019 Those Who Watch the Sky - 19

 19 – Children Wandering Under the Sky 3

With Melody choosing to stop using her flight for the benefit of the group travel become much more difficult for Link and Elliot. Especially so as the river they followed cut deeper and deeper into the rock becoming as a chasm. Dependent on the river as their primary source of fresh water in the Icaran wastes the group was forced to tread the banks of the river chasm exposing themselves to more and more monsters who also desired access to the fresh water. These unavoidable encounters slowed the group even further and while constant battle was proving beneficial to Elliot’s health the same could not be said of Link even as it seemed the Foreigner that infected her made up for her lack of vegetative nutrition.

What had been hour long stretches of land with Melody scouting out ahead from the air became as days and the shadows that replaced Link’s flesh continued to eat away at her mercilessly. Her best efforts to minimize the spread of her infection proved for naught for careful as she tried to be she could not keep her hands away from her lower half indefinitely and the shadows had taken her hands as well. There was no ignoring the spread of her infection either as she had taken to carrying her sword in hand rather than from her shoulder in the vain hope of controlling the spread of the infection. By the time that the group came within eyesight of something unique the shadows had reached the base of her ribs and elbows with even the tips of her were hair becoming the same shadowy flames that marked the edge of her infection. Her clothes had been consumed as well to the point that barely any of her tunic and undershirt remained though by sheer force of will or luck her modesty from the waist down was preserved and though seemingly naked she did not appear quite as such. Link had grown unconcerned about her modesty however and had become more dedicated to the task at hand which with night falling meant that it would not be until morning that they would see what it was that stood out in the river chasm ahead of them.

“Hey Link! ~ Elliot! ~ I think that’s a structure! ~

Waking with the first light of day Melody turned her eyes down the chasm and into the fog that rose with the sun. She had no way to prove that what she saw was a structure under the circumstances but the uniformity of the shadow’s through the fog left her hopeful for Link and Elliot and she woke them enthusiastically from their slumber.

“Huh… a wha…?”

Link was groggy as she rose and nearly touched her face to rub the sleep from her eyes but was stopped as Elliot snagged her wrist. Turning her groggy gaze onto him she tilted her head questioningly.

“You may only be half awake Link, but you need to be more careful…”

Eyes widening with realization and rapidly waking fully, Link looked at her hand and was held captive by the thoughts of what she almost did. Swallowing loudly she pulled her hand away from Elliot and grabbed her sword from where it lay beside her. Standing up she took a deep, unsteady breath and started walking towards the distant shadow that had captured Melody’s attention. Elliot watched her concernedly but said nothing as she spoke up.

“You said it might be a structure Melody? How can you even tell with all of that fog?”

“I don’t think it’s fog Link. Hmm… More like mist, maybe. ~

Falling into stride beside Link, Melody offered her a smile as she tried to explain. Her explanation was not particularly good however and Link gave Melody a quizzical look.

“Isn’t that pretty much the same thing?”

“Um… not really…? ~

“Perhaps you meant to imply a fine ‘spray’ Melody?”

Bringing up the rear Elliot offered his own explanation as to what Melody was trying to say.

“Maybe…? ~

“I think you need to find yourself something to eat Melody.”

“Not if it means leaving you and Elliot alone or discovering what’s up ahead without you two!”

The suggestion of seeking out food surprisingly irritated Melody and Link could not hide her confusion even despite the harpy’s insistence of sharing in the adventure. Before Link could put a question into words however Elliot commented on his own observations.

“I have to wonder though Link, just how far would Melody have to travel to find food? We haven’t seen any signs of life since midday yesterday. We were even able to sleep without keeping watch.”

The group exchanged concerned looks for a moment before Link pouted displeased.

“You’re not making things sound good Elliot. We were all able to sleep straight through the night for a change and considering how long we’ve been walking without a real break I think that’s a good thing.”

“It is, though I still disagree with us not having taken shifts.”

“Ugh~! It was just one night Elliot. And now if we really do have a structure ahead of us we likely won’t get that chance again for a while.”

“You don’t think it’s a town Link? It’d explain the lack of monsters wouldn’t it?”

In a reversal of roles Melody took her turn turning a quizzical gaze onto Link. Link did not provide an immediate answer to the harpy’s question though as she studied the cliffs of the river chasm. Melody and Elliot also both raised their eyes to the cliffs that were untouched by life of either flesh or plant. The quiet that accompanied that lack of life beyond the gurgling of the river was every bit as unsettling as the visual.

“It would be nice to think it’s a town, but even if it is…”

“…You’d expect signs of Pilgrims of Atheaeldre at least.”

With her thought finished by Elliot, Link offered him a nod of confirmation. Despite her obvious concern an excited smile came to her lips.

“But you two know what…? If it is a structure and it’s abandoned…!”

“Ahh~! ~

“Calm down you two. We don’t have time to delve into a ruin.”

Not sharing in the excitement of Link and Melody, Elliot attempted to be the voice of reason. It was a wasted effort though as Link’s eyes had already started shimmering with anticipation. Leveling Elliot with those shimmering eyes of hers, Link held up her fists excitedly.

“But Elliot we’re already heading there and considering that we don’t have any food and the condition I’m in…!”

“You’re not going to guilt me into it Link.”

“But you know you want to…”

“That’s beside the point.”

“And if there’s a plant…”

The possibility of a plant brought Elliot to a stop as his eyes widened to the possibilities that held. Knowing that she had won a smile spread across Link’s face and she turned to Melody who smiled brightly in return. An instant later she jumped up in joy before running towards what she hoped was a structure.

“Finally! I’ve dreamt about exploring a ruin for years! I can’t wait!”

“Honestly Link…”

Though he criticized Link and shook his head, Elliot still smiled and made chase alongside Melody. Like them he did indeed desired to explore a ruin and the possibility of a ruin housing technology that could benefit their efforts to survive was one he could not ignore. As it was he did not know how he continued to manage to hold on against his own Foreigner infection but knew at least he refused to give in while Link could still be saved. Whether or not what lay ahead could potentially lead to Link’s salvation could not be determined without venturing forth however and discovering what awaited them.

What awaited the group and the possibilities it truly held would take them until late morning to even start to guess at though come midday they were astounded. The chasm opened up into a massive amphitheater of the combined efforts of man and nature. The center of the enormous space was a churning fountain of rock and a violent pool that was the head of not just the river they followed but two more that carved their way into flanking chasms to either side of them. The pool was itself fed from a powerful waterfall that fell from hundreds of feet above not through corroded rock face but a manmade damn. Flanking the hundreds of feet wide dam were a pair of statue’s nearly half the structure’s height in the form of a woman with long hair garbed only in flowing ribbons. Like the dam however the statues had seen significant wear and the arms that reached between them were incomplete. Damaged as the statues and dam were though the statues were as recognizable to the group as the remnants of the two crosses that adorned the face of the dam and would have formed a “Y” shape with a third had the dam not been corroded by the waterfall.

“It’s a temple to Ocia! Ha, ha! And look! Look! There’s plant life on top of the cliff.”

Overwhelmed by the sight of the ancient temple, Link squealed and laughed with delight as she ran out into the amphitheater. Elliot and Link could only chase after her but did their best to note the structure and the plant life that flourished atop the insurmountable cliff. The contrast with the lifeless amphitheater gave Elliot and Melody pause but Link would not stop until she reached the edge of the river beach and was left unable to proceed past the churning fountain of certain death. Stopped as she was though she was still excited and could not contain her joyous fidgeting.

“It’s amazing! ~” And it’s so much taller than the cliffs around your town! ~

“It is a sight to behold. And to think growing up in a town that paid the water goddess almost no heed she would be the one to appear before us.”

Compared to Link and Melody, Elliot’s amazement was much more subdued. He was however grinning ear to ear as he took in the sight of the combination of dam and temple. Even worn down by time and water immeasurable the monolithic structure was breathtaking. Having arrived so close to it even the remnants of the intricate designs worked into the face of the dam had become visible and it was almost impossible not to marvel at it. The only problem that remained however was reaching it as there were no signs of any way to cross the violent head of three rivers from the center river they had followed to this point.

“Any idea how we get there now Link?”

“I don’t have a clue! But give me a little bit and I’ll think of something! Right now…! Right now I just want to embrace this! It’s our first real discovery and I am so excited that I can’t think at all!”

It was an easy feeling to sympathize with and Elliot and Melody did not criticize Link’s reaction in the least. Instead they too chose to marvel with her at the mighty structure before them and relish an experience the likes they could have never had in the sleepy little town of Cross.

Copyright © 2019 Joshua D Tarwater


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