Fratulon pointed to another staircase. On the second and highest level there were doors.
Fratulon opened one of them and made a mock bow as he invited us to go in. Such were my thoughts as I stood in the fairly comfortable-looking living room which was filled with every possible kind of furnishings and articles of equipment. He had even found some energy weapons. These were mostly unfurnished, however, but in a few of them were beds or cots.
Fratulon called out to me. Of course a few things in the kitchen appeared strange to me but at least I could guess their purpose.
There was enough there to last for several months at least. I went back into the livingroom. One of the cabinet doors opened. A video set extended outward and its small viewscreen lighted up at once. I recognized the council chamber of the Tatto. I found it here and it functioned perfectly. By this time Farnathia had also recovered from her surprise.
I showed her the kitchen and the food supplies. She could only shake her head in wonderment. We suddenly felt the leaden weight of fatigue in our limbs. Fratulon soon assigned us to our sleeping quarters. Fratulon told me that I had slept more than 10 hours. I felt correspondingly refreshed and re-energized.
The other two had fared no better or worse. After we enjoyed a breakfast that Farnathia prepared for us we sat together in the living room. Fratulon was fooling with the video set and he showed me how to work it. We can not only have a look at the council chamber but also some of the upper and lower levels of Tarkihl. They were standing around as though expecting something.
At any rate they were all heavily armed. In the background the staircase could be seen that led up into the palace. We also perceived movement there of some kind. With a croaking voice he announced that they would now make a thrust into the unknown lower levels of Tarkihl in order to pick up the trail of the fugitives.
And he concluded: You know the reward that has been offered for both of them. Where is the man who is going to be our guide? It may be possible to activate it again.
Fratulon no doubt knew best what there was to be done. While he was busy elsewhere I sat before the video set and soon found out the extent of its coverage. To my utter amazement I discovered that hidden cameras had even been installed in our former living quarters.
After that I saw corridors in lower levels of Tarkihl which were lonely and deserted looking. Unfortunately I was not experienced enough to proceed systematically with the visual search. In the meantime Ice Claw made a tour of exploration through the city and came back with a hoard of plunder that he intended to take with him. I was amazed at all the things he had found. Shortly before it was time for our synthetic sun to darken, Fratulon returned.
The only thing necessary from now on is that one of us will always have to be watching the viewscreen. As soon as the Blindman and his men become visible on it we will have a half hour left.
After Farnathia fell asleep I went to my room. Ice Claw still sat on his bed and was rummaging through his collection of treasures. I grinned at him briefly and lay down on my own bed. Ice Claw had the watch at the time and discovered them on the viewscreen.
Fratulon ordered us to get the food packages and weapons and prepare ourselves for flight. He gave us 10 minutes, no more. The enemy was visible only a short time on the viewscreen and then passed beyond the range of the camera.
The city has a good dozen exits that lead off in different directions. The main thing is to shake off our pursuers. I knew it was useless to try to get any more information out of him at the present time. We took our bundles and left the house. From that point on we took care not to leave the slightest trace behind us. Without any clue as to the direction of our flight they could waste another few weeks trying to search for us.
Fratulon kept us going steadily at a rapid pace but we complied with his urging since we figured he knew best how much time we had. We entered a wide, level tunnel that led through the solid rock into the unknown underworld, and when we were well inside of it Fratulon called a halt. He peeked out carefully and looked back toward the city. I followed and joined him, unable to restrain my curiosity any longer. Farnathia and Ice Claw had sat down on the curb stone bordering the roadway.
He nodded without looking at me. They were barely distinguishable against the background of the rocky walls of the gigantic cavern. Nevertheless I could see them although not in detail. I saw them over the roofs of the city, which lay in a depression. Just little dots that moved excitedly here and there. Nobody seems to have noticed its contents except myself.
It contains the entire plan of Tarkihl and also the escape routes out of it. And also you have to remember that the book is very old. Since it was written there could have been some changes made, either by Nature or by man. Could it be possible for such a book to remain in a library without ever having been read? Far across the city the little dots became organized and began their march toward the centre. Fratulon pulled me away with him. It would be senseless to watch them from here to see what they do.
Fratulon took him sternly and briefly to task and emphasized that he had been given sufficient warning. However, he promised that an opportunity would soon present itself for discarding all superfluous baggage. The tubular roadway ended before a rock wall. I asked Fratulon what the purpose of these vehicular passages could be if they all simply terminated somewhere.
He suggested that there were two possibilities: Perhaps the roadways continued onward on the other side. Here we were in the deep heart of Tarkihl but it still withheld its secrets. Farnathia and Ice Claw followed close behind us as Fratulon discovered a narrow side passage which lay behind a secret door. Apparently he had been able to find it solely on the basis of the description he had read because it could hardly be presumed that anyone could have even suspected the presence of the door without having had previous instructions.
Here, however, there was no more light. We had to turn on one of our hand lamps. The way led steeply downward. According to my calculations we were already at least meters under the surface of Gortavor. We finally came to a place where the passage widened out into a vast hall or cavern. Because of the limited range of our hand lights it seemed to stretch out endlessly before us. And here we encountered the first form of life that existed in these depths. Only once in my life had I ever encountered one of these creatures.
It was on one of my exploration hikes in Tarkihl but I had simply run away without taking a closer look at the strange, spherical shape of the thing. From reports I had heard I knew that at one time they had come to the surface out of Tarkihl much more frequently than now. Their objective had been a kind of instinctive urge to serve the Arkonides, who were not at all inclined to accept such services. This was because they tended to perform tasks that made no sense to anyone. Farnathia let out a yelp of fright when the light shaft of our lamp suddenly revealed a pale, faceless sphere supported by two spidery thin legs.
Four other equally thin arms dangled about in the air as though in an attempt to communicate with us in sign language. Fratulon had come to a halt. Apparently they are creatures who once served the unknown builders of Tarkihl and have outlived their masters.
The spherical shapes drifted past us in a grotesque sort of motion, seemingly unreal in their appearance. What did they live on down here where there was neither food nor light? Were they able to live in the dark and multiply or were they immortal? The third sphere appeared, then a fourth and a fifth… Soon we were surrounded by several dozen of them and all of them wanted to carry our bundles. Fratulon gave orders that we were not to release our food packages to them under any circumstance.
However he said to Ice Claw: The Silent Servants rapidly took all the keepsakes from him that he had gathered in the city and eagerly hurried away with them on their very thin legs. I could well imagine that the same would have happened to our food packages if we had handed them over to these obsequious bubble ghosts.
I finally realized why everybody up above in Tarkihl believed in ghosts. The superstition was undoubtedly connected with these mysterious beings who had outlived their former masters. Maybe we could send them into the city and let them take care of Sofgart the Blind and his troops. Farnathia drew me to one side. I sensed that something was troubling her. You want to tell me something? What is it? It was a ball of twine. We were lost because it was practically impossible for our pursuers to miss picking up the other end of the string.
All they had to do now was follow it. My mind was racing. One thing was certain—we had to get rid of the marker she had laid out.
But who among us wanted to retrace the long way we had come in order to gather up the telltale twine? In spite of my love for her this made no difference to me. Our lives were at stake. I think maybe your trail marker is our salvation from these Silent Servants. At first he was angered but then when I mentioned the Silent Servants his face brightened. Ice Claw was with us and he gave us a glassy grin. He took the end of the string that Farnathia handed to him and turned with it to the nearest Silent Servant.
Roll it up! Whether they were actually living beings or robots or maybe even androids with organic brains, the fact remained that they had been either programmed or trained to absolute obedience. Some of them hurried back into the passage and picked up the string while others took the twin ball and helped to collect it again. They vanished soundlessly into the darkness. Fratulon breathed a sigh of relief and then turned his attention to Farnathia.
Will you promise me that? The Silent Servants will have their hands full to back-track that twine and roll it all up. I can imagine the shock it will be to their systems. However I was soon distracted from my thoughts concerning the way he had handled the silent ones because some of them had remained behind and were swarming about us again.
Fratulon kept pointing to the passage that led back to the city. They also disappeared in the direction of the city and finally we were completely alone. We continued on our way, which led ever deeper into the unknown. Far ahead somewhere I thought I could make out the sound of a waterfall. Ice Claw had begun to shiver as it became colder. Finally he stopped. It has little to do with ice. The variance is very small. He himself appeared to be too preoccupied with the task of recognizing landmarks which were still in his own memory.
If I were to disturb his concentration now we could go astray and that would be the death of us. The ground became damp and slippery under our feet whereas before it had been dry as dust. Ice Claw whimpered and scolded to himself all the while and every 5 minutes predicted his own demise. Fortunately, however, we were accustomed to his ways and were able to ignore his incessant prattling.
But I was freezing and so was Farnathia. I made her take my jacket and put it on over her cloak. After a slight pause we continued on without further interruption. In spite of the cold I felt thirsty. Since leaving the city I had not had another drop of water to drink. The way widened out and its ceiling arched higher above us. I played the beam of the lamp along the walls.
They were smooth, almost polished, but they were made of rock instead of the bronze-like metal that I was accustomed to seeing in the upper levels. Down here there was little doubt that Nature had been the architect, even though I knew that the aliens had come along later and offered some assistance. Fratulon came to such a sudden halt that I bumped into him. Shores, too! That makes it a regular lake alright.
And when we get there, then what do we do? What we are hearing must be the waterfall that feeds it. That fits with the description. I noticed that Farnathia was hardly eating anything and I went over to her side. These caverns here are forbidden and maybe sacred places. Traditions are often falsely interpreted. That happens on every world. I felt thirstier than ever.
Finally, after hours it seemed to me, Fratulon gave a signal for us to break camp. We packed up our bundles and followed him. Now he was carrying the hand lamp and he moved ahead very slowly. With every step the roaring sound increased. I thought I could already feel the dampness in the air. And then our path ended so suddenly that I almost stumbled and fell.
Before us lay the subterranean sea. In that first moment it seemed that we stood once more before the city, except that now it was flooded over with water. The cavern was of similar dimensions and the same kind of artificial sky arched above it with an atomic sun in its centre. Of course it shone only very dimly now as though it were simulating night according to an automatic program. To our right a giant waterfall plunged downward out of the darkness and created a deadly looking whirlpool of raging foam.
The waves rolled across the lake and washed against the flat shore not 2 meters away. Fratulon confirmed my suspicions when he spoke: It must have happened before the book was written because only the lake is mentioned. The water was comparatively smooth and the waves exhausted themselves at the edge. With my hand I ladled up the ice-cold liquid and drank.
It tasted good and fresh. The others soon followed my example. After that we went onward with the cliff wall to our left and the lake to our right until we came to a sheltered spot that was comparatively dry. The fragments of rock around us served as makeshift benches to sit on. Ice Claw forgot his fears and asked: You read this mysterious book that none of us has seen.
Are you ever going to lead us back to daylight? I put an arm around her. I have to try to remember, Ice Claw. But you can rest assured that we will find the Threshold!
What is that? This lake is one of the stations along the way that was indicated. Farnathia snuggled close against me. The warmth of my body was obviously doing her some good. I was happy to be so close to her. Judging by the looks she gave me, she appeared to share my feelings. Somewhere it must reach the surface again. How could the water climb up above? What was this Threshold that he had just mentioned?
I felt like dumping him in the lake but instead I turned to Fratulon. Of course we still had our watches but the hours had ceased to have any meaning here. Time was sensed in terms of the distance covered and as related to hunger, thirst and fatigue.
Fratulon was the first to get to his feet. I helped Farnathia get up. In spite of my protests she insisted on giving my jacket back to me. She claimed that her cloak kept her warm enough. In the same old formation we continued our march. The way along the shoreline did not get any wider, in fact narrower if anything. But the beat of the waves against the shore died down more and more as we moved away from the waterfall.
The other side of the lake merged indistinguishably into the underworld twilight. Ahead of us the shoreline made a sharp turn to the left as though following an inlet. I noticed that Fratulon suddenly increased his pace as though he had just recognized another landmark mentioned in his book.
It was indeed an inlet of the lake but now our way led to a definite plateau that reminded me of the terraced entrance of a house. And even the entrance itself was there. Fratulon guided us there and then stopped. He took no notice of the sceptical remark but merely turned on his hand light and went on.
For better or for worse we followed him without benefit of any further explanations. Here the floor and the walls of the tunnel looked as though water had been flowing through it for a long period of time. The marks of water erosion were easy to recognize.
Perhaps this had once been a tributary feeding into the lake. I stopped and turned to him in exasperation: Now keep your trap shut, will you? In fact he started in with a big lecture concerning his unusual metabolism but I silenced him with a gesture of impatience.
Far from being concerned with our dialogue, Fratulon had pushed on industriously.
The tunnel made several turns until finally we came upon the remnants of a staircase which had been partly washed away. This was a positive indication that the passage had existed prior to the catastrophe. We pressed onward, slipping and sliding on the stairs which were practically only rubble by now. At least we became a little warmer but of course Ice Claw then proceeded to complain about all the exertion.
Suddenly Fratulon came to a halt and shone his lamp on the walls as though he were searching for some definite sign or landmark. That mark must have been made by the author himself. There were just two undulating lines that looked like sine-waves. For a moment I was visited by a terrible thought. What would happen if we had merely been lured into a deadly trap? What if behind the hidden door there were nothing but the bottom of another lake?
It would pour out upon us and sweep us away to be drowned. But then I was given no further time for such reflections. The wall opened up and no water poured forth from the opening. An almost warm breath of air struck us and behind me I heard Ice Claw emit a little groan of pleasure. Everywhere in Tarkihl the ventilation system functioned perfectly or we should have suffocated long before this.
Somewhere in the depths all the machinery must have been working continuously as it had been programmed to do ages before. We stayed where we were and turned on one of the other hand lamps. The secret door gave no sign of closing again. We could only wait for Fratulon to return. And finally we heard his footsteps again. Shortly thereafter we saw the light of his lamp and there he stood before us. Then he took the lead again. The book also mentions them although of course it neglected to give any reasonable explanation for them.
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