Friday, March 31, 2017

Crystal Caves (Part 3 of 4)

This is an ongoing four-part story related to the Mancer Trilogy.  For an explanation and the first post, please click here.

Text below (like all text on this site unless otherwise stated) © Amelia Atwater-Rhodes.  If you share this work, please include clear credit and a link back to this site.

We last saw Naples crossing the fire fields on his way to the crystal caves, in search of a power source that can help him break the veil between this realm and the realm of the living.

The Crystal Caves: Part 3 of 4

Naples waited in silent stillness at the top of the wall that had once housed a coAfter three full nights and two searing, maddening days, at the start of the third day he began to see crystals not formed just of molten glass, but grown from pools of still... water? It sparkled like water.  He dipped his hand in it, and then drew back with a cry of pain, expecting this time to find his skin melted away as if by acid.
His hand was intact, but he wasn't about to put it back in that glistening pool, now gone still again.
The crystals grew taller and shone with unimaginable colors and light.  Overwhelmed, he crossed his arms across his chest, his pack heavy on his back, and closed his eyes, breathing in a scent like… like expectation.  Like waiting. He could never describe it, but he knew he would never forget it.
One of the crystals would suit him, he decided once he had control of himself again.  They pulsed with raw power, enough to let him breach the veil between this plane and the mortal plane he called his home.  He touched one tentatively and found it hot, but not as impossibly searing as the liquid had been.  He would be able to carry it, if he could break it from the base.
He moved deeper into the cavern, until the power became too thick even for him.  The air seemed solid, impossible to breathe or move through, and resonated with sharp, discordant chords, an assault against every sense.
He knelt, careful not to slice a knee open on a sharp edge, and examined the base of a crystal about as tall as a man's forearm and wide enough that Naples couldn't quite reach his two hands entirely around it.
A scratching sound made him hesitate.  It stopped, and was replaced by an entreating croon.
He drew his knife, though he didn't know if he would fight whatever came from the caves, or if he would do better to run.  Abyssi were born in these caves.  He would probably be able to best a newborn Abyssi, but he wasn't sure how the other Abyssi would feel about that... especially since the young Abyssi currently crawling about these caverns would have hatched from crystals seeded by the Call and the sacrifice of the last Lord of the Abyss.
The soft crooning broke off, replaced by snarling, yelping and hissing.  Naples flinched from the splash of power that followed, and then smiled a little at the triumphant howl.
With half his attention on the noises deeper in the cavern, he sheathed the knife again, and looked back at the crystal he had chosen.  There were smaller shards of crystal laying about, so he picked up one of those, ignoring the pain, and used its edge to chip at the base of the one he had chosen.  The work was mind-numbing in its repetition, and because every time he chipped the crystal, it was like being doused in a bath of energy, until he was fairly vibrating with it.
Drugged, giddy, he leaned back against the nearly-freed crystal when he heard the noises move closer.
He looked up to find a soggy, sorry-looking creature crawling toward him, its fur matted with the viscous, glowing fluid that among the Abyssi passed as blood.  It pierced the edge of the nearest crystal with its claws in order to drag itself upright.
It was the size of a large cat, and shaped somewhat like one, though Naples could see beneath the clumps of fur and flesh features that might have been closer to human.  Its claws shone like silver, but its tail dragged limply.
Naples' heart went out to the newly born demon as it licked at the fluid that seeped from the crystal its claws had pierced.  It tried to shake itself, and succeeded in sending a couple gobs of others' flesh flying, but by no means cleaned itself from the last of its cannibalistic feast.
Against the better judgment he apparently didn't have, Naples crawled closer.
The Abyssi looked up at him with eyes that were pools of pure blue, lacking any pupil, and let out a whining growl.  It struggled to lash its tail, but managed only to drag the appendage across the crystals, once, twice, before it collapsed, exhausted.
It snarled at him as he reached for it, and snapped at his hand.
Naples drew his knife and it hesitated, watching, its head tilted, until he pulled the blade across his own flesh, drawing a fine line of blood from his forearm.  The Abyssi was on him in a flash, its teeth and claws digging into his skin with energy it hadn't seemed to possess a moment ago.  Naples debated what to do... and eventually decided to lean back against the crystal wall.  He set the palm of his free hand to one of the crystals, and he drew that scalding power inward, fortifying himself.

Story will update Monday 3/27, Wednesday 3/29, Friday 3/31 and Sunday 4/2.  Stay tuned for Part 3! 

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  1. Wow. I didn't think Naples would do something so...nice? Not that I saw him as villainous in Mancer 1 (I understand his reasons for doing what he did and didn't see him as the EVIL person that other readers probably thought he was) but seeing him go out of his way to help a baby Abyssi is very endearing to me. I'm sad to know how his story ends :(