Runic - Aeonian Overture

The realms float about in the neon cosmos of mystic forces long thought to be extinct, a universe known as Ambright where mana and technology can transform entire cities into prosperous empires. However, war has left many with pasts forever altered by the times when lands clashed, such is the case with Glave and Uriel. Both have set their lives towards high aspirations. Glave yearns for his lost bloodline. Uriel dreams of becoming her king's loyal patron. Yet their undertakings dissolve as their choices lead further into a path of unexpected threats and struggling values. It would seam that Ambright holds other plans for them.

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12. Chapter 12 - First Wake

 

 

"Exhaustively detailed creatures live outside Grove's three city boundaries. The Lantern Fox is cute until it tries to snatch away the food stuffed in your wagon."​​

-An excerpt from the Grove Wildlife Encyclopedia-​

....

At the second dark dungeon floor, in the empty ocean of conundrum and unforeseen depth, the old portal loop that sat still moved its gears to an invisible arcane force. From the glow and churning sprockets, two men, one masked and the other grinning, stepped out onto the flat metal platform overlooking the enchanted underground ocean. The portal's swirling vortex closed behind them, making silence the only motion around.​

Linus crept forward, peering beyond the flat aquatic horizon "From what I've been informed," he said "We will not be able to go back the way we came by normal means. This portal is damaged."​

"So how in Nexus do we get back?" Kugo stumbled, placing his first foot on the water, and to his surprise he could actually walk on it. "This realm doesn't exactly have a great transportation system."​

"His Majesty stated that his connection to us would enable free passage to and from the portal regardless of its damaged Momentum Switch. I suppose it has something to do with celestial gold mana. That, or we take the long way back on foot." Linus gave counterpart a nod. "That was Heron's plan."​

"That's stupid."​

"It's the only way. Don't question him." Linus straightened his coal colored tapestry coat, remembering yet another amazing fact. "Farrow has been secluded from the rest of this realm since the last war, so portals to that location have all been demolished."​

"Except this one," Kugo motioned at the old rusted ring.​

"Yes, except that one. Did you even read the mission summary before coming here?"​

The sallow warrior shrugged and smile saying, "You know I never read that stuff. Let's just get on our way.."​

The two of them carefully made their trek across the water, keeping their eyes peeled and prepared for lurking Lambtom Worms to come out and try to eat their hearts. They knew this place hadn't been checked on by Forktown's irrigation workers in decades, and while both men boasted unprecedented destructive power in tearing life from bodies, even the most experienced mages could die to laughably simple threats. The goblins, for example, were not known for being mindfully gifted, but in great numbers, could give even veteran fighters a test for their lives.

Their walk went on.​

On the first floor of trickling water and stone slab walls, Linus stopped at the sound of something slimy sliding around somewhere in front.

Kugo let his mana detecting scenes scan for life. There it was, it was small, and hardly alive. "A rat?," he questioned, reaching on his belt to pull out his two handed Claymore, ready to cleave.​ However, this wasn't a rat, and that became obvious when they saw the blurry silhouettes of clawed fingers crawling around a corner in front of them. It was blue, drooling, and melting. It was a hand, and just a hand moving around like a giant parasite starved of its host.​ "Would'a look at that." He lowered his sword. "Looks like your little pet had it rough."​

"It's a part of that hag we used as a starting vessel for the two Strixix." Linus knelt down, and with one startling pound he smashed the crooked hand to kill it for good. A minute went by of nothing happening except water droplets pecking stone. Then, he stood up and stilled, hands clenched, with his wicked heart heating up to dark temperatures.​

Kugo felt his pores turn to snowflakes.​ "Are you okay Linus?"​

Without warning, Linus lashed out his hand and rapidly swiped his arm back at the unsuspecting man.

Kugo clenched the side of his face as blood trenched from his cheekbone.​"Are you brain dead!" he shouted, red strings sliding down his face.​

Linus stepped forth. "Are you? Those two Strixix were placed under your own command by Heron, and now it seems that they are both dead."​

"So what! Everything dies at some point."​

"That's not what I'm saying at all. We were supposed to have the boy captured by now using those Strixix, or at the very least, aid them in doing so. I knew you were to blame when His Majesty said that they were predicted to fail."​

Kugo shrugged. "We can just get more. You just have to make them."​

The doctor swiped blisteringly again, but this time it was expected. He effortlessly caught him tight by the wrist and clenched down in a death trap.​

"The target knows that he's being hunted now! That's the problem" Linus jerked his arm, but it was like trying to free it from a hardened grip of cement. "Let me go!"​

"Don't try that again." The tight grip was released. "Next time I'll chop off your arm."​

A sizzled hum of disgust buzzed from the doctor as he said, "I can make as many of those Strixix as I want, but the ones that venture too long without a master giving them orders are likely to malfunction. We'll have to get him ourselves."​

"A stupid kid couldn't have killed two Strixix of that size. He had help. He had extra power, or an extra pair of hands." Kugo gestured his claymore at the pale puddle of muck still stained on the floor. "It looks like that hand was severed by something sharp, and as far as we know, that boy Glave can only make shields. Or is that wrong?"​

"You would know, you were once the one responsible for keeping Wilva from escaping Farrow during the war."​

Kugo lazily pointed a finger at the masked man and replied, "But that was years ago, and you're the one who interrogated her that one time."​

"That was also years ago when she was first left Forktown. She may have changed, or was hiding something. During that interrogation, Wilva said to me that her ability was manifesting magic force fields around herself, forming what she called the 'ultimate protection system.' If biology is correct, the boy should be the same way." Linus drew a finger across the stone where the white inky residue remained. He observed it closely, like an incredible microscope peering over a grain of salt. "It's slightly burnt," he said, with his empty eye sockets looking dripping over the dead limb. "The mana that cut this hand off must have been very concentrated, almost as if the blade that cut it was on fire."​

"Like mine." Kugo raised his weapon in a very sarcastically dramatic pose.​

"Perhaps so. I will collect samples to bring with us. I can study it further when we get to the surface of Forktown."​

"You do that. I'll capture Glave."​

"No. Our orders stated that we had to do this collaboratively."​

"Whatever that means." Kugo halfheartedly laughed.​

"It means doing something as a group."​

"I don't care."

"Then why did you ask?"​

"I didn't."​

Linus tilted his head. "Yes you did."​

"Well, moving on," he replied quickly. "We can start our little man hunt by going to the places where information comes in droves."​

"And where is that?"​

"Bars are a good place to start when looking for a head," Kugo praised, snickering as the torch lights reflected off his big teeth as he added. "I heard some of the wineries are really good too, and the maids are real Lookers, especially the cat girls."​

"We're not here to get drunk or socialize."​

"You're no fun."​

"You already stated that." This time, the words came out more frizzled. Linus was getting irritated.​

Kugo just threw his arms up in bewilderment and shouted, "Well you know what! It's true!"​

Bare-skinned footsteps slapped the floor ahead of them. If Kugo wasn't busy arguing he would have sensed the source of the footsteps from far away. They stopped their aimless banter and turned to the noise. There was grunting, and dark bumpy red skin came from the darkness.

Two goblins emerged out, with weapons that looked as if they had been cut off at the ends. In fact, these goblins looked like they were carrying nothing more than wood stakes in their meaty fingers, but that didn't stop them for a second. They charged at the two men, converged with killing intents, angry, devilish, and fast. Kugo reacted quicker, flashed his giant flaming sword and swung it to rip off the first goblin's head as it blindly charged forward. Its headless body went limp and fell, arms lifelessly flailing about as the corps hit the ground, the head rolling away. The second goblin was less fortunate. It managed one lash with its stake directly at Linus who moved out of the weapon's predictable linear path easily. The doctor whipped out a syringe stuffed with deadly toxins from his coat, dodging the second attack with time to spare. He saw an opportunity, and plunged the syringe needle deep into the goblin's left shoulder and pressed the poison in. The monster jumped back in pain with the needle sticking out its skin. It's body writhed in burning until it crippled on the floor in agony, screaming, jerking around, and after thirty slow seconds, ceased moving and drew its last breath.

"I see that you always come prepared like usual," said Kugo. "What's in that thing?"​

Linus clicked his boots, as if the question was a delightful set of sounds that vibrated like a dove song. "It was a chemical that multiples one's pain sensitivity by 2366 times."​

"Jeez. You got more of them?"​

"No, it was just a little something I was wanting to try the next time I went outside His Majesty's palace. As you can see, my dear counterpart, it worked splendidly." Linus stopped talking momentarily, and again that humming sizzle leaked from his mask. "I should've tested it on you, for letting those two Strixix meet their unfortunate ends." He clicked his shoes once more, filled with the joyful thought. "You would've probably lived given your high pain tolerance."​

"....Oh." Kugo combed a hand through his hair and winced. "That just sounds fun." He veered his eyes on one of the deceased goblin bodies. "These guys looked spooked out of their minds. Something must've happened to them."​

Linus motioned forward. "Then let's pick up our pace."​

At the tall towering doors that separated the underworld from the rest of the world, pass the narrow land bridge and pass the lake of crawling light, Linus was the first to observe that these old decrepit doors were stained with a clean, dust free hand print on one of the broad brass handles. Someone had recently exited this hollow hole, and had not covered up their tracks.​

"Between this and the damaged bridge, it looks like whoever came through here was In a hurry," said Kugo.​

"Or desperate," added Linus.​

They opened the gateway to the outside, and gashed out the lives of the guards were who patrolling the surrounding sector. No one could see them, or they would be posted on the bulletin board where local bounty hunters would have their attention drawn. In the cold winter sunlight, the stench of death decayed off of the twin servants of Heron who walked the Forktown parlors, searching for the right unwitting mouth to spill out the information they needed to find the son of Wilva. Some of the elves and Avens passed concerned looks at Linus, unsure whether or not to think of him as safe or threatening.​

"We'll want to visit the first bar house come night time," said Kugo. "They'll be less soldiers around. Glave likely suspects that there's people after him, so there's no point making him come to us. He'll simply turn away. The best way to catch him is by causing an uproar and get as much information as we can. Word travels fast around here. The more we cause violence, the more Glave will be inclined to slip up, you know, make a mistake."

Linus nodded. "Agreed."​

And so, into the crowds the doctor and swordsman skulked, waiting for night, waiting for the obsidian blanket to drop on the land.

​....​

Glave had this eerie feeling like he was about to have a dream, but was awake before it happened. Dim candle light made his eyes orange cataracts, and before he could open them, a focused weight hefted down on his chest and floated away. It was warm, and perhaps he felt little pointed feet as well, but it went away as he sat up for the first time to see himself in a room in which the only light was just that, a candle. The smooth rumbling from above signed that it was raining. Char and Filvia were nowhere in sight, but there was talking droning from the other room downstairs...the other room. His world was a gloomy and his body...his body.

Glave had overdosed, an event in which mana is pulled through the body too fast and the skin tears and rips. It was why that, when he tried to sit up, he couldn't even shout in pain because a hot surge gripped his voice box, blocking it completely. He was stricken to lean back down, looking up at a wood canopy.

Wait

A desk made its dusky shadow across the wall boards. He moved a hand to feel the bed, feeling the sheets over and over. He realized that he was in his room, in Aylward's shop. This time he allowed the muscles strapping his arms together to move slowly as he rose up to have looked around, only to sink back down, as his brain began to lift from weariness, recalling the events that had happened. Each one flashed in and out of existence as if his subconscious wouldn't allow them to stay for long, this beak dipped in crimson, with red stained talons, and a moonlit face with narrow slits for eyes.

Aylward, his adopted father. ​

He called his name, once, twice. But Aylward didn't open the door, startling him. Nothing came and nothing responded.

Oh no. Please, no.

The door finally sprang open. Char stood there, his cyan eyes and tail lighting more of the air. There was calmness, silence. Glave rubbed his eyes wiping the sleep out. Char looked as if the speak but remained still. It didn't last forever, because the boy wanted to confirm the horrible dread choking his throat.

"The one of the floor", he horsed. "That was him."

There was no answer. Char was still looking onward but not into his eyes.

The door shut

Glave didn't sleep.

It was morning now. He knew it was morning because the light out the window entered through the glass as an ghastly white beam. This time, the voices outside the walls were louder. He rubbed his face and sighed to let some of the worry out. His skin felt greasy, dirty.​

He could here the words from the ones who saved him clearer than before. The spectrum of his mana acted on its own, trying to detect life forms farther away. His mind spread across the room and even then, pops of electricity made him yelp in pain.

The voices stopped, then the staircase rattled and his door opened again. It was the second time he'd seen Char or anyone since waking up. "It's best that you don't try and use mana." His words were straight, focused like usual. "Stay still."

Glave tried sitting up. "Where's Aylward?"

Char peered his eyes down the staircase; looking at someone? He looked back and walked closer, slowly, his eyes aglow with an infinitely soft stratos. He didn't look mad, or confused, or anything, just Char. "Strixix got away", he said at last. "I'll let the law division know. I'm going up to their office tomorrow and have them issue a detailed report."

Glave edged over the bed.

He stepped closer. "Lay down."

"Where's Strixix?"

"I told you it got away. Lay down."

Glave laid down, eyes open to the sound. "Wilva would never act the way you do now."

Char seemed to take those words and absorb them, before throwing them out. "Glave, I'm stepping out a while to get something. I have to secure this house before the landlord realizes what happened. Filvia is coming to change out your bandages, so I need you to not move."

No response.

The Peacock started out, but before that he slowly turned towards him again. "Listen, right now you need to stay focused. Are you focused?"

"I'm focused!" Glave shot his head down.

"Ok...you're focused."

The door clicked shut. Glave slammed a fist at the wall, the other wrapped his face. It was quite. Too quiet. His world went hazy, feeling light, already out of energy. Another while passed in weighted nothingness.

Again the door clicked open. Filvia stepped in, slowly when she saw him, faster as she approached. She was still wearing a dress, but now it was ivory instead of steel gray, a ghost.

He sprang up, hurting all over. The wrapping bandages he didn't know were on quaked and shocked his skin. It was dark, he thought it helped not to think about what happened and why these bandages were needed.

"Don't", Filvia pleaded, as she held him steady. "I have to make sure these bandages don't come off. Bare with me."

"...Ok."

She hurriedly left downstairs and came back with wet rags and medical tape. He only knew it was tape was because she had taken care of him the last time he was injured. However, while her hands were still soft, her eyes were concentrated as opposed to happy like the last time.

"I know he's gone", Glave didn't know why he said it so quietly, maybe to say it to himself without anyone hearing him. He said it again.

"I'm sorry." Her voice was a tap in the great ocean. "I'm sorry I didn't get to meet him."

"I couldn't get there in time."

"To save him?"

"Yeah."

Her hands lifted for a moment. "Char hasn't slept since we arrived here. He's been working hard to get everything under control, the reporters, investigators, the law division. He's been working so hard." ​

Glave looked himself over. "I'm wearing different clothes."

"It was whatever you had in the closet. I'll go a get more soon."

"You don't have to. I'm sorry."

"For what?"

"I don't know."

Glave didn't count the number of laceration on his body as Filvia checked over each one. It was more than ten, and all of them had train tracks of stitches lacing them. He was an old human sized doll. Filvia closed her eyes, leaning her head back enough so it seemed she was sleeping, then he noticed they were darker underneath. Wordlessly, she finished looking over him like a newspaper and left minutes later with her tray of scissors and tape, and scalpels. What had she been doing while he was asleep? He was alone now, alone to he guessed heal and sleep.

Forgetting the desk at the room's corner existed seemed oddly irritating for him. Why did he forget it? Milos's picture was still where it was left, accompanied by the log journal he wrote in, with the writing quill sticking out its special wood ink holder.

"I know he's gone," Glave said to the room. The room didn't respond. He looked down at his hands. One had a scar weaving through his palm.

"Oh, god."

He forgot to ask how long he was unconscious. The rain had stopped, allowing him to clear his mind and listen to the weather talk quietly with the window. He stared out the window and tried to block it in, but his Adam's Apple quivered. Hot tears swept his face, but the pain wouldn't let him make any noise. In this house of wolves, there was nothing that could reach through the howling.

Hours went by. Bitter tears ran down. The sky was verging on letting free its frozen payload.

A rusty gleam filtered from the dresser at the other far end of his room. Looking closer wasn't needed to distinguish was the object was. It was the broken portal gear. He forgot that Char had tossed it to his possession earlier. Filvia must had placed it there while she was stabilizing him when he was unconscious. It was small, with ridges lining its outer shell, and a purple glass circle for its center glass eye.​

It snowed the next morning. It was more quiet than the rain, and the near silence made him think about trying to get up. He decided to venture around his room this time, perhaps for half an hour before he would tire out or when Filvia would come in and tell him to get in bed. He kept forgetting to ask how long he was unconscious, but now he was awake so long it didn't really matter. Voices came from the downstairs shop once more. Most of it was Char, while Filvia was repeating lines, most in defiance. It took hours before it stopped, then it would start again.

Glave was going to see the aftermath. He didn't care if Filvia, or the high ruler of Mejis told him otherwise. He touched foot to carpet. There was still a little pain, just a pinch on his sole. Walking was more difficult, like yesterday, or however long he was asleep since then. Two laps around his room gave some assurance that this pain wasn't getting worse just by walking, at least not yet. So, silently, except the second long door creek, he managed the sojourn into the downstairs shop.

Aylward's shop...his father's shop.

A gramophone disk on one of the shelves was spinning to music, filling his ears as he lowered down the stairs into the familiar world of items and price tags, with new faces.

"Guess who got sleep?" Char said, rubbing an eye. "Filvia kept disregarding me when I told her to get some sleep, but as soon as she hit the bed, she slept like a hen. Is that how people say it around here? What even is a hen?" He then appeared to remember something by his own words. "Aren't you supposed to be in bed, not moving around?"

Glave looked where he thought Aylward still lying dead. Nothing. Where? "I don't know why", he said at last. "But I didn't think you'd still be here."

The Peacock kept his gaze spreading out among the street outside the shop's front glass panels, eyes half closed and his demeanor calm with his head lowered in thought. "The situation has changed." His breath eased out. "With all that's happened with your mother Wilva, the Outbreakers, and the dungeon, I'm staying with you. I finally managed to convince Filvia, despite her arguments against the idea. She finally accepted that we would stay together and not return to Typhon right now. After all that's transpired now...." He trailed off, then said, "I've sent those stupid investigators on their way. They even sent for a Plague Doctor to deal with your injuries, but of course with Filvia being the better healer that wasn't going to happen. I didn't know Forktown still had them. Thought we've already moved away from that era. I learned that's not the case."

Glave sat at one of the shop booths where Char was and spread both hands across his face, stopping whatever dared to seep out, the tears, whatever it was. He wanted to talk about something else, and waved a hand to all the products displayed throughout the shelves, as if to cover them all, and secure them tightly. "What about all this?" he said. "This was all his stuff. I knew that anyone could buy them, but Aylward was the one who found them, Either in Wynding river, or Dunnland. And the stuff he didn't find he made himself." He took another deep breath. "He was amazing."

"I'll leave it up to you. If you want to keep it, we'll keep it." Char quietly made way to the front window, looking out, looking tired, however the bottomless glow from his irises detailed absolute awareness. "Nobody can know that an Outbreaker who named itself Strixix caused this. It would only make everything worse. As far as the rest of Forktown is concerned, this was a robbery that went horribly wrong."

Glave took a long quiet time of wordlessness, then said, "Forktown can help us. Jin can help us."

"This is not!..." Char stopped, regaining his calmness quickly. "If even a peep gets out the higher law departments will soon get involved, and trust me when I say they'll leave more destruction than solutions, especially because the Strixix is wearing what looks like a Valkyrie's halo ring." He closed his eyes, and looked at him for the first time. "Who is Jin?"

"The one who took care of me when I lived at her foster home with my sister." He took some air in, and gave it a second. "She's gone, my sister."

"What's was her name?"

"Milos."

Char closed his eyes, clamping some of the light blooming the shop. "Milos. If I remember right, that name means the word, pleasant. Though It's usually a name given to a star, or a moon.

"Oh, um, I didn't know that." Then it hit him. "Filvia. Where's she sleeping?"

"In your friend's quarters."

"You mean Aylward's bed." ​

Char nodded, slowly.

One of the boy's fist was clenched, the other loose but embodying the same anger. Already, Aylward's own bed was being used to accommodate someone else. The large spinning record disk on one of the shelves sat peacefully. He lurched it over, and snapped it over his right knee. The music stopped. Char swiveled his head to see Glave's eyes taped at the ceiling, face stiffened by pain.

"Sorry, it's just-" Glave's arms moved like he was speaking, but there was no voice, Char nodded understandably anyway. "Right. I should be in bed like Filvia told me." He slowly backed away, looking back at the place where his once best friend and adopted father perished, trying painfully the accept it, like spitting a hair down the middle then doing it over and over again. Quietly, he turned for the stairs. Everything was changing, and he was just along for the ride no matter how fast it went, and how many times it turned. At least, that was only half true. He was the one who decided that going across town to search for a portal switch was a good idea, and now, that quest would forever be marked with a beginning remembered by the end of a kind soul, and tomorrow, a new day would rise, the universe's way of saying it didn't care. The shop would always have one less occupant now.

When he was halfway up the case Char called his name and said, "You've been out for two days, Filvia wanted me to tell you. Your friend Aylward is peacefully buried out back. If anytime you want to visit, please do."

Glave swallowed hard, then softly continued up. "Thank you."

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