The Ancient Ones
Martin leads the small group into a large open cavern lit by blue fire, the same way the lights had been in the sanctuary. As the group approach a long thin bridge lit by the same blue fire, a ghost figure limps past them. Dave turns arounds before taking a few steps forward as the ghost figure stops.
“Dad.” Dave said looking at the figure, but the figure does not respond only continuing across the bridge, Dave makes to follow but is stopped by Brutus who puts a hand on his shoulder.
“That isn’t your farther boy. Only a memory.” Brutus said, he too had seen a figure from his own past, a figure of someone he wanted to forget about, and he hoped that he could convince Dave to also forget about his ghostly figure.
“Whose memory was it though?” Olly asked, looking around at the rest of the group when a deep female voice answered.
“Mine.” The voice of Xyla said simply. As the group turn around to see the god walk out of the darkness. Martin and Dave had seen the god only once before, the day that their father had died, and neither one forgot how the god did nothing to help.
“You.” Dave said angrily, remembering this thing clearly now, he reached for his holster, before remembering that it had been taken away by the magical barriers that surround this place. So instead, he glowered at the god with nothing short of loathing in his eyes.
Xyla ignored this outburst and instead walked towards Martin, who whilst he didn’t back away, was not for lack of trying, his feet seemed glued to the ground beneath him, preventing him from running.
“Martin Wolfrick. I have waited a long time for you to answer my call.” Xyla said, standing imperiously over him.
“Your call?” Martin asked, stunned for words, he had met many crazy people in both his life and dreams, but this woman was, as far as he could remember, not one of them.
“Not in person. I’ll admit it.” Xyla said, reading the boy’s unaired thoughts. “But my servant has been in contact with you I trust.” Xyla finished which is when it hit Martin.
“You, you sent that crazy old fool to invade my head?” Martin asked, and for the first time in a long time, wishing that he had a gun at his disposable.
“Yes. And Igradust isn’t mad, just a little bit eccentric.” Xyla said, before her voice came into Martin’s mind. ‘And a weapon would be useless against me boy.’ The internal voice said, with a lot more force and power than the external one had been.
“How’d you know who I am?” Martin asked, wanting to change the subject as quickly as possible, the voice had really unnerved him, and his brief bout of courage was well and truly gone.
“You are the spitting image of your father when he was your age, Martin Wolfrick.” Xyla said, this seemed to anger Dave however, as the teen gained a new bout of courage.
“Y-You don’t get to speak about him. A-After what y-you did.” Dave said, almost spitting with rage, he had seen how this god had done nothing to help when his father had faced the evillest creature known to humankind.
“I’m sorry about your father David. But he knew what he was getting into boy.” Xyla said, although only Dave heard it as the voice had come into his head alone, it was creepy, the way her voice spoke but her mouth didn’t move.
“The wizard told me that I had to come here to get help. With my visions.” Martin said, wanting to break the silence that everyone but Dave had experienced after the outburst his older brother had made.
“Yes. If you will follow me.” Xyla said, and with that she turned and headed off into the darkness of the cavern, it felt odd to be left alone, but after a few short moments that dragged on for an eternity, the small group followed in the god’s footsteps.
The group continued, passing strange buildings and objects that littered the sides of the cavern, as they passed, each item, large and small, got bigger as they approached and then shrank back into the distance when they passed, as if each were responding like a dog playing fetch.
“What in the gods name?” Russel said as he passed a waterfall, it which when he had initially passed, the water had tried to follow him, as if attracted like a magnet to his body.
“Yes, it has that effect with all rivermen that come here.” Xyla said, appearing seemingly out of thin air when Russel spoke, taking the teen by surprise.
“What is it?” Olly asked, looking at the waterfall, which parted as Russel stuck his hand into the falling water, it felt strangely warm, despite the coolness of the cavern that they were in.
“Just water. Nothing more, nothing less. But it is responding to your natural control of the waters boy.” Xyla said, looking at the parting waterfall, that not three years ago had yielded its treasure to one Alan Wolfrick after he had proved himself worthy.
“I’ve never been able to do anything like this before though.” Russel said, taking his hand away from the water and it returned to falling naturally.
“You are at the centre of all magic boy, even someone with limited magical gifts can perform miracles in this place.” Xyla said and continued on her way, not checking to see if they were following her. Even though they eventually did, with Russel taking one last look at the waterfall, smiled to himself, and hurried up to catch his friends.
“How long have we been in here for?” Dave asked, he didn’t address anyone directly as, he had noticed that the watch he had worn, although damaged, had also gone missing, along with his weapons. He was conscious, they couldn’t stay in here forever, there was a war going on after all, and he didn’t intend to sit it out whilst his brothers and friends fought.
“Time has no place here David Wolfrick.” Xyla said turning around to gaze at the teenager with curiosity, wondering how he could not know this seemingly simple thing. “I told your father; you could sit in this place and an eternity could pass you by. End of the universe and the start of the next. And you could walk out of here not having aged a day.” Xyla finished, remembering the look of shock at this realisation, she wondered why humans were so surprised at this fact, she thought on this whilst she waited for the small group to realise that she had just made them an offer that couldn’t refuse.
“Why would anyone want that?” Jeanie asked, looking around at their present location, she expected to get a rebuke from the god, but Xyla said nothing, so she continued on. “I mean, it’s cool and everything, but why would you want to stay here when we have a whole world out there?” Jeanie asked, like Dave’s, the question wasn’t directed at anyone in particular, it was an open question.
“I dunno.” Martin responded, looking around at the sanctum, if truth were told, he wouldn’t mind it, to stay in a place that was safe, at least for now. A place where he wouldn’t age and could spend as much time as he needed in trying to find a way to end his curse.
“The world ain’t fucked yet.” Olly said, siding with Jeanie on this matter. Russel too nodded his consent to this way of thinking. At which point Martin felt more alone than ever before, he had been alone in his opinion, just like his curse.
As the group continued to walk through the cavern, following the blue lights that dimly lit the path in front of them, they entered a circular room, about fifty meters in diameter, again lit by the bright blue torch light.
“What in the gods name.” Olly said looking around the room, the remarked was apt as in front of the curved wall, stood a stone throne, that dwarfed the throne of Normanguard in size and grandeur, it was intricately carved with strange writings in a language that none of them could read. However, it was the figure on top that caught the groups eyes.
The stone figure of Xyla, sitting on the stone chair, looking down in judgment at them, although the statue was of the god, it seemed younger, as if the god had aged since the statue was carved. Martin turned towards the god, who nodded, answering his unasked question. He was about to ask another, when Olly spoke up again.
“How come there’s only one? Surely a room this big for only one throne.” Olly asked, looking around the room.
“What are you talking about Olly, there’s another one right there.” Martin said pointing about ten meters to the right. Where he saw a terrifying figure, it was on another throne, but the statue on this one was much more terrifying. The legs and torso were of a man, but the head, was that of a howling wolf, the figure was draped in some kind of animal hide, and he glowered down at the group with cold black eyes.
“Who is it?” Martin asked looking away from the half wolf man, the question of why Olly could only see one statue long forgotten.
“There’s nobody their little bro.” Dave said, his eyes were scanning the room, like Olly, he could only see the one figure. He thought that his little brother was really losing his mind at this point until he was contradicted by Brutus.
“I see him to kid.” Brutus growled, looking at the same figure as Martin, although with a darker look in his eyes than the eight-year-old had. Martin smiled at this, glad that he was not going insane, and looked to Russel and Jeanie, who were looking at other parts of the room.
“I don’t know about your figure Martin, but there is another one right here.” Russel said, pointing at a turquoise looking statue with a long dark grey beard and equally long hair, and although it was hard to tell on the stone figure, but the statues, hands and feet were webbed, like a sea creature. Although, for all the other could see, Russel was merely pointing at thin air.
Jeanie too was looking at her own visible figure, a woman this time, with fiery red hair, and covered head to foot in armour. Across her lap, a carved Warhammer lay still, but noticeable unholstered, as if to be at the ready to be brought down onto the figure’s enemies.
“Where are we?” Jeanie asked, looking at Xyla, she wanted to know why she could only see two of the statues, and why others couldn’t see hers, but could see others. “What are they?” Jeanie finished, pointing around blindly at the walls, rightly assuming that other statues sat in equally magnificent thrones, just invisible to her eyes.
“The All Powerful Seven child.” Xyla said walking around the room, as she did so, the scene flickered, as the unseen statues flickered in and out of the group’s sightlines. “The seven gods of your world.” Xyla continued as the statues continued to flicker.
“How can we only see a few. Why not all of them?” Russel asked, still focused on the statue that he had seen when he first entered the room.
“You, Russel Casimir, are allowed to see only that which concerns you.” Xyla said walking up to the teenager. “You are a river-man, and thus you see both myself and Alfdall, God of the Sea. He is the god most tied to you. Giving you the ability to breath underwater for short bursts of time.” Xyla said, and Martin remembered what Dr Larry had told him back in room forty-four. “River-men can hold their breath underwater for almost five minutes inmate. We’re not even halfway there yet.” But before he could reflect on that fact, Xyla had already moved away from the Russel to Jeanie.
“Alright, whose she then?” Jeanie asked, pointing at the figure now directly in front of her, as Xyla moved in for a closure look before responding, with a little more caution in her voice this time.
“That is Berisal, The God of War. She only shows herself to great warriors, past, present and future. I’m sure that if your commander friend was here now, he would also be able to see the lady of death.” Xyla said, seemingly wanting to move on as quickly as possible. Jeanie however, had a different reaction, as she gazed in awe at the god that had shown herself to her. Although Olly certainly looked slightly jealous at this comment.
“And. That thing?” Martin said timidly, pointing at the statue that had chosen to show itself to him and Brutus. Xyla looked up at the stone figure before returning to Martin.
“That one, my young Imperial. Is Fender, God of the Animals and the Hunt.” Xyla spoke, with a look of uncertainty in her golden eyes for a moment as she gazed upon her counterpart. “He only reveals himself to those who share his gifts. Wear-creatures will see him. As will those born with anicom, the ability to communicate with animals.” Xyla finished looking at the pair. Brutus looked even angrier at this, realising why he could see the half creature.
“I wouldn’t call it a gift.” Brutus said glowering at the god.
“A gift and a curse are the same thing. Only one is wanted and the other is not, that does not change what it is.” Xyla said as she looked back over at Martin, having addressed the wear-bear’s concern.
Martin however, looked nervous. Whilst it explained why he had been able to communicate with Echo so easily, despite his families misgiving, it didn’t explain how he had been given those gifts.
“How come we can’t see them?” Dave asked, looking around the room, but still only seeing the figure of Xyla. “How come I can only see you.” Dave finished, for all Martin’s worrying, he on the other hand felt a little jealous of his little brother, he was the hunter of the group, surely it would have been certain that he would have seen the god of the hunt, not Martin.
“It is not a matter of experience my young explorer. The gods are picky and sometimes contradictory about who they allow to see them.” Xyla said, answering Dave’s unasked question first, before turning to the group at large. “You see my statue because you have all been touched by my gift. The gift of light and of the dawn.” Xyla finished looking around, waiting for more questions.
“Why have you brought me here?” Martin asked, whilst this was interesting to find out about one of his gifts, he was more concerned about the other one right now.
“You are here, to refine your skills Martin Wolfrick. The enemy has set up protections and defences against your intrusions.” Xyla said, looking at the eight-year-old with interest now, as if he had done something that no one else had been able to achieve. “Your adventures into Eugene’s mind have been great, and you have gathered much intel on the enemy. But you will need help. Help from them more specifically.” Xyla finished as she gestured around the circular room.
The group finally stopped at their intended destination, where a large cavern stretched out before them. Xyla turned around to face them, looking them over, one after another. Before settling on Martin once more.
“You are here Martin Wolfrick, because who have reached a point where your natural gifts can take you no further.” Xyla said, like Brutus, he didn’t like the way that his curse was referred to as a gift. He wondered why people insisted that he had somehow been blessed. ‘Didn’t they realise that he would much rather have been left alone.’ Martin thought to himself before Xyla continued. “Which is why you must meet The All Powerful Seven, The Ancient Ones, they will guide you through the next part of your training.” Xyla said and turned to the rest of the group who hung back nervously. “You may remain here; we will return soon.” Xyla continued and she held out her hand to Martin.
“You say that time has no place here. But how will we survive, we need food, water.” Dave asked, stepping forward a few paces, not wanting to anger the god, but determined to make his point.
“You will be provided for David Wolfrick. You need only ask, and the sanctum will supply.” Xyla said, before returning to the younger brother. “If you would kindly follow me, Martin Wolfrick.” Xyla said as she conjured a white marble staircase out of thin air, whether it had been there all along, was currently unknown, but whatever the case was, it was here now. “And we shall begin.” Xyla finished, gesturing at the newly created stairway. Martin looked apprehensively to the stairway, it looked somewhat familiar, although he couldn’t put his finger on where he had seen it before.
“Where does it go?” Martin asked, he was being cautious, as this god, was still an unknown force to him, he knew she was powerful, but his experiences had told him nonetheless to be overly careful.
“It goes on lad. It will take you to the seven, who will give you their advice.” Xyla answered, which the group didn’t know was a positive or not, as they had expected a lie, or a half-truth on the matter.
“Will I die, if I go up there, I mean?” Martin asked, at which Xyla chuckled.
“My dear imperial, you and your friends were dead the moment you stepped into this place of mine.” Xyla said, looking at the group. “Life and death and time, all have no hold over this place. As I told your father, you could spend and eternity in here, and you wouldn’t age a day.” The god continued before returning to the staircase. “Now Martin Wolfrick, I insist.” Xyla finished and Martin albeit begrudgingly, took what may well be one last look at his friends, before ascending the white marble steps to, quite literally the gods only knew where.