075 Encounters · 10
hain could have sworn that she was by herself going forward as she could barely see Finch’s Dolmen clinging onto the abyss wall from where she fought in the dark. Alit by the sparks of ringing steel Chain’s determined pout demonstrated her refusal to give in. Finch was in a similar life or death situation as her, a determined look upon her face as she thrust the end of her Dolmen’s handless right arm directly into the wall she clung to. Puling down and out a plethora of holographic screens and keypads, she desperately entered commands while looking inside to where Chain and Zhenir fought. Chain was being thrown about with only her acrobatics keeping her in the fight.
“I really should have fought harder for those head mounted guns. Hold on Miss Chain…”
As worried as Finch was about Chain, above her, the five lead nuns of their expedition for the Lucifalz hidden within Deep Root Colony along with Squawk and Maye looked over the edge she had leapt from. The sight of Finch’s Dolmen clinging on so desperately moved Maye to cry out.
She was about to gallop off but stopped as she watched Squawk walk up to the edge. Looking at her he smiled behind his beak with pride and fear both.
“That isn’t how you shout, idiot. I can demonstrate and perhaps buy that idiot below time to run.”
Watching Squawk take a deep breath, Maye’s eyes widened and she reached out a hand.
“Don’t! If you unleash that weapon now…”
Maye did not finish her sentence as she looked out at Finch’s Dolmen below. She did not have to finish as Squawk fully understood her reason and threw his hands up as he yelled at her.
“I understand you don’t want to lose the Dolmen pilot, but I don’t want to lose the idiot who didn’t listen to me and have to deal with her haunting me.”
“I doubt we would have reason to haunt you.”
Squawk nearly jumped as Chain’s voice came up behind him and he had to turn to realize it was Drop and not Chain. Irritably he yelled at the smaller version of the same person even if he didn’t quite realize it.
“Don’t sneak up on me you idiot! You frightened me half to death!”
“Well, that’s the state we we’ll be in if my larger self is not aided. Fortunately, I believe that the three of us can help each other out.”
“I am not so faithless that I would turn to you, devil.”
Even with Finch in danger and Chain’s life on the line, Maye could not put aside her disdain for spirits. Drop did not appreciate the centaur’s attitude at such a time and pouted as she thrust her fists down at her sides.
“Your faith is why you are being so blind! I told we are not wild ones or dark ones! Our song is one with the servants of the Children of Ocia! If you follow those joined by that human who once walked Ambrosia, then we are allies even beyond this current mess! So listen to me, please! We can help them if we stop fighting with each other!”
The target of Drop’s yelling may have been Maye, but she was right next to Squawk who ended up responding.
“I would appreciate it if you did not yell in my ear, you idiot.”
“You are going to complain about people yelling!”
“Yes, because unlike you I’m willing to listen.”
Maye’s mocking indignation was washed away in a second as Squawk shut her down with a stare. She was still highly emotional however and tried to argue with the young nāti man.
“You are a Pilgrim of Athealdre are you not⁈ Why would you listen to that devil⁈”
“Because the life of Lady Atheaeldre is supported by the Waters of Ocia, you fool! How many times must this idiot tell you that she is affiliated with Ocia before you understand⁈ It is obvious that the teachings of the Cardinal Church are not at all as accurate as we are led to believe, especially after this idiot’s mention of torture at their hands! Where is that legendary compassion that unifies all under the Saint’s Light⁈ Hmph‼ I’m done with you!”
Crossing his arms, Squawk turned his back on Maye and turned his full attention onto Drop who was smiling awkwardly.
“And what exactly is your problem? At least one of us here are listening to you.”
“Well… It’s just that I said we need all three of us.”
“You better start explaining fast you idiot!”
“Well, we are the same person, even if we are fragmented enough to be different people entirely it seems, but we are one person. That means if you cast support magic on me it’ll affect the me that is further away.”
“That sounds rather brilliant actually. So how does that make us need the centaur?”
“The effects will be better the closer we are, and we will likely need her speed to stand any chance of catching up.”
“Absurd! I’m too small to carry a person, even one as short as this here nāti. And I also lack the strength to do so because of my size.”
“But you carried us when you saved us from those two Sa·B·ers over a tenday ago.”
“We have heard enough Sister Maye.”
Surprising everyone, the five nuns who made up the lead party venturing into Deep Root Colony cut off Maye. Looking at their stern expressions with shock, Maye was unprepared for what they had to say.
“We are here to retrieve the Light in Lady Cardinal’s name. Your actions would deprive us of a Sa·B·er possessed of it–”
Hearing the nuns say it, Squawk finally realized that Chain was possessed of Light. It should have set in sooner but not getting killed had taken over his thoughts. As a result, his shock kept him to one word to express his realization and he failed to further interrupt the nuns who kept talking as though he had.
“– As for your strength, we can supplement that with magic, and you know it.”
“We can also cast a few support spells on the spirit, but the pilgrim will need to maintain them if we are to save Daughter Finch and the Chainmaid.”
“Your disdain for spirits is becoming legendary aboard the Chapel Sister Maye, but to accomplish our mission you will have to swallow your pride for now.”
Wanting to argue, but also save Finch, Maye looked out again at her helplessly dangling junior. She seemed to be stable enough for now, but an arrow of light emerging from a nearby opening in the wall caught her eye. Her heart sank knowing that such a fierce battle raged on and could dislodge the Dolmen at any time. With tears in her eyes and through gritted teeth she finally muttered her compliance.
Her muttering gave way to a teary-eyed shout and Maye snapped her head back onto the nuns, Squawk, and Drop. Yelling, her tone of voice made it clear that she was not pleased even as she understood that she had no choice.
“Do what you must! I will not and cannot jeopardize everyone’s lives for my pride and fear!”
The nuns were quick to get their spells in effect and Maye was soon off with Squawk upon her back with Drop resting in his hands. The spells upon her left her glowing brightly as Squawk kept his Ambrosial gate open, feeding a continuous supply of Nectar through his body into hers to sustain the spells. As close as they seemed, those spells did not have a strong effect on Chain, but she noticed them and their effects growing.
“Sorry about this, but looks like I’m cheating.”
Bloodied and battered, Chain’s bright-eyed smile seemed inappropriate behind the long bow of pure light she carried, an arrow of light notched to it with her sword held by the pommel in a reverse grip. She let fly the arrow and Zhenir dodged it easily and closed the distance between him and Chain in a blink.
“At this point it doesn’t matter Chainmaid. Your death is assured, though the light you wield seems only a sliver compared to what I sense from you.”
“Is that so? Sorry I can’t bring out more for you then. -⁈-”
As she apologized, Chain could hear the whispers that came from the Lucifalz, and for an instant could see the tree of Light fill her vision. Somewhere in that noise it was as though her voice from somewhere very far away was telling her how to. Much as she wanted to reach out for that power, she had more pressing matters at hand and used the top arm of her bow to block and push aside Zhenir’s sword. The motion allowed her to bring the lower arm around and swing into the Foreigner’s body. Zhenir easily dodged the attack by bending over backwards, not letting the surprise of Chain’s suddenly increased strength distract him. The motion freed his sword from Chain’s bow and he brought it back across where she had been, but Chain was already twirling in the air as it passed with several arrows notched at once. The arrows hit the ground as Zhenir overextended his swing to take him into a step that let him leap away. As he turned around his sword worked furiously to deflect all of the incoming arrows. Even before the last one reached him however, he noticed that the light of Chain’s bow was gone. With so little daylight reaching their current location from above the abyss his eyes were compromised forcing him to rely on instinct to dodge the arrow and block Chain’s attack.
“Hehehehehe… Wonderful Chainmaid! Even as weak as you are, with just a little increase in strength you were able to force me to take an instinctual movement. This is why I cherish my opportunities to hunt the Children of Her Light! They are leagues above the simple Light Touched and make the hunt thrilling!”
“Now you’re just getting creepy.”
Wearing a look of disgust, Chain put her sword to work, each strike, parry, and deflection possessed of greater speed and agility than the one before. It was not enough to overwhelm Zhenir at all and Chain felt like she was running out of options.
[Hrm… He’s so strong, and I’m not managing to push him back at all. Even these spells buffing me up aren’t helping. Am I going to have to cast magic to stand a chance? No! Drop said I couldn’t handle it in my current state and if I’m going to get more support from the spirits I need to find and defeat the Ambrosial Beast that’s causing them so much trouble. Oh! That’s it. The Ambrosial Beast.]
“Hey, you don’t think we can postpone this little death match for a bit, do you?”
“Are you scared to die Chainmaid?”
“Of course I am. If I die, I can’t do all of the wonderful things I want to, so letting you kill me just isn’t an option. It’s just… Nah, you’re not going to back off anyway.”
Dismissing her attempts to talk her way into having the opportunity to hunt down the Ambrosial Beast, Chain let a blocked strike from Zhenir push her out of range of an immediate follow up. Pulling her left hand free of her sword, she snapped her fingers and the distinctive ringing sound the motion made filled the air. The appearance of the small mote of light above her upturned palm put Zhenir on the defensive as he anticipated the return of the bow of Light Chain wielded. Chain was not aiming to summon her bow however and instead cut the light in two. The light coated her sword and in the same motion, passing it from right had to left and back again, she cut a circle into the ground around herself. Smiling brightly, she explained herself.
“But since you keep talking about hunting prey, you won’t mind if I spice things up a little, right?”
Releasing the summoned Nectar from her will, the floor beneath Chain’s feet gave way and she fell wherever her freshly cut hole took her. Laughter exploded from Zhenir and it took him a moment to compose himself.
“What manner of foolishness is this Chainmaid? What do you hope to accomplish by retreating deeper into this grave, this den of beasts? But what does it matter? As you say, I enjoy the hunt and appreciate your attempts to entertain me. Hehehehehe…”
Snickering in amusement to himself, Zhenir strode to the hole Chain left and dropped down. Despite his departure and the distance that Maye still had to cover if she ever hoped to catch up, the room did not stay empty for long. Finch noticed the two icaran men entering the room through the abyss side wall, the first one using a glowing blue blade as a zipline handle and the other flying through the air after the first entered as though he retracted himself along an invisible wire. Recognizing the two of them Finch paled within her Dolmen.
“What are they doing here…?”
The Mouser Brother’s had no answer to give Finch, though the reason for their arrival was obvious. The lack of Chain and her opponent annoyed Lute and he rested his giant boomerang of a blade on his shoulder as he bemoaned the situation.
“It would seem that we are still behind in this race brother.”
“It is nothing to worry about Lute. Even if we should let the others catch up, we both saw that it is a Foreigner the Chainmaid faces. As Sa·B·ers ourselves it is only natural that we slay it as we are sworn to.”
“You are of course right brother. And considering the distress signal from this place…”
“Exactly Lute, we have every right to be here, so let us flush out these troublesome mice.”
Smiling with a chilling manner, Pan and Lute jumped down into the hole Chain left behind.
Copyright © 2019 Joshua D Tarwater