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----- if i fall, if i die ----- (abby & xig)

Xigbar · 29 · 596

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Offline yelloskello

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XIGBAR

Gurd wasn't far behind the blonde, with Mez trailing at the end. When he came to the entrance of the cave, Carolyn already standing near it, he felt the energy wash over him. It made him stop.

Mez came up next to him, taking a breath to regain his composure; hiking through forests weren't his specialty. He reached over, gave his first-mate a nudge.

"Go on, we'll follow you down," he reassured, and Gurd nodded and walked over.

Once the ropes were secured, Gurd made his descent down into the cave, and once down he gave the rope two firm tugs. A signal that it was safe.

Mez nodded to his blonde companion.

"You next."

SKELLO

Carolyn gave Mez a small nod, securing herself to the rope, then peering down into the crevice once again. It was a good way down--much farther than it had seemed when she had been looking up--but it wasn't the climb down that was scaring her.

No, what had a knot in her stomach was what she knew was down there.

She took the climb carefully, using the walls of the slim opening to walk herself down as she held tight to the rope, then finally letting herself drop the last six feet or so, landing with pliant ease.

Rather than the sound of crunching leaves that she had expected, all she got was a dull squish.

The chamber didn't feel like it had the last time. Look the same, perhaps--the same rock walls, the same ridges, the same natural path that led further away towards the temple--but that sense of safety she'd once held here... It wasn't gone, but had perhaps been replaced. She no longer felt protected, no, but she knew no-one would come here, simply because there no longer was a reason to.

Perhaps above all, there was the stench. Lingering in the back of her mind, beyond her physical senses, coming not from the dank cave walls or the slurry of what had once been rotting leaves beneath her feet, everything in the room stank of death.

And then there were the trees.

Two of them. Smaller than they had been, sicklier, withering now like the one that hung above the crevice opening. Branches that had once been entangled together, creating a natural arch, had curled in on themselves or simply rotted to the ground. Not a single leaf remained on what branches were left, and it seemed like their warped trunks could be toppled with little more than a push.

Carrie's breath caught in her throat at the sight, her feet carrying her slowly, without thinking, to the unnatural sight. A hand lifted, hesitated, barely touched the bark of one of the trees--and trailed along the edge of what appeared to be a gnarled face, contorted in agony, milky eyes wide open and staring at the light above.

"Gods above," Carrie breathed, "what th'hell did I do..."

XIGBAR

Mez came down soon after, making a displeased noise as the ground squished under his feet. He looked down at the ground, disgusted for a moment, before starting to untie himself.

"What is this place," he muttered, looking around as he started over towards Carolyn. When he saw the trees a shiver ran down his spine.

"Gods, what are those..." Mez stepped closer, disturbed by their faces, their contorted shapes...

"Ismus and Sennas."

Mez looked back to his first mate, who had only just spoken for the first time since they'd even entered the cave. The man, usually so stoic it was hard to tell he was breathing, was wide eyed, body rigid, staring passed Mez and Carrie at the trees and the altar. He'd never seen Gurd like this.

SKELLO


It took Carolyn a moment to find her voice. It hadn't been like this when she'd left the chamber. There had been silence, Ismus and Sennas returning to their slumber, a last lingering essence of Her still in the room, glimmering in the smattering of red-gold leaves, but this...

...Had she done this?

"They're... They were oracles. Tandine's oracles," she stammered, fingers brushing away from the faces, barely touching the clawing, gnarled hand that was reaching out for the light. "And this was... ...Was..."

She trailed off, her gaze falling to the ground beneath the two trees. Gods, she could still see her there, thistle-gray hair entangled in the branches, laughing and crying all at once...

She looked back to Mez to speak, but stopped herself when she saw Gurd's expression, the severity of his horror making her choke, making her heart skip a beat.

He knew.

"We--this is pointless," she continued after a moment of floundering. Stepping away from the trees, towards the path, she kept an eye on Mez. "Should keep movin', we're wastin' time."

XIGBAR

Mez nodded, moving to follow after Carrie before glancing back to his first mate.

Gurd was still, his eyes focused on the oracles, stuck in his place.

"Hey," the captain began, trying to get the other out of his trance. "Gurd. C'mon, we gotta go... Gurd."

That was enough to snap the man out of it and Gurd looked over, nodding, before following after them.

I've never seen him like this, Mez thought, concerned. But there wasn't time to figure out what was going on; they had to move.

SKELLO

The walk down the path was a mile at most, and Carrie recalled it whirling by at top speed when she had been here last; now, it never seemed to end. She couldn't get the look on Gurd's face out of her head, the feeling of guilt, of responsibility. Questions whirled in her mind like a hurricane: what did this mean? She'd thought he was well-read on religion, but this was beyond that. Was he a follower? A priest? She knew nothing about this man. What did the gods mean to--

She almost tripped over a rock, barely catching herself on one of the slick walls of the cavern. That cleared her mind long enough for her to focus on one thing: the temple.

She could deal with Gurd after her friends were safe.

The majority of the path was a natural cave with little to call a straight path, forcing the group over and under, making them climb small distances and squeeze through holes that had panic rising in Carrie's chest every time they crossed another one. Their light was sparse: occasionally, bio-luminescent plant life was sprinkled across the wall, giving them a dim sense of direction. At one point, Carrie had been forced to light one of the flare's she'd bought while they were in town.

The first time she saw one of the bottles--small, coiled in on itself, nestled in a high alcove--she felt a strange, uncomfortable mix of relied and terror. They were close.

The man-made passageways began not long after, and the path became easier from there. The halls were uniform, shallow steps, winding gently back and forth as they went higher. What had originally been just the occasional bottle of blue light was now a regular occurrence: they lined the path at equal intervals, providing more than enough precious light after most of the path before had starved them of it.

Carrie stopped when she saw the first hint of something deviating from the repetitive pattern of the hallway: a wide cast of natural light on one wall, shining from just around the curve. Her heart was pounding in her chest; she could feel her pulse beating in every inch of her. Frozen stiff, it took her a moment to turn her head, looking to Gurd. Her gaze said it all.

Gurd leads the way.

XIGBAR

Gurd stepped forward to lead the way, though his stomach was in knots. The sight of bottled magic, guiding their way, was far less inviting than the glow they gave off. Still silent, he pushed on.

Meanwhile, Mez looked the passages over carefully, taking in any sorts of landmarks, weakened walls or ceilings, and other signs of danger that could affect them on their way back. It was enough that they were in the middle of nowhere, now they were twisting and turning through passageways that seemed to have no end.

He simply followed after Carrie, hoping they arrived at their destination soon...

SKELLO

The farther in they went, the more Carrie was able to recognize the path she had taken before with increasing clarity. The small group, upon exiting the narrow corridor, had come to a wide hall with a high ceiling, several massive arching windows on the opposite side from them displaying a picturesque view of the mountains beyond. Carrie could even see Baradhi from here.

She turned her head to the left, looking down the way. The arch at the far end would lead to another hall much like this one, she recalled, and the righthand corridor at the very end of that hall would lead her towards the way she and her companions had entered the first time...

She wondered if it was still a viable exit.

She didn't stop to take in the sight of the mountains - none of them could risk stopping for even a moment. They'd worked out the total time of their search, should nothing go wrong, would be less than five minutes, and she intended to keep it that way. She turned her focus towards repeating the steps of their plan.

East hallway. Down past three doors.


Their footsteps echoed in a way that made Carrie's chest hurt, even when they were treading softly. No doubt the place had been designed for that very purpose; there would be no surprises here.

Fourth door on the left.

The group reached the archway described in the plan. Carrie could practically see the map in her head, each room lighting up as they entered, fading as they exited. She quickly turned down the next corridor, keeping close to the wall, eyes plastered to the entrances opposite her.

One. Two. Three. Four. Five. No, it's not here. Shit.


She touched Gurd's elbow gently--the sign that it was time to turn back--and moved back towards where they had come from.

No luck, back. Two doors down, door on the right.

For the first two minutes, the plan went as smoothly as it possibly could. They spirited from one portion of their route to the next, always alert, always looking for any signs of danger. Carrie hadn't seen a soul, heard a sound other than their own feet.

It wasn't until they returned to the original hall with the windows, intent on doubling back to check the other side, that it occurred to her how strange that was.

Her steps finally slowed for just a moment, gaze moving to look out the windows. Everything seemed so serene, and it put her stomach in knots.

She had to speak. They'd agreed not to, but they had to be warned.

"Gurd," she barely breathed, soft enough that her voice barely echoed in the cavernous hall, "it's been too quiet."

When no response came, she looked to where Mez and Gurd had been in front of her only moments before. Perhaps they hadn't heard her. Perhaps they didn't dare take the risk of speaking like she just had.

As it turns out, they simply weren't there. Carrie's heart dropped to her feet, her skin breaking out in goosebumps.

"...Gurd?"

Nothing.

"....Mez?"

XIGBAR

The realization that he was alone took Mez a few moments, as the room had gone so dark so suddenly. With a lack of glowing bottles to lead him anywhere, he was momentarily trapped in darkness as his eyes adjusted. Once they had, he realized he preferred the dark.

All around him were standing stone caskets, the bodies inside on full display. Skeletons wrapped in tree roots, or what he thought were tree roots; in the dark it was hard to tell. He also decided pretty quickly that he didn't want to try to get a closer look; he needed to find his way out, and find his way back to Gurd and Carolyn.

How did he get here?

The air was stale, it smelled of dried herbs, cold stone, and old magic. He reached around in his satchel, pulling out three small stones and holding them in his palm clasped by his fingers. He clicked them together in his hand and they started to glow, a soft glowing membrane encapsulating them and causing them to stick together. Holding his fist up, he illuminated the room.

The walls were lined with bodies, in various stages of decay but mostly skeletal. The floor was covered woth dried flowers and herbs, which crunched under his feet. Above him, bodies were held up against the ceiling by root-like structures.

He was in a tomb, surrounded by the dead.

Walking along the passageway of the catacombs, he kept his hand raised, looking for any sort of door, opening, anything that could read as an exit. They'd never accounted for this. It was supposed to be quick, in and out, then back to the ship.

The pirate wrinkled his nose; the smell was getting stronger, but now it was a more potent rotting smell. Looking along the walls he could see that the bodies he was beginning to pass now were exceedingly fresh. Maybe he was heading in the right direction...

SKELLO

Indeed, the farther Mez went, the more likely it seemed that he was going the right way. Not only did the bodies growing fresher provide ample clues, but the path seemed fairly straightforward: most of the twists and turns lead to dead ends, or simply looped through small burial chambers back to where he had been in the first place. Occasionally there would be a choice to make--the path reaching a solid wall, with only left, right, or back from where he'd come serving as his options--but simply keeping to what looked to be man-made, rather than taking the paths that descended into warped stone of natural caves, seemed to be a working solution.

Finally, there was light. Unnatural light, no doubt, but a sign of something different. Small holes in one of the walls cast the warm glow on the opposite one, and just around the corner a little ways up was his way into the lit room.

And then something passed in front of the light.

There wasn't much time to react, as moments before its shadow flickered before the light at the far end, it had entered the hallway. Inhuman would be putting it lightly: perhaps the creature had once been human, or related to humans, but that time had been long ago. Eight legs--or arms, as the appendages ended in hands--grazed across the floor, crunching softly on the herbs scattered about there. Tree roots seemed to sprout from its strange, filmy flesh, dragging on the ground wherever they hung and coiling upwards to encapsulate something on the creature's back.

Bodies. It was carrying bodies on itself, hints of them peeking out through the roots, cluing Mez in to the purpose of this creature: the caretaker of the catacombs.

The only part that suggested there might be something sentient to it was its face: a warped mockery of a human face plastered on the front end of an otherwise animal-esque body. It was perfect, flawless in comparison to the rest of it, carrying a serene expression.

That expression contorted as it entered the hall, and it stopped. Tilted its head--a sickening, jittery motion.

Sniffed.

XIGBAR

Mez froze in place when he saw the creature further down the pathway. He quickly shoved the glow stones in his pocket, hiding the light and concealing him in mostly darkness. This creature was clearly acclimated for this environment, so the chances that he would be able to get away from it unscathed were slim - if he could get away from it at all.

The pirate carefully reached back with one foot, gently trying to brush away the herbs on the floor where he intended to step; it probably wasn't worth trying to be so careful. This thing would be able to find him.

He took a silent breath, trying to fill himself with calm bravery, before he quickly turned and ran back down the path and around the corner.

Not far from where he'd turned, he found an upright tomb, a still fairly fresh body shoved into it. It was the best he could do.

Mez quickly - and he hoped it was quick enough - pried the body out and fit himself into the crevice where it had been, then pulled the body in front of him and held it in place. Maybe masking his scent would work, at least long enough to run for the exit...

SKELLO

Mez would hear the soft sounds of hands dragging across the floor, crunching on herbs, pushing debris away from itself with every step. It was only when it grew truly close that the sound of soft, erratic clicking could be heard, sometimes in small trills, other times in a single arid note.

Echolocation, perhaps.

There was a moment of still, bone-chilling silence before the thing was suddenly within view, only inches in front of Mez. Now, it was easy to tell that this thing's 'face' was only a mockery of an actual human visage, formed from warped skin with small grooves running in a wild pattern across it. Milky white eyes stared at nothing, but it didn't need to use its eyes anyway.

Sniff. Snff snff.

It slowly learned its head in closer to the tomb, giving Mez an up close and personal view as its face split open like a flower, revealing a horrifying circular mouth speckled with small, jagged teeth all the way down its throat. From deep within, something that looked like a vine--no, its tongue slithered out--

And, gently, touched the corpse in front of him.

It paused for a moment that felt like an hour.

It ran its tongue up the edge of the corpse's face. Brushed its hair.

And then it pulled away, its 'face' folding closed once again. Slowly, it turned, and began its serene path further into the darkness of the catacomb, sprinkling herbs here and there that it had clutched in one of its many hands.

XIGBAR

The pirate stayed still until he could no longer hear herbs dropping to the ground, or the crunching shuffle of the creature's feet as it traveled away. His heart racing, a faint sheen of sweat on his brow, he carefully switched places with the corpse, letting it rest against its tomb as he hurried back around the corner and ran for the door. He didn't care if the creature heard him now; the door was closer and the light of the rest of the temple was just in reach.
« Last Edit: May 27, 2019, 09:33:12 PM by yelloskello »


Offline Xigbar

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SKELLO

Mez had barely been in the hall for a second before the clicking sound of the creature began once again: louder, more consistent. This wasn't echolocation. This was its version of a snarl.

The sound rose to a high shriek that echoed off the walls and put a stabbing pain in one's eardrums. If Mez had looked behind him, the caretaker was tearing through the halls after him, climbing on the walls as it went, its long neck reaching out and its face splitting open once again.

Even so, just around the corner was the preparation room of the catacombs: a wide, square stone chamber, lit with warm candlelight, a naturally-formed table in the center of it. Herbs hung from the ceiling, and there were no tools, as the creature certainly didn't need any. Natural reservoirs were carved into the floor, and bloodstains coated the paths from the table to those reservoirs.

And on the other side... A staircase. He was so close.

The sound of the creature's claws screeching against stone, carving grooves at the entrance to the prep room, was dangerously close. It had gained ground on him at a horrifying pace.

It would take a miracle to outrun this thing.

XIGBAR

The pirate was working his hands through his satchel, keeping his eyes ahead as he focused on running. He knew they were in there somewhere, he just had to grab them...

His fingertips brushed against something rough, spherical, and he dove his hand down further to wrap around the earth bomb.

There was a room ahead, a table, and stairs... Gods, he was so close.

Mez quickened his pace, keeping all of his attention on controlling his legs and preventing panic from ensuing, even though his heart felt like it would jump out of his chest on its own and run away from him.

He reached the table and leaped over it, stumbling slightly on his landing, and continued up the stairs. It was only once he was half way up the narrow passageway of the stairway that he threw the bomb behind him.

It bounced a few steps down then burst, flourishing vines and stone beams in a 5 foot radius around where it had finally landed.

Mez did not stop, struggling up the stairs even though his lungs burned, his face dripping with sweat.

SKELLO

The bomb was going to provide Mez with the precious time he needed, but not enough to guarantee safety. Battered by stone and entangled in vines, the caretaker was trapped in a web at the door, screeching in fury after its prey even as it tore at its prison with its mouth, the roots enclosing its back untangling so that they, too, could rip at stone and plant alike.

At the rate it was tearing the trap apart, Mez would perhaps have fifteen seconds. Twenty, if he was lucky.

It was hard to determine where, exactly, the catacomb had come out. It was a hall, just like several of the halls he, Gurd, and Carolyn had already traversed: straight and narrow, branching off into a dozen other halls. No identifying features, no light beyond the glow of magic within bottles. It was going to be impossible to determine if he was near or far from where they had been. Where he needed to be.

Behind him, the creature shrieked once again. If it didn't get him, it was sure to attract attention.

--

Mez wasn't the only one running.

As soon as she realized what had happened, Carolyn had taken off like a shot. She knew how this worked: you never stop moving when you're in danger. All that does is guarantee you'll get caught, especially among those trained to hunt you. She was hoping she'd find the luck she had found the last time she was here: that her feet would carry her in the right direction, following a call that she couldn't actually hear.

The fear that she was simply making herself more lost, though, nagged at the back of her mind.

A right turn. Down three doors, then a left. All the way down the hall until it went no more, and then another left turn. She was choosing her directions at random, hoping to find something, anything--

And then she came upon it.

A long hall with a high ceiling, flecks of magic floating lazily through the air, lighting the room. The lefthand wall opened up in huge arches, which warm light flooded through. The right wall, simply a waterfall, plunging into a reservoir beneath it. She'd reached somewhere near the back of the temple, she thought, where the rising mountain met the structure itself.

Her steps slowed as she took in the sight. Picked up again as she started to run. Stopped when she realized something was standing in her way.

At the archway at the far end of the hallway, something--no, someone--had just stepped out. An elf, it looked like, in the dim light, skin so dark it was hard to entirely make him out, but dressed in white, loose-fitting clothes. His shoulders were relaxed, and from what she could see of his face, he looked...

Regretful.

Something pounded behind him, from where she couldn't see. She could feel the ground shaking from where she stood.

He spoke, his voice echoing the regret clear on his face.

"Why did you have to come back?"

And then, from behind him, the hound entered the room.

XIGBAR

When Gurd looked around, he noticed how much quieter the area was than where he had been only moments before. Sure, there was the soft flutter of bat wings from far above, water dripping from stalactites, a stream softly trickling in a pool of water not far from him. But the silence wasn't oppressive like in the temple passages; this was natural quiet, not man-made.

The first mate moved through the cave slowly, getting his bearings, looking for any signs of an exit. The air was damp, stale, but still fresher than the catacombs that had entombed his captain. It gave him time to think, to figure out exactly what was going on.

"Tandine," he said out loud, though he knew she was long gone. The name rang with sadness, his voice soaked in regret. He, like many others, could only remind himself that there was nothing more he could have done, however much he wished it.

As he came upon another opening in the cave, perhaps another tunnel leading to another section of the cave, he heard a noise; a dull, but distinctly violent sound that echoed even to where he was. A bomb perhaps? He looked up at the ceiling, frowning. What was going on up there...

He continued moving, knowing he had to find his companions and fast.

SKELLO

The path provided by the caves was naturally lined by the small stream that ran through it, practically leading Gurd along. Light went in and out the farther down the path he moved: he seemed to be quite deep underground, but little slivers of light fed through tiny crevices far above. It wasn't much, but for the most part, it kept his path clear.

The light slowly, gradually, began to grow brighter, finally giving way to a much brighter source: a massive crevice, larger than the one they had come in through - closer to a stone pit, really. It shown down on a mossy outcropping of rocks, the stream culminating in a pool in the center that seemed to swirl down in a weak whirlpool.

And on the edge of the rock overlooking the whirlpool, she was waiting for him.

One of the assassins of the temple was perched, slowly sharpening the blade in her hands: a drow woman, long white hair tied into a tight braid that had been coiled into a bun on the back of her head. She didn't look up when Gurd arrived, but seemed to be aware of his presence nonetheless.

It was a moment before she spoke.

"...There's something different about you, isn't there?" she finally asked. She glanced up to him, raising a brow. "Something bigger. Am I wrong?"

XIGBAR

Gurd hardly reacted. He looked to the assassin, his expression stoic as always, but he was otherwise unaffected by her presence. He needed to find Mez and Carrie.

"You would be better off to let me go peacefully." His voice, no louder, no more strained than a casual talking tone, still reverberated a sound threat. "You shouldn't need to be hurt. But I will do what I must if you should have it."

His hands, his arms, his feet, the man was still as a grave, watching the assassin with eyes that held a wild tendency. He gave her a warning; that was the best he could do.

SKELLO

The woman didn't move an inch, watching him carefully for a moment, then turning her attention back to her sword. She seemed serene. Content.

"Do you know what she did?" she asked. "The girl who you came with. ...Who brought you here, i'm assuming."

XIGBAR

Gurd's heart panged. He didn't know the details of what Carolyn did, but he did know what she had caused. His expression darkened, turning his gaze away from the assassin.

"I saw what happened. However, there is nothing that can be done now. Tandine is gone, her oracles are dead."

He looked back to the assassin.

"You'd gain nothing from preventing my search for her."

 SKELLO

The assassin laughed mirthlessly. For the first time since he'd entered, she began to stand.

"We'd gain justice," she said, "for the loss of our goddess. For the loss of hundreds of years of servitude, of our history, of our purpose, dashed on the rocks. It's all we can ask for, intruder. It's all we have left."

She took a deep breath, pointing her sword a little ways beyond him.

"You leave now, vacate our temple, no-one will stand in your way. That I can promise. That passage leads into the forests to the south."

She moved the sword to point at him, now.

"But if you intend to aid the woman who stole our goddess from us..." She shook her head. "You know as well as I do that I can't let you do that."

XIGBAR

Gurd watched her for a moment before finally nodding.

"I understand," he replied, bringing his hands together. He made a fist with one, clasped the other around it, and cracked his knuckles, then repeated for the other hand.

"Unfortunately, you are preventing me from reaching my captain, regardless of the woman. And he is invested in her well-being. So there is no choice here..."

He put his fists up, shifting his feet into a sideways stance.

"We will fight."

SKELLO

The assassin seemed to take his decision with sober resignation, but only for a moment. As she got into position, shifting her own stance, a little smirk crossed her face. She was starting to feel the rush of battle.

When was the last time she had felt that?

Wielding her sword at the ready in her left hand, her right moved to her back, where she drew a second blade sheathed there. She gave it a quick twirl in her hand, then tightened her grip on the pommel.

"Don't say I didn't warn you."

And with that, she launched herself over the whirlpool and at the man.

XIGBAR

Mez was moving through twists and turns, trying to think of anything else he could do. He had already used two more earth bombs to try to slow the creature down, give him more time to think, but under such pressure he was limited. Did he have time to set a scroll trap? Did he have time to cast anything? And, did he want to risk trying?

If he managed to get injured in this temple, away from everyone else, he worried if he would make it out at all. Running would have to do.

At least, for the meantime. He had to stop eventually. The bombs had given him a few seconds to stop and catch his breath but now he had nothing to keep the creature at bay.

SKELLO

The combination of the bombs and the twisting halls had given Mez truly invaluable time. The caretaker was familiar with the temple, yes, but had to stop to catch Mez's scent when it came to an intersection--something that happened with continually more frequency as the bombs brought it to another untimely halt.

But Mez was out of bombs now, and it was fast. Even now, he would be able to hear its cries echoing down the halls, and every time it screamed out, it was that much closer.

And then the pirate happened to round the wrong corner and found himself face to face with a wall.

It wasn't the end of his journey, but it did make things more difficult. Rather than having the wide array of choices in terms of where to go, he had three: to the right, a hallway, where an unfamiliar figure in white, loose-fitting clothes was standing--and had just spotted him. Behind him, the creature, who sounded as if it could be there at any moment.

To his left, a set of doors.

Heavy and black, with handles and hinges of rune-etched steel.

The only doors he would have seen in this temple. The only doors that existed in this temple.

The doors Carrie had warned, in a hypnotic stupor, not to open--again, and again, and again.

XIGBAR

He could take his chances with the figure in the next room, though considering the horrors he had already encountered in this place he wasn't sure if he wanted to. He could try to fight the creature off, but there was no telling what it was capable of. And if he was injured in the process of all this? He might not escape at all.

The doors almost beckoned him, if only with the thought that, perhaps, he had better chances going through there than his other choices. Perhaps it had something even worse. But at least it was 50/50.

Mez took a deep breath, shooting a look back down the passageway he'd come and into the next room at the figure in white, before he barreled into the door and swung them open.

The faint memory of Carrie's hypnotic warnings drifted through his memory.

SKELLO

The last thing Mez would see before entering the black doors was the caretaker, clawing its way around the corner, and the figure in white sprinting towards him, a sword of fire summoned in one hand.

Then the doors closed behind him, and in an instant, everything was safe.

Carrie had felt the wave of assurance that no harm would come to her when she entered the chamber of Tandine's altar: a calm, silky feeling, maintaining the memories of the fear she'd felt moments before while pulling away the emotions associated with them. Nothing could hurt her there. Nothing could find her there. So long as she stayed within that chamber--within the grasp of the goddess of death--she would be alright.

A similar feeling permeated the room Mez had just entered.

It was silent, apart from a soft hum that seemed to come from nowhere in particular. There weren't even sounds from outside the door, as if the creatures that had been pursuing Mez had simply given up.

Or, perhaps, the doors weren't there anymore for them to come to.

There was no decoration in the room. No chairs, no paintings, no tapestries, no rugs; only stone walls and a stone floor, repetitive and perfect. Something was emanating green light, but its source was as unrecognizable as the hum in the air. There was only one thing one could say for sure: the source was not the orb.

Gods. The orb.

It was massive - three times the size of Mez, easily, and floating in the center of the room. It almost looked like a patch of void thrown into reality, where it sat serenely but didn't quite fit. No, it couldn't have been the source of the light, the noise, because the thing had a profound sense of nothingness to it; one might get the notion that, should they touch it, they might stop existing as well.

And then, after a long silence - allowing Mez to get his bearings - its surface rippled.

"Inifinate."
« Last Edit: June 02, 2019, 03:28:17 PM by Xigbar »


Offline yelloskello

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XIGBAR

Mez, finally, found himself able to stop and breathe. His body ached from the strain, but at least he was all in one piece.

Unfortunately, he didn't have much time to regain his composure. Even though there was no monster racing to catch him or flames licking his back, he was in no way safe. Such a place could never constitute as 'safe'.

He wiped the sweat from his brow, looking around the room more carefully, quickly noticing with alarm that there was no way out. The pirate hesitated, looking behind him with some care, some caution, before a vibration of sound in front of him called for his attention.

"Inifinate."

His gaze shot forward, eyes wide at the orb in front of him. He didn't want to go any closer.

"How do you know my name?"

SKELLO

The surface of the orb rippled again - something that appeared to happen just before the voice rumbled out, reverberating on every surface of the room.

"There is little I don't know, even from within the confines of my p͓̗̳͇̲̟ri̳͎s̙͓̹̲ͅo̢͙n̤̘̺͎," it responded. The room seemed to flicker on the final word, contorting, before quickly snapping back to normal. "My view of the new, outside world is limited, but your mind was op̝̥͙͕͎ę͕͓͚̩̝ͅn͍̪̞͙͇͢ͅ to me from the moment you set foot within this temple. From it, I see every facet of your being - and the li̜͓̗̫v̲̯̩̕e̯̟͈s̲̙̰̹̩ of those connected to you sprout from your being like a tree in bloom."

Its voice was deep. Heavy.

"You are Ehimezol Inifinate. Son of Leaondel Inifinate, and a mother whose face escapes you - a good woman, however. She craved to have you with her. She loved you, genuinely. Brother of A̳̻̘d̠̙̟͝í̘̳͈m̛͇̗͓̠ Inifinate, the infested child. You were raised in Hightown Pious--a lonely, torturous childhood. You joined the military at the age of fifteen, desperate to prove yourself to a father who never saw your worth, to leave a wretched home, to find a purpose in your life - and defected only three years later with the help of a m̸̹̯̩̜̱̺a̺͝n͏͓ whose company meant the world to you."

The orb paused. It rippled again. An image flickered within its void, but it was difficult to tell what it was. A face...?

"He loved you. Genuinely."

Another uncomfortable pause. The orb seemed to be processing.

"You've lost so many people dear to you over the years. I can see them now - ones that have risen to power. Ones who hover over the grave. W̹i͚̭͎͈̦͖͝l̛͔̪̪d̮̥̭͙̟ ones who hide in plain sight, but all lost to you... You have my sympathy, pirate. I have lost much as well."

XIGBAR

The words this thing spoke sent a chill streaking down his body. Of course it was magic, there was no other way this orb would know any of those things about him, but that didn't mean it didn't terrify him all the same. Knowing how didn't help his fear.

Mez felt another bead of sweat roll down his cheek.

"I'm sorry," he said. "You.. have my condolences."

He swallowed, hard, and continued.

"I can't help but feel like you want something. I'm not very helpful unfortunately..."

SKELLO

"Quite the contrary, I̠̱̳̯͎͠n̼̮̺̫̭̰͢i̧͙̺͉̰f̮̤͔͉ͅi̧̫n̖̥̭̹͇ͅa͉̞̖͟t̠̹̩̺͢ḙ," the orb responded. Its entire surface seemed to shift, now, rather than just ripple, before settling back into place. "You are, currently, the only one here who can help me.

"My name is O͕̻̤̭͓̭̜ḅ͍̘͙͙e̦͔͍̭̬r̬̲̺̣͎̦͞ͅós̶̘̯, pirate. I am an old god of magic, sharing the title with my brother, B͔̳̹̼̰͠ͅid̥li̲͔͔͎͇n͖̯͎̫̹̤͡ͅg̷. I have been locked within this chamber, for..."

It trailed off, and shifted again.

"...For longer than I can truly remember, and for c̳̪̘̜͟r̳̥̤͈̙̰̩͝i͕̱̰̤m̨̭̳e͔͓͍̟̠̱s̟̯͡ that I did not commit. I cannot see beyond the confines of this wretched temple, save for what comes within. I miss the outside world. I wish to see how it's changed--how it's grown. The years have melted away for me, I̠̱̳̯͎͠n̼̮̺̫̭̰͢i̧͙̺͉̰f̮̤͔͉ͅi̧̫n̖̥̭̹͇ͅa͉̞̖͟t̠̹̩̺͢ḙ, and I am lonely. And my brother..."

Once again, it trailed off. Another image flashed within its void--something bright, something powerful, but ultimately difficult to discern.

"I wish to be free."

XIGBAR

"You're... a god?"

The pirate finally stepped forward, eyes wide.

"I thought this was Tandine's temple." He paused, hesitated. 'Was' her temple; she certainly wasn't there any more...

"Listen, I get it, but I don't think this is... These are god politics. I shouldn't get involved. If you're in here, and they put you here, then there must be a good reason."

SKELLO

"They were f̬̜̣̞̥̹̙o̹͉o̷̠̬͍l͏̤̲͎e̦͚̻̦͉̲̱d̯̱̯̲̺̠̟," Oberos responded, his voice resonating somewhat louder on the final word. He had to take a moment, ripple once again. When he spoke afterwards, it was in softer tones.

"I was thrown to the wolves by my b̠̩͓̪̲̭̜͢r̠̲̘̭̻o̬̜̱̳̼͔ț̵̤h̳̲̹͍̪e͞r͍̙͓̭͈, who walks the world freely to this day, if not under a distant gaze. Even now, I feel him. He is wreaking a h̪̮̳a͕̞͝vo̵̺͔͚c͔͍ upon your world you are not even aware of. He must be punished. Justice must be dealt, and the others must know the truth."

Another pause. The room flickered again.

"I am the god of desire, Inifinate. The god of w̘̜͖̭̰̮̥is҉̭̺̗ḥ̬͈̫͈͖e̢̥̮̤̼̤̪s̡. I am prepared to offer to you what you want most in return for your aid."

Another image, and this one was far clearer than the last two. A face, decidedly, of a grinning elf, sun-kissed face framed with gold waves of hair. This was how he'd looked the last time Mez had seen him alive and happy.

Yahle.

"I could bring him back to you. In the b͓̪̱͖͟ͅl̻͉̜͜i͈͢n̦̝͍̠̖k̗̗ͅͅ of an eye."

XIGBAR

At the sight of his old friend, his old love, Mez felt tears sting his eyes, a knot reach his throat. He jerked away, covering his face with his hands.

"Please... Don't... Don't show him."

Yahle...

The pirate kept his face hidden, unable to look at the god, unable to face what Oberos was trying to tempt him with.

"You could bring him back," he began, lips pulled into a thin line, pained. "You could bring Yahle back, in exchange for me helping you..."

The idea was certainly appealing. These last few months of suffering, replaced with a second chance...

It seemed too good to be true.

SKELLO

"It would be as if he was never gone," Oberos continued, the image of Yahle's smiling face disappearing with another ripple. "You would open your eyes, and be back on your ship. He would be with you--as he should be. None of t̹͖͖̩͔̤hi̯ͅș̶̹̠͚͈̱̯--"

The room flickered once again.

"--would be anything more than an unpleasant dream. The assassins, the thieves, the monstrosities borne of Tandine's realm. G͓̣͓̕o̮̦̗̥̠͞ṋ͍̤e̘̼̺͕͚̣͚."

He paused once again, giving Mez time to let this sink in. The pirate didn't need to say anything; the god could feel the desire in him. Another image flashed, this time of a much more familiar scene: the temple. An echoing roar, endlessly distant, rang out in the vision, and Mez would be able to see someone dashing down one of the endless halls, and something horrific on her tail.

"You've brought a w͚̻̮̞̲̳̰͠o͜ͅm̩͉̙̮͘ͅàͅṋ̩̤̻̰̖̙ with you who holds the final shard, the radiance of rebirth. Such power can revitalize, bear me anew, allow me to break this shell. I cannot reach her on my own, and she knows too much of this place to dare set foot in here on her own."

The image faded.

"All I ask of you is to bring her to me."

XIGBAR

Mez carefully looked up as he heard the sounds of Oberos' last vision, staring as Carolyn ran for her life. His eyes widened, the vision faded, and he frowned.

"No."

The pirate stepped away from the orb.

"I won't do anything of the sort." He took a deep breath. "Yahle is dead because of me, I should be the last person to decide for him if he comes back or not. That would be selfish. I couldn't live with that.

"I also know that she said not to enter these doors, and clearly it was for a good reason. I'm sorry about your brother, Oberos, but there's nothing I can do for you. I need to leave, to find Carolyn and Gurd, if you're well done trying to bribe me..."

SKELLO


Oberos was silent, statuesque, imposing, for too long a moment. There wasn't a flutter of the room, a ripple of his form - for a moment, it seemed as if the god had simply turned off.

"I understand," he finally said--and from behind Mez, there was a click of the doors. "I cannot force you to do anything against your w̲͈̩̹̹͍̠͟i͔ḻ̡̮͚̜͔l̗͚̘͖̰̳̝͡, nor do I plan to. But know, pirate... Know that I am here. That I can r̛̪̻e͏̩̰͍t̬̘̻͚̠̤̲͢ú͇̺̠͚̯̬r̢̯̱n̙͚̤͢ to you what you seek."

His form shifted like a wave running from one side of him to the other.

"There will be no-one waiting for you when you leave this room - they may be my jailors, but they cannot know. The woman in the mirror is nearby. Find her."

A pause. When he spoke next, it was with the first sense of emotion the god had evoked: bitterness.

"And bid Gurd w̝͔̜ę͈͔̣̩̰̭̞l̦͈̠l̥ͅͅ ̮̰̕w̮̹̙̦͔͇is͎͓͇̠̖͓̗h͓̪͈̭̺͇͞ḙ̮̻̮͍̝̬ś from me."

XIGBAR

Mez almost gave the god one, final word, a thank you for letting him go or for giving him a tip, actually helping him even though he refused to help in return...

But the way the god said Gurd's name.

The pirate hurried to the door, opening it quickly, and slipped out. The transition into the much darker area made him groan softly, his eyes trying to adjust. But, so far, it seemed the god had been telling the truth; it was safe.

SKELLO

Indeed, the quarter of the temple Mez had been unceremoniously dropped in seemed to be devoid of life--but for how long was up for debate. Even with the god's guarantee, the distant sounds of roaring could be heard; it was the same roar Mez had heard Oberos' final vision. It was the creature chasing Carrie. No doubt.

But for now, he had time.

This portion of the temple was different than the oppressive mazes Mez had been weaving through before after coming out of the catacombs. The rooms were larger, more spacious, and actually decorated. Chairs and tables speckled the corners of the rooms he passed through, and mirrors and paintings--depicting odd, disturbing images--littered the walls. There were few archways to pass through, and most of them led to obvious locations: bedchambers, for the most part, but also a dining hall, and down a long hall had been the entrance to the kitchens.

Passing by all of them, though, brought him to her prison.

At first, the room wouldn't have seemed out of place from any of the other rooms he had just passed through. It was decently furnished, decorated with mirrors and paintings, but at the very end facing the entrance to the room was a mirror the size of the wall itself, giving Mez a perfect reflection of himself and his surroundings.

Well, perhaps not perfect.

Curled up in a chair that was empty in Mez's iteration of the world, the creature--person--woman stuck out like a sore thumb. It took a moment to come to the conclusion that it was indeed a person, or at least, had once been one: her entire form seemed to be made up of a bright blue light that permeated through a deep blue membrane, aside from her hair, which haloed her head like blue fire. But she had two arms. Two legs. A recognizable frame, at the very least.

The woman in the mirror is nearby. Find her.

XIGBAR

With the mirror in front of him, he could finally see how ragged he looked; cobwebs in his hair, dirt on his face, a tear in his left pant leg. He looked a wreck, but he only had a moment to notice his own self before his gaze was directed to the other figure in the mirror. He looked behind him, at the empty chair in the room, then back to the figure there. He stepped closer, knowing this was who he was looking for but unsure how to help...

"Excuse me?" he said, though it unintentionally came out as a whisper; he was still nervous about being found by another creature. "Miss? Can you hear me?"

SKELLO

The woman within the mirror had indeed heard him, but didn't react immediately. She was used to this by now: the distant muffled sounds of speech from beyond the window into the real world, rarely discernable, but hard to miss in what was otherwise painful silence. Mostly, it was the assassins talking amongst themselves. Sometimes, among the crueler ones, it was them coming to taunt her.

She'd taken to ignoring it.

At first, she kept her head down, remained curled against herself in hopes that this latest visitor would pass through, or get bored, or perhaps grow frustrated with her lack of response. It was the only form of rebellion she had left, after all.

The speaking--really more of a gentle white noise that broke the silence on her side, really--continued, though, and after a moment, she deigned to look up: a quick, spiteful glance, and then she would return to ignoring them. When it sunk in that the figure she had seen on the other side of the mirror was not anyone she'd seen within the temple, and certainly not an assassin, she did a double-take.

In an instant, she was out of the chair, dissolving into luminescent mist that swirled through the air, reforming her just in front of the mirror. Her hands were pressed against the glass, eyes wide, head tilted in curiousity.

With a little hesitation, frightened and excited, she gently knocked on the glass and watched for a response. The sound rang true even on Mez's side.

XIGBAR

Mez smiled weakly as the woman acknowledged him. Gods, finally, something was going right for him. He gave her a little knock back, a friendly action, then stepped back lightly to look the mirror over. It was huge, the opalescent frame moderately detailed, but he couldn't see any discernible runes or gems giving it power, any seals keeping this woman trapped inside. It just shone strangely in the light, like shells in the sun.

He pursed his lips and moved back closer to the mirror.

"Do you know how this works?" he asked, still in a hush.
« Last Edit: May 27, 2019, 10:38:29 PM by yelloskello »


Offline Xigbar

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SKELLO
The woman's brow knitted in worry, and she tilted one ear towards him, lightly cupping it to signify she was having a difficult time hearing. His hushed tones were one thing; even loud voices were difficult to discern through the mirror.

She paused, looking about the room for a moment, and misted away from the mirror. Mez would see her looking about, see a smile erupt onto her face as she spotted what she needed. She misted away, but was back in a heartbeat, a scrap of parchment that had been sitting on a table in hand. She didn't need a pen: one quick nip at her index finger, and she was scribbling away, glowing blue blood as her ink.

Once she was done, she slapped the paper against the glass.

'Trapped. Door to aether. Don't know what magic. Useful spells/scrolls?'

XIGBAR

Mez read the note, but found it.. wasn't much more help. So she had no idea how this mirror worked, either.

He looked up at the entire mirror again, trying to think. He knocked on the mirror, it hadn't given way to him entering. Nothing around the mirror seemed linked to holding someone within it's confines. He turned and dug around in his satchel. A few scrolls, nothing that could help with the situation they had on their hands. He could try to write a new one, something that could perhaps get someone through the aether, but he still wasn't knowledgeable enough with writing enchantments to try his hand at a new, experimental one.

Mez looked around the room. Was there a key somewhere perhaps? They might not even hide it that well, he doubted they expected too many visitors.

Looking back to the woman, he leaned in and huffed on the glass. Then he wrote on the fog.

I am Mez

SKELLO

The woman's gaze moved briefly to his message, then back to him. She squinted lightly, then shook her head, a tired smile crossing her face. Taking her paper once again, she wrote another message with a few quick swoops of her finger.

'Ursa'.

Lowering the paper once again, her brow furrowed, and she floated backwards a few paces to examine her own side of the mirror. She took mental inventory of her attempts to escape over the last week and a half, wracked her brains for a possible solution. She had no access to strong magic, lest she go searching for it back beyond the confines of the room... And, gods, she did not want to return to that place; it was luck alone that brought her this close to her freedom, and she didn't trust lightning to strike twice.

She had tried moving through the other archways that she had access to, but they were simply a farce: this illusion of the temple only existed as far as the reflection did.

She had even tried breaking the damn thing, once, in desperation, but gave up quickly. What if that closed off her chances of escape forever?

Frowning in frustration, she floated back to the mirror and wrote another message for Mez. This time, it was an illustration: a little scribble of a pouch, the button on the front of it inscribed with a particular rune. A single word sat below it:

'Bedchambers'.

XIGBAR

Mez nodded and moved away. He remembered seeing the room on his way to this one and backtracked into the hall to the next room over. Carefully, he peeked inside, making sure he was alone, before he entered. Beds sat in rows, various chests set against them and coats and other varieties hung from hooks on the walls. He frowned; there was a lot more to look through than he'd hoped.

But he knew he didn't have much time, someone could come in at any moment.

He was looking for a pouch, with a rune on it, and looking around the room more carefully told him that he'd found just that - in fact, he'd found quite a few of them. He didn't even know what he was looking for other than that pouch, so there was only one thing he could really do.

As quickly as he could he proceeded to grab as many as he could get his hands on, draping them by their draw string around his arm, and once he'd grabbed enough he hurried out, back to the mirror room.

"I don't know which one it is," he admitted, coming up to the mirror. He opened one up, feeling around inside with his fingers. "And I'm not sure what I'm looking for..."

SKELLO

To be honest, Ursa wasn't entirely sure what he was looking for, either. She had never seen the contents of these pouches, but over the last week, had seen them on the hips of the assassins from time to time, always in the evenings. She had made a wild guess at what they could be, and lucky for her, she wasn't far off.

Component pouches. Each of the pouches Mez was holding contained ingredients and scrolls in various amounts, no doubt for ritual use. At the very least, it was a step in the right direction, another chance of escape that hadn't been available to her when she didn't have another soul to search the real world on her behalf.

She just hoped there was something he could use in there...

--

Carolyn felt like she might vomit.

She had come to a stop when she was finally beginning to feel faint from the exertion of running. Pushing herself much harder, and she'd be doglunch, no doubt about it. She'd leapt into another corridor, run most of the way down it, then taken a sharp turn and plastered herself against the wall there.

She had a bit of a lead--hopefully enough to let her catch her breath--but figured she had seconds at most. She could already feel the ground rumbling as the hound tore after her.

She took quick stock of her surroundings, and felt hopelessness rise in her chest at her lack of options. More archways. Of fucking course. Nothing she could use as a weapon, no immediate place to guarantee she could hide herself away, just herself, and the hall, and those godsforsaken blue bottles.

...Those godsforsaken blue bottles...

The rumbling had stopped, but she could hear a low growl coming close. It knew she was there, and was stalking her, hoping to catch her before she could begin running once again. She didn't have time to think--only time to act.

At the same time that its snout, littered with dozens of yellow eyes, came into her peripherals, she tightened her grip on the closest bottle to herself. It looked at her, and she looked at it.

"Eat shit, you ugly fuck."

And she smashed the bottle directly into its eyes.

--

Ursa couldn't feel the rumble that shook the temple, but she could see the effects of it on the other side of the mirror; hear the vague noise too quiet to really make out. Her eyes widened.

What in the hell was going on over there...?

XIGBAR

Mez stopped, eyes growing wide, and he turned to look around the room. The noise and the shudder of something, somewhere, had put a certain panic in him; they were running out of time.

"Gods, what are we even looking for....?"

He dumped the contents of two pouches, finding rune stones in one and a few small scrolls in another. This was getting more frustrating by the moment.

"Does any of this look helpful, Ursa?" He frowned. "I haven't found anything that looks like a key, just a bunch of things that look like components..."

The man rubbed his chin gently.

"All I have on me are some communication scrolls, a fire blast scroll, some tear bombs, and some blank scrolls... Anything look promising?"

SKELLO

Ursa had been watching Mez carefully, leaning in as close as she could to see what he might find in the pouches, her arms crossed and tapping her foot as the gears turned in her head.

When he dumped the contents, though, she paused. Stepped back, looking down at her feet. What he had dropped into the reflection was on her side now: scrolls, stones and all.

She stooped, gingerly picking up the scrolls, and began to unroll them and look through their contents. Her knowledge of magic was fairly rudimentary, and she cursed herself for not learning more of it before now--

Wait.

She had been about to drop a scroll when she noticed something within it that piqued a memory. She'd seen that sigil before. Seen it when...

...When...

She got out her blank sheet of paper, flipped it over, and wrote frantically. She held her new message to the glass, watching Mez with a serious gaze.

'I have an idea. Please trust me. Be ready to run.'

XIGBAR

Mez paused in his rifling to look at her message, his brow creasing. He looked back up to her and gave a nod.

He hoped she knew what she was doing, there wasn't much room for second tries...


Gurd had found his way back into the temple, though he still had no idea where Carolyn or Mez were. Or where he was, for that matter. The one thing he was grateful for, at least, was that the passage he'd stepped up into was empty; well, almost.

He adjusted the woman slung over his shoulder, glancing at her dangling legs.

He had warned her, but there was only so much one could do. She had been determined, almost excited. If she'd known what she was in for she might have thought twice.

With a shake of his head, he turned and began down one of the passage ways, following the bottled magic.

SKELLO

The trail of bottled magic led Gurd down an easy path. He met surprisingly few obstacles as he moved about the temple, but--

BOOM

The rumbling explosion, the roar, came from somewhere above and to the east. No wonder Gurd was having an easy time navigating the temple: the denizens of the area, it seemed, had business elsewhere. At least that provided him some sense of direction.

The hallways, as they tended to be, were endlessly repetitive and showed no sign of any way to the floor above. Corridor after corridor, it was the same: a straight shot, diverging left and right at the end and lined with more passages on the way. It was a wonder that the building had the room to accommodate so many halls...

... Did it have room to accommodate so many halls?

Another corridor. Another corridor. Down a corridor, and past--surprise--several more corridors. Another corridor. The woman draped over Gurd's shoulder made a sound, but it seemed involuntary. Another corridor, but this one lined with--

Wait.

Those were bars. Those were cells.

Carrie had mentioned a stockade...

XIGBAR

Jails. Cell upon cell, looking into each one as he passed. He was on the right track.

Gurd carefully adjusted the woman on his shoulder, eying the contents of each cell. One was empty, another had nothing but bones stripped clean, another a rotting body surrounded by rats...

He really hoped that wasn't her friend...

"Hello?" he spoke to the room, looking around for signs of life.

SKELLO

After calling out his greeting, somewhere within the stockade, Gurd would hear something move.

It was not a graceful sound by any measure, but not a loud one either. No: the sound of the sole living denizen of the Tandenei stockades was something akin to a grunt of effort, followed by the drawn-out noise of something dragging itself across the floor. Awkwardly. Painfully. Whatever it was that was in here, it was struggling.

Two cells down, on the left. The creature would have been difficult to spot if not for the way its leering, hazy eyes reflected the light of the hall, making them shine a sickening yellow-green. Gurd would barely be able to make out its features, but whatever it was, it was rail-thin, with warped skin, massive ears, a tail tucked under itself. It had shoved itself as far into a corner as possible, curling itself into a ball, making itself as small as it could.

And it was damaged. Gods, was the thing damaged. Even in the dim light, bloody wounds glistened.

It watched the first mate for a long moment from over its shoulder, its claws digging into the stone. All it knew was its pain, dull in some places, stinging and burning in others, making it hard to think. Hard to process. The farther into view Gurd came, the more it hunkered down, trying to get away. It began to hiss--a slow, gentle sound. It was too weak to manage more.

Slowly, the noise dissipated to nothing. Realization had finally reached its addled brain that it was not looking at one of the white-clad priests of the temple--and, in fact, this man seemed to have apprehended one of them. Even so, it did not relax. Not for a moment.

Slowly, carefully, its voice croaked out, sounding as painful as it felt to speak.

"...yer not a priest."

XIGBAR

Gurd stood by the cell doors, looking in at the being inside. He carefully adjusted the assassin on his shoulder.

"No, I am not," he replied, stepping closer and placing a hand on the bars. He gave it a firm pull, trying to see if they were loose; they weren't.

"Are you affiliated with a woman by the name of Carolyn Bellgood?" Gurd asked, watching the prisoner, gauging his reaction.

SKELLO

The creature was having a hard time thinking. More than anything, it simply wanted to succumb to sleep, to be free of the mind-bending pain it was in, to escape from this godsforsaken temple for even an hour. Even a few minutes. It sounded, to it, like Gurd was speaking through water, and keeping its concentration squarely on its visitor was a herculean task. It wasn't even entirely sure Gurd was more than a hallucination. More than a cruel trick.

Until he heard her name. Her full name.

"Carrie--Carrie?" it asked. It seemed to be trying--and failing--to pull itself to its feet. "Is--izzshe--"

Its legs gave out from under it, and it thumped its head against the wall as it went down. Gurd would hear it give a whining sound, hiding its head underneath its arms.

XIGBAR

"Do not strain yourself," Gurd said, leaning away and starting to look around the room. He was searching for a key, or anything that could open the lock...

He lowered down to one knee and carefully, gently, lowered the assassin down to rest against the wall. Straightening up, he looked back into the cell.

"Do you remember where they put the key?"

SKELLO

The creature squeezed its eyes shut, letting out another whine of pain, one thin, warped leg kicking out, pushing against the cold floor.

"I... The... Ugly one has it," it groaned. "Big. Mean. Mean. On his belt..."
« Last Edit: June 02, 2019, 04:03:59 PM by Xigbar »


Offline yelloskello

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XIGBAR

"I see," Gurd replied. Unfortunately, there was no one else in the room with them; no big, mean, ugly to get a key from. He looked around the room again. Some broken stone in the floors, some rotting hay...

And across from him, a cell with a bar that looked like it had been melted and bent outwards, weak at the bend. Clearly something had escaped at some point...

The first mate walked over, leaning down to take the bar in both hands. It was bent at about knee level and with some brute force he only needed to press it downward further to cause it to snap off from the rest of the cell. Perhaps he could have used a lock pick but of all the things he was good at, working small metal pieces into delicate mechanisms was something he'd never quite been able to pick up. It also didn't help that Mez had all the lock picks on him.

He walked back over, eying the metal rod in his hands and then the lock of the cell the figure was curled inside of.

Gurd looked to the hinges of the door. They were carefully crafted, difficult to dislodge or pull apart. He gave the door a shake, a test.

It jiggled, but it did not open.

He moved to the keyhole, where he took the pointier end of the bar and pressed it into the key hole. He wiggled it lightly, took it out, and did it again, but much harder, more forceful, with a dull thwang. He wiggled the bar out of the key hole once more, testing the door of the cell.

Now it was far looser. Still though, it did not open.

This time, Gurd pressed the bar in between the cell bars, the small gap where the cell door bar and the rest of the cell bars nearly touched. He wedged it between forcefully and once he had managed to get the bar between the other two enough, he began to pry...

SKELLO

The metal groaned under the pressure Gurd was exerting, but didn't give immediately. It was old, but still sturdy; the cells had been well-crafted.

Even so, Gurd was strong. Stronger than most. After a moment--the sound of it making the creature within jump, curling into a tighter ball--the door snapped open, swinging in so quickly it banged against the wall.

The creature raised its head, taking in the sight of Gurd standing before him, nothing blocking his way. After a moment, he started to sniffle, eyes stinging with tears.

Please, gods. Let this be real.

XIGBAR

Gurd stepped into the cell and carefully over to the figure. He crouched by him, offering a hand.

"What is your name?" he asked, kindness in his eyes, gentleness in his voice.

SKELLO

From this close, it was much easier to make out the creature's appearance. Its face held the same contorted, purple-toned skin as the rest of its body, but a portion of its face--almost like a mask--was gray in hue, and smoother, save for the crack running diagonally across it. It looked as if its form was laid over a generally human bone structure, but it had been altered. Made more feral. Bat-like.

The creature was silent a moment, squinting tiredly at the hand. Still clutching its head with one gnarled hand, it extended the other, claws barely touching the pirate's hand--then resting his own hand in it, once he realized it wasn't simply a fever dream.

He felt real. Gods, it never thought it'd be so relieved to touch a person. Gurd would see its entire form relax, its lids drooping in exhaustion.

"Connie," it croaked. He was dizzy with relief, and it showed. "Conn'ly."

XIGBAR

"Connie," Gurd observed. He didn't seem to be bothered by the figure's appearance; in fact, he seemed to barely even notice. He simply clasped its hand gently in his warm, firm grasp.

"Let me help you. Are you strong enough to stand?"

SKELLO

Connie heard the question. That was something he wouldn't forget, when he woke up in the future: he'd heard the question loud and clear, too close for him to not notice. Nevertheless, no response came; the creature, upon realizing it was safe, that someone was here for him, and finally given into the urge that he'd been fighting so hard against.

He passed out.

--

Well. It was sloppy, but she wasn't about to clean it all off and start again. She'd bled enough for this piece of art alone.

The first thing Ursa had Mez do was set his dagger on the floor so that she might have one of her own; a pinprick on her fingertip wasn't enough to do what she needed to. Slicing open the palm of her hand--cringing appropriately as she did so--she carefully painted a rune on the mirror between her and Mez, consulting the scroll every once in a while to make sure she was still doing it right. She looked at it now, tilting her head, scrutinizing it, checking the scroll...

...Yes. That would have to do.

From there, with some rather frustrating directions, she signed to Mez to go and stand in a certain spot, finally confirming he was in the right place with a thumbs up. With that done, she took a few steps back, a few steps over, looked behind her...

...She could get crushed to death, doing this. He could end up in her place. But, if the thing had been able to drag her into the mirror, by all logic, it should be able to push her back out, so long as it had a reason to be reaching through the mirror and into the physical realm.

Mez seemed like a good enough reason.

She stared into the darkness for another moment longer, then looked back to Mez. One more thumbs-up, with an expression that said what she couldn't at the moment: 'Ready?'

XIGBAR

The pirate had watched with interest as she worked, trying to follow her lead, what she was trying to accomplish. The blood, the symbols, it seemed far out of his own range of experience; clearly he would need to do some more reading when he got back to the ship.

That is, if he got back. He still hadn't a hair of Gurd or Carrie; he figured, perhaps, he'd heard some signs of them, but as for the people in question...

Finally it seemed that Ursa was almost ready. He followed her instructions, mirroring where she wanted him to stand, and readied himself for when he needed to run; he hoped he didn't miss his cue...

SKELLO

Ursa watched Mez for a long moment, taking a deep breath. This was foolish... But, gods, what better chance did she have? She lifted the scroll, taking another look at it. She had the spell weaved within the paper; the blood; the marked 'door'...

...Well, here goes nothing.

She smacked the scroll against the mirror, then pulled her hand back quickly as the spell pulsated, the scroll desintegrating in green fire. She twirled, looking towards the darkness, bracing herself.

Nothing.

Then a sound, as if air was leaving the room.

Then, it came.

Mez would barely get a chance to see it; everything was suddenly moving so fast. The hand rushed from the darkness in the back of the reflection like a blur, coming straight at him--and straight at Ursa, too. Just as she'd planned, it pushed right into her, and everything seemed to happen at once.

The glass shattered, an explosion of shards showering out towards Mez.

Ursa dissipated into mist the moment she was through, dispersing briefly, then reshaping into an amorphous concentration. It rolled across the floor, quickly picking itself up again, gaining more of a human shape as it sprinted after Mez. She just had to reach him--

The sound of screams filled the room, every face writhing under the hand's skin the perfect picture of agony--the sight lost on Mez, who was already fleeing. It would be on him in a heartbeat, grasping him, dragging him back into the aether.

But Ursa reached him first, barely grasping the edge of his shirt, and that was all it took.

--

One of the first things Ursula Van de Graff had learned of her newfound abilities gifted to her by the aether was that she could take things with her.

She had not found the entrance to the temple immediately. In fact, she didn't come across it for what felt like several weeks in the strange, dissonant realm. There were hundreds of doors within the aether, hidden behind corners, up stairs, down alleys, each one leading to a new, strange place. One of the earliest she had found was a small, round chamber, a library with shelves that reached so high they became lost in darkness. She had spent a good amount of time in there, floating about, skimming books, searching for answers, for spells.

She had taken one of these books with her when she departed the chamber: nothing particularly useful to her situation, but holding secrets of her world that were unheard of. Every time she opened it, it seemed to hold a new page, new secrets.

She figured she had quite a bit of time on her hands; at the very least, this would make sure she wouldn't get bored.

Of course, when she found the entrance to the temple, she had no plan to leave, even if that meant she would be trapped there. Much of her time was left waiting, screaming at priests, trying to entertain herself until an answer, hopefully, fell into her lap.

She spent quite a bit of time reading that book.

It hadn't occurred to her until after she'd done it. She had left the book across the room from her, and, hankering for something to do, had misted across the way, picked it up, and misted back to her seat... Then paused, as it occurred to her that the book had, briefly, joined her form in the mist. She looked it over with a scrutinizing eye, flipped through it to see if something had happened to it; nothing. It had come out just as it had gone in.

She could carry things. Fascinating.

--

The feeling of one's body as it dissolves into mist isn't painful, per se, but for someone who had never experienced it before--such as Mez--it was certainly... Disorienting.

Sound fell out to nothing. Touch was nonexistent. The world around him looked wrong, as he was rushed down the hallway--and then through the floor. And then another floor, every layer of physical resistance rolling over him like a wave. For only a few seconds, he would see--feel--hints of someone else there, hear flashes of sounds, see brief glimpses of memories...

And then Ursa dropped him, unceremoniously, onto the floor of one of the temple's many corridors.

The woman herself rolled, catching herself on a wall, going stiff as she came down from the high-intensity experience. Slowly, she started to relax. Started to catch her breath--carrying a human being had taken far more exertion than a book. Started to laugh. As she laughed--loud, uncaring of who might hear her--her form began to reconstitute, her light-bearing form chipping away, leaving a woman who looked like... A woman. Dark-skinned, with black, flouncing hair, and dressed in fine clothing.

She turned to look at Mez, grinning, eyes full of fire.

"I cannot believe that worked!"

XIGBAR

The whole 'rescue' had happened so fast. He'd hardly had time to react to it, hardly had time to think about what was happening. One moment this unearthly woman was behind glass, the next they were plummeting through the floor. His stomach was a knot and he felt a bit sick, but it slowly subsided and he leaned back against the wall. It helped steady his vision.

Slowly, he looked over... and his eyes widened slightly at the sight. She was a spectacular sight on the other side of a mirror, but in person... Far more radiant.

"We're... We're alive. Gods beyond, how did we pull that off..." He paused. "I mean. You. How did you pull that off. What was that?"

He stopped when he heard a crashing sound some ways down the hallway they were in. Mez started to get to his feet.

"Nevermind, we can talk about it later. We need to get moving..."

SKELLO

Ursula looked positively giddy. She'd hurried over--tripping ever-so-slightly over her own feet--to help Mez up, but had jumped when she heard the sound from farther in the temple.

"Sounds like a plan," she breathed, already starting off away from the sound as soon as Mez was on his feet. She glanced back to him.

"What in the world are you doing in here? Did you come alone?"

XIGBAR

"Gods, no," Mez replied, keeping in step with her. "I came with my first mate, Gurd, and someone who calls herself your friend - a Carrie Bellgood. Ring any bells?"

SKELLO

Ursula slowed, first, then came to a complete stop. She was staring at Mez, brow furrowed. She didn't know why she was surprised--really, why else would anyone dare trying to break into this place, unless Carrie had something to do with it?

Even still.

"She came back," she said, incredulously. "We went through all this trouble to make sure she got out alright, and she just throws herself right back in here? Gods, i'm going to kill that woman."

She huffed lightly, rubbing the bridge of her noise, eyes closing. There was another sound of a crash, but more distant; she ignored this one.

"Look," she finally continued. "We'll find your... Your first mate--"

Who was this man, that he had a first mate?

"And Carrie. But we find my partner first. I'm not going anywhere without him. Understood?"

XIGBAR

Mez simply nodded and continued walking, not wanting to stick around to see where those sounds in the distance were caused by.

"That's fine. If we're lucky, Carrie or Gurd might have already found your partner."

He peeked around a corner briefly before continuing.

"I know Carrie said something about stockades. Unfortunately I didn't even know where I was when I found you, nevermind where we are now. We were separated, suddenly, and I found myself in the catacombs. I can't speak for the other two..."

SKELLO

"Mmm," Ursa mumbled, looking about their surroundings. It wasn't surprising to hear the three had been so easily separated; the temple, then and now, absolutely reeked of alteration and illusion magic. Someone, somewhere, was twisting the temple as they saw fit, playing with their visitors. She and Connelly had noticed this when they last were navigating the halls, and once you were aware of the magic, it was hard to miss. They'd already lost sight of Carrie by then. Never had the chance to relay such information to her; the next time they saw her, it was already too late.

"I think I remember where the stockades were," she mused lightly, looking back over her shoulder. "We'd passed them, I think--near the viewing hall, if i'm not getting mixed up. The bad news is, they'll be back the other way..."

She looked back to Mez just in time to see two white-clad figures appear at the end of the hall, locking eyes with them. As they started towards the two, drawing weapons, Ursa grinned, extending a hand to Mez.

"Let's make quick work of getting over there, yes?"

XIGBAR

Mez looked to his new companion with a reluctant frown.

"Oh. More of that..."

His gaze drifted to the approaching white robes and he sighed.

"Guess I have no choice," he commented, grasping her hand firmly and preparing himself.
« Last Edit: June 01, 2019, 05:43:00 PM by yelloskello »



Offline yelloskello

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XIGBAR

Mez stared in horror at the creature bounding towards them. He looked quickly to Carrie, who was trying to squeeze through the door, and he was quick to follow, sucking in as best he could in order to fit through as Carrie helped pull him through to the other side.

Out in the light, the pirate stumbled forward, catching himself before looking back to the door. It was still moving slowly open, but the sound beyond it made him think that, perhaps, they would have a chance.

The bomb went off, loud enough to send birds flying out of tress around them, the sound of crumbling stone crashing inside.

SKELLO

The creature screamed. Shrieked. Carrie's arms went to the side of her head, face contorted in a painful grimace as she tried to block out the sound. Fire flared through the door, and she stumbled backwards, trying to get as far away as she could. She could barely see through the crack in the door: just fire, and smoke, and crumbling stone.

She had pushed herself almost to the edge of the terrace when the screams of the creature died down. The door was halfway open now, filtering out a veritable smokestack through its opening, making her eyes string. Even so, they were free.

They had made it.

"...M... Mez?" she croaked, looking over to the man. "Y'alright?"

XIGBAR

The pirate was staring at the door, wide eyed, before he looked over at Carrie as she spoke to him. His expression said it all; he did not look well in the least.

He turned, started down the worn stone stairs.

"Lets keep moving, we can talk once we're not literal feet from something that might still kill us..."

Mez didn't wait; he was on autopilot, leaving the steps and continuing down the old path that led into the woods. He needed to get away from it all, if only for a little while, just to breathe, to clear his head...

They'd almost died.

SKELLO

Carrie didn't argue. She carefully got to her feet, shaking as she did, and started after him down the path. Her eyes--wide in disbelief--stayed firmly on the ground, watching her feet move in and out of her line of sight.

She was halfway to the bridge when she heard the sound of crumbling stone again.

She went cold, head slowly raising before she turned slightly to look behind her. For just a moment she was frozen solid, watching in horror as the temple rumbled, the creature shrieked once again, and it began to emerge.

The explosion had done considerable damage. Half of its limbs had been torn off, and a considerable chunk of its body was still smoldering. Its face--faces--were warped painfully, missing chunks, and blood that glistened like oil was leaking from orifices both new and old.

It was dying. It was dying, and it intended to take its killers down with it.

Another shriek was enough to get Carrie moving again, this time at a swift sprint. The moment the hound set eyes on them, it was clawing after them, tearing the door--once resplendent, now little more than a hunk of wood--to pieces, pulling up the terrace as it forced itself towards them at full speed.

Carrie didn't even notice if Mez had started running or not, didn't care; her sights were set firmly on the bridge. It was long--gods, the gorge seemed so much wider now that she was down near it--and she didn't know if the hound could make that sort of jump, but the rickety little thing sure as hell wouldn't support its weight.

They had one weak chance to get away from this thing, and this was it.

XIGBAR

Mez was most definitely running. Adrenaline had kicked back into his tired, broken system and given him a second wind, a knot in his throat as he heard the snarling human like laughter from the creature chasing them.

He could see the bridge ahead; there.

As they came closer, Mez urged Carrie to take the lead, giving her the chance to make some headway before racing after her. At the very least, if she could get to the other side and that think took out the bridge, he could just hold on and climb up. It was just like climbing into the crow's nest or fixing the sails, he'd be fine... Totally the same thing...

SKELLO

Carrie sure as hell wasn't going to play a game of 'no, after you's with Mez--not here, not now. Her path was clear, and she was taking advantage of it, swerving past Mez and onto the bridge.

It shook with every heavy step she took as she sprinted across, and with every shake, her heart fluttered. What if this thing didn't hold?

A fourth of the way across, and she started to feel bolder, started to pick up speed. It seemed sturdy enough, and even if it did break, she'd sooner chance falling into the rushing river below than risk being caught by the hound behind them.

Halfway across, and she felt like she was soaring. They wouldn't be out of the woods yet - who knows how far the assassins were willing to go to seek out revenge - but she was practically free from the immediate danger. Ursa and Connelly were safe. In good hands. They'd hurry back to Baradhi, even if it had to be on foot, and they'd be out of there before she knew it.

She was barely to the three-quarters mark when she heard the snap.

Time seemed to slow down. For one agonizingly long moment, she looked over her shoulder, heart caught in her throat. The hound hadn't cared that the bridge couldn't support its weight; it was too set on catching its prey, hardly paying attention to what ground it could step on. The moment it had bore down on the bridge, the structure had snapped like a twig, letting Carrie watch as the planks and rope plunged downwards.

She could already feel it giving out beneath her feet.

In a last ditch effort, she leapt, and scrambled, trying desperately to hold onto the remains of the bridge, to pull herself up on the other side. The rope burned her hands as she slid downwards, and it took her a moment to get footing on the planks, to feel stable. She was okay. She was alive. She could pull herself up, easy--

The plank snapped under her foot, and she barked out a cry of surprise as she plummeted.

XIGBAR

Mez had already well-prepared for the bridge to break. He had gotten as far as he could before he braced himself, wrapping the rope of the bridge around his right hand, around his wrist, and preparing to dig his feet into the bridge steps.

As the ropes snapped under the weight of the hulking beast behind them, he felt it all start to plummet down and forwards. He knew he had to keep steady, otherwise trying to climb up would be a struggle.

He looked up as the bridge started to fall forward, swinging toward the rock face on the other side, and as he did he would see Carrie start to lose her bearings, the step snap under her, and his eyes widened.

As best he could, he wrapped rope around his thigh, his calf, along with the rope already around his arm, and he reached as far as he could, in an attempt to catch her. It was a modified version of how they would maneuver on riggings; a very very modified version.

SKELLO

Carolyn almost fell right by him. She was just far out enough from his reach that, should she not have noticed his outstretched hand, she would have simply plummeted on by - and, even having noticed it, she almost did. At the last moment, her hand found his, and she held on for dear life.

It wasn't a clean catch. She came damn close from yanking Mez from his makeshift harness, and the force of her coming to an abrupt halt was enough to make the bridge shift and wriggle, enough to give her whiplash. Even so, she wasn't about to let go, and it was a moment or two before she realized she wasn't yet plunging into water.

She didn't look up to Mez first, instead looking out to the other side of the bridge, taking in her surroundings in a daze. The hound was still there, half-splayed over the opposite ledge of the gorge, weakly trying to claw its way back up - and getting weaker, as in its short fall, it had impaled itself on a rock.

She didn't see its final moments. Didn't see it writhe, then slump, then begin to simply desintegrate into smoldering ash caught in the wind. She was looking up to Mez now, and after a brief moment, let out a weak laugh.

"F-fuck."

XIGBAR

Mez was simply struggling to hold on, unable to give the woman a smile or a comment or any sort of confirmation of relief. He could only focus on lifting her higher with the one arm, trying to get her closer to the remnants of the bridge so she could hold on as well.

As he did though, he heard the sound he dreaded; a snapsnap. The ropes in his hand started to go slack and his eyes grew wide, looking down to Carrie in horror. They weren't going to make it back up...

"Car..rie," he managed, out of breath. "Don't... get wrapped up... in... the-"

But it was too late. The rest of the bridge went out, slackening immediately under their weight, and they were sent plummeting into the river below. He'd let her hand go as soon as he'd felt the bridge starting to break, but he was still tangled in the support ropes that he'd been using to keep himself up.

It all came down into the rushing water with a splash, plank scraps littering the water, the rope bridge being washed with the tide.

SKELLO

Carrie didn't remember much of the fall. Perhaps she was simply repressing the memory, or it had been that she'd blacked out shortly after being whisked away in the rushing rapids. Whatever it was, come future days, she'd be able to recall little but the sight of Mez, still caught in ropes, going down with the remains of the bridge. The sudden silence as she dropped unceremoniously under the water. Her inability to tell which way was up.

The next thing she remembered was warmth, and pain.

The sun. The sun was on her back, scorching hot, but compensating for the feeling of a chilly current lazily pulling at her legs. The surface she was splayed out against was warm, too: smooth stone, slippery and cold where the water lapped at it, but bone dry where its gentle slant took it well out of the water. She didn't dare open her eyes just yet; the dim light that still managed to filter through her eyelids was enough to make her dull headache that much worse. She needed time to acclimate.

Groaning softly, her brow wrinkling, she started to pull herself up farther onto the rock and felt her muscles scream in protest. Her entire body was sore, undoubtedly from a plethora of causes: the adrenaline-fueled sprinting she'd been doing earlier; the way she'd strained herself to hold onto the bridge even as it fell; the way the rapids must have battered her as they swept her away. It was a miracle she was alive, and she knew it.

She blinked groggily as she sat up, face contorting in pain as she finally took in her surroundings. She wasn't in the gorge anymore--no, she couldn't even see the gorge anymore--but instead in the shallows of a gentle river, alongside a shore of rocks that eventually led up into a treeline. Looking to the northwest, she could see the mountain they had come from, but... Gods. It was distant, turning blue in the sky's haze. The rapids had swept her far, far away.

That, coupled with the peaceful noises of the forest, the river, made her relax. She was safe, for now.

The next thing she took in was her own state. She was wet, obviously, and undoubtedly covered in bruises, and parts of her burned with the pain of fresh wounds that she'd have to tend to very, very soon. She could feel the tight crustiness of blood on her forehead, right by her temple. The rapids had torn the sleeve on her right arm to shreds, and she could see the gash there, making her wince. She'd have to stitch that up. Good thing she'd gone ahead and stored a medkit in--

Her bag. Where was her bag. Despite the pain, she was up in an instant, limping and tripping along the rocks as she searched frantically for her one treasured belonging. Relief flooded her when she found it caught on a branch just a little ways down from where she'd been, and she picked it up, wrung it out, hugged it to herself.

That was when she remembered there was something else that was missing from this scene. Her stomach dropped, and she lowered her bag, looking about the area. Hesitantly, she started to wade through the shallows once again, brow knitting in worry.

"...Mez? Mez!"

XIGBAR

When the bridge fell, Mez remembered the whipping rapids, the freezing water, and the rope wrapped around him. He fought against the current as he tore at the ropes with his hands, kicked at them, tried anything to get free so he didn't drown.

He remembered going under one more time before everything went dark as they went around the bend.

When Mez finally awoke, he was still in the river, albeit in the shallowest part. His body ached, his clothes drenched, and he was cold. Unlike Carrie, he had the shade of one of the large, overhanging trees around the riverside to shield him, and unfortunately that left him drained.

The pirate had managed to push himself up into a sitting position. His limbs felt numb, his teeth chattered, and as he moved to stand up he realized, as he fell back to the ground in a heap, that his legs, numb with cold, were still tangled by rope.

The only thing he could do with the amount of energy left to him was to drag himself onto the bank, towards the closest patch of sunlight he could find, and laid there, exhausted and cold.

SKELLO

"Mez! Mez!"

Carrie was going to be furious if he was dead.

Not at him, necessarily. No, she had a theory: the reason she had survived the fall, the rapids, had been at the behest of the goddess of death. The goddess had held her close in the brief moments they had spoken, smiling through tears, speaking of how beautiful she was. How young. How proud she was of her. She had kissed her on the forehead, given her a warmer hug than she thought she'd ever received in her life. She'd left her own mark on the sole of Carrie's right foot.

She didn't know what to make of it, but one thing was for sure: Tandine was fond of her, for some reason or another. Perhaps she wouldn't stand in the way of inevitable death, sure, but Carrie had a sneaking suspicion that being on the good side of such a deity put the odds of survival in her favor.

As such, if she'd been allowed to live through such a harrowing experience, and Mez hadn't... Someone was going to hear about it. That much she could guarantee.

She kept calling his name as she sloshed her way through the shallows--tripping at least once, skinning her already burnt hands, cursing herself when she did--and almost missed sight of him due to keeping her eyes squarely on the water. She spotted him only out of the corner of her eye, and at first mistook him for a particularly odd-looking rock formation before realizing, no, that was a human formation.

"Fuck," she murmured, limping at a faster pace. Once she reached him, she hesitated, then knelt down so she might flip him over. "Mez. Mez, can y'hear me?

XIGBAR

The man was silent at first, simply resting, basking in the warmth of the sun. But slowly he opened one eye, then the other, and looked up at Carolyn blearily.

"Yeh," he managed weakly. His eyes fluttered closed.

"Are we safe." His voice was barely a croak, his cheeks pale.

SKELLO

Carolyn's breath had been caught in her throat as she awaited a response from the pirate, and it wasn't for another moment or so after he'd said something that she deflated in relief. She'd been squatting by him, and once she was certain he was alive, let herself simply fall back to sit on her behind.

She could feel a wave of soreness wash over her body as every muscle in her unclenched.

"Far as I can tell," she sighed, looking around the area. No sign of danger. No sign of anything, really, aside from a gentle breeze. She looked back to him.

"What hurts? ...Y'know... Dumb question. What hurts especially."

XIGBAR

"M'not sure yet," he admitted, closing his eyes, brow furrowing in pain. Everything particularly hurt, but he was sure that was going to become the new norm for at least a week or two.

Mez sighed, taking a moment to simply take in the moment. They were safe. Nothing could get them right now. He felt the tenseness start to leave his back, and it was almost painful. He tried to take a deep breath... and instead, found that the tightness in his chest hadn't left yet and he began to reel from a coughing fit, rolling away from Carrie to lay on his side and sputter onto the grass. He pushed himself up to sit, but was soon leaning forward with his face close to the ground as he vomited water and bile.

It took a moment for his body to stop shuddering, both hands gripping chunks of grass, coughing and spitting.

He leaned away finally, dropping backwards onto the ground away from his mess, and closed his eyes.

"Leg's sore. Arm's sore. Don't feel dead so don't think I punctured nothin'." His eyes stayed closed, chest slowly rising and falling. "How're we alive."
« Last Edit: June 01, 2019, 06:03:24 PM by yelloskello »



Offline yelloskello

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XIGBAR

"I'm in as good of a state as I can be right now," he replied, turning toward the forest. It looked like there were some dense places, good spots to lay low, catch their breath... Figure out a plan...

Mez looked back to Carrie, eying her for a moment, before walking over. He offered his arm to her.

"C'mon. Lean on me, keep off that wound. We'll find somewhere to hunker down and make a fire..."

Gods knew he wasn't going to let her fall to a cut after all they'd been through so far.

SKELLO

Carolyn simply gave the man a flat look.

"Wha," she said, "you think this is my first time trekkin' about in th'woods with a limp? Or th'third? Or th'tenth? I will be fine, thank you."

The notion of being in such close proximity with the pirate made her... Uneasy. She started to move before he could protest, not wanting to give him the opportunity to insist.

XIGBAR

The pirate eyed her until she started moving on her own, simply shaking his head and following. How long were they going to be out there?


It was about an hour's walk before they came upon an area that looked relatively secluded. A large rock jutted from the ground, overhanging above in an odd shape, and concaving to create a shallow cave. Around them was dense forest but the way the rock was shaped created a nice clearing in the mess of it all.

Mez sighed as he finally stopped walking, bringing his hand up to crunch in his hair.

"S'a good a place as any," he said, looking at the area around them. Plenty of kindling, the moss on the ground was soft underfoot, and a small fire would be shielded by the outcropping rock above.

SKELLO

It hadn't been an easy walk by any account. While her clothes had gone from soaked to fairly damp, Carolyn was still cold, still uncomfortable, still itchy. She'd finally followed Mez's example and vomited behind a bush about fifteen minutes after they'd left the river, and while it certainly made her stomach feel better, it left her mouth feeling far, far worse. While she had resisted requesting aid for as long as they could, after about forty minutes of walking, her options were take up Mez on his offer, or cease moving. She'd decided her pride and comfort was less important than making good time.

She ached. She burned. By the time they'd found the alcove, she was reaching the inevitable conclusion of creeping exhaustion.

"Home sweet home," she murmured, pushing off of Mez and limping her way over to the mock-cave. Sitting herself down on a rock right by the edge of the larger formation, she began to dig in her bag once again, eventually pulling out a somewhat ratty blanket--which she immediately spread out in the area--and a bedroll.

Before doing anything else, though, she slumped slightly, closing her eyes, simply relaxing for a minute. She needed it.

"Any word from Gurd?" she asked after a long minute. "Or... Wassisname. Yer lil' friend. Or word from Gurd, via yer lil' friend."

XIGBAR

The pirate took out the scroll and opened it, slowly walking over closer to Carolyn.

"Looks like Jay hasn't been able to get a hold of Gurd yet," Mez replied, letting out a sigh. He rolled the scroll back up and looked out to the forest. Then, without a word, he started to walk, stepping over a bush to squeeze into the dense underbrush.

He was only gone a few minutes, coming back with his arms full of sticks and twigs. He wanted a fire so badly. His clothes still clung damply to him in the most uncomfortable ways, he felt like there was water in his shoes, his satchel was still soaked, and his hair was starting to frizz in places where his dreads were loose. Most of all, a fire was comforting, warmth would give them energy to keep moving.

Settling on the ground, he scraped away moss, enough to make an empty space of dirt to set a fire. With a little more moving back and forth to the edge of the woods, he came back with rocks and more sticks, working to position them in a way as to make a fire.

They'd be warm and dry in no time.

SKELLO

While Mez was gone, after taking a moment to collect herself, Carrie had started to set up camp. She didn't have the supplies with her to set up a tent at the moment, so the blanket and bedroll would have to do. She was thankful for the coverage the rock provided, too--no need to set up some makeshift shelter.

By the time Mez returned, the blanket was properly spread out, the bedroll unfurled and ready for use. Her bag was hanging to dry on a nearby branch, as were the clothes she'd been wearing; she'd changed into something else, which seemed to be no more than a cloth she'd wrapped around herself in a complicated manner in order to create a dress. It was deep blue black, and glimmered in a strange, subtle way, more like starlight than sequins or jewels.

She'd taken the opportunity of changing to take full stock of what, exactly, was going on with her body, and grimaced at the damage. She was a mottled thing, that was for sure: ugly bruises littered her limbs, some larger and more worrisome than others. Luckily, surface damage was limited, thanks to her clothes, relegated only to the spot on her arm that she had stitched up and a long scrape along one shin.

Much of that damage, in her state of limited dress, was quite visible now.

She'd gone ahead and hung up Mez's bag, too, but not before emptying it of its contents and laying them out to dry on a nearby rock, taking care to use small stones to pin the corners of scrolls.

Now, she was seated back on her rock, cleaning and wrapping the damage on her palms. She watched quietly as Mez prepped for starting the fire, tilting her head with interest as she watched him work. She took note that, perhaps it wasn't the cleanest job, but the kindling was set up adequately, the fire would be able to breathe...

It wasn't until he started working towards making a spark that it became apparent that this man was not well-versed in firestarting. Even then, she watched him work for another minute or two before finally coming over to stand by him. She held her hand out, right by his head.

"Gimme tha'."

XIGBAR

Mez had, admittedly, been struggling. He wouldn't admit that, of course, but he'd started about as many fires out in the woods as he could count fingers on half of one hand. Not that he'd ever admit that, either.

"It's just wet out here," he deflected, sitting back and letting Carolyn take over. He frowned, huffing. "I would have gotten it."

SKELLO

"Sure thing," Carolyn replied flatly, taking the stick he'd been using--and promptly tossing it to the side. She started to limp back over to her bag, reaching into its depths.

"Jus' wet," she continued, fishing briefly, then pulling out a small bar of flint. From there, she moved over to Mez's belongings and picked up his dagger, giving it a little twirl in her hand. Finally, she moved back to the fire, carefully lowering herself down in front of it. She looked to him, waggling the flint briefly.

"Invest in one'a these."

Shape the kindling, shave the flint, strike for sparks. In minutes, she had a flame going, which she carefully transferred into the fire proper, taking care not to smother the flame as she moved it. She knelt down, blowing lightly into the fire for a moment, then finally sat back to examine her work.

"...So. Not settin' many fires on th'deck of a pirate ship, I suppose," she said, glancing to the man and raising a brow.

XIGBAR

Mez simply stared at the fire, eyes growing slightly. Gods, he never thought he would be this happy to see flame.

He glanced to her briefly then back to the fire, guiltily.

"Got matches on the ship," he replied, huffing softly and scooting closer. He pressed his hand close to the fire, feeling the warmth. "Besides, there's not much need to build camp fires on board."

SKELLO

Carolyn simply snorted, leaning back on her elbows and watching the fire as well. This felt better. Much better, in fact. For just a moment, she was able to forget the terrible situation they were in. It showed, too: everything about her seemed more at ease. She'd been so tight while she was on the ship, occasionally getting lost in thought, wide-eyed worry unintentionally etching on her face. She'd seemed distracted. Seemed lost.

Now, even as battered as she was, even as she laid on moss in the middle of a dense, moist forest, she seemed better. Like a different person.

"So, next yer gonna tell me you ain't never set a trap," she said. "Never hunted. Not much need t'do that onboard a ship either, aye?"

She gasped.

"You ever flay an' cook a catch? Oh, if not, i'm teachin' you. Yer missin' out."

XIGBAR

Mez rolled his eyes.

"Alright, calm down there. Of course I've set traps, caught wild game... Sure, it isn't the regular, we usually have plenty of rations to last us to wherever we need to go, but there's always the times when we miscalculate..."

He pursed his lips.

"But I bet you've never flown a cruiser. Or fixed a sail. I bet you've never even flown a dinghy before..."

The man glanced over at her, giving the fainted smirk.

SKELLO

"Ay," Carolyn said, pointing a finger at him, "tha' is fundamentally untrue. Helped Scar patch a sail while I was on th'ship, so suck on tha', Mister-Know-It-All."

She looked back to the fire, smirking easily at it. "An' I may not have flown a dinghy myself, but i've now flown in a dinghy, mm. What. I think four times now."

She held up four fingers for emphasis.

"An' that's three more times than I needed t'figure out I have no interest in flyin' dinghies. Or bein' in 'em. Thank you."

XIGBAR

He pointed at her.

"Now that, there, is a shame. Flying is one of the greatest forms of freedom in existence. Are you telling me you didn't enjoy your time aboard my beautiful, majestic ship?"

SKELLO

"The ship is different, a'right," Carolyn replied, shifting where she sat. She brought her legs around--wincing a little--so she was laying on her side, letting her entire front be warmed by the fire. "The ship doesn' feel like a lil' touch'a wind could send my arse wobblin' to a messy death below. Look, lemme ask you a question, 'kay--"

She looked him square in the eye, watching him carefully.

"D'you have t'walk around the deck of yer ship with every member'a yer crew securely tied in with rope, at all times?"

XIGBAR

"No," he admitted, readjusting himself to sit on his butt and stretch his legs towards the fire. He winced slightly; yeah, he definitely was going to feel this trip for a while.

"But, what the fun in that? A ship is a ship, but a dinghy is a ride. It's a whole different experience in flying. Back Home, they race dinghies, do tricks, death-defying spectacles of wonder and danger. It's incredible. They make a show of it."

He slowly worked one of his shoes off, sighing in relief as his foot was finally released from the wet shoe. He moved onto the next one,.

"One time I got involved in their gig, they showed me a few new tricks I'd never known before. So then I showed them a few." He grinned. "Scar said she could barely watch, the rest of the crew started taking bets who would be the next first mate..."
« Last Edit: June 01, 2019, 08:10:59 PM by yelloskello »