Sythyry (sythyry) wrote,
Sythyry
sythyry

Nexterie on Ixange 5: Steam Tunnels

We scrambled out the kitchen door, scuttering along the side of a dozen slightly disreputable buildings, trying to keep out of the dragon's eye. It did not wholly work. Xshaothshash boomed, "Tllith? Tllith, I trust your restaurant meal is going quite well! I trust that you are enjoying an appetizer course now, and not, perchance, seeking to avoid the financial and moral obligations inherent and explicit in the situation — too implicit to discuss!"

Xshaothshash's trust was misplaced, and also disturbing. I wondered what sorts of constraints were placed on the vast dragon's behavior, and whether it would take any sort of revenge for our perfectly normal and sensible actions.

Hditr, who seemed a bit familiar with such escapes, found a low and metallic mushroom of a building, whispered a prayer or magical incantation as she jerked a padlock, and popped a grated grille off one side of it. "Inside!" she hissed. "Slip into succulent safety, or I'm a sex-starved skeleton!"

Given that she wasn't the least bit skeletal, we slipped (Hditr), scampered (me) and sloughed (Eric) into the mushroom.

Which was a dark tangle of pipes and tubes and coils and wires! Blank metal boxes on the walls sprouted cables like tentacles and sent them creeping down below. Hoses breathed humid steam. Ductwork climbed and dove. A ladder beckoned, leading below.

We climbed into its depths, and wandered about for hours in corridors lit only by my fire breath and my glitter breath.

"Are we lost?" I asked Hditr after a short time.

"I hope so," she said.

I knocked away the beard and moustache of ice that had grown on my cold-breathing left head. That always happens in humid places, and the steam tunnels were very humid.

"Are we lost?" I asked Hditr after a less short time.

"I hope not," she said.

I knocked away the beard and moustache of ice that had grown on my cold-breathing left head. That always happens in humid places, and the steam tunnels were very humid.

"Are we lost?" I asked Hditr after a distinctly non-short time.

"Strongasmically," she said. "Let's take the next sloggish staircase up that we find."

Which would have been much more reassuring if we had actually found any staircases going up ever in the whole escape.

I knocked away the beard and moustache of ice that had grown on my cold-breathing left head. That always happens in humid places, and the steam tunnels were very humid.

"Are we lost?" I asked Hditr after a thoroughly long time.

"Hey! There's a little light in the luminous long-way-off! That means we're not lost!" she said.

The light pointed towards us, a stabbing beam of ferocious sharp cyanotic brilliance. "Hey! What are you doing down here with a blowtorch?" demanded a ferocious sharp badgery voice.

"We're lost as limp lomberjees!," shouted Hditr.

"Well, that's no excuse for waving a cutting flame around. You might cut something!" said the voice.

"I'm careful!", I said with my middle head. "My breath's not that hot if I just breathe a little!"

The badger-woman with the light-lance came closer. She was taller and more slender than Hditr, and wore a dull green tunic and wide orange leather belt covered with pockets and tools and apparatuses and devices and gizmos, with the occasional gadget here and there. She held a stabbing-light box in one hand, and a boxy thing with metal and knobs that was probably a devastating mystical weapon in the other. "Huh," she said eloquently. "A badger, a human, and a ... talking ... pet ... thing. That burps up an oxyacetylene torch blade."

"I'm Hditr Durkümkrãg, of Nurki," said Hditr, and bowed so deeply that her ears brushed the floor and her tail pointed at the ceiling.

"Trocky," she said. («Language» explained that her full name is probably "Trohitabel", but might be "Etrockila" or even "Trockista", or, if she is tremendously unlucky, "Trockomat".) "What are you doing here, if you're not trying to sabotage the plumbing?"

"Well, that's a slingerslong of a story there," said Hditr. "Do you know the dragon at Norshub?"

Trocky snorted. "Xshit, or whatever his name is? He give you trouble?"

"I am trained in the arts of prophecy, omen-ogling, and futuristic foretelling! And unless I botch my blearly bet, Xshaothshash was about to declare us guilty of something or other, and fine us everything we own," says Hditr.

Trocky nodded. "Don't believe in prophecy here, but you got that right. You must be tourists. Xshit does that a lot to tourists."

"We are tourists — travellers — tumblers along the worldways — tall-tellers from wonderous worlds both possible and impossible!" proclaimed Hditr. "We're also as lost as limp losers. I would give an 'ordinary' to the badger-woman who showed us the way out."

"Heh. Make that a 'standard' and you're on," said Trocky. Her ears stood up high, which «Language» said was a good sign.

Hditr grinned. "A 'standard' it shall be, and of my best! Lead on, O ship of state!"

Trocky took us through a metal door marked "Authorized Persons Only", down a corridor marked "Danger!", through another door marked "Deadly Perils Lurk Herein!", to where vast engines groaned and labored in darkness.

"Why are they holding hands?" whispered Eric.

"I don't know," I told him. "Balance, maybe?"

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