Comeback Kid

I’ve done it again.

There are ten days left and I have about 30,000 words to write. Luckily, I have an amazing support system in the form of my partner/companion/lover/best friend/fellow geek/supergenius. JD always helps me through, even when I’m hopelessly stuck, and for that I will never be able to repay her.

I wrote 4,000 words last night and I think I’m on a roll.

Because I like you, and only because I like you, here is an excerpt:

Beros found himself nearly running through the tight tunnel. The passages beneath the City of Light that had existed since the first Immortal wars had not been used in quite some time. His barrier pushed aside dust that hung thick in the dark tunnel. Tanila’s light shone before the small group as they picked up speed.

“We cannot take the chance it was him,” Valios said from behind Beros. “When we reach the storehouse, we should make sure it appears that we’ve not come this way.”

“There’s little use,” Beros replied, his voice heavier with strain. “He could see our steps in the dust. Both he and Hestos have means to illuminate the darkness.”

Valios looked over her shoulder, but saw only darkness.

Tanila picked up the pace, sensing the tunnel coming to an end before them. Looking to the ceiling of the small tunnel, she searched for the cracks in the masonry that would reveal the trapdoor leading up. At first she did not see it, and ran her hands frantically over the ceiling, loosening more dust that fell in showers.

“By Sol, is that light I see?” Valios said in a whisper. She strained in the darkness to see in the direction they had come. “Hurry, the both of you.”

Tanila exhaled noisily, seeing the door finally. She pressed a rock next to the crack and the trapdoor swung down on hinges, releasing even more dust that had gathered in the shaft above.

“No ladder!” she cried shining her light into the shaft.

Beros pushed her aside politely and looked into the shaft. Nodding he said, “Built by our order, most likely. I suppose we are expected to have powers that will take us the shaft.”

“I can’t do it,” Tanila said in exasperation. “What are we supposed to do?”

“I can see a light,” Valios whispered harshly. “They’re coming.”

“Tanila, stand under the shaft,” Beros commanded. “Brace yourself.”

The Urd’thas Sol of Light did as she was told. With a slightly visible wave vibration, the dust beneath her coalesced into solid form under her feet and began to rise, taking her with it. Gaining speed, it carried her into the shaft.

“A little further,” her voice called from inside.

Beros tried to focus, watching her rise above him into the shaft, channeling his power to keep her rising at a steady speed.

“Stop!” Tanila hissed from above. There was a bump and the sound of another hinged door swinging open before another bump, indicating the door had opened fully.

Beros chanced a glance down the tunnel. As Valios had said, there was a light far down the tunnel, and it was coming closer. Valios looked at Beros with something akin to fear in her eyes. “They’ll catch us before we can escape, Beros. I cannot face the Deathlight.”

“You won’t have to. If they confront us, we will make a final stand,” Beros said evenly. He turned his attention back to Tanila above him. The bright light that she had been controlling to guide them had ceased. “Tanila,” he whispered. “Are you through?”

There was no answer. He could see a faint light in a square at the top of the shaft, but it was dim. He let the dust fall away and a shower of it fell out of the shaft.

“Tanila!” Beros repeated, this time almost a shout. They were now in near total darkness.

Valios grabbed Beros’s robes and pulled herself closer to him. Frost glistened around her fingertips, just barely catching the light in the distance, as her control slipped and her powers of cold broke through the continuous mental barrier she had to erect to keep them at bay.

“You go next,” he said to her.

“Hurry after me,” she said.

With as much care as before, Beros used his power to solidify and elevate a panel of dust beneath Valios’ feet, carrying her gently up into the shaft. This time he did not hesitate, knowing approximately where the door was. He keep watching the light down the tunnel, noticing it pulsate, like fire, or the crackle of plasmic energy.

Quickly, he looked up and did not see Valios in the shaft. Letting the dust fall, he quickly stepped under the shaft himself. The light in the distance suddenly flared and picked up speed. The dust rose in a column underneath his feet and carried him upwards, just as the bolts of Hestos’ plasma crackled into the tunnel beneath him. Beros felt the energy disintegrate the dust column and work its way up the shaft under him. He fought mightily against it using his solidity barrier to block the energy, but the force of Hestos’ power rocketed him upwards. The barrier protected Beros as he shot from the mouth of the shaft, but the force was enough to send the Urd’thas Sol of Solidity tumbling into a darkened room.

The energy crackled outward from the shaft in a tree of lightning, with branches that reached out like they sought purchase. Abruptly as it had come, the energy faded and withdrew back into the shaft.

Beros used his power to shut the trap door, hoping a second blast would not follow.

In the dimly lit room, Beros tried to get his bearings. Tanila and Valios were nowhere to be seen. Beros’s heartbeat began to race. Scrambling to his feet, he prepared himself to meet an unknown attack—the darkness seemed tangible around him.

The thought came to him suddenly. Using the dust in the old storeroom, Beros caused it to rise in clouds around him. He whipped it around in small cyclones for several seconds before he saw what he had feared.

There, just ahead of him in the room, the shape of a man.

“Very clever, Beros,” Lothos said. The dust clung to him so completely that Beros could make out his mouth as he spoke.

Knowing the situation to be desperate, Beros used his power to tighten the dust around Lothos’ body, adding to it whatever debris he could pull from the surrounding room. For a second, Beros thought he saw pain buckle that dusty face, but abruptly the man shape dissipated, and the dust and debris collided in a sphere where the man had been.

Beros gaped in wonder. No one knew Lothos had that sort of power; invisibility, yes, but not teleportation.

“You could escape if you left now,” the dark Immortal’s voice teased from the shadows. “Leave the women and I’ll let you go.”

“No!” Beros replied immediately. “Give them to me, or I’ll bring this building down around us.”

“And risk hurting them?” Lothos’ voice now came from just beside Beros. “I may have accidentally placed them right under the absolute worst place to be if this place came tumbling down. I doubt light or ice would save them from that much pain. And then what would it be, Beros?”

Beros swung his fist in the direction of the voice, but it met only empty air.

“Will it be deathlight or deathnight?”

Lothos’ chuckle seemed to emanate from around the room in a chorus of wicked laughter.

“You know what Cassius has in store for us, Beros,” Lothos said, his voice stony this time. “With you escaped, and out of his grasp, he won’t be near as powerful as he could be. You could find friends. The Pilgrims and Bear Clan both will mount their armies against him. You could be their leader.”

“Where are they?” Beros demanded. “Why not let all three of us go?”

“No time to bargain, solid one,” Lothos snapped. “Any second now, either Ghefrit or Hestos will come up that shaft and burn you to a crisp. Go now, save yourself. Leave these women to me. I may not let the others find them for a while.”

“While you do what to them, fiend?” Beros snarled.

“Well, being a creature of darkness, I have always been fascinated with light. And as for Valios, the cold and the darkness were always intimate.”

Lothos paused. Then with a thick insinuation coating the words, he said, “I’d like to explore that intimacy first hand.”

The building cracked as all of its supporting walls buckled with Beros’ wrath. If Lothos meant to keep the women to himself, he’d already have them out. Faster than gravity could pull them down, the building compressed around Beros, leaving only space for his body in a massive sphere of stone, dirt, and debris as he pulled in everything in a wide radius around him. Beros pulled it tighter and tighter in on himself, intending to crush Lothos into nothing. Tighter and denser he packed the matter around him until he could feel its crushing pressure on himself. He struggled to breathe, but dared not leave Lothos an exit.

“Nice try,” the voice said in his ear.

Darkness enveloped Beros in an instant. Again, in the instant allowed, Beros was in awe of the Urd’thas Sol of Darkness and his mysterious powers. The darkness smothered him and pulled him down into a void—Lothos killed him with it. The deathlight came swiftly out of that darkness, blinding mind and soul. Beros attempted to scream, but the vibration of sound intensified as he was overwhelmed completely. The light did not dissipate, the sound did not cease.

Death was light, and eternal, and yet in the light, Beros could hear the voice of Lothos mocking him.

“Close your eyes and it will all go away.”

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