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30 November 2008 @ 09:20 pm
NaNoWriMo Entry: 11  


Chapter Ten: Come the Faithful

“This is the most disgusting creature we have ever had to face so far,” Elsith announced woefully, even as a jellyfish latched itself onto his back. He stomped on one, stepped on another, and seemed to take great pleasure in crushing them under his hooves.

Cairre froze the one on Elsith’s back and watched it drop down into the water for a moment, before stepping out of range of a translucent tentacle. The spot on Elsith’s back was already starting to boil. “Please move somewhere dry,” he said. “I cannot freeze them if you are also in the water.”

“Oh, very well. I was about to do that, anyway.” The two of them had bought everyone time as they clambered up on the rocky banks at the side, where the glowing flowers were. Elsith did not fit and had to wade back to where they came from, having remembered a spot of dry ground there. Once he was well out of reach, Cairre reached out with his will and froze the whole cavern floor, the jellyfish stopping in their tracks.

“I didn’t think they’d move here,” Abe commented. “They were supposed to be at the other chamber.”

“Perhaps they were attracted to the noise we made upon entering the caves,” he suggested, but otherwise made no comment. The jellyfish stung, and if Cairre was not covered from neck to feet in his robes, he would have felt them more. Still, one jellyfish had managed to latch onto his wrist before he could burn it off him.

“Elsith,” Kalien called out, clambering over the ice and nearly slipping. “Your back!”

“It itches quite a lot,” Elsith admitted, letting his brother see to his back. It started healing soon after, Kalien’s magic working best on Elsith than anyone else’s. Still, the boils were ugly and terrible to look at.

“Cairre, let me look at yours, too.” The prince held onto his elbow, forcing him to show his wrist off. A large welt bubbled blood and pus. The jellyfishes were truly nasty. The discomfort and pain went away quickly enough, though, Kalien working fast. He sighed in relief when the skin closed and stopped itching, and it was back to normal in no time.

“Thank you,” he murmured.

“You are very easy to heal,” Kalien said wistfully. “I wish Elsith were also cooperative.”

“I think the day the donkey is cooperative’d be the day the world freezes over,” Abe muttered, already floating away. “Lemme check if there are more ahead. You guys stay here.”

“Why does the baby ghost like antagonizing me so much?” Elsith demanded, annoyed. Kalien patted him soothingly on the neck.

“I’m sure he means it affectionately, brother.”

Cairre personally thought Abe just liked doing so because he liked Elsith’s reactions to it, though it was also possible that the ghost was not aware of it, himself. Abe did not seem like the type to be sensitive to other people.

The ghost was back soon enough, making a beeline for him and ignoring the others. “There’re a few more up ahead, but these jellyfish seem to be from the colony I saw earlier.”

“Let me take care of them, then,” he sighed, walking cautiously across the ice. The next chamber had some jellyfish in the water, some of them in the process of slinking up and to the next chamber, where Cairre assumed prey were. The jellyfish were far smaller than the ones he had taken care of just now, so he thought that maybe these were the runts of the group who had to be left behind because they were too slow to catch up. He imagined them encased in ice, imagined them wrapped around in cold, and willed it to be real. The crack of ice was enough of an indication that he was successful; on a normal day, he should have been able to perform that kind of magic even while distracted, but the weight of the sapphire was heavy in his pocket.

“You’re hesitating,” Abe said, ever the observant one.

“I am not,” he visibly started. “I cannot afford to.”

“Because of the mission?”

“Because I am a magician.”

Abe paused, as if considering his next words. “You’re not like that golem.”

Surprised, Cairre only blinked at him, wondering where this talk was leading to. He had not expected the young ghost to actually bring the topic up.

He merely looked irritated that he needed to clarify. “I mean you’re not just some creation like that golem. You’re, you know. Human.”

Cairre smiled. “I am aware of that fact, young Abe. But I only regret that Firs could not have lived the rest of his life in peace. It was not his fault he had been born into the world to be cast away in this kind of place.”

Abe gave him another look. “You had to do it.” The magician nodded. “When bad things happen to people, a lot of times, it’s not their fault. But that’s just the way it is.”

“Yes, I understand that.” And he did, more than anyone, perhaps.

“You’ll stop sulking?” Abe asked in a way that could only be answered with a yes.

He wanted to deny it, but found that he couldn’t. “Yes, I will stop sulking.”

“Good.” He looked rather satisfied with himself. Cairre found it a little endearing. “Don’t die, Cairre.”

“Who do you think I am?” Cairre asked mildly. “I learned to magically disembowel people before I knew how to spell my name.”

“Are the jellyfish gone?” It was Cadenza, coming up behind them. Cairre had not noticed his footsteps.

“Yeah,” Abe replied. “There weren’t many in the first place. Lemme call the others.”

Cadenza smiled up at Cairre, but otherwise occupied himself with exploring the chamber. The young soldier moved strangely, always light footed even when Cairre was sure that his boots and clothing were heavy. He also moved with the grace of one who has faced and overcome many difficult things in life. It made Cairre think that while he had not seen Cadenza fight yet, he knew that the soldier would be a good ally to have. He also had honest eyes.

“How much further do we have to go before we reach the stone, baby ghost?” Elsith asked as he trudged through the chamber entrance. He slipped on the ice, but regained his footing before he could truly fall. Cairre obligingly stepped to the side, making way for the horse’s larger body.

“Maybe fifteen minutes from here. The cave’s not very deep.”

And Abe was right – after trudging on for a while, they came upon the stone, set in a stand of corals and shells. The chamber, like the one in the Thousand Mouths, was smooth from floor to ceiling, some pearls and other stones glinting from the walls and reflecting light from the flowers. It was the same yet it was different. Somehow, Cairre felt that the magic here was more sentient, perhaps, or something else.

“I will free it, and then as it comes for me, please destroy it,” he said instead, unwilling to dwell or hesitate. He waited for everyone to stand in place, Kalien instructing Cadenza as the boy stared at the stone in confusion, before willing for the stone to break. It was easier somehow, or perhaps he had gotten better at slicing things open since the last stone. It was not a difficult idea to believe, with all the monsters they had faced. The cloud of magic came out at that moment, like a snake made of smoke, hissing and roaring angrily as it twisted in the middle of the chamber, surveying them.

The cloud did attempt to possess him. He felt rather than saw its malice being directed at his person, and he threw up a barrier as it rushed in to crash into him. The mass squirmed, and like the first time, tried to get around the barrier. Cairre was ready and quickly pinned it to place, imagining a net of silk to catch it, twist around it.

What he did not expect was for the mass of malice to change tactics. It abruptly exploded into nothing, spreading so thin it disappeared. In the next minute, all the corals and the shells and stones in the room suddenly coalesced into a giant creature, gathering in the middle of the cavern around the stone he had broken, using it as a core as it formed into something humanoid, much like a golem but powered by hate and possibly desperation. It stood over them, frame thin and fragile, yet its surface lined with shells, jagged and sharp.

“Ack!” Dino yelped as the creature swung a long, disproportioned arm at them, shells and bits of corals raining down on them. Already Cairre could see that the magic was not enough for it to hold the golem’s form – its power was strong but without the will of its master, it could not go further. This was probably why it was important for it to acquire Cairre.

“Destroy it,” he instructed. “The magic will not hold, and once it weakens, I can capture it again.”

“Let me,” Cadenza spoke up, already dashing forward to plant himself behind the creature. Rebi made an impatient noise.

“Ya don’t have bullets!” she yelled, which was true. If what Cairre know about guns were true, then would Cadenza not need ammunition for his weapon?

“My gun uses magic, which this world has plenty of,” the blond said, voice quiet yet easily heard over the din of the creature. He fired twice, each shot pushing him backwards sharply with the recoil. Cadenza seemed to resist the first, but let the second fling him back as the golem went for his head. The momentum of the recoil sent his upper body twisting and he made a strange sort of kick to catch up with his feet, and Cadenza ended up completely twisting around. The golem missed, Cadenza straightened up to completely blow its hand off, the bullet shining purple in the dark.

“Why din I think of that?” he heard Rebi mutter, even as she grinned that manic grin and held out her guns. She seemed excited enough to cast magic, and when she fired, pinpoints of light fired out of her gun, hitting their targets. The monster creaked and roared and lurched, but didn’t fall.

“Now you can aim,” Abe commented, pleased. Cairre thought that maybe Abe’s priorities were a little strange, though it was difficult to tell what the priorities of a ghost were. As it was, Cadenza and Rebi were making good progress with the golem, destroying it limb by limb. The two jumped and turned and skittered around the golem, avoiding its sharp attacks. It must have been difficult with the slippery ground, but the two did so seemingly without effort. Kalien stepped in and hacked at it, dealing damage with powerful blows unexpected of someone noble like him.

Unsurprisingly, the golem eventually crumbled at the assault, the magic releasing its tenuous hold on the fragments until the whole thing collapsed in a shower of fragmented shells and a pile of rocks. As soon as Cairre could see the magic starting to form itself again, he captured it, forming a cage around it with his will. It screamed at him, he silenced it with a cold word from his lips.

Elsith crashed into it, then, and it struggled, but Elsith was prepared and attacked more viciously, kicking and biting and twisting around as it tried to strangle him. Cairre froze it in place, finding it far easier now that the mass had weakened. It helped that unlike the first one, this did not have the faint traces of his master’s face.

“I feel a little sad for it,” Cadenza remarked as the malice screamed a shrill cry, trying to get away as Elsith bowled it over with the weight of his body. It was already starting to fade away, gray smoke curling briefly around itself. “It makes me wonder what the person who had left such a strong presence behind had been like.”

“Not a man that you would feel sorry for,” Cairre answered, tired but not exhausted like the first time. At least he did not think he would faint. “He would not have liked it if he knew you were sorry for him. Master Twilight would have, I think, disembowelled you for the comment and fed your remains to his wolves.”

Cadenza gave him a look that he ignored, as he sat down and tended to the growing headache hammering at his head, peering at the dim light to see how Elsith was doing. The prince trotted over to his brother as if nothing had happened. For a second, Cairre envied how Elsith could just shrug magic off, like water on skin. But he liked being a magician, lived to be a magician. If he were not one, Cairre could not imagine what else he could possibly be.

“You okay?” Abe asked of him, the ghost hovering a few feet away. Cairre nodded and regretted the action.

“Quite. Where is the compass pointing at next?”

Watanuki came forward and showed them the compass. The needle spun lazily about, before settling for a direction Cairre was vaguely sure meant walking across the sea. This was not something he could do with his magic.

“We will rest first,” Kalien announced. “And perhaps enjoy the beach. I think we deserve some time to be idle after all this travelling and activity.”

Cairre was not certain, but somehow, Elsith actually managed to look appalled. “Brother! We cannot afford the time to rest!”

Kalien patted his neck. “We do. Even just a day, brother. There is a need to rejuvenate ourselves before we go further in our journey.”

As usual, Elsith gave in easily to his brother’s request. Cairre could almost see him quail. “Hmm. I suppose. It would not hurt if we are delayed a little, but we shall have to travel faster to make up for it, do you hear me? I will not have excuses.”

“Of course.” Kalien turned to everyone. “Shall we make our way out?”

------

This… resting thing was alien to Cairre, he realized a few hours later as half of the party went fishing and the other half napped along the shore. Since the malice had gone, the animals and other creatures in the area ceased being hostile and avoided them. This then left Cairre with nothing to do, something which he was not used to. Even when his master had delegated him to menial labor, he had somehow managed to keep himself busy, solving riddles and memorizing equations. This time Kalien had told him in very exact words to do nothing.

“I shall try to fix the slope, your highness,” he murmured, ducking Kalien’s gaze and shuffling away to dodge the scolding that he knew was coming. Their first disastrous meeting aside, Kalien did not seem to think twice about bossing him around anymore. It both relieved and bewildered him; he was used to people being wary of him.

Willing the slope to form steps was harder than he thought, the gravel loose and slippery under the magic. After a while of trying, though, he finally figured out how to cement the gravel together without giving himself a migraine. He stepped on it, and it held his weight.

“Shouldn’t you be, you know, resting with the others?” a voice asked right at his ear. Cairre choked on a shocked yell, jumping so high in the air he nearly fell off the step, and flailed to recover his balance. His heavy robes billowed out for a moment, and Cairre was suddenly very, very glad he had liked climbing trees and boulders as a child, if only because it stopped him from rolling down the incline like a ball, or perhaps a tumbleweed.

“Abe!” he exclaimed indignantly as soon as he had managed to right himself and catch his breath. “Please do not surprise me in such a manner ever again!”

The ghost raised pale eyebrows at him. “I didn’t do anything.”

“You…” the magician stared at him, and then shook his head, the surprise having cleared up his head. “Thank you, but I would rather work.” He emphasized the point by forming another step above the one he had started with.

Abe did not say anything, but watched him as he worked. Cairre thought that with the addition of new people, the young ghost would find others to accompany, but it seemed that he still favoured Cairre’s silence above all else. It was vaguely flattering, but also disconcerting. Though… it was, in general, pleasant to have someone who did not speak much hanging around him. The presence was comforting, but Cairre was not one who spoke much, either.

“When we finish this mission,” the young ghost spoke up after a while, startling Cairre to cracking the step he was making.

“Er?” he blinked, turning to look at his companion. Abe had a strange expression on his face, as if he was hesitating. That in itself was already strange – Cairre has never seen the ghost hesitate, even with decisions concerning the welfare of their other party mates.

“When we finish this mission, what will you do?”

He had never given it much thought. “I’m not sure. Travel, perhaps. I would like to see more of Autopia, and perhaps its neighboring countries, too.”

“Won’t you take Elsith with you?”

Cairre gave him a puzzled look. “Take him where?”

Abe gave him a look that made Cairre feel a little foolish. “Anywhere you’re going.”

“Oh, well.” He turned back to the step, attempting to form it again. The product came out a little bumpy. “I would like that, but of course he will never agree to going on journeys with me. When I have restored him to a human, that will be enough for me, and I shall not bother him anymore.”

“You are a strange man.”

Cairre smiled, although he did not understand why he was the strange one. Sometimes it was best to go along. “You are, also.”

“I’m a ghost.”

“Precisely.”

Abe paused, frowned at him. “I don’t get it. What?”

For the second time that day, Cairre found himself ducking someone’s gaze, biting his amusement in because he had no idea what they were talking about anymore. Just that young Abe was being cryptic and Cairre had answered in kind.

It was a good day.

 
 
 
a mind as vivid as it is absent: original art: o bethlehemmiir on November 30th, 2008 03:52 pm (UTC)
“Good.” He looked rather satisfied with himself. Cairre found it a little endearing. “Don’t die, Cairre.”

“Who do you think I am?” Cairre asked mildly. “I learned to magically disembowel people before I knew how to spell my name.”


*siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh* So quietly powerful, and still so very, very dorky.

I am torn between wishing Cairre were mine and between fangirling over him and Elsith. You create conflict where there was none, Yukeh!
.Yukeh. ( ̄‿ ̄)ノ: <3yukitsu on November 30th, 2008 04:01 pm (UTC)
Aaaaaah, you read so fast! ♥

HMM! I suppose you could share?
Lynlynkye_kestrel on December 1st, 2008 07:42 am (UTC)
I approve of Cairre and Abe bonding! X333 So cute, that mental image - Cairre forming steps and a baby ghost floating after him.

Again, much, much love for your dialogue! ♥♥♥
.Yukeh. ( ̄‿ ̄)ノ: /ggyukitsu on December 1st, 2008 02:30 pm (UTC)
T^T They are fraaaaaaands! Too bad Abe leaves. But !

Huhuhu! Thank you~ ♥
Lynlynkye_kestrel on December 3rd, 2008 02:05 am (UTC)
T^Tb They will always be friends even though they're separated by time and space.
.Yukeh. ( ̄‿ ̄)ノyukitsu on December 3rd, 2008 02:11 am (UTC)
... randomly, there needs to be a drabble of Abe in the real world as a living boy-- attempting to walk into walls.