Chapter 67

Chapter 67

Talia

Thirst.

It was all she could think about. It crept into her mind, down past any rational defense. Terrible and unrelenting thirst.

Hunger could be stalled, pushed away, ignored for a time. Talia had the foresight of drying out some pieces of the eel meat, and though it hadn't tasted well, she could chant and channel magic well enough to heal through most-any illness that might have carried with it.

But she had no water, only stone.

Beneath her was a thick layer of dark and cold rock, beside her was an elegant lattice of much the same, and above her was nothing but the blackened bedrock of the deep Dungeon. Layers of rock so deeply soaked with mana, that it might as well be poison.

Talia couldn't drink stone, mana, or poison- though she might be tempted to try. It had been almost two days since her last sip of water. Before she had climbed hundreds of paces straight into the air, to come and rest in this small space over an ancient lake. Even laying down with little movement, breathing controlled and focused, she was slipping into madness.

Thirst was everything.

"Water..." Her voice rasped, like sand and glass were pulled taunt on strings of metal in her throat. "Please... Water." As always, Talia spoke to the quiet glowing shape of blue which hovered along her shoulders. More a specter than a reality, it moved almost as little as she herself now did.

"Hisss..." It replied softly, as if to try and put a stop to her words. As if to say that it heard her desperate pleas, and understood them.

"Water..." Even to her own ears, the voice that begged for such a thing was unfamiliar. "Please, god... please."

Why had she ever come to this horrible place?

The thought floated above her conscience mind with all the others, questions and unfinished bits of logic and understanding disjointedly spinning about before the abyss of forgotten. Why had she come down with Joan, with Rodrick, with Grant... What was it they had wished to achieve?

Greatness... Riches... Knowledge... Adventure... Power?

All were possible, for a price.

The risk was always there.

For a Great Adventurer, be it in ancient tools or weapons found far beneath the earth, in monsters and their wild magics, or the bountiful wealth one might obtain with the scavenging of mana-crystals and precious metals: A life's dream could be obtained in the depths. Even for those held and tested by the upper layers of the Dungeon networks: Those first tunnels long since picked clean of anything but the manifestations of dangerous creatures and malignant tides of tainted-earth magics, Greatness and riches were still within one's reach.

So why did they ever choose to go further?

Adventure? To see that which none might have ever seen before. To discover, to trail-blaze a path those others might follow after?

Or was it for power?

To grow, in experience, in skills: To acclimate to an environment that will only accept the strong, and make them stronger. To turn those with promise, into legends, to be one of those figures immortalized in history...

Talia didn't know any longer. She couldn't know, through the fever pitch of haunting dreams. Unable to see beyond the black of the hollowed cavern, the glow of mysterious blue scales, the scream of Grant's voice, of Rodrick's final shouts, of Joan running terrified into the darkness- never to escape those which chased after. Friends and companions of years and seasons.

Rodrick had a dream of Legends. To be the man in the stories, to be remembered, to be known, to have fame. He pushed ever onward to the next challenge they could overcome.

Joan had love, and she sprinted after. A desire for something she could never have completely, but could never quite let go. A one-sided affection that pulled her deeper than most might dar.

Grant had pride and will to achieve, and a curiosity for those ancient mysteries long forgotten by the noble races. He had the desire to learn, to understand the forgotten and make it his own.

But herself... What was it that brought her here?

Desire for fame, riches and status? Love of another? Pride? Unanswered questions? The simple wish for adventure? She found that in this moment, she didn't know.

"Water..." She begged the glowing blue spectre once again, watching through the haze as its strange eyes lifted to stare back at her. Deep and strange, a poison blue of ocean depths and a setting-sun sky. "Water..."

It wasn't until the cool damp of rain touched her lips, that she let rest take her once again.