Two Modes of Play

The First Dungeon part 2

At Forbidden Hidden Holy Ground

Echoes

a/n: Sorry for being away so long. Balmung kinda took all my attention, that and writer's block. I know what happens in The World but the RL halves of each chapter are hard for me to write because… well very little is happening right now. That might change soon, not next chapter but a few after that. Regardless, I'm back for now, hope you like the newest update.

Her claws clicking on cobbles, she raced before him, tail a-swish, eyes intent. Hesitant at first, than at last sure she was sure, he stumbled after her. They fled nothing, at her beckon and command. They ran from imaginary ghouls and ghosts, they sprinted to distant sanctuary.

An island, at the end of a bridge was their goal. Yet, how strange a bridge, one without a beginning, or end depending on if one was coming or going. Furthermore it was deprived its lake, denied a distant shore. The edge, the start, had led to nowhere, been abutted against oblivions' drop. As for the details of that fall, they'd been obscured by wind coiled mists, then duly noted they'd been abandoned as both players fled an invisible hoard at their back. Together they threw open the doors, though massive and tick they swung easily at the barest push.

With the force of their flight behind them they struck stone walls with a sound like thunder. Unable to hear anything save the roar of their coming, the pulse deep boom of stone against wood, he turned. A quick wave and scramble tipped Mia off to his intent, and they closed the door against the unseen mob at their back. As loud as their coming, the sudden sealed span shook under their hands till they tingled. Battering rams, and fisted paws, Elk had warned. That must be what the racket was, not them. A curt "Un hunh", and nod had been Mia's consent. So, sword out, unspeakably brave, she braced for what was coming, ears pricks, tail still. Echo's chased themselves across the vaulted ceiling, dimming, than dull, till only the memory remained. That and the tingle, under the skin of their fingers.

Neck fur ruffled, golden eyes gleaming, Mia brayed challenges at the door.

"Cowards, come in and fight!"

Indiscriminate the arches caught the bravo, distorted and warped it till it sounded fearsome indeed. Hiding behind the pews (just to be safe, spot Mia had said) Elk crept out when those echoes had died down. Considering the sound of "them" and the horrible distorting from on high, Elk was more than happy when nothing happened.

"Are… are they gone?"

A nod, and fang flashed smile. To that affirmation Elk smiled hesitantly.

"Th… that was close." He whispered, not quite daring a regular voice, half afraid of what echoes could be born with casual talking in a place like this.

"Bah, we could have taken them." Sheathing her blade, Mia whispered too, taking cue from her companion. Then, eyes gold in the stain glass window filtered light, she wondered aloud. "Why are we whispering?" Still holding to a low soft tone, even as she questioned.

"Well…" Voice still soft, the Wave Master pushed off polished floors. Brushing the knees of his pants he stood, looking about through incense tinged air. "It is a church."

Above and about, dangling from thick brass chains, off gold burners set sweet smoke to the air. They were still as stone, as still as the pews about them Motionless was the tone of the day. Save about the edges. Where light glistened and shifted, sending different hues to soundlessly glide over everything as they burst forth from the stain glass windows on high. Taking a deep breathe, he tasted soft sweetness, like and unlike vanilla. Idly he wondered if the burners were going through a new scent of Aromatic Grass. If so, he really wanted that flavor. Fallowing his example, Mia drew than sighed. Whiskers a twitch, she considered him, then beyond him.

"Who's that?"

Forgoing whispers and dignity she pointed, to that he turned. Cast in stone, wrapped in chains, eight, four per side, was a girl. Elk considered her, though bereft of color all save grey, there was something about her eyes that got you. A vibrancy that transcended color, a breath of… something. Real perhaps, feeling, than the light shifted and she wasn't colorless at all. Just mainly gray, her edges clad in fallen rainbows she looked at them, through them, beyond them both.

Shifting his cap, the Wave Master shrugged.

"I don't know." He tried a grin and seeing it reflected in the gold of Mia's eyes decided he liked how it looked. "But let's find out."

Strolling down the aisle, she stopped by the pews where he once hid, now stood. Offering a hand she waited, eyes brass this time, expression bemused. She offered, and he accepted the hand. This time his grip wasn't so tight, her claws weren't so… pokey.

Together the strolled down the aisle, hand in hand, approaching a bound girl others would have felt compelled to save. Looking at her, in complete sympathy, Elk simply cast the girl a grin as he drew near. He knew what she was feeling all too well.

Tugging his hand, drawing him to a quicker pace, Mia flashed him a smile. "Come on already slowpoke, let's go."

They half ran the rest of the way, only to stop at the boundary's edge.

XXX

There was a careful balance of tone and word choice, that he was fond. Amongst the syllables and inflection, stacked in shifting banks called "subject" and "School appropriate" he set his efforts that were part play part… professional, he took it that seriously. Letting judgment's tides and his present teacher's whim, wear at his efforts. It hadn't mattered, school was school, and passing was enough. So he set his tales, essays, and the like up to the block. Indifferent to everything save that it stood.

Well, that and it's standing satisfied his verbal equilibrium. It was a subtle thing, vital yet hard to define, and if infuriated him when he found it lacking. So he encouraged it, lingering over this phrase, that sentence, he'd turned in another paper same as any other and had been more than a bit bemused to get it back this day with an A on the front cover.

It wasn't that A's were hard to find, minimal effort provided him with that. It was the color, so vibrant it seemed profane. So he stuffed it in his back pack with all its kin (most similarly marked, a few lower but not by much) and let it be lost in the depth of his backpack. Passing the threshold he rolled his shoulders, slipping one arm free of the strap he let gravity do the rest with a lazy shrug. Kicking off his shoes he padded deeper into the house, quiet as could be, a sense of… something… causing to fear any sounds least he invoke a flurry of echoes.

A few feet in the kitchen banished that feeling, and at the sight before him old irritation took caution's place. Neatly folded, propped up against the salt shaker so he couldn't miss it, was a note. At a glance he knew its contents, even before he took it form its place and flipped it open. Reading the predictable was as crushing as reading a tragedy. He sighed at the forgone conclusion, braced against a mire of disappointment.

But there was something else there now, something that peaked at him from beyond the mask of the familiar. It was something lighter, more vibrant, a snippet stolen from… other places. And realizing what it was, it was like pulling off the mask of some horror monster and finding a friend underneath. He laughed then, a shockingly loud sound that was as different from his practiced chuckles and smiles as night was from day.

Letting the paper tumble from his fingers, he sneaked a quick peak at the clock. He'd have a few hours, perhaps enough for a dungeon, another one, anyway. Racing off to his room he left the discourse behind, forgetting it before it fully fell.

And so it fell open, forgotten, that letter, its crease holding it open.

Kaoru,

I went out for another night with the girl's. I'll be gone all night. See you in the morning before school start's tomorrow.

Mom