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18 November 2008 @ 10:04 pm
NaNoWriMo Entry: 07  


Chapter Six: Murder in Paradise

They had decided on entering the Wall after lunch, bringing with them only some food and water, and their weapons of choice. They left the cart and the horses near the edge of the forest, where they were sure to be safer, and made their way into the forest by foot. It did not take them long to reach the base of the wall, large as it was and menacing. Standing at the foot of it, Kalien could see just why people avoided it if they could, the cave entrances gaping like maws of ghosts, or possibly long-dead beasts.

“Let’s go through that cave,” the young ghost said, pointing a particularly large one out of those closer to them. Abe had gone ahead some time during their meal to search for more paths, and he said that this was one that could fit Elsith best. It also traveled back deep enough that he was certain it connected to the other caves, and possibly the other chambers hidden within the Wall.

“I’ll go ahead and try to see if there are beasts in front,” he added, and young Abe was floating away, quickly flying into the cave mouth. Kalien had his doubts about Abe’s usefulness at first, but he could not have asked for a better scout. The young one had proven again and again how useful he could be beyond strategizing.

“I shall be in front,” he announced, because he was currently their best fighter and it was more likely for them to meet problems in front than at the back. Elsith had already claimed the back area, reasoning that because he was biggest, he would be able to block enemies from behind better. And he kicked hard. Kalien could not deny the wisdom of that, though he hesitated to put his brother in further danger. The other prince was difficult to heal at best, so set was he against magic. If they weren’t brothers, or if Elsith had not been unconscious the other times he had been injured in the past, no healing magic would probably have worked on him.

To make sure that his brother would be protected, however, Kalien assigned Cairre to travel with him, placing the magician just in front of his brother for quick support. Elsith had protested, but his reasoning was sound and that argument had ended quickly. Young Dino was at his shoulder, providing light to everyone with the small spheres of fire that he had grown to produce so easily.

Abe was waiting at the first fork, invisible in the dark. It was only when Dino sent those things he called Ryohei over that they could see the ghost, though barely.

“There’s a monster to the right, but pretty far away,” he pointed. “The path to the left leads to a connecting series of caves. The donkey can fit in either.”

Kalien chuckled at the insult, used to it by now, and turned to Watanuki. They had made sure to keep Rebi and the boy in the middle of the party, where they would be protected the most, though in Rebi’s case, it was to make sure that she had room to start about her own strange magic.

Cairre held up light of his own, and they all looked. The needled was pointing slightly more to the left, and Kalien made the decision.

“We shall take the left route, young Abe.”He nodded, and zipped ahead to the left to continue his role.

“If our luck keeps up, we can probably avoid monsters, I think,” Dino mused, conjuring an extra ball of light and leaving it at the route they had just left. Kalien approved of the move – he had not considered that they might be lost on the way back. Even Abe had the intellect only of a human and could forget.

It was then that Abe came floating quickly back, barreling through some of the outcropping rock.

“There’s a nest of—I don’t know what insects those were, I just heard the buzzing. Up front,” he reported. Cairre immediately moved forward and Dino obligingly moved places with him.

“I’ll burn them down.”

“We’re pretty further in, though,” Watanuki interjected. “Won’t we suffocate?”

Cairre looked thoughtful for a second. “I’ll freeze them, then,” he decided. Good man.

He and Abe went ahead to do the deed, and when they came back, Abe looked a little paler than usual, though Cairre did not seem affected at all. He nodded at his inquiry and resumed his place near Elsith.

“You are exuding cold, Stormbringer,” his brother said from the back of the group, and Kalien turned his head a little to look. He couldn’t see them very well from the light of the Ryoheis and figured that it was not important.

“I apologize,” was the nearly inaudible answer, and Kalien wondered what they were talking about, though not for long. They came upon the nest of insects that Abe had identified, all of them frozen in unmelting ice. The cold blasted at them and Kalien drew his cloak tighter around himself before he could help it.

The light bounced and reflected eerily from the surface of the ice, revealing the distorted features of the insects once in a while. They were large things, and Kalien recognized them as carnivores that preyed on rats and, in large numbers, even deer. It would have been tragic if they had been attacked by that.

“There aren’t any left?” Dino inquired as they moved through the chamber.

“No,” the magician answered. Kalien noticed that he sounded a little weary. “We caused a disturbance before we left to flush the others out, and then I killed all of them.”

“All right,” he nodded. The next passage was a little smaller than the first, but there was still enough space for Elsith to pass. Kalien wondered what they would do if the next passage was even smaller. Should he get Cairre to transform his brother into another animal? Perhaps a bird, or a feline. It would suit him well.

------

The three, four passages after that had beasts in them that they couldn’t avoid. Kalien went up against most of them easily enough, except for the last one with the hide as tough as steel that he couldn’t penetrate with his blade no matter how hard he struck it. He had let the magicians take over as he blocked the path leading to the young ones, although his purpose had been more to keep his brother and Rebi from charging forward than actually protecting them.

It was at another chamber – a very large one, and empty of any beasts or insects – that the foreigners started straggling. Kalien realized that they must be tired and announced that they would set up camp for the night. The Wall covered a rather large ground area, but it was the winding paths inside it that made navigating difficult for them at best. They must have been walking for hours. Kalien did not even know if it was night or day outside.

The foreigners dropped to the ground at Kalien’s announcement, and the magician worked to seal off the chamber’s exits and entrances, leaving only small vent holes at the top for enough air to pass through. Upon examination, he figured that the walls were made of solid shadow, something easy to imagine and conjure.

Elsith tested its reliability by kicking on one. It held, and he seemed satisfied with that.

“Brother, how fare thee?” he asked as he looked for a relatively flat surface to sit on. The rocks in the area were jagged and uncomfortable at best. In some cases, the potholes were so numerous and deep that Cairre ended up conjuring short bridges for Elsith to pass.

“I am well,” Elsith answered, carefully placing his hooves where they would not wobble. “The ground is irritating to navigate through, but I shall manage. It is the foreigners and the magician who seem most weary by this journey.”

“Cairre?” Kalien repeated, looking up to search for the magician. He was just finishing up the last entrance, a Ryohei floating at his shoulder. Perhaps it was the light, or perhaps it was his imagination, but the younger man seemed pale in the fire light.

“It is none of my concern,” his brother said, as if his claim had been questioned, “But he is a member of our small band of adventurers. It would be of interest to make sure that he is not about to destroy himself with exhaustion.”

“His resolve is admirable,” Kalien remarked, watching the mage now that Elsith had pointed it out. Cairre had been reliable since the start, and with his quiet disposition, it had been easy for Kalien to neglect looking into him.

“Resolve is something that you magicians value, is it not?”

He nodded agreeably, but thought to correct his brother on the other point. “I am hardly a magician, Elsith. I can do some healing magic, and bend elements to my will, but magic is not my primary talent. I am a warrior, the same as you.”

“I am aware of that, but I was referring to all magic-users in general,” was the irritable reply. Kalien chuckled and soothingly touched him between the ears. Elsith tended to be ruffled more easily these days. It was a little alarming, but Kalien assumed that it was because of his predicament. There was nothing he could do but indulge him, because pointing it out would only damage his brother more, he who had so much pride it was almost destructive.

“Resolve serves to amplify magic, yes.”

Elsith relaxed a little, glad that he was right. Kalien took to cleaning his mane, dusty from the walk in as it was.

“The ground is damp, brother. Do not sit.” He stopped himself from sitting down and blinked.

“I am tired, though,” he put in delicately, wondering what Elsith was driving at this time. He thought that perhaps if his brother could roll his eyes, he would have done so already.

“You may sit or lie down on me,” was the half-grudging offer. He lowered himself on the rocky ground. “Come, my hide tough and warm. You can use the rest.” Kalien smiled and did as told, though he sat down on the ground and just leaned back on his brother. Elsith was attempting to watch out for him again, even if he was the one needing the watching. It reminded him of the days when Elsith would scold him for one thing or another, but would have to look up because Kalien was bigger and taller.

He missed those days, adventuring out in the forest with Elsith and his cousins, coming home to a feast with his parents. It seemed far away, a memory blurring at the edges. He wondered how the normal human did it, to live with just a couple of hundred years at their pockets.

------

“Stand back!” he cried over his shoulder as he blocked a huge claw with his sword. The impact was so strong that he felt his arms shake and his hands ache. He ducked the other claw and kicked out, hoping to gain some time for the others.

“I need more light!” Fighting would be easier if he could clearly see what he was up against. From what he had seen, though, it was a huge bear with claws the length of a human arm and fangs worth two rows in its mouth. The Wall of a Thousand Mouths was quickly becoming a hateful place for him, with its strange, hostile creatures. Another half a day of traveling was not going to change his impression.

Four balls of light came forward, then, lighting up most of the chamber as Kalien struggled to push the large beast back. Behind him, Watanuki was tending to his brother, who had been at the back of the group when the bear had snuck up on them. Abe was nowhere in sight, having gone ahead to check the premises.

“Burn the motherfucker!” Rebi yelled, making small rocks around them explode. Her anger was useless if she couldn’t actually aim.

“No!” Kalien shouted. “We’ll all die!”

“Burn it,” Elsith snapped, and Kalien could see from the corner of his eyes that his brother was getting up. He was not hurt very badly, but there were gashes on his side that glistened, bloody, in the dim light.

Cairre was not listening to him, that much Kalien was relieved about. The magician was sensible, if sometimes he acted lost, and knew the consequences of fire in a place like this.

“Let me!”It was young Dino, who tripped if one of them did not watch out for him and hit his head on things that were just there. Kalien had no idea what he had planned, but was too busy with the bear to ask. He blocked an attack with his sheath and cut the bear across a foreleg. It reared up, hitting its head on the chamber ceiling, and dropped back down to charge for him. Dino was waiting behind Kalien, and when Kalien blocked it again, the young foreigner reached for it with a Ryohei in his hand, and promptly shoved his fist into the bear’s mouth.

There was a moment of shocked silence, and Kalien barely managed to gather his wits in time, shoving Dino backward to detach him from the bear. All of a sudden, the bear’s head exploded, showering him and Dino behind him with blood and other bear bits that he did not want to think about.

“This is disgusting,” he remarked, shaking his clothing off of most of the gore. The bear’s body fell down in a tremendous thud.

“Ow,” Dino commented, chuckling when Kalien offered a hand to help him up. “We stink.”

“I believe that we do, yes.” The boy’s arm was scratched and cut from the fangs, but he was otherwise unharmed. Kalien willed most of the cuts to heal immediately upon seeing them, but he couldn’t fix the others until Dino’s arm was cleaned up. It was hard to work if you are unable to see what you are working on, after all.

“You are an idiot!” Elsith accused, trotting over to examine both blonds. Kalien was not certain who Elsith was referring to, though he assumed the scolding was for both of them.

“Sorry,” Dino replied sheepishly, not sounding sorry in the least. It made Kalien think that young Dino was involved in combat a lot at his home. Tripping and the clumsy accidents aside, he seemed capable of a warrior’s grace, and he had the edge of one who had at least been trained.

“More importantly, let me see your injury, brother.”

“It is not deep, you have no need to worry for me,” was the sharp reply. Kalien ignored him and walked over, beckoning one of the Ryohei along for light. His brother shied away from the gore on his clothes, but otherwise remained still, huffing in the irritated way horses could.

The cuts were not deep, that was true, although they had hit more muscle than Kalien was comfortable with. He healed as much as he could and wiped the blood away, finishing the job after. And then he put his forehead against his brother’s neck and rested, because he had been healing a lot of people the past few days, and it was starting to exhaust his mind, just a little. Even if he wanted to believe otherwise, he did not have an unending supply of mental strength for magic. It was an effort at best and a struggle at worst, and if they were going further into this cave, he was going to have to heal more. At one point or another, it was going to start impeding on his fighting, and then they would be left with nothing.

This was not an option.

“Kalien,” Elsith called, softly. “Do not sleep while standing up. Come, get on me and I shall carry you the rest of the way. There is no use in exhausting you.”

“No, I must walk ahead,” he replied, smiling at his brother’s concern and wiping the sweat from his brow. The only thing keeping them from melting in the heat of the caverns were the little water balls that Dino conjured and fondly called Lambo, and the ice drops Cairre sometimes handed out.

And then Abe came back, hovering over the bear in surprise. “What the?”

“It came up from behind,” Watanuki explained. “Maybe from one of the chambers we didn’t go to?”

“Maybe,” the ghost said doubtfully, but quickly came over to the princes, form flickering because of the dimness. “I think I found what we’re looking for. It’s a stone the size of a man, glowing green. There are… stuff inside. I couldn’t really tell what it was.”

“A cage,” Cairre spoke up. “My master had found a way to trap magic and will into stones, so that they can be a source of energy even after the magician is gone. We must destroy it and release the magic.”

“And how do we destroy this stone?” Elsith asked, fixing the magician with a look.

Cairre turned to the bear they had just defeated. “Making it explode. I have the magic to do it, and with your assistance, we can break it open. The problem is not breaking it, however, but when the magic is released.”

“Why?”

“It is the magic of a dead man. It will not have anyone to go back to.” He met Elsith’s gaze, unflinching. “As the last recipient of my master’s magic, it might attempt to possess you.”

Kalien could feel his brother’s surprise next to him. “Possess me? How crude and disgustingly invasive.”

“I believe that you can defeat it,” the magician said. “If you defeated my master’s magic before, then you merely have to do it again.”

Elsith snorted, ever the confident one, and at that moment, it reminded Kalien that Elsith’s resolve was also incomparable. “Consider it done.”
 
 
 
a mind as vivid as it is absentmiir on November 18th, 2008 03:10 pm (UTC)
...That last paragraph just redeemed Elsith in Jed's eyes.

Jed: What? No! The horse is still disturbing!
.Yukeh. ( ̄‿ ̄)ノ: \o/yukitsu on November 18th, 2008 03:11 pm (UTC)
A respectable but highly disturbing horse? XD
Lynlynkye_kestrel on November 21st, 2008 05:07 am (UTC)
So much action. ♥ And they are all starting to fall into their roles, with Abe as the scout, and Dino being amajing with his fireballs and waterballs, and Cairre quietly leading on the magic side--

I'm getting worried that Cairre would suddenly collapse because of exhaustion. ;3;

Kalien and Elsith are being cute brothers. I approve! X3
.Yukeh. ( ̄‿ ̄)ノ: \o/yukitsu on November 21st, 2008 05:45 am (UTC)
I'm getting worried that Cairre would suddenly collapse because of exhaustion. ;3;

... *guilty* I should edit that and show you... Ehe.

*A* Dino is so amajing here, it was unexpected! And the brothers are cute. ;;;; Oh, Elsith, tsundere.