Chapter 34: When I wake, I’ll be free.
Suspicious! It was undoubtedly suspicious! A lone voice, a prisoner trapped in this place, a land in reflection of an artefact that radiated such a feeling of anguish.
Ka thought this was suspicious!
Susasov thought this was suspicious!
Gander had been suspicious of it all since the oracle!
Even Olice was suspicious of this situation.
Still, there were two reasons she felt she had to go on! The first was what the oracle told her, Olice still hoped that she would find her way out inside the eye. The second, was that while it was unlikely that it was actually some unfortunate person trapped, there was a chance it really was!
Olice wasn’t exactly the most virtuous of children, not that children are particularly virtuous, but she knew what kindness was and she wasn’t the sort of person to leave someone to languish or suffer. She was the sort of child that rather than throwing rocks at a cat, would take a cat wounded by kids throwing rocks to her parent.
It was easy to forget, but while she was like that, she was also the kind of person who if she needed to eat, would kill a cat for food. Perhaps all of it could be laid at the feet of her parents, but children often disobey their parents. She’d probably be trying not to cry if she knew the cat at all.
Before Gander could stop her, Olice replied.
“Who are you? Why are you trapped here?” She asked.
“I-i’m… My name is Repe, I was an apprentice to a mage…”
The speaker cut off and a heart rending scream echoed through the passageway.
“…sorry, It hurts to hold on, my master, I thought he was a good man, but Boskail, he was an evil wizard! Dealing in chlanic arts!”
A weary moan of pain whispered through.
“I don’t know what he had planned putting me here, but this place, its trying to do something to me!”
Another scream filled with indescribable pain.
“…please… please help me, I can’t hold on forever”
Olice had a concerned look on her face, dumping people into foul structures was certainly a thing that evil mages did.
“Well, he’sss quite the actor” Gander said dryly.
-I don’t know, his words had a ring of truth to them-
“That’sss an old trick, you ssshould know that, Ssssenior” Gander said.
Susasov did know that, but… he wanted to believe Repe, the alternative was that they had encountered something bad, and with this place… this environment would it be anything other than something chlanic? An existence like a walking wound? The other had been bad enough.
“Worry” Ka said.
“I-it’ll be fine” Olice said unconvincingly. “Whatever he is, he’s trapped! So it’ll be fine!”
Olice ran down the passageway.
They came out into a room, stark. Bare.
It was a simple cube, but what was in the centre was anything but simple.
A writhing mass of chains, white hot metal chains, they looked so molten it was astounding that the chains kept their form. Every now an then an arcane looking symbol would appear on the chains, or a sentence in an illegible handwriting would rise up.
These chains were not anchored to the floor, ceiling or walls. Instead they looped around each other in the air, without beginning or end, constantly moving. Olice could not however even tell what direction the chains were going.
Beyond this mass of chains, was a large door, as disturbingly plain as the rest of the room.
At first she could not see the person who had spoken, but then she saw it. Within the chains, a wide head with a matted snarl of black hair. The head of some kind of dwarf? Dwarves, of all the human races had a very wide and short appearance.
“Excuse me? Hello?” Olice shouted up.
A moan replied and the man raised his head.
Olice yelped and fell back.
Not looking beyond her, not looking at her was a haggard face, more like a skull than a face of flesh. Not only that, but sometimes the brown eyes of this person would flicker yellow!
“Who? Ah a child? N-no”
The man’s eyes flickered wildly.
“Please, I thought someone could help, but I can barely hold on, leave here! Go!”
Something was off about that, but as startled as Olice had been, how could she leave now?
“There must be something I can do!” Olice said.
Wasn’t there more than just her?
“I-i no, I couldn’t ask it of you, please, leave here!”
Somewhere in Olice’s head, there was a thought she wasn’t getting. Some sort of way to save Repe? Why did she have to do this alone?
“No, I’m not going anywhere! Tell me how I can help” Olice said firmly.
“I, if another mage touches me, I might be able to cast a spell through them to escape!”
Olice nodded that made total sense, complete sense.
She stepped forward, then paused.
Repe had a pitiful look on his face, he raggedly moaned in pain.
Olice frowned, wasn’t there something missing?
At this point, wouldn’t Gander have said something, probably something mean?
Olice looked behind her, strange, nobody was there. She held her head. Something wasn’t right, didn’t she have three familiars? Why weren’t they saying anything? Olice looked at Repe. Eyes, sickly yellow eyes. Why did her head hurt?
“Did I get caught by nousfog again, didn’t I defeat the other?” She muttered, not quite knowing what she was saying.
-Mistress look out!- Susasov cried.
Olice felt something wrap around her waist and harshly yank her away from Repe, at the same time, Ka filled her vision.
There was an unpleasant clack as teeth clashed together moments before where Olice had been.
Olice winced as an unbearable howl followed afterwards.
“You’ll not have her, chlan!” Gander hissed.
“CURSE YOU, GAAAAAAARRRRRGGGH”
It thrashed, but the chains only lightly rattled.
“So close, so close to being free! May you be cursed for all time, may every victory turn to ashes in your hands! Such a strong vessel you would have been!”
It howled in frustration at being foiled. Now its eyes were like twin yellow flames, dirty polluted flames.
“I, Repelem-Dokkaln will never forget this! When I get free I will make you suffer without end!”
-Don’t listen to it Mistress, it’s bound, it can’t do anything- Susasov didn’t draw attention to the fact that it just had tried to do something.
The twisted presence of the chlan clawed at Olice, but she managed to speak to her familiars.
“The door” She managed to say.
Gander pulled her up and past the raging chlan, as if he planned on just blasting through the door.
However, just before that happened the door opened and a surprised Gander tumbled through and into the eye.
There was nothing but darkness in the eye. The door slammed behind them. Gander looked around, but he could no longer see anything. Not even with magical senses.
“This place… so sad.” Olice murmured.
“Olice?” Gander called to her “Olice, what’sss wrong? Olice!”
“Olice!” Ka called.
-Olice- Susasov called.
“There isss ssssomething sssseriously ssstrange about thisss place!” Gander said.
-It isn’t having a good effect on Olice-
What had been on the outside, the feeling they had felt. It was stronger here.
-It doesn’t matter if we escape, didn’t the oracle say this was the place?-
Gander wildly flew about, even as he felt Olice grow weaker due to her encounter with the chlan and now a place filled to the brim with negativity. Then he stopped. A horrific realisation came to him.
“Ssshe never sssaid how long it would be before we esssscaped” He said.
“Need to protect her!” Ka said with urgency.
“You are right. Ssssusasov, Ka, can you work together to get Olice into an enchanted ssssleep?”
-I see, yes I should be able to do that. Mistress, can you hear me? I know you can hear me, you are going to sleep, and when you wake, you’ll be home, safe away from the Red Crystal Realm-
Ka and Susasov’s power linked together and connected to Olice, who was feeling weak anyway and drowsy was only a few steps away from that. Not only that, but the effects of the nousfog hadn’t completely ended, so she was weak to suggestion.
As those two weaved a spell. Gander began coiling around Olice, making an enclosed space, separate from the rest of the inside of the eye. He made sure to have his head be on the inside of the space. Even he was beginning to feel the effects of the eye. He’d have to go into a sleep too.
“Ka, wrap around Olice more, and join her in rest. At this point, we are trapped. All we can do isss wait, hope that we’ll esssscape from here”
There was no disagreement and all fell into the enchanted sleep.
Not even the raging chlan could be heard.
They could only hope.
There was nothing else left to do.
Epilogue: The Ribbon that Crossed the Voidspread
Dromforge Alchemic Industries Practical Test Lab Codename D-factory
Middle Crystalstair Era
“Doctor Mahsani! We’re picking up readings in the test zone, it… it might actually be coming back!”
Before she could reply everything happened at once.
The alarms went off, the sections sealed off and in the test zone, an arm shoved through the air, space tearing around it, the arm was red crystal, and like that of an armoured giant. The arm of the prototype, the Trans-hazcarp!
Before anyone could cheer, the rest of it followed crashing and skidding across the floor, sparks flying everywhere. It crashed into one of the walls. It was struggling with something that had latched onto it. A robot shaped like a beast? No it was a plant? A plant that looked like a machine that looked like a beast. Made of root and flower and vine.
“What is that?”
There was worried murmurs from the observation deck.
“Nevermind that!” Doctor Mahsani hissed, her hood flaring. “Why haven’t the security systems activated? That monster is tearing into the prototype!”
“T-they, the spell matrix has been fried by the Trans-hazcarp’s re-entry Ma’am”
“I’ll deal with it” a tinny voice called out.
“Wait! Get back here Colhibe! You can’t break the quarantine!”
“You can hose me down later”
Doctor Mahsani turned around just in time to catch a glimpse of a far too many bandoleers of grenades strapped to a back covered with bluish grey plates and camo army pants.
“Someone stop that mad gaurgol!” Someone called out.
“No, if it’s him, he might be able to save the prototype” Doctor Mahsani objected.
A few moments later one of the technician mages spluttered in disbelief.
“How did he get down to the test zone already?”
-I have the bogey in my sights- Colhibe’s voice crackled over the team’s com-earrings.
The plated man with a similarly plated bird’s head advanced on the struggling giants. He had in his hands a kind of rifle, but on the stock of the rifle was three blue crystals and the barrel of the rifle tapered to a point.
He began firing, beams of azure crackling out lancing into the organic machine. The orgamach, as Colhibe was think of it, did not react at all, the beam just dissipating into it.
-manablast weapon proved ineffective, switching to alternative measures-
Colhibe pulled a number of grenades off his body, deftly juggling them and priming them, and then tossing them at the orgamach.
This time, there was an effect, flower petals parting as it shrieked. This gave the pilot of the Trans-hazcarp enough room to pull off a decent punch, which was followed up by crushing the orgamach’s flowerhead. It went still.
“Matrices flowing again Doctor Mahsani”
-Bogey is down, confirming the state of the pilot and the prototype-
A series of sharp hoots came over the com.
-Man, this thing has been through the wringer. We’ve lost an arm, a lot of damage, Hey Toro, You alive in there? The whitecoats are gonna give you stink for losing a whole arm!-
There was a hiss as the Trans-hazcarp opened up and Toro Yacobs stood up. Then, he fell, Colhibe just managed to catch him.
“He doesn’t seem well, beginning the decontamination protocols”
Doctor Mahsani looked over the readouts.
“Stop. Something serious happened to him, its like someone sliced him up and then stuck him together with glue. Bad quality glue. We’ll need a more delicate procedure, Colhibe, you’ve got a hosing down to do. I’ll try to keep the higher ups of your back”
-Thanks, hey, he going to be alright? Dude owes me money-
“I don’t know, I’ve never seen anything like this”
-Yeah, bet you never saw anything like that orgamach either-
-The thing that was attacking the Trans-hazcarp-
“No, never seen anything like it”
* * * * *
The little girl was home alone again, Hiko Yacobs was her name. She wasn’t completely alone. There was the golem servant, but that didn’t really count. It wasn’t a person after all.
Then, the doorbell rang. The golem answered it.
“Welcome home master”
There was a grunt of acknowledgement.
The little girl smiled widely and rushed over clamping onto her father’s leg. She got a bit of a shock when she saw her father’s face. Smokey swirling shadows were inside one of his eyes and those shadows lingered in the corner of the other eye, next to the bridge of his nose. His face was criss-crossed with shadow and a lock of his hair had turned into a piece of night.
“Papa, what is wrong with your face?” Hiko asked worriedly.
“Ah, I got into an accident at work, but someone saved me, actually I have a gift for you, from that person, to me and to you”
He took it out of his pocket. He still wasn’t sure how he had managed to hide it from his colleagues at Dromforge, it felt like the shadows had obscured it. A ribbon of spun moonlight.
“Oh wow, it’s so pretty papa! Thank you!”
His daughter gave him a peck on his haggard cheek, and Toro laughed, lifting her up into his arms, she giggled too.
“Ooophf, you’ve gotten a lot heavier” He said.
Hiko gave him a thump.
“Ow, hey, Hiko, how about, tomorrow we go to that beach you’ve always wanted to see?”
“Really? Oh yay!”
Toro Yacobs smiled, starting now, he was going to spend more time with his daughter. With what he had been through, he was sure he could wrangle a different position from the higher ups.