Again Cyan spun in the darkness, but he noticed that he wasnt falling. Having experienced this twice already the retainer knew what to expect and thus collected himself for the sickening drop.
Plunk. It was over.
Licking his lips, Cyan rose unsteadily to his feet. He blinked then cast his gaze around. Narshe Mines? A shrug and Cyan slowly made his way through the mines, his head craning for a better view. Pipes hung low forcing the retainer to crouch from time to time. The acrid fumes invaded his nostrils. He had never liked the mines; much preferred the fields of the countryside.
What is the purpose for my presence here? Cyan demanded, keeping hands on the hilts. His voice carried far, too far, for his comfort. The hairs tingled on the back of his neck. Something in the shadows stirred. A trick of the murky lamplight? Perhaps. Perhaps not.
You should know by now. This is of your making.
That is of no help whatsoever.
Working independently of his conscious mind, both hands swiftly unsheathed Tempest and Murasame. His gaze flickered from one shadow to the next. His instincts had proved correct. Something did lurk there. Several somethings. The shape of the shadows could not have been formed of the rock face or the pipes.
An unnecessary warning, I assure you, Cyan said as the first of the shadows separated. A slight sigh escaped his lips as the first creature stepped into the light. A wererat. Nothing to be concerned about. That sigh twisted to an uncharacteristic curse as more of the monsters materialized. Dozens more. And all of them stood between him and the exit.
Time to even the odds. Cyan drew out the Ifrit magicite, calling upon its innate powers. Upon completion, he opened the magicite-bearing hand and thrust it in the direction of the wererats. They hissed fearfully as a gout of flame shot out from the shard, incinerating the first three and badly singeing the others.
En garde! Cyan lifted both blades in the air and leapt forward. He smiled as four of the wererats rushed him, the others remaining behind. The wererats were a cowardly lot, and would hang back until their brethren were slain then attack their weakened foe. Just the basic instinct the retainer had been counting on.
Cyans next action stopped that plan cold or hot, rather, as the retainer summoned a circle of flames around himself and the four wererats. Outside the ring the wererats continued to hiss, this time out of fury. They banged their halberds and scythes against the cold stone ground but Cyan paid them no heed. Their deaths would have to wait.
Murasame and Tempest swept out in opposite arcs, deflecting a blow each. He completed the circle to cut two wererats in half. The third wererat slashed at his side. Cyan easily dodged then kicked the monster in the head, knocking it out and to the ground. On a hunch the retainer flipped both his blades over his head to protect his back. He heard the satisfying clang of an attack blocked from behind. Then, Cyan spun on a heel to decapitate his would-be assailant.
The fires died down, but many green eyes glinted from the darkness.
You can not win this fight. They are simply too many.
And what of the legend of the man who can slay a hundred alone? Cyan said wryly as he wiped blood from his chin.
You are old, Cyan. You know it. You can feel it in your bones. This task will not be completed through strength of arms.
Draining the last of the magicites power the retainer threw up a wall of flames to thwart his pursuers. Then, Cyan hurried through the corridor and into another. He knew the flames would not deter them indefinitely. Perhaps if he could put enough distance between himself and the monsters theyd quit the chase.
As the retainer ran, churning up dust, his thoughts drifted back to Doma. How did a jaunt through some bizarre corridor, the Phantom Train and now these mines aid in the restoration of his kingdom? And who was it exactly that drove him on this quest? The voice sparked edges of memory yet the identity still eluded Cyan. Familiar, yes, from a long time ago.
State your name. I will have no dealings with one who will not identify Cyans voice trailed off as he peered into the corridor. Pipes hung low. The fumes burned his nose. Shadows tip-toed in the corners. Hed been here beforemere moments ago, in fact. His hazel eyes widened. How was this possible? Had he taken a wrong turn?
What manner of madness is this?
A hiss answered him. Wererats approached from all sides, tightening a circle of vicious blades and claws. Cyan could dispatch them again, albeit with slightly more difficulty being bereft of esper magic, but for what point or purpose? He stood to gain nothing but losing time he felt he was already starting to run low on as it was.
As the first two wererats struck out with spears, Cyan blocked with his blades. His eyes caught sight of a pipe above and a smirk teased his lips. Tempest and Murasame flicked back into their sheaths. Ducking another high cut, this one from behind, the retainer sprang up. Then, his arms wrapped around the pipe and Cyan swirled around and around evading their blows. Below the wererats banged their weapons and hissed, frustrated.
I should very much like to send you all to the abyss from whence you came, the retainer declared as he swayed back and forth like a swing set. The wererats made jabs at him but again missed. But Ive not the time. With that, Cyan swung hard and let go, flying far past the monsters. He landed lightly, stopping only for a breath before running for the exit. The wererats did not follow.
As he suspected, the same corridor as before awaited him. Two corridors, slightly different, one leading into the other That would probably baffle the Thamasa scholars, they who could explain everything. There was no explanation for this, unless of course, one counted insanity and then all would make sense. Sort of.
Not through strength of arms Cyan whispered as his hand lifted to clasp his chin. What then? Ever had strength been the retainers foray. Wit, he supposed. Someone like Setzer or Celes would be better suited for this task. Cyan smiled sadly. Where were his friends? How did they fare? Did they fear for him, wonder where hed gone off to?
Cyan started. Who? Who was that?
Focus. This is a riddle. Think it through.
A riddle A loop, is more like it. If I continue forward Ill only arrive at the beginning Cyans eyes lit up at making the pieces fit. So, if I proceed backwards then I should arrive at the end. It seemed odd that he should stumble upon it with only scant deliberation. But who in the right mind would question good luck?
With no gain in sight with his current course, the retainer retreated to the first corridor of the mines. Slaying the first dozen or so wererats would pose no problem for the seasoned warrior. But what if his calculations should prove incorrect? Cyans left hand drifted to his right wrist. Then, with a conscious effort, they forcibly retracted. Hed not the time for weakness now.
His fears were dispelled as the retainer stepped out into the sunlight. He stood upon the outcropping of the mountain with a decrepit bridge not ten feet away. Clouds swiftly masked the sun, stealing its light and warmth. Cyan set his jaw determinedly and crossed the bridge, taking care not to let his weight shift too heavily on any particular board. Fortunately, he passed without incident.
After the bridge, Cyan came upon the entrance into another tunnel of Narshe Mines. Would this bring him back to the corridor of wererats? The idea did not appeal to the retainer. Should he backtrack? Cyan shook his head angrily. No, he would not. Continuous backtracking might lead him to any number of places, like the Veldt or even the Lete River.
Cyans hand drifted down to the letter, hoping to derive some semblance of sanity from the madness whirling around him. Give him some purpose in this mission. It was then that the retainer at last understood. His lips parted slightly, too shocked for words. Yes, he supposed he should have pieced this together by now. How had he not?
I know your voice whispered Cyan. I did not think you had survived.
You have faced the anger of your countrymen. You have faced death. You have faced uncertainty and the unknown. Those were the trials youd assembled for yourself. A man makes his own challengeseven in his dreams.
And that is what you meant by my own making?
Yes. You have but one more test, Cyan. The last leg of your journey is at hand.
I will not proceed until you at last admit your identitySir Gareth!
Come and you shall see.
Cyan sighed as he stepped through the portal. He was really beginning to hate these.
All That Glitters Is Cold 2 Fanfic Competition
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