Aster stood at the entrance to a particularly large tunnel in the mines, Summer perched on his shoulder. Torch in hand. The rest of his things slung into a buggy.
It felt familiar. In fact, years ago, he had found himself faced with a very similar venture. Summer had been there then too. The only differences were that Sephyr, the crossbreed that had accompanied them last time, wasn't present; and the fact that this request, this time, didn't specify that they had to come away with the Sarane too.
And there was a Sarane involved. Oh yes. It puzzled Aster that such a large creature would choose to make its home underground. You couldn't get Avander down here anymore for love or money, which was a damned shame, because at least Aster knew Avander could take another drake. In fact, aside from the trained drakes of other pit fighters, he'd back Avander against any of his own kind.
But he wasn't here, and nothing Aster said would convince him to come underground either. More to the point, Avander was right about certain things, like how he couldn't move well down there, and that he wasn't too used to operating in the dark.
So it was just Aster and Summer here. At least a big ol' drake couldn't exactly take a swipe at what was essentially a ghost. Aster, on the other hand, was very much corporeal, but he had a little magic backing him up now, so hopefully he wouldn't be wholly defenseless.
'Ready when you are, I guess," he said, reaching up a hand to stroke along the top of Summer's head. She pecked his hand, hard. He snatched it back with a wince, wiping the back of it against the side of his thigh. "Geez. Alright, alright," he muttered. "You don't have to be so mean about it."
She thought this was a terrible idea. They had survived the first time, but it had been a pretty close thing, and she had not enjoyed the process of having to lug an unconscious, full-grown drake out of the mines as they tried to avoid a cave in. And she had absolutely no way of knowing whether Aster planned to do something just as harebrained this time around either.
He'd said he had a plan, last time. That was what he'd said. Well.
For better or for worse, he didn't really have a plan this time around. He was just going to do something similar to last time, and play it by ear, and hope for the best. This time they might be able to avoid seeing the actual Sarane. A nest--- that was easy, wasn't it? A nest could be empty. Summer barely had anything to worry about compared to last time.
"You know there's no guarantee we're even going to find this thing," he said. But he could feel through their link that Summer wasn't the least bit mollified by this either. They'd found it last time.
He gave a shrug, very deliberately unsettling her perch slightly with it. Revenge for her hitting his hand. "Well, ready or not then. Here we go." He adjusted his hold on the buggy, then walked into the tunnel.
It was like crossing a threshold, into the territory of danger. Which was to say that it felt like a big deal, and he felt a bit of an adrenaline hit, a bit of heightened expectation, but in reality... it was just the mouth of the tunnel. There was barely anything to even see here. It wasn't like he was going to hit upon the nest this soon, or else the one who had put up the quest would probably have solved their own problem by now.
Their journey through the tunnels started out pretty well. There was only one way to go, and Aster had a pretty good light source these days, so walking through the caverns wasn't as oppressive as it used to be, when he had been operating entirely by flashlight. Summer gave off a bit of her own glow--- and she'd often been down here with him when she was smaller too, just a wisp--- but it wasn't the kind of glow you wanted to see by.
The tunnel was nice and big too, so it wasn't like he had to stoop down to go forward either. That was a problem he still had. He had been considered tall for a man in his homeland, but he wasn't exceptionally tall as far as humanoids went; he had met a great many who were taller since he had come here, especially among the larger races like the Uthax.
But he was tall enough to have a hard time in a cave. These things weren't really made to be navigated by anything that wanted to be upright for that much of a distance. Though he supposed they weren't made to be traversed by anyone in particular, beyond the specific creature that had created a specific tunnel.
But not knowing where you were going, exactly, and then having a destination presented its own problems. When he was mining, he was just looking for anything that seemed the least bit interesting, but that wasn't what was happening here. This time he was looking for a specific Sarane nest, and a specific thing inside that specific Sarane nest, so any time he wasted was his own prerogative, and would get him no closer to his goal.
Oh, and they'd also come to a fork in the tunnel. There was that too, unfortunately.
Aster and Summer both looked between their options, neither of them making a move, and Aster, for his part, saying nothing. But after contemplating the two paths before them, Aster could see nothing to recommend one over the other. Glancing at Summer, he gave a slight shrug of the shoulder she wasn't occupying. "Your call," he said to her.
Summer didn't seem to have more of an opinion than he did, but when called upon to make a decision, she picked the left path, which she indicated with a slight toss of her head.
That was good enough for Aster, though he did joke a little by saying, "If we run into a giant worm or something and die, I'm blaming you, alright?"
Summer leveled a withering look at him, and Aster laughed. "Alright, alright. You can stop glowering like that." It probably wouldn't come to that... At least, not if a giant worm was what they ran into.
What might happen against a full grown Sarane was harder to tell, but it was what it was.
The path that Summer picked actually wasn't a bad one. It began almost at once to slope downward, though not very steeply, which Aster was glad for. Going down was a good sign in that they were getting closer to an area with better riches, usually, but a lot of tunnels went down quite suddenly, which made them harder to traverse, especially if you had gear with you.
If the rest of the tunnel continued on in this way, it might be worth their time to come back later and see if they could set up an actual mining operation here. As it was, he was tempted to stop and prospect... But no, if he was going to do that, it would be better to do it in the company of Cinna, or that gargoyle he'd been working with recently.
There is a hollow, ghastly sound coming from down the mineshaft. Is that shambling you here? Just what was that noise coming from? It was hard to see down the tunnel; but there was an area showing now that hadn't been showing before.
Unfortunately, it became apparent the further they went on that the tunnel was also getting more moist. It wasn't so noticeable at first, but the air grew heavier as they descended, and after a while, there began to be a muggy feeling, as well as a smell in the air that wasn't very pleasant. Aster wasn't sure if it was fungus or what--- though there was definitely fungus and cave moss growing on some of these stretches of cavern wall--- but whatever it was, he didn't care for it.
He tried his best to ignore it, and maybe he was just imagining this, but he felt like it was slowly getting worse. Or maybe it was changing; he was pretty sure it hadn't smelled quite so... rancid a few hundred meters ago. Whatever it had been before, it was positively nauseating now, and he had no choice but to hold a part of his shirt over his face to ward against it.
Summer noticed his distress, but there wasn't much she could do for him. For her part, she was either spared by the nature of her being, or the smell didn't bother her. Either way, he didn't see her reacting to it. He wished he could have been just as unaffected, but he supposed it was lucky for them that at least one of them was still alert and had their wits about them.
He wasn't so out of it as to miss the noise though. It was all too noticeable, even over the sound of his own increasingly labored breathing, because there had been such a lack of it up until now. He and Summer both froze in place, and cautiously, Aster lowered his torch, willing himself to see a little more clearly in the dark. He didn't have very good night vision, but if he let his eyes adjust slowly, maybe he could make something out...
He did manage to end up making something out, but it wasn't what he had expected. Maybe it was better that way though. With that kind of noise, what could his expectations have been, other than something ghastly? And he hadn't actually come down here in the hopes of meeting a real drake, though he saw enough of them at home that he wasn't as terrified of them as he could be.
It was still terrifying enough. The claustrophobic space added a new element of unpleasantness to the original idea of a frenzied killer reptile.
Fortunately though, what his searching revealed to him was only a smaller tunnel branching off to the side, which he hadn't noticed up until that point. Summer's gaze soon followed his, and she drifted off his shoulder to see what that was about.
It was really a pity she didn't give off more light. She would have made a reasonably good scout.
As it is, she might have made a good scout anyway, but the problem was that she couldn't see in the dark much better than he could. Well, most birds weren't nocturnal to begin with anyway, and Summer didn't look like an owl from the shape of her.
True to Aster's expectations, she didn't go far. It was a pity she couldn't tell him if the smell was worse down there either. Still, he asked, "Well?" when she came back to perch on his shoulder again.
Summer's reaction wasn't very strong, so she probably hadn't seen anything that had caught her eye. They hadn't heard any of that strange noise in the intervening time either, so Aster had no better idea of where it had come from. But she did express a mild sense of curiosity regarding the new tunnel, which was as good as anything at this point. "Alright, down we go then," Aster said.
They'd been making their decisions in this flippant manner thus far, and despite the heightened sense of danger and suspense, they hadn't really gained much in the way of knowledge. Aster thought it was possible they were getting closer to their quarry just by virtue of that terrible scent, but it could just as well be a rotting corpse floating in an underground pool, rather than the remnants of a Sarane meal.
The new tunnel's entrance wasn't very big, and it was dug into the rock so as to be well hidden until you were almost upon it, but once you were inside, it was more spacious than the entrance would have suggested. Aster was able to straighten himself, more or less, which was a relief, since it was never very pleasant to walk hunched over for any length of time. Besides this, it meant that it was possible for a Sarane to pass through too.
Zenjesi: Hey Silv - how do you pronounce Kodakai?
Nov 17, 2023 18:23:56 GMT -6
Twilight-Claw: Not to mention the baby mosca with wolf skin from Elvye and the sparkling owl of Xentus. <3
Nov 14, 2023 10:27:52 GMT -6
Twilight-Claw: I like the Donnor one not just with looks FF, but the description, funny as heck.
Nov 14, 2023 10:26:27 GMT -6
Zenjesi: yours both made me laugh, FF! They're very expressive
Nov 13, 2023 21:57:46 GMT -6
Fiera Ferella: Woooow Twilight, I love that witch drawing!!! :0 It's so pretty! And Zenjesi I think Spectral is my favorite out of yours lol. Just looks happy to be included. and silver now i wanna know which pets youd pick for the other legendary beasts. XD
Nov 13, 2023 21:37:45 GMT -6
Silver: Ah I'm so glad you guys enjoyed it! I love everyone's drawings they're all so cute. ;o;
Nov 13, 2023 17:31:37 GMT -6
Twilight-Claw: I like that one as well yeah, loved the old nootnoot image from quest prizes, so that one went perfectly with that particular costume being based around it. X3
Nov 13, 2023 15:23:13 GMT -6
Twilight-Claw: The jewelry on tail or at the head definitely tends to be their most recognizable feature for a Mosca, and sadly their pharaoh chin piece as well. XD
Nov 13, 2023 15:21:07 GMT -6
Zenjesi: Your peanut costume is hilarious and adorable too!
Nov 13, 2023 15:14:29 GMT -6
Zenjesi: Yes you're correct! I guess I did a decent enough job with the drawing!
Nov 13, 2023 15:05:27 GMT -6
Twilight-Claw: It still looks good on Synkka. She is a shaman Mosca I'm guessing? Its mostly the tail that makes me think of it.
Nov 13, 2023 15:00:42 GMT -6
Zenjesi: I definitely like Spectral's the most too! I sort of cheated by drawing Synkka with a cloak because I do not know how to draw feathered wings, haha ^^'
Nov 13, 2023 13:45:15 GMT -6
Twilight-Claw: Which one do you like the most out of the three you made?
Nov 13, 2023 12:09:48 GMT -6
Twilight-Claw: Thanks for that compliment! Though I know with the water it doesn't look entirely great, I love the latter one I made the most.
Nov 13, 2023 12:09:30 GMT -6