360 CCCLX. Reaching The Surface
Dag paused for a moment to reflect, having not thought of this detail.
When most warriors managed to climb, he tied the rope to his belt and along with his woman climbed into the tunnel.
In the initial stretch, the slope was slightly sub vertical, but the smooth and uncut surface of the rocks allowed them to crawl over it with ease.
After more than a hundred meters traveled in this way, following the natural curves in the rock, the diameter of the tunnel began to become narrower and narrower, until they too reached the crossroads.
Above their heads, droplets of water permeated the cracks in the rocks, dripping on them, and the lingering stench of enclosure and moisture became less and less bearable.
Two holes opened in front of them: a larger one on the right, which would probably lead them to the underground lake and a narrower one to the left, as in the description of the soldiers who had climbed earlier.
They went to the left, struggling into the strait, helping themselves with their arms, and leaving the torch on the ground for a few seconds, being careful not to place it in a pool of water.
"I wonder if Master Sander will be able to get through this... he's a lot bigger than me and even I'm having a hard time" Dag said, who was the first in line.
Freydis chuckled, dampening the tension of the moment and without any difficulty entered the left cavity, being careful to keep her spear below a certain height, knowing that if its tip had touched the ceiling, it would have risked getting stuck.
Dag's torch continued to illuminate the tunnel in front of them until the voices of the soldiers who had arrived on the other side became clearer.
Step by step, partially covered by moss and slime, grown undisturbed among the basalts, both warriors arrived in the final stretch of the tunnel, decidedly narrower than the initial one and finally managed to get out, crawling out of the hole and trying to rest their hands downwards, not to suffer damage from the small elevation gap.
When they rose to their feet, the torches of the other soldiers who had already arrived at their destination, illuminated the second cave, slightly smaller than the one below.
"Master Dag, near this wall you can hear an air current! We believe the exit is in this direction!" Terje said, who along with a group of soldiers had a few more minutes to explore the place.
"Great observation, Terje. Have you already tried to enter that tunnel?" Dag asked, pointing to a large indentation in the wall, which appeared to have been artificially constructed.
"Negative, sir. We were waiting for your orders!" the Berserkr replied diligently, showing a strong sense of respect for his Master.
"Let me take a look then. Before we move, we'll wait until everyone is in the cave" Dag continued, approaching Freydis with the other warriors, waiting for his word.
He looked around, then spied inside the gallery, imagining the path Claire's captors might have taken, who probably, after hearing her arrive, had dragged her forcefully out of the hole into the wall and cut the rope, preventing her from escaping and taking her away from the cave.
"Actually this seems to be the only exit. We have to be careful because surely Claire's kidnappers have walked the same path" he said, thinking about the spaces.
In the meanwhile, Egill and all the others popped out of the tunnel and with some difficulty, Sander was the last to enter the cave, aided by two soldiers who pulled him out, trying to prevent his belly from blocking his advance.
"Uff! What a struggle! Well, are we all there?" the Master Of Defense asked, standing up and cleaning up his armor, of which he was forced to get rid of, tying it to his ankles, being it too big and heavy to pass through the tunnel.
"I think so. Master Dag, are we ready to proceed? Which way?" Egill said, trying not to waste any more time.
Dag, having made sure that all the Masters and the soldiers were in front of him, pointed to the second tunnel to be covered, which they believe would lead to the surface.
Without hesitation and lining up in an orderly row, the troops of soldiers walked inside the tunnel, coming out of the cave two at a time.
On the walls there were obvious signs of pickaxes, indicating that the cave had been dug by hand, also because its corridors were lined with some torch supports along the wall, which judging by the rust, seemed to be unused for many years.
"This way" Dag continued, who opened the line, with the torch in one hand and the Giantbane in the other, ready to defend himself and his woman, who was walking beside him.
The road continued for more than three hundred meters and after yet another curve, a gust of cold air froze the bones of the warriors, who tried to cover themselves and retain the heat.
The water vapor produced by their breath became denser and denser when they finally came out of the tunnel and found themselves on the surface.
Around them, a vast expanse of snow and ice stretched for miles, and the cold wind that carried snow and a slight rain made the view limited to a few meters.
"Fuck! You can't see anything up here!" Gridd said, covering her face with her arm and squinting, trying to focus on anything other than a rock or a snow pile.
"Which way, Master Dag?" Sander asked, who all of a sudden seemed to rely entirely on the instinct of his young colleague.
He looked up, trying to see the Sun, so he could orient himself.
Despite the weather, an opaque and slight luminous sphere stood still in the sky and could not light up the landscape, which seemed to be timeless, preventing Dag and his companions from understanding what time it was, whether it was afternoon or evening.