Naiara: Chapter Three - The Felcave
Chapter Three - The Felcave
Chapter Three - The Felcave
The year 491 of the 4th Age during the 8th month of Geminus,outside the cave where goblins dwelled.
"Sister?" The winged elven paladin spoke, breaking the awkward silence between the two. It had been just over twenty years since she last spoke to her sister, waving farewell as she left the mountain citadel. A life she had only started to forget, as she had just now begun accepting her fate as a ranger in the northern fringes of Zephyrus. Naiara has since witnessed many horrors from many battles and has overcome her childhood fears and traumas. She was a proficient archer, capable tracker, and a very deadly stalker of her enemies. She has witnessed the fall of Ostidef, the southern border towers built by an empire of old, as well as its retaking. And she was called to aid Nixautem, the snowy city of the north, to save those she could from the ruins. "Are you okay?" The paladin spoke again, very concerned. "I am finally here to help you." Naiara shook her head no, at the same time trying to shake her troubled thoughts and the painful memories that came with it. She had to focus on the threat looming nearby that she could not identify. She pointed to the cave and finally spoke, "Goblins, and something else. Something different. We need to call the rest of the Palatinus for this one, I fear. They've passed the Vigilate's eye and are too close to home. They've awakened or summoned something that they are terrified of." Without hesitating, her sister Arienh drew two masterfully made elvish scimitars. "A paladin is already here! Let us not waste their time and deal with them together, sister!" She was overeager and ready to charge in recklessly. Naiara stepped in front of her, stopping her by placing a hand on her shoulder. "Fear not these vermin, the Stormlady is with us. And with our victory, we can return home together!" Part of Naiara wished that to be true, to be welcomed back home, and to be rid of this lonely duty she has been performing since the loss of her other companions. But no victory here would bring glory for Naiara, and only Arienh would receive the honor from the council. She began to suspect something was wrong, that Arienh was not just out here to help her, for this was the Vigilate's area to patrol, not those of the Palatinus. She had also never known them to travel solo. "You're out here, patrolling alone? Where are the rest of your party?" Naiara questioned, the Arienh's head hanged low, trying to conceal her blatant shame. Concerned, she asked further, "Are you still an initiate? Have you not passed your trials yet?" Her sister did not speak and shook her head no. "You should not be out here, sister, it isn't safe. If you are not approved for battle, you would be throwing away a great opportunity and honor, one that I could not even attempt! Especially equipped with their arms and armor only given to those chosen. Please, go home, and fear not for me. You should not be out here, but you could send for aid, perhaps offer to assist, and maybe they'll see past this error and let you keep wearing those armaments." Her sister's shame turned into anger and determination, a side Naiara had never seen of her younger sister before, "But I have been chosen by a herald of the Divine Mother! They would not believe me if I had told them that I had seen a vision from the Lady of Light. That I am to save you this very day! I can earn my place amongst the paladins by fulfilling my duty alone, and perhaps prove myself to the divine!" Naiara wasn't the most faithful in her certain circumstances, and she was puzzled by her sister's specific reverence for Dalila, the lady of light and divine mother. The Caelumani was known to be blessed by Asadela, the lady of the air. And the only herald of the Divine Mother that she was aware of was Ahaliah, an angel and guardian of the lady of light. She who struck down Azriel, the Lord of Fire and formerly keeper of justice and retribution, after he struck Hazarh, the Divine Father, bringing about an age of darkness and discord that empowered the demons from the Void and their followers. The world was still recovering from those dark times in many ways, one of them being the great rifts in the ocean to the west. Great disasters occurred during the 3rd age, also known as the Era of Discord. The powers of the royal dragons waned who had guided civilization from disorder and chaos. A star fell upon the lands of northern Rylaren, sinking the isle of Vanras that was formerly the home of the Caelumani Empire, leaving a never-ending spiraling storm and whirling vortex at its center. Cultists of the Void gathered power in an island far to the west in an attempt to channel the dark energies of the Nefandus to destroy the Homeworld above, only for Morkel, Lord of Magic, to intervene and strike the island so hard he almost shattered the entire Moonworld of Dyriak. Great fissures tore the world asunder, dividing the continents with rifts of steam and mist that reeked of smoke and brimstone. Naiara tried, but she couldn't stop her sister as she charged past her with righteous fury. Shocked by her resolve, she muttered a curse and chased after her, concerned for her safety. "Stop! They'll hear you!" She tried to tell her sister, but if she even heard Naiara, she didn't respond. Just why was she trying so hard to prove herself? Naiara would have preferred a stealthier approach, taking as many out as quietly as possible, and perhaps luring the rest into various traps or an ambush outside. Running blindly into battle without a plan has never worked out well for the huntress, nor her fallen companions over the years. As Arienh reached the mouth of the cave, an arrow flew past her, nearly hitting Naiara, who had not seen the goblin archer hiding in the darkness beyond, in her haste to catch up to her overzealous sister. Without hesitating, she drew her bow and returned fire at the archer while trying to avoid shooting her sister while on the run. Her aim was slightly off, missing her target's center mass, she instead struck the monster in the leg, the arrow piercing through just through its calf. The goblin howled in pain, then was violently silenced with a sickening gurgle as two scimitars pierced through its chest and into both of its lungs. She did not halt her advance, as she carried the creature further into the cave on her swords like an improvised shield. Arienh ran into a larger chamber deeper in the cave. Here goblins were resting around a crude firepit that was roasting bats and rats over a spit. Some of them beginning to awake by the noise at the cave's entrance. A couple of arrows stuck the back of the goblin Arienh was carrying as Naiara let fly an arrow in response, hitting one of the creatures in the belly. Arienh threw the corpse of the goblin she had impaled off of her scimitars, knocking down the other archer and slashing the gut open of one of the slowly awakening goblins in her warpath. Her sister recoiled as something struck her, swinging her left scimitar and cleaving a rousing creature's head off. Naiara rushed up behind her, seeing a crude arrow shaft in her right shoulder between the gaps of her armor. She returned fire at the enemy archer further back in the chamber, and barely dodged another arrow that flew past her face from a second goblin behind the previous monster. The first goblin's grubby little hands clutched an arrow that had punctured his throat as the second fell backwards having been shot in the forehead. Arienh continued her attack, as she cleaved a spearhead from a haft raised against her, following through to slash the brow of its owner. Like a whirlwind of death and scimitars, she dropped five more terrified goblins, who moments ago were holding crude swords and knives. Two of her assailants lost a hand each, another an entire arm, and the last two clutched deep furrows across their chests. Naiara kept her distance as she provided cover for her. A charging spearman fell head first upon the arrow that pierced an eye, as it's polearm fell upon the floor, tripping a rogue bearing a couple dirks that also skittered upon the stone ground. Naiara fired a quick shot into the gut of the fallen goblin, then another arrow into a fleeing goblin's back before he could make it to the exiting tunnel. She then fired a third arrow at another she sensed in the dark chamber beyond where the archers originated, the arrow flying right between its red eyes. She knew her last projectile had hit its mark, but somehow it did not? The creature continued to stare back at her grimly with its glowing blood-red eyes, the rest of the monster concealed in the shadows. It, however, did not advance for some reason that Naiara could not fathom. Arienh screamed in agony, and a wooden snap echoed in the dim chamber, as the arrow shaft that was in her shoulder dropped to the ground. Slashing another goblin with a dagger across the eyes, Arienh began to back away. She stood in front of Naiara, who quickly dropped a raging goblin charging at them with an axe with a shot to the groin. What goblins remained were either bleeding out on the rocky ground or retreating into the shadows further back in the cave. A terrifying rumbling growl echoed throughout the chambers of the cave. "We have to retreat, while we still have the light!" Arienh desperately shouted, backing up and leading Naiara towards the entrance as she shielded her. "What kind of creature is that?" Naiara questioned, still terrified of what she did not understand, the creature should have been dead with the arrow that pierced it between the eyes. The chamber slowly became dimmer as the fuel of the fire pit began to cool quickly, and the room darkened unnaturally. "Go now! We have to run!" Arienh said, pushing her sister towards the entrance. Together they made for the opening of this felcave as fast as they could. A horrifying bark bellowed from behind them as the creature began to give chase with surprising haste. As they reached the entrance, Arienh tumbled to the ground, the creature of darkness snarling from beyond. It lunged at her as she tried to back away and recoil, with dagger-like claws scratching the surface of her greaves. It growled and hissed as it claws seemed to burn in the daylight, as the shapeless creature retreated further back into the cave, avoiding the sun's rays. Naiara shot at it again as Arienh fled behind her, her aim still true, but it seemed to just pass right through the creature, as it snarled unphased. Arienh stood behind her older sister, grabbing her from behind and lifted her from the ground as she spread her wings then ascended into the sky. Naiara was startled, not used to flight except on the back of a gryphus. She still was horrified, not understanding what was going on as she watched the grimace of the creature fade away. And then she was relieved as she and her sister approached the clouds. She pointed towards the southwest, where a great maple-oak of unusual size towered on the horizon miles away in a circle of other trees and stone. "Fly us over there, to Druiarbor! We can take refuge at my home given to me by the Vigilate!" Her sister's grasp on her was weakening, "You... were right. We need to call the Palatinus. I am sorry... sister." Despair fell upon Naiara once again, as they began to descend, her sister losing consciousness. They slowly spun around, and Arienh's hold of her sister was lost. Naiara quickly turned around and reached out to her sister, grabbing hold of one of her wings, and pulled her close and hugged Arienh for dear life. And for the first time in what seemed like ages, Naiara spread her own wings, and together they soared. She hadn't been able to do this since she was very young. When she was just beginning to walk comfortably on her own two feet, did she ever learn to glide, but never was she capable of lifting herself off the ground to fly and soar the skies. But at this very moment, she felt as if she could indeed fly. The moment faded as she began to realize that she couldn't keep them both up in the air for very long, hoping she could glide the two of them down into a graceful landing far from that dreadful place they had fled. But as they began to pick up speed and descend, she was no longer confident she could slow down enough to ensure both of their safety. She whispered a desperate prayer, perhaps her last, "Asadela, Lady of the Air. Please protect my sister." Naiara went into a roll to be upside down with her back facing the direction that they were descending towards. She embraced her sister as tightly as she could, as the once flightless huntress spread her wings out as far as she could in an attempt to break as much speed as possible. Then she heard a sickening crack as they hit the ground tumbling, her sister ripped away from her arms as all fell into darkness.
Version Three of my draft, and written using the pro version of Grammarly.