114 A Journey's Beginning · 4


 A Journey’s Beginning · 4
Pit Gaol ~ Interior

The frailty of the ruin was but an illusion
If not for magic and an impossibly loud shout it was sturdy as the earth

Within its walls that was difficult to tell for trap after trap   
Every trap evaded led to another
Boulders, arrow traps, pitfalls, and a plethora of more mechanical deterents
“T



HIS BETTER BE WORTH IT YOU IDIOT‼”

“Please don’t yell Master! We never know if your voice will bring this whole place down on us!”

“Come on you two! This is so much fun!”

Where Squawk and Maye were scrambling for their lives, Chain was laughing every step of the way. She even had her notebook out and was sketching down every symbol she saw on the walls of the ruin. It was not that she took the danger presented by the traps as unimportant, even for Sa·B·ers who the traps were too ancient to have been designed for, the traps presented plenty of life-threatening danger. On more occasions than she could count in the chaos of just staying alive, Chain had to save and be saved by Squawk and Maye. Yet it was everything she wanted to experience, and she was joyful as a kid in a candy store. Squawk and Maye were less appreciative, especially as there was almost no light to speak of within. Making matters worse, they were being forced to descend the tower at a blistering pace with no means to track their progress. As Chain’s notebook was out however Squawk had his own opinion on its appearance and again shouted at Chain.

“YOU BETTER BE MAKING A MAP YOU IDIOT, OR I SWEAR I WILL BRING THIS WHOLE TOWER DOWN‼”

“Why do we need a map We can just follow the trail of destruction back up!”

“In case either of you haven’t noticed, climbing pitfalls is not really an option for me!”

The disregard shown by Chain for making a map and Squawk’s desire for it meant little to Maye who reminded them of her distinct disadvantage within the ruin. Chain simply laughed as she focused on out pacing a collapsing floor as the three of them raced towards the opening at its end.

“Then we get to explore even more! Eh–

Just before the three of them reached the doorway to safety, a massive stone slab slid up into place trapping them in the hall with the collapsing floor. As they ran out of space to run Chain snapped her fingers to cast a spell as Squawk yelled at her to do just that.

“WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR YOU IDIOT BLAST THIS DOOR AWAY BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE‼”

“Don’t interrupt her Master! She needs to focus on her incantation!”

“~ Motes of fire heed my call and grant me your power
Gather and gather becoming–! ~”

“And too late.”

Watching the floor suddenly fall out from under Chain and the others, Drop offered an unneeded commentary on their absence of time. She was about to begin swimming after them but paused when she heard the sound of grinding stone above her.

“Hm~?”

Looking back, Drop noticed a door opening in the ceiling and saw the first signs of a boulder ready to drop. A strained smile crossed her face before she began swimming downwards after the others as fast as she could.

“Why is it another one This part of us has almost been flattened enough times already!”

Drop’s teary-eyed complaints traveled well ahead of her down the spiraling hall that was too steep to resist tumbling down it. As Maye had more legs than the others she could put in a greater effort, her shoed hooves offering her a modicum of grip as she tried to stomp footholds into the smooth stone. Seeing her possessing some level of success, Squawk used his staff to pole vault up and over her. In an impressive display for the usually unathletic nāti, he managed to belly flop onto Maye’s horse half and jab his staff into the stone floor offering the to of them further support. Chain liked what she was seeing and as she tumbled past Squawk and Maye she returned her notebook to her cape and sent her scabbard after it. With her sword exposed she snatched it out of the air in a reverse grip and stabbed it into the stone. To her surprise, the stone gave way easier than she expected and she tilted her head curiously.

“That’s weird… I thought I could have broken my sword trying that, but–”

“Why is everyone stopping There’s another boulder coming!”

Chain’s confusion was cut off by Drop’s cries and the growing rumbling of the boulder that chased her. Squawk nigh exploded with rage but managed to contain himself to simply yelling orders at Maye.

“ENOUGH OF THIS‼ JUST SHOOT IT ALREADY YOU BRUTISH HORSE‼”

“Honestly, why didn’t we think of that solution sooner.”

Pulling her rifle from her back, Maye popped open the cylinder as she began an incantation of her own.

“~ Through Lady Cardinal’s union I beseech thee Father Icarus
Let your flesh and your anger become as weapon waiting
Let my will give it purpose and form
Ambrosial Bullet! ~”

The nature of magic upon the Face of Icarus was a peculiar affair that left it as unreliable as it was reliable. All living things were said to possess an Ambrosial Gate, a mystical connection to a plane of energy known as Ambrosia. When an individual was trained in the opening of their Gates, they would fill their bodies with the fuel of magic from Ambrosia called Nectar. Chain was unique in that she opened a gate outside of her body, but the most skilled of spell casters could expel Nectar from their bodies unshaped to cast greater and greater spells. This was a necessity as well as the strength of the spell was reliant on the amount of Nectar drawn through the gate and limited by the vessel it filled. If the vessel was filled beyond capacity, typically the spell caster’s own body, it would explode violently and to spectacular effect. Maye was an amateur spell caster herself and thus filled herself with the Nectar for her spell. But as a former nun her incantation was more a prayer both to cast her spell and not be killed by it. The spell she did cast though was one she practiced daily, and six bullets took form in her hand that she slotted into the revolver cylinder of her rifle all at once. Snapping the cylinder back into place, she pulled the hammer on her rifle and took aim uphill past Drop.

Six gunshots echoed through the steep spiral hall and soon a flurry of shattered rock rolled down past Chain. Looking up at Squawk and Maye in the rather awkward position they were in, Chain smiled brightly at them.

“That was amazing! You two hang out right there though while I go see what’s up ahead! Come on Drop!”

“WAIT! YOU’RE NOT ACTUALLY GOING TO LEAVE US IN THIS EMBARRASSING POSITION ARE YOU AND IN THE DARK NO LESS

“You’ll be fine Squawk! Just try to hold on for a little while!”

“THAT’S EASY FOR YOU TO SAY YOU IDIOT!”

Laughing as she pulled her sword out of the floor, Chain didn’t bother replying to Squawk as she slid down the spiral corridor to whatever awaited at its end. Drop followed after her and provided some light with the blue glow that emanated from her, but it was barely enough. As the long hall came to an end it opened out into a massive empty cavern. There was almost no ledge at all beyond the corridor before it gave way into the abyss and Chain barely stabbed her sword into the ground in time to stop herself.

“Heh heh! That was a little too close.”

“It was. Fortunately–”

Drop did not finish her comment as her and Chain both suddenly heard a distressed cry coming down a corridor across the pit from them.

“Seriously

Looking at each other as they didn’t recognize the man’s voice, Chain and Drop made the decision to bolt for the doorway they heard the voice come from. Chain was not about to leave Squawk and Maye to tumble to their deaths however as she ran, and she let an incantation fall from her lips as she snapped the fingers of her left hand.

“~ 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! ~”

Putting a spin in her step as she ran, Chain hurled the soon to be ball of fire back at the entrance she arrived from. Swelling to the massive size of her last fireball, it vaporized the doorway and left a crater in the structure that would prevent Squawk and Maye from falling out into the pit beyond. The shape of the new crater still could easily break the centaur’s legs, but Chain was more worried about the voice she heard from the distant doorway. Snapping her fingers again she once more began to cast her fireball spell. Sliding down onto her side as she reached the doorway, she spun about on the ground and hurled her next fireball down the opening. In the same motion she grabbed the arm of a man she couldn’t make out in the dark and stabbed her sword into the ground to give herself an anchor. It was as much a spectacular strain on Chain as it was a display of ability and she gritted her teeth with the effort. The man she caught however was larger than she realized in the dark and she could not keep him from going over the edge as he arced over her due to the momentum her carried. She did not relinquish her grip on him or her sword however, yet her sword cut through the strange stone and she was dragged all the way to the edge herself. Fortunately for her though she was a Sa·B·er and was able to summon the strength to stop herself and the man she caught. She was also fortunate that her fireball spell vaporized the boulder that had been chasing the man allowing her the luxury of trying to reset herself to better pull him up. Her curiosity got the better of her though and she tried to spy over the edge of the cliff to see who she had caught. Drop had it much easier however as she could swim freely through the air to not only illuminate the man Chain caught but see him up close and personal.

Meanwhile, as Chain went about her business moving ahead of Squawk and Maye while saving the mystery man, they had no way of knowing what had transpired. The sudden explosion of her first fireball spell however told them it was time to find out.

“How would you prefer we go about this Master. I have no desire to have you scream from being thrown from my back or trampled underfoot.”

“What absolutely wonderful sounding options you brutish horse! Am I supposed to believe that you couldn’t possibly make it down this blasted hall without either dislodging me or trampling me

“It’s not like that Master. Perhaps we could try a different approach though…”

“What are you doing! Are you trying to dislodge me

“Preferably not until you are higher on this slop than me Master.”

“How could you be so disrespectful you uncouth horse!”

Having to put up with Squawk’s screaming was bad enough, but Maye did so while trying to turn around with four legs on an incline that a centaur could never normally climb. The only way she managed at all was by kicking the ground for all she was worth. Somehow, she managed to face forward down the slope and shook Squawk off of her as she pushed off into a badly controlled slide. She was still better off than Squawk was who rolled down the slope screaming incoherently, and that turned out to both of their advantages bar Squawk’s screaming. Being ahead of Squawk, Maye was able to focus on the landing in the crater born of Chain’s fireball and catch Squawk by the collar of his long coat as he caught up and nearly passed the centaur. Taking advantage of Squawk not having caught his breath to scream yet, Maye stepped through the still burning hole and immediately spotted the next burning hole across the dark expanse. Frowning, she called out for Chain.

“Heretic, if you’re still alive it would be kind of you to let us know!”

“We So Squawk is with you?”

“OF COURSE I’M WITH THIS SAVAGE HORSE YOU IDIOT‼ WHERE ELSE WOULD I BE

“I don’t know, but I caught something fun.”

“Something? Seriously?”

The man’s voice that rose up from where Chain lay out of sight was unfamiliar to Squawk and Maye. Letting Squawk down, Maye exchanged a look with him as he dusted himself off and straightened out his clothes. Once he was ready the two of them carefully navigated the narrow ledge to join Chain.
.


Copyright © 2019 Joshua D Tarwater

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