113 A Journey's Beginning · 3


T



he first Lucifalz to appear was one that spanned over the sky and distorted the world in incomprehensible ways before it vanished as mysteriously as it appeared. Everyone alive on the Face of Icarus could recall the day it first appeared, but for some it was merely yesterday, while others it was a tale from their childhoods long past. Some who walked the Face of Icarus discovered that old friends had seen many springs more than they had leading to a confusion of the actual age. Making matters more convoluted, every community knew well the Cardinal Church and blamed them and the Saint Cardinal, who unified the Sister Goddesses and Father Icarus, for the appearance of the reality distorting trees of Light. As Light was a necessity of the world however, more and more people who turned their backs on the Cardinal Church sought Light not from Cardinal, but from Vaerseal, the Spirit Lord of the Sun. Spirits themselves however were taboo knowledge before the appearance of the Lucifalz, yet near common knowledge after. The Chainmaid and her companions all sought out the spirits of the world for their own reasons and found their search for the spirits and the truth of the world leading them to the ancient prison Pit Gaol
A Journey’s Beginning · 3
Pit Gaol ~ Exterior
Late Autumn ~ Afternoon, mostly sunny, breezy and cool
The earth split apart into bottomless crags
Emerging from an X shaped scar in the face of Icarus, a monolithic structure

The stone structure was not hewn by the hands of modern man or the ancients  
Wrapped in the symbols of a language unknown, it resembled nothing of the gunslinging world
From atop a ridge, the Chainmaid and her party surveyed the structure

“So, what do you think; does it look like an Ambrosial Mirage.”

Presenting the question to her companions, Chain pulled the reins of her horse so that it might turn parallel to the ledge she looked over. Stepping up behind Chain’s horse, Maye also turned her flank to the ledge so that Squawk might get a better view. Naturally he harrumphed at the sight of the structure.

“Even if it were, I doubt you’d ignore it. But built into that gorge like that… Hmph! If the Mirage were to fail…”

“Yet we don’t hear any whispers, so there isn’t a Lucifalz present.”

Chain’s ability to hear a Lucifalz as though it was whispering with the voices of countless souls, her own included, was a fact taken for granted by Squawk and Maye. Drop’s comment on the absence of the whispers though spoke volumes about the peculiar structure and Maye flicked her tail as she considered the implications.

“That makes this setup even more unsettling then. Why is it that no one has found this place before now? Just the nature of the symbols upon its walls should be drawing scholars from all over the Face of Icarus.”

“Like you Maye?”

Beaming brightly, Chain turned an expectant look onto Maye. The centaur maid knew she was outed and looked up and away from Chain as her cheeks reddened.

“Well, yes, I’m obviously curious, but…”

“There could be any reason for this structure’s lack of attention you paranoid horse. Have you forgotten, that even though people seem unbothered by the presence of spirits that knowledge of them was snuffed out by the Cardinal Church?”

“I have not forgotten Master. As a former Sister and teacher of the path of her Eminence it shames me that instead of facing the existence of spirits and guiding the people properly to the Sister Goddesses and Father Icarus, we simply erased knowledge of their existence.”

“So that makes this place perfect! We just might learn a lot here, though we should be careful…”

Chain’s good cheer grew tempered with caution as her cape flared to life and she reached into it. After a moment of rummaging she extracted a sheaf of papers and shook them out.

“While we were in town yesterday, I picked up a bunch of wanted posters. It looks like there are a bunch of bandits in the area and they could be using this place as their hideout.”

“It would explain why no one has discovered it until recently despite this terrain.”

Rubbing her chin thoughtfully, Maye began to pace as she studied the structure in the gorge. Squawk grew annoyed and cleared his throat loudly.

“I would prefer you don’t so causally forget me you absentminded horse.”

“My apologies Master, it’s just–”

“You want to go down there as badly as I do, right

Cutting Maye off, Chain turned a sparkling eyed smile onto her. Anticipation was rolling off of her in waves and Maye could not help but feel taken aback. Squawk however sighed heavily.

“You two are absolutely hopeless. There’s no point in deliberating over it any longer, we might as well head down and give it a closer look.”


Having safely made it to the base of one of three rope bridges leading to the ruin, Squawk dismounted from Maye’s horse half and went about studying the path that would take them to the ruins. Chain meanwhile pulled a small leather-bound book alongside a pencil from her cape and began sketching within her book. With Squawk investigating the bridge, Maye pulled her revolver style rifle from her back and began searching for signs of life more dangerous than the sparse vegetation growing between the rocks.

“W~o~w! These symbols really are nothing like I’ve ever seen before. I don’t even know where to start trying to understand them.”

“That ignorance of yours is not reassuring. Neither is this bridge.”

“Is it not crossable Master?”

Maye looked curiously at Squawk as he straitened up and dusted himself off. Looking out over the bridge to the tower that extended up out of the gorge, he crossed his arms irritably.

“I have little doubt that we can cross it with ease actually. The bridge itself is strong with the blessings of Lady Atheaeldre and not one part of the bridge is made from anything but plants.”

“Hmm? But Atheaeldre is one of the Sister Goddesses, isn’t she? Why would her magic be on a bridge leading out to a prison for a spirit?”

“I know you’re an idiot, but even you should be able to figure it out!”

Squawk threw his arms up in disbelief as Chain tilted her head trying to piece together the information she was presented with. It was a trying task for her as her thoughts, emotions, and memories were a shattered mess that typically required a great deal of concentration to put together into anything useful. She had her moments of clarity, but typically didn’t worry herself with the problems presented to her by her shattered mind. In this case she had to and was fortunate that Drop was not just a tiny mermaid who shared her appearance, but was an extension of herself that was normally better able to put her thoughts together.

“Well, earth magic is held in place by flora magic, and is typically drained of its strength by flora magic.”

“And as Master and I were talking about earlier, the Cardinal Church considers spirits to be taboo. I do hope you have not already forgotten my reactions to you when we first met she-devil.”

“Oh no, of course not. You treated us as less then human and refused to be welcoming in the least despite Cardinal unifying everyone.”

Maye’s face twisted with embarrassment as Drop casually brought up how she was treated in Chain’s first meeting with the now former nun. Amused as Drop was by Maye’s discomfort, there was something else bothering her and she swam through the air over to Squawk to look out at the ruins.

“But it is weird. We do not hear the song of the Earthen Children of Icarus at all. It seems unnatural to think that Lady Atheaeldre would so strip a place of earth of its life. The song of earth may answer to the song of flora, but it will wither if the song of earth is not present.”

“Then there just might be something special here

Jumping off her horse, Chain returned her book to her cape. Joining Squawk and Drop at the bridge, she tested the support for its strength with a finger before tying her horse’s reins to it.

“In that case what are we waiting for? lets’ go discover something amazing before someone else beats us to it!”

Skipping out onto the bridge, Chain spun about before waving at Squawk and Maye to follow. Drop was already in pursuit and Squawk threw his hands up in frustration.

“You’re not going to give me any other choice you idiot, so why not

Storming out onto the bridge, Squawk unintentionally demonstrated its stability for Maye. She was still not certain about the wisdom of entering the ruin, eyeing another of two more bridges she could see from their current position. It was swaying and though it was too far away to be certain, the moss that grew on the ropes seemed more disturbed than the bridge Chain and Squawk were crossing ahead of her. Frowning, she returned her rifle to her back and made her way past Chain’s horse and onto the bridge.

The rope bride, though astoundingly stable, was also astoundingly long, hanging freely over a bottomless gorge that even midday light did not reach the bottom of. A fall from such a place would be certain death with none the wiser to the unfortunate soul’s demise. Naturally, as the bridge suddenly snapped in two as Maye passed the midway point, her, Chain, and Squawk all suddenly cried out in horrified surprise.

“Everyone! Hold on!”

Chain’s following cry seemed all but obvious, but for the quadruped centaur that was a task much easier said than done. If not for the strength granted to her by the Foreigner infection that made her a Sa·B·er, Maye would have never possessed the strength to hold her horse half up by her arms alone. Chain could do nothing to assist her while the bride was in freefall and had to stay patient as it began arcing towards the side of the ruin. As the bridge collided with the ruin from the end down, she released the railing and fell past Squawk. In an impressive display of strength, balance, and madness, she turned herself perpendicular to the wall and began running down the bridge as it met the ruin’s side. With each step she attempted to kick the resulting snap back of the bridge down to an intensity that Maye could handle, but not knowing if her efforts would be enough she snapped the fingers of her left hand giving rise to a distinctive ringing sound. Forced to go as slow as she could as she effectively fell freely into the gorge, Chain began an incantation to shape the sphere of light that formed in her left palm.

“~ Motes of fire heed my call and grant me your power
Gather and gather becoming a crimson tide that burns all in your path
By my will become a force of fury and wash all in our path to ash!
Fireball! ~”

In response to Chain’s incantation, the sphere of light took on a violent red light and swelled like molten glass. Bringing her arm back to throw it, in a spectacular display of acrobatics and strength, Chain leapt out from the wall. Hurling the orb of magic, that instantly swelled into a massive ball of fire large enough to reach the ceiling of a two story saloon, so that it flew past Maye and bored into the side of the ruin, Chain proceeded to grab Maye’s hand as she reached out for her. Using Maye as pivot point in her impossible display of acrobatics, Chain managed to hurl herself and Maye into the still flaming hole in the side of the ruin caused by her spell. Behind her she heard the snap of the of the rope bridge as the recoil finished traveling through as well as Squawk’s expected scream. Pretty much throwing Maye behind her as she pivoted back towards the outside of the ruin, Chain reached out just in time to catch Squawk with both hands by the wrist. Offering him a bright eyed smile in contrast to his seething scowl, Chain made light of the near death experience.

“Heh heh! That was fun!”

“ARE YOU ABSOLUTELY MAD YOU IDIOT‼”

“Heh heh!”

Chain couldn’t help but laugh as it was blatant how much Squawk wanted to yell louder. Showing tremendous restraint, he only yelled loud enough to make his point clear and not risk destabilizing the ruin. Despite his best efforts though, the ruin began to collapse inward regardless as Drop finally swam down from where she was left behind.

“Is everyone alri– Oh, no~!”

The wall that Chain made an impromptu entrance into the ruin out of suddenly gave as Drop neared it. In a desperate bid to not be left behind outside, Drop grabbed hold of Squawk’s long coat as it flapped past her as the others fell into the ruin. Fortunate or not to grab hold, she was pulled along with the others into the unplanned start of their expedition into Pit Gaol.
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Copyright © 2019 Joshua D Tarwater

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