Chapter 5

Chapter 5

A Chapter by Taylor0401

The world burst back into view as my feet hit the ground, my legs buckled, and I crashed onto my back.  For a while, there was nothing I could do but lay there and gasp.  Air had never tasted so good.  Mere moments ago, I had been sure that I would never get any again, and now... had help arrived?  Why had it let me go?  I lifted my battered body up to get a look at the situation, and I wasn’t sure how I felt about what I saw.

Tort stood in the middle of the Sounding Room with his arms crossed, and not looking at all sympathetic.  “Still thinkin’ about hunting two o’ those down, are ya?”

It was the Room.  The whole thing was the Room.  The monster was never really here.  I lay my head back and thought about that.  At least I knew how it got in now.  And I could hardly blame myself for not seeing through the Room’s tricks.  The whole thing was designed to mimic reality.  I could feel my body aching in places that I hadn’t even known existed.  Never before had I gone through something like that, and I dearly hoped that I wouldn’t have occasion to again.

“Absolutely not, Musica,” I said without getting up.

Tort chuckled as he came over to stand by me.  “Ye’re a smart lad, David.  But I know how even a smart one gets when a girl smiles at him.”

Yep.  That pretty much summed it up, didn’t it?  Lyv didn’t realize it, but her idea would’ve gotten us both killed.  And it would have been my fault for not doing what I knew was smart.  Tort had effectively just saved my life.  A fact that proved much harder to remember as soon as I tried to stand.  My eyes opened wide, and I grunted as every muscle in my body protested the movement.  After an ordeal that must’ve lasted hours, I was finally standing again.

“Couldn’t you just have showed me how dangerous they were, rather than demonstrating?”

“Nope.  You know as well as I do that would only have lasted until Miss Lyvere suggested et again.”

I couldn’t argue with that.  We stood quietly for a minute or two; just letting everything sink in.  “Thank you, Musica.”

A small smile showed for just a second from under his mustache before he caught it.  “Don’t thank me just yet, lad.  Wouldn’t be the first time I’ve underestimated a boy’s reaction ta a pretty girl.”

I couldn’t help but laugh at that.  He sure had a point there.  Lyv had a way about her that made it so hard to see how she might be wrong about anything.  Ever.

“She was right about one thing though.  Something has to be done about those things.  It’s obvious that I can’t do anything about them on my own, but maybe with help...”

“What help, lad?  Ya saw the way the other Musicas reacted when ya told them.  Even with my support they didn’t believe ya.  Do ya know why?”

“Because they’re stupid?”

“Hah!  Ye’re probably more than a little right there, boy.  I was going ta say they’re scared.  They’re scared that ya might be tellin’ the truth.  If there really are Giants, and these... berserkers actually do exist then their whole world is in danger.  But if they deny it, then...”

“Then maybe it will just go away,” I finished.

“Exactly.”

“What can we do then?  I refuse to just sit here and do nothing.  We have to do something!”

“Yes, we do.  Think about et, David.  If we’re not gonna go after the beasts, where else does our trail go?”

Our trail only went one way: following the monsters to the east.  Didn’t it?  We couldn’t exactly ask the Giant, could we?  That’s it!  We didn’t know where the Giant had been coming from before he was attacked, but we knew where he was headed.

“We climb the tower.”

“Aye, lad.  The tower et is.”

“Lyv would never forgive me if we don’t bring her.”

“Ya’d be crazy ta think we won’t need her up there.  Nobody knows anythin’ about that place, and even less about whatever lies above.  Go do what ya need ta do.  We’ll leave tomorrow.”

I took a deep breath and nodded.  “Okay.  We’ll be ready.”


There was a cacophony of emotions rampaging through me as I headed for Lyv’s room.  I was still terrified and reeling from my battle with the all-too-real abomination.  My nerves were in overdrive knowing that we were going to be breaking many of the Academy’s long list of rules.  Nobody broke one rule and remained a student.  I had my priorities though.  We all did.  Tort’s were... well, they were his.  Lyv wanted adventure, and who knew what else.  And mine... Strength is good.  I just wanted to be the man that Lyv said I could be.

I will admit though, the main emotion driving me at that moment, was excitement.  I’m going to climb the tower!  Me!  Of course I had dreamed of it since I was a kid; who hadn’t?  But I was actually going to do it.  The very thought of it had me practically skipping through the halls, and before I knew it I was standing at Lyv’s room.

My badly scraped hand rapped quickly on her door.  “Lyv!  It’s David!”

She opened the door a few moments later, clearly in the middle of getting ready for the day.  Apparently she didn’t have to get up early for training.  Ah well.  Totally worth it.  Even with her hair not put up yet, and pajamas being half of her outfit, she was breathtaking.  

I knew that I had come here for a reason, but I just couldn’t put my finger on it.  She smiled for a second, obviously waiting for me to say something.  Oh, right!  “Hi.”

“Hello there.  Bad night?”

I felt my brow furrow in confusion briefly before it dawned on me what I must look like.  “Oh, this?  Nah, this was from training with Tort this morning.  Wait till you hear what happened!”

Over the next half hour or so I told her everything that had happened in the Sounding Room.  I made sure to stress the impossibility of her plan to hunt down Rathgar’s minions.  She looked a bit skeptical, but at the end I think she realized that I wasn’t about to change my mind.  Not after what had happened.  

“So we’re going to climb the tower?”

“Yep.”

“Because that’s where the Giant was going.”

“That’s right.”

“And we have no idea what we’re going to find?”

“None at all.”

Her gleaming, jade eyes stared straight into the boring blue of mine.  It felt as if she was searching me from the inside out.  I didn’t know what she was searching for, but I knew that I wanted her to find it.  Time slowed to a crawl as I lost myself in the multi-hued swirls of color that made up her irises.  

Suddenly, she blinked and grinned.  “When do we leave?!”

I couldn’t help but smile back, “First thing tomorrow morning.  Can you believe that we’re really going to do this?!”

“If it were anyone but you, I don’t think I could.”  She put her hand on my arm, and I wasn’t sure where I had put my tongue.  I could’ve sworn it was here just moments ago.

“I.  Uh.  Thanks!”

She laughed, and turned to lift her harp.  With a quick wink she exclaimed, “Time to pack!”  As she plucked out a quick melody, clothes and other necessities flew into a pack on her bed.  A pack that I’m fairly certain was already there before I told her about our plan.  I shook my head.  She must’ve thought for sure she could convince me to go after them.  Well, at least she’s getting her adventure after all.

I smiled as I opened her door.  “I’m going to go grab some supplies from the village.  I’ll see you bright and early!”


My parents had never had much money when I was growing up, so I had always learned to do without whenever I could.  Once I discovered my Voice, I knew it was my only way to make something of myself.  If I hadn’t tested so well to get into the Academy, I would’ve been forced to pay tuition.  Since we couldn’t have afforded even the lowest price available, I would have been stuck working the farm forever. Thanks to my parents’ teachings, I saved every bit that I could because I never knew when I might need it.  And now I needed it.

After grabbing what I had saved from my room, I headed straight out into town.  I couldn’t keep the spring from my step as I walked down the lane.  Everyone I passed got a wave or a smile; sometimes both.  It didn’t occur to me until I was almost to the shop that I hadn’t received anything but furtive glances in response to my greetings.  Now that I had noticed it, I could hear people talking as I passed.

“...he goes.  Probably off to fight a dragon.”

“Hah!  Nonsense, that is.  Giants.  What’ll he think of next?”

“I hear he tried to tell everyone at the Academy they’re real.”

“Aye!  And I heard he tried to raise an army to fight them!”

“Don’t be silly, Hobs.  He just wants attention.  Probably trying to impress a girl or something foolish like that.”

“Aww, I don’t care what he’s doin’.  Shouldn’t be makin’ up stories, and scarin’ children!  Giants and monsters.  Pff.  Rubbish.”

Geez.  I was the laughingstock of the town.  No wonder I had been getting weird looks all day.  Word travels fast in a small town, and when someone comes in raving about things out of stories there’s no stopping the rumors.  I sighed.  There was nothing I could do about it now.  Tort was right.  They should just be left alone in their safe little world.  No good would come of dragging them forcefully into the light.  Not if we could keep the darkness from getting there first.

Luckily for me, the shop owner didn’t have kids, and so wasn’t terribly upset by the ruckus I had inadvertently caused.  I was able to get what I needed: some rope, wire, food, knives, sharp sticks.  Okay, so I hadn’t been on an adventure before.  That was painfully obvious.  Not knowing what we’d find above the clouds made it difficult to prepare, so I tried to get one of everything.  I spent down to my last coin because who knew if I’d get a chance to spend it again.

My way back up to the Academy, and subsequently through the halls to my room, was met with more snide remarks and not-so-quiet whispers about my story from the day before.  I ignored them all equally, reminding myself that I was doing the right thing.  I had to be strong for them in a different way than I had to be for Lyv, but it was just as important.  Well... almost as important.

Once back in my room, I hurriedly packed everything up and set my wake-up jar.  My mind was racing as I laid my aching body down into bed for what was probably going to be my last good night’s sleep in a while.


The sun had not yet crested the horizon, and we could see the faintest evidence of our breath in the air as we walked into the woods.  We hadn’t said much since leaving the Academy other than checking one another’s gear.  Tort had brought a short sword with a broad point for me; he’d called it a Gladius.  I had used practice swords many times in the Academy, but this was my first time holding a real one.  It felt foreign, but pleasant against my hip.  It didn’t quite compare to the elation I felt when he finally gave back my violin, Aoide.  I hadn’t even seen her since the day I’d broken up that fight and... well you know the rest.  It felt like regaining a piece of me that I’d missed dearly.  I ran the bow across her strings and adrenaline rushed through me as the air crackled with latent energy.  

Lyv had brought her own bow, and had been quite pleased when Tort gave her a quiver full of well-crafted arrows.  Tort had two short swords sheathed at his sides, and his round, leather drum strapped to his back.  We must’ve cut an impressive figure, for the student standing watch at the gate didn’t even try to stop us when we left.  He just sat there staring.  I can’t really say I blame him.  We looked good.

Our conversation was light and sparse.  It was as if nobody wanted to spoil the excitement by bringing up the gravity of the situation.  That was my reasoning anyway.  I just put yesterday’s events to the back of my mind and thought about how often in my life I’d yearned to climb the tower.  Today we were doing it.  Even as we neared the clearing of fresh earth, I could hardly believe it.  

The clouds around the top churned in a violent, crimson spiral.  A large, circular section was a darker hue than the rest.  That section traveled all throughout the thunderheads in an indeterminate pattern.  I had never seen them anything but calm until now.  Maybe this is what they did at night?  I had no way of knowing.  There was no denying that this was a much more intimidating visage than I had expected to encounter.  

“Are ya comin’, or are ya jus’ gonna gawk at the pretty lights all day?”

I hadn’t realized I’d stopped until Tort said something.  Mind back on the ground, I ran to catch up.  Walking across the recently-turned dirt had a surreal feeling to it.  Something awful had happened here, but we were on our way to the first step of setting it right.  We were doing the right thing.  A glance at Lyv caught her looking over her shoulder at me; we exchanged brief smiles.  My chest swelled.  We were doing what the strong should do.  Making things right.

The base of the tower was wider than I remembered.  A quick estimate would be about 30 meters in diameter, but that’s just the base.  Being built out of a seemingly random concoction of everything the ancient architects could find meant that nothing about the size was constant.  Nothing except the height, I supposed.  Here we were.

“Here we are.  David, I think you should go first.”

“Me?  But, Tort-”

“Aye, lad.  You.”

“You’re the leader, after all.”

“The... leader?  Me?”

Lyv laughed, “Of course!  I’m not the only one who likes strength.”  She smirked at Tort, and received a glower in response.

“Every boy needs his chance to become a man, David.  Now’s yours.  Ya can lead or ya can follow.  Either way, go.”

They were serious.  This was my decision.  I was the leader.  Somehow, that made perfect sense.  It felt like I’d known it all along, but didn’t want to assume for fear of being wrong.  I nodded and stepped up to the tower.

The foundation was what appeared to be an old house made of solid metal, complete with front porch and chimney.  I ran around the back, and stepped onto the stairs leading to the second-story balcony.  I’m sure it was just a coincidence, but it was extremely unnerving when immediately following my first step was-

CHUNK!  

The vibration shook the house just enough that I had to step back and start again.

“Well, that’s going to make this more interesting, huh?”  Lyv was practically giggling at me.

“Yeah, yeah.  Just hold on, and we’ll be fine.”

Up the stairs we went.  The roof of the house was covered by another metal building, but it was hard to say what from beneath.  After a quick look around, I found an opening in the floor of the second structure.  I helped the others up once I was inside.  It was obvious that this had once been a smithy.  Tools and craftings still hung on the walls.  The only visible telling of age was the thick layer of dust that coated everything, and it rose in clouds as we trudged through it.  There was a ladder leading up to the rafters, and from there we were able to squeeze out of a small fanlight onto the balcony of an adjacent building.  

We could see the ground below, not too far yet but we still had a long way ahead of us.  Or, I guess I should say, above us.  Growing horizontally out from the roof of the smithy was a large tree.  That went against everything I thought I knew about plants, but I couldn’t argue with what I saw.  A thick rope ladder hung from the trunk, and with an enthusiastic look back at my friend and my instructor, I grabbed hold and went up.  

Atop the thick length of timber, I was met with another ladder.  This one’s top was hung on the tooth of a huge wooden cog, maybe another 20 meters overhead.  I didn’t even hesitate before starting my ascent.  I was maybe a dozen rungs up when-

CHUNK!

I was thrown to the side as the gear above me turned.  It was a good thing I managed to keep hold of the ladder, because now I was dangling in the wind over a very intimidating fall.  I had heard of Sonomancers using their Voice to fly.  That was a trick I would have really appreciated right about then.  There was enough of a gap between the ladder and the tree that I didn’t want to risk a jump back down.  Plus, going back down wasn’t why we were here.  

I had to yell to be heard over the wind, “I’m going up!  We can wait for it to come back around if we have to.  Look for another route in the meantime!”    

As soon as they nodded, I was headed up the ladder.  It didn’t take me long to reach the top, and I wasn’t quite sure what to make of what I found.  Up from the center of the gear rose a dark pillar covered in huge glowing symbols; several meters tall each.  It was made of some smooth stone, and barely two meters wide at most.  An arched doorway stood open leading into it.  I couldn’t make out anything inside it without lighting a torch, but that would have to wait.  Heading carefully to the side-

CHUNK!

I dropped to my hands and knees to brace myself.  I could see now that this cog turned from another perpendicular to it.  And that one rose to another with some sort of building on top of it.  This whole tower got stranger the higher we got.  I rose to my feet and peered over the edge.  Tort and Lyv weren’t where I’d left them.  Fear began to creep up my spine before reason kicked in.  They probably just found another way up.  Oh, how I hoped I was right.

The sun had finally peered over the horizon to give some definition to my shadowy surroundings.  A couple of the teeth on my platform had bridge-like appendages that stretched out to what looked to me like guard houses atop a pair of watch towers.  One of the two had a blue-green light emanating from the window, and I couldn’t resist the urge to investigate.  

I hurried across to avoid being thrown from the bridge during another shift.  From outside, I couldn’t tell what was giving off the light, but it definitely didn’t look natural.  Stepping through the door afforded me a whiff of a horrific smell.  Something between sulfur and rotting meat.  I had to breathe through my mouth if I was going to keep a clear head, and even that didn’t help much.  Using a trickle of Sound, I was able to create a sort of scent barrier around my face.  It worked better than I’d expected.

Inside the guard house was nothing special, other than the lighting of course.  Past a large table ringed with chairs was a staircase leading down.  The light was down there somewhere.  I couldn’t afford to be afraid now.  Sword in hand, I crept down the stairs.  

Several flights down below the guard house was a much larger room.  It opened up to the outside, and I assumed that Tort and Lyv must be out there right now.  The evidence supporting my assumption was the giant, glowing, blue spider in the doorway.  It was about the size of a horse, and it looked mad.  There was no way it was going to fit through the door, but that sure wasn’t stopping it from trying.

Well, at least I know it’s stupid.  

It hissed and spat at them.  Mandibles and legs clacked loudly in the stone room.  I wasn’t sure how I should handle this, nor did I know why Tort and Lyv hadn’t taken care of it already.  There was no way I was going to just hide back here while they were in trouble though.  

Moving slowly so as to not attract notice, I approached the spider from behind.  I wished that I could have seen past it, but that would have to wait.  A quiet, deep hum lent strength to my arms, and I let it build for a moment.  This would have to be fast.  The humming got louder as I raised my blade, and then I struck.

The blade sliced through three of the beast’s left legs, causing it to squeal in rage.  It hobbled on its remaining legs to face me, but not before I blasted it onto its back with a shout.  I immediately leapt through the air to land, sword down, on its abdomen.  I got a couple of hacks in before-

CHUNK!

The shudder of the structure forced me to jump back down to the floor.  The spider was still thrashing, but the fight was over.  I turned my attention to the outside.  

On a much larger tree than we had been on earlier stood Tort and Lyv.  I can’t explain the relief I felt at seeing them okay.  Why hadn’t they killed the spider themselves?  They hadn’t seen me yet.  Lyv had her bow drawn, and Tort’s swords were each gleaming red in the sunrise.  I decided to wait in hopes that I could take whatever they were waiting for by surprise.

“Oy!” Tort shouted and pointed.  Lyv’s arrow zipped from the string, followed by two more in a quick consecution.  A tremendous butterfly, this one glowing green, landed hard just outside the doorway.  It wasn’t dead, but its wings had five arrows in them.  Lyv turned to face away from the building as Tort rushed inside to finish the bug with his blades.

Just before we could say anything, Lyv stepped backward into the room.  “It’s coming back up!”

“Huh?  What is?”

“A big bloody bug.  That’s what, lad.  T’ain’t gonna be pretty.”

I could feel vibrations running through the floor as whatever it was got closer.  It sounded like distant thunder rising from the ground.  I took a deep breath, and tried not to think about the sound of hundreds of legs carrying something huge up this nightmarish maze right to our door.  



© 2013 Taylor0401


Author's Note

Taylor0401
First draft. Any help is appreciated!

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Added on July 29, 2013
Last Updated on July 30, 2013


Author

Taylor0401
Taylor0401

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About
I've loved writing ever since I was a kid. I haven't had time for it in years, but now I'm making it a regular part of my life and hopefully it will eventually go somewhere. I'd love to publish a no.. more..

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A Chapter by Taylor0401


Chapter 1 Chapter 1

A Chapter by Taylor0401


Chapter 2 Chapter 2

A Chapter by Taylor0401