: Déja Vu Day
Anji woke up before dawn. Stretching, she carefully slid out of her hammock, and onto the creaky old floor in the inn she had rented for the night. Sneaking around the sleeping form of Zi, she walked into the common room, and slipped into her shoes. Hopefully I’m not too late to find something
, Anji thought as she slipped out the door and started walking towards the outskirts of town.Waking up early has advantages, indeed.
Julius thought when he noticed some movement in the inn. Everyone should still be asleep for another couple of hours, give or take. Everyone except for her, I suppose.
He frowned, going to his room again to pick up his cloak before leaving after... Whoever had left. He didn’t see, but he knew it had to be Anji going out this early. He covered his face in the cloak and went out.
If the rumors were right, there was some money to be made looting a ruined temple, located out of sight, but reasonably close to town. He was sure he’d find the girl if he went there, and picked up his pace, maybe he could catch up to her before she left the city and avoid the whole problem of raiding unknown territory.
Anji took care not to wake up the wall guard as she scrambled over the makeshift gate. The elders had enlisted scouts and fighters to help defend the lonely old city, but it was a lonely job. Not much had happened since the Kobolds had been defeated, and it was driving Anji up the wall with boredom. She had avoided being enlisted; Unlike that poor soul there
Anji thought as she snuck around the snoozing scout, but hadn’t avoided Julius trying to teach her. The man had it in his head that algebrometry or something was important.
The temple was tiny, kind of holed up in a cove behind some ancient oak trees. The place oozed with power, a sense of foreboding building as Anji walked into the outer gates. The structure was dilapidated, bones and tree litter were scattered across the courtyard. Anji’s grin got a little wider at the sight of the emerald inner doors, set with silver and gold lines. I’ll get a look at those later.
Hours passed, and Anji was exhausted. The temple was as dull on the inside as it was on the outside. The only real good loot was the doors themselves, and Anji didn’t have the correct tools to get the metals out of their setting without damaging them, or a way to just carry the whole thing. Sighing at her lack of good fortune, she didn’t even notice Julius until he tapped her on the shoulder.
“Finally reached you.” He commented, looking around the temple entrance and waiting for Anji’s reaction to his presence. Reaching her inside the perimeter of the city would have been preferable. As it was, he lost a long time searching the outskirts for the rumored temple.
After nearly decapitating her fellow guildmember, Anji lept into a series of rants, “Oi! what you think you’re doin’? Leapin’ on a girl like a creep. Who do you think you are, I was liable to take your soddin’ ‘ead off, you louse!”
“Of course, guildmaster.” Julius replied politely, failing to hide an amused smirk. “It wouldn’t create a very good image for the guild, however, if you killed one of your allies. You know that, of course, and I’m still alive, so all is well.” He smiled openly now. “But I think it would be best if we returned soon... Or rather...” Suddenly remembering to check his surroundings. “Fade want home. Scary stone place.”
“Yeah yea, you and your gibbering.” Anji said as she sheathed her blade. “You know that ain’t lasting forever, right? People’ll notice me gettin’ book learning, and you can’t keep up the dummy act all the time. And stop callin’ me guildmaster, it’s creepy.”
“I suppose this is not a good situation to say ‘Yes, ma’am’, is it?” Julius laughed lightly and started pacing back toward the city. “You’re right, you know? Things will change... But for now we really should go back before nightfall.” He stumbled once, when a well-aimed shoe hit the back of his head. Rubbing the new bruise on his head, he turned in time to see a furious Anji picking up her shoe and start off for the town. Smirking, Julius followed.
The next morning was an early one for Julius. Most of his mornings were, it was easier to practice his craft while no one was around, and he didn’t have to worry about someone finding out who he was.
Anji slept in after the temple raid. The temple was hidden away quite well, whoever had built it had engineered it to be durable and not very flashy.
"Jie, get up." Zi prodded her sister's limp, dozing form insistently. "Sun's up, don't be lazy."
Anji mumbled, "don' wanna. Sun needa go back down again. too early" as she pulled the covers over her head.
With a sigh, Zi tugged the blanket away and jabbed at her abdomen with a slightly heated finger, just enough to elicit a yelp from Anji. "You've got... something on." Zi gestured vaguely.
“Ugh, I already did stuff yesterday remember? I didn’t see you all day. I thought you'd be worried”
"I am worried. That's why I'm waking you up. I can't exactly worry effectively if you aren't awake."
"You could pretend. I was up half the night!"
"Yes, well, you're up now." Zi pointed out. "You may as well get out of bed. Aren't you going crazy not doing anything anyway?"
"I been up. I was gone all last night" Anji said with a yawn, stretching. "An’ here you go, waking me up before a decent time"
"Decent? You've slept long enough." Zi pressed a palm to Anji's arm, sending a surge of warm, healing energy into her sister. She'd been doing that every morning now, despite Anji's insistence that she conserve her power.
Jerking away from Zi, Anji broke the contact necessary for her sister to perform her healing magic, "Oi! What have I said about healing me? You need your strength for yourself, alright?" Jerking a coat and grabbing her bag, Anji headed for the door, intent on avoiding her sister's magic.
Zi leaned back against the wall and smirked. "Zhen shi de. I may as well just wake you up that way, if that's all it takes to get you alive. Where're you going?" She called out as Anji left in a huff. A slight twinge of guilt shot through her at the thought that she had made Anji angry.
Stopping at the door, Anji said, "I'm going out to get some stuff. Do you need anything?"
“Not really, just... Well, sorry, Anji. Dui bu qi. Didn't mean to piss you off."
Shrugging, Anji grinned at her sister, "Don't worry about it. You just need to keep your strength up so you can take care of yourself. I'll be fine."
Zi couldn't help but smile. "Be fine." She repeated, giving in to the compulsion.
“There we go. I'm gonna head out with Fade. Stay with Tamar-" Anji grinned at the sight of her sister's blush. "-I'll be out late, so don't worry. I'll be back."
Morning training went smoothly this time, but Julius had to be careful to not get caught up in it, otherwise he might be seen when people started to wake up. He sheathed his sword just in time to hear his roommate, and fellow guild member, calling out to him.
“Hey Zi? You up here? I can’t find... oh, right. Sorry, Fade, thought you were out, um...”
“Uh... Tamar. Mo-Morning.” Julius stuttered a hello. “Zi not here.”
There was a flicker of disappointment in the boys face. Something that Julius would notice but... Fade, not so much. “Oh... I thought I’d catch her today, I wanted to... um... well I guess it doesn’t really matter anyway. I’ll... see her later. Yeah, later! Maybe she’s with Anji...”
“Must be.” He tried to keep the conversation, it was hard to keep the act when he had someone’s full attention. Fortunately for him, Anji appeared, moving the focus away from himself.
Anji entered in a huff, jerking on a coat and stomping down the stairs into the common room. With a glare towards Fade and Tamar, jerking her head to the former, she said, “Wait outside for a mo’, while I speak to our newest member.”
“Fade outside.” He nodded and moved awkwardly out of the inn.
Turning toward Tamar, Anji spoke, “I’m going out for some stuff. You better very well leave my sister alone, or you’ll hear from me. got it?”
“No shenanigans. I let you into the guild because Zi asked me to, don’t make me regret it before you have a chance to do
anything!” Anji said reaching for a few extra knives. “And take care of yourselves, alright?”
“Okay... Shenanigans doesn’t include um... talking altogether does it?”
“You could always learn Morse Code.” Anji smirked.
Okay, so, maybe
she was trying to make him squirm a little bit, but she hadn't expected him to start tapping on the table and dragging his finger across it in what actually seemed like a pattern
. He only managed to look pleased with himself for a couple of seconds before he caught her gaze again and looked back down, shuffling. “...I read a book.”
Anji rubbed the bridge of her nose where a headache was beginning to form, “Just stay out of trouble, alright? I don’t want to have to come get you both from the gaoler.”
Julius stood in the sidewalk, playing with a rock when Anji got outside. “Rocks, really?”
“Of course,” He replied in a low voice. “You never played with rocks? You should try it. It’s fun.” Julius looked up to see Anji halfway down the alley, headed toward market street. He let go of the rock and followed.
Sometime later, both returned with some grocery bags for the inn, the innkeeper usually asked Anji to go pick the supplies up in the market, and Julius helped carry the supplies every time. This day, however, instead of returning directly, they decided to take a shortcut through some unbuilt area, there was a trail in the woods which neither remembered following before, but it would be useful to get a better knowledge of the area. Eventually, they reached a pair of emerald doors.
“Haven’t we been here yesterday?” Julius asked, concerned. He turned to see Anji’s wan face. She was not looking at the door, but rather to the side of the room, where a pile of bones sat wasting away. The bones littered the floor of the temple, and not all of them were animal bones. Papers were scattered about. The entire temple felt... dead and dry. “I don’t think we should come here again. At all.”
“Aye, I don’t like this place. At all.” Anji agreed as they turned around and headed back the way they came. “I’ve some stuff that needs to get done tonight, mind taking the supplies back to the inn?”
“When you say that...” He sighed. “Yes, I can get it all there on my own. I’ll also most likely be fast asleep by the time you get back... We should meet somewhere else tomorrow.”
“I’ll meet you at that tavern you found me at after the Kobold attack.... What was it... The Dragon’s Teeth? I hear they have good ale.” The two of them walked together back to the entrance of town, going separate ways once inside.
Anji spent the night looking through the old abandoned sections of the city for shiny items to scavenge for the next day’s market. Healing books for Zi, oooh look a knife... That should sell well.
She smiled at her good fortune as she took a deep breath.
Anji blinked as she woke up in her bed, fully clothed, with some trinkets, a knife, and some books laying in a neat pile by her bed. How the hell did I end up here?
Anji thought as she tumbled out of bed and onto the floor. The sun was glaringly bright, It must be nearly midday... wasn’t I supposed to be somewhere?
A temple loomed in her mind’s eye, shaking, Anji thought No, I am NOT going back there. I was supposed to go to... Go to a pub... And meet... Someone... FADE!
Jumping to her feet and wincing at the pain concentrated behind her eyes from lack of sleep, Anji raced down the stairs and out of the inn, heading for The Dragon’s Teeth. Oooh, I hope I’m not late!
Julius slept late that day. It was unusual for him, but he was exhausted, even though he couldn’t think of any reason why. He was supposed to meet Anji in the pub, stay away from the weird temple, but couldn’t get the place out of his mind. The unbuilt area was inside the city... And the temple is outside. We did not walk that far... Come to think of it, I don’t remember seeing any unbuilt areas inside the perimeter before.
He let himself drift in his thoughts for a moment, then realized it was about time he went to the pub to meet up with Anji. He set off at a steady pace, ignoring the fatigue, but still wondering about the mysterious place.
Anji ducked through the crowded bar, looking for the keep. “Oi, two ales, eh?” The grumpy old man glared at her until she plonked two gold pieces onto the wooden countertop. Taking the
tankards to a corner table, she glared at her rapidly approaching guildmate. “What do we do now? I don’t fancy spending for-”
Her voice was interrupted by the slam of two arms against wood, followed by a hearty laugh from a familiar green haired warrior sitting at the nearby table. “Another match goes to me, Ben. Looks like you’re buying the next round of ale!” He laughed out enthusiastically, patting her back hard enough to lurch her forward from the force of it. “That was a silly bet to make, friend.”
Ben coughed. “If I remember correctly, it wasn’t so much a ‘bet’ as ‘giving in to your repeated insistence that I wrestle you’.”
“Oh?” He questioned, somehow forgetting already. “Well, hah, you know I love a challenge.”
“Right,” The redhead snorted. “Because it’s such a challenge to wrestle someone who’s a professed swordsman and archer.”
“What are you trying to say, Ben? That I’m picking easy targets or something? You’re tough if I recall correctly, a definite challenge, don’t sell your talents short all of the sudden.” Hector chortled quietly. “Besides, I could take ANYONE in this room.” The green haired man declared with a happy grin, lightly pounding his hand on the table. “I tell you what, you pick the next guy I arm wrestle, I promise I take him down!”
Ben sighed. “I hardly think that’s saying much; you’re bigger than everyone here. But fine.” She cast her eyes about the room, trying to find someone who would at least make an entertaining match for Hector, if not a challenging one. Hmmm... not the barman; he’d be likely to pull out the spiked club kept under every bar if it got too dicey. And the albino in the corner with all the knives was probably bad news. How about... A tall, lean man in a cloak was walking jerkily across the room, avoiding people’s eyes. Well, it was worth a shot. “How about him, then?” She indicated her choice.
Hector twisted his head around to where his friend had pointed, his eyes shifted around excited for whoever she had picked. Looking past the wimpy cloaked guy, he wondered who she had meant. “Who?” Hector questioned...the guy in the cloak was the only one in the general area she had pointed. “...Really?” He asked, turning his head back towards her. “You’re just being mean now...I’d have a harder time wrestling my steak.”
“Damnit, can he walk any slower?” Anji muttered as Fade slowly creeped around the edge of the bar. Hector and some girl-warrior from his guild were tossing back ale like it was going out of style, the green man drinking two tankards to the smaller warriors one. They seemed to be placing bets on some match of strength. Odd... I thought Hector said he worked with some man, Ben something-or-other.
Anji turned back to her own cup to wait for Fade.
The tall man rubbed his chin, examining the cloaked man more closely. “Well, I guess a promise is a promise. You picked him, he’s going down.” He watched carefully as the man walked by, a mischievous grin on Hector’s face. It was a rare moment seeing Hector like this, but he was feeling rather showy today with all the liquor in him. Ben probably knew this, and was hoping to get some amusement out of it. When Julius just got within range, Hector outstretched a hand and got ahold of one of the cloaked mans arms. “Here, friend, have a seat!” The man laughed out bombastically as he practically shoved Julius into the open chair next to him and Ben. “Hittin’ the bottle early, too?” He asked with a playful punch.
“Bo-Bottle?” Julius stuttered, trying to think what he was supposed to do. He agreed to meet Anji in the pub, but didn’t expect to be dragged to a table with someone he never met... Never met..? Green hair, strong build... Oh. Damn.
“No bottle no. Fade has no bottle!” He attempted to leave the table, almost falling on his back.
“Whoa, easy there, friend.” Hector called out, keeping a tight grip on the mans arm, preventing him from falling...and escaping. “Relax! We’re just being friendly, is all. Here, you don’t have a bottle, you can have one of mine.” The man reassured, pushing one of the large mugs of ale Julius’s way. “Consider it a bit of a gift.”
“Mu-must go...” He started, realizing that he’d be unable to simply leave. “But... One mug.” He extended his arm out toward the mug, taking a single, hesitant gulp from it. Next time, dearest Anji... I’m not letting you set up the meeting place. At all.
“Atta boy.” The swordsman beamed. “Now, I gave you a gift, I think it’s only fair you give me one as well. Right, Ben?” He asked the female at the table, who merely sighed and shook her head. “Right!” He continued, as if she had collaborated with his story. “Now, you probably don’t have anything for me, but that’s okay I already know what you can do! My friend here thinks, haha, that I can take you in an arm wrestling match.” He explained with a slight hiccup in his voice. “Care to prove him wrong? It’s the least you could do for the bottle of ale.” The other man, clearly looking distressed, was met with a reassuring pat on the shoulder. “Come on, it’ll be fun.”Fair enough. At least that’ll get me out, just like the dumb muscle I’m supposed to be.
Julius extended his hand for a arm wrestle match, sporting a big grin. “That Fade knows!”
“Well whoever the hell Fade is, I’m happy he does! But anyway, let’s do this!” Hector followed the same motions as Julius had, creating an audible thud as his elbow laid atop the table. A fire was burning his eyes as they cupped their hands together for their little match.
Hector did not just want to win, he wanted to show Ben exactly what he was capable of, as if he had something to prove. In truth Ben had been trying to explain why Hector didn’t
have anything to prove, but he was slow on the uptake with subtle compliments, especially with a few mugs of ale in him... Unfortunately for Julius. “Ready...?” He asked, building up all of his strength, waiting for the the go ahead to release it all.
Julius gave a nod in return, and braced for the match that was about to start, however it never did. “Goooo!” Hector yelled, and in one instant the match started, in the next Julius found himself flying over the table and directly into a nearby patron.
Julius intended to lose the match regardless, that was the easiest way to ensure that the match would be over fast, so he could step away. What he didn’t intend, however, was to ponder about such intentions while coursing through the air in the tavern. He whistled, more impressed than actually surprised, at the green haired man’s strength, but his amazement was short lived. He crashed into another patron’s table, noticing the table he had been at just a moment ago had been turned on it’s side from the force of Hector’s movements. He heard, just as he landed “Sure, let’s use people to make a pillow fight.”
Anji was staring at her untouched drink, lost in thought, when a loud crash made her jerk back to reality. Hector was rolling on the floor laughing with drunken glee, while his guildmate stood next to him, struggling to contain a grin. Julius, on the other hand, was across the room and upside down, having taken a harsh hit to the table. Another fighter was looming over the cloaked swordsman, ale splattered on his tunic. The man’s eyes narrowed as the fork in his hand dropped the remaining bit of steak off of it to the ground. Uhoh
A few moments later, Anji dragged Julius out of the bar behind the sounds of chairs breaking and bottles smashing against heads. She had just made it out of the bar when she bumped into something smooth and hard. Turning around, Anji saw a pair of emerald doors set with gold and silver. “No, no no no no.” She let go of Julius and stumbled back into a pile of bones. Crying out, she jumped up away from the bones and sat in the middle of the floor, curled into a tight ball.
Julius looked around, keeping himself calm. Minute one, I’m in a bar fight. Minute two, Anji drags me away. Minute three, I’m in a creepy temple. I definitely didn’t walk here, yet, I’m back for the third day in a row.
He saw Anji on the floor and hurried to aid her. “Are you hurt?” He asked while trying to help her up.
Swatting his hand away, Anji stood and began pacing. “Right, creepy temple. And we’re in the creepy temple and we are not
supposed to be in the creepy temple and there’s bones everywhere and, oh god I think that might be a mandible, and you’re asking me if I’m hurt
?! What type of ridiculous question is that?!”
“One of the important ones, actually.” He said, serious. “Good to know you’re fine, but we can’t ignore this. We just got pulled here again, we should look for information, or at least some clues as to just what the hell is going on with this place.” Anji didn’t reply, pacing around the temple and rubbing her head. Julius took this to mean that she would wait, if he really had to look around, and so he started looking around the courtyard.Bones, bones, bones, some dry leaves, more bones. This place feels like a graveyard.
He shuddered at the thought. There were animal bones, some small and frail, possibly from birds, and others large and sturdy. One of them was definitely the skull of a cow. There were human bones as well. And some shards of papers mixed with dry leaves. Save for that, the whole place felt barren. Empty. He moved further in, looking for anything of note, and suddenly felt his foot twist slightly, stepping on a loose stone.Dammit!
The trap, partially hidden by the bones flung a stone sphere, roughly the size of his head, toward him. Most would try to duck under it, and perhaps that was the best way to actually avoid having anything smashed by the object, but Julius was tall. Trying to duck on such short distance would only make it more likely for him to get his head in the path of the projectile, so instead, he made the split second decision of taking the hit, and jumped back, moving in the same direction as the rock to soften the blow, even if only a little. He fell, clutching the rock after the clean hit to his chest.
“Oh, are you okay?” Anji said as she stumbled over the bones towards Julius. He was holding the stone ball close to him chest and trying not to yell out. “Oh hey, that’s new. That wasn’t there before.” Anji frowned as she looked around the temple.
He stood up, leaving the rock in the ground and shaking his head. “I’m fine. Just me, playing with rocks. Dodgeball this time, but the rock cheated so I won’t play anymore.” He forced out a smile. Cheated some ribs out of my chest, that’s for sure.
He felt the pain, at least a couple were cleanly broken, and half a dozen others were at least cracked, but he focused his mind away from it.
“Whoever set that trap was incompetent? That’s the word, right?” Anji’s smile turned to a look of worry as Julius tried to laugh, and winced instead. “Are you injured?”
“Nothing serious, the trap was weakened by the bones, I guess.” He paused to take a breath, the chest movement was painful and confirmed his suspicions. “I didn’t find anything of use, though. I think we should leave.”
“Should I call for Zi? She might be able to heal you, I was even able to find some healing books in some of the ruins”
“No, that’s fine. I can ask her to have a look, but don’t bring her here... We should go back first.” No one should ever come here.
By the time they had made it back to the city, night had fallen. Anji waved to the scout standing at the top of the wall, “Oi! Alexander! Let us in, mate!”
“Better have a damn good reason for being out there in the first place!” the guard yelled back. “Kinda late, y’know! There’s a bunch of stuff out there that comes out at this time of night, and they
aren’t exactly allowed in themselves.”
“Oh, just open it! You’ll get an explanation later, but we need in now
.” Anji huffed as the scout opened the gates.
Julius jumped awake from the pain on his chest, it wasn’t as bad as it was the day before, but while asleep he couldn’t direct his mind away from it. One thing was odd, however. In the night before Zi was shocked and worried about him, he half expected to see some signs of presence in the room, some bandages, or water. At least a half open door so they could check if he was still alive from time to time. But there was no such thing, in fact, the room was exactly the same way he remembered it from the day before. He decided to step out and look for Anji. It’s not just the temple that’s odd... The whole city... The inn... It all feels like it’s the same everyday.
Anji woke up in the common room, having fallen asleep in one of the chairs by the fire. Zi had sworn that she’d stay awake to help Fade if he needed it, but Anji had refused to go to sleep until she knew for sure. She hadn’t seen Zi leave Fade’s room, and at some point it all became a grey haze.
Jerking up to her feet, she saw a grocery list sitting on the table, along with a small pouch of money. The list detailed all the sundry supplies that the inn needed to run, along with a note, “Anji, pick up these supplies today. thanks, Bob.” The assorted items she left there in the morning before where nowhere to be found.I got supplies yesterday...
Anji thought as she walked upstairs to get her jacket and shoes. Zi was sound asleep in her own hammock, and to Anji’s surprise, the disorder from the healing sessions last night were gone. In fact, it all looked eerily similar, stepping out of her room, she headed down the hallway to Fade’s room. The room was spartan, and extraordinarily clean. There was no evidence of any injured person being healed. Trippy... I wonder...
Anji left Fade’s room to begin looking for him.
For his part, Julius wanted to talk to Anji about his suspicions, but he was well aware that she wouldn’t easily allow him to move around in his state. Everything looks the same way it was yesterday. And on the day before too. Ever since we stepped into that temple, actually.
He decided to go into the garrison by the city walls. He threw his hood up to cover his face and stood in the shadow, waiting for a chance to talk to one of the scouts.
One of them was quite loud in complaining.
"Uuuuuuuuuuurgh..." The scout stretched, making sure it was noticed. "Welp, that's another shift down. Damn, I thought the maze
was boring, at least I was actually moving around down there."
He looked around for a bit before resuming his yelling. "Seriously, guys, nothing happened to that wall last night, and nothing is going
to happen to that wall tonight! Why the hell can't I even bring a book or something?"
He sighed, toning down his voice. "Come on... I wanted a break after the demon summoning thing, not a glorified excuse to bear arms while I pace around a lot and nothing else. 'Skilled fighter', my ass. You guys want a guard, go get someone who doesn't have running around and exploring as part of his job description." The scout paused for a moment, a look of disgust on his face, "Aaaaaand that's probably the fifteenth time I've said that since my last shift began. Goddammit."Loud, gaudy necklace, maze and demon summoning... He’s the one from last night.
Julius was almost certain as to the scout’s identity, but they hadn’t met officially and he decided it would be best to avoid approaching someone who was known around the city, opting, instead, to approach a resting recruit to ask about people who had gone through to the outskirts the last few days.
“No one, sir.” The scout replied. “We keep a count, maybe someone sneaked out, but no one walked outside from this gate in the last week. Well, save for us scouts, you know?”
“Oh... Thanks.” He replied, keeping his tone similar to the one he often used as Fade. “It’s my brother... He’s gone missing... I’m worried.”
“Can’t help you there. Try the other garrisons, maybe he was out from one of the other gates.” The scout said before turning back to the book he was reading.
“Thank you.” Julius hurried away. Well, that certainly is strange. Not only did Anji and I get past the gate the first time we wound up in the temple, just yesterday we actually called out to that one on the wall. This... makes no sense.
He had to find her, they had to find a way to make sense out of all this. Remembering his previous schedule to meet at the Dragon’s Teeth pub, he decided to stop by there.
Anji sprinted into the bar, a feeling of panic rising as she looked for Julius. Damn it all, damn. He’s supposed to be here.
Anji went from space to space checking each, worry building. Seire was there, sharpening his blades. Everyday the same thing, same knives, same Seire, same spot. What the hell is going on?
Panicked, Anji didn’t notice the red headed swordsman, who was carrying two full pints and yelling to a green-haired man. Colliding, the two both ended up on the floor and covered in sticky ale. Scrambling, Anji apologized profusely as the swordsman glared at her, but was at a general loss of words for once.
“Are you even old enough to be
in here?” Ben asked, irritably. She wouldn’t be able to get the smell off her jerkin for at least a week now.
“My ale! Noooooooooooo.......!” Was heard further back in the bar, where Hector now wept in an overreacting manner.
Anji stopped trying to help clean up the mess and returned the swordsman’s furious glare. “Wot do you fink you’re saying, eh? Not my fault you ain’t got enough brains to walk and see where you’re going.”
Ben raised a ginger eyebrow. “Yes, well excuse me that I didn’t have my nose to the ground as I was walking over. Generally patrons in a bar are too tall to be eye-level with a cow.”
“Someone please... Just think of the ale!” The swordsman chimed in once again from the back, his head comically buried in his hands, completely missing the fight that immediately broke out between Anji and Ben, the latter’s insult setting off quite a brawl. Soon it was just like the day “before,” with chairs and bottles being broken, and people being thrown around like paper cups. Annoyed that his bottle of ale had escaped him, the green haired giant rose from his table cracking his knuckles. “Someone’s getting another bottle... Even if that someone has to be me.” He muttered before stomping off into the middle of the fight, almost heroically.
Julius heard the commotion from outside. This time he didn’t arrive in time to be the cause of it, thankfully, but there was a commotion regardless. Oh, come on...
He sighed, sitting in a shadow while he waited for Anji to get out of there. Going into a brawl wasn’t a bright idea even if he was in his best shape, and this time he wasn’t, he could only trust that Anji would be able to sneak out of there. It didn’t take long, though she looked, surprisingly, just like someone out of a bar brawl. That’s odd... She was actually in the middle of it?
Her left eye had a new black shadow and she looked bruised. Julius almost decided not to comment, but changed his mind when he noticed a thin trail of blood on her neck and hair, probably from a broken bottle. “Hey, easy there... Are you okay?”
Anji glowered at Fade, “Do I look okay to you?” Crouching next to a nearby fountain, Anji used a newly torn rag from her tunic to mop up some of the blood. Wincing, she brushed the remains of the glass away from her face. Ow, I must look a sight. Damnit.
Blood was seeping from a cut on her forehead and blinding her. She moved to bind up her cut, then turned to Julius.
“I thought you might be here. What happened in there? No... Let me guess, Hector and Ben?”
“Some crazy swordsman, uh... yeah, Ben? That’s her name? Yeah well we may
have ran into each other.” Anji said as she wiped the blood off her face. Seeing the look of utter confusion on Julius’ face, she elaborated. “I came to look for you, and I kinda spilled Ben and Hector’s drinks. This didn’t make Bob very happy.” Anji swayed unsteadily for a moment, then recovered.
In response to Anji’s apparent dizziness, Julius stood half moving, with a hand midway to catch her if necessary. She recovered almost instantly, leaving him to recompose himself. He was worried, but there was no time. “We need to stop this madness...” He mumbled, beckoning to one of the patrons leaving the bar, he turned to Anji while the unknown man walked over. “We definitely just had that fight here yesterday, right?”
“Yeah, I... I think so.” Anji mumbled, gingerly touching her head. “Stuff’s ‘een rep’ting.”
“Well...” He turned to the man. “Must be tough, uh? Two bar fight two days in a row like that...”
“What? Were you in there?”
“No, not today. I was just there for yesterday’s fight.”
“You must be drunk already. I’m outta here.”
“Why?” Julius pressed, making it clear that he wasn’t drunk.
“Look. You must have just hit your head then. There wasn’t a fight yesterday, man. The bar was closed for cleaning.”
“Is that so?” Julius became more relaxed, in turn, making the man more at ease as well...
“Why do you think everyone is so lively in there today? Anyway, I’m outta here. Don’t want any trouble. You two should do the same.”
“Yea, ‘eave, we shoul’ leave. ‘ts a good idea. Go to the temple. Safe there.” Anji mumbled in a daze.
“Not safe... But we’ll probably have to go there if we want to find out what’s going on...” He took the rag from Anji’s hand and washed it a little in the fountain, to remove the excess of blood, and handed it back to her. “We’ll end up getting there one way or another, I think. We should get some rest now instead of rushing around.”
“M’yeah, rest . That’s a good idea. I fink it’s time to rest.” Anji started to walk towards Fade, and bumped into a familiar set of emerald doors. “Oh, you’ve got
to be kidding me, Fade? Are you... are you here?”
“Here.” He replied walking up to her side. “I thought we’d get here, I just didn’t expect it to be right after I said it.” The courtyard was filled with bones again, of course, but this time nearly all of them were human in origin.
“Right, ‘et me take a look. Stay ‘ere.” Anji began exploring the ruins, looking for traps. Not following the advice, Julius followed a short distance behind her, slowly and carefully, observing the place for anything that could be of help.
Anji stepped carefully, ignoring the burning pain in her head for a moment to focus on making the traps from the day before? today? yesterday?
Shaking her head slightly, and instantly regretting it from the wave of pain that flowed through her entire body. Stumbling, she tripped over a wire, and looked up in time to see a spear flying through the air at her. Oh no we don’t.
With a burning snap, the world around he went into a sharp focus as her bracelet activated itself, Anji landed neatly about a meter away from the quivering end of the spear.
Sighing with relief, Anji took a step backward. Julius, who followed close by was out of the spear trap’s line of fire, but also reacted by moving away from it. He barely had time to breath when he saw a long blade emerge from the side wall, coursing in an arc ready to slash at Anji, who seemingly didn’t notice the second trap.
There was no time to think, he leapt toward the trap, unsheathing his sword as he went. The combined force of his body’s movement, sword swing and sheer desperation snapped the unkept trap’s blade instantly, but the remaining length was still too long. He heard a pained sound from Anji as the trap nicked her arm. Julius himself feeling dizzy and breathless due to the sheer chest pain he felt, this time stronger than he could ignore.
“Furies take this place!” He screamed in revolt, then turned to care for Anji, recomposing himself. Losing his head would mean death, he had to be calm at all costs.
Anji cried out when the blade hit her arm. Julius had broken the spinning trap, and probably saved her life in the process. She hadn’t escaped unscathed however, because the spinning sword had made a cut into her arm that was now bleeding profusely. This will hurt in the morning
she thought, wincing, as she pushed past the pain to begin looking through the papers and tomes that were scattered about on the once polished marble floor.
“Sorry, but... Stop for a moment.” Julius cut out a strip of his cloak and moved to stop the bleeding before she lost too much blood from the wound. “This temple is getting more dangerous with each passing day...”
Anji reached around with her free hand, grasping for any paper that was nearby. She began to sift through the pieces of paper. Most were ledgers of debts owed, or bits of someone’s diary. There was one piece of paper that was different from the rest, however. It was a battered sheet of paper, burned and smudged by a hundred hands holding it. There even appeared to be what looked like dried blood in one corner of the page.
“Can I have a look at that?” Julius asked, exhausted, extending his hand to the page. It looked like a letter of some sort, and it was old. Very old. Wha- Why can’t I even read it.
He squinted his eyes, trying to focus, but his vision was blurry. The fatigue he withstood up to now was finally catching up to his limits. He heard Anji calling him, or thought he heard it, at least, before losing consciousness.
Anji was in the process of giving Julius the paper when he fell over, passing out from the pain of about 6 broken ribs, all of which probably haven’t been healed.
Anji yelled out to Julius, but she felt woozy and sat down to help ease the ache in her head and arms. Oooh this hurts so much... maybe a short nap wouldn’t hurt.... keep the headache... ‘way
Anji slumped to the floor, clutching the letter in her hand as she gave into unconsciousness.
Zi prodded her sister's supine form. When Anji groaned in discernable discomfort and rolled over, Zi's gasp was, well, more like a shriek. Anji was a sight to see, bruised eye, clots of congealed blood staining her hair, a long cut tracing down her arm. "Anij!" Zi positively screamed. "By the saints, what happened to you?"
Anji, drowsily mumbled, "Go 'way, 'm tryna sleep."
"Trying to sleep? Just look[i/] at yourself!" Zi laid both hands furiously upon her sister's face, attempting to heal away the dark bruise around her eye. "Don't move or I might poke out your eye!" She commanded furiously.
"What? Oi! Gerrof!" Anji tumbled out of her hammock and thudded onto the floor. A shriek of pain echoed through her head as she cradled it in both hands.
She was aware of Tamar showing up at some point: he slammed the door back hard enough to send another jolt of pain right down her spine [i]and we’ll have less of that, thank you very bloody much, damn it her head hurt.
“What the... Anji? Anji! What happened?”
Hot tears drizzled upon Anji as Zi sobbed distraught. "Anji, what happened?" She hugged her, cradling Anji's head at her bosom. Though Anji could feel the familiar warming of healing magic, she could also tell that it wasn't working, that the erratic bursts of magic was fizzling out almost as soon as it left Zi's body.
"Hey, Zi. Stop." Anji said softly. "I'll be alright, really. Stop trying to push yourself so far." She made a move to stand, as Fade barged in. “Ow! WIll people stop
"Banging things, banging things," she repeated, barely in control of herself, "What happened, Anji, what happened, what happened?"
“Uh... I think she’s asking a good question, Anji, you look terrible
, do you-- I mean, should we find a healer or something?” Tamar asked.
“Sorry about that.” Julius said, not even bothering to keep up the Fade persona. “We need to go Anji. If we don’t settle it today, I don’t think we’ll be able to stop it.”
Nodding, Anji stood on wobbly legs. “How are your ribs?” She asked.
"Wh-what's wrong with your ribs, Fade?" Zi asked, confused at the unfamiliar behaviour he was showing. "What's going on, why are both of you hurt?"
“Still broken. Doesn’t really matter, I’m going and you know that.” He turned to Zi. “Don’t worry about it, you’ve already helped me out, even if you don’t know it. You already helped both of us.”
Tamar at this point was looking back and forth between the two of them. it wasn’t clear which he found more surprising. The state of Anji’s face right now, or the fact that Fade was talking in such clear, concise sentences with words containing more than two syllables. Guess that cat’s outta the bag...
Anji winced. They could explain all of this later... Provided later didn’t turn out to be this morning all over again. “Fade, Anji, what... exactly is going on?”
“I can only give you the short version now.” Julius spoke out loud, drawing everyone’s attention to himself.
Tamar blinked, looking confused. “Um... short is fine.”
“Anji and I stumbled upon someplace bad, and we’re in a pinch right now. If we don’t stop it now, we die.” He was afraid of any shocked reaction, but he couldn’t stop to console them. “And before you say anything, no, you’re not
going with us. We won’t allow you to be dragged into it, don’t even try.”
Tamar’s eyes went, if it were possible, even wider than before. Those things were kinda weird, now they were up close and staring at her.
Anji thought numbly before another wave of pain nearly sent her reeling. “W-what do you mean we’re not going? You just said you could die! We’re supposed to just sit here?” Tamar said, becoming agitated.
“Yes.” Julius held his sheathed sword in front of his body. “If I need to, I’ll make you unable to follow us.” He let the sheath fall back into it’s resting position, shaking his head. “But I have to trust you two. And we need you here for when we get back...”
“Fade you can’t be serious, you-- wait why are you talking
differently? You’re scaring Zi!”
“I promise we’ll explain everything when this is over, but for now we need you to stay here. For now, my name is actually Julius.” He turned to Zi who was still clinging to Anji. “And I promise I’ll at least try
to hold Anji in one place for you to actually have a chance at healing her.” He smiled, for the first time in a long while.
Maybe it was that which did it. Anji could see why. Smiling, his real smile, not whatever mask he put on as Fade, seemed to change Julius’s entire face. He looked like a completely different person. Tamar took a step backwards, confusion on his face, but some sort of vague almost-understanding beneath it.
“Right well. Not gonna get any easier the longer we wait.” Anji grabbed her coat and walked past Zi, shooting a glare at Julius. “You take care of yourself, alright? Don’t go doing stupid stuff.” Anji then hugged Zi and walked out of the inn, leaving behind Zi, worried, distraught and weeping without knowing why.
Anji and Julius began sprinting down the street, heading for the temple. He explained his idea while they went. Damn these broken ribs.
This had to be over, one way or another. Glancing over, Anji panted, “Are you sure this’ll work? I’m not sure how much longer I can keep going.”
“No idea. But I’m pretty sure it’s still there...” He replied, already exhausted. “It doesn’t tell us how to-” The bar brawl they passed through before interrupted him as a man smashed through the nearby window, with a grinning Hector and Ben revealing themselves as the instigators with a timely highfive. Somehow, the brawl happened even without their interference.
“Oh look, another bar brawl, wonderful.” Anji said blearily as they continued a steady pace past the tavern, and towards the forest temple. This time, it didn’t take nearly as long until they stumbled upon the emerald doors. “Fancy meeting you here.” Anji said to the doors, “Do you doors come ‘round here often or is this just for us? You really shouldn’t, you know.”
“Well, if those two tried to follow us, at least we know they didn’t get all the way to here.” Julius started to look around, trying to locate the paper from the day before. And hopefully avoid another game of dodgeball.
He saw what seemed to be the bloody edge of a paper in the distance, and showed it to Anji. “Think there are any traps on the way to it?”
“Yeah, prolly. Though they’ll be hidden more cleverly. What are we looking for again?” Anji glanced around nervously as the wind made groaning sounds throughout the temple.
“Any place like this has some form of register. Some documents, like a ledger. That could tell us just what
is this place, from there we should be able to figure out what is it doing to us and how to get out of it. Or so I hope, anyway.”
“Julius, did you happen to grab my bracelet yesterday?” Anji said, panicking as she began to look for it.
“Sorry. I don’t think I saw it, but if it’s important we’ll look for it now along with the documents. I’ll help.” He replied, surprised at both her use of his name and at the nature of her question.
“Right, nothing to do but look, I guess.” Anji said as she cautiously moved through the abandoned temple. This places gets creepier every time I find myself in here, hopefully this’ll be the last ti-Woah!
Anji shouted mentally as a dart flew past her, burying itself in the wall beyond. Julius stopped digging through bones and papers to check and see if she was alright. Nodding, Anji said, “I’m fine for now, but there are darts flying. I’ll try to be more careful.”
Continuing on, Anji sprung three more traps by throwing bits of bone into the air. When the bones landed, a pressure plate would depress, sending the rudimentary arrows flying through the air. Satisfied that she had cleared all of them, Anji began digging through the piles of bones in search of a registry or something
to help her get out of this damn temple.
Following her example, Julius started tossing bones ahead of himself in order to clear the path of possible traps. Luckily, he only found one before hitting the wall and a bigger pile of bones to look through. Both searched quietly for a while, until he managed to find one of the things they were looking for. “Found your bracelet. I think.”
“Hey, is this it?”, Anji said, holding up an aging tome.
They exchanged smiles, trading objects. Anji immediately put her bracelet back on, while Julius sat down to look through the old book. It’s pages were similar to the one they found before passing out in the previous visit. This better be worth it.
The fatigue was still there, but apparently he had actually slept, and so felt in a better shape than before. Not that it made much of a difference in regards to reading. Most of the ink was smudged, the paper itself appeared burnt in some spots, the few words recognizable held no meaning whatsoever.
“Furies.” He muttered a curse. Failing to notice a loose leaf that fell off the useless tome. Anji had been messing around with her bracelet, checking for signs of damage, when she saw the paper fall to the ground, “Hey, Julius, take a look at this.”
Picking up the loose leaf of paper, she handed it to Julius. It wasn’t as damaged as the others, but it wasn’t a page of the supposed ledger either, it was framed like a letter and it was mostly readable.
Temple Letter wrote:Dear Millena,
Our challenge was well worth it, and our path out of this accursed land is well within our grasp. My party has finally reache██████████████████████████████████████████████nety ei█████████████████████████████████████████████████████████r final victory will surely follow.
But enough of politics, love. Remember the beast we managed to slay together? Such a fearsome dragon, was██████████████████████████████████████████████████claws as a memento. But I’m fearful. Taking it with me into this next challenge seems unwise. I have however, found a perfect solution to it.
As a result of our last challenge, we have found the most beautiful gem ever imagined! Such beauty makes me only think of you. And a██████████████████████████████████████████████████d feelings, I am to send you the gem and claw, grafted into one.
Would it be too much if I asked that it be the emblem of our house and the trophy of our temple?
All of my love,
“So, is it important?” Anji asked expectantly.
“Yes,I think it might be.” Julius got up, folding the letter to preserve it. “Someone apparently sent some gemstone from way up to here. It’s grafted into a dragon claw.”
“Oh, really? Cool!” Anji paused for a moment, playing with the bandage on her arm, “Wot’s a dragon, anyway?”
“Big lizards. I suppose.” He paused thoughtfully, unsure if he should play a prank or be serious. He ultimately decided to be serious, the situation demanded it, after all. “Really big, strong and dangerous lizards. We should probably find the claw though, that gem shouldn’t be in this floor.”
“Oh. Okay.” Anji began looking through the detritus for a claw of some kind, something anything that stood out. As she looked around, she saw a bone that was oddly shaped. Smiling Anji walked towards it, calling out to Fade, “Hey, I think I found someth-”
Anji’s sentence was stolen as she heard the hiss of a pressure plate being depressed. Anji fell into a roll, hoping to dodge the dart, but felt it impact her left shoulder. Rolling to a stop, Anji curled up into a ball to prevent herself from crying out.
Julius rushed to her side, helping her up. Another wound to the arm... That could be problematic. He looked around, noticing a glimmer underneath some bones. “You found it!” He smiled, pulling out the claw with it’s huge gem attached. The gemstone itself was of a dark red, reminiscent of blood and it felt cold to the touch, almost unnatural. “So, no way I can just waltz up there to return it to the right place, so I’m smashing this thing... Can you take it out of the claw with one of your knives or do I break the whole thing altogether?”
Gingerly, Anji procured a knife and handed it to Julius, trying not disturb her weeping left shoulder. “Here, I don’t think I can, at the moment.”
He looked concerned, but took the knife and managed to displace the gem. Giving the knife back to Anji he commented, handing her the claw as well. “If you never saw a dragon, you’ll probably want to stick to this little thing here.” He put the gem on the floor, picked up one of the rocks and rammed it down unceremoniously. The Gem shattered to dust as easily as if it was glass.
Nothing happened. The temple continued to moan mournfully, bemoaning the deaths of those who came before. After about a minute of silence, Anji spoke up, “So... Is it over or what?”
Julius wasn’t sure himself. For a while, it seemed like nothing had changed. Maybe the claw itself is a problem as well?
He wondered what his next step should be... Until the stone sphere, the one who broke his ribs previously, appeared out of nowhere, rolling on the ground toward him. As did the cow skull they saw before... The different times of the temple began to mesh together and suddenly the amount of bones appearing every instant was staggering. It would soon overflow the temple, if it keep that pace. He looked at Anji, his face was waning as he mouthed the word without actually saying it. “Run.”
Anji didn’t need to be told twice. Rocking up onto her feet, she began sprinting for the green doors that permitted entry into the cursed temple. Every step sent waves of agony through her arms and head. Looking back, she could see Fade running his own race against his injuries, the broken ribs finally catching up to him as they both raced for the doors.
They barely made it outside before the temple began to overflow with the pieces of bone, stone, paper, wood and perhaps many other things. The many repeated days that the temple sustained were now collapsing into a single one, all the events and damage adding up to cracks and litter until even the emerald doors broke down to shreds. The temple had ceased existing, in it’s place there was now a mass of rubble.
Anji looked at the temple, turned to Fade and said, “Well that was awful. Let’s never repeat that again.”
“Agreed, petitioned for and signed. May our days not repeat themselves!” He could laugh again, apparently, still wincing at the chest pain, but it was worth it to be alive. They walked slowly back to the city, getting into sight of the closest gate well after nightfall. In the distance, they could discern three shapes standing there, the frames of Zi and Tamar trying to get outside, while the scout on duty, Alexander, stood in their way.
“Oh... Looks like today won’t reset, uh? We better keep the promises...” He said grinning at Anji.
“Oh no you don’t. You are not
keeping me in one spot for Zi to heal me. That’s an order, guildmember.” Anji said, backing away from the gates.
“Hey, I just said I’d try to.” He started laughing. “With the way I am right now I’d probably die in the attempt! I’m sure Zi wouldn’t allow that.” Settling down for a while. “I actually mean the one about explaining what happened to them. I figure we owe them that much, at least.”
“I don’t think it would be a bad thing.” Anji said, “Though Zi isn’t going to let me out of the inn for weeks, you either. It’s going to be so boring sitting still.”
“We can handle it.” They walked toward the gate, to the safety of the city and to the company of their friends. With perhaps just a bit of sarcasm in between.