Almendra, a Beautiful Psionic Wasteland

Seventy-First Day on the Surface

DAY SEVENTY ONE

This place is so silent it’s giving me the creeps. Even in abandoned buildings there should be some rustlings and bustlings, but here there’s nothing. I’m not the only one bothered by the deafening silence. Sandstorm has been smoking some of his cigars since this morning to calm his nerves. After breakfast we moved on through a door to the South. The room beyond was dark. I vaguely could make out a circle of pillars near the back.

On the Eastern wall written in charcoal were the words “Mind the gaps.”

Cehos entered the room and told us not to follow until he’d searched the place. Sandstorm completely ignored his order and followed shortly after the red head. Cinna took a peek but didn’t enter. Thomytix handed me one of his lit torches so I could see better in the darkness. Thomytix took a step inward, illuminating the shadowed room. To my surprise actual shadows darted away, scattered by the light of our torches. The rest of us quickly filed inside, weapons and powers ready. We had to help Cehos.

Cehos, finally noticing what was around us, dashed back to the door. He fired an arrow at a shadow off to his right but missed by a long shot. Ishitari blasted a light ray into the face of another, killing it instantly. I fired a bolt of electricity at two more of the shadows, slaying both. Two others shrieked at the deaths of the others and were upon me. They swiped at me with their incorporeal hands but I managed to dodge out of the way. More of the shadows attacked the others but I don’t think any of them were hurt.

Cinna killed a shadow with a ray of electricity. Sandstorm swung but missed slicing a second shadow. I saw Thomytix’s scythe go flying past the shadow about to attack him. Cehos’ arrows made their mark and pierced the chest of one of the beasts. Ishitari destroyed two more, swords flying. I summoned a second electricity lance, killing another shadow.

And then one of them was upon me. I felt some of my strength leave my body. I cursed to myself. My strength had been returning to me somewhat since our run in with the hags, but now I was nearly back to where I was before. Another one of the shadows surrounded Sandstorm. Before it could attack him, Cinna struck it with another ray. While she did so Sandstorm’s mind blade swung wide it but missed. Thomytix too missed once more. Cehos finally finished off the one around Sandstorm, an arrow striking it in the back. Ishitari slayed the last of the shadows, the same one that had attacked me.

“What’s over there?” Thomytix asked.

“I don’t know, but be careful.” Cehos replied. “The wall does say ‘mind the gaps’.”

The elan shrugged and tossed his torch at the pillars, revealing piles and piles coins hidden behind them. Still afraid of possible traps between the gaps, we had Thraeor float over the pillars to retrieve the treasure. Among the coins was a plain bag, but Cehos suspected it was something more. He cautiously dropped in a single copper piece. It didn’t hit the bottom.

“I want this.” He said.

“No, we don’t trust rogues.” Sandstorm grumbled, snatching it from his hands.

“I’m a lurk not a rogue. We’re more battle-oriented than them.”

“I don’t care. I don’t trust rogues, Malazhar doesn’t trust rogues…where the fuck is Malazhar!” The half giant shook his head. “We’re going to use this as our new group bag of holding, and that’s that.” For a moment Cehos was going to contest Sandstorm’s claim, but not wanting to devolve into an argument in the midst of such a dangerous place the red head gave in. Although that didn’t stop him from scowling.

“We should camp for the day.” Sandstorm suggested as he transported items from our current bag of holding into the much larger new one.

Ishitari shook her head. “No, we should keep moving. Get what we came for, and get out of here.”

“Fair enough.” Sandstorm shrugged half-heartedly once he’d finished. “I’m really not liking the feeling of this place.”

“You and me both.” Thomytix chuckled.

The next room over was small and cramped, occupied by a long forgotten pile of armored skeletons. Weapons of all kinds jutted out of bleached rib cages and skulls. I wondered how long they’d been there like that. Were they bodies of poor gold dwarves who perished eight hundred years ago when the bomb dropped?

The lurk must’ve not liked the looks of it because Cehos stared transfixed at the bodies. When asked he refused to enter. I couldn’t blame him. I felt the same way. Something felt off kilter. Cinna volunteered to go in his place. She cautiously tip toed inside and poked the nearest skull with the butt of her spear. Nothing. She prodded it again and still nothing. Cehos hastily pulled her away before she wandered in farther.

“Hang on, let me go in. I’ll see what I can find.” Ishitari trotted past the skeletons and turned around to face us. She stood silent, mulling over something. “I know what’s wrong with this place.” she said after a time, “Listen.”

It was quiet at first. Hardly louder than the sound of my own breathing. The noises arose like a monster coming awake after a long slumber. A cold chill raced down my spine. We’re going to die here. The voices whispered. We have to get out or we will perish. Thomytix lit a torch and chucked it at the bodies. Ishitari passed back through the threshold just moments before the torch struck the floor. The burst of light illuminated six shadows that been hidden by the darkness. They shrieked and shrunk away from the torch. But the light did not deter them. Gnarled bony fingers pointed accusingly at us. You’re all going to die.

Then they came at us, their movement kicking up decades-old dust and debris. They swarmed us in an instant, cutting off any means of escape. These shadows were not like the ones we’d encountered the next room over. No. These were twisted creatures vaguely in humanoid form. The other shadows were clearly ethereal in nature, but this lot I could not see through. Like the other shadows, these undead were cloaked in misty robes darker than the deepest mine shaft beneath Nefir. I heard one creep up behind me slowly nearly silent as a tomb. I turned on my heel, a power set to strike. I looked up into the twisted face of a dwarf that looked haunted. Distorted. Full of pain. A tortured soul driven mad over hundreds of years.

And that’s when my mind went dark.

-

A robed figure in dirty tattered clothes cackled, their glittering crimson eyes the only source of light in the darkness. The figure held me captive by both my wrists, dragging me along the cold stone floor towards my certain doom. Their hands burned like acid on my skin. Their breath ice on my face. An insidious ebony fog whirled all around us.

Let me go! I screamed, squirming to get free. I kicked the figure in the face.

Dre didn’t even flinch and chuckled You’re coming with me, little one.

No, no! I wrenched my left arm free from my captor’s iron grip and whacked them across the face. I hit the figure again. And again. And again. And again. Each punch more frantic than the last. The figure never recoiled from my blows, never dodged, never cried out in pain. They only laughed at me. A hideous laugh that mocked me and beat me down more than any injury ever could.

There’s nothing you can do. It hissed, grabbing me by the throat. The figure lifted me off the ground and pulled me close. I felt its damp lips pressed against my ear. You see, now you’re mine!

-

“Vilu, Vilu it’s me! It’s alright! Vilu, please come back to me!” A familiar voice pleaded. The darkness lifted from my eyes and I saw Thraenor staring down at me. The worry and fear in drer’s eyes was so intense it made me shiver. Thraenor held me tightly in drers arms to the point Thraenor’s nails dug into my skin. None of the others were around us, but they were somewhere close by. From behind me came Sandstorm’s battle cry and a sword slicing through something.

“Thraenor, what’s going on?” I asked, voice cracking. I blinked to clear my throbbing head. My mind felt hazy. In a deep fog. I gasped. I hadn’t noticed it at first, but Thraenor’s face and arms were covered in bruises and shallow cuts. Droplets of violet blood dripped off Thraenor’s nose. Its electrical charge stung when it hit my forehead.

“What in the Abyss happened to your face?” My breath caught in my throat. I felt the weight of a sharp, spherical object pressed against the inside of my fist. My voice lowered to a horrified whisper. “Why is there a rock in my hand?”

My vision darkened again before Thraenor could answer me.

-

“Oh no. Oh no. Gods, what do we do? What do we do?!”

My eyes fluttered open and it was like I hadn’t opened them at all. The only thing I could see was darkness. I felt cold stone beneath me and Thraenor’s hand touch my shoulder every once and awhile. Dre darted all around me, terrified of something. That’s when I winced and lay down on my side. Utter agony shot through my lower left leg. Tears streaked my cheeks, doubled over from the pain. It was like nothing I’d felt before. My whole leg ached and burned. When I tried moving it I nearly passed out again.

“Thraenor, where are we?” I half-demanded. I managed to get myself back into a sitting position through gritted teeth. “S-something’s wrong with my leg.”

“I don’t know…” Thraenor lamented, flying just over head. “Do you have any bandages?”

“No,” I wailed, grabbing my knee with both my hands. It was wet. “Cinna’s the one who has those.”

“Well, what about paper?” Dre was beside my leg, drer’s hand on my thigh. Thraenor’s voice a little less panicky. “Do you have that?”

“I could tear out a few pages from my journal…” Warm liquid had soaked my palms and was seeping out from between my fingers. I choked down the panic rising in my throat and patted the ground around me for my misplaced backpack. Thank the Queen it was with in reach.

Thraenor rose above me once more. “And a torch? Do you have a torch?”

“I don’t have one of those either.” I sighed. The one Thomytix had given me earlier was long gone. “I must’ve dropped it, but I have candles.”

I rummaged desperately through my backpack, searching blindly until I felt the waxy surface of one of my candles. I placed it down between my legs, keeping it upright using my thighs. I dug my hand into the front pocket of my bag and grabbed my flint and steel. My hands shook violently. I was terrified of what I might find when there was light. I shakily struck the two together. The spark blinded me for a moment but I got it to my candle before I lost it.

I nearly dropped my flint and steel. My shin was shattered. Splintered bone had sliced through my skin and I was bleeding everywhere. It was broken clear in half, and the broken end stuck out by an inch at least.

I took a couple deep breaths, trying to calm myself. Why had this happened? How could I have broken it? I wiped away some tears with the back of my hand. I picked up the candle and held it up. Even with its nearly thirty foot radius I could not see the the ceiling. Had Thraenor somehow dropped me?

I didn’t know it had the time, but that’s when I began to scream. My chest heaved from my panicked sobs. Where were the others?

All my attention snapped back to my busted leg. I yelped as Thraenor grabbed a hold of it. Thraenor’s face was at level with mine, drer’s eyes no longer the two yellow halves of my Life Crystal. Instead staring back at me were two glowing red orbs. Thraenor’s grip tightened. Intense pain raced through my leg and I screamed again, fighting back fresh tears. In an instant most of the pain was gone and Thraenor let go. I looked down and no longer saw bones. Somehow dre had shoved it back in. Although the nasty gash remained. Thraenor shakily backed away from me, swaying two and fro almost like a glower would. Just before dre receded into the black beyond the light of my candle Thraenor’s eyes rolled into the back of drer’s head and dre crashed to the floor.

“Vilu, are you alright?” Torchlight burst through a door to my left. It was Sandstorm, Thomytix and Ishitari. Thomytix’s face had been bashed in a few times, all bruised and swollen. Ishitari’s chest was singed. She looked worse for wear.

“I broke my leg.” I replied, wincing when I tried to sit up.

Sandstorm knelt beside me and pulled out a jug of his healing water. He yanked off the cork with his teeth and gently poured it over my still open wound. It stung a little, but my leg felt considerably better when he was done.

Thraenor lay there motionless the whole time. The others protested, but I managed to drag myself to Thraenor’s side. I fought the new onslaught of pain that it caused, but I didn’t care. Thraenor needed me. I rolled Thraenor onto drer’s back and cradled Thraenor’s head. “Thraenor!” I said softly, brushing away some of the dried blood on drer’s face. “Thraenor are you there?”

Right then Thraenor’s body disintegrated and turned to mist in my hands. Clouds as dark as night slipped through my fingers. The mists coalesced together. They rose higher and higher, reaching for the ceiling. At the very center of the billowing mass were two crimson eyes. A single word shook the ancient walls around us.

Yes.”

The dark clouds solidified and took a vaguely humanoid shape. First came his legs and torso. As they took form his arms extended outward; a friend expecting an embrace. Like the life elemental we’d met some time ago, two pointed ears jutted out from the sides of his head. Suspended just below each ear lobe like a pair of earrings were the broken halves of his life crystal. They no longer shone yellow, but instead had returned to their original see-through state. Those brilliant eyes shone like coal. Thraenor, now a few feet taller than me, lowered his arms and looked down at us, smiling. “Ah, I remember now.”

“What are you?” Thomytix said after a pause, dumbfounded.

Thraenor’s smile widened and he pointed to his head. Electricity shot from his fingertips and encased him in a glimmering crown of blue lightening. “I’m Thraenor, King of the Thunder Realm!”

I wiped away a few more tears, but these were tears of joy. So it finally happened. Thraenor’s true form has finally been set free…and he still remembers me! He floated back down beside me, his feet hovering just inches above the floor.

“Where are Cinna and Cehos?” I asked Sandstorm while Ishitari placed my leg in a splint.

He shrugged. “Don’t know. We heard you screamin’ so we came running this way. Once Ishitari’s done here we’re gonna go find them.”

“It’s not the best splint, but it’ll have to do until we find the others.” Ishitari said when she was finished. Thraenor knelt down and gently lifted me up by the backs of my knees and shoulders, careful not move my leg too much.

The others led the way back to the room with the strange pit and fire place. Somehow the fire place had been reduced to rubble. We passed by the room where I remember last seeing them, but they weren’t there. We found another door and passed through a small hallway. On the other side of the door we heard muttering. Ishitari carefully opened it and there they were. I saw blood pooled beneath Cinna’s right leg, which was covered in multiple stab wounds. A bloodied dagger lay by her side. Cehos tried wrapping the wounds with some bandages, but it wasn’t doing much. If anything Cinna was doing more of the work.

Ishitari ran over to them and finished patching her up. “We should rest.” She said tiredly over her shoulder.

Cinna shakily rose to her feet, leaning against Cehos for support. “What happened to Vilu?” Cehos asked, “And is that Thraenor?”

I smiled ironically. “I, uh, somehow broke my leg…but this is Thraenor’s true form!”

Cinna shrugged and hobbled over to Thraenor and I. “Looks like your splint could use some work.” With Ishitari’s help, Cinna finished splinting up my leg for the night. She told me it still wasn’t the best, but it had to do until we could find a way out of here. After dinner Thraenor helped me get into my sleeping roll. For now the pain has mostly subsided. Hopefully it shouldn’t wake me when I sleep. Everyone else looks beaten and exhausted and are getting ready for bed themselves.

I still can’t believe it. Thraenor is finally free! For good! I’ve waited all my life for this moment, but I never expected it to turn out this way. It’s almost comical, really. How today went…

At dinner the others gave me a glimpse of what happened earlier. The things that attacked us were allips, and they made Cinna and I go insane for awhile. Sandstorm mentioned something about Thomytix, Cehos and Thraenor losing it too. In the midst of the fight Cehos, Cinna, Thraenor and I got separated from them. The only reason Thomytix didn’t get away too was because Sandstorm “punched some sense” back into the elan. (It sure would explain why his face looked the way it did.)

Well, I best be getting some shut eye. We still need to find that item Cogline sent us here for. I wonder how much more we have to go through until we find it?

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Vilu_Kethech

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