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D.T - Thrain and Company: Chapter 9

The group finally falls apart, consumed by the madness at last.

Thrain and company: Chapter 9

Thrain woke shivering with cold and with the sensation of tiny needles jabbing into his face. He got up slowly and found himself in a dark and damp little cavern area, with the jagged little crystals forming small bedrocks above the pool of water around. "Good you're awake." A voice said from behind him.

He turned and saw it was Garren who said that, and next to him were two bodies, one was Adelin, the other an elder man with frizzy white hair. He recognized the man right away and asked, "Is that-"

"Grand Magister Cambren." Garren finished for him. "Yeah, I was surprised myself when I pulled him out of the water too. By the way, Adelin is alright as well and breathing; both of them are."

Thrain came in for a closer look and asked, "What is Cambren doing here?"

Garren shrugged and said, "I don't know. How about when he wakes up we ask him."

"Unless this is some trick by the tower. And Cambren is a demon in disguise." Thrain said darkly.

Garren ignored the comment and said, "No I have not found our other comrades, and this place is too small for them to be hidden in here."

"They probably got separated from us by the tidal wave," Thrain kept his eyes fixated on Cambren while he spoke; almost expecting him to suddenly wake up and attack them. "How did you manage to get us out of that wave anyways?" Thrain's suspicions started shifting over to Garren now.

"Yeah thanks for sharing your concerns over our missing comrades as well," he said sarcastically.

Thrain glared at him and Garren glared back but answered him eventually. "I think Veera might have used her magic to shield us at the last second, but we ended up getting separated anyway. I remember struggling to hold onto her as the waters violently battered us around, and then next thing I know I'm resurfacing for air in here.

"I saw you guys floating down in the water below and pulled you out, then collapsed on this patch of land; until waking up just a few minutes before you. There is only one passage out and it's more of a tunnel than some stairs, but it's the only way out I found."

Thrain sat back and relaxed a little then said, "Looks like we're going to have to wait until they both wake up before getting answers from Cambren and moving on."

Garren stood up and headed for the ascending tunnel and said, "You do that, I'm going to scout ahead and get some privacy to take a piss."

He returned a good while later with news of what's ahead of them. "Well the next floor appears to be a maze," he said sitting down. "The walls are an aged color stone, yet still tough, and stretch up for at least thirty feet. I didn't hear any noises in there, so I don't think there are any demons up there."

Thrain said nothing and the two sat in quiet for a time until Adelin woke up in a coughing fit, spitting the water out of her lungs. Garren gently helped her roll to her side until she could normally breathe again. She got up slowly and looked around her then asked, "Who's the old geezer with us?"

"That's grand magister Cambren," Thrain answered.

Settling into a comfy position Adelin said, "I know the name, never seen the face, though." She doubled a look around her and asked, "Where are the others?"

"We got separated by the tidal wave," Garren said. "I woke up in here and managed to stay awake long enough to pull all of us out of the water, then passed out myself for a time. I don't know where the others are, though, or if they're alive. I found only one way out of this place and it leads up into a maze."

"Well that's reassuring," Adelin said sarcastically.

"Thrain? Garren? Is that you?" Cambren asked as he started to rise to his feet.

Thrain grabbed Cambren by his dark purple robes and slammed him against the wall. He pinned him there with one arm while holding the point of his sword at Cambren's throat. Garren and Adelin rose to their feet immediately and drew their weapons cautiously watching the scene unfold.

"Aye it's me," Thrain said, holding back none of his hostility. "But tell me, Cambren, is that really you? No, it can't be you, because you're supposed to be outside the tower for one, and for two we climbed pretty damn high so you couldn't possibly reach us so fast."

Cambren kept his arms to his sides, his demeanor was flat and calm; if he was nervous, he didn't show it. "Is that what you think," Cambren asked, "that I'm a demon?"

Thrain pulled away from pinning Cambren to the wall but kept his sword end pointed at his throat. "That is the most probable thing right now. But you do seem to act like the Cambren I know so I will give you one chance to prove you're who you appear to be."

"The first time we met you were seven years of age, and I asked you if you wanted to be a magister when you grew up. And you said, "magic is for scrawny men with big brains." To which I replied that swords and axes are for large men with tiny brains. You got so mad with me that you challenged me to a duel right then and there.

"I obliged and after a couple minutes of dancing around you, I cast a spell that threw you into the wall so hard it broke your arm. Your father came in after that and scolded you and asked if you learned your lesson. Your answer was to promise we would fight again when you were stronger."

Thrain smirked and pulled his blade away from Cambren and slid it back into its sheath saying, "I never did get that rematch."

Garren and Adelin relaxed more after that and put their weapons away.

Cambren got a good chance to look around the small cavern they were in now and asked, "Where is my apprentice, Veera? I swear I saw her just before the wave struck down on us."

"She and the others were just with us before that wave came down," Garren said. "I was right next to her when it caught us, but I guess we have been separated. She was uninjured before then and well rested, so she has a great chance of surviving."

"Yes, yes she's tough and smart, I trained her well. She will make it out just fine," Cambren said, trying not to sound so forlorn.

"It's your turn to answer some questions," Thrain said in a dark commanding tone. "First what the hell are you even doing here, and second what news of the outside have you brought?"

Cambren was silent for a time, not sure how to answer the question. But seeing how anxious everyone was to hear what he had to say he found and answer. Lightly shaking his head, Cambren said solemnly, "You were all gone for over a year now. You know things were fine at first but then Kantor and their invasion..."

Cambren stopped there to take in a deep breath and let it out steady; getting his composure back. He looked up at them his tone went from solemn to dark as he said, "It doesn't matter now. I was deceived by Lord Tarbeck and failed in my mission. So I came here to finish what I started."

"Kantor, invasion?" Thrain asked in disbelief. "What's going on out there, is my wife alright? What happened to Jessebelle?" his voice cracked at the end.

Cambren said nothing more and held out his hand then snapped his fingers. A blinding white flash complimented with a loud pop noise erupted from his hand. Thrain, Garren and Adelin all went blind from the flash and could only hear a high pitched ringing in their ears.

They closed their eyes tight, fell to their knees and covered their ears with their hands until it all faded away. When they could see and hear again, they found Cambren was gone.

Realizing he'd been tricked Thrain snarled, pulled out his blade, and raced up the tunnel stairs; Garren and Adelin were right behind him. The narrow cavern stairs were so small that Thrain and Garren practically had to crawl up them; if they didn't have their armor on it would have been much easier to climb. Adelin ended up stuck behind the two of them though she could still move swiftly in the tight space.

It was dark ahead of them and they could barely see, but still they climbed fast as they could. When they finally reached the top and came out into the maze, they found Cambren just ahead, standing perfectly still.

"Cambren," Thrain shouted!

Cambren didn't respond, so Thrain shouted again, approaching him hastefully and without caution. The old Magister still gave no response, even when Thrain grabbed his shoulder and tried to turn him to be facing him. But Cambren didn't move, he was set in place like a heavy statue.

Thrain walked around to the other side of Cambren to find his eyes wide open, but they were blank slates. When Garren and Adelin came around, they asked, "What is he doing?"

"Spectral walking," Thrain said irritated. "Or whatever the fuck they call it. It's a magic that allows you to step outside your body and move like a spectre, you can move faster than any horse and pass through any solid object."

"That's amazing," Garren said highly impressed.

"It is, so why didn't we have Veera do that to scout ahead most of the times instead of sending in Lessa?" Adelin asked bitterly.

"Because," Thrain explained, "the spectre is highly visible and any damage it takes backlashes onto the one casting it. Not only that, but the user can't seem to perform their other magic while in that spectre mode. Veera would have been slaughtered in minutes.

"Unfortunately Cambren seems to have built up a serious magic barrier around his physical body while he's in spectre mode. Meaning we can't forcefully bring him out of it, we will have to wait until he returns on his own."

Thrain's eyes never once left Cambren while he spoke. Even now while he pulled out one of the dark fruits from his bag and started to eat his main focus was on Cambren. Garren and Adelin took the time to eat as well.

Cambren returned to his body when a blurred humanoid light smashed into him and disappeared. He was disoriented for a moment but shook it off as Thrain stood in front of his path, staring him down.

"Alright, Cambren no more tricks time for the truth," Thrain demanded. "What happened to my wife, and my child; was it a boy, a girl?"

Cambren saw the desperation for answers in Thrain's eyes; he owed him that much. "It was a girl, healthy and beautiful like her mom."

Thrain smiled at the news and zoned out shortly thinking about it. His smile quickly faded as Cambren continued. "But when Kantor invaded and eventually took the Capitol..." He struggled briefly to continue. "They spared no one, and before anyone could take her daughter away from her Jessebelle lept from the morning keep to her death."

Thrain fell to his knees in shock and sorrow over the news. His head hung low and he struggled to breathe for a moment then started very quietly sobbing. "I am sorry, truly sorry Thrain," Cambren said.

His quiet sobbing stopped and he said, "No, not as sorry as you will be." His tone was dark and cold and as he rose to his feet, Cambren slowly took a couple steps back in fear. All hints of sorrow were abandoned from Thrain's face and a dark yellow ring formed around his pupils.

In a blur of motion, he swung his blade at Cambren. The magister was fast and teleported away, but he only made it ten feet past Thrain where he landed on his side: a pool of blood oozing out from his stomach.

Garren stepped in now and tried tackling Thrain but he just shrugged him off and Garren crashed hard in front of him. Thrain then grabbed Garren by the neck with one hand; raising him up to his face. He was choking the life out of him as Garren was not strong enough to compete with the magic giving, Thrain such incredible strength.

Adelin didn't hesitate in knotching an arrow and aiming it at Thrain. She called to him once with a warning but when he didn't respond immediately, she let the arrow fly. The arrow pierced through his armor and hit him in the back, but Thrain was all but fazed.

She reached for another arrow when Thrain suddenly turned and threw Garren at her like he was a ragdoll. Knowing she didn't have the strength to catch Garren in all his armor she rolled under him and had to let him smack against the wall. She knocked another arrow, as she came out of her roll on one knee and aimed at Thrain, who was charging at her.

The arrow flew from the bow, aimed at Thrain's neck, but Thrain was faster and knocked the arrow away with his blade. Coming in reach of her, Thrain slashed down at Adelin.

She rolled out of the way and rose to her feet. Spinning around to face him, she found he was already upon her again, but this time she could do nothing, as he stabbed his sword upwards through her chest. Her eyes went wide with shock and Thrain couldn't even spare her a final word as he pulled his sword and let her body fall to the floor.

Garren was just shaking off the hard hit he took when he saw Thrain chasing after Cambren in the maze. He looked around for Adelin, and when he found her, he shook off his fatigue entirely and ran to her.

Gently he scooped her head up and saw, in her still open eyes, she was dead. He shed silent tears for this friend he came to know and for the master he had lost to madness. He closed her eyes shut and lay her down to rest in peace and then he got up and followed the blood trail into the maze.

Garren followed the blood droplets into the maze, but they quickly became smaller and more scarce. Before too long, they were gone entirely and Garren found himself with three paths he could down and not a clue as to which one was right. Instead of choosing randomly, Garren closed his eyes and smelled the air around him; Adelin taught him that people have a very distinct smell and if you concentrated you could find it.

Of course his nose wasn't as well trained as hers, but it was good enough for him to find the path that had a sort of smell to it, which is where he should find Thrain. Literally following his nose, Garren started to hear very faint echoes of battle as he continued. He stopped and listened in, there was no clashing of metal, but he could tell somehow that what he was hearing was without doubt a battle.

He followed the light echo until it grew louder and louder; until he came upon Thrain and Cambren dueling it out. Small chunks of Thrain's armor lay scattered around the area the two were dueling while Cambren's robe was soaked with blood: both his own and Thrain's.

Weakened from the slice to the gut, Cambren proved far less of a match than he should have for Thrain as he slung his spells cautiously to preserve as much stamina as he could. But Thrain was relentless; whenever Cambren pushed him back or forced him to retreat, he would move in quickly while Cambren had to rest for a few seconds between spells.

Eventually, Cambren slipped up and Thrain got in close enough to swing his sword at him. Cambren ducked under it, narrowly dodging his head being cut off. But Thrain leaned to one foot and kicked Cambren in the torso, knocking him on his back. He went in for the kill swinging his sword down at him but Garren, who wouldn't fail this time, had snuck in close to him and blocked Thrain's blade.

The metal rang in a high pitch and for an instant the yellow rings circling Thrain's pupils vanished and he said, "Like music to my ears." The two stared off briefly and when the yellow rings reappeared in Thrain's eyes, Garren pushed him back giving Cambren an opportunity to turn and flee.

Garren swung his blade at Thrain and he parried then skipped around to Garren's back. Garren twisted around and blocked the strike coming at his leg. They continued parrying each other's blows moving step by step, Garren knew Thrain was holding back on him, but he also noticed the strange lack of exhaustion in Thrain.

Using so much magic bursts, Thrain should be barley able to move right now, but instead, he was fighting with Garren without trouble. In fact, Thrain was toying with him. "What happened to you Thrain?" Garren asked as they walked around in a slow circle staring each other down. "Ever since we got here you have been on a slow spiral into madness. But I never thought it would get this bad."

Thrain said nothing and lunged at him suddenly. Garren quickly turned to his side, as Thrain's blade scratched across his armor and grappled his arm around Thrain's. Pivoting to one side, he pulled Thrain in and hurled him on his back. Thrain got up immediately in a blur of motion and knocked Garren against the wall.

Garren lost the strength in his legs and slid down to a sitting position, as Thrain charged at him. He held his sword out in a desperate attempt to block him. Thrain stopped his charge and turned his hips as he swung his blade with all his might; Garren's blade was slashed right through and a large streak cut across his armor.

As Thrain hesitated to kill him, Garren shouted in rage, "Do it! You already killed one of your friends; killing me in cold blood shouldn't be a problem for you now."

Thrain gritted his teeth and suddenly lost all his energy and breath. As he took in huge gasps of breath and hunched over, Garren shouted more, "Fine if you won't kill me then I will kill you!" He jabbed his broken blade at Thrain who easily knocked it away and then smacked Garren with the back of his hand so hard he was tossed to the floor and started seeing bright spots.

He passed out for a time but when he awoke he found he was still alive, and everything hurt. Thrain sparred him, but he was gone. All that was left behind was a blood trail of tiny droplets; probably Cambren's blood again.

*

After knocking Garren out, Thrain struggled against the urge he had to finish him off. He beat it out and turned away and followed Cambren's blood trail again. As he moved on small pieces of his armor started falling off, and by the time he found Cambren over half his armor was lost, the rest had thick cracks through it.

The old Magister was lying back on some stairs leading up to a golden lit area that shined down on the steps. Cambren opened his eyes as he heard Thrain approaching and smirked, "You're too late," Cambren struggled to say. "Rugal and the girls are already ahead of you. The last floor is just up ahead, they're going to get that wish and fix everything; everything that I ruined."

Thrain said nothing and started to walk past him until Cambren raised his voice, "Thrain... Did you kill him?" He stopped and turned but still didn't speak. "Did you kill Garren? That boy has been like a son to you ever since you took him on as your squire. If you did kill him, then Laeryn help you for your soul would be truly lost then."

"The boy yet lives, but that doesn't matter now. Nothing does anymore, all that's left is to finish this mission, and then I will be free for good. But tell me, did Evercain burn while I was away or just rot?" He turned to see what Cambren would say, but Cambren was already dead. And Thrain moved on to the final floor in the tower.

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Copyright © © Jake Pendragon all rights reserved 2015

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