The third and last, arrives in cheer.
To all who see, the third appears.
And when she’s come, all is no more.
Heroes arrive from different shores.
The chaos lasted only moments. Before Andril could send another scorching ray at his imposter, his enemy had fallen. Like water seeping into the cracks of a street in Far Realm, he had simply disappeared into the floor. There one minute, gone the next. Andril, one of them at least, was standing before the stairwell now. The confusion of battle cleared enough that he could see there were one, not two of Tahg and Haryk standing behind him. They too must have won their battles. But who won?
He remembered fighting his twin, watching the twin fall. A dark shadow. Then gone. Vanished. Something was different but he didn’t know what it was. He didn’t know if he was supposed to worry about it. He just didn’t know.
“Am I the first Andril, or the second?” he asked himself aloud. “Who am I now?”
A blast came from the empty stairwell and Andril felt a gust of wind knock him backwards a bit. He stumbled so he bent his knees and reached for something to hold onto which turned out to be Tahg. Somehow he managed to kept his feet on the ground.
A voice came from the stairwell, resonant, strong and bold, “Welcome Fated Ones! The Path awaits you!”
Andril felt like he knew the voice, but he couldn’t place it. Everything felt so strange. His logical mind was swimming against the current of the place.
He looked into the fighter’s face. The whole of it, down into his neckline was covered in brown caked on dirt and dark red patches of blood. It all made him look like some kind of a leper. Tonight had been brutal. This entire ordeal was the toughest adventure they had ever had. Well dipshit, it started with a kidnapping so it was Tom’s idea! Streaks of sweat ran down the dirt and gore, and showed the only true parts of his face left, besides his eyes and lips. He looked at Haryk, and saw how he himself felt.
He couldn’t explain why, but there was something significant about this that felt beyond him. This, unlike all his other decisions in life, felt like it wasn’t for him entirely. And that wasn’t a thought he often had. The idea bothered him, and not as much as it should.
“Why Haryk, you look as though you’ve gotten a bit softer of spirit since the last time we talked,” remarked the mage. He was thinking the same about himself but he didn’t mention that.
“Softer of spirit?! Why just remember who carried your 20 stone body through the keep, Bookworm!” His words were harsh, but he was completely joking in the way he always did. Andril sensed a change in him, something magical, and he knew, even though Haryk might not admit it, that there was something different about him. Andril though hadn’t been joking, and again, something about it troubled him. He watched Andril carefully. He felt troubled. He was on shaky ground here. Literally and figurately.
“Well don’t worry, my friend. I’m not hoping you are. I fear whatever is on the other side of this, doesn’t get much better,” he declared. “I’m going to need a bit of the old Haryk here.”
“Who you calling old, Bookworm?”
Andril gave a snicker, and stared into the stairwell. A warm, radiant light was now shining upon the steps leading up into the hollow structure. Tahg came over, and stared at them both.
“Let me guess, you’re sending me in first?”
“Guess I’m still the first Haryk,” said Haryk. He waved the boy in. Behind him a massive bolt of electricity blasted out a section of rock. A large shadow appeared in the doorway. He saw twin curling strands of smoke rising up from the shadow.
He didn’t wait to find out where they were coming from. He pushed the mage in behind the boy and quickly entered himself. Together, they ran up the spiral steps. To where they knew not!
Up the stairs they ran, into the radiant warm light which grew brighter and brighter until they had to hold their hands in front of their eyes. It felt more than just a visual thing. They could feel the light, humming, in their ears. It was an energy, a force. They were drawn to it and pushed from it at the same time. Step by step, they climbed until they entered a small space. The light from the farthest side was just to bright too know where they were. Through his fingers, Andril thought he saw a domed chamber made of white bricks, but it was all a blur, a glow. There was no wind, but the light itself raged outwards, pulsed, like a gust of color.
There, they tried to collect themselves, shielding their eyes and face, and by taking in parts of it through the gaps in their hands and fingers, they discerned a portal, on one side of the small space, a doorway of light. Andril’s first thought was of a small attic he kept for “biological specimens” in his tower. This place was like that, only instead of a place of serenity it was alive with light and energy. It’s only defining feature was the portal itself.
“There’s no knowing where we’re going,” said Haryk. He leaned back from the gateway, hands out.
Andril felt as though he had to shout to be heard. He couldn’t tell if the vibration he felt was in his head or all around him. He looked out and couldn’t see Haryk, nor Tahg. He saw the stones of the place. He heard their breathing.
“I can’t see you,” shouted Tahg. “Are you here?”
“Of course, I’m here boy!” answered Haryk. “The light is too bright. It’s magic, that’s what you get when you…”
“You can’t be seen because a light casts no shadow.”
“Well what about my damn shadow, mage?”
Haryk was about to retort, when he stopped. The mage was near the portal now, just inches from it. “You aren’t going into that fucking thing!” It wasn’t a question.
“Why is it she? Always she?” thought Andril aloud. “And why are the Fates always referred to as the sisters? If we’re the fated ones, what is the meaning of that?”
“Who cares Bookworm!” Haryk was shaking with fury now. “We have to find a way out of here, before our friends arrive, and clearly this is a dead end. I figure you might not have much of a cock under that robe of yours, but I do! So since we aren’t the sisters of legend, this isn’t meant for us. Let’s get the Ket out of here!” He began to back up. “I’m tired of this. I just want a fucking bowl of boar stew damnit! And a pint of beer!!!”
Andril stepped even closer to the portal. It was time. Whatever this was, it was his journey. And he had decided he was going. “Here I go Haryk, don’t be long, dear.” He brought his hand up and ran his fingers over the shimmering surface as if he were testing the water in a lake. He twisted backwards. He was smiling from ear to ear. “And Haryk?”
“What?” Mouthed Haryk. The gateway was now like a small sun, blinding everything before him.
“Don’t forget the light.”
With that, briskly, the mage stepped into the translucent gateway. As water would a stone dropped into it, the light swallowed him up. He was gone, beyond the veil.
Haryk threw the magical gem behind him. The thrum in his ears droned on and he stepped forward, cursing the mage for all time. He withdrew the new weapon he had found in Abraxas’s study. Both hands were now full of “firepower” as he liked to think of it. A blazing wind whipped around him, a throbbing hum drummed in his chest from the energy swirling inside the circular gateway.
“Fated my fat ass,” grunted Haryk.
He stepped into the portal.
Tahg, the boy, followed without a sound.
The Hero’s Journey is complete
In tome and deed the past does meet
Those Heroes from a distant land,
with knowledge lost once in defeat.
There was a flutter along the surface of the gateway, like a ripple on a lake would make when disturbed. The light from the portal dimmed. In the brightness, outlines returned to the shape of the space. A magical glow throbbed from the circular gateway.
A leg emerged, and a person attached to it. Then another followed it, stepping out into the empty space. Several more in fact.
The first was a woman holding a lantern. She looked around puzzled and swung around to the others behind her. Each looked as confused as she. One was a man dressed in the way of the monks. Another woman stood next to him. She was draped with all manner of bags around her. Finally, the largest of them came through. It wasn’t a person, but wasn’t quite a monster. It was scaled all over with a long tail and a large snout. It stood on two legs like a man.
“That’s it?” said the woman spinning around.
“Quiet Areia,” replied the lizard man in a hoarse attempt at a whisper, “I hear ssssssomething.”