5th of Ophus, 2718
The DEEP | THERE'S NO SUN ANYWHERE WE'RE GOING
"Why haven't you already?" The Anaxi professor whispered back, freckled features expressing a mockery of disappointment before he offered the briefest of smiles, rolling his gold-rimmed eyes and forced to return his attention to Maekan as the older galdor revealed his total lack of imagination when it came to the type of electrical progress Nauleth had been describing so generally. Ignoring his struggle with Estuan with an almost conceited air of dismissal, he shrugged and decided not to give more details until he could perhaps share his schematics.
The skulls would haunt him, however. Their dead bones watching the small exploration party as they descended further into the heart of the mountains hardly giving the eldest Siordanti a feeling of safety or protection—other than suffocation or a horrible fall, what in the world would anyone need protection for anyway?
Gioran mythology was rampant with ridiculous superstition. Naul resisted his urge to wrinkle his nose at the thought, still quite disturbed by the lengths with which this Kingdom's culture was willing to go in order to perpetuate their strange beliefs.
"Mostly sightless and small, I'm assuming?" He quipped about the kind of fauna to expect living in such deprived conditions, "Some what—? Oh."
Braeth's imposing form stopped them all and his sea glass-colored gaze swept up her armored silhouette when she asked for more light. He'd begun to slide his bag off his shoulder, willing to pull out some other object he'd brought along for just this occasion, but instead another willing body wasted their energy on casting a bright, glowing orb of light—
Naul gasped at the cavern they were in, the sheer size of the Maw something that took him several rapid heartbeats to wrap his over-analytical mind around. The flutter of vertigo rippled through him, dizzy and suddenly so very aware of the weight of darkness as if it should feel like anything at all. It was the pressure of their depth, he told himself, and not the press of fear. It was the lack of fresh air that made him dizzy, he reminded himself sternly, and not fear. Fear was a waste. They were here, mostly safe, well-guarded, and all skilled sorcerers.
There was absolutely nothing to be afraid of other than a clocking wrong step.
Naul looked down into the endless black and for a moment, he might have grown paler. Swallowing hard, one free hand gripped the rock wall to one side and he steadied himself, blinking away the sheer terror that clawed its way up his spine and gnawed at the base of his academic mind.
Then they were moving again and for that he was grateful. He felt the ebb and flow of breathable air, pausing more than once to lean against the cliffside and carefully record observations. He was obviously very distracted by Echo Casting and its possibilities, taking side notes in his main notes, making little calculations. Occasionally, he ran his fingers over the stone, considering his options, and before too long they all found themselves at the gaping entrance of yet another antechamber of sorts.
Clock the circle—more damn bodies!
"Who are these people?" The Anaxi professor asked almost immediately, taking in the scene in their meager light. He'd hardly had to cast yet and so he did, removing from his pocket two small, glass orbs and focusing his Monite phrases on the filaments within. Creating self-contained currents, both small spheres began to glow with a bright white light, still hardly sufficient enough for his satisfaction but far better than just one Light spell. Passing one to Athrym and glancing at the thermometer she still held, he immediately moved to study the ancient writings, quick to copy down everything he saw for later research.
He didn't even see the fresher corpse, too distracted by the intellectual discovery of spellwork he didn't know.
He felt his fiancé's field brush past him, jumping at her shriek and sensation of surprise, eyes widening at the long-dead but very unceremoniously interred body, "Clocking hell. How can you not know who's been down here?" Naul snapped his teeth shut as soon as he barked his surprised question, aware that his annoyance would not at all be well-received. Scowling, he tucked away his notebook into the fold of his coat, gathering his field as if it was just as much an unruly child as he was.
"So close to what now? What is this 'it' you're speaking of?" Uncomfortable being spoken around, he raised a hand at the suggestion of opening doors, "I really don't think we should be doing that, Professor Meakan. This man was clearly injured, perhaps by a fall or a rockslide or—" Wise Alioe, he wasn't even going to open his mouth and talk about how the shredded old clothing and torn, rotten flesh looked more like an animal attack than anything so tame as stupid clocking rocks. Attention diverted by Athrym's question, he paused, eyes fluttering, extending his senses for a long, slow inhale.
Exhaling, ignoring just how light-headed he had begun to become, he blinked, "I think the depths are finally getting to me." But, still, the sensation of being tugged away like iron shavings by a magnet wasn't lost on him and he held his hand up higher for emphasis, freckled face darkening into a scowl, "There is something, Athrym, but I can't tell if it's me being nervous or actually monic in nature. It feels magical and I don't—gods, really? And you all kept warning me about being stupid."
They were moving the body. Opening the door. Naul wanted nothing to do with it, taking a step back and putting his gloved fingers on his notebook again only to note just how warm his palms had begun to feel when they'd previously tingled with cold. His cheeks, too. The temperature had shifted. Raising his hand away from his book to his face at the abhorrent staleness, he watched the swirl and eddies of what could only be described as fog curl out from the darkness with the utmost curiosity,
"Is there water down here? Magma-heated springs?" Mist, perhaps, he told himself, gold-rimmed eyes wide and senses tingling. How could it possibly be any darker down here, he wondered nervously, hacking and clearing his throat. He had no interest in following Meakan, though he felt the waver in the older professor's field and could sense the resistance in the mona at his casting. At least, he told himself it was at the man's casting.
Mist clung to the floor of the next chamber, the room the more freshly dead corpse had clearly crawled out of mortally wounded. The young Siordanti's field bristled, and the physicist felt the strange sensation far stronger than he had before, mind racing to explain what exactly he was experiencing and coming up empty. Athrym was speaking and he blinked, not wanting to look away but also unable to help but glance at where her fingers were dancing over stone.
The elongated, canine-esque monstrosities weren't unfamiliar. In fact, he knew exactly what they were. Swallowing thickly, he looked away from the mythical beasts that shouldn't have been carved into gods only knew how old glyphs in the heart of the mountains of Gior,
He shook his head, dismissing it all as superstition, as stories left behind after the War of the Book. If mythological beasts survived today, they were right to stay in hiding, "They're said to live in the Western Territory of Anaxas, which is why no one travels through there to Gior or Hesse. They're just a fairytale told to little galdori children who won't go to bed or used to threaten slacking students before exam days. It's said they live in the mist and prey on sorcerers like us, but I think it's chroveshit stories because no one's ever brought back a body."
Then again, those who went into the Western Territory rarely came back at all.
He chuckled, but it was a hollow noise. The ginger galdor felt his pulse pick up, the thrum of it rapid in his veins. Fingers tugged at his scarf, lingering over a button or two and he immediately reached for the thermometer, "What the clocking hell is going on? It's growing warmer. There must be a—" Mentally making note instead of bothering to write anything, he turned and bent toward the ground, giving the bright glowing orb in his hand a very hard roll over the stone floor and into the impossibly dark, foreboding chamber ahead,
"—wait! Hang on just a moment—Braeth, Lomenak—and save your godsbedamned magic, professor. We need to be able to get back out of here." The Anaxi professor growled, watching not the orb but the room as it was lit by the swiftly rolling object. Without thinking, he stood and placed himself between Athrym and the open doorway, taking a couple of steps forward, gathering his field while mist curled at his ankles, the Monite for a barrier spell burning against the back of his tongue even as he kept himself from casting just yet.
This isn't Brunnhold anymore, ersehat, and you're not going home.