Daily Dungeon: Earthquakes on Bracorax? Or Something More?
Medeur shivered, flicking water droplets off of his cloak. In the hours before dawn, the forests of Bracorax were enveloped by a thick, shadowy mist. On any other day, he might have found the sight beautiful. Calming, even. It was home. But today, the shadows seemed just a bit too long, the trees a little too close together for him to relax. He shifted his bag uneasily, brushing off some more condensation. Afterall, he certainly didn’t want to find out what would happen if he got important spell components sopping wet.
“Restless, are we?” Medeur nearly jumped out of his feathers. How was Master Igam always so quiet?! Medeur wasn’t even sure that putting a bell on the man would do anything, as he already wore plenty of accessories. “Are you perhaps looking to bolt before we get to our destination?”
“Of course not, Master Igam!” Medeur tried not to wince at the loudness of his voice, which barreled through the air with all the grace of a charging minotaur. “I’m merely excited for my first mission! It’s not everyday that one gets to monitor the sealing place of the Great Many.”
He was lying, of course. Everyone knew that being assigned to Mt. Caligenix was the worst. Despite containing a dangerous entity, no activity had been sensed there for ages. It was simply boring, and cold, and gloomy, and far away from the nice comfy confines of Medamu. Why couldn’t he have been assigned to the sunny Orosea islands like Stellix? He had heard that the Tortles were very nice too…
Unaware of his apprentice’s musings, Master Igam gave a cackling laugh, smacking Medeur on the back with one of his wings. The metal charms he wore jangled jarringly. Medeur nearly winced. Why was everything so loud today? “I suppose the first real assignment is always exciting. I still remember being sent to Praxlarr back in the day…” Here, Master Igam paused, and Medeur mentally prepared himself for another one of his tangential stories. It wasn’t that they were bad, they were just sooooo long. And confusing. And full of names and references he didn’t get.
Mercifully, Master Igam seemed to hold himself back. With a little shake, he continued, “I wouldn’t expect too much. Remember, we’re merely here to touch up the seal. And those ancestors of ours did know what they were doing. Twins willing, Vespata isn’t escaping anytime soon.”
Medeur nodded, and after a few moments of waiting for a reply (in vain), Master Igam left – darting ahead to talk to another one of the magicians journeying to the outpost this morning. They were closer to the mountain now – Medeur could dimly make out its presence through the mist. The sight, ghostly and surreal, made him uneasy for a reason he couldn’t quite pin down – so Medeur looked down and focused on not tripping instead. Putting one foot ahead of the other, he listened to the quiet sounds of the forest and the Master Igam chattering about spell components and casting times and other things up ahead.
At least, until the world suddenly became still.
Startled by the sudden lack of noise, the rest of the group members had stopped too. When Medeur looked up, he saw heads swivelling, heard questions on the tips of tongues. But before anyone – not even quick-talking Veloq – could get half a word out, the ground began to shake. For what seemed like an eternity, powerful waves caused the earth to rise and fall. Trees fell in the distance, the soft thuds carrying through the air. Medeur hoped no one was hurt as he stumbled about, trying to keep his balance.
And then it was over. Medeur looked for Master Igam as others picked up dropped satchels and adjusted bags, intending to ask him what that was all about. However, he found that the man wasn’t looking around at all, instead fixated on the sky. Medeur looked up too. Amidst the dissipating mist, he could make out a group of…somethings, dark splotches against the lightening sky. Are those…birds? That would make the most sense – but Medeur had never seen birds so small on Bracorax before. Before he could get a better look, they dispersed like dandelion seeds in the wind, and he’s left blinking their afterimages out of his eyes. What in all of Ritenus???
“W-we should go.” Master Igam’s voice, a few pitches too high and abruptly shaky, cut through his reverie like a flash of lightning. On the edge of his vision, Medeur could see the other members of the party pause too, even though the words weren’t loud. He couldn’t blame them – he too felt a shiver run down his spine. Master Igam was a lot of things – talented, proud, daring. But he was never timid. Never…whatever he was now. Despite what had just happened, this was the most disturbing thing he had seen this morning. Medeur didn’t like it. He didn’t like it at all.
Amidst the sudden explosion of whispers and murmurs, Master Igam took a deep breath, seeming to gather his thoughts. “Well.” His voice was significantly closer to normal now, though still not quite loud. “Well!” He repeated, booming over the chatter. “What are we doing standing around? There’s things we need to do, and we need to hurry, hurry!” With that, he began to shoo the other members forward, with urgent little waves of his wings.
Medeur hurried forward at his insistence, still confused. “What? Why? What’s the rush?”
The rest of his words died in his throat at the look in his master’s eyes. It’s hard to pin down, but for a moment Medeur thought he saw fear. Master Igam was never afraid.
“Didn’t you see where those…things…were coming from, silly boy?” Master Igam gave Medeur a significant look, as if he were missing something both very important and very obvious. He didn’t see why the origin of the…birds…had any relevance – wouldn’t wildlife be disturbed by an earthquake anyways? Still, he thought back. There had been the dark figures, but behind them there was…
“Mount Caligenix?” Medeur hoped he was wrong. He really really did. Because if he was right…then everyone would be in deep trouble.
“Yes.” His master’s answer was short and clipped. “You’d better pray to the Twins that the seal isn’t broken. Now hurry!”
Medeur does, almost tripping over a root in his haste. Yet there was something else that caught his attention. Amidst the sounds of the party, those of ruffling feathers and shifting bags, he thought he heard something else. A buzz, quiet but persistent.
Medeur tried to ignore it, but the sound wormed into his brain anyways. It got louder, and he suddenly felt as if he was being watched. It was such a distinct feeling that he could almost see the observer in his mind’s eye – multifaceted eyes, slicing jaws, deadly pincers —
But when he turned, eyes flashing, there was nothing. Just trees, mist, and the sound of his breaths.