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23 November 2008 @ 11:24 pm
NaNoWriMo Entry: 10  


Chapter Nine: Boy Soldiers

It was three days later when it became clear where the compass wanted them to go: the sea was peeking from the distance, bright blue and shimmering at them from beyond trees and rocks. It was surrounded by jagged cliffs from what they could see, poised in sharp half-arcs around the cove. Abe rose higher to see their destination better and saw the rocky beach, the strange, twisted trees, and the sharp rocks surrounding the cove from both ends.

“This is a nightmare,” Elsith remarked loudly from below him, trotting along a little behind the group now that the slope was becoming rockier and steeper. The rest of the party had been forced to leave the cart and the horses behind, and like in the Wall of a Thousand Mouths, only carried the necessary things with them.

“Why, what’s wrong with the sea?” Dino asked, a pack slung over his shoulders. They had thankfully been able to resupply in the town they had passed, and with Dino’s help, Kalien had been able to get a good bargain for the cartful of food and other items they had bought. Abe had to hand it to the blond: he knew how to do good business. It made him wonder what he was in their world, to be so young yet match the princes in wit.

“This one has reportedly been infested with all sorts of predators since Roderick’s rampage,” Kalien explained.

It was then that Cairre spoke up, wiping the sweat from his brow with a long sleeve. “Then that is a good indication as any that my master did leave something here. He guards his valuables well, especially with monsters and the like.”

That did make sense, even if it was a little horrifying. “Are you saying,” Watanuki said slowly, “That the more dangerous it is, the higher our chance of finding those stones that your master left behind?”

“Yes.”

Watanuki did something that Abe associated with the words ‘flail’ and ‘contort’. His hands flew in the air in despair and he seemed like he had a headache. Personally, Abe thought it was like when Hanai flew off his handle with worry. Not that Abe didn’t understand – the dangers they faced in the Wall of a Thousand Mouths had been terrifying. Or would have been terrifying, anyway, if Abe hadn’t been a ghost. This being intangible thing certainly made him a lot more immune to fear.

Something caught his eye – Abe floated over to a group of shrubbery to the right of the makeshift path they were travelling along, sure he noticed something yellow. He poked his head through a thick shrub and—

“Guys,” he called out, poking his head up over the shrub and catching Cairre’s eyes. “Guys, there’s someone here.”

It was a young man, a little shorter than Watanuki, wearing peculiar clothes that Abe did not recognize as from his world, nor from Autopia. Ash blond hair, large gloves and boots, and a gun at his side. The weapon looked like an antique musket from his world, but he was certain that it was not. For one thing, the gun didn’t seem to have a barrel.

“He alive?” Rebi asked, obviously unconcerned. Kalien nodded after examining the boy.

“I think, like when we found Dino, he is just unconscious.”

“The horse didn’t trip over him this time, though,” Abe thought to point out. “He should be in better shape.”

Elsith pawed the ground several meters away. “It does not mean that because I am further away from you all, that I cannot hear you, baby ghost!”

“That’s the point,” he said with a small, amused smirk, before examining the guest again. “Do you think he’s one of us?”

“I cannot think of other possibilities. His clothing look foreign to me, and no one goes to these parts anymore, not after Roderick.”

It was then that the young man woke up, eyes flickering open, painfully taking his surroundings in. He had blue eyes, and Abe hoped he wasn’t an airhead like the three other blonds in the group.

“Hello,” Kalien said, tone gentle. “How are you feeling?”

“Why are you bothering with such trifles, brother?” Elsith muttered, snorting. The stranger blinked and fixed him with a stare.

“I take it that there are no other talking horses in this land, and that you are the party that the Dimension Witch spoke of?” Their apparently new member slowly got up to his feet, dusting his shorts off. Shorts and knee-high boots. This guy, Abe thought, looked like he came straight from a fantasy RPG.

“Ah, we are!” the prince answered, looking delighted. “You are here to help, yes? I am prince Kalien of the Summorn, and this is my brother. The ghost is young Abe, the lady is Rebi, and there is Watanuki and Dino of the Cavallone.”

The stranger paused, clearly trying to take the quick introductions in. “A pleasure to meet you all. I am Cadenza.” He went quiet again, before speaking up. “I am a soldier in my world. I hope to be of use to your mission.”

Everyone seemed thoroughly taken aback. Some probably because Cadenza didn’t look like a soldier, and the others because no one had been that polite from the foreigners, maybe Watanuki aside.

“A soldier, huh?” Rebi grinned, coming up to them and clapping the new one solidly on the back. Cadenza didn’t flinch, only smiled obligingly. “But yanno, there aren’t no bullets here. What else can ya do?”

“I don’t need bullets,” was the cryptic answer. “I have been wandering here for the past two days, and I’ve been keeping myself alive from monsters well enough. The Soma in this region is strong, unlike how our world has been lately.”

“Soma?” Kalien echoed, while Rebi studied the gun with interest.

“Ah… a form of magic in our world. An… event happened lately that drained our world of Soma in return for restoring peace in our lands.”

“Then it wasn’t a bad sacrifice, yes?” Elsith spoke up, finally having managed to navigate the rocks to make his way over.

Cadenza smiled again. “Yes, that’s true.”

Dino seemed thoughtful for a second, before he finally asked, “So is your wish to get Soma back from your world?” At this, the young man’s face darkened, just a little, and he shrugged.

“No. I am here to reclaim a friend’s memories.”

They all looked at each other, and decided to leave it at that. Watanuki gave Cadenza food, Cairre conjured drinking water, and they all went back on their merry way. Personally, Abe thought that it would be considerate to the new addition to their party if he was allowed to rest a couple of hours and make sure that his head was in the right place, but the young man moved with purpose, and Abe held his tongue.

------

“Tell me,” Elsith started as everyone tried to get down the steep slope without falling over and tumbling into their deaths, “Why was your master so intent on caves?”

Cairre stopped mid step, startled that Elsith had actually spoken to him, and nearly fell over. He would have, if Kalien hadn’t grabbed him by the scruff of his clothes and hauled him to his feet. Abe thought that for the most powerful magician in the country, Cairre was some sort of a ditz.

“They make for good hiding places,” the magician answered. “Caves only have so many entrances, and they naturally keep outsiders away. A lot of the monsters he created also preferred caves.”

“I see,” was the flat reply.

“This… this shouldn’t be as hard to get to,” Cairre added hastily. “My master despised the water above all else. Well, a little less than the Summorn.”

“I see,” was the even flatter reply.

“You should shut up,” Abe told him, floating just a little behind his shoulder. “Concentrate on climbing, will you?” Behind them, Dino yelped as he clung onto the rope they had stretched down the length of the slope to keep himself from falling. Watanuki attempted to help him up, and nearly fell down himself.

Cairre obliged and started his climb down again. Vaguely, Abe wondered how they were going to get back up there. Maybe he could get Cairre to conjure a ramp, or something. It would be easier, at least.

“So when we get to the rock, we just do what we did the last time?” Dino gasped, practically tangled up in the rope as he was. Abe had asked Elsith to take the blond ditz on his back earlier, but Elsith had scoffed and told him that he’d lose his footing even more. Abe was of the opinion that he was a rather useless horse and told him so. The ensuing fight nearly tossed all of them down the steep slope.

“I was hoping for an easier way to do it,” Kalien murmured, setting a foot down on a stable rock, bracing himself, and practically carrying Dino down. They were near enough the bottom that the slope was evening out, but they were far enough that a fall would still hurt a lot.

Cairre didn’t talk for a moment, more out of the need to cling to a tree and use it as anchor than anything else. “Now that I know that it is targeting me, I will be ready to catch it in time for Prince Elsith to destroy it. There is no need to worry.”

Kalien shot him a doubtful look. “But I would rather that we find a way that is less taxing on you, Cairre.”

“If I think of one,” the magician said firmly, “I shall tell you immediately.” Kalien gave Abe a look, Abe shrugged back. Kalien had taken to getting Abe to talk sense into the magician lately. It was a good tactic, but did not always work. Cairre was as stubborn as a dog when he put his mind to it, an image that, coupled with his fascination for Elsith, gave Abe very bad mental pictures in his head.

They dropped/slid down/rolled over to the beach with a collective sigh of relief, the past hour or so taking its toll on them. Abe peered at the compass around Watanuki’s neck (prompting a surprised yelp in the process as he shoved his head through the boy’s shoulder), noting that it was pointing at the cave further along the beach.

“If I had known that you were also going this way, I would not have struggled to get up there,” Cadenza commented off-handedly. They all stared at him, but he didn’t appear to notice, busy as he was inspecting his gloves.

“So we go into the cave,” Dino said, stating the obvious as he tended to do during long lapses of silence.

“Let me check it out first. You guys go eat something; I’ll be back in a bit.” And he floated away before anyone could argue. Not that anyone would, because even they knew when Abe was Absolutely Right.

The cave loomed in the distance, which Abe crossed without trouble. He had been concerned at first that wind would affect him or something, but it seemed to go through his body like pretty much everything else in this world. Although it made sense. He couldn’t feel fire, water, or earth, either, even if he passed through the stuff.

When he stepped into the cave, the first thing he noticed that the whole cave floor was under water. He dived in without making a sound, and figured that it was only a little above ankle deep. Still, the donkey was probably going to bitch about that.

The second thing he noticed were the flowers along the sides of the wall – they were large and, more importantly, they glowed in the dark. The light they gave off allowed Abe to see before him, which was a welcome change from when he was scouting the Wall of a Thousand Mouths.

It at least let him see the monsters better. The last time, he’d had to practically strain himself to listen for breathing, and had been off by a lot in some cases.

For example, a few dozen meters into the cave, Abe found himself face to face with a very large golem, moss, algae, and barnacles clinging to its rocky skin. It didn’t appear to notice him, since it was sleeping. Abe took in its ridiculously horrendous appearance and passed through its chest, determined to finds more things for the group to be wary off.

He didn’t see anything until a couple of hundred meters over, where a nest of very large jellyfishes were swimming about. They were the size of a human torso each, and seemed to be hostile, if they way they reached up for Abe was an indication. Hostile jellyfish. This world was so suspicious.

------

He didn’t run into anything until he got to the stone, so he went back the way he came (it was easier this time, considering that the path to the chamber was very straightforward). Maybe the stones were easier and easier to take care of. Maybe the compass showed the way to the hardest first. Abe sure hoped so, because he was starting to become impatient.

When he passed by the golem again, it had shifted positions so that it was directly blocking the path. Abe stared at it for a few seconds and bellowed out at it.

“Hey, you!” he yelled up. The golem opened its eyes (sapphire, he noticed, of the deepest blue) and moved to catch him. Abe floated away, it followed.

“That’s right, ugly, follow me,” he muttered, taking the turns slowly enough for the golem to not lose sight of him, even as it rumbled on after him, joints creaking as the golem moved. It bumped its head on the cave ceiling but didn’t seem hurt.

He sped off ahead as soon as the path straightened, bursting out into the light, straight at his group. Elsith seemed startled when Abe zipped through his torso, but didn’t complain.

“Incoming golem,” he informed them, even as the crashing in the cave increased in volume.

“Thank you for the rather late warning,” the horse muttered, backing away from the cave entrance, hooves sinking into the sand. The others quickly filled in the space he left, even as Elsith circled around them to stand on the damp but firmer sand.

“Is’t a big one?” Rebi asked, excited, even as the golem emerged into the light. Up close and this bright out, Abe could see pretty much every barnacle, every lump of moss, and every bubble of algae on its skin. If he were capable of it, he would have vomited.

“Firs!” Cairre said, surprised. They all turned to look at him even as the golem chased after Abe.

“You know this golem?” Kalien asked, carefully, backing up to better protect Watanuki and Dino. Abe looped through the air, turning the golem so that its back was to the group. It roared in annoyance as it failed to swat Abe out of the air again and again.

“Well--- He was one of the first my master created. I was assigned to clean him up, when I was younger.”

“It obviously doesn’t recognize you,” the ghost snapped, going through the monster’s head. It followed him with a fist and nearly decapitated itself.

“He’s not really alive,” Cairre answered, hesitant. “Must we kill him?”

“It’s trying to kill me,” Abe put in. “If you want, you can just make it sleep again.”

Kalien gave Cairre an expectant look, clearly waiting for his decision on this one. Abe thought Kalien was unnecessarily nice – he and Elsith were, and to an extent, Abe thought he was probably more mercenary than the princes that way.

“There is no way to undo the spell that gave it life,” the magician murmured. “Please allow me to destroy him.”

The prince nodded and stood aside, making way for Cairre as the latter approached the golem still trying to catch Abe. Abe didn’t bother watching him, busy as he was, but he thought he saw a sad look flit through his face. Understandable, he supposed. Cairre was the type of person to think disfigured dogs were cute pets to have, and seemed very sentimental.

The golem stopped moving as the magician uttered a word. It exploded into large pieces of rock after, showering Abe and the shore with debris. The explosion was loud enough to reach the birds nesting in the trees above the slope, and they few away in a loud, crying flock. A sapphire rolled across the sand and hit Cairre’s feet; he picked it up and shoved it into his pocket.

“I am sorry,” Kalien said, a hand on Cairre’s shoulder. “It must be sad to lose a friend, but it was necessary.”

Cairre nodded and avoided Abe’s eyes as he floated over, shrugging the prince’s hand off and walking his way to the cave entrance. He paused halfway through, hesitated, and turned back to Kalien. “Do not be sorry, Prince Kalien. You have suffered and sacrificed much more than I.”

“I think you’re forgetting that we’re all sacrificing something here,” Abe muttered. Cadenza was on one knee near the largest of Firs’ leftovers – his head, a sapphire eye still winking at them. He seemed to be praying.

 
 
 
a mind as vivid as it is absent: digital briar vanillamiir on November 23rd, 2008 03:32 pm (UTC)
Cairre was as stubborn as a dog when he put his mind to it, an image that, coupled with his fascination for Elsith, gave Abe very bad mental pictures in his head.

*crying with laughter*

Cairre is so adorable it's unfair.
.Yukeh. ( ̄‿ ̄)ノ: \o/yukitsu on November 23rd, 2008 03:34 pm (UTC)
Abe is a pervert. ;;;;

Ahahaha, he is ! I want to squish him and keep him away from the horse.
a mind as vivid as it is absentmiir on November 23rd, 2008 07:06 pm (UTC)
However!

I declare Cadenza as my object of infatuation. *squeeee~*
.Yukeh. ( ̄‿ ̄)ノyukitsu on November 24th, 2008 12:52 am (UTC)
*w* He is adorable in the game, too! I shall show you picture. Eto... here. His story is very tragic! XD Also, he is a prince, technically.
Lynlyn: stein snerkskye_kestrel on November 30th, 2008 09:41 am (UTC)
Hostile jellyfish. This world was so suspicious.

There are no words to describe how much I love your Abe voice. <333
.Yukeh. ( ̄‿ ̄)ノ: /ggyukitsu on November 30th, 2008 09:43 am (UTC)
|D ABEEEE! He is so fun to write here, it is ridiculous!