Elmiryn tongued the new cut on her lip, one hand on her stomach. It was starting to ache. She smirked at the brunette seated next to her. “Feel better, love?” she asked.
Quincy ignored her, brow furrowed, cheeks still pink and a bruise blooming on her jaw. The warrior probably would have let her get away with the first hit, if she hadn’t struck Elmiryn in the mouth, too. After that, she’d felt retaliation was necessary. She didn’t feel angry, though, really. She was aware that perhaps she’d gone too far. She’d promised Quincy she’d leave her be, after all. A schoolyard promise, but still…
Sedwick was in the process of picking something for himself. The wizard had already had her pick, being decidedly faster than Elmiryn. As the water elemental made his choice, the brunette had left the small room and gone upstairs. There she’d taken out a piece of chalk from her magic pouch and was doing a sort of ritual with the boots she’d picked from the shelf. Both women were seated against the wall adjacent to the stairs, cross legged, the wizard sitting forward to keep from touching the cut on her back. She had dressed it with the help of Sedwick, using cloths found in a supply shed.
Quincy wore the pearl earring Elmiryn had seen. When the redhead asked if she was certain it didn’t have a hex that would rot her ear off, the wizard just flicked the underside of her chin and snapped out something in Fanaean at the warrior. By default, the warrior decided anything foreign that Quincy said to her was likely something along the lines of, “Bitch,” or “Idiot.”
Elmiryn had pushed the jeweled dagger into her belt where it pressed into her hip. She needed a holster for it, but that’d have to do for now. The whistle she wore around her neck, looping a thin strip of cloth through the ring at the end of it. The cloth she’d torn from her chest wraps. With Quincy muttering things beneath her breath next to her, the warrior took to inspecting the item again. She gave it another soft blow. The wizard nudged her with a glare.
“What?” Elmiryn chuckled out.
“Knock that off!” Quincy snapped.
“What, this?” The warrior held up the whistle.
“Yes! I’m trying to concentrate!”
“I can’t hear it. Why can’t I hear it?”
“Why would you need to?”
Elmiryn blinked at this. “…Good point!” She gestured at Quincy’s boots with her chin. “What’re you doing anyway?”
Quincy sighed and looked back at the boots. Now around the circle, she had drawn four odd symbols. “I’m trying to divine its uses. Henriette doesn’t know what it does, and I’m not putting them on till I’m certain. If I don’t like them, I’m getting something else.”
“You put the earring on without a problem.”
“It was open to having an owner,” the wizard returned simply. “I’m more surprised you were able to use that dagger without much preparation!”
Elmiryn shrugged, looking at it. “Maybe it isn’t all that powerful.”
“Maybe you’re changed nature has something to do with it.” The redhead cut the woman next to her a razor sharp look, which the brunette received coolly. “Wizardry isn’t a game. People think all you do is pick an item up and use it. While that could be the case for low-level items, carelessness can lead to you getting your eyes burned out of their sockets.”
“Lucky me, I guess.”
“Let’s see if you still say that once we’re back in our world.”
Elmiryn narrowed her eyes at her. “What do you mean?”
Quincy sighed and rolled her eyes to her. “You haven’t even thought about that?”
“I don’t see what I’m missing.”
“If you’re so much better here, and if you’ve been changed, then how do you think you’ll feel when you’re home? Better…or worse than before?”
Elmiryn clenched her hands to fists. She crossed her arms and leaned her head against the wall. “We’ll see,” she murmured. “After all, you said that might not be the case. Maybe I just ‘lost’ something. Your words, not mine.”
“Don’t pout, for heaven’s sake. I just wanted to make you aware of a point.” Quincy fixed her eyes on her, brow wrinkled. She seemed to forget her task for the moment. “Elmiryn, what did you learn while you were away? What did you find?”
The warrior closed her eyes for second, then opened them again. “The number five.”
“And that means…?” The brunette shrugged her mouth and held up a hand.
“Your name. ‘Quincy’. Isn’t that a boy’s name?”
Quincy’s voice soured. “Elmiryn, get on with it. What about the number five?”
“I once had someone in my command with that name. He said he was the fifth son. Five. That’s what your name means. It means ‘the fifth’. You are number five.” Elmiryn sat forward with a snap, her brow dipping low as she stared a hole into the opposite wall. “Before I found you, I met that twig spirit. He was the one who showed me how to travel in this world. We came to a crossroads that split five ways, and he said to take the last road before I could reach the first. Then I found you. You were the fifth.”
Quincy leaned forward too, her eyes bright.
Elmiryn went on, fiddling with her whistle. “Finding Graziano was my fourth. My next path will reveal someone else…maybe something else. The twig spirit said the last path was my true desire. Since it knew this, I don’t think Meznik is the one who created this…I think…I did.”
“You? You made the paths?”
“If you don’t know yourself, this place feeds on your…your divisions. The Other Place reacted to my animus, my goals. My fears. I was torn apart, body and soul, floating in nothing, but when I brought myself together again, I unknowingly carved the pathways leading to the shards. Five. Like the five elements that make us. Air, fire, water, earth, and infinity.” She counted them off her fingers, then held up her hand, fingers spread. “If you had been torn apart like me–if you had been changed, been lost, been pieced together like me–then you’d have created five paths too. Spirits are singular in thought, and thrive in their elements. Their goals and feelings are simple, but intense. They carve out straightforward roads for themselves in this chaos world.” She paused, and wiped at her mouth. Then she placed a hand on the side of her head and shook it. “But I didn’t…I couldn’t…I didn’t know…”
“How can we use this information?” Quincy mused.
“When I followed Meznik’s trail, guess what I found?” The other woman waited for her to continue. The warrior smiled suddenly. “I found five paths. A crossroads, like mine.”
“Meznik came here, and he was upset. He said this wasn’t his territory. Maybe he was torn apart because of that? Maybe his consciousness created those crossroads he has to travel now?” Elmiryn stopped and rubbed her face. She breathed in deep and exhaled slowly. She said into her hands, “Or they could have been there for a long time. Maybe he’d been here before. He may not have always been on bad terms with the other astral demon.” Then she dropped her hands and smirked at Quincy. “When I arrived at his crossroads, that was about the time you tried to contact me. A part of me was still with you all. When I lost contact with you, I just kept on. Meznik’s first path was closed. So I went down the second path.” The woman started to chuckle. “I stood at the threshold of the Window and looked in. Went down the third and did the same. Then the fourth.”
“What did you see?” Quincy breathed.
Elmiryn leaned in, her smile taking on an edge. “Trees. In different places of the world–OUR world. Fucking trees. Like Nadi had to destroy. All thriving. All singing. And you wanna know what they sang about?” Again, the wizard just waited for the warrior to continue. The redhead did so with a low voice. “Revolution.”
I suppose to other people I come across as devoutly religious. I never really gave it any thought. Religion was so a part of my culture that sometimes I wasn’t even aware of its presence. It was embedded into our practices, our traditions, our outlooks. Sexuality is a natural part of nature, and being creatures of nature, we do not shy away from it. I remember once hearing of a fertility temple in one of the outer villages of the Ailuran Nation. Phallic statues. Ritualistic sex. But the fertility temple was changed into a chaste temple, honoring the family. Public view on sex, done outside of the goal of procreation, was once a thing behind closed doors, I’d heard. It was population spikes that changed that. It costs to feed so many mouths, you see. But we’re spiritual creatures, and we feel passion acutely. If we could not fornicate for one reason, then we’d find another reason, and so long as we avoided excess, we said none could fault us. Sometimes I wonder if my people were really any different from the Fiammans. Societal needs still shaped religious doctrine, after all.
I suppose to other people I come across as devoutly religious. I have my beliefs. I still follow my goddess, though she may scorn me, and I still struggle with my spirit, that it might one day find damnation, and in finding it, be punished for no more than just the things done in my past, and not my present.
Amusing. What I have to hope for, is to be allowed punishment. I was anathema, wasn’t I? A thing outside of nature, with her Twin? For a while it seemed entirely likely that I’d be locked out of the life cycle completely. Lacertli gave me a way to ensure that doesn’t happen. He gave me a way to right my debts against harmony.
Speaking of harmony, I have my feelings regarding flagrant sex and hallucinogenic stupors, and they are not very kind. Such things diminish the spirit, and rot the mind. This creates imbalance and chaos. This was abhorrent to me.
As we pressed into the mysterious labyrinth that was the hallways of the whorehouse, Tristi was curiously stoic about the various scenes we passed. At the start of our journey, with a flip of a coin (“And just a little luck,” he whispered,) and we took the left path, which tunneled a lime and yellow on the walls before the paint bruised purple, then angry red. I knew our way was twisting, even as we walked, but my feet did not slip. I swallowed, my heart leaping into my throat every time we looked into a room. We were descending deeper into this hell, and the visions of the Somnium were intensifying.
What was this really? If I weren’t in the Somnium, if I weren’t in this mirror-world dimension, then would the first hallway we traveled down stopped after only a few doors? Would we have been staring into a wall? Somehow, we’d passed through some sort of gateway–crossing a barrier between the reality and the living consciousness of our environment. It didn’t matter that this was physically impossible. What mattered was what that vile establishment had created–the years of memories and fantasies and emotions that coated the walls and the floors and the ceilings which smashed without boundaries—
There was no plan. We should have had a better plan. But at the time, all we could think to do was look in.
None of the doors were locked. I wished every time, but they were always free to open for anyone to waltz in…or join in, I suppose. Not that I was interested.
…I wasn’t. Really.
There was one room we came across where the walls were a pristine white, the floors covered in a large rippling canvas, the ceiling domed and splattered with a red material. Initially I thought it was blood, until I took note of the little imp with greenish skin and just one ear (the other gnawed off) taking up tomatoes and throwing it at a naked man at the other side of the room. He had a good arm, that thing, and when the tomatoes struck at high speeds, the man moaned. We left at about around the time the man came all over himself. I saw it as the door swung shut and tried to banish it from my memory.
“I’d say to each his own, but somehow I think that’d become hackneyed, here…” Tristi muttered.
We traveled on. I wanted to ask my companion how he came to press the veil–to cross that barrier between the Real World and the Somnium. I had somehow gotten the impression that I was the only one capable of such a feat…but the champion of luck had promised to accompany me in my search, did he not? Surely, he could not have discovered Farrel’s whereabouts without somehow coming here on his own. That said, he’d already known how to enter this bizarre pocket of reality. One thing I noticed, though, was that Tristi’s glasses were higher up on his nose, and when he wanted to look at something, he tilted his head back to look through the crescent moon lenses. Maybe they afforded him some special sight? That didn’t explain how he could hear me. But since having him there helped me, I found no reason to question that just right then. There were more pressing matters to deal with.
During our search, one door I opened revealed to me a giant bed room, befitting that of a noble, with its plush couches, coffered ceiling, and satin sheets. The bed was massive and circular, with a headboard as tall as the ceiling. The overall color scheme was light bone with rich taupe, accented here and there by gold trimmings and wine-colored fabrics. The floor was white marble, the Talmorian carpets the last sign of status my harrowed mind could pick out before it filtered in the taut, handsome bodies, slick with oil. The indiscriminate hands, the soft murmurs, the glazed looks. I told Elmiryn about this scene in particular, through much stammering, and she just bopped me lightly on the head. “The first thing you noticed was the decor? Are you fucking serious?” Looking back, this reaction wasn’t far from my own. But then I thought about it more.
For an orgy, those people were really quiet.
There were the soft cries of pleasure, yes, and now and again, I could hear the heady mumblings of the participants egging each other on. I was more aware of the sound of the Fiamman lamps flickering than the twenty or so people fornicating in various imaginative positions. None were hurried. None were rough. And then I came up with a reason for my glossing over the scene. It makes me a bit uncomfortable but my theory is this…
Whenever there was a full moon, my village moved as one to a safe place in the forests. There, we all stripped, and stood open to one another. Human beings find this alien and strange. The idea of families being naked together makes them disgusted. But in nature, there is no guile in emotion. Only in intent. Being naked before others, even men, wasn’t a new thing for me. It was always the intent that colored it. The amount of importance one placed on certain aspects of the situation could tip things one way or another. I remember my oldest brother, Thaddeus, sporting full erections plenty of times, not because he was aroused so much, as just a natural occurrence of his body. He’d complain about it. I wrestled with my little brother, Atalo, shortly before shifting–our bodies covered in mud, and our voices filled with laughter. It was innocent. Safe. My mother was a different matter. She was quite open about her interest in the opposite sex and didn’t hesitate to display as much, even with her young about her. I’ve already mentioned how she brought strange men home with her. It was outstandingly casual.
These people were so casual.
I shut the door with a snap when I realized I was staring. Reacting to the–
“Hmm? Not there, then?” Tristi asked, looking at me. He was further up the hall. We’d split up to speed up the process.
“No,” I said. I tried to will away the knot in the pit of my stomach. The warmth between my legs.
To the next door. Here, I opened up to a room filled with a vast network of ropes, not unlike that seen with Syria’s chains. At this center of this confusing tangle was a woman suspended by the torso, wrists, and ankles. Her skin was raw where the rope held her, her head covered in a black cloth bag. At the far wall of this room sat three figures. Their bodies were disproportionate, with legs shorter than their torsos, and arms far too thin. They wore plain white masks and dark robes, and from the hoods came long dark bones, like those tall giants I had seen before. Something of this really startled me and I shut the door.
“I tried asking where your friend was, but these people just ignore you,” Tristi said with a sigh.
“They can’t hear us,” I said with a dry mouth.
I didn’t answer her. I felt an understanding creep up in me, but I was repulsed by it. I didn’t want to devote my whole attention to it. Couldn’t. I just went and opened another door.
The rest of the sights were equally as mortifying as the last, but some were just…disturbing. In one particular instance, I opened the door to a small dungeon-like room, where one man stood, fully clothed but barefoot on a blood slicked floor, his back to us, but his right arm jerking before him as he looked down at his feet. I only caught a glimpse of it–just a crimson red pile of something on the floor. Then suddenly, Tristi’s four-fingered hand flew before my eyes and gently pulled my head back. He shut the door without a word and moved on. My eyes fluttered, and I stared into the painted wood, breath short, a cold sweat over my skin.
Words failed me. I retched and a small splash of vomit hit the back of my tongue, but I swallowed it down again. I hadn’t eaten for some time, so there wasn’t much to eject.
Now I refused to look into any of the doors. “Go on, tell me if he’s there.”
“Oh come now, dreamwalker–”
“Tristi, I will not–”
“You repressed little thing you–”
“You can’t tell me this doesn’t–”
“Some of it. A bit. I’ve seen worse, really.” But Tristi, bless him, didn’t make me look.
We must have looked into a hundred rooms. This hallway branched off into another hallway, then another, and another…they never seemed to end. I don’t know how much time went by. It may not have been long. We didn’t linger at any of the doors we opened. But I needed a rest. I sat on the floor and had the edge of my right palm pressed against my eye, knees drawn up, my chin a wadded ball. I still had nothing to cover myself up with and it made me feel like a heathen.
My companion stood over me, his abalone eyes shining in the blue light that now swathed us. It reminded me of my adventure in Gamath, where the slime on the river guardian’s cave walls shone with different colors. “Dreamwalker.” The voice over me was even. Perhaps indifferent.
“I need a moment,” I said, voice just above a whisper.
Tristi didn’t argue, nor did he prod. He just sat down next to me, body looking too long as his lanky legs stretched out before him. He rubbed his forehead.
“Tristi, what’s the worst you’ve seen? Ever?” I mumbled, looking at him sideways. I pressed my hand next to my temple. My other arm was pressed between my lap and my chest.
“A bad question. Open-ended. That’s not what you want to know, sweetest.”
My ears gave a twitch at ‘sweetest’, but I ignored it. “I feel like I’ve seen the worst.”
“You feel like you’ve displayed the worst.”
I frowned at him. “Excuse me?”
Tristi, who had pressed his head back into the wall, rolled it my way, eyebrows high. “Nyx, you are a repressed little thing. Stop drawing parallels with extremes. You aren’t those people in the rooms…and even if you were? There are far worse fates.”
My hands turned to two balled fists. “These people are agents of lust. They are driven by their carnality. I am not like them.”
“Your assertions only outline the depth of your insecurity,” the champion of luck calmly returned. “…But you’re right. You’re not like them.”
“Thank you,” I snapped out, turning my face away.
Tristi went on as if I hadn’t spoken. “What you are, Nyx, is the opposite. You do not let yourself want, not because you feel for yourself, but for the people around you.” I heard the ring of a coin being flipped high. “Let this coin tell me I’m a liar. I call for the crown.”
I rounded on him. “I can tell you what luck couldn’t tell a halfwit, and that is this–you know nothing.”
“Wrong.” Tristi caught the coin and slapped it to the back of his hand. He held a small bronze pence to me. Fiamman mint, displaying the crown. “What I don’t know, is why someone of your nature, so liberal in many realms of thinking, would leave herself so chained by linear thought?”
I swallowed and glared forward.
Tristi tapped his lap and fidgeted next to me. “I’m going on ahead. I want to get this over with, I’ve other matters to deal with.” He didn’t sound harsh or cold when saying this. Just honest. It still hurt. I was falling on old ways again, as Lacertli would put it. I needed to drag myself out of this.
I rubbed at my eyes and heard his boots clicking down the hall.
After a time, I made myself stand. I was suffering from chills. Goosebumps flashed over my skin as I went to the door nearest me. I knew we hadn’t checked it yet. After so many tries, I doubted that there was anything to be found in these myopic sex scenes. But for some reason, I went ahead and opened the door.
I wasn’t greeted with a dungeon, or a noble’s bedroom, or a clean whitewashed room.
I was met with my old room in Tosmai. The door that led out to the hallway displayed darkness. The window over my bed was similarly dark. The towers of books were all just where I had left them. There, in the corner, was my tower of science. There, next to my desk, my tower of history. There, next to my bed, my tower of fiction…
I walked in, conscious of something. I glanced at the door. Never had we fully entered any of the rooms, nor had we ever closed the door behind us.
I heard a cough and looked around. My throat clenched tight and the tears came faster than I could’ve hoped to stop them.
“Nyx…” a woman said.
I flinched and stepped back, gaze turned to the ground. This was a bad idea. I couldn’t do this.
“Stop,” she commanded.
My feet froze. My wide eyes were clouded, my breath shuddering. A hand lifted my face up. I met amethyst eyes. I could smell the honey off her skin.
“Taila,” I whispered.
The door closed behind me.
Quincy frowned at her knees. “You aren’t telling me everything.”
Elmiryn blinked at her. “S’cuse me?”
“I’m saying you’re leaving something out,” The wizard flicked the earring she wore. “You wanna know what this does? It lets my mind know what’s truly relevant. What’s important about the things you’re saying. But it’s only taking pieces of what you’re telling me. Meznik’s crossroads, the trees that you saw…but not how you found them. Peeked in? Elmiryn, you really just peeked in? You didn’t try to cut the trees down?” The wizard wanted to add, “You figured out all that about the creation of the crossroads, about how this alternate dimension reacts to a conflicted mind, about the greater meanings behind the phenomenon of fives by yourself? All this while ‘being one’ with the fucking rocks, and dead people, and dusty air? You figured this out, devoid of all evidence?” But she refrained.
Elmiryn sucked at her teeth. She shrugged one shoulder, her smile turned crooked. “Okay. So I went down the third path. I tried to destroy it–the tree, I mean–but I just felt the song all around me. Trying to dominate me. That song, over and over in my head. I swore I used to hear it as a child, but maybe that was a lie?”
Quincy felt the music creep back into her head, and willed it out. Hard not to think about, what you’re trying to think about… “How did you try to destroy it?”
“This’ll sound weird…”
“Elmiryn, go on.”
The warrior glared at her. “I tried…to bite it. In half.”
Quincy’s eyebrows went high.
Elmiryn snorted. “I told you it’d sound weird. I wasn’t in the same form as I am now. I didn’t have legs and arms. I didn’t have a face. I was just…there. And I tried to scythe through it, with my spirit, but I couldn’t. What happened instead was…” Her voice trailed off and her eyes turned misty. This reaction bewildered the wizard.
“I tasted it. The tree sap. The bark, the leaves, everything. But really, the tree sap. And you know where I’d tasted it before?”
Quincy’s face settled into a grim stone. “When Meznik changed you. He gave you tree sap!”
The warrior nodded, perhaps a little too eagerly, because she sat back with a shuddering inhale and jumped to her feet. She went to the stairs and looked down the stairs. Then she laughed, and pointed at Sedwick. “Look! It’s the human cannon ball! That helmet looks fetching!” She started to go down the steps. “Here, lemme polish you, baldy–”
Quincy stood and grabbed her by the arm. “Hey! But the trees! Where did you see them? And what about the fifth road? And the first?”
Elmiryn glared at her. She jerked her arm away and snapped. “I don’t know exactly where they are. The one down the second path was in a jungle, the third up in snowy mountains, and the fourth on a cliff overlooking a green sea. The first road was probably the tree Nadi and Sedwick killed. I couldn’t get to the fifth.”
The warrior looked at her as if she were stupid. “Because I had to stop to help you and Sedwick.”
Quincy didn’t try to grab her again. Elmiryn went down the stairs and engaged Sedwick and Henriette. The brunette just watched the woman. She started to go back to her place at the wall when the toe of her right boot smeared the line of her divination circle and knocked over a boot. She felt a rush of air, like it had been released, and she cursed. She sat again, and took up her chalk. She set to work, doing the spell over again. But even as she redrew the circle, she couldn’t stop thinking about Elmiryn’s words.
The crossroads were like a keyhole, Quincy decided. Better to call it that, as a crossroads suggested a divergence of intent. This was a singular, if convoluted, way forward. Elmiryn had unconsciously asked for a way to unlock what she’d needed. This dimension, impressionable by anything strong enough to shape it, reacted to her request. Thus the five paths. She was like the key, unlocking the things that she needed.
…How much power did one need to command those chaotic energies?
“This doesn’t mean that Elmiryn orchestrated what happened to us. No one did,” Quincy thought. “But she found a means to find us, because we had things she needed to achieve her ends. When she found me, she found two allies, and a great deal of information to get her started. With Graziano, she discovered further things about herself, and now she has new tools at her disposal. She mentioned elements. There certainly seems to be a correlation. First she encountered the strength of water, in Nadi. Then we arrived here, inside the earth. What will be the next element? Is there some sort of order I’m missing…?”
The woman screwed up her mouth. “Upon acquiring everything she needs, she’ll be able to find what she wants down the last path. Her true desire. I wonder what that is? Meznik, maybe?” The wizard chewed her lip as she drew another four symbols around the circle.
“She said that if I’d been torn apart like she had, then perhaps I’d have made a crossroads too. But I don’t think that’s true. I think the only reason she had the ability to make those five paths was because of the changes that Meznik did to her. She says he thinks like he’s an artist. Artists create things, change things, manipulate materials to exact a final product. Elmiryn, for a little while there, was able to control the dust and the undead. She could have brought the ceiling down if she hadn’t reigned herself in.” The woman rubbed her brow in frustration. “Listen to me, I’m drawing connections without enough evidence. Master Saerth would have scolded me. I need to know more about Meznik’s abilities. I need the full story from Elmiryn about Gamath. About how she became cursed. About her life before that.”
Quincy held out her arms and muttered a short incantation. The dust from the chalk swirled about the boots in a soft cyclone. “But I think it’s safe to assume that whatever Meznik can do, Elmiryn is learning. Her very nature has changed…is still changing. That’s the real significance of Meznik having crossroads of his own. There’s a direct connection between the two of them now. I bet if we could get more information about Elmiryn’s new nature and how her pathways work, then we can understand this astral demon and discover what he wants to achieve.” The wizard’s hands clenched as she settled her arms back onto her lap. “…He got mad that we came here. Elmiryn suggested that the crossroads weren’t recently created, but perhaps made long ago? It’d explain the trees. If this was where his spell originated, then we could end it all here and now!”
Quincy held her hand over the boots and closed her eyes.
“Stop being so stubborn…” she murmured at the boots. “Lend me your power and I’ll give you a purpose.”
She felt a pin prick of warmth in her mind. Then it blossomed and spread, carrying with it wordless understandings. The woman smiled slowly.
Sedwick and Elmiryn stood over her. “You ready?” The man now held the silver mallet.
Quincy took off her boots and squinted up at them. “Hold on. I found out what these things can do, and it’s nice, but I forgot one important detail. Something I can’t figure out with a spell.”
“Which is?” Elmiryn asked, her lips smirking lightly.
The wizard struggled to pull on one of the enchanted boots and felt a light tingle of energy sweep through her. “I can’t wear these if they don’t fit right, now can I?”
But they did, and so they left the chamber.
Henriette led them through the city, which felt devoid of everything now. Just as Sedwick had predicted upon their arrival, the gateway was to the north. Quincy felt a rush go through her at the sign of the gate. “Your people…did they know of this dimension, Henriette?”
The gate was a massive creation up on a small platform, set against the mountain wall, with great gears and grinding wheels that rolled two fifty foot slabs of rock. Chiseled into the rock was something in the dead dwarven language, Humi. A series of life-sized dwarf statues stood at attention leading up the stone steps.
The warrior shrugged at Quincy’s question. “I know a great many things about my people, but not everything.” She pointed. “This’ll take everything I have to open the stone doors by my self. It’s on a timer, so ye’ll have to run through. I’ll be gone before I see you go.”
“And the undead? I have them jumping off a bridge right now. I bet it’ll be really satisfying to see them go!”
The dwarf waved that away. “I’m tired,” was all she said.
Elmiryn nodded. “This is goodbye, then.”
Henriette looked at her, then smiled. “Aye!”
Sedwick bowed at her. “You’re a credit to your people, Henriette.”
The dwarven warrior just pshawed him. “None o’ that! Jes’ get on, already!”
Quincy smirked. “Thank you.”
Henriette looked at her, her stern eyes narrowed. She wagged a finger at the wizard. “You mind yourself!” She pointed next at Elmiryn. “And keep your promises!”
“Count on it,” Elmiryn said.
Without further comment, the ghost vanished with a hiss and a pop. Somewhere, they heard a loud crank, then a click. The gears and the wheels began to turn. With a great rumble, the doors began to slide apart. Quincy couldn’t see the actual portal. All she saw was the rock wall behind the doors. Sedwick and Elmiryn, on the other hand, sighed in relief. It was mildly frustrating, being left out of the loop that way, but given what she’d have to sacrifice to see as Elmiryn did, perhaps it was for the best.
In short time, the doors were completely open.
“Onward and forward,” Quincy breathed. She glanced at Elmiryn. “This’ll be your third path.”
The warrior grinned. “Fuck it. Three’s my lucky number anyways!”
Sedwick looked at them, confused. “What’re you two talking about?”
The women exchanged looks. Then Elmiryn looked at him with a snicker and patted him on the shoulder. “Sorry. We’ll explain it to you on the other side.” The man looked put out by this, but there wasn’t time to address that. The doors were sliding shut again.
Together, they stepped through the wall, and once more, they Traveled through the chaos.