The Hunter IV - Night's Bridge
"There you are." The scathing voice of Vhoggli echoed throughout the blackness of the next chamber. "Took you long enough to get down to me, and here I thought you actually wanted to explore this ruin."
The chamber was completely dark and it was uncertain where in the area Vhoggli had perched himself. The echoes of his voice seemed to increase with volume as it bounced off of the space around him and into a cacophonous whirlwind. Only he had the strange ability of vision in such a place and he was taking full advantage of it to teach Bhergom a lesson as he emerged from the tunnel and into the dark reaches.
"Where are you, scoundrel? This isn't the time for games." Bhergom's patience with the little gremlin-of-a-man was running out. He felt powerless in the dark while the other seemed to be taunting him. "Reveal what you've found and cease being a cryptic fool."
The soft pattering of Isilda's footsteps neared in behind Bhergom and gave him a bit more courage in the shadows. Immediately behind both of them echoed the heavy and metallic clangs of Tyverus. Bhergom openly let his contempt for the knight out in a snarl hidden by the dark.
"Young lad, now would be another opportune time for your little cantrip, don't you think?" Bhergom emphasized the last three words as if they were their own statement. He could feel Isilda raise up a hand to clamp down on his shoulder. He first took this as a sign of reassurance, yet his familiarity with her eroded that feeling away quickly. It was her silent way of saying, "Stop bullying the poor boy."
Bhergom gave a grunt and took a few defiant steps forward while the young knight pooled his energies to summon another orb of glowing plasma. He didn't understand why Tyverus couldn't keep the cantrip going constantly. He knew the lad had to focus his energies to keep the light going, and he hoped he would keep that up. That is, keep his focus on the one useful thing he could provide, rather than continually flirting with his pupil.
Light soon erupted into the cavern and was quickly drowned out by darkness. The glowing orb that Tyverus called forth seemed like a guttering candle in the shear immensity of the cavern the four now stood inside of. The knight groaned for a moment trying to summon more energy into the sphere, yet the darkness here seemed hungry.
"Something doesn't feel right." Tyverus muttered to himself as he continued to focus his energies into the slowly growing orb in his hand. He tried to let the sphere fly out of his hand, but it felt like if he let it too far from his person, it might dissipate at any moment. "I've never experienced anything like this."
"It's probably just the size of the room, young lad. It is quite large." Bhergom took a few more steps forward to marvel at the sheer size of this subterranean cavern he now stood within. The walls that he could see stretched upward almost a hundred feet and the width of the area was far larger than he could ascertain with his eyes. "Such a marvel."
The sound of icy water could be heard trickling and slushing below them. From what Bhergom could see, the three of them were standing on a shelf that gave way to a natural bridge of rock that spanned some dark reach ahead. On the topmost of that bridge stood the crouched form of Vhoggli, staring at him with those same glimmering eyes that unnerved him so much.
"Well, what is the delay?" Vhoggli remained on his perch at the edge of the rock-bridge and gloated openly at Bhergom. Despite the words ushering from his lips the strange fellow held a unnaturally long smile across his face. The fang-filled mouth seemed to split his lemon-shaped head in half. "I have such things to show you, but here you are doddling like a trembling and scared child."
Bhergom stormed forward and took his first footsteps upon the bridge. His patience was now completely eroded. The light behind him continued to flicker and he soon stepped heedlessly beyond the limitations of the light and into a strange land of silhouettes and shaking outlines.
"Do you not feel that?" Tyverus spoke idly to Isilda while still concentrating on his cantrip. He reached his free hand to grab hold of his other wrist. The hand holding the light seemed to be growing heavier with each moment.
"I honestly can't feel a thing. Well, not much anyway. I can sense your energy and the strain you are under." Isilda stopped for a moment and stared from Tyverus to her mentor approaching Vhoggli on the bridge. Her face narrowed with concern as a realization flashed into her mind. "Actually, I've been blissfully separated from my advanced senses since we stepped into this place."
"And doesn't that seem a little odd to you?" Tyverus continued to grip his hand with strained force. He took a step forward into the cavern and with that single motion felt even more of a draw from his energy.
"Not really." Isilda's look of concern quickly faded into a smile. "It's oddly comforting." She put a hand on Tyverus' straining arm. "Perhaps this is what more mundane people get to experience, a sense of serene detachment. Anyway, enough about this, Vhoggli has something to show us." She let her hand linger for a moment and then pulled away with a flourish of her fingertips running down his arm.
Tyverus remained fixed on the spot and began to worry about what this strange effect might mean. Isilda seemed far more flighty than she had been traveling to this place. Tyverus began to question in his mind, should not an oracle be concerned about being separated from their higher arts while in such a ominous and possibly dangerous place. As his mind got pulled into this quandary, he could feel the control over his light fading and had to refocus.
"It would be good to have some light further ahead, so that we might actually be able to see what this little beast wishes us to find." Bhergom was growing more irrate with each step towards the grinning gargoyle ahead of him. He was nearing into the shadow far beyond the range of the light behind him.
Tyverus soon followed after Isilda with his eyes focused on his hand and the globe of light in his grasp. Each step caused the light to flicker and fade momentarily. Prickles of pain were beginning to gnaw at his skin as he continued to have to put all of his essential energies into the cantrip. He hadn't felt this fatigued by spell-work since his certamen training. Of course, at that time he was funneling devastating spells at another knight-in-training.
Isilda and Tyverus soon caught up to Bhergom who was within arm's distance of Vhoggli on the bridge. As the light from Tyverus' hand moved, the walls of the cavern faded away into darkness. All that seemed to exist in this area were their figures on the rock bridge and the sounds of water streaming an uncertain depth below.
"Good, you're on your way. Follow me if you dare." Vhoggli gave out a cackle after his words and bounded off into the shadows. He first scurried on all fours and then seemed to leap near the threshold of the light into the darkness beyond. His final words echoed out from the depths. "Don't be frightened."
Berghom stood at the apex of the rock bridge with his hands in fists at his sides. His face was growing flush with rage-filled blood. He took two more steps and stared forward into the darkness beyond the bridge. Isilda narrowed in behind him and stopped at his side.
"Don't let him get your goat. He's been helpful thus far." Isilda bit her bottom lip while she paused for a moment. "I know you didn't like Toulam commanding you to bring him, but the Grandmaster no doubt wanted to provide us with help."
Bhergom turned on his heels with his mouth open to yell into his student's face. He caught himself as he drew in a breath and immediately calmed. He could see the concern for him on her face and that was enough to snap him out of his earlier rage.
"I'm sorry. I don't know what is coming over me. The further we get into this place and the more that bastard taunts me, the more I-" Bhergom stopped and began to smooth the front of his robes with his hands while gathering some composure. "This is very strange."
"This is all very strange." Tyverus was two steps behind Isilda and continued to stare down at his hand. "Both of you are acting very oddly. I'm quite sure this place is causing it."
"Hah!" Bhergom gave out a derisive laugh. "It's a simple set of catacombs young man. I didn't think a knight as yourself would be so easy to startle yourself at shadows and tombs!" He could feel his earlier anger boiling up once again and tried to keep it at bay with false joviality.
"Both of you seem blind to whatever is going on." Tyverus passed by both of the oracles to aim his hand like a lantern before them. He continued slowly stepping forth into the darkness and over the apex of the bridge. He lifted his head slightly to look back at Bhergom. "This isn't natural, and has nothing do with fear."
With one last step forward from Tyverus he stopped and could feel the drain on his energy grow to an unbearable level. He dropped to his knees, barely able to keep his left hand holding the light straight in front of him. He gave out a groan that turned into a scream.
"Tyverus! What is it?" Isilda rushed in and dropped to her knees beside the young knight.
Tyverus remained still, with every muscle in his body flexing and contorting rapidly. Small pricks of blood boiled out of the exposed skin of his forearms and neck. The hair on his face seemed to wave around as if on a shifting breeze that did not exist. His eyes rolled into the back of his head and he continued to try and wrest hold of his voice from a scream.
Isilda turned her eyes from Tyverus' face and arms to that of his hand being projected out in front of him. The orb of plasma in his palm danced wildly, growing in size and then shrinking. The colors changed from the earlier hues of orange and purple to that of brilliant greens and searing reds. Tendrils of errant energy seemed to splay out from the light like a growing, sentient fog.
Bhergom ran forward and stopped in behind the knight as he finally got control over his voice and kept it low into a groan. He was fighting his own body and his own energies inside of himself. The old oracle wished he could help but didn't know how.
"I-" Tyverus stammered out some words. "I can't control my own-" Blood sweat began to bead and drip from his brown hair and onto this face. "I can't stop it!"
Isilda kept her eyes on the growing tendrils of plasma that streamed out of his hand. The energy was alight and spreading out further like some kind of eldritch thing. The light provided from the energy began to slowly light up the whole cavern and set the shadows into a dizzying dance.
"He-" Tyverus gave out a small scream and then regained control over his voice. "Help me!"
Isilda felt hypnotized by the brilliant display of dancing energy spilling out of Tyverus. She had to shake her head and pull her consciousness back to the moment. She turned her gaze from the energy to the young knight's pain-filled face beside her. She reached out her hands and grabbed hold of Tyverus' arms. She let her right hand seize onto his right wrist while she moved her left to cover the top part of the orb of light still blazing in his left.
For the first time since entering this strange place, she could finally reach out with her abilities and focus her own energy. She began to call upon her Haeth arts to both heal Tyverus' body and revitalize his energies. Within a matter of moments she began to feel the drain on her as well.
The light in Tyverus' hand seemed to grow and take on a bluish color as her energy spilled into his. She began to feel the prickles on her arms as her muscles began to strain. She grit her teeth together and pulled deeper from within her to keep the energy going between her and the knight.
Bhergom took a step back from the display in front of him. He didn't want to admit that the beast-man might be correct, but he was growing frightened with each moment. In his many years as an oracle of the Authrakallin, he had never seen such a thing befall anyone. Whatever was pulling at the young knight and his student was truly hungry for energy.
"Bherg-" Isilda's voice began to strain as well. Her eyes were filling with tears as she continued to try and choke back a scream building up in her throat. "Bhergom! Help us!" She soon gave in and let out a shrill scream that reverberated throughout the cavern.
Cowardice began to pull at Bhergom. His thoughts froze for a moment as he saw both of the two in front of him strained in unbearable pain. He was afraid that whatever else was beyond would pull him and devour his energy as well. He wanted to step away from the display and run headlong back into the dark.
"Hah! We see your true colors at last." Vhoggli's taunting voice echoed in the darkness beyond. "You asked him to bring the light, you fool. You are responsible for this. Step forward and accept your fate." The voice seemed to surround and pass through Bhergom.
"For the last time! Shut your gods-damned mouth!" Bhergom shouted over the screaming of his student and the young knight in front of him. "Damn you, you beast!"
Vhoggli's laugh echoed once more through the darkness beyond and then seemed to slink away into silence. Bhergom took a step forward and with rage boiling up from within him he grabbed hold of both Tyverus' and Isilda's shoulders. He began to pour his own energies into them.
The display of energy grew all the more, now taking on a silvery hue. The tendrils furthest from the bridge began to fold in on themselves while reaching out to random points in the darkness. The prickles took hold over Bhergom's body and he could feel his aged limbs convulsing. He strained his legs to keep standing and began to pour from the depths of his power.
With a brilliant flash the three bodies were thrown backwards across the bridge. The energy before them alight like slowly moving lightning across the entire cavern. Silver bolts of light seared through the air towards crystals mounted near the top of the cavern. The light continued to burn and crackle until the last drops of energy were sucked up by the hungry crystalline fixtures.
The light emitted from these crystals ebbed for a moment and then roared to life from within. The entire cavern lit with a bluish-silver light. The full immensity of the area was laid bare at last. The rock-bridge, the icy river below, the full banks, and the wall of skulls adorning the far wall.
Bhergom lifted himself slowly to from being on his back. He pushed himself with a groan onto his side and then into a crouch on his knees. He reached out a hand to help Isilda up. Her face was covered in blood-matted hair. Her errant blonde locks peeking from her hood and over her face had been turned a copper.
Bhergom turned to look at the young knight who had already managed to swivel his legs and push himself back up into a crouch. All three of them looked like the very life of them had been drained out. Tyverus looked the worst for wear as he used his gloved hands to wipe the rivulets of blood from his eyes.
Tyverus gave a sardonic laugh and then stared directly into Bhergom's eyes. "Like I said, this is all very strange."