Chapter 8 - The Way to Barbas

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"When They Made This Encounter, They Broke The Mold"

The group continued deeper into the tunnels until it began to widen into a large cavern nearly two hundred feet in diameter. A shimmering curtain of rippling blue light bisected the cavern from left to right, floor to ceiling. The light resembled a translucent membrane that swirled and sparkled like the surface of a pond. The cavern on the other side was visible through the sheen, and the tunnel proceeded around a corner at the far end. Shapes and figures seemed to ripple and writhe along the curtain of cerulean light. Now and then these shapes passed by slowly enough to be identified as Olman warriors in full battle regalia, their mouths open in silent screams. A low whispering filled the room, but the cave was otherwise silent.

"Irgzid, what can you tell us about this?" Viselys asked gesturing to the blue veil.

"Thisss isss the way, through the curtain of light," Ergzid replied.

Ken-ji examined the ground, "Clearly this way has been traveled by many."

"Yesss. Thisss isss the way," Irgzid reiterated. "We mussst walk through."

Viselys stared at the curtain of light as though it were impassible.

"Are you sure?" Saris questioned. "Your people don't do anything special to pass through? It isn't some kind of trap set to guard the place?"

"No trap. Just walk through," Irgzid answered cocking his head to the side and looking from the group to the veil clearly confused by their trepidation.

"The Olmans trapped within do not appear in good spirits," Liamae commented as she glanced that their tied Olman who showed no signs of agitation at the sight of the specters within the veil. "Your people walk through unharmed, Irgzid. Are you sure that we may do so as well?"

"How thick is the curtain? What is it like going through?" Duxsil asked before Irgzid could address Liamae.

"It isss not thick. It is disssconcerting, almossst painful to the earsss. No way around. We mussst walk through," Irgzid said once more taking a step closer.

"Well, I can see that it's powerful, too powerful for any dispelling. It might be a plane gateway, but can't be positive," Duxsil volunteered after a bit of examining.

"Are we seeing the other side?" Liamae asked.

Irgzid confirmed with a nod, and then walked through. On the other side he shook himself, muttering, "I hate that." Then more loudly said, "Thisss isss a good camp ssspot."

Liamae smiled. "It's a gamble. Let's go."

Duxsil smiled and walked through with her. They heard the whispering grow louder, pressing in upon them, but where unhindered. They emerged on the other side and turned back to see the others.

"You coming?" Liamae inquired.

"Aye!" Urol said as he braced himself and followed through. "Did you hear that?" He asked looking from Duxsil to Liamae.

"I heard whispering turn to shouting," Liamae said.

"Yes, I heard some of what was said," Duxsil confirmed.

"What do you suppose it means?" Urol asked.

"What did you hear?" Saris asked as he came through shaking off the eerie feeling of the short journey.

"Well, I could only pick out a some part of a phrase. They were shouting quite loudly after all," Urol said. "But I made out what sounded like two faces watch the tide."

"I thought I heard the maw flows forth to bite." Duxsil added.

"So what do you think, Viselys?" Saris asked looking over only to discover that Viselys, Ken-ji, and the Olman still remained on the other side.

"I think we'll camp here," Viselys said.

"Over there?" Liamae asked furrowing her brow. "With us over here?"

"Yes. We'll cross through in the morning," he answered.

"We are far underground with no morning or night sky above us to tell what the time may be. What could possibly be the difference between crossing now or in the morning?" she asked, clearly patronizing Viselys.

"I think we'll just wait until morning. Unless Duxsil can transport us to the other side with a spell," Viselys said as he looked to the sorcerer.

"What? Seems a waste of magic when walking works just fine," Duxsil said shaking his head.

"So you'd transport rather than walk through now?" Liamae prodded. "Well, you are going to have to walk through in the morning." Liamae said as she began to lay out her sleeping mat. "You sure you'll sleep well on that side?"

"Are you missing me, Liamae?" Viselys teased.

Liamae only laughed as she lay down.

"No, but I think her aim may be improving," Urol whispered to Saris as the two had a chuckle over the exchange. Duxsil murmured something far more derogatory noting that all that was left on the other side was a crazy and two…kitties.

The night passed with no real incident other than Viselys' inability to sleep soundly as he was convinced that the Olmans within the veil were not only aware of the group, but staring at him specifically the entire night. As morning came without any change to mark it the group awoke.

Duxsil and Urol began studying, while Saris began to search for his breakfast. Irgzid helped with that. Liamae made a great show of stretching.

"Morning, Viselys. Did you sleep well? Will you be joining us for breakfast?" Liamae smiled sweetly, though the teasing in her voice was unmistakable.

"I slept very well, thank you. I think we'll eat breakfast here first." Viselys smiled back.

Liamae rolled her eyes as she packed up her sleeping mat then sat on a nearby rock to eat her breakfast while deciding on possible spells the day might require.

After everyone had eaten and was quite ready to go the only thing remaining was for Viselys and the others to walk through the curtain of light.

Viselys grabbed onto the Olman's arm and placed his other hand upon Ken-ji's shoulder while the other watched. The next moment Viselys and Ken-ji blinked out leaving the Olman standing alone as they blinked back in the middle of the group on the other side of the veil.

"Ha!" Viselys said triumphantly smiling at the others.

Liamae chuckled, shaking her head then pointing back at the Olman.

"Oh," Viselys said with a slight frown.

"I'll get him," Duxsil said as he walked through the veil and guided the Olman back through.

As they emerged from the veil the Olman began looking at the group. He seemed quite lucid and attempted to speak through the gag. Duxsil removed the gag, and asked the man who he was.

“My name is Jakara of the Tiger Clan. I have devoted my life to combating the demonic forces that have infected this island. In my quest, I rely on my spiritual ties to the island and nature as well as totemic magics,” he indicated the tattoos on his exposed skin; a boar, a dimetrodon, a sea turtle and a tyrannosaurus. He continued, “Recently, I encountered a pale-skinned holy man named Noltus Innersol. He said he was spreading the word of his god to Olman tribes. We found a kinship in our desire to cast out the demonic influences on this land, and he bade me to travel to Farshore where I would find another holy man, Vesserin Catherly. Noltus said we would be able to learn much from each other. That is where I was going when I was beset by skinwalkers. I defeated them, but not before being cursed by one of them – a spell that reduced me to little more than an animal. My memory of what happened after that is shrouded in mist. I think I was captured and put in a cage. I recall great pain and hunger. My next clear memory is emerging from that blue light wall."

Ken-ji perked up at the mention of skinwalkers, but said nothing.

"What became of Noltus?" Viselys asked.

"He headed North to seek out other Olmans, though he had been discouraged against doing so. The last I saw of him he was well as we parted ways," Jakara explained. "After the skinwalker's dying curse upon me all I remember is being in the jungle, in pain and hungry. How did I come to be here?"

"Well, it looks as though you were captured by the troglodytes of Irgzid's former tribe," Urol explained.

"Do you know anything about that, Irgzid?" Saris asked as he turned to the lizard-man.

"They did not ssspeak to me, but they infected him with the intent to sssacrifissse him. Then you came," Irgzid explained.

"So he was bait," Liamae muttered.

Viselys shot her a look before turning to the Olman, "You are welcome to come with us."

"I would prefer to be on my way to see the Vesserin Catherly, my friend Noltus told me about," Jakara said.

"Are you sure you can find your way out of here? And then to Farshore from there?" Saris asked skeptically.

"There's a black pudding back there as well," Liamae added offhandedly.

"I am sure I will manage. My mission to fight the demonic forces of this island will aid me as I need," the Olman replied as he insisted upon going his own way.

"Saving him was so worth it," Duxsil grumbled to Liamae who nodded in quiet agreement.

"I am sure there will be demons along our way, Jakara, as we have encountered some already. How would you feel about possibly traveling with the tepozihiyotl?" Viselys inquired hoping to entice the Olman into joining the group.

"Who would that be?" The Olman asked as he looked at the group before holding his gaze upon Ken-ji who shook his head and respectfully indicated Visleys. Jakara turned back to Viselys with a doubtful expression.

"Well, time will determine if I earn such a worthy title," Viselys confessed suddenly modest.

"Accept the things to which fate binds you, and love the people with whom fate brings you together, but do so with all your heart," Jakara said solemnly as he looked intently at Viselys. After a moment he spoke again, "I believe it is part of my journey to continue on as I had planned. I will go to see the holy man at Farshore."

"If he wants to try his luck on his own, let him," Liamae put forth.

"If that is what you wish," Viselys finally conceded. "We could teleport you, I believe," he added looking to Duxsil who frowned.

"I will be fine on my own. I need only directions," Jakara assured. It was obvious that Jakara was determined to carry on about his way. Viselys offered him a bow and some arrows, described the way back through the cave, with a warning about the black pudding in the cave of acid pools. Jakara thanked him and was on his way.

The group continued on and the path branched. After consulting Irgzid the group proceeded down a tunnel that would lead them to a town known as Barbas. They came upon a cavern covered with scree and gravel, as well as larger boulders torn loose from the ceiling. Due to the density of these scattered monoliths, it was impossible to see far beyond the immediate area. Between the stones, patches of color hinted at plant life, suggesting a subterranean pasture of epic proportions. The temperature in this vast vault was noticeably lower than elsewhere in the tunnels.

As they proceeded through the maze leaving broken arrow pieces to mark their way suddenly a big burst of spores exploded from one of the fungi growing on one of the boulders as they passed. Liamae took the brunt of the burst being directly in its path, which weakened her.

Urol excitedly began to identify the yellow and brown mold. "Astonishing! See how it grows together. That is unusual. The heat of the torch must have caused the brown one to flourish. Do you think they grew together as part of a defense? Perhaps by design?" Urol postulated out loud.

"Perhaps," Irgzid said in response clearly taking Urol's questions as more seriously than the others.

"That's nice, Urol, but what do we do about it?" Saris interrupted Urol's hypothesizing as Liamae coughed up what sounded like a lung.

"Well, as I was saying the brown one reacts to heat, so perhaps the torches are a bad idea." He responded nonplussed by Saris' interruption. "Though the heat renders the yellow inert."

"What about cold?" Duxsil asked.

"That aught to do it," Urol assured.

Viselys held his glowing sword aloft to light the way as Ken-ji navigated and shot blasts of cold. Duxsil and Saris helped Liamae and they all made it through the maze to see a rough shanty town.

Continue to Chapter 8...

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