Volume 3 - All Hands on Deck
Chapter 1 - From Uncertain Heights (Prologue)
Author's Note: Hey there and thanks for taking the time to read this. I hope you're enjoying it as much as I enjoy writing it (so far! :)) So, this is going to serve as the prologue for Volume 3. It's by far the -shortest- piece I've posted to date but most of my time has been spent trying to recharge my batteries and stuff over the last couple of days.
I'd like to say that if you like/dislike or flat out hate this story please drop me a PM or a review telling me why so I can improve! It's part of learning and I love to learn. I've got thick skin so nothing you'll say is going to hurt me :)
Anyway, on with the show!
"I still see her when no one's looking, you know. On the breeze, I hear her voice brushing my ear and in the corners of my eyes I know I see her face looking at me just beyond the window pane or in the back of a crowd. My heart soars for just a second but I look and there's nothing there. . . I'm blessed to feel the company of friends and those things I once- and still do- love but sometimes I really would like some peace and quiet. Maybe some day I'll find it. But if not, I guess I can fake it well enough for it not to matter, huh?"
-Diary of Kathrine Stoneriver
The air whistled by her head as she plummeted from the face of the rock. Her platinum blonde hair whipped forward to mask either side of her face forcing her to focus on the massive spider that was looking over the edge down at her as the mountain's pitted, crumbling facade zoomed by her only a few feet away from her feet. She wanted to scream but her mind was too busy working out scenarios. She wanted to be terrified but her mind refused, it held her soul in a vice grip with the reassuring words of her mentor. Don't panic.
She could hear the man below her shouting something as her celestial dog tore at his armored chest on the way down but she couldn't bring herself to look back as much afraid of what she might see as knowing just how much time they had before they hit the base of the mountain. She had but one arcane spell left to her and not nearly enough time to request a blessing from Chauntea even if she could form the words. All she could do was fall.
The realization shanked her right between the shoulder blades with fear. She was going to die. Nothing she could do was going to change that. She had a powerful evocation prepared but it wouldn't help. She couldn't focus enough to pray and even if her patron wasn't busy with someone more important, she couldn't ask for much aside from the comfort that she'd see Her soon. There was nowhere to go. Nothing left to do but wait.
Kathrine took a deep breath and allowed her eyes to close. In the darkness she felt the presence of something there, tickling the nerve endings along her entire body. As though the act had opened her up to the sensations of the world for one brilliant moment before her death, she could feel the wind cross her skin, the scents of the reagents in her coat picked up sharply to fill her nostrils with the tell tale musk of prepared herbs and oils. It was unsettling at first but somehow comforting. Was it the release of the soul from the physical body? Maybe she'd already hit the ground and it already over. . . She opened her eyes experimentally.
Wind whipped her hair across the bruised right side of her face causing her eye to sting but in that instant she could see all around her in one movement. She was still falling. Clouds brushed past her lazily, opening for her terminal decent and leaving tubular spirals through an endless expanse of soft grey lighting. She tried to crane her head to find the man she'd pushed over the cliff. Just in time, she saw him pivot leftwards and right himself. His descent stopped and he stood there as she continued to fall. His massive battle axe was gone, replaced by a simple mirror looking object which he now held in her path.
She forced herself to roll over and started preparing her final spell, running quickly through the permutations in Draconic following her hand motions. For some reason she could feel the words come faster, the energies coalesced around her arms at nearly the speed of thought, wrapping around them and sliding into her fingers to form a fist sized ball of electricity. She pulled on it, continuing the evocation until it was about the size of her head. When she was only several feet away she loosed it at him, silently praying that her feeble elemental ward would keep the discharge from killing her. But then, maybe she was already dead and this wouldn't matter.
The ball of electricity slammed into his chest and he started to fall over. She could see his eyes go wide a split second before the ball expanded to its full size erupting with a sharp and instantaneous woosh of static electricity and unbridled destruction. It exploded not five feet away and seared her entire body with a flash of brilliant pain. It arced over every fiber of her being causing her to flinch and try to pull away but it was far too late. The electricity seared her exposed flesh in an instant and burned her hair as she continued to plummet ever downward. A groan escaped her lips from some subconscious place.
She barely noticed the small mirror pass her by from where the man had been standing before she blacked out from the pain.
A gentle tug. A voice, familiar. Time to wake up. But Kathrine didn't want to wake up. She was tired and dreaming of something pleasant. But what? She hadn't been dreaming. She wasn't asleep in the World Serpent. She wasn't. . .
Where the hell was she?
Her eyes barely managed to open in time to see a bright swirling disk of pale teal before her. She had enough time to register the information before she crashed through it like a rock through a window. There was no new pain but a sudden pull on her body from behind, slowing her down considerably. In the next instant she was falling from a new height, not through clouds but only open darkness with an expanse of water below in every direction. She sucked in a sharp breath. Her face hurt all over. Something smelled of burnt hair. She splashed into the empty ocean spectacularly and something punched her in the chest, ripping the air from her lungs.
Currents pulled her in every direction. She clawed for the surface but the riptide grabbed her by her coat tails and yanked her back down. Her hand touched the warm air but she was back down under. No. She cried out feebly into the ether, kicking hard against the crushing weight of her wet clothes. No. The tide pulled her left with a solid tug. She broke the surface again managing a gulp of humid air before the tide dragged her back under. Under. Into the dark. A sharp pull dragged her leftward, up and back down. An invisible force throwing her about like a rag doll an a formless, airless body of liquid. Kat grabbed her backpack trying to get loose. To get away from the dead weight pressing down on her.
She pitched and shoved off with a powerful thrust and broke the surface of the water still trying to get her pack off before she got dragged under again. A sound rumbled in the distance and Kat turned to it. Her heart stopped for just one second.
Water was pouring over the edge of the sea like a giant stack of planes in an infinite horizon of darkness. Another plane below the one she was pouring water over its own sides far below into the darkness beyond, leaving Kathrine's mind to wonder exactly where it was coming from. She tried to fight the currents, to will herself forward, away from the edge. But nothing she could do would break the current's hold on her.
With the powerful, instant pull of the tide she was pulled under again and next thing she knew she was falling through open air wondering where her life had really gone wrong. She closed her eyes before she hit the lower plane but somewhere between the water and the upper plane she blacked out and never felt the impact.