Down To The Underworld
Demetrius wanted to be a hero. One of the old style heroes he used to hear about around the fire with the old men. He wanted to do battle with the will of the gods and to rescue beautiful princesses. The problem was, there was very little that kind of thing going on around him. As far as he could tell, there were no monsters, no disasters, and no vengeful gods throwing people about the place. Life could be difficult but then you didn’t need divine hands for that. The only way he could see to get some excitement into his life would be to join the army with the other young men. The problem was, he had not yet reached the age of majority when that would be a possibility. So for the time being he was stuck there left to his own devices. Not that he didn’t make the most of it.
In the hills near the village was a wide, deep cave which everyone was told to keep away from. Demetrius was fascinated by it but was always prevented from acting on his desire to enter it. Didn’t stop him trying though.
Now luck would have it that there were a great many sheep and shepherds living in these hills and some sheep would go missing from time to time. Whenever that happened; the people of the village would be asked help to track down the wayward animal. One time it happened that a sheep went missing near the mouth of the cave and while a search was being organised, Demetrius took it upon himself to search the cave.
No one else paid much attention to him as he left the village with the rest in the direction of the hills. The candles and rope he held with him wear hidden under his cloak so everyone else would be the wiser. The figured if he found nothing no one would be the wiser, and if he did find the sheep then nobody will ask questions. He could hope that anyway.
As soon as he was clear from the others he headed straight for the cave entrance. The ground was soft and well-worn right at its lip and Demetrius had no difficulty entering. Lighting one of his candles he used its flickering light to navigate his way into the darkness.
There was not much there, only rocks and the occasional pile of what might have been bones. Demetrius had heard that some animals live in caves; big, dangerous animals, but there were no signs of them. There were strange noises. Deep movements of air, that Demetrius tried to convince himself were the movements of the wind and not the breath of some monster.
The deeper he went the more unsure of himself Demetrius felt. Still he had gone this far, he couldn’t go back. The rock ceiling came lower and lower, forcing him to first bend and then almost get down on his knees to pass through. It was hard going but the physical exertion made him forget about any mental reservations he might have had about what he was doing.
Holding the candle in front of him as he squeezed himself through the thinnest part of the rock tunnel. He noticed the flame flicker. He held deadly still and watched the burning wick. It wavered again. Something ahead was moving.
Demetrius pulled himself through the tunnel and was relieved when the rock began to recede from his back and head. Finally able to stand again he stretched himself and surveyed where he was. The place was empty save for himself and the wavering light of the candle. The walls were bare without even a misplaced rock on the ground. The tunnel continued before him into the darkness.
Well not quite darkness. At the farthest reaches of the tunnel he could see a faint blue light in the distance. It was the colour of sky and it intrigued Demetrius. He stepped along the rock floor of the tunnel getting faster as he got closer. He was half way to where the light was strongest when he noticed there was something on the ground. From where he was looking it seemed like the bundles of fleece that the shepherds would bring to market. But then he realised; it was a sheep.
Reaching the animal he found the mark on the coat that confirmed it was the missing animal. It was in a bad way. Its breathing was very shallow as if the life was being taken out of it. It was then that Demetrius noticed that there was something very unusual about the light. If didn’t seem to come from anywhere; it just appeared around the sheep.
As he tried to think through his confusion. The animal’s breathing stopped, dead. The blue light then started to dim. No! Rather gather up into a single place. In front of Demetrius’ own eyes the light formed a blob that grew limbs and a head, far from human but a recognisable approximation.
It had eyes that stared straight at Demetrius and a mouth that grinned and moved with no sound. Instead a voice was heard right in the young boys head. In confusion and terror he listened to the apparition speak.
“Hello young master” It said “I have been waiting a long time for you.”
Demetrius’ terror only increased. He stumbled a question. “What? What do you mean?”
The apparition continued “I was banished here to the underworld by the gods many years ago. Without my powers I was forced to scrabble what energy I could from the life that would fall down here from above. But that is a paltry meal for such as me. What I really need is a being with a soul. One who seeks adventure. With that kind of power. I will be able to break my bonds and once again rule.”
The apparition began to deform and moved inexorably towards Demetrius wrapping around him already starting to suck away his consciousness. He stayed awake just long enough to hear the apparition, it must have been a demon speak again “They were wise to ban going into the caves. But there is always one who will ignore the words of wisdom. It is a great irony that they are the ones who will feed me best. I thank you for your gift young master, even if it is not willing. In return I take your life now so you will not see what I do to the world above. That is all the kindness one such as me can give.”
The final thought in Demetrius’ mind before it was completely consumed was that he had found adventure, found a great monster to defeat. But that he had found that to defeat them was far more dangerous, far more impossible than the elders had ever told him. That they had lied.