Rhemos helped Solome’ gather what he would need for the trip into Lindar. They grabbed the saddlebags from his horse and Rhemos loaded them onto the langran.
“What about my horse?” Solome’ was very fond of his loyal companion.
“I’ll have one of my men take care of him. We have a friend not far from here that watches over a small herd of horses for us. He will take good care of yours until it’s time for you to leave.”
“I didn’t think Lindarian’s used horses?” Solome’ said as he studied the large langran.
“We believe in being prepared.” Rhemos patted the large langran’s neck. “These magnificent creatures are unmatched in the water. Their speed and agility is amazing. But out of the water they are cumbersome, and the time that they can spend out of the water is very limited.”
“Are there wild langrans? Ones that are not in service to your people?”
“No. The langran’s were actually on the verge of dying out when our people discovered them. Through careful breeding we returned them to a thriving species, but they are all tame.”
Solome’ walked alongside the langran. His hand slid along the smooth skin as he walked. He closed his eyes and tried to imagine what the skin felt like, but it was very unique. As his hand slid down the side of the great beast, the langran’s head lowered and the lids of his eyes fell halfway.
“It seems you’ve made a new friend.” Rhemos said with a smile.
“Well I have a feeling I’m about to put my life in his hands.”
“That you are my friend.” Rhemos mounted the langran as Solome’ watched. It looked easy enough. Rhemos simply put his left hand on the back of the langran’s neck as he stepped onto the knee of the langran with his right foot. Then he steadied himself as he walked along the upper thigh of the langran and then mounted himself behind the langran’s neck, much like a horse. “Your turn.” Rhemos said as he motioned to Solome’.
Solome’ placed his left hand on the back of the langran’s neck. It felt wet, but it wasn’t. As he raised his right leg to step up, he lost his grip and fell to the ground. The corners of Rhemos’ mouth widened, but he fought laughing for Solome’s sake. Solom’e was on his back and had propped himself up on his elbows. “Well, that didn’t work out so good.”
“Don’t be afraid to grip the neck tight. You cannot hurt the langran, he is too strong and his skin is thick.” Rhemos motioned with his hand to the neck of the langran. Solome’ stood and tried again. This time he gripped the neck firmly, stepped quickly and was behind Rhemos in a moment. “Very good.” Rhemos smiled. Then he grabbed the reigns and gently tugged, and the langran stood to it’s feet.
Solome’s hands quickly grabbed onto the small saddle that Rhemos was sitting in. “They don’t look this high from the ground.” Solome’ could feel his stomach turning.
“Don’t worry my friend, you are quite safe. Release the saddle.” Rhemos said encouragingly.
“If it’s all the same, I think I’ll hold on for now.” Solome’ was trying to get used to the sensation of riding so high off the ground.
“Trust me...release the saddle.”
There was a bit of inquisitiveness in Rhemos’ voice. Perhaps this would open another Lindarian secret. Solome’ released his grip and brought his hands to his side.
“See, it’s not that bad.”
Solome’ grinned, “No, it isn’t.”
Suddenly, Rhemos reached around and pushed Solome’ off the langran’s back. Solome’ tried to react, but he was too far off and couldn’t grip the saddle. He was falling off backwards which allowed him to see Rhemos. Solome’s heart was pounding. He wondered why Rhemos had pushed him off. Rhemos just smiled at him as he fell. He seemed to fall forever. His eyes closed tight as he braced himself for the impact. Then he felt something under him. Like a giant hand was stopping his fall. Then he was traveling back up towards Rhemos. The langran had caught him with his head and was lifting him back to the saddle.
Now Rhemos was laughing. Solome’, safely back on the langran, was breathing deeply to catch his breath. Unable to form a whole sentence, he managed an abbreviated one. “Why?”
“Well you wouldn’t have voluntarily fallen, and I wanted you to see how the langran would react.”
“Next time.” That was all Solome’ could manage before taking another deep breath.
“No worries my friend, that lesson is over.” Rhemos smiled.
Solome’ was glad for the statement but found Rhemos’ emphasis on the word ‘that’ to be a bit unsettling. Rhemos pulled back on the reigns and the langran eased into the water. Now they were riding about ten feet above the water line, a distance that gave Solome’ much comfort. He could feel the powerful muscles of the langran contracting under him as the beast used it’s massive legs to propel them through the water. His breathing was returning to normal and he was enjoying the ride. Unlike a horse galloping, there was hardly a sound to their motion through the water.
“Amazing.” Solome’s eyes were wide and his mouth hung open.
Rhemos turned slightly to see his friends expression. “Yes, it is.” Rhemos answered simply. “Apparently your friends are still traveling with you.” Rhemos noticed the way the langran was looking towards the sky as if watching something, but it remained calm. “They are able to see or sense the presence of supernatural beings. If you remember, it was the langran that alerted us to the presence of the drakan’s the last time you were here.”
“Yes, I remember.”
As the two men talked, the shinling’s that were following Solome’ flew around the head of the langran playfully.
“So what happens when we go under the water?” Solome’ asked. “We are going under?”
Rhemos’ nodded. “The langran is a very unique creature.” Rhemos said as he tenderly caressed the back of the langran’s neck. “You see this?” He stopped his hand just under what appeared to be a fold of skin on the back of it’s neck.
Solome’ leaned forward and touched the odd area. Rhemos continued. “That is a membrane flap. When the langran submerges, it will open this flap and extend a membrane over us.”
“How odd.” Solome’ replied. “What is the purpose of this membrane?” Rhemos looked at Solome’ inquistively and his eyes squinted. “I mean when there aren’t riders on their backs. What purpose does the membrane serve the langran?”
Rhemos’ head lifted and he nodded. “They use it for their young. Baby langran’s ride on the backs of their parents. Until the young learn how to hold their breath for long periods of time, the parents use the membrane to be able to stay submerged.” Solome’ simply nodded. Then Rhemos slapped the side of the langran’s neck. The large flap opened and a huge translucent membrane shot out and over the two men. It was elongated from side to side and appeared to have some type of cartilege structure that acted as support arches over the men’s heads. The sides of the membrane fell and adhered to the body of the langran. “Hold on!” Rhemos called out.
Solome’ gripped the back of the saddle as he felt the massive muscles heave under him. The langran’s long neck shot down into the water and it’s body followed. Solome’s eyes grew wide as the langran submerged. As soon as they were underwater, he could feel the langran relax under him. The massive paddle-like feet made smooth easy strokes from front to back. It was obvious to Solome’ that the langran was in it’s element under the water. There was no sense of clumsiness or awkwardness. The massive beast glided through the water as if dancing with a lover.
The deep blue water was clear and the lake was teaming with all kinds of different aquatic life. Some of the underwater creatures looked harmless, while others looked at him as if he would make a tasty meal. But in these waters, the langran was king. Even the nastiest looking creatures gave a clear path for the langran as it swam. They continued to descend deeper into the lake. Solome’ looked up and noticed that the surface was becoming less distinguishable.
They continued to dive deeper into the cool blue water. He looked below and noticed a slight glow that seemed to be emitting from the bottom of the lake. “What is that?” he asked Rhemos.
“That is home.” Rhemos smiled. “That is Lindar.”
The deeper they dove, the bigger the glow became. Soon it stretched as far as he could see. But it wasn’t the bottom of the lake that was glowing, rather there were shafts of the greenish blue light escaping from rocky outcroppings and lighting the water. As they got closer, he could see that the bottom of the lake resembled an underwater chain of mountains. There were many openings in the rocks that appeared to be portals of some sort. He pointed towards one nearby. “What is that?”
“A window.” Rhemos turned over his right left shoulder as he answered. Then he pointed to a larger opening further down in the rocks. “That is an entrance, but it’s not the one we will be going in.” As the langran glided by the large opening, Solome’ could see people walking around inside. A few of them stopped and took notice of the langran and its cargo.
“What keeps the water out?” Solome’ asked with his brow furrowed.
Rhemos smiled. “You’ll see.” Then he pointed to another big opening not too far away. “That is where we’re headed.”
Solome’ stretched his neck out to see where he was pointing. As he looked a langran with a rider shot out of the large opening and headed towards the surface.
“A lookout.” Rhemos said, anticipating the question. Solome’ nodded. The opening looked like a large cave. It was plenty big enough for the langran to enter. It was recessed into the side of the huge underwater mountain. A large landing area of smooth stone preceded the entrance to the cave. The langran slowed its approach and came to rest on the smooth stone landing. Then it walked through the entrance.
As they entered the cave, Solome’ could see a thin membrane between the water and the people inside. The light was very strong now and seemed to be coming from above the inside of the cave. Several Lindarians were gathered to welcome them. As they entered the cave, the langran stetched it’s head out and penetrated the membrane which seemed to form a seal on its body much the same as the membrane that protected them on their ride down. As they walked through, the membrane slid along the body of the langran, maintaining a water tight seal all the way.
When they were safely through the cave membrane, the langran retracted the protective membrane into the neck flap. Solome’ was immediately struck by the freshness of the air. He had expected dank and musty but was pleasantly surprised by the refreshing air. The langran squatted and Rhemos walked down the leg and onto the cave floor. Solome’ followed closely behind. Rhemos greeted several of the men and then introduced Solome’. They welcomed him, but their bodies were stiff as they shook his hand. The spirited welcome that Rhemos received seemed to ebb as they welcomed Solome’.
Solome’ realized that he was seeing something that no outsider had ever seen, Lindar. His head bowed slightly as he greeted each man. This was a historic moment and Solome’ was overwhelmed with the honor of the moment. Rhemos placed his hand on Solome’s shoulder, “Welcome to Lindar.” His greeting was followed by that of his fellow Lindarians. “Welcome to Lindar.” Now they bowed towards Solome’. He looked at Rhemos who motioned with his left hand. The two began to walk deeper into the cavern. Solome’ could now see the source of the light. The top of the cavern was glowing brilliantly with a blueish green light.
As he looked closer, he noticed that the source of the light seemed to be moving. His right hand came up and pointed towards the movement.
“We call it Ashai.” Rhemos said as he looked up at the glowing top of the cavern.
“What is it?” Solome’ asked.
“It is a plant that grows in the rock. It is the source of our light, it is a food source for the langran’s, and it produces the air you are breathing.” Rhemos spoke with honor.
“How does it grow? How does it survive down here?”
“Down here is the only place you will find it. It’s roots grow deep into the rock. Running through the rock of these caverns are veins of molten rock.”
“Lava?” Solome’ asked.
“Yes.” Rhemos answered and continued. “The lava comes up from the depths of Evanescia and courses through these underwater caverns. The Ashai grows in abundance here because the lava is rich in nutrients and it warms the rock to a perfect temperature for the Ahai to grow.”
Solome’ managed to take a few more steps, but he continued to look up in amazement. He stumbled and Rhemos caught his arm. “Your neck will be quite sore in the morning if you don’t stop careening it like a langran.”
Solome’ laughed. His right hand gripped the back of his neck and gently massaged the stiff muscle. “You’re right.” Then he lifted his head once again. “It’s just so beautiful.”
Rhemos smiled and placed his hand on his shoulder. “This is nothing.” He motioned with his right hand for Solome’ to walk ahead and Solome’ could see an immense glow just around the corner.