Elsewhere Tales: Left Behind [Spoilers: Ep 127]

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Postby Cailin » September 23rd, 2012, 9:35 pm

Left Behind (Part 1)

Luck was never one of Huena’s gifts. She was blessed with a sharp tongue and smashing sense of direction, true, but no one who knew her would ever have called the gangly youth “lucky”. Not by a long shot. That should have been Oran’s first clue something was off, in retrospect. But he had been too shocked by what she had discovered to consider the sinister ramifications of Huena’s good fortune until it was too late.

The day had started off normal enough. Huena had shown up on Oran’s doorstep as usual with a pair of “borrowed” scouting helmets and a mischievous grin that simply screamed “I am going to get us both into really big trouble”.

“It’s no big deal, really.” Huena said as she began dragging him to the main gate.

“Huena... this really isn’t a good time. I have to study for my dedication.”

She stopped suddenly, causing Oran to stumble and swerve to avoid crashing into her. Huena planted her hands on her hips, her large green eyes blinking at him with an expression of bemused disbelief.

“You’re seriously still going to go through with it? Don’t the Arelan’s have enough priests to kick around yet?”

Oran sighed. It was an old argument, and not one that he had the energy to entertain this early in the morning.

“The test is tomorrow, Hue.”

“Well that’s just my point.” She spun on her heel, encircling Oran’s wrist once more with her long thin fingers. “This may be your last chance to have any fun. Ever. And you want to waste it studying?” She clicked her tongue softly, shaking her head. “You clearly need this even more than I do.”

Oran doubted that very much, but before he could put voice to his thoughts she was already dragging him up to the main gate.

“Hi Marc!”

Oran felt his stomach drop into the lowest bowels of Caina. Huena waved wildly to one of the guards who was propping his boots on a table with a handful of cards.

“Don’t you have a test to study for?” The man put down his cards slowly, frowning at the pair of teenagers.

“Let’s go, Hue.” Huena’s grip on his wrist was absolute, and Oran was certain that if he struggled (and ultimately failed) against her grip his brother would never let him hear the end of it.

Huena blithely ignored Oran’s meaningful looks, instead turning to smile at Marc.

“Oran needs to do a field study. In the field. Outside.” She tilted her chin upwards, looking Marc in the eye. The soldier turned his gaze to Oran, who felt diminished between the two of them.

“So, your girlfriend does all your talking for you now?”

Oran felt himself redden to the tips of his ears. “Marc! She’s not- we’re not-” His sputtering only served to amuse the guard who planted a heavy gauntleted hand on the top of the young man’s head, mussing his hair playfully.

“You going to get my little brother into trouble out there, young lady?”

“Heaps, Sir!” Huena winked at him and the two of them laughed as though conspiring in some sort of great plot that left Oran’s knees weak.

“Right then. Just remember to keep your headgear on.”

Huena lifted up the pair of helmets dangling in her other hand.

“Huena I really don’t think-”

But the rest of his protests were muffled by the heavy thunk of the helmet on his head.

It wasn’t terribly unusual for some of the more adventurous youths to take day-trips into the Outside realm from time-to-time. In some houses it was even encouraged as a rite of passage, though no one ever dared journey out of sight of the city’s warm glow. Oran had never felt the desire to step outside the gates, but now that Huena had managed to wheedle her way into his brother’s good graces there seemed to be no stopping her from dragging him along on her “expeditions”.

“Oran! Look at this rock! It’s so weird.” She tossed another chunk of heavy black stone into the small pile accumulating behind her. “What’s this one called?” She held up a softly glowing shard of translucent yellow crystal.

“Gloomsbane. It’s a mineral that forms under heavy exposure to divine magic.”

“Boooring.” She tossed the crystal away with a hmph. “Where are the fossils?”

“Fossils?”

Huena sighed, fiddling with a long strand of deep red hair that had fallen in front of her eyes. “You know... from the Flood. Rena said there were hundreds of shells and shark teeth in the basin.”

Oran scratched his head thoughtfully. “Shark teeth? That’s why you wanted to come out here? There are dozens of samples in the museum! If you wanted to see them I’d wouldn’t been happy to show you-”

“You mean the hall of ‘come-look-at-all-the-stuff-no-put-that-down-hey-get-your-hands-off-the-glass-you’re-smudging-it’?” Huena rolled her eyes. “I want to make a necklace out of the teeth, anyway, and I have a feeling those dust-heads at the museum might have a problem with that.”

Oran nodded. It seemed to be the safer option when Huena got on about her latest project. “And so you’re looking out here for some teeth for your necklace.”

“Yeah?” Hue nodded slowly as though she had been explaining the plan to a dim-witted child. “Come on, help me.”

She tossed him a small short-handled brush and a frame with some sort of mesh nailed to it. Hue then began rummaging through her pack and pulled out a collapsible shovel and began screwing it together. “Rena says there are all sorts of treasure out here, but people are too scared to go looking for any of it.” She snorted, giving the shovel an affectionate polish with her elbow.

“You ever think there might be a reason for that?” Oran muttered as he began to sweep the brush across the ground.

“Nope.”

Huena laughed and dug her shovel deep into the layer of silt that covered the basin floor, stirring up a cloud of grey-green ash and depositing the load onto Oran’s mesh-covered tray to sift.

They continued like this in relative silence punctuated with Hue’s intermittent excited yelps whenever she hit something hard or shiny. Oran tried to concentrate on the Articles of Duty he had been studying before Hue had dragged him off.

Article the First, Fear not destruction as it is the progenitor of growth. As the flame consumes the darkness, so does it illuminate the path before you.

Article the Second, Know fire as the manifestation of innate life-energy present in all things. Fire is life, and through it we see the proof of our existence.

Article the Third, Seek power only as a means of controlling passion, not as... not as...
What was the third one again? Oran shook his head, realizing with a sudden start that Huena had not shoveled anything in his direction for quite some time. He turned, finding her stooped over a small hole with her hands pressed into the silt.

“Huena?”

She made no indication that she had heard him. Her tongue darted out, moistening her dried lips as her fingers delicately curled around something, plucking it from the ground.

He put his hand on her shoulder and she jerked away as though he had burned her. “D-Did you find something?”

Huena was still gripping the object tightly in her hands. Oran noticed her knuckles whiten as he put his hand more firmly on her shoulder.

“Come on Hue, what did you find?”

“It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen...” Hue whispered, her voice distant and breathy.

“Show me.”

She slowly unlaced her fingers, and Oran let out a small gasp.

“What is it?”

Hue shook her head.

“It’s got to be ancient. Old as the Flood, even.” Oran murmured, his grip tightening on Hue’s shoulder.

Hue nodded dumbly, her movements slow and almost pained as she let it slip from her fingers into her pack.

They walked back to The City in silence, hands clasped together around the pack’s strap.

Thinking back on it, Oran should have seen the warning signs then, but the beauty of Hue’s discovery had driven all sense from his mind.

The medallion was easily the size of a man’s hand, its setting wrought beautifully in deep grey iron filigree. The gem at its center was smooth and cool to the touch, and glowed a light that seemed to emanate somewhere deep within it. It was an unnatural color, a deep lustrous purple speckled with flecks of glittering black stone.

Yes, thinking back on it that sort of dark beauty should have been a sign of danger. Had Oran known what it was, he would have ripped it from Hue’s grasp and flung it into the abyss without a second thought. But as it was, Oran could only look back on the event with numb regret, and close his eyes against the memory of what it had wrought.
Cailin
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Posts: 794
Joined: February 2nd, 2010, 7:34 pm
Character Name: Arora

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