Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Page 1492

((Double Wednesday -- Page 1 of 2))
When he regained enough of himself to actually observe his surroundings, Hector realized that they were completely different. The others were standing beside him instead of above him, and it was pitch dark in all directions.

Save one.

Straight ahead.

A mountain of apparent jewels lay there, glowing and sparkling softly in the darkness.

Holy lakefire!’ said Lorios.

“That’s it, isn’t it?!” said Manuel. “The Sosho’Diyu?! It must be!” The man took a couple steps forward, but Diego extended a hand in front of him.

“Everyone,” said the Lord Redwater, no longer even remotely jovial, “be exceptionally cautious. We currently have no idea where we are, what just happened, what we’re looking at--or even whether any of this is real.”

Manuel fell silent at that, as did everyone else, even the reapers.

Oddly enough, though, Hector did have an idea of what had just happened. Vaguely, at least. True, that briefest glimpse of so many ethereal lights suspended in space hadn’t been much to go on--but it was enough.

“Just now,” said Hector, “I’m pretty sure that was teleportation. It was more disorienting this time, but I’ve seen it before.”

Diego looked at him. “That was--?” He stopped himself, gears turning in his head.

Garovel had some private words for him. ‘That’s what it was like when you were teleporting all over the place with Ibai?

Yeah. Wait, you weren’t with me?

No, I was quite busy cowering underground, remember?

Hector did not. Large parts of that whole experience were simply a blur in his memory, especially the period immediately after their encounter with Rasalased.

“So what’s the plan, then?” asked Mr. Sheridan. Rather than looking at the apparent treasure, he was facing the opposite direction, using his small lamplight to cut through the murky blackness all around them.

The others seemed to realize in unison that the man had the right idea and so decided to join him in trying to illuminate their surroundings. Working in tandem, they were marginally successful.

It was a tremendous cavern, seemingly. The rock walls in each direction were so distant that everyone’s lamps were barely strong enough to reveal them.

Next, they followed Diego’s lead in illuminating the path to the treasure, and eventually, after they’d worked up enough nerve, they began inching toward it as a group.

It was farther away than it first appeared to be. A trick of depth perception. The vast majority of the jewels were much larger than they’d seemed. Where they’d previously looked pea-sized, now they were looking more like golf balls. And their individuals glows began to reveal distinct colors as well--blue or white or yellow, mainly.

There was a whole lot more than just jewels, as well. As they grew nearer, a kind of cove in the side of the glimmering mound revealed itself, and within it, Hector spotted a number of golden chests and shelves with all manner of unfamiliar objects on them.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Page 1491

Fortunately, Hector knew from the research he did all the way back in Atreya that the melting point of iron was around fifteen hundred degrees Celsius, and this magma didn’t seem to be quite that hot. Less fortunately, it was still hot enough to make control of his iron more difficult, causing it to weaken and bend against Hector’s wishes. Temperature manipulation helped, as expected, but he had to work quickly, because as per the First Law of Materialization, once his iron was created, he could no longer affect its temperature.

He grew his iron all the way to the bottom of the pool and then began making his platform in order to lift it all out. He created a funnel for it so that the magma could safely spill over to exactly where he wanted it to, and soon enough, he’d moved the entire pool into a large iron tub.

There’d been more magma there than perhaps anyone had expected, and once Hector annihilated all of his excess iron, he and Diego were both able to jump down into the now-empty moat around the monument.

“Hah!” came the exultation from Diego, and Hector looked over to see the man crouched down again, examining the bottom of the moat with a lamp in hand. “I do believe we’ve found our keyhole, boys and girls.”

Even now, Hector almost couldn’t see what the man was talking about. The keyhole in question blended into the dark rock so well as to be nearly invisible.

Diego readied the Kag with his right hand, then threw one last look up at all the faces staring down at the two of them. “I hope you won’t think less of me, but if it turns out that this Kag actually doesn’t fit in this little hole here, then I may need one of you to hold me while I have myself a good cry.”

Just hurry up and get on with it,’ said YangĂ©ra.

Diego exhaled audibly. “Okay, here goes.”

He slid the Kag into place, and it appeared to fit.

But nothing happened.

Try turning it counterclockwise,’ said Garovel.

With noticeable strain and using both hands, Diego did so.

A deep shunk rang out, and Hector felt a sudden vibration in his feet.

But after a moment, it went away.

There was only silence as everyone waited, holding their expectations in check while they looked around, wondering if anything was going to happen.

Then the world bent in half.

Hector’s vision distorted like a smeared painting, and he lost all sense of direction or balance or footing. For a brief time, he felt as though he was floating through empty space.

A familiar feeling.

And for an even briefer time, he could see. Everything. Ethereal lights. In all directions.

As soon as he grasped what he was looking at, it was gone, and he was standing on his own two feet again, senses gradually returning to him.

He shook his head, as if to shake away the disorientation itself, and his hand searched for the wall of the moat, but it wasn’t there.