Sunday, April 2, 2017

Crystal Caves (Part 4 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 in the crystal caves, feeding a baby Abyssi.

The Crystal Caves: Part 3 of 4

He let the Abyssi feed for a few moments and then stood with it still latched onto him.  He tapped the Abyssi on the head with the blade of his knife; it opened its eyes for a moment, then closed them again and started purring.
Shaking his arm seemed like a good way to lose more skin than he wished to, so instead he walked over to one of the pools of liquid from which the crystals grew and leaned down to dip the baby Abyssi's tail into it.
The Abyssi gasped, and that was enough to allow Naples to shake it off.  He hadn't intended for the entire creature to fall into the pool, which was deeper than it looked; Naples cried out as the baby was enveloped in the scalding liquid and sank entirely out of sight.
Before he could decide if he cared enough to reach in after it, the first paw emerged.  Claws like mercury bit into the edge of the pool.  Another paw appeared, and then a head.
As the creature drew itself up, it shook, and this time its fur was clean.  It shone in the most beautiful, impossible shade of blue that Naples had ever seen.
Naples finished breaking off the crystal he had chosen while the baby Abyssi engaged in a long, intricate grooming session—drying and fluffing, rolling in the crystal dust that littered the floor, and then preening until its brilliant cobalt fur glistened with an iridescent aquamarine sheen.
Its form shifted as it cleaned itself.  Sometimes it reverted to inky darkness, much like the lower level Abyssi who had crossed the planes to make the sacrifice that had seeded these crystals and conceived this small creature.  Trying to make out details of that shape with a human mind was impossible.  In its more solid form, the baby Abyssi had hands almost like a human's, with slender fingers and thumbs—and claws at the tips of each, which it sharpened by tearing through the crystals as if they were silk.
Naples forced himself to focus on the crystal.  He kicked it free of its last restraints, and then yelped, startled, as the Abyssi pounced on the broken piece, sending dust and shards flying.  It chased motes of crystal in the air, playfully batting at them, and occasionally catching pieces of crystal between its razor-sharp teeth. 
Is it bigger than it was a few minutes ago?
The Abyssi lost interest in that game quickly and turned to lap at one of the pools on the ground.  Naples wondered at what point they developed the ability to speak as humans could.
The Abyssumancer gathered his tools, especially the cloak that would keep him alive across the fire planes, and then began his trek back to the enclosure he had made his home.  Temporary home.
 #
After the first day spent among the flames on the path home, Naples woke to find the Abyssi next to him.  It was definitely larger now—about as big as a medium-sized dog—and its body was starting to gain a masculine shape beneath its fur.  When Naples woke, it was again grooming itself, washing ash and blood from its fur and claws.  It must have hunted amid the fire.  Hopefully that meant it wasn't hungry, since Naples didn't want to fight it.
"Hello," he said, wondering.
It regarded him quizzically, breaking off from its ritualized grooming to peer at him with its glowing indigo eyes.  It tilted its head for a moment and then tensed, growling low with its tail lashing.  Naples started to draw his knife, but when the Abyssi pounced, it flew past him.
When Naples turned to follow its movement, he spotted the lesser demon that had slunk near.  It was one of those that he and Azo had struggled to take down in order to make the cloak and boots he wore; its carapace was nearly impenetrable even to his power.
The Abyssi's form turned to shadow and melted into the lesser demon, which let out a scream of rage and pain as it fell.  The amorphous darkness savaged the beast until it lay quiet, at which point the Abyssi returned to solid form and began to feed, utterly absorbed in its prey.
Unnerved, Naples continued walking.
He did not see the blue Abyssi again on his journey, and for that he was grateful.  Though he let Azo believe that he and Modigliani had actually battled, he knew he had won the two fights he had had with the former-prince and now Lord of the Abyss by guile, not force.  Having seen in brief what even a newborn Abyssi was capable of, he reaffirmed his desire never to cross one.
It didn't matter; he was nearly free from this place anyway.


End of excerpt! If you want to know more of Naples' story, check out the Mancer Trilogy -- he features in some way in each of the three books, as an important supporting character in Mancer 1: Of the Abyss and then as one of the narrators in Mancer 2: Of the Divine, which takes place before Abyss.


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