It was chaos.
Delias had run to the entrance of the cave. He peered out, seeing nothing but black. The earth trembled again. And Delias nearly fell over. Its coming.
Delias looked over his shoulder one more time, before bolting through the darkness. He flew back into cylindrical chamber. A green glow emanated from the surrounding caverns from above, illuminating the entire area. But shadows danced.
A flurry of wraiths wailed and swarmed the entire chamber. Their dark and wispy bodies congealing and turning incorporeal as they ghosted from place to place. Their dark, mask-like faces were menacing and odd in the green light, but their black crystal-like eyes felt cold and bottomless.
Delis shivered as he looked into the eyes of a passing wraith as it floated opposite him on the upper floor. For a second he stepped back, out of fear, and reached at his side for his satchel where his knife and two light crystals were held, but his hand only met skin. Damn it. I was thrown in the pool with it. Delias was glad he thought about putting most of his stuff in the bag up top. He had lost everything in the pool. His clothes. His dignity, though he was not really worried about that on the averati side, but mostly, his knife and some tools. Luckily, he was smart and kept most of his stuff above. But a bag up top was not going to help him now. Delias prepared himself. He was in between a rock and a hard place. A white monster and a wraith. No easy decision. But suddenly, to Delias’s shock, the wraith continued on as it raged and swarmed into a nearby cavern.
They’re all leaving.
Delias had not realized it before, but more and more wraiths were pouring into the chamber, only to leave out another way. They’re going somewhere. Doing something. But Delias did not have the time to stay and try to puzzle it out. He was even less inclined to wait until the herd of wraiths passed him by as the ground trembled again, alerting him to the impending dangers crawling from the depths behind him.
He went up, slowly at first, to gage things, but the wraiths just ignored him, not paying attention, or looking at him, but moving on as if he were not important.
None attacked him.
Delias ran up the stone path, his feet flying up, passing floor after floor. The wraiths wailed, their voices like a soul wrenching song. In their flurry, they went by, retching up a damp cavern wind with their semi-corporeal forms.
Delias kept on fleeing. He ignored the wraiths. He ignored the ethereal glow from the caverns as he left them behind. He ignored the occasional tremble of the ground. He was focused on the top. He was not going to let anything bring him down. I’ve been too reckless. Everything. Every decision I’ve made. All too reckless! I’ve been out of the real world for far too long. I can’t be making all these mistakes, and so easily. I can’t bear it. I need to get home. There are things to be done… Graves to visit.
Suddenly a black arm, made of dark entwined vines, pulsing as it jutted out, swiped for Delias at his side. The sudden attack startled him. Delias tried to jump to the side, but he was going so fast that the long sharp fingers swiped as his cheek as he barely managed to twist away, and so, they drew blood.
Red droplets welled up just below his cheekbone and began to slide down his face and curve up his chin. At that moment, Delias had dodged. He took a quick glance back, but did not stop. He kept on running. If he stopped, he would not be able to contend with a wraith. All he could do was run. To stop was to die!
And the one that had attacked him was a wraith! But it was not like the others that chose to ignore him. It was much bigger. And as it floated there, a very real, and lifelike structure of an arm stuck out from its semi-corporeal body.
The wraith wailed.
The arm pulled itself back, and disappeared into a black mist. And the wraith charged for him.
Seeing this, Delias ran faster. The other wraiths swiped for him, time to time, but did not press on. They either ignored him, or attacked in passing. But on occasion, some variants stuck around longer. They were much bigger, or even smaller. They would chase for a while longer, before turning around and heading to a cavern once Delias passed a floor. They seem to be held to their specific floors. Delias thought. He had noticed this before, and he was now sure as there were no wraiths passing in between floors except for the one that chased him, even the variants.
But even through all this, Delias remained calm. He was a bit surprised of his inner tranquility. His feet were so fast, he was practically flying. The feeling was akin to that time when he was before the gates of Olato City. When the Fisher King’s men nipped at his heels. The feeling was the same as how his mother taught him. To take a step back from all the noise and actions of the surroundings. To run as if free; untethered from the grasp of the world’s shackles.
A good feeling.
Floor after floor went by. The wraith behind Delias, wailed and screeched, but it could not bridge the gap between them. In fact, the gap was getting larger! Even as the wraith flashed within its misty form, appearing a meter or two ahead, it could do nothing. Its mask of a face seemed ugly, yet cold and distant. Emotionless. But that cold and distant, ugly face could do nothing for it. It could not help it reach Delias, and soon Delias was back on the top floor.
The fewer light crystals glowed at the top of the chamber, but they were plenty of them still, and there were some unlit caverns up on this floor, but… They’re no wraiths.
Delias did not look back. He dashed around towards the cavern he had come from based on memory.
Coming up quickly, he found the bag he left. He picked it up, and a bit of dust flew in the air as it jerked, and pulled the strap over his shoulder.
Delias coughed. Why such dust? But even more so, it felt much lighter than it was when he first had it.
Delias quickly opened the brown leather bag, looking in. He needed to make sure the light crystals he put in were still there. And they were. All of them Delias sighed with a bit of relief, but shook his head. He needed to get going. The light crystals were there. His book and some of his tools were still there, and though he was angry that he lost his satchel and with it, some other things, he was content that he was smart enough to stash most of it away before he went down.
It was at that moment that a horrid screech echoed through the tops of the chamber. It was louder, and closer than the wails down below.
As Delias looked behind him, he saw that same big wraith that had chased him from before. It had just flown up. But it was not as menacing. As it floated there, its body became shrouded in light-crystal light. Parts of its wispy black form broke apart. It looked like it was corroding. And with another screech, the wraith turned around and went back to the lower parts of the chamber.
They work! Delias breathed in. The calmness inside of him dissipated, and an excitement grew in its place. This trip was not a waste, after all.
Delias had not only found out that the light crystals can fend of the wraiths, but more importantly, obtained more than fifty of those said crystals!
Seeing how the wraiths could not approach him, Delias went around and tossed a bit more of those crystals in his bag. Since it felt lighter, he was not worried about running away with such a load capable of slowing him.
But after Delias had collected ten more. The whole chamber trembled. And then…
A horrid sound broke the air. A twisting and wretched sound that cracked one or two light crystals.
A vague white and purple liquid seeded through the cracks, and Delias’s inner self shook. His teeth rattled and his face grew pale. He looked down the cylindrical chamber, to one of the last floors with that single cave. Down below, at the tops of the path, there it was.
A white woman. Its tendril like hairs flowed at its back and it’s deep and clear green eyes staring at him. It’s here! But it was not like he had seen it before. Somehow the creature looked more incorporeal. More translucent. Nothing like how it did in the pool. It was so real, so… undeniable. And right now, it was different. A white mist surrounded it, and parts of its body seemed to shimmer and warp.
The white creature roared again.
Delias shook. But this time, the creature jumped. It came up fast, each step it took, and it flew up a floor. The tips of its toe barely touching the tops of the stone path before its next foot landed on the upper level.
“What the hell?!!” Delias cursed. His heartbeat raced; his calmness and slight excitement broke apart like paper within a roaring tide.
He ran through the cavern he had come in from. Glancing at the tracks he left behind, he followed them as quickly as he could. He ran through, flying as fast as his feet could take him.
But… It took me an hour, maybe two to get here. Even I now realize I’ve become faster, but not fast enough to evade that thing for so long. Damn it!
The creature screeched minutes after Delias was running through the dark cavern. It’s at the top of the chamber. The crystals are affecting it too.
Delias took out crystal after crystal, tossing them behind him. The light glowed after they touched his skin.
I may be leading it to me, but maybe these can halt it a bit.
After fifteen minutes, Delias heard another screech. Its working. But Delias’s heart practically bled at each crystal he dropped. And by the time he reached eight, he stopped. He couldn’t do it anymore. He needed them. I’ll just have to hope eight will do for now.
If it came to it, Delias would use more. But for some reason as he lit more and more, he felt slower, sicker, and with his heart less inclined to the idea of using the crystals now, he just didn’t. He was not sure what it was, but he pressed on.
Thirty minutes. Forty minutes.
Soon, Delias recognized the tracks as where he first made them when he came into the cavern and thought it was just a deep cave. He had gone down spiral stone paths, and through small areas and large, but he finally made it. Just one final stretch.
Another roar came from behind. It got passed the light crystals. And its close. As Delias looked through the long passage out, he saw nothing but darkness.
Delias’s heart clenched. For a second he thought the passage had been closed. That by the prior trembling, rocks around the entrance broke apart and closed up the opening. But as his mind focused a bit, and felt a cool daft, he knew it was just night outside. The sun had fallen since he came in. I must have been gone for longer than I thought.
Delias sighed with relief and dashed forth. He was not trapped between a literal rock and that creature.
And in a quick minute, a chilly wind hit Delias’s face as he broke through the cavern entrance and out into the world again.
Green ethereal light seeped out from cracks in the stalagmites surface. The light surrounded the area. And wraiths upon wraiths dashed around them. But Delias was not close to the stalagmites. He had went in the cavern near a distant field of rock formations. He was far from the chaotic action.
Delias ran through the areas of rock and out further, away from the chaos that ensued behind him. He heard no screams. No sounds of students fighting or dying. He heard nor felt a trembling of the ground. Only the wind blowing the tall grass as he ran from the rocky areas and into them. Only wails from nearby dark creatures that circled the tall and ethereal towers. Only the roar that sounded from a cavern entrance that he left behind.
And even as the white creature broke out of the cavern and into the open night, where the clouds shrouded the sky and blocked out the light of the stars, Delias lost himself in the grass and ran off into the distance.
He was going back to a place where he had a chance. A place where he needed to be. A place where he could plan and put a few students between him and that thing.
He was going back to camp.