Making it through the extremely long hallway was exhausting and Ray was grateful for the rest once he crawled past the last of the vines. Sari was already peering down the next length of the hall, frowning some at the darkness. “I really don’t like how dark it is… You never know what’s waiting farther on.” Pulling her heavy coat back on and buckling the holsters around her hips again she turned to look at Ray with one brow quirked. “Want to go see what’s in there?” Her lips formed a mischievous grin that he would eventually begin to associate with her reckless side.
“Just watch your step. I’m willing to bet there’s more traps for us.” The torch was held high enough that it’s light fell ahead. “And I agree about the dark. Considering this is supposed to be Orgoth ruins? The dark could hide anything.” He shuddered a little, thinking back on some of the stories he had heard and truly hoped that the worst they might find were old skeletons or rats.
Sarith chuckled a little when he said that, drawing her wicked looking dagger before holding a finger up to her lips. “Well then be quiet and don’t draw any attention. I’m going to check it out, you stay here.” Moving quietly down the stone hallway Ray watched as her crouched form disappeared into the darkness. He had expected to at least hear the sound of her boots on the stone flooring but she made no noise at all. That or the lightless hallway devoured her and any sound she may have made!
Left behind in the hallway, surrounded by the unbroken void and deafening silence, Ray started to wonder if that was such a good idea…She couldn’t just sneak past and leave him behind, right? Also, how was she supposed to be able to see anything? What if there were traps! Or enemies. Or much worse things hidden in the bottomless black that was the only path ahead.
“Psst… Sari … Are you still there? Did you see anything?” His voice felt too loud in the suffocating quiet. “Sarith? Are you still alive?” Beyond the tiny bubble of his torch light was empty nothingness where his voice echoed, hoping for Sari’s reply but suspecting nothing. As quiet as it was she could have been murdered by something and he’d never know until it came for him!
That thought spurred his brain into listing off all the known Orgoth creations that could see in the dark, then working down the line of Cryx enemies, Everblight’s monstrosities, and weren't there Skorn beasts that could see in the dark as well? Or see without eyes!? Minutes, hours, lifetimes past where he stood in the darkness, recreating every possible enemy while waiting for some sound from Sari.
From somewhere ahead came the obvious sound of the satyxis woman groaning. A sound he had last heard while she was unconscious in a forgotten shack dying from a bullet wound. “Yes, I’m alive. Shut up I’m trying to think.” With the echo it was hard to tell which direction she was in but Ray assumed she was just down the hall, straight ahead.
“Shit, trap? You need a light?” He took a few steps toward her voice and paused, hoping she would say something so that he could follow her voice. Nothing else came from the woman and his paranoia couldn’t take the silence any more.
Walking slowly down the hall, keeping to one side so his hand could use the right wall as balance, he finally found the Satyxis woman crouching just before a bend to the right. The light seemed to bounce off her eyes for a moment, reminding him very much of a cat. Explains how she was able to see better. Just another point proving she’s not really human any more. I’m starting to wonder if Satyxis were ever truly human though? Or if they were just human shaped...
“Mainlander, stay the fuck over there! Pressure plate and I stepped on it… Trying to figure out if I can wedge this down long enough to get away…” She continued grumbling under her breath while fishing through her pockets. A few different items were brought out, examined, then stuck back into her pocket before she eventually settled on an empty bullet casing.
Using the hilt of her dagger to press the casing partially flat she then hammered that into the thin opening between the pressure plate and the stone tile. Both she and Ray held their breath but the plate stayed down long enough for her to roll forward off the trap and hopefully out of danger.
Had her coat been any longer it would have been caught beneath the trap that dropped from the ceiling to cut the cross section of the corner. Ray saw only the rusted metal landing where the woman had been before he heard her curse from the other side. A second one had dropped faster than the first, forcing Sari to dodge again around a corner where Ray heard the heavy CLUNK of yet another falling blade!
Muffled but unmistakable, the gunslinger actually whimpered where she was, out of his sight and past three massive rusty blades. “SARI!” Coming forward to stomp on the trigger again, hoping the trap would go up, he heard her mumble something and caught the unmistakable smell of blood.
Where past traps had fallen straight down to block off the entrance these blades fell at an angle so that they were crisscrossing the hallways. Dodging through them in a straight like, as was usually done, might not be enough to escape the rusty metal and Ray worried that she had been caught in the devious trap.
A solid minute past before the blades retracted and he was able to run around the corner. A whole minute of listening to her whimper softly as if trying to hide the sound but of all things the silence made it seem louder. Finally the blades begin to retract, their gears grinding loudly as the chains winch the heavy traps back into their place. Ray wasted little time as he wove through them, ducking her in a rush to find his partner.
Almost slipping in the blood pooling where a blade had been he turned the corner to see Sari with her back to him crouched down. “Oh shit, let me see, how bad is it? Is it deep?”
She turned to look at him, eyes wide, and her hat that he bought her in her hands cleanly cut in two. “I tripped on a rat… And they… my haaaat!” The most forlorn expression he had ever seen on this woman’s face, as well as the first expression that didn’t drip DEATH and PAIN, took him completely by surprise.
“The blood… is from a rat?” He looked around to see that indeed a very large, now in two pieces, rat was filling the hallway with blood. The beast rivaled many cats in size with graying fur and obvious battle scarring. But all the same, he realized, she was mourning the loss of her hat when he thought she had lost a limb… “Sari. Are you really… I mean… It’s a hat?” The fact that she could, and did, cry over something so trivial made him laugh in both relief and surprise.
Turning back to look at her he came face to fist with her response. “It was MY hat! And I liked it! And now it’s garbage! I am so tired of LOSING THINGS to TRAPS!”
Both hands to his bloody nose, Ray let loose a string of curses as she walked away from him. This woman… will be the death of me! All of this for a hat! She could have broken my nose… Lingering in the hallway, he glanced at the rat and then back at her discarded hat. Possessive much… and that temper. I wonder if it’s possible she never actually had anything of her own? On a ship I can’t imagine there’s a lot of privacy or personal space… I wonder if having something just for her was as new as having fresh fruit.
That thought stuck with him as he tilted his head back, waiting for the bleeding to stop. It was followed by several other questions he wanted to ask her but assumed now wasn’t the best time. Maybe telling her he could buy her another hat would cheer her up… Anything to keep her from punching him again!
“When you’re done bleeding there’s something you need to see.” Something in her voice caught his attention and he followed her voice, one hand still holding a kerchief to his face.
She sounded almost reverent, awed perhaps? “Wud izzit?”
Not even taking her eyes away from the wall in front of them, Sari reached over for the torch he held and snuffed it out under her boot. “It’s best to see this in the dark.”
He realized then why her voice sounded full of wonder as he turned to the wall. Glowing lichen became visible with a soft greenish glow. Lichen clung to the walls in what reminded him very much of the night sky pattern, a few of the larger clumps actually making constellation patterns. “Oh wow.”
Coming closer to the wall, Sari pointed out a set of ‘stars’. “These make the dagger, points you south. These over here are the hag, guiding the way home. The dagger one is incomplete though, it’s missing the blood drop.” Her hand brushed a part of the wall beneath the ‘dagger’ constellation she had pointed out. The way the glow played on her features Ray swore her eyes were glowing as well, just an unnatural shade instead of the gentle green of the moss.
“Dagger? Dere izzn’t a con’telation for dat.” Wincing at the thickness in his voice, the congested nostrils still healing from her earlier punch, he came over to see what she was looking at. “Bud mebbe we hab diff’ren’ stories for de stars.”
“You’re face still bleeding?” The way she asked had him wonder if she had actually listened to him or if she had been focused on something else. Seeing the look in her eye definitely told him she was planning something, remembering something perhaps. Her eyes never left the wall, visually tracing the patterns, and he wondered if she actually missed seeing the stars from the ocean.
“Don’ punch me again… But no, the bleeding stopped I think.” Lowering the kerchief and touching his tender nose with a finger came away with only dried blood. “Thought you weren’t supposed to hurt me.”
“Not supposed to kill you. Give me that.” She swiped the kerchief out of his hands, inspected the bloody mess for a moment, and then smeared it on the wall. “If it helps, the oath made me pull the punch.” Her wicked grin only got wider as the wall shuddered and started to retract inward like a door. “And look, we needed your blood anyway.”
Not at all impressed with her explanation, he took the kerchief and watched the door move. “Why mine though?”
“Probably because you’re not blighted. Orgoth were probably pretty particular about letting anyonefrom the Dragon Father’s army near their research.” She shrugged and led the way into a room that started to brighten as sconces along the wall kicked into life. Something about it set the hair on the back of his neck standing on end but they were walking into the room before he could say anything.
His employer had told him researchers had suspected the tower used to be a lab of some sort. That the Orgoth were advancing their considering magic using the locals as guinea pigs. Standing at the entrance of the room he had a pretty good idea why his employers wanted anything from here that the could get their hands on. The walls were lined with pedestals nearly eight feet in length with drawers and cubbies across the front of them. On top lay suits of armor in various states of construction. Each suit was the same style and made of the same inky black metal often associated with the Orgoth but these also had inlays of some red material as if they were creating veins.
Mesmerized by the nearest station Ray walked closer to see the armor in more detail and check for any documentation or scrolls, tablets, anything he could take back to his boss. “What were they making… These, Sari, do these look familiar to you?” He traced a rune etched into the helmet though Ray was very reluctant to pick up the piece of armor. “It looks almost familiar…”
Behind him and clearly uneasy, Sarith glanced at the helmet then went back to watching the majority of the room. “Ya, so? Strength. What about it.” Her pistol was in her hand, a few bullets in her other being rolled between her fingers. “Grab whatever you need and let’s go. There's something watching us…”
“Strength… So they do match the Cryx runes!” A notebook was pulled out of his backpack so he could make quit his sketches, adding the use into the detail of the helmet. He worked quickly though as her unease was contagious, the hairs on the back of his neck standing on end as he also felt eyes on them.
“Close enough. Seen the banes myself. Now let’s go. What are you looking for? Do you have to draw now?!” She finally had turned to see what he was doing and growled when she saw the care he was putting into the drawing. “We do not have time for this….”
“What do you mean? Even if we’re being watched there’s no attack.” He understood her worry and only quickly checked the drawers for any left-over contents. Finding nothing except dust and dead bugs he moved to the next pedestal with Sari close to his heels.
“Yet. There’s something waiting for the right word, the right movement, the right trap to go off…” An audible click made Ray jump but he realized it was just Sari pulling back the hammer on her pistol. “You don’t have long. And I don’t know how many it is but it reminds me of banes. Wraiths…” Did she shudder? He couldn’t tell but the thought of her being scared of something put more fire in his step.
Overall the room held nine pedestals, eight along the walls and then a final larger one at the end of the room. There were no sconces near that station but he swore the armor actually glowed. That or it absorbed any light in the room, it was hard to tel. Something told Ray that going near that armor would both answer his questions and spring the trap…
Instead of tempting fate Ray worked his way along the work stations starting nearest the door, hoping to find something useful and not need the final impressive pedestal that sat in the darkest part of the room. His luck ran out though when the final work station was searched, his notes completed, and only a few scraps of parchment had been found to be salvageable.
“Sari… I need the last one.” He looked up at her and watched as the satyxis narrowed her eyes at the final pedestal, lips pulled back in a feral grimace.
“Of course you do… Everything in here smells wrong and you want to go to the center of it… How have you survived this long Mainlander?” Her complaints continued as she made her way toward the final suit of armor laying in repose. Ray swore that even her hair twitched as her boot kicked a loose stone, her pistol following the offending rubble’s trajectory down the center of the room.
Nothing happened as she got near the armor, her eyes scanning the room with her pistol at the ready. Every instinct in her body screamed to run. Screamed to get out. But he was only a few steps behind her and intent on searching the largest suit of armor.