Monday, November 20, 2017

Page 1407

They found an apparent road, inlaid with long and flat stones, some of which reflected the light of the party’s lamps, illuminating pieces of the dark path and thereby making it mildly more clear where they were going. It was only so useful, however, as the path was regularly interrupted by large piles of rubble that needed to be needed to cleared. Diego and Manuel made short work of such tasks while Zeff and Hector kept watch over the party’s front and rear, respectively.

And maybe it was just Hector’s mind playing tricks on him, but as they continued slowly onward, he could feel a heavy silence among the group, a kind of unspoken discomfort. But then, perhaps that was just because of the reapers. If recent experiences were anything to go by, having so many reapers in close proximity to one another without any of them speaking very much... that just didn’t bode very well, Hector felt. Like a bad omen, of sorts.

At length, the Lord Elroy was the one to break the atmosphere. “What is this strange aura?” he asked.

Ah,’ said Garovel. ‘you can sense that, too, can you?

Hector didn’t know what they were talking about.

“I can,” said Zeff. “But only just. What is it? Do any of you know?”

It is ardor,’ said Axiolis. ‘It covers this entire area like a blanket, so dense that it’s become a kind of mist.

“Is that bad?” said Diego, while Manuel Delaguna was busy explaining the half-silent conversation to the non-servants in the group. “Because it doesn’t sound so great.”

It is hard to tell,’ said Axiolis. ‘It could be nothing, but regardless, let us not disturb the mist if we can help it.

Somehow, Hector doubted that it was nothing and so had to speak up, “Supposing it’s not nothing, uh... then what would it be? Hypothetically, I mean.”

The reapers hesitated visibly.

Hypothetically,’ said Axiolis slowly, ‘it could mean that a rock golem is slumbering here. Which would be wonderful. Golems are quite docile and friendly toward humans.

It might even help us fight the worms, if they decide to follow us into this area,’ added Garovel.


Diego had the same question that was occurring to Hector. “If it’s so wonderful, then why should avoid disturbing the mist?”

Because,’ said Axiolis, again slowly, ‘it could also be a feldeath.

No one said anything. Even Manuel stopped translating for the non-servants.

Manuel’s reaper picked up the slack. ‘We should clarify that, while it is yet unclear at this point, a golem is the more likely case,’ said Lorios.

Of course,’ said Axiolis. ‘I have been able to sense particularly strong ardor from much of the rubble around here. And rubble is made from rocks. Which is what golems are.’ The reaper didn’t sound as confident as Hector would’ve liked.

Garovel helped him out. ‘Or it could be nothing, like Axiolis first said. In fact, I know of a fascinating theory regarding the seemingly pointless accumulation of ardor.’

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Page 1406 -- CLI.

Chapter One Hundred Fifty-One: ‘What remains of a Falling...’
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So the worms have given up?’ Hector asked, still not entirely clear on what seemed like an ever-changing situation.

Uh, I’m not sure,’ said Garovel privately. ‘They’ve slowed down or stopped chasing us, but I don’t know if that means they’ve genuinely given up. My knowledge of worms is a bit spotty, in case that wasn’t already obvious.’

Then ask one of the others about it,’ said Hector.

Aww, but--ugh, fine.’ He switched over to a public voice. ‘So do you think they’ve left us alone or what?

No,’ said Axiolis. ‘Judging from the movement patterns, they still seem agitated to me.

Why are they keeping their distance, then?’ asked Yangéra.

Probably because they are hesitant to enter this area for some reason,’ said Axiolis. ‘It would make sense if this area was the territory of a rock golem. In which case, we have lucked out.

Hector’s pessimism was doubting that.

Have we, though?’ said Garovel, perhaps feeling similarly. ‘We’re still both surrounded AND stranded. Doesn’t seem like the greatest luck to me, even if the worms have given up. Which, by the way, you’re also saying they might not have?

Mm, indeed,’ said Axiolis. ‘They may just need to cluster up in order to overcome their anxiety. They are not exactly the brightest creatures in the world, so that may take them a while.

Then let’s make use of that time,’ said Yangéra. ‘We should put some more distance between us and them while we can.




And the group began walking again, though at a more cautious pace than even before they were being chased.

Hector had the opportunity to observe the various crumbling structures all around them. He’d never seen the like before. Most windows were longer horizontally than they were vertically, and whatever the faintly foggy material was that occupied them couldn’t have been simple glass, as it would have surely melted at this temperature.

He tried to recall if he’d seen material like this in Babbadelo, but if he had, it was escaping him. He thought about asking Garovel if he remembered, but the reaper had never seemed to give too much of a crap about architecture, so he probably wouldn’t. That, and he didn’t want to distract Garovel from his observational duties, right now.

Regardless, he wished they had more light. Even with all of their lamps probing around, the thick darkness still made it difficult to see very much at one time. And of course, pretty much every building was in shambles, too. That made it considerably harder to spot the architectural differences between here and the surface.

What a shame. He would’ve liked to get a look at an in-tact roof, but he couldn’t find one.

Still, it was interesting to him that this place even had buildings to begin with--or at least this many. Babbadelo had so few by comparison. Everything there had been carved out of the natural rock formations.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Page 1405

Royo figured he should reciprocate and give Lenos a hint toward his own identity. “When will you learn? I’ve always tried my hardest to set a good example for you. And everyone else, too. That’s why, unlike you, when I speak, people listen.”

“Don’t lecture me, Eleyo. I know all about your reputation.”

Ah. So he’d already known. Royo was flattered but not terribly surprised.

Royo observed a change in the way the superhumans were carrying themselves, and the reapers all appeared to close ranks. Rumbling beneath his feet confirmed his fears, and moments later, a worm tunneled out of the ground ahead of them.

It was comparatively small, however, and did not prove to be nearly so grave a threat as their previous encounter. As quickly as it had appeared, the one called Zeff slew the beast whilst shouting at the top of his lungs. A single, glistening spear skewered through the mouth, and a tower of ice exploded up out of the worm’s body, exploding it into frozen pieces.

The Senmurai raised a metal wall in defense of the Hun’Kui, but Royo still ended up taking a bead of ice on the arm.

It burned unlike anything he’d ever felt. Royo howled in agony and dropped to the ground.

Fortunately, the pain soon abated. Lenos helped him to his feet.

The bead of ice was gone, but his arm was numb, and Royo could see it twitching. As he steadied his haggard breath, he was made to wonder how something so small could have felt so torturous and debilitating. Ice truly was as terrifying as the rumors said it was.

There was little time to recuperate, however. The superhumans were ushering the group onward at an increased pace.

As they ran, the one called Zeff ventured closer and gestured with his hands. He even made a poor attempt to apologize in Hunese. He was not very familiar with the language, apparently. No surprise. Perhaps his reaper was feeding him words to say.

Royo accepted it as silently and as graciously as he could manage. As humiliating as it was, Royo understood that it had not been intentional. There would be no need to seek retribution from the one called Zeff. Royo knew the damage was most likely not permanent, and an accident was an accident, after all.

The cavernous passage they were using opened up as completely as Royo’s vision would allow, and suddenly there were no more walls, only pitch darkness.

Pitch darkness and a kind of... mist. Faint, but there. Squinting, he removed his goggles, and the mist vanished completely. He put them on, and the mist returned. Which told him that the mist was infused with ardor, if not entirely constituted from it.

The group slowed their run to a walk, then stopped altogether. He searched the superhumans’ faces for answers, but they were looking as confused as he was.

He rummaged through a rucksack that he’d procured back on the train, and he was pleased to find a directional lamplight. He pointed it ahead and switched it on.

A cone of light cut through the murky blackness, revealing large shapes in the distance.

Buildings, he soon realized. In quite poor condition. Crumbling, many of them. Very old architecture, as well.

As he moved his light to and fro horizontally, and as the others joined him in switching on their own lights, more and more structures came into view, and their discovery became more and more apparent.

They had found a city in ruins.