Sealed Within the Earthen Plane

This is chapter 5 of my webnovel, The Elementals: Song of Spirit. If you’re on the wrong chapter, or are just starting to read, click here for the linked table of contents. And happy reading! ~ JR


Chapter 5
Sealed Within the Earthen Plane

As the mer-guards followed their god back into the waves, Ellen turned on Romin, fuming. “What on earth was that! Where’s Kat? You never said anything about us splitting up, elf!”

Romin nodded apologetically. “Princess Kathleen belongs in Atlantis, Mistress. Did you not see that from her actions alone?”

Ellen glared at the elf. “She belongs with her family.”

“I hate to say this, but I toldya so,” Mae muttered, leaning against the boat’s railing.

Romin frowned at the deck, clearly troubled. “I did not take into consideration them being so protective of each-other, Great Queen,” he muttered. “I fear I have failed you.”

The siblings watched him in silent curiosity as he shook his head slowly, seeming to hold a discourse with himself inside his own mind.

Finally, he looked up at the four remaining siblings. “Forgive me for my secrecy and silence, humankin. I was given orders not to tell you more than was absolutely needed to get you here myself so that the natural experiences you felt weren’t tainted with given knowledge. I didn’t think that your siblings’ reunions would upset those of you who had not yet felt your elemental pulls.”

The children stared at him, confusion marking every face.

“Whadda who?” Mae asked, raising an eyebrow.

Romin sighed. “Trust me. Please. The Princess is perfectly safe.” The elf looked around at the silent sea fearfully. “In fact, she’s much safer than we are now. It’s time to move on. And quickly!” He looked at Ellen with worry. “But I cannot do so without your agreement, Mistress. The Great Queen has commanded it, and I will not fail Her again.”

Ellen frowned at the waters. “Kat’s safe?”

Romin nodded. “This I swear to you, on the very name of The Great Queen Herself, Mistress. And you will meet with her again in due time. But we must go. Now.”

“Why are you so scared?” Quinn asked, eyeing the water-tipped horizons with confusion.

The elf sighed. “You remember what I said about your human mythology having come originally from the Planes? Well, that includes sea monsters and the like.” He shuddered. “Oh, and also, have any of you heard of Davy Jones’ Locker?”

Mae grinned. “Yeah. That’s where dead pirates go, right?”

Romin matched her look with a grimace of his own. “Yes Sorceress. And it’s also another name for The Aether Plane.”

The children’s eyes grew wide.

“Then that means… there’s dead pirates here?” Quinn asked excitedly.

Romin nodded. “And I’d rather not meet up with any of them in a little human toy boat.”

Ellen nodded in agreement, though she continued to glance worriedly at the water into which Kat had disappeared. “OK, Romin. You win. Let’s go. But if anything happens to Kat, or any of us for that matter, I’ll never forgive you.”

The elf nodded. “I wouldn’t expect you to, Mistress. I would never forgive myself, either.”

Without warning, a great rumbling sound began to build from under the water. The children looked around with a mixture of confusion and fear as the boat began to bob and sway violently to the beat of the intensifying booms below. Then suddenly, enormous heaps of sharp gray and brown rock shot up out of the water all the way around them. Terrified, Ellen scooped Rose up in her arms, protecting the toddler as the mountainous shale scraped and ground together above them, forming a canopy that blocked out the sun.

Instinctually Ellen, Mae and Quinn shut their eyes tight and squatted down in the deck with their arms held over their heads — Ellen’s over her own and Rose’s — fearful of stray boulder-sized rock chips that may fall on them.

But the booming stopped soon after that, with no sign of falling rock. In the absence of the cacophonous scraping and grinding it felt eerily silent, and the children slowly uncovered their heads, standing up and looking around in awe.

“Wow,” Quinn breathed, his eyes wide in amazement.

The boat now bobbed in a small flooded cave that had formed around them by the gigantic shooting rocks. Here, the stone was multicolored, though still dark, as if its natural gray had been meticulously covered in rainbow chalk. A bright yellow moss covered about half of these chalked stone walls, glowing with a soft light. This was good, as there was no other source of light they could see.

They had been entirely surrounded by rock and stone.

Nearby was a little dock secured directly to the stone wall at the far end of the cave, and halfway along this dock was what seemed to be the only break in the cave’s solidity — a small dark wooden door carved intricately in symbols and pictures they couldn’t make out. Romin jumped out of the boat and into the water which only came up to his knees, pushing the little boat from behind until it reached the dock.

“Well?” he asked, looking up at them with a grin. “Disembark!”

Mae jumped out first, followed almost instantly by Quinn. Ellen handed Rose to Mae before stepping out herself.

When the children were free, Romin let go of the boat and climbed wetly onto the dock with them.

“Now, then,” he said, kicking his shoes dry and turning towards the small wooden door. “How does this thing open again?”

“You mean you don’t know?” Ellen asked impatiently. She was still somewhat agitated from their short but frightening journey. “Where are we, anyway?”

“The Earthen Plane,” the elf replied absentmindedly as he studied the door.

“But… wait… isn’t that our plane?” Mae asked, confused.

The elf nodded. “But I doubt you have ever been here before, Sorceress, as we’re in a sealed underground sidhe citadel. See, the Earth-Born had no other plane to go to when The Great Queen declared the Earthen Plane closed to sidhe kind. Therefore, she gave them homes deep underground in which to live apart from mankind that she also sealed from the Surface.”

“You keep saying that weird word. She?” Ellen asked, pronouncing it the best way she could, which was far harsher than Romin’s accent. “What’s that?”

“Sidhe, Mistress,” Romin corrected, emphasizing the long ‘e’ end of the word. “You would probably use the word faerie, though the sidhe are comprised of much more than us fae. The sidhe are, I suppose, simply non-humans, for lack of a better way to describe us.”

Quinn grinned; from the moment they had found themselves in the cave he had felt warm and cozy, like right after his mom tucked him into bed at night. “Well, it feels like home here,” he said happily. “Even if I’m not a shEE.”

Ellen and Mae looked at him in confusion.

“No it doesn’t,” Ellen argued. “It’s cold and damp and smells like moss.”

“And wet rocks,” Mae agreed, shivering a bit. “Home doesn’t feel like that at all, dork.”

“Don’t call names Mae,” Ellen chided, turning to the elf. “Romin, why didn’t we come here in the first place if it’s on the same plane as our own?”

“Four gates to access your Plane.” Romin reminded her, jiggling the doorknob.

Ellen nodded. “Yeah. So?”

“So, none of those gates leads between up there and down here.” Frustrated, he gave up on the door and turned to the children. “You see, humankin, to get here, we had to take the Liquid Gate to the Aether Plane first. After that, it was easy. As I said, all the other planes are completely open for Travel.”

“But wait… the Liquid Gate? I thought you said the Midnight Gate was the easiest way to and from our home on the Earthen Plane,” Mae remembered. “Why didn’t we use that?”

The elf was about to answer when the little door suddenly opened. A wrinkled, white-bearded face with a large, bulbous nose and long, pointy ears peeked out at them, squinting. All bald skin of the face was tattooed in whirls and symbols of green and blue, and the head rose out of the door only a bit taller than Quinn.

“Who’s makin’ all that racket? Go ‘way now! Shoo! We’ve no use for the likes of ye in these evil days! Shoo now ‘fore I sick me dogs on ye!”

Romin smiled wide. “Grimhammer! So good to see you again old friend! It’s me, Romin of the Thornhaven clan!”

Grimhammer eyed Romin distrustfully. “I don’t have me spectacles on on account they got squashed by the churner so’s I can’t see ye too good. How do I know yer me old elven friend?”

Romin thought for a moment. “Well, there was that night we got together and drank up all your wife’s ale. Now that was a night! I could recount it bit by bit for my friends here if …”

The funny man waved his hand dismissively. “No, no. I kin see yer Romin by yer sarcastic tongue alone! Besideswhich there’s no reason ta be repeatin that night; not to me nor nobody.”

Romin grinned wider. “I figured as much. Now, good friend, if you’ll allow us to enter, I must speak with Hephaestus at once.”

Grimhammer raised his eyebrows. “Eh? News from The Great Queen then, is it?”

Romin nodded. “Yes, yes. Dire news, my old friend. But also glad tidings!”

The little man muttered under his breath but opened the door wider so that the party could pass through.

On the other side the children were amazed to find a tidy little room with homey touches such as a braided rug on the stone floor, a full bookshelf set against the far wall, a comfy stuffed chair, and a fireplace directly chiseled out of the brick-red stone. On the hearth a fire burned cheerily, and Ellen and Mae stood by it, thankfully warming themselves from the dampness of the watery cave.

Grimhammer closed the door behind them and settled himself in the armchair with a grunt. Next to the chair was a small side table on which sat a large red leather-bound book and a hand-carved pipe. The little man took the latter up to his lips, looking pointedly at the girls by the fire with a raised eyebrow.

Romin noticed and ran to the fireplace, grabbing a burning twig out from the coals and taking it over to Grimhammer. The little man took it, lit his pipe, and handed it back to the elf, who returned it to the fireplace.

Ellen made a face. “You know smoking is bad for you.”

“Says who?” Grimhammer asked, raising an eyebrow and blowing a few rings into the air. “Me daddy’s daddy’s daddies was smokin’ the pipe a’fore this world was even out o’ it’s smallclothes and tain’t never harmed none of us nohow!”

“Doctors say that it causes cancer,” Ellen retorted. “And it makes you breath bad, and it smells bad too.”

“Actually,” Mae argued, sniffing the air. “This doesn’t smell that bad! Not like cigarettes at all!”

Quinn sighed happily. To him the pipe smoke smelled like his mother’s incense back home, which only served to intensify for him the homey feel of this alien yet strangely familiar place.

Grimhammer grunted. “What’s these babes with you fer anyhow, Romin? They should still be nursin’ with their mama.”

Ellen put her hands on her hips. “I’ll have you know, I’m thirteen years old!”

Grimhammer chuckled, blowing another ring into the air. “Thirteen, eh? Even more of a babe ‘en I thought!”

Ellen harrumphed.

“Old friend, I hate to press the issue, but we must go to see Hephaestus at once,” Romin reminded the dwarf. “These children aren’t just children.”

“Course they ain’t!” Grimhammer retorted, taking small puffs from his pipe. “If they was they’d not be here now, would they? I’m askin’ what’s special abouts ‘em, not if they’s special.” He winked at Rose and she giggled. “An old dwarf’s gotta satisfy his curiosity, ye know.”

Romin sighed. “Allright, Grimhammer. You always were a stubborn old goat.”

The dwarf chuckled, his eyes glinting in roguish merriment.

“Look closely at the boy,” the elf went on. “I’m sure you’ll find your answer in him.”

Grimhammer leaned forward in his chair, squinting hard at the children. “Which one’s the lad?” he asked. “I told ye I gone and squashed me specs!”

Gently, Romin nudged Quinn towards the old dwarf.

Quinn happily approached, giggling into his hands as he did so. He liked Grimhammer, and not just because he was a funny old man. To the boy, it felt as if the dwarf were a beloved uncle, someone that, if Quinn were to climb onto his lap, would tell amazing stories of faraway lands while feeding him chocolate and lollypops.

Surprising himself, the boy realized that he longed to do just that.

Grimhammer leaned in close to Quinn’s face, squinting as he studied the young features. Slowly, the wrinkled eyes widened in surprise, and he looked up at Romin with his mouth agape.

“Ye can’ be serious, Romin!”

The elf nodded. “As serious as a lost shaft of good ore,” he replied.

“Why, ye said glad tidings, but I never expected this! This be a grand occasion!” Grimhammer cried, his face brightening into a wide smile. “Me lad! Ye’ve returned ta us!” He opened his arms to envelop Quinn in a hug and the excited boy gladly returned it, practically jumping into the dwarf’s arms.

“You’re pretty cool,” Quinn said to him, giggling. “I never met a dwarf before.”

“Aye, but ye have, lad,” Grimhammer replied, seriously. “Ye meet one every time ye look into a mirra!”

The boy scrunched his forehead, confused. “Me? A dwarf?”

“Aye me lad! Yer a dwarf and that be a fact!” Grimhammer eyed the boy up and down with a grunt. “But yer mighty tall fer a dwarf lad, ain’t ye?”

“He’s more human than dwarf now, Grimhammer,” Romin explained. “Many human generations have passed, you know.”

The dwarf waved a hand, grinning at Quinn in delight. “Bah! Tain’t nothin’ a bit o’ trainin’ and learnin’ at the forge can’t cure!” Suddenly, he looked at Romin again, his gaze serious. “Ye’re right, old friend. The lad must be taken ta Hephaestus at once!”

“That’s what I’ve been saying,” the elf replied. “We need to speak with him as soon as possible.”

With a nod, Grimhammer got up from his chair and walked over to the third door. Taking a lantern from the wall, he opened the door and glanced back at the party. “Follow me, an’ watch where yer steppin’. It can git a might slippery in these dark caverns, an’ we wouldn’t want our humankin — however distant they may be ta us now — ta be lost entirely on account a’ the dwarven people!”

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3 Responses to “Sealed Within the Earthen Plane”

  1. […] Chapter 5: Sealed Within the Earthen Plane […]

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