5th of Ophus, 2718
The DEEP | THERE'S NO SUN ANYWHERE WE'RE GOING
While he'd begun his spell in the crypt among the bodies, standing there as mist curled about them and staring unmistakably at a hatcher as it attacked his Gioran companions, the mona had moved so sluggishly. It had grated against his words not because of his intentions, not so much in objection to his panicked casting, but almost as if it was held back by something he had no control of, as if, much like the mona in his field, the mona that was in the rest of the room had been trapped and pulled by the same strange, unknown force. While his wall held the first charge of the mythical beast back and allowed himself and Athrym to flee the room, the magical barrier felt as though it sprang to life, bolstered with strength, as soon as he stepped out into the long stairwell that looked out into the nothingness of the Maw.
Once he was free from the mist, once he was out of range of the strange shimmering rift, the mona he could sense with such familiarity flowed and moved with much more urgency to his commands. Had he at all been capable of analytic thought in this moment, with that beast, here in the middle of this mountain, perhaps he could have made some observations. As it was, the young Siordanti just wanted to get the clocking hell out of the Deep alive and in one piece with his fiancé.
Always a quick—impulsive, really—thinker known for his risk-taking in duels both during League competitions and on the Lawn, Nauleth was quite aware of the choices he was making as they struggled to flee up the stairs, his gold-rimmed gaze watching as another hatcher crawled behind the more agile first, bloodied but persistent.
He heard the petite blond yell for him, planting his feet and gathering what resolve he could summon even though he could hardly do anything but react, full of adrenaline and terror and the deafening rhythm of his pulse. The two creatures moved in unison, but, again, Naul was far too focused to take notes on the matter, Monite shifting into a leybridge, his pleas for safety begging the mona to form a tight, protective sphere. As the wall shifted, however, there was but a handful of heartbeats that the Anaxi galdor stood facing the mythical beast, trapped in the spell of his own making.
Naul could only keep casting, unwilling to risk a brail in this moment, unwilling to invite backlash. He knew what those things were like, but this? This was the clocking unknown! And it was insanity! His voice wavered, raised in defiant volume as if his words could hurt the creature, but instead his spell was drowned out by the horrible screech. He quipped the last line of Monite, the syllable hitched and dragged into a gargled noise of pain when the hatcher leapt for him, all gnashing jaws and powerful limbs.
Sure, unlike most of his kind, he'd not been without any suffering, but this was so very different than his youthful mistakes. As razor sharp teeth tore into utterly unprotected flesh, there was something strange about physical contact with the hatcher—it wasn't just nauseating because he'd never experienced this level of bodily trauma and pain before, but it was also a sensation of overwhelming vertigo and a momentary chill as the mythical beast ripped into him and seemed hells-bent on snuffing out his field like some helpless little candle.
Just for a heartbeat. Just forever.
But he felt it! He really did! The pressure of some totally different, totally familiar presence, familiar in a primal sort of way not unlike the level of pure horror and searing pain he was experiencing. It wasn't as if his field was negated as if turned away with a counter-spell so much as it was completely overpowered, smothered by a force he'd always known but never touched. Suffocated by something indescribably alien and yet curiously not.
Claws raked his side as the creature rolled away from him, the hatcher crashing against the rock wall with the force of its charge even as Nauleth staggered backwards, already raising one arm again as if he could even attempt self-defense. He saw it's bloodied maw—his blood!—and felt the snap of his spell hardening the air between himself and the beast, the mona obedient to his will as it tightly coiled into a shimmering sphere of hardened around the beast just when the force of Athrym's Push spell rippled through the air from behind. The ginger professor could only grunt, her strong, panicked magic shoving him against the wall even as it tossed the hatcher over the railing and into darkness.
Naul left a bloodied smear as he sagged to his knees, freckled face pale, spattered with red, and his lopsided expression a mask of panicked disbelief. Shock took hold almost instantaneously, and the fiery sensation of his injuries meant very little while he stared at the second hatcher, watching it collapse succumb to its injuries much as he suddenly wanted to, too. He glanced down, panting, staring as Athrym appeared in the fog of his vision and reached her hands toward him, gurgling at the press of her palms against his side, which was flowing, not gently oozing.
"Ah—no. Help me up." He whined in denial, tasting that metallic tang as he spoke, eyes blurred with tears. Fingers curled into her coat, the tall Anaxi attempting to pull them both up but failing, slumping further against the mountainside instead, and a helplessness washed over him in a wave of sharp, horrible pain,
"N-no. I came on purpose. We both did. Now, you must tell everyone not to come back here—"
He rolled his head to one side, aware that without her concentration, her spells that were supposed to be keeping them alive were fading.
Well, why bother keeping him alive, anyway? The walk was so far—
This was not how things were supposed to go at all. Surely, this wasn't even real—ooohhh, but it felt real.
He didn't want to die here in the depths of the mountains of Gior.
Darkness was settling heavily on them. Breathing was even more challenging than his bloodied, torn up side was making it already. He shuddered, "I can't—you should go—I'll cast another wall. Keep them back. 'Cause I really, really love you and you should go. Without me." He leaned in with another wet, pained gurgle, pulling Athrym closer for a moment, growling with the effort it took to wrap arms around her, uncaring of how much it hurt or the blood he marred her coat with. It was difficult to hug her and he whispered while attempting to gather his scattered field, unwilling to accept that they both had to die here, "Leave me. Like your people said—don't come back for me!"
He felt the strangest rush of warmth but assumed it more evidence of drifting deeper into shock. Forcing his eyes open and staring into the consuming black of the Maw, listening to the sounds of approaching beasts, he saw the glow. Gripping the petite Gioran tighter, he hissed in surprise as warmth became heat and the glow became obvious fire,
"Oh—Gods—" He groaned, the whole cavern suddenly illuminated by a molten beast of smoke and flame, now aware of just how large the Maw really was,
He whispered the words with a sharp inhale through grit teeth, revealing a hint of his fascination with mythic beasts as a child, beasts he'd already dismissed as nothing more than bedtime stories before they'd attempted to kill him. Fear burned away like kindling, and he exhaled the ashes with a quick breath, far more desperate to live than he'd been just mere moments ago.
Surely he was hallucinating.
Perhaps he'd already died.
Professor Meakan was, conveniently, nowhere to be seen during the entire harrowing event—he missed their rescue, too. Nauleth was going to make sure that man felt the full brunt of a Lashing spell. Later. If he lived.
This was all so very strange that when Athrym promised they'd both be leaving, he could only nod ... before he dissolved into sounds of agony. Her Living spells were meant like a hasty bandage, cast with a quick desperation that was nearly as painful as when the hatcher had crunched into bone and sinew and muscle with its jaws in the first place. He couldn't help but cry out, not ignorant of what she was doing but unable to keep himself from writhing and whining. The young Siordanti had never felt any of these sensations, had never heard within his head the sound of his own flesh growing back together.
He managed a panicked glance at the hatchers, at the glowing, flowing wolf-shaped beast, at his fiancé's face, barely hearing her words as her body shifted and she began to heft him to his feet. He leaned heavily against her, looking over her head to watch as hatchers were literally held at bay by Daegerote's presence,
"What in all the Circle? Ath—" He wanted to ask questions. He wanted to watch. He wanted to say thank you. But she was moving and he had no choice but to follow, reliant on her support, dragging their way up so many clocking stairs he was sure they'd just never end. Nauleth had to stop more than once—at least once to dry heave, twice to catch his breath, and one more time to spit blood. Her magical fixes held for the most part, though his shoulder oozed, soaking his coat, dribbling down his fingers while his arm refused to do much of anything other than hang at his side. He hoped his notes were safe.
He was tired. He was cold. He mumbled rather emotional things, rambling as they climbed, spilling his heart as if he feared it would be his only chance to do so ever again. He ranted about the hatchers. He theorized about the ancient Monite. He gasped about Daegerote's existence. He sobbed in indescribable pain. He wanted to stop, but at the same time, he couldn't. Not anymore. He was certainly delirious by the time they'd trekked for so long, and the flicker of torchlight filled him with a rush of hope, quite sure he'd never look at any source of flame the same way ever again,
"Stop! Don't come down here! Fetch a doctor!"
He groaned, weak-kneed and getting heavier and heavier against Athrym, "Stay there! We'll come to you! It's too dangerous! They might be coming after us!"
The Anaxi professor fought for consciousness but shouted anyway, breathless and trembling now as the long, horrified trek had drained adrenaline from his system and the trickle of blood stealing his energy entirely. He'd grit his teeth and force himself to keep going, "Stay back!"
This isn't Brunnhold anymore, ersehat, and you're not going home.