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D.T - Thrain and Company: Chapter 6

"Looking down is often bad for you."
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Thrain and company: Chapter 6

Everyone was on full alert the second time they went up to that rocky floor: weapons drawn, steps shallow and prepared. Though they didn't find any demons right away, nor were there any within sight, they kept vigilant and prepared.

When they felt safe enough, Thrain turned towards Lessa and Adelin and said in a quiet tone, "Alright Adelin your apprentice is up; we will safeguard this area while she scouts ahead."

Adelin whispered something in Lessa's ear and the strange girl stripped off all her clothing, everyone turned away out of courtesy. They didn't see her pale skin begin to change color and blend in with the rocks around, they didn't watch as she slowly appeared to fade into thin air.

Lessa moved in complete silence with her camouflage and only Adelin knew when she was actually gone. She told everyone they could relax a little more now, and that Lessa would be gone a while, searching out the best path for them to take.

At first their wait was filled with anticipation, but eventually that got too boring and their minds started to dull.

Lessa eventually returned and went straight to Adelin to communicate through her. The strange young girl seemed to communicate almost like an animal using body motion and a mix of grunts and moans to speak to Adelin. Only the ranger could understand her so well, but even she seemed to struggle with it at times.

When she finished, Adelin brushed aside the girls mossy green hair and kissed her on the forehead whispering, "Oh you are a wonderful gem aren't you." Lessa smiled at her affection.

Adelin turned to the rest of the group now and said, "Alright she found us a path leading to the next stairs and it's clear but there are a couple of problems; I think."

"You think?" Veera asked concerned about her last statement.

"Well it's a little hard for even me to understand Lessa," Adelin countered. "Anyway the problem, as I understand it, is that the path to the stairs is a long hike up some mountains of some sort. The hike isn't a problem it sounds straightforward. The problem is that once you start going up you can be spotted by the countless demons below. They can probably rush up the mountain faster than us; so we will just need to move carefully up there."

"And the other problem?" Thrain asked.

"The other problem is that those demons block the main path to the mountains before the stairs, but there is another more indirect path. This path has some complications, though, first is there is a dark tunnel before it that stretches for about an hour's walk; however we would be completely blind through that tunnel. And if a demon is in there then we will have a serious problem dealing with it.

"And the other complication is even outside that tunnel there are numerous demons around the area leading to that mountain path. Now Lessa said she saw them moving further and further away from the tunnel and the mountain path, but we have no idea their behavior patterns. They could cycle back just as we're emerging from the tunnel."

Thrain thought this over to himself then looked around the group. He turned back to Adelin and asked, "And these are the only paths?"

"Yes, I'm afraid so."

Thrain turned his gaze onto Lessa and asked, "She can go invisible, correct?"

"Environmental camouflage, but for extensive purposes, yes invisibility," Adelin said.

"Whatever. If it comes to it that we go through that tunnel and there are numerous demons around that have not yet spotted us, could she distract them and lure them away from us while we climb the mountain. And then use her camouflage to sneak away from them and return to us?"

Angered by the plan Garren jumped into the conversation and said, "Oh yes that's even better plan than the first one you had. Now we're going to use the child as a decoy so we may escape and pray that she makes it back to us."

"That's enough Garren!" Thrain commanded.

Garren didn't stop, though. He just applauded sarcastically and continued, "Well I guess we know how you managed to keep your title as the lord commander: sacrificing children so you and the other highborn may live in peace."

Thrain heard enough at that point and went over to his squire and punched him across the face so hard he flew to the ground. Garren slowly started to get up. Then as Thrain went to say something he rose to his feet with a swift and powerful uppercut that launched Thrain onto his back.

Garren spat the blood out of his mouth and turned sideways with his fists held up in front of him: prepared for a fight. Thrain rose to his feet and rushed at Garren until Rugal jumped between them. Thrain stopped and said, "Get out of my way." He then started to move around Rugal before he could even respond. Rugal caught his arm and said in a commanding tone, "By the order of your prince I command you to stand down; both of you."

Thrain shrugged his arm free and let out a breath of heated air, but he stepped back and relaxed a little. Garren lowered his fists but kept his glare fixated at Thrain. "We're still going with my plan," Thrain said. "And if either of you doesn't like it then you can both turn around and leave this tower. Or continue on your own, because it won't be with this group anymore."

Thrain turned back to Lessa and Adelin and asked Adelin, "Can she do this or not?"

Adelin frowned but looked down to Lessa, who nodded in confirmation. "Yes she can," Adelin said a little reluctant since she too didn't fully like the plan either.

"Good then let's head out now," Thrain said moving forward.

Lessa took the lead and the others started to follow until Iris spoke up reminding Lessa that she left her clothes behind. She looked back at them then went to continue until Adelin told her to put them back on: she didn't seem to care at all that she was stark naked, probably preferred it. A bit annoyed she did so and then went back into the lead of the group.

Garren was forced to walk in the back of the group as they continued. Making their way to the dark tunnel was easy, as they encountered no demons along the way. But when they arrived at the tunnel the complications arose yet again. Thrain thought that Iris and Veera could just illuminate the tunnel far enough ahead of them as they went, so that if they encountered any demons in there they would be able to see. But when the two magisters tried to light up anything inside the tunnel it was to no avail. Their lights, no matter how bright they shined, were swallowed up by the infinite peering darkness in the tunnel.

Thrain groaned in irritation then said, "Alright everyone keep you weapons drawn while we're in there and lock hands with your left hand. We will hug the left wall and move forward. And Curth you will take the lead in there, if there is a demon inside you have the best chance of surviving a sudden encounter. And as long as the tunnel doesn't connect to more paths we will be fine."

Adelin conveyed the message to Lessa then everyone lined up, locked hands, and moved forward into the dark tunnel. Walking in pitch black like that was disorienting but they had some practice. Still, going in through this dark tunnel knowing that with your next step you could bump into a demon from someone's greatest nightmare was rather unnerving.

The walked slow but not at a crippling pace through the tunnel. It bent here and there, but seemed rather straight forward for the most part. The ground inside was flat and leveled, and no one seemed to trip on any hidden rocks on their path. The light at the end of the tunnel gave them relief, and as they continued on at a faster pace they could see outside of it.

Before they made it out though one of the shark headed demons walked by the end of the tunnel: everyone froze in place and remained silent. It turned and looked into the tunnel, staring into the darkness, for a time, until I got bored and walked away. Everyone let out their breath they were holding in and delayed a good several minutes before leaving the tunnel.

Outside, and off in the distance, was the wide path of grey rock ascending up jagged spikes which made out the 'mountain'. Beyond the path was a horde of demons roaming away from it at a casual pace. Any minute they could turn around and walk back, but this was the best chance the group may get.

"Alright guys we may never get a chance like this again," Thrain said with a quiet voice. "So we head for that path fast as we can, and quiet as we can; if you have to move slower to keep silent then do so."

The group nodded in silence and Thrain took off at a good running pace, despite his mithiril plate armor he moved in silence and grace. Everyone except Garren was making good pacing towards the path; even the large mountain man Curth himself displayed he could move in silence when he wanted.

Though Garren, Rugal and Thrain all wore the same type of plate armor, only Garren struggled with silent movement when going fast; even trying to tip toe. He managed to keep going without making too much noise, but he was far behind the group, and as they started climbing the path without him he couldn't even shout for them to slow down.

He kept going though despite all this and didn't dare to look back to see if any of the demons had turned around and might have spotted him. The group started to slow down to a fast walking pace when they made it onto the path; Garren caught up to them then.

Steadily the path elevated higher and higher, but it appeared to keep at a level to where you could continue walking up. Adelin looked behind her and saw that no demons had yet come towards the path, they were safe for now. She spoke up saying, "Alright we should find a flat level on this path at the top which curves around to a blind bend where the stairs will be. This is a straight walk we just need to get high enough so that it won't matter if those demons see us. By the time we reach the stairs and ascend them they will still be climbing."

"Well let's just hope we make it that far at all, look," Veera said pointing down to the landscape where a massive horde of the weird demons were wandering around the rocky landscape below.

Everyone dared to look: they picked up their pace after that.

Nearing the top of the path all the anxiety everyone had been building up, (that they would be spotted by just one demon and slaughtered by a horde rushing at them) gradually faded away. They were in the safe stretch now. Or so they assumed until reaching the top.

On the flat area, just before the blind bend, stood one of the shark headed demons; twice the size of the other ones. Its color matched the terrain almost perfectly that it was near invisible at first glance until staring directly at it. The demon seemed alone, which was good, but fighting it with all of them in that area where only about half of them could fight without worry of falling off the edge; that was another problem all together.

Curth was the first to react, grabbing his double sided great axe and rushing forward, "Stay back, I will handle this," He said. Crimson red veins glowing through his skin as he charged at the demon. Rugal and Garren went to back him up but Thrain thrust his arms out to block them saying, "Hold off a minute, I want to see this."

The two were agitated by Thrain for this but did as he said; for now.

As Curth closed in on the demon it stretched its right arm out and slashed at him. He blocked with his axe. The two were in equal strength, but as they struggled for power the demon raised its left arm up above it and brought it down aimed at Curth's head.

Curth pulled away from the power struggle at the last moment, twisting around and ducking under its right arm. He swiftly raised his axe up and hacked the demon's arm off with one clean swing. The demon shrieked in pain and rage but Curth didn't stop there, he half stepped back and spun around with another clean swing; taking off the demon's leg.

It fell to its side helpless, as Curth then drove his axe into the weak spot on the demon's back. Everyone stared at him astonished as the crimson red veins, (now glowing through every part of his skin including his face) slowly faded away. He took in some deep breaths and wiped the great accumulation of sweat from his brows. Seeing the look on everyone's face, he just smiled at them and strapped his axe onto his back again.

"Good ole Curth be holding back on us?" Rugal asked.

"Aye, jus an old trick I picked up some years ago, I don't like using it though."

"Why not, that was amazing!" Iris said highly impressed by him.

"Cause unlike them, magic bursts Thrain be usin this doesn't just drain yer energy, it drains yer life span too. I only be usin it in most dire times such as this."

"More like showing off," Rugal teased.

"No Curth is right," Adelin said. "That fight would have taken too long even with all of us. There're more monsters on the way already; we need to move now!"

No one knew if the demons would chase them up the stairs or not, (they didn't seem to chase them down the previous floor) but Garren, Iris, and Rugal ascended the stairs backwards to keep an eye out if the demons did come up. The stairs spiraled upwards and had mossy covered walls and steps among them.

On the next floor they found it was a swamp area with shallow murky water and random patches of land where the dark fruit trees grew in the center. They made for the closest patch of land and rested there; while keeping an eye on the stairs just in case.

Iris and Adelin went around the tree plucking the fruit from the tree and passing it out to everyone. Curth devoured his fruit right away then put his back against the tree and said, "I'm gonna rest now, you watch over me, eh." He closed his eyes and was asleep in seconds.

Thrain went around to the other side of the tree away from everyone to eat; since he wasn't on the best of terms with them right now: Garren most of all. He saw Lessa on the other side as well; she was by the shore playing with the water. Thrain finally started to see her the way Garren seemed to see her now: like a young child.

He watched as Lessa stopped splashing the waters at the shore then walked into it, not going very far though. She stopped at one spot and waited quietly and unmoving, her eyes fixated on the murky waters beneath. Thrain noticed that the calm waters started to shift ever slightly now that Lessa was not moving through it.

He saw small ripples moving just beneath the surface as if some small fish were swimming around in there. He kept his focus on the moving ripples in the water, but when they started to veer away from Lessa he allowed himself to continue relaxing. Then without warning Lessa pounced at one of the ripples; in an instant her arms transformed into that of a bear.

Thrain's eyes grew wide at that sudden transformation. Adelin had told him she could do it, but seeing it for real is way different than hearing it.

Moments later Lessa pulled out from the murky waters, with her bear arms, a small red and pink eel like creature. She smiled playfully, revealing a sharp row of fangs that had replaced her teeth, and carried the squirming creature onto land. She brought it to Adelin who stared at her wide eyed when she saw what she was holding.

After some time of their unusual ways of communication, Adelin and Lessa approached Veera with the creature. Veera shrieked and said, "Eww get that thing away from me."

Adelin put her hands on her hips and asked, "Seriously? That little thing freaks you out the most?"

"It's all slimy and icky," Veera responded shying away from the creature.

Adelin shook her head in annoyance and said, "Well get past it quick, because Lessa wants you to test the thing and see if it's safe for her to consume."

Veera turned her head and started to puke at the thought of Lessa eating that thing. "You're pathetic," Adelin said. She then took Lessa and moved on to Iris to see if she could test it.

Iris looked just as repulsed as Veera but kept her composure as Adelin asked of her the same thing. Iris made a weird face at the thought of Lessa biting into that thing to eat but she didn't barf. "I'm sorry but even if I wanted to test that, thing, I don't have the knowledge or skills for an assured yes or no. I mean I knew enough to help Veera confirm the fruit was safe to eat but that was something far easier, living creatures over plants is way out of my depth.

“Besides even if it was edible for her, it would at least need to be cooked properly and neither I nor Veera would want to sit there roasting that thing for hours with our magic." She looked into Lessa's eyes and said, "I'm sorry dear, but you're going to have to stick with these fruits like the rest of us."

Saddened, Lessa turned away and walked to the waters. "Should we be concerned about those things being in the water?" Rugal asked watching Lessa toss it back in.

"No I was watching her play in the water; it looked like the creatures were in fact avoiding her; so I am sure they are very anti-aggressive. Besides the one she had in her hand never twisted to bite her from what I could see at least."

Most everyone was asleep already by the time Curth had woken up. Save for Thrain who was sitting next to him relaxing his back against the tree as well. Noticing that Curth was awake Thrain started a quiet conversation, "You know my father taught me the magical bursts that I use to increase my physical capabilities when I was twelve. I mastered them pretty well within the two years just before the Aladorn invasion.

"I asked him if it was a family trade secret, he told me it was something far less than that. He said it was a 'cheap' imitation of another more powerful ability that he learned from a mysterious warrior in Dorgal. He said despite all his years of practice and study he was only able to copy the ability in the way that I use it now."

Thrain lingered on his tale to look Curth directly in the eyes then continued. "That ability, as my father described, caused the veins in the user to glow red and appear through the skin. Exactly like what happened to you when you fought that enormous demon on the floor below. So how did you learn that ability exactly?"

Curth just casually nodded his head to the side and said, "Eh, one day it just come to me, when fightin my toughest enemy yet. Aye, it be a monster just like them there demons we fought before, though stronger than even they. I began to use it much after that, despite the exhaustion to me afterward. I be showin off with it in me youth, but when I be flexin to my pretty wizard friend with it; she told me never to be usin it unless in a most dire situation.
"I asks her why, she says that it be taking a huge toll on my overall health. Say's it will cut down on my life by years at a time. She say I keep using it like the ways I do I won't live to see a few more springs. I never know her to be wrong so I did as she said and start holdin back on it, more and more until I no longer be needin it. Except them rare and special cases."

Thrain looked down at his feet a little disappointed by the tale. "So I guess you wouldn't be able to teach me how to preform it?" He asked.

"If it can be taught, then it wouldn't be the likes of someone as me." Curth responded. He then rose to his feet and stretched his legs. "I be hungry now, I think you gettin some rest while I take over the watch duty."

Thrain stood up as well and said, "That's a generous offer but it's Garren's turn to be on lookout while I rest."

"I not be havin," Curth protested. "You give that lad some rest and get some yourself. I won't be sleepin no time soon again."

Thrain was in no mood to argue and said, "Alright have it your way, but be prepared for when we all wake up and eat then it's time we to get moving again. Who knows what keeps those demons from ascending the stairs after us up here, but if it stops I'd rather we be further ahead when they come."

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