The symbol flickered off, returning to the map with the emergency exits marked.
“Well, lady, and possible gentleman, you’ve been somewhat helpful, and extraordinarily confusing. I hope you get out of the web, or the walls, or wherever you are.” Cal said, glancing around.
“Have a nice day!” wall-lady said.
“Let’s go check those emergency exits.” Cal said, tapping Ella on the shoulder, pulling her away from where she was playing with the glowing buttons and dials.
The first marked emergency exit was a panel on the ceiling with a handle and a red border. The panel was crumpled somewhat, so they moved on, checking the rest of them. They split up and scavenged the rooms as they went.
In the third room he checked, Cal uncovered a silvery orb in in a pile of molding cabinet, a bit bigger than a fist. It was about seven pounds in his hand. When he tugged on it, it gave him an odd resistance, like it was attached to a string, but there was none to be found. He ran his hand all over the perfect sphere, but there was no point at which it was attached to anything.
He experimentally tugged on it, feeling the resistance lead in one specific direction. With a few scraped of his knife he uncovered another sphere. This one was smaller, but made of the same material. It was locked in place by a flimsy piece of shiny black…something. It wasn’t wood or metal, but it was shiny, as if it had been polished.
Odd, but it is a ruin. There was more to be awed at than a strange material he’d never seen before. Cal tugged on the larger sphere again and saw the black material flex when he did so.
Calvin braced his feet around the smaller orb and pulled the larger one, putting his back into it.
The smaller orb came free, and swung at the end of the invisible chain. Strangely, Cal didn’t feel it’s weight moving around, which didn’t make sense given he’d just had to pull it out…Whatever, it’s an artifact. It doesn’t have to make sense.
Cal experimented for a moment, shifting the larger sphere back and forth and allowing the smaller one to swing below it. Even when he swung the smaller one all the way around, he didn’t feel any chain on his fingers or the larger sphere itself.
What if I…
Cal grabbed the smaller sphere, which fit nicely in his hand, and let the other one fall to the bottom of its invisible two-foot range.
The smaller sphere was significantly less heavy, maybe half a pound as compared to the larger one. And he couldn’t feel the weight of the larger one at all.
On a whim, Cal began spinning it around, marveling at the complete lack of pull from the larger sphere. It eventually got going so fast Cal was afraid he might hurt someone. The larger sphere was starting to spin so fast that he could hear it hissing through the air.
And he still couldn’t feel it’s weight on the smaller one.
Cal swung the sphere forward and hit the wall with it. The floor trembled underneath him as the larger silver sphere embedded itself in the stone wall.
“Whoah,” Ella said, standing in the doorway, arms behind her back, eyes lingering on the orbs with envy. She glanced back to him a moment later. “Wanna see what I found?”
“Sure.” Cal said.
Something pinched his butt.
“Gah!” Cal spun around and assumed a battle stand, dropping the sphere and pulling his knife on the offending creature. There was nothing there.
Something pinched him again. Cal stood up straight and turned, glaring at Ella, whose face was a mask of innocence.
“What’s going on?” she asked, seemingly confused. “You seem to be having trouble.”
Okay, obviously this is her fault somehow, and related to whatever she’s got behind her back.
“What have you got?” he said, putting as much menace as he could into his voice. It probably didn’t sound that great coming from him.
“Show me what you’ve got there.”
“Whaaat? I don’t have anything.”
Something invisible groped his crotch.
Cal let out a growl and jumped on the girl that was nearly a foot taller than him.
She yelped and held out her hands to stop him a moment too late, and he rode her glorious body to the ground, tickling her mercilessly.
“You think you can toy with me!?” he demanded as she squealed, too panicked to mount a proper defense. He went for her armpit, and when she curled around it, he aimed of other exposed parts, never stopping long enough to let her catch her breath or turn the tide.
That continued for a few minutes until Ella collapsed beneath him, totally out of breath, completely defeated, and utterly gorgeous.
Gods damned lack of underwear, Cal thought. We’re gonna need a bigger kilt.
“Alright, show me what you got, and no tricks, or you’ll get more of the same.” He said like a debt collector about to break some kneecaps.
“Here,” she said between gasps, holding up her hands.
Her hands had strange, thin, fingerless gloves on them. They were dark brown, made of soft leather, with shimmering silver scrollwork along their surface.
“Interesting. How does it work?”
“Just wear ‘em.” she said, catching her breath as she tugged the gloves off. Cal let her up and helped her to her feet before taking the gloves from her. They were bigger now that she’d taken them off, looking like they would fit the hands of someone twice his size.
Ella went to the silver orb lodged in the wall and pulled it out before playing with it while Cal put on the gloves.
They had some kind of sticky substance that allowed the wrist bands to come apart and accommodate his hands, then the whole glove cinched down around his hands for an ultra-comfortable fit.
Cal was a little concerned when a tingling began to spread up his arms, but it faded quickly.
Two ghostly hands appeared in Cal’s field of view, mimicking his own. When he mentally nudged them, they moved forward, back, side to side, up and down, but always copying his hand’s posture and orientation relative to each other.
Neat. When Cal stopped concentrating on them, the ghostly hands became dim and went limp. He took his knife out of his belt and slid it along the ground, then refocused on the hands.
He mentally nudged the hands over to the knife and closed his hand. It was a little awkward, but he managed to pick the knife up. He felt the handle against his fingers, as if he were touching it himself. When he tried to will the hands upward while they were locked around the knife, they refused to move for some reason, and yet, when he raised his hand, the knife levitated off the floor, held in the phantom hand.
Since he hadn’t stooped to pick up the knife, he couldn’t raise the knife off the floor more than a couple feet, even raising his hands above his head.
Why does it work like that? It seemed like as soon as the hands were interacting with something, he could only move that object via his hand movements, and not simply nudging it around with his mind once it was in his grasp.
It was an odd limitation, Maybe a safety mechanism, or the gloves couldn’t provide enough power to simply whisk things around the room with impunity.
Which brought up the question: How much power did these things have?
“Ella, can you help me test something?”
She glanced over at him from where she was spinning the orbs like he’d done a few minutes earlier.
“Hold out your palm. I’m going to press against it, you push back.”
Cal put the right phantom hand up to hers and pushed, feeling her palm against his own through the glove.
Her hand was pushed back for a moment before she frowned and pushed the hand back.
Oddly, Cal didn’t experience any pushback, just the sensation of pressure.
“How much force is that?” he asked.
“Not much, just under an adult with no Breaks, or a little old lady.”
Hmmm…. Calvin pushed the range of the gloves out to the edge of the room, ten feet distant, and didn’t experience any problems wielding the knife. The fact that they weren’t particularly strong didn’t bother him. They were really, really interesting. Cal poked his phantom hand with the knife, and besides a slight prick, he didn’t feel anything, even when the knife began to slide through the phantom hand.
Gloves for handling hazardous things at a distance, perhaps? Maybe people used them to shape softened metal by hand or unstick fishing hooks from logs on the other side of streams.
“I like ‘em.” he said, dismissing the phantom hands.
“Wanna trade?” Ella asked, whirling the silver sphere.
The pair of orbs was obviously the better weapon, but the gloves were versatile, except for the glaring colors and the nearly glowing wrist-band. The orbs probably weren’t meant to be a weapon, but he could easily see the small one put on the end of a stick and used to wreck someone’s face with the larger one.
A chainless flail, essentially.
“Deal,” Cal said.
They searched through the ruins, but didn’t find anything else of note, just moldy scraps of rotten wood and rusty metal. One of the side passages had a ceiling panel that was slightly less damaged than the others, and with the gloves, Cal was able to pull the lever without having to stand on Ella’s shoulders.
Which is a good thing, what with the lack of underwear. At this point Cal would do nearly anything for a pair of trousers and some underwear.
As he was considering the clothing situation, the panel fell open, dropping a cloud of dust and rust on top of them. A clattering split the silence as a disused ladder slid down to meet them, forcing Cal to dodge out of the way.
The steel ladder hit the round, sending sound ringing through the entire floor.
“Were they expecting everyone to be giants?” he muttered to himself, brushing the dust off and trying not to cough.
All they had to go on was the hope that the second or third story of this strange building lead to one of the many cave systems in the porous mountain.
What the hell is a building doing inside a mountain, anyway? Cal thought as he climbed the ladder. the way up to the next floor was longer than he’d expected, about fifty feet up before they broke out onto the second floor.
Cal climbed out into the stale air, then turned around and gave Ella a hand stepping out of the tunnel.
The Second floor was a hallway with little blue lights in the walls, just like the previous one. There were lots of doors, but many of them had obsidian spilling out from beneath them like a strangle black spill. Those doors were always impossible to open.
They kept going until they found a door that would open.
It led into a room with a strange, sleek, matallic chair and desk combo, unlike anything Cal had ever seen in Surrak. There was a potted plant that had fallen off the side of the desk, somehow still alive.
The strange room was generally uncluttered, with a strange obsidian wall laminated with cracked glass. Wait, it’s not an obsidian wall, it’s a window! Cal had seen glass before, but never even considered there could be enough in one place to make an entire side of a building out of it. That was what he was seeing, though.
The obsidian was pitted with large air bubbles where it pressed against the glass, but Cal didn’t see any obvious way to the surface.
They briefly checked the well-preserved room for anything valuable, but aside from a chair leg Ella ripped off, there wasn’t anything useful.
The chair leg was a metal tube, and by bracing the smaller orb against the floor and hammering the metal down around it then cinching the end, she was able to make her weapon.
“Eheheheheheh.” Ella chuckled menacingly, unaware of how silly her missing tooth made her look.
She gave the chair leg a swing, and the bigger orb whipped around at breakneck speed and slammed into the wall, stopping dead once it had delivered its kinetic energy.
“You know, I think that was a toy.” Calvin said, eyeing a small metal thingamajig floating on the surface of the ancient desk. It didn’t do anything but spin disks around each other in a hypnotic pattern.
“Not anymore,” She said with satisfaction, admiring her new weapon. There wasn’t a dent on the silver orb. Whatever it was made of, it was a lot tougher than people.
They kept walking down the hall, checking the doors, finding that none of them were unlocked and free of obsidian, save the one they’d been through already.
It was a few minutes later that Cal smelled something rotten.
“Hold up,” he whispered, testing the air, trying to locate the source of the smell. “You smell that?”
“Smells like something died down here. And shit.” Ella said, frowning. “I’m only getting hints of it, though.
“Anything that was down here when this place was first…mountain-ized has long since stopped smelling. If we can smell something dead, that means it came down here in the last year or so, and that means-“
“A way out.”
“Assuming the tunnel is bigger than a rat or something.” Cal added with a shrug.
“best chance we’ve got.”
They followed their noses, drifting back and forth along the hall, trying to identify the source of the smell.
Eventually, Cal bent down to smell at the bottom of each of the doors, until he finally caught a blast of rot in the face. Ugh, moving air currents, a great sign. He inwardly rejoiced as he worked to suppress his retching.
“It’s here.” He said, pointing to one of the doors with obsidian spilling out of the bottom. There was a little less in this one, enough for air to pass through, anyway.
They had tried this door earlier, but now they were determined to get through.
Cal stood back as Ella swung the chair leg forward as hard as she could, grunting with effort. The orb smashed through the door with one hit, popping the ancient steel barrier off of a seal of volcanic glass.
Ella tugged the mace back, and it pulled the door away from the rusted hinges, nearly toppling down on top of her. With a growl and a yank, she freed her new weapon from the door and tossed it aside.
The blue light revealed a room full of rotting bones and excrement, and the stench hit him like a physical force, making Cal reel backward. There was a large tunnel through the volcanic rock leading upward at about a fifteen-degree angle. It was about four feet tall and three feet wide, and it bore the marks of being chipped away by tools.
From the tunnel, high pitched shrieks of fury were taken up by dozens of voices, rising to become one ear-piercing cacophony.
“Looks like you’ve got an Ungrin infestation,” Ella said, readying her weapon, her skin becoming metallic.
“Me?” Cal demanded. “It’s your mountain!”
Cal held his hand out, creating another wasp and taking control of it before it could sting him.
1/11 Bent remaining.
Chained Spirit has reached Level 2!
Chained Spirit Summoning level 2: 20 pound limit, 8 minute. 0 slots available.
“If this doesn’t work, I forgive you for pinching me.” Cal said.
“How generous,” She said, standing in the doorway, aiming to block it with her body. In the distance, he could see the little blue men with elongated muzzles and curved canines charging toward them, wielding stone weapons smeared with the cheapest, most effective poison known to man: Shit.
Septic wounds were nothing to scoff at, and a favorite tactic of the cowardly monkey-men was to deliver a crippling wound and give it time to fester, until the prey was incapable or resisting, then coming back later. One hit was practically a death sentence if you didn’t have access to potent disinfectants.
Which they didn’t
The Ungrin were stacked two abreast, charging toward them with reckless abandon and waving their chips of sharp obsidian.
“Whatever you do, don’t drop your Iron Skin!” Cal shouted.
Kill them, Cal mentally instructed the wasp.
It was more than eager to oblige, despite the astronomical difference in size. Once it got past Ella, he upped the stakes.
0/11 Bent Remaining.
Something Calvin wasn’t entire conscious of, was just how many Fever Wasps comprised a pound. They were about twice the weight of a regular wasp, so one pound made about three thousand of them.
Three hundred thousand angry wasps filled the air, turning the refuse room and narrow tunnel into a buzzing, claustrophobic cauldron of wasp venom.
Each one of the little bastards was connected to Cal by the Chained Spirit link, buzzing against his consciousness with pure wrath as they assaulted every living thing in the room. it was everything Cal could do to steer them away from himself. He let their instincts take care of the rest.
Combining the unique effects of Dupdomancy and Chained Spirit, you have created an entirely new Hybrid Skill, Calvinian Summoning! Congratulations!
Reallocating Fever Wasp to Calvinian Summoning…
Ella froze at the sight and closed her eyes against the cloud of wasps that rolled over her, trying their absolute best to maim her. They couldn’t get their stingers through her silvery reinforced skin, so she was safe.
The Ungrin? Not so much. They wailed and fled in front of the angry wasps, who flooded their warrens, stinging every living thing in the underground caverns until nothing moved.
When the spell expired at the end of eight minutes, Cal slumped against the wall. The adrenaline had kept him going, but the tension of having to mentally force away each wasp that drew close had taken its toll.
Will has reached Level 16!
He sagged to the ground, inspecting the swollen corpses of the Ungrin. The results spoke for themselves.
“Still think a wasp was a bad choice?” Calvin asked.
Ella cautiously opened one eye. Not seeing any wasps, she opened the other, shuddering as she wiped away the feeling of tiny feet crawling on her.
“Show me a wasp that can take care of a child, bind a wound, or mend a Yurt.”
“I get it.”
“Cook food, or open a simple box.”
“I get it.”