Chapter Six - Mezards and Tikas

Story so far:

Hannah has embarked on a mysterious adventure to a strange new world. She meets Kaspian, by turns, devilishly handsome and thoroughly irritating, who drags her further into the fiery network of tunnels. After a climb that rips her feet to shreds Hannah is finally faced with why she was summoned to this cruel world…

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Kaspian had crawled along the ledge and reached an opening. Orange light poured through it, flickering on his face and off the rocks he leant on. He was staring down into the cave with an intensity that burned as hard as the fires below and it wasn’t hard to know why. The screaming was simply unbearable. Hannah crawled forward, pulling herself through the narrow gaps, feeling her clothes tearing on the ragged surfaces. Finally, she reached the edge. She clasped her hand to her mouth to stop herself crying out loud. It was a horrible sight. Scenes of unimaginable torture were being played out all over the cavern below them. From their vantage point, high, high up above the cave floor, they could see the Mezards playing out their cruel, calculated games. She had thought they were just savage animals but there was a human intelligence to their cruelty. They found amusement in deliberately causing pain.

Then there was the cavern itself! She could see now where the strange fiery light had been coming from. It was lava. Were they in a volcano? The lava gushed from a LavaFall across the cave and tore its way through channels in the rock. The heat was overpowering, even from their distance. She couldn’t imagine what it would be like from the ground. Blistering, choking, deathly. The screams were echoing right up to them, rebounding off the hundreds of feet of rock-face to the legendary hide out of the rebels. The screaming pierced her heart and brought a fury to her throat that she had never felt before. Kaspian was still silent, unmoving, anger radiating from his every pore. 

“...a LavaFall across the cave…Blistering, choking, deathly”
                                       - Own Photo - 

The Mezards were everywhere, their cruel, shrieking shouts as effective as the whips in their hands. A large section of them oversaw the little creatures, all just the same as the poor little thing that had collided with her earlier. It had saved her. If it hadn’t been for the little creature the Mezards would have caught her at once. And now she knew why it had been running. The Mezards were whipping and lashing them to within an inch of their lives. The little creatures were desperately trying to dodge the blows but they looked so tired and, of course, they were all chained together. It was impossible. What hope did they have. The Mezards seemed to be using them as slaves. They were being forced to drag huge lengths of searing hot metal, fresh from the furnace at one end of the cavern. It was white hot but the Mezards would not let them stop to let it cool and it burnt their skin into horrible red welts as they dragged it. 

“Are they Teegaas?” she asked. 
“You’ve met one?” he asked, surprised. She nodded.
“It was all burnt. There was fire pouring from it’s -“ she stopped, it was too horrible.
“They’re called Tikas” he said gruffly.
“But it said - ”
“Have you tried talking with lava in your throat?”
She was silent. This wasn’t the time to argue. Kaspian was looking back down into the cavern, assessing the situation. 

The little Tikas, crying shrilly, were spinning and tumbling around as quickly as they could, desperately avoiding the lick of the whips and the flames shooting from the LavaFall. The Mezards were relentless in their cruelty, catching Tikas when they least expected it and cackling loudly with pleasure when the whip made contact. At the furnace, other little Tikas were being forced to work huge forges, churning out objects of every kind. She could just make out, through the steam, a group of the Tikas struggling to operate a giant set of bellows. Eight or nine of them were jumping up to try and reach the great handle to bring it creaking down. Mezards hurled lumps of rock at them whilst they tried, laughing harshly at their exhausted efforts. Others were being kept in a giant metal cage that rotated ominously near the LavaFall. Tikas were packed into it so tightly that it was a wonder it didn’t burst open. She could see the marks on their skin where the metal, softened by the lava, burnt into them and hardened as the cage rotated away. Kaspian answered her unasked question, “that’s where they are supposed to sleep”. She felt sick. This had to stop. She had to make this stop.

A squealing shriek ripped through the air right beneath them. The Mezards had got hold of a Tika and were dragging it towards a lava channel. With a wrench, Hannah realised it was the very Tika who had saved her when she had first arrived.
“No - ” 
“Quiet.” Kaspian stopped her in a word. “You can’t help him. Nothing can. Keep your head down or we’ll go the same way?”
Kaspian glared and she fell silent, cursing, wishing, praying. It had saved her and now she could only watch. 

Her Tika was screaming, crying out with all it’s might but there was nothing it could do. It had been caught and now it would be punished. The Mezards tossed him between them, laughing, glorying in the fear they were extorting. They lowered him teasingly over the lava flow, just enough to singe his toes. One of the Mezards bounded forward, it was senseless, devoured by heartless glee. It scooped up some of the lava with its bare hands, which didn’t even scorch and trickled it onto the Tika’s face. The hissing noise as fire melted flesh was unbearable. 

“Please Kaspian” she said again. “Please”.
He looked at her again and she saw some of the pain she felt echoed on his own face but once again he shook his head.  The Tika was being lowered downwards. This was it. This was the end. As the lava began eating at the creatures toes, it let out one final harrowing scream. Hannah reached forward, desperate, wild. Then suddenly, quite without warning, everything stopped. A horn cried out from the other side of the cave and a Mezard patrol rushed in. A shout from their leader made the whole cave stop still. Silence rained down upon them all. Even the forge was holding its breath. Hannah glanced at Kaspian but he looked as confused as she did. He hadn’t been expecting this. What was going on? The torturers stopped and the little Tika shot off into a tunnel, leaving only a trail of smoke. 

All of the Mezards gathered together, abandoning their slaves, many of whom collapsed to the floor in exhaustion. The Mezard leader stood upon a raised platform and screeched a series of unintelligible proclamations to the crowd of gathered monsters. Hannah was perplexed.  
“What’s going on?” she mouthed to Kaspian. He shook his head and shrugged. For the first time, he knew as little as she did. She didn’t know why but this worried her just as much as what she had just witnessed. The leader was gesticulating furiously and the crowd was responding, angry threatening calls simmering from all sides. “They are frightened.” Kaspian had crawled towards her and was whispering in her ear. “I don’t know exactly what they’re saying but it sounds like they’ve found something. Something that’s worried them. You didn’t leave anything lying around did you?” He raised an eyebrow again. He was trying to mock her she could tell, but there was a touch of fear in his voice. This was bravado. “No, no I - ” she started but Kaspian cut her off with a hand over her mouth. He put his finger to his lip and nodded down towards the platform. The climax was approaching. The leader was reaching the end of his speech. Suddenly with a flourish of triumph he produced an object and held it high up above the snarling crowd. Hannah gasped out loud and Kaspian looked at her, wide-eyed. It was her iPhone. They were done for. 

For Chapter Seven - The Burning Bridge - click here

© Isla Robertson 2017