Chapter 51

Chapter 51


 

Talia woke up in darkness, greet by nothing but the quiet sounds of flowing water. A pitch and terrible black broken only with the scent of earth and mana heavy on her tongue.

The depths. She was in the uncharted depths.

Alone.

 

Her breath caught as she instinctively reached for her mace, finding nothing, then towards her belt she found... also nothing.

No weapon. No gear. No note book, or dried meats: It was all gone.

Grabbing desperately at what little mental fortitude remained in the growing ocean of dread quickly surrounding her thoughts, Talia began the peaceful and warming chant.

"Oh, Holy guardian of Light. Give me sight in this wicked land of shadow."

 

Over and over, she repeated it, letting the magics calm her as beneath the palm of her hand, the ground began to fill with a heated glow, slowly falling outward as her mana poured into it. Inch by inch, it grew to intensity, revealing the world around her with the ambiance. As the darkness receded, Talia made sense of her bearings.

She was crouching on a large boulder, no larger than thirty feet wide at its largest. It seemed on solid piece, perhaps a cave formation worn away by eons of weathering, sloping upward to a summit of sorts at its center.

But around this was nothing but water.

Nothing at all.

Even as the magic strengthened further, it was nothing but water. Overhead, she could just distantly make out a cave's ceiling, but around her there was nothing but dark moving water, flowing slowly past towards some unknown destination.

This was some sort of underground lake, or river system.

"Oh no." Talia let the words slip out with the hopelessness of her situation. There was nowhere to go, no tunnels or fleeting hope to grasp at: Just water, and the island she'd been fortunate enough to randomly stumble upon- by luck or fate of the currents. "Oh no."

"Hisss..."

A Monster.

Instinct took over, as Talia raised her guard to a fighting stance, light magics flowing into the shoddy gauntlets at her fists. She could still fight, even without a weapon, she could still put up some resistance.

But no attack lashed out. In place of violence, there was silence.

Light intensifying and eyes peering into the relative darkness ahead, Talia made out the faint glow of a familiar deep blue. The small form watched her from the stone island's peaked slope, perfectly still.

"You want revenge?" She asked quietly, watching as the slender body seemed to rise up, lifting a full pace or so off of the ground as it watched her. "I really can't blame you."

"Hisss..." It reared back further, mouth opening to reveal a pitiful set of fangs as Talia steeled herself. It was a magic user, it wouldn't use a physical attack- it would cast something.

Then, in that instant mana sparked. Like oil set to torch, a plume of fire erupted with a fierce surge of heat and movement, streaking past her cheek before she could even blink.

Did it just miss?

"Creeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!"

A horrible scream sprouted from just behind her shoulder, as Talia ducked and turned- just in time to watch a shadowed shape bubble down beneath the hidden depths. of the underground river.

"Hisss..." Turning back, Talia saw the snake lift its tail in a slow wave as its body lowered back to the floor. It watched her calmly as she pushed up the slope to approach, tongue flicking out with a final lazy motion, before turning to the other side of the rock and slithering away.

She couldn't help but interpret the gesture as intentionally rude.

"Well look, you're the weird one here." Talia muttered, carefully making her way to the center of the boulder, looking down at the rest of the space as she imbued some magics to the summit before taking a seat. The warm glow made her feel a little better about the fact she'd almost just died, again. "You realize most creatures down here eat people, not mushrooms."

"Hisss..." Another sudden burst of fire, and another shriek. Talia leaned in and watched as the slender blue serpent continued a slow circle about the boulder's perimeter; slithering a quiet patrol while occasionally spitting out flaming death. Around and around it went.

As it did, Talia watched the boulder shift slightly. Molding its shape, as if pressed under trained hands. She squinted, peering closer.

It really was changing, not just a trick of the eyes.

"Earth Magic too?" She questioned it, receiving no answer as it continued.

Its first round-about the island, barely half a pace of stone seemed to have risen. A slight rim, as if a bowl. But on the second, the stone had shifted enough to rise up to about Talia's knee, if she were foolish enough to walk back down to the island's edge.

By the third time around, it was up to her waist, with a thickness of her forearm.

"A wall... you're building a wall." Talia stared at the creature as it went about on its fourth trip, significantly slower than before. "You have got to be the strangest monster I've ever seen." The snake continued, raising the wall just a bit higher. "Or heard of, for that matter."

"Hiss..." Turning back, the snake slithered along the stone back towards Talia, but never reached her. Before her eyes, the stone underfoot opened way in the form of a small tunnel. Seconds later, the snake was gone, deep into the boulder.

"Light and gods... Nothing makes sense anymore." Talia murmured quietly from her the glowing summit, watching the barely illuminated waters beyond the strange bowl-like walls that raised up around the island's perimeter. "How the hell does a tiny snake have enough magic to do that?"

 

No sooner did the words leave her mouth, the stone beneath her buckled as if made of liquid instead of solid rock- and Talia dropped downward with a panicked yelp.