“Blast mages now and for all time! Where is the old one? Where is the sage?!!”
“What old one? What sage?!!!” Areia shouted. She was trying to keep her footing, and was sliding across the floor away from the portal. It was pure energy, pure power, blasting outwards in a steady stream, screaming at them to go away or else to enter it’s madness. Only Thrak was holding his ground, his talons digging into the stones as the force behind him raged. Behind her, the roaring portal blasted with wind, and light. It was like standing next to the sun, consuming all in noise and shadow in it’s intense radiance. Like a great beam of glowing wind, fury, and power. Standing on a cliff in a thunderstorm made entirely of light.
“The key is not complete without him. You are not to walk the path in number alone. You must walk in form!!! You are doomed now on the path!” raged Abraxas. His hair swirled and swept across his lined face. He had been calm, reasoned, dignified. But now he looked, human. Flawed. Defeated even.
“Information that would have been nice to know, like oh I don’t know 1 minute ago, pal!!! Thundered Frank. He grabbed onto Thrak to steady his feet his armor pulling him over. They all looked at Abraxas, through swirling hair and fluttering robes.
“The path is not to be taken without one of diligence! Once more, I have misjudged mankind, and your ruinous ways. You must come with me. If you do, I will show you the way out, you will have a chance to escape unscathed. Her minions have spotted you and she will find you without my guidance.”
“Who in the Ketian night is SHE?”
But Abraxas ignored the question. “I will return you to your ship! Hear me not?!!” He extended his hand, it was youthful and unworn. The hands of a noble, yet his power radiated from him, even in the gale. His palm beckoned. His help, his assistance, genuine or false, they couldn’t be sure. The lanthorn he held with his other hand, resting at his side. “Come with me,” he said reassuringly, “I will protect you! I was made to protect you, even when you yourself cannot decide what to do.”
“He’s a riddling maniac,” shouted Areia to the others, making a symbol near her head with her hands for “crazy”.
“Protect us, you wyrm! Trust you?” yelled Ulua. “We know what you are! We know what you took from Fritz! We know you killed one of his men!”
“Then you know nothing,” said Abraxas simply. He merely mouthed the words but his voice, so full of power still filled their ears despite the background roar. “I will not explain myself. There is not time. Come with me and be saved, or you will face an uncertain doom. Think beyond yourself damn the lot of you! You know not what you are!”
Areia though wasn’t having any of it, she pushed Ulua aside, unafraid, she pointed at the man. “I know what I am, you smooth talking lantern holding freak! I am an urchin, and that means I’ve got no place to go but up! We were charged with opening this place and taking our fill while we’re at it.” She pointed into the light, “It’s our wage we earn today in there, our coin! You show up, after the hard work is over and you tell us we’ve got some baddie on our tail and to come with you? Yeah right. I know a trick when I see one. You want this place for yourself! Well, you can’t trick a trickster, A-Brax-as!”
“No, no that is…,” Abraxas began, trying to counter Areia’s verbal assault, but words seemed to fail him. Or perhaps, he chose not to explain. This time his voice grew patient once more. His eyes regarded Areia carefully, his hand and fingers stretched out for her. But he stopped. For Areia had backed all the way up to the portal. She wasn’t buying any of it. She needed only one more step.
“Wait, Mistress,” he said simply. Dropping his outstretched arm, and instead raising the one which held the lanthorn, he held it out to Areia. “Seek flame upon the path to fight. It will cleanse your trail and keep you hidden from those who will seek you. So long as you have it in your possession. Do not let it be taken from you!” The rogue, ever cautious, ever untrusting, reached out and snatched it from his outstretched hand. Abraxas though, let it go. In the blink of an eye, she pivoted backwards, placed one hand over her beloved pet tucked safely in her coat, held the lantern aloft, and fell into the portal.
Abraxas stood watching, winds whipping around him, the thunder of sound shaking the small chamber while one at a time, each of the seven entered. Ulua walked in watching him. “Goodbye my child,” is all he said. But she wouldn’t answer, disappearing into the shimmer. Frank, Marcus went next, followed by Zy’an.
Iricah snapped a few of the clasps on her bags. She looked back and nodded. Abraxas simply stood, whatever he was thinking then, she couldn’t tell. His face now covered in shadow, Iricah asked him, “Where will this take us?”
“Why should you think it is where that it will take you Madam? There is no place to hide a light in the darkness Iricah. Unless…”
Iricah wondered and suddenly she knew. “For the sake of all?”
“Yes, Iricah,” he said, “For the sake of all. We must not fail them.” In she stepped, and the light swallowed her.
Thrak twisted around. His tail flicked behind him excitedly. He turned just as the others had to look at Abraxas. It was a habit he couldn’t get rid of.
“We never really had a choice, did we Master Thrak?”
“Choicssse for what?” asked Thrak. He gripped his axes. One had already pierced the magical barrier to whatever beyond waited.
“The choice to be my friend.”
Thrak didn’t understand. He simply pointed his snout into the light and walked in.
And just like that, the light was gone. The noise was gone. The air was still.
Abraxas stood alone and looked at the silent, still, round stone. He yelled into the portal after them. “They are just as they were, damn the lot of them. And damn you too Tiresias, you old fool!!!!
He ran his hand along the cheek of the dying god statue, kneeling in stone these many silent years. “Time cannot change what makes a man,” he sighed.
He turned quickly to leave and was about to enter the stairwell when he suddenly stopped. He turned back around and paced over to where the four heroic statues stood. Walking from one statue to the next, he stopped in front of the trickster, staring at it for some strange reason. Absentmindedly, he ran his hands along the smooth carved rock of it’s robes. Suddenly, he seemed to have an idea and his hand stopped. It moved to the inside of the marble garment, where moments before Areia had found her pet shaped on the inside, secretly. He gasped. Genuinely surprised.
Then, smiling he said to himself, “Of course.”
His gaze then shifted and he looked down at the empty space between the trickster’s statue and the one next to it, which belonged to the great mother. Speaking a few words of magic, he traced an outline in the space with his arms, as if he were running his hands along an invisible figure. Incredibly, one emerged from the ether, and took a very real, very solid shape. A statue had appeared! A 5th statue, this one vague, and robed. He did the same in two more empty spots between the others, and two more appeared. The statues, now totaled seven.
“But which of you betrayed us?” He said into the still chamber.
And with no one to give him the answer he long had sought, he left the quiet place.