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Nightbirds filled the air with their calls which echoed around in the empty void, bouncing down and around the walls of the great chasm. The occasional chirping insect would cry its lonely call, but they were dwindling now in numbers, becoming less and less present as the dawn of autumn approached. Esper walked, her eyes glued down to the blue-light illuminated road before her. Her mind zoned out to the audible melody of the natural world that was mourning for the last summer days soon to pass.


The bag at her side jostled, the contents inside clambering around with every misaligned step she took. Occasionally she would return to reality, awoken from her trance by a sharp sting shooting up through her body. But soon found her walking rhythm again and corrected for the bag leg, quickly returning to her state of idle progression. Fragments of vague faces and smells rose through her thoughts, only to sink away into the fog of forgetfulness and mis-recollection, leaving nothing but a peaceful empty state in her mind. It was unusual for her to be so empty of thought.


This empty state of mind however was doomed to failure from the start. Soon wild visions of fantastically grand houses and opulent towns filled their place. Thousands of vague shapes of men and women just living their lives, walking through magnificently bright streets unto which the sun shone forever. Dreams of more delicious foods and drinks excited her the most however. A pang of frustration filled her that she didn’t get to experience more of Achtel.


She had been too frightened at first to look, despite her desires to see it. The overbearing presence of the many people staring at her was simply too much for her to handle. Esper clenched her fist and promised herself that in the next town she reached she would do her best to experience it. She thought about the old priestess who was so nice to her and then about how she wanted to hurt her. She reminded her of the night-people.


She thought about the tall man and how only two days before he had helped her get across the gap and out of the burrow. She thought about her old home and the state of disarray it was still likely in. Memories and longings for her mama and papa stung her heart. She thought about papa’s rope.


A silent gasp escaped her, as she spun around in the darkness to look back down the way she came, though there was little point in the black of night. Horror dawned on her heart. They had left the rope there, spanning the gap like a thread of a grand spider. Suddenly her mind shifted from its nostalgic and hopeful haze to a burst of panic. Would the night people cross it? Could they?


The wind blew around her, the tall trees around her groaning under its presence. Their limbs creaking with a high tone, as they strained under the sudden gust. Her mind returned to the night she hung from the tree over the chasm. They had been able to climb the branch out towards her. At least one was capable of doing that, even if she had fallen into the pit, Esper was unsure if that was enough to put it back to sleep. The night-people were robust.


Why did they forget the rope? She took the sheet off of it, she touched the rope and said goodbye to it. Why didn’t she think of the danger involved? Why didn’t the tall man? Wasn’t it something so obvious? How did they miss it? What strange blanket of thoughts coated their minds then? She told him about the night people. She should have known. But it was too late now. Shuddering, she turned back forward and walked ahead at a pace now more remarkable than the prior, the wind at her back.


Would the night-people even want to leave the Burrow? She didn’t know. The thought of going all the way back to remove the rope that she had left there came to her for a brief moment, but she just as quickly disavowed it. She was going to see the top. Besides even if she wanted to, how would she get back down all the way there? If she went through Achtel, surely the old woman would see her? Satisfied with that excuse, she pressed on up the spiral path, not wanting to think about it any more in the dark. Not wanting to ignore the whispers of the wind blowing her ear telling her that it was fine. It wasn’t a concern. It had never lied to her before.


Soon the warm dreams of things to come rose in her body and soul again. Of friends and food and of fun and a soft bed. She could work as a gravedigger. Maybe she could even visit a school like mama always complained to papa about in their loud talks. The girl smiled, she bet that would make mama happy. Soon a quiet rhythm-less hum escaped her and began to meld in with the rest of the symphony of the night.


Something just ahead caught her eye on the side of the road. Some flash of color shot out in the dark and then accompanied by another, and soon another. The tone of the light was almost red, but paler and more gentle. Warily her eyes gazed towards the collection of them, the little things bobbing and weaving through the air. Their color that of a blushing face on a spring day.


Esper pulled her head back, shutting her eyes as something darted just past her, swinging her hand around in the air before her face as if swiping away an annoying bug. After a moment, she reopened them and saw the little thing holding onto the tip of her finger. It was an insect, hardly larger than a seed. Its front half was, all things considered, normal for an insect. Its rear however was far more interesting, consisting of an almost perfectly round bulb that shone in the night with a flush, rosy luminessence.


In fascination the girl stared at the odd thing clinging to her hand. It soon began to crawl around her finger. Esper couldn’t help but let out a weak laugh as it tickled the side of her hand, before flying off towards the lantern hanging below her. Wide eyed she stared at the gentle thing that was circling the blue light shining into the night.


Soon another joined in, and then another. Not a minute later a large collection of them had gathered around her, converging around the glowing lamp in a wide circle. Their pale meager forms sinking in and out of the darkness, their illumination being swallowed by the dark night if they strayed only a meter too far. They ducked and weaved as if playing with another, tracing intricate patterns into the air with their flowing movements.


Esper held the bag out further to the side and the swarm moved to follow the blue light. She took a few steps forward and they followed once more. She laughed now somewhat louder, watching the pink lights dance around her. With a large smile molded onto her visage, the girl slowly walked forward, making sure not to strike any of the creatures with the hot lamp.


They followed in turn, sometimes flying close to her face or ears but never close enough to be an annoyance. The light of the little lantern held them deeply entranced, as if under a siren spell that called to them and in turn, so was the girl whose eyes and mind were wild with the colors that she saw. Her gaze spent more time looking at them than at the road before her.


Only when the wind finally came again, running up the same path as herself did her easily distracted mind return its focus towards navigation and the immediate world around her. The little fireflies blew away, as the wind washed over them and she stared with great disappointment as the swarm slowly returned back down the path she had brought them from. A few lone stragglers still dwindled about the lamp, but they too parted ways with the girl and returned towards the rest, having strayed far enough from their home.


With a sad smile, she waved to them as they flew off, their little pink lights fading into the night that she had left behind her. “Bye!” she cried out towards them. She was unsure if they could understand her, but they seemed to dance just a little wilder than they had before, as they faded away and she took it as a sign of their farewell.


Looking forward, the grin now cemented onto her face, Esper pressed onward; deciding that she would yell at the wind next time she saw it for scaring off her new friends. But that was secondary. Before herself, she saw something else now, the road stopped once more with a gap where it was missing. However a large wooden construction that was held together by many criss-cross ropes spanned the gap. She stared at it in awe, as it swung slightly from side to side, illuminated by lanterns dangling off multiple sides and posts.


Moving closer towards the rope bridge, she looked at it closely. It was a wide thing, easily big enough for her to walk with arms stretched out to the sides and then some. The boards making up the floor of the bridge were stuck tightly together from one end to the other. The bridge itself was staked into the ground with long poles, each easily the size of one of the blue trees from her home.


What an odd thing it was to look at. Growing excited now for this next strange thing the new world had decided to show her, Esper went forward and placed a foot onto the first board with little hesitation. The wood let out a simple light ‘thwap’ as her bare foot touched it. The surface was grainy and rough and rubbed against her bare mud-caked soles. A gentle creak came from the ropes, flowing down the gentle slope.


Taking another step forward, she held her arm with the light out forward and began walking across the bridge. It teetered ever so softly from one side to the other, but never strong enough to make her question her footing or its stability. She had walked for what seemed like a minute, when she stopped in the middle of the bridge with a thought in mind.


Looking back the way she came, up towards the path she had just come from, she wondered how they threw the rope across this gap when they first made this? “They must have been really, really strong,” was the answer she came up with, and continued on down. Once more the wind rose from the abyss and she could feel it seep upwards through the boards and across the sides of the bridge. This was her chance.


Turning to look up towards the point of its ascendancy, she cried out “You jerk! You scared them away!” The wind blew on in what she interpreted as a rather rude response. “Hmpf,” she turned her head back, her nose ever slightly higher than before and walked up the bridge which had begun to rise up once more, as it connected to the other side of the span. Esper took a moment to grab onto the ropes and look down beneath herself.


The great abyss hung below her, a giant’s maw waiting to swallow any and everything that would dare to enter it. It was too dark to see down into the abyss as always, even too dark to see more than a meter ahead. But she knew it was there, she felt it. She heard the howling of the winds deep below, each echo giving the story of the road it had taken to reach her this high up.


Her hands rubbed up and down the ropes, taking in the familiar texture as she stood there for a time. Soon however she returned to her journey, knowing that the abyss would never get her. It was the exact opposite of where she was going and though she wouldn’t say it to the abyss directly, she felt that it knew and that that was enough.


The other end of the road was in sight now, the last rise of the bridge connecting to the two mighty poles fastened on this end. Placing a hand on one she took the last step off and stood once more on solid ground. She looked down, the ground here wasn’t earthy at all. It was mostly fine, small rocks and pebbles. They were cool even in the warm, dewy night air and felt strange under her bare feet.


Esper released her hand from the bridge, telling it a quiet nighttime “Thank you,” to which it swayed gently in response. With a faint smile still sealing her soul, she began to hobble onward down the pebble path. Somewhat slower than she would have hoped though, as walking on the pebbles was a great deal more uncomfortable than simply standing on them.

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*~+---SPECIAL THANKS---+~*

Shadowsmage, The Grey Mage, Spencer Seidel, Slime girl chapters 4 lyfes, chp2001, Shaoraka, James_is_Playing, Collin Love, SageDiu Lei Lo Mo, Lord DragonRose, MetusZerum, Pike, ItsCool, Beowulf, Yenin, Darastrix, Chymor, Sebastian Viller, Chotley Ferguson, Matthew Forlines, Lasse, Harley Shockley, Halima, Colin Clark, Anna Turner, Dontspam Meho, David G Ross, Steven Lindsay, Missus Mouse, Imran, Indigo, Stefan Mensink, James Panao O'Connor, Igors Zvaigzne, Zikarioa, Dionisio Trigo, Ingo Wiarda, Michael Maddox, S T, All-In-Vane, Autonomous Spaghetti, Alex, Nick Tinsley, Michael Lau, Mackintackin, Jose, Tzucaza, Alexis Lionel, Carlos Ramirez Guerra-librero, Jo Gucoka, Matticide FOWD, Matthew Orenstein, Popper369, Boohya, Enleed, Oliverthms, Ignatius Colotta, Christian Kenney, Andrew B, Casel002, Tomas Wood, Chris Meeker, Ivan, Scryde, Krimson Fox, Jacob Imming, Zaire Mudu, Slippery.John, Tom Meda, Zeruke, Joshua Shon, Mark Baitinger, Christie, Vikram Valame, Alex, Sonny C, Pieter, Yates!!, Kris, Benn, Victor, John J Riggan, Chris, Howard Roark, Niraada, Deane L Uptegrove, Patterson, Narasan


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About the author

Razzmatazz

Bio: Socially awkward witches, sad hugs, dramatic adventures, spooky stuff, and comfy dungeons: My name is D.M. Rhodes, but I love to write about those things under the moniker 'Razzmatazz'. (Hopefully full-time, one day soon!) I’m a hobby occultist and, more boringly, I’m an XR expert, as well as a government-trained media and information specialist.

The main genres that I write in are litRPG-fantasy, action, adventure, romance, tragedy, horror, and slice-of-life. I seriously vibe with religious and occult overtones mixed in with super obscure story concepts. °( ~ )°

Thanks for taking an interest! Because of supportive readers like yourself, I can keep following my socially unacceptable dream! (I'm going to become the wizard-king.)

– Always open for feedback!

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