115 A Journey's Beginning · 5
hy is it I have a bad feeling about this?”
It would be sometime until Varen Elcourt, an icaran man of some twenty something springs would have a chance to introduce himself, but as bad as his situation was, it felt fairly routine to him. It was perhaps because his near two-meter height and lanky build naturally made him a lightning rod for trouble. Maybe it was his olive hued skin and steel blue eyes that drew him unwanted attention, or the tendency of his hip long braided black hair to snag on trouble behind him. In reality, it was more often than not the gauntlet that encased his left arm with a surface covered in large, geometric, red runes resembling a circuit board. At least the runes were normally red, but as he dangled over the abyss the runes were dead and his arm hung lifelessly at his side. Somehow, the straight sword he held in it managed to stay in his lifeless hand even as it made it even more impossible than it already was for him to use his left hand to try climbing up. He was entirely at the mercy of Chain who held on fast to his right wrist. Unfortunately, she didn’t seem ready to pull him up yet as she was feeling contemplative.
“Hm? I don’t know why you’d have a bad feeling about anything. I mean, I just saved your life– Oh! I guess that means you owe me now.”
“If he owes you anything you idiot it should be defaulting to me! I’ve been rolled about and tossed around like refuse thanks to you running on ahead!”
“Don’t mind him, he’s always grumpy.”
Turning his head as Chain’s voice spoke to him from beside his head in response to Squawk, Varen was quite shocked to see Drop floating in the air beside him. She offered him a huge smile and stretched out a hand as she introduced herself.
“This part of us is Drop by the way. We are joined together in the Song of the Servants of the Children of Ocia and are as one.”
“I don’t have a clue what you’re talking about, but I guess if we’re doing introductions… Varen Elcourt, adventurer by virtue, not license.”
“Oh! You’re not with an adventuring company⁈”
Excitedly, Chain exclaimed about Varen’s employment status. Maye was less impressed as she and Squawk finally started to reach where Chain was.
“That makes him little more than a bandit, heretic.”
“Heretic? Wait, is there a member of the Cardinal Church with you? Don’t tell me–⁈”
“Tell you what? Hold on, my arm is getting tired like this.”
Moving from tilting her head to casually pulling Varen up, and then clear over her head, Chain tossed him into the still burning crater left by her fireball spell. With a surprised yelp Varen crumbled into a heap before sighing heavily. Rolling over into a sitting position. He looked at his savior and her companions in the dim light of the dying flames around him. The sense of dread he was feeling only grew as he saw the light reflecting off of Chain’s chainmail. It was enough confirmation on its own, but he still sought further confirmation as he bemoaned his situation with a heavy sigh.
“You’re the Chainmaid aren’t you? Seriously? Of all the people to have my life indebted to.”
“I already made it perfectly clear that anything you owe this idiot surely belongs to me!”
“I bet you did, but when it comes to my life and my honor, the debt belongs to the one who saved it.”
Standing up as he refused Squawk his claim to his debt, Varen dusted himself off. Garbed in white jeans and a matching shirt under a breastplate affixed to a leather jacket, he did a surprisingly good job of getting himself reasonably clean. He did have one other problem to contest with however as Chain and her group all tilted their heads back to take in his full height.
“My word! Is he even human?”
“He’s an absolute giant!”
“Seriously⁈ What is wrong with all of you⁈ Of course I’m human! When did icarans suddenly stop being human⁈”
“I’ve never heard of any icaran standing so tall!”
“Maybe if someone brought a torch or a lantern you’d have an easier time seeing that I am, regardless of my height!”
“ENOUGH OF THIS ALREADY‼ GET US SOME LIGHT YOU IDIOT‼”
Squawk’s sudden shouting silenced everyone and Varen took a surprised step back from the force that accompanied it. Chain meanwhile laughed nervously before snapping her fingers, a distinctive ringing sound accompanying the motion. In her palm a sphere of light which soon grew and floated up above her head illuminating the immediate area better than any lantern. Squawk was not amused and proceeded to yell at Chain for failing to understand his request.
“AT WHAT POINT DID YOU DECIDE USING MAGIC WAS THE IDEA SOLUTION WHEN YOU HAVE OUR LANTERNS TUCKED AWAY INSIDE YOUR CAPE, YOU IDIOT⁈”
“Wait, that is magic isn’t it? And here I though the traps suddenly started going off when I opened my Gate. So, if magic wasn’t what set the traps off…”
Looking down at his limply hanging left arm, Varen contemplated the nature of the ruins and opened his Ambrosial Gate. Maye noticed immediately despite his Gate being internal as was the case for all but Chain, as she had been staring at him since the light came on bemoaning how much taller than a centaur an icaran man was and could not miss the red glow that came to the runes on his sleeveless left arm.
“Is that an Ambrosial Armament⁈”
“What, the Magun? Yeah it is. Why?”
With the red runes of his left arm glowing, Varen flexed his fingers and tested his arm’s mobility. Taking her eyes off of him as she pressed her fingers into her forehead, Maye sighed heavily. Before she could make her comment though, Chain cut her off with a question of her own.
“I remember you thought my chainmail was an Ambrosial whatsit when we first met, but I still haven’t figured out what one is.”
“Seriously⁈ You guys are roaming around an old ruin like this and you don’t even know what an Ambrosial Armament is?”
“Please do not group me up with the heretic and she-devil so casually. Though, to be fair we are traveling together in search of knowledge and–”
“Don’t just casually tell a stranger why we’re here you loose lipped horse! For all we know he may be a bandit!”
Raising his voice in disbelief, Squawk cut off Maye before she could finish. Realizing the error of her ways she reddened with embarrassment at the mistake she nearly made. Squawk did not linger on her though as he stepped forward and poked Varen in the sternum with his staff.
“Now, while the foolish horse has no reason to be telling you anything of reasons for being here, I feel completely differently about you. And be warned that you face three Sa·B·ers if you find yourself feeling more foolish than the clouds your height has left your head in!”
“You guys seriously don’t know about Ambrosial Armaments. I don’t know what to say.”
Varen stared at Chain’s group dumbfounded as he tried to figure out what was up with them. Moving his eyes from Squawk to Maye, to Chain, the sight of the Chainmaid reminded him just who it was that he had encountered. Seeing her in person, Varen smiled as he continued.
“Though you’re definitely different than what your reputation left me expecting, Chainmaid. A bounty from the Carinal Church and tales of bandits from all along your trip to the Arm being slaughtered just like the bounty hunters seeking to claim the prize on your head left me expecting someone more ruthless. Instead you just seem like a cute kid to me. –⁈–”
Neither Squawk nor Maye was surprised when Varen suddenly doubled over, his fingers twitching as he desired to clutch at his stomach where Chain had just jammed in her elbow angled up towards his sternum. She had moved so fast and unexpectedly, Varen failed to prepare himself for it at all. Then the smile Chain offered him as she withdrew her elbow sent a chill down his spine.
“Sorry, but my figure is off limits. Say anything about it again and I can’t guarantee I’ll be so gentle.”
“Th-that was… that was… gentle? Seriously⁈ And when did I mention your figure anyway?”
“I’d advise you figure that out for yourself you towering dolt. I’ve nothing against her offing you in a fit of simpleminded rage seeing as you have no intention of honoring your debt.”
“Come now Master, I was once chastised for not being welcoming enough for a sister of the Cardinal Church…”
“What is wrong with you people⁈”
“I can’t speak for them, but my mind isn’t in one piece so…”
“And that’s alright to talk about?”
“Seeing as it’s not my figure, I don’t have a problem talking about it.”
Varen could only stare at Chain and her group in continued dumbstruck wonder. They were such an unorderly group, yet Chain smiled with shimmering eyes like she couldn’t be any happier despite her situation. Straightening out, Varen ruffled his own hair marking his apparent concession to them just being unnaturally weird.
“Alright, fine, I’ve made up my mind.”
“Made up your mind about what you towering dolt⁈ I don’t recall there being anything to deliberate about!”
“There’s plenty to deliberate about looking at you three, or is it four…?”
The confidence drained from Varen’s voice as his response to Squawk did not originally account for Drop. Noticing her in the air waving at him though he could not ignore her independence, even as he also could not ignore her identical appearance to Chain. That was bar her chainmail, the presence of a mermaid tail, only being the height of two thumbs, and being actually butt naked.
“I do hope the sudden reddening of your face is not for the reason’s I believe to be the cause.”
“No! Wait! I mean…! Ar~gh!”
Maye’s chilling tone of voice Flustered Varen every bit as much as Drop’s nakedness and he naturally threw his hands up in defeat. Without even realizing it, he managed to earn some small approval from Squawk, who kept a smile hidden behind his beak. Varen was not done lamenting his situation though and continued on trying to make sense of what he had walked into.
“Are you sure you’re not still with the Cardinal Church⁈ I mean the whole attitude and being the only knowledgeable one here…! And then there’s this ruin in the first place! I should have known better than to come in here after realizing the three bridges leading out here matched up with the Cardinal Church’s holy symbol. No, I just had to come in here and instead of telling myself ‘you know Varen, you may be hurting for cash but that ruin is unquestionably bad news.’ Seriously⁈” What was I thinking⁈ Ar~gh!
“I do believe he is having a meltdown Master. Though it is an insightful one.”
“You mean the bit about the tri-cross?”
Crossing his arms with a mighty harrumph, Squawk sought to clarify that him and Maye were on the same page. Her nod told him even before she voiced the affirmation that the Y shaped trio of crosses that served as the holy symbol of the Cardinal Church was indeed what she was talking about. She did not limit herself to acknowledging only that however.
“That is correct Master, and it also lends credence to this ruin being a prison for a spirit. Even the alignment of the bridges leading out here is a likely reason for this ruin to have remained untouched. In this age where people have come to fear the Light of Her Eminence such symbology would be quite the deterrent. But that only raises more questions about this ruin and the nature of it, the lack of any technology that the church would normal construct any such prison with being the most pressing of questions.”
“Perhaps then we can exploit the towering dolt over there and his apparent knack for finding traps to get us to the heart of this mystery. We did come here to that end in the first place and I will not leave a job half finished.”
Copyright © 2019 Joshua D Tarwater