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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5. Chapter 5 - Here Birdy Birdy

 

 

"Born from the secrets seethed in red from their deaths, bleached and poisoned minds gave sores on eyes that have never once gazed upon the sister suns. From nightmares scattered by the stars, they wait in the flicker of the torchlight. Hymns rise from the cobblestone underworld, crying out in humility, cloaked by their childish insanity. Twisted limbs and claws eagerly await the buzzing light from the great gate above the top floor. Feeding upon the meat of their murderous deeds, they watch for dreams that had long since been betrayed. Oh how far away you are lovely o' Grove."

-Scripture carved in a shrine on floor 56-

....

A hollow black shape of an owl's face oozed up from the pool of black gunk as the Hag's corpse laid lifelessly on the ground, shriveled and flattened by the apparent lack of the morbid fluid. Two white slits popped open on the newborn creature's head. Jagged claws and wings gutted out of its body, twitching into fresh life. A long slender neck grew from the shoulders and connected itself to the bird-shaped head which was finalized by a small beak just below its hollow glare. The fiendish bird was soaked in a thick onyx liquid coming out in mangled drips across the floor. When it turned its deathly head to face him, Glave froze on the spot, and realized what had been screeching those chittering bird calls early on.

The light from the surrounding torches flickered madly around the horrific scene as the creature tried to wobble its way across the floor. Every limb gave a violent twitch as the past drizzled from within its skin leaving a trail of black gunk, a spill of rotten oil. Glave took a uneasy step back, his ligaments and bones working in terrified movements on their own, but Char stood sternly, wielding unusual calmness, with his eyes indifferent, half closed, half open. Many thoughts were pouring into the boy's brain, rolling in his skull and gutting away. For a fleeting moment, he remembered that childish fear of looking over his bed sheets into a dark closet, waiting anxiously for any signs of movement, any sign of a pulse. Except this time, there was no imagining. The monster every child feared was slowly making its way toward him. Dry ice bit his bones. A pressing weight instantly took hold of his shoulder, and a scratching high pitched hoot resounded in his ear canal, however, it came not from the creature, but from behind.

"What are you looking at, you despicable humanoid?"

Glave immediately realized the fein crawling on the floor was the least of his problems now. Resting on his right shoulder was a round white head with two black slits for eyes. Before he could pull away, the voice spoke again with a vial of pale blood from its beak.

"Yes, that's the spirit," said the fiend so crookedly. "I have been waiting for you, and that's just the face I've been wanting to see, child. Now hear my name and make it known. Strixix."

Was it a monster stripped of its soul, becoming a vengeful spirit from many past lives?

No

Was it the after effect of a dungeon oil spill from the underground pipes?

No

Was it a creation from some dark magic spell from the bottom floor?

No

Indeed, Char didn't know how to identify the beast. He cautiously tried to move closer for a better look. He didn't know what to think about the unworldly creature crawling on the floor. He knew rogue sludge mutants would sometimes find their way up from the bottom floors towards the surface. If this was an undiscovered species, it sure hadn't adapted well. Wings and a long neck were traits that belonged in the icy caves of Typhon, not here. Glave, on the other hand, hadn't budged since the metamorphosis. Char looked over his shoulder to see that there was a second owlish creature taking hold of him. Its round ugly head hung over the boy, a moon most dreadful. Only, this one was pure white, as if a snow bird had a horrible mutation, and Its whole body was drenched in a smooth, ivory slime, with a ringed halo of yellow light hovering just above its head.

Blasphemy! Char's mind screamed out this word. That ring belonged only to the Valkyries of Mejis, a race of celestial birds that watched after all the realms of Ambright. How did that creature ever get a hold of one? But dealing with the opponent in front of him had to come first, for the black Strixix was suddenly flinging itself toward him. It was clumsily batting both its soaked wings and shaking off its cold fluids drooling everywhere. He managed a glance at the boy, who was indeed in bed with a demon of his own. They were surrounded from both sides, and he hoped that his new friend could handle a decent fight, for now.

Turning his attention back, there was no time for delay Char shot down the space between him and the owl with the saber's gleaming trail marking his path like a bleeding comet. In a slivering flash he thrust forward and pierced the fiend in its soft stomach where it plunged in, a speedy tactic to quickly kill the enemy, or so he thought.

"That will not break me."

A claw full of talons wrapped tightly around the Peacock's blade of light. In one shaking pound, black Strixix slammed a giant wing against the sword. Light fragments sprayed off in millions of star struck pieces as the weapon utterly crumbled to bits. Char promptly stepped back before the other bashing wing could gut his torso clean. A second fresh saber morphed in his hands once again and he arced another swift slash. This time he managed to deliver a clean blow at the neck; The owlish head hung by a mere few threads, but the wound had no effect as stringy black veins promptly regrew out the beast and mended the gruesome wound tight and together, back to normal.

Meanwhile, alerted by the blustering echo from Char's broken blade, Glave quickly summoned a force field just in time to deflect a strike from the white creature behind him. Using magic at this speed was only possible because of the mana he ingested earlier. Squeezing its eyes shut from the sudden piercing light of the shield, the monster stumbled back, its body disoriented and swaying helplessly as its eyes gouged in static flashes. The boy spotted a break where he could slip past beneath its wing. The opening was a small one, but it was big enough for Char and him to fit through.

"Char!" he called. "Come on!"

They slipped by with haste, and ran into the gloom ahead.

"Stupid food, you let them escape!", the black Strixix hissed at its other half. "Letting these targets out of our sight will certainly earn us death! The king will kill us."

"He didn't bother in giving us separate names.," the other Strixix narrowly scowled back. "What makes you think he won't simply dispose of us anyway?"

"Flirting with the king's authority is a crime most grave. Don't speak of that nonsense. Perhaps that ring has given you more than special powers, maybe it made you less intellectually gifted." The black Stixix raised its body higher. "No matter, I'll just say you will killed by the enemy. This kind of behavior isn't needed." With that, the dark force of feathers and ink crushed the head of its other half with its wicked talons, crushing it to the ground. Gunk splattered about the floor as the white creature thrashed violently for a few seconds, before succumbing to its injuries, and stopped moving. Turning its attention back to the escapes, the remaining owl craned its neck over with its eyes becoming thin lines of seething anger upon seeing the two insects scurrying off. It clumsily wobbled down the hallway in pursuit, anger swelling within its cold vapid heart. Its brain raced in thought.

I wasn't made to chase insects, but I am left with no other choice. No matter, I like stretching my limbs for a walk down this wonderful little road. Can't wait to see some skin fly, or heads, or arms. Otherwise, I too will be put to the fire.

....

They ran down a dreary hallway in dullness for a good time, even though time seemed to bend because there was no way to distinguish such a construct this far from genuine sunlight. They rushed passed a few ominous structures of rock and rubble, but Glave was to focused on kicking his legs that he didn't notice them. Their escape had been swift, and half of what had just transpired came in fuzzy for the boy. First, the hag died, and from its blooded corpse a black demon bird came out. After that, another pale white bird suddenly came from behind him and hooted in his ear, telling its name. How? How did this happen?

Torches flashed by, making their bodies go dark and light in fast intervals until Char stopped and pointed to a doorway marked by nothing but shadows. His hand waved, silently telling Glave to come inside.

"This is a room separate from the main network of hallways and tenements," Char began, as slid the door until it was only a few inches from closing. "Because I visit here often, I've long since repurposed some of the excluded chambers of this underworld as storage rooms or places to rest while I work. Nothing will be able to detect our presence from here; we'll have plenty of time." Indeed, they had made considerable distance between the Strixix and themselves, and both of them were still panting hard.

"Well that certainly isn't something you see everyday, is it?" Glave barely heard the Peacock as he spoke. He was still trying to catch his breath. "There's definitely something off with those, whatever they are. I've heard of mutant regeneration, but to completely regrow individual limbs?.... that's a new one. Not to mention the way one of them shattered my sword like it was nothing."

"So their Outbreakers, then," Glave said. He knew Outbreakers were an uncatalogued species with no traceable bloodline. "Well, they're also called a Strixix. That's what the white bodied one called itself when it spoke to me."

"Never heard of that one", Char replied. "Even if they're Outbreakers, a species yet discovered, that still doesn't explain the halo above the white one's head. It truly is a sad sight to see on such a monster." His eyes narrowed. "Mejis is not going to be all that thrilled when they hear about a creature stealing from their opulence. They might send a Valkyrie down to clean up the mess, although we do not know how long these things have been down here, so Mejis might had overlooked it."

"So the one that came from behind me is also breaking the rule of law," Glave added. " How do you think we can deal with them?"

"Oh, I have an idea alright, but I'm pretty sure you're not going to like it."

"I won't know until you tell me," Glave said, and a long silence fell between them. Only the faint sound of the flaming torches hanging on the walls reached their ears.

"Before we go any further, there is something I need to tell you."

Glave's expression washed with confusion.

Char had lowered his voice considerably. In fact, his entire demeanor changed and the disgust he expressed about the golden ring had all but vanished. "Why don't you have a seat and put your bag down over there", he said, pointing to some crates in the corner. As he leaned against the wall near Glave, Char tried to formulate the words in his mind of how to tell the boy what he knew. "Although we share no commonality, I hope that what I'm about to say can connect with you. It's what I like about humans", he glanced the ceiling. "I think they're the most backward of creatures, but they have a knack for understanding others."

Glave sat, and watched on. He didn't know how he failed to notice the large chest in the corner of the chamber until Char walked over to it. Picking at the lock with his rather nimble fingers, he peaked quickly at him only once before the hinge snapped open, revealing the contents inside.

"It took me longer than I thought to figure out who you were, but there was still a bit of doubt left in me." After quickly digging through the chest, Char tossed over a roll of papers to Glave - three small scrolls with blue strips keeping them tightly bound. He continued, and Glave hung on every word. "However, when I saw your shield for the second time, its unmistakable light confirmed what I had thought from the beginning. Its form is slightly different from hers, but unique just the same. And your green eyes have that same look, the same eyes of Wilva, the woman who raised you, your mother." Char took a long pause before closing the lid. "Glave", he repeated with a new, bottomless empathy. "So that's the name she gave you."

Glave could hardly trust the vibrations shaking his ears. Very few knew of his mother, and now this Peacock was even calling her by name, as if it was any other word. "I'm just shocked that you know her," he said, waist deep in bewilderment, "and that's saying plenty coming from me. Hardly anyone else in Forktown does. The only mentions of her past are just rumors."

"Just rumors?" Char said, his tinge of alarm greater than a bell. "Those scrolls I just gave to you; have you seen anything like them before in Grove? Ever?"

"Yes, in a few market stalls, but none quite like these."

Char kept peering out the chamber opening, checking for any signs of the Strixix. "Glave", he continued. "What your holding in your hands are called scroll bombs, and they were made by her hands. I acquired them back when I traveled around the old war sites on the outskirts of Dunnland. These were Wilva's creations.""

"Bombs!" Glave exclaimed in a resounding surprise that was profound, a building would be cracked under its weight. He looked the scrolls over, eyes pouring over them with their widened shock. All of this was so sudden, a context that had been broken down and rebuilt to resemble something completely different. "These can't be bombs. That's impossible. They just look like paper rolls to me."

"It's what they're normally used for, but these are different. Let me explain. All it takes is for one to channel in some of their mana. Twelve seconds later the flammable coating on the inside of the paper will ignite, and the bomb goes off. It was quite the innovation back then, a scroll disguised as an explosive. However, Wilva's device became pretty much obsolete after the first Etherian war, though. More efficient inventions were discovered that didn't endanger the user in the process..." Char trailed off, appearing to be alerted. Glave was about to say something when a loud screech billowed through the chamber. It sounded distant at first, but echoed closer.

The Peacock sighed again. "These bombs will have to be used for the time being. I've always kept them here in case of an emergency. This dungeon, no, this world is a stronghold for many creatures like myself in terms of research. We can't allow the Strixix to just roam about freely. They're rogues and must be taken care of. Besides, it's only a matter of time before Mejis takes notice that one of their rings has been stolen, and sends one of their Valkyries to seek out the thief. Do you remember that bridge we crossed on the way here?"

"Yes, vaguely," Glave said. "I wasn't really paying attention to anything except getting away."

"Well, It's a sheer drop on either side that extends all the way down to floor sixty, or at least that's how far it was last time I checked. Regardless, it's one of the deepest crevasses in the entire dungeon. There is no returning for anyone that makes that fatal misstep. But, that's only the second part to the plan."

"So what's the first plan?" Glave was almost afraid to ask.

"Oh that's simple. The first part of the plan is to blow their round heads to smithereens. With the bombs Wilva made, sending them to oblivion will be easy. We can kill them instantly."

"Complete elimination," the boy whispered. "It could work."

"That's right, you need to trick those two into getting close to you", Char carried on. "Once the time is right, use the scrolls to completely obliterate them. When they regenerate, it will be all too late, because the explosion would have blasted them off the bridge, into the abyss forever."

"Me?" Glave's eyes swam with question.. "There's only twelve seconds separating me and these scrolls from certain death. If I get trapped in the explosion, I'm a dead man for sure. You know this dungeon inside and out. Why can't you do it?"

"I can survive plenty, that's for sure. But an explosion is different from simple injuries." Char still saw the worried expression on the boy's face. "Listen, you're the only one that can make this plan succeed. Your mother's force field could handle almost anything. Yours is no different. You stopped my mana saber, which only goes to serve how it can withstand. I possess many abilities, but all of them will not work." Glave listened intently, but Char knew that his eyes still held uncertainty. "You know, I find your mission admirable, but if you're ever going to find out what happened to your relatives, you must be willing to fight off any who impede you, standing in your way. And right know, these Strixix are your enemy. Now hurry up before I start sounding cheesy."

The boy's face changed in melting waves, eyes closing and mouth drawing a frown, to straight, interchanging into various forms that slid around. When it all transformed to liquid, it stopped, and changed back to a defined shape.

"You won't have to. I'm already convinced", Glave at last spoke with his voice solid. "I didn't come here to be done in like this, and I didn't think my trip down here would come and go easy. Let's go blow up some birds, but I want answers after all this is settled." The note of his husky voice lowered to become more razored, a hint of an icicle. No other words needed to be said in their conversation, because it had ended with a razor point and a plan to kill monsters. With that, the odd duo crept out of the chamber and into the hallway.

"We must get back to the bridge and position ourselves before the two Strixix," Char whispered, and nothing more.

They made their way cautiously, their minds made up with their stride harboring a path towards another confrontation with the two demon birds. Both Strixix had to die.

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