Chapter 61

Chapter 61

Talia

It was done.

Before her was a pillar of stone, rounded to a column and three paces wide. At the top of it, so far up that she could barely make out the glowing blue scales, was the snake.

The strange creature was doing something, but it wasn't coming back down.

"You better not leave me here!" Talia shouted towards the distance ceiling, voice echoing out into the massive cavern. "You hear me? You'd better not!" Her yell repeated in the distance, softly dimming as the sound was swallowed by the quiet sounds of water. "You'd really better not." She whispered at last, sitting down beside the tower, illuminated by the peaceful hum of faith-magics imbued there.

There was no thrashing frenzy of Eels beyond the walls of their strange camp. Those would come later, as it always did when tempted with bloody incentives of the first foolish creature to stick themselves on the walltop. So far today, none of their aquatic neighbors had yet been so daring. Not since the last batch had been cleaned away with vibrant bouts of green-fire. Flames so hot, they had caused clouds of steam to lift off the lake's surface.

Moments like that made Talia very glad that her companion on this rock preferred to eat Eels, rocks, and mushrooms, instead of people.

But what in all the Light was it doing up there?

 

"Creeeeeeeeeeee!" Splashes, followed by a long screech cut through the quiet calm of the cavern air."Creeeeeeeeee!" Talia turned her head to see the first eel of the day, jaws snapping in vain as it tried to pull itself free from the sharp stone spikes.

"I would have expected you to learn by now..." She muttered, leaning back against the pillar of stone behind her. "You're not making it over the wall alive. The Basilisk will fry you first."

"Creeeeeeeeee!" Spotting her, the unlucky monster snapped its teeth while spitting blood with wild abandon over the inner wall as it strained to reach towards Talia's direction."Creeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!" Several more were piling up along side it now, impaling themselves as often as they happened to take bites from one another.

 

The violence of the splashing beyond her sight increased, shrieks and screams falling atop one another in a dissonance chorus.

"Again, and again, and again..." Her voice was completely muffled by the following onslaught. "Will you never stop?"

Taking out the small stone knife she'd been given Talia traced along the strange details along the grip, staring at tiny serpent which threaded its way along the handle. Made from stone, she'd expected it to be terribly fragile, but the piece was oddly reliable. If she stared closely at it, Talia could see the stone was worked in a different fashion than the rest of the island, as if placed under deep and tremendous pressure.

More than just some small thought had gone into its construction.

"Maybe you were an artist, or a smith..." Leaning back until her head rested against the stone pillar, Talia stared up towards the ceiling once more. "Grant liked art too, you know. He used to talk about those things with Joan, just to make Rodrick jealous. Sometimes he would even buy her stone-worked flowers, the really fancy kind- and when she wouldn't accept them, he'd give them to me instead." Squinting her eyes didn't help against the darkness of the cave, only serving to make her view more shadowed and blurred. "Because he knew Rodrick would make her say no- it gave him an excuse." Rubbing at her eyes, Talia leaned forward, curling up over worn and ruined armor. "Ah... Why'd you have to do that Grant? Why'd you have to leave me down here alone, you stupid, hopeless, reckless, idiot..."

Screams of death and dying rallied out from beyond the stone wall, further snapping teeth and faces spitting their final breaths as they leapt over one another, but she didn't care. Curling tighter, Talia tried to push it all away as she clutched the knife tightly in her hand, head tucked beneath tired arms.

"Why'd you have to be so cool at the end?"

 

Alone on an island, deeper than anyone had ever been and come back from alive. Her friends were dead. Her weapon was lost, the rest of her possessions were scattered at the bottom of a dangerous underground lake, and the closest thing she had to a companion in this place was a over a hundred paces above her head. A bizarre being of existence that might never be coming back.

"Creeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!" Talia glanced up, just in time to see an Eel fumble its way over the wall to land in a writhing heap. Covered in bites and open wounds, it uncoiled slowly, face searching the environment it had only just arrived. Finally, it settled its stare on her.

 

"CREEEEEE-"

 

It had barely finished its call of challenge before another Eel slipped from the pile of impaled monsters, jaws closing shut like a steel-trap on the first's neck: abruptly ending its shriek in an instant.

Was this the kind of world she wanted to live in? Could she do this alone, day after day, after day? What was the point in such an existence? Just surviving... just eating what tried to eat you... just killing for the sake of living another day. Talia stared as the two Eels struggled, one heaving its final bloody gasps, while the other tore into it mercilessly: Bite after lashing bite.

She eyed the knife in her hands, slick stone edge almost glistening in the dim light of the pillar's base.

If it came to that, she's have to choose.

More Eels screeched and cried, as another surge of bodies mounted themselves on the wall-tops. The Frenzy was truly in full swing now, worse than Talia had ever seen it before.

It wasn't just Eels anymore either, Talia realized. The long tendrils of monsters that had long-since been lurking in the depths were now plucking free their meals with barely the slightest hesitation, as the Eels whipped themselves up further into a bloodbath.

"Ha!" She bludgeoned the first snapping set of jaws to a pulp with the fanciful stone-plate, which soon shattered. "Be Gone!" The second went down beneath the kitchen knife- as did the third and fourth, but by the fifth her knife was dragged away in the corpse of a soon-to-be-swallowed eel, and there was nothing left for her but magics.

"Ha... ha... ha..." Her pulse beat wildly against her chest, behind her eyes and ears."Oh, Holy guardian of Light... Grant me strength..." The mana flowed along her skin, her gauntlets, what bent and broken plates remained of her armor.

 

Faith Magics offered little in the way of deadly force, only defense, healing and endurance. Talia knew this well, as an Adventuring Paladin, she had been the shield for her companions. A stalling method, of sorts: The one who could drive off the monsters, but rarely be called on to deal the crucial blows.

She would die down here, even with the walls slowing the tide. More and more eels were pouring in, hundreds of them surging and fighting among themselves atop the walls with mindless hunger.

"Well then!" She shouted, stance ready and watch for the next challenger to break free of their midst and approach as she readied herself back to the pillar. "Come! Try and take me! I'll take you on!" Her fist threw forward, smacking a heavy blow to a striking set of teeth- throwing the dazed creature to be torn apart by its waiting fellows. "I am not afraid!"

Another punch, another caught and redirected bite- teeth barely grazing as Talia ducked it past her shoulder. Without a weapon, it was only a matter of time. "HA!" Both hands and forearm plates took the next bite, jaw shattering as she parted her arms with a brutal swing: Just in time to see several heads turn towards her.

Dozens of eels, staring at the blood which now covered her armor, and the corpse at her feet.

"Oh, for light's sake-"

Talia started, only to be cut off rather abruptly by a heavy blue object landing on her head- and everything else was set on fire.