Chapter 85: Whispers of the Fallen, Part I

Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 383

Zidane was in the middle of telling a story when he suddenly disappeared. Lance's eyes grew wide, footsteps halting as he stood alone in the middle of a clearing.

"Zidane?" he called, looking around.

No answer.

"C'mon, this isn't funny..."

He knew Zidane had a small storage of energy, but to use it all as a joke? None of that made sense.

It was when he stepped forward that his surroundings shifted.

A windy path on the side of a grey mountain greeted him. Lance's breath fell from him, and he looked to see Zidane glance back.

"Where are we?" Lance asked.

Zidane reached into his back pocket, pulling out a folded map. He opened it, popping out the chart. But the blinking dot that represented them was nowhere to be seen.

"He must have teleported us off-track."

"He?" Lance asked. "You mean Yowlitch?"

"Yeah, or someone under his command. It might've been a teleportation barrier."

Lance thought back. That made sense; both of them teleported when they stepped up to a certain spot.

"So, what do we do?"

"Find a way out of here." Zidane started forward, tucking the map into his back pocket. Lance followed, cautious of the ledge a few feet away.

They walked for a few minutes in silence before Zidane slowed to a stop, a small, one-foot gap separating the path.

Zidane cautiously stepped over, foot knocking a few rocks down. With his heart in his throat, Lance watched them fall, fire surrounding the splashes they made.

Firewater. Great.

"Is that really necessary?" Lance asked, stepping over the gap. "Like, it's not enough you drown, but you gotta get burned up before you do."

Zidane grinned, walking forward. "Let's hope we don't find out."

They continued on, a few more jumps greeting them. They were cleared easily, and a few minutes later the two came across a wall filled with writing. Lance looked over the foreign symbols as Zidane slowed to a stop, looking up to the top.

The crossbreed raised two fingers, touching his forehead before touching the wall, forefinger spreading away from the middle. A few questions resounded in Lance's mind, but he picked one of them.

"Why the forehead?"

"Represents the third eye," Zidane replied, voice a little distant. "All knowing, all seeing."

"So, it's seeing respect for the dead," Lance said, watching Zidane nod solemnly.

"Yeah," was all he said. His gaze rose, looking up to the top of the wall again, scanning all the messages along the way. "There's been a lot."

"Which makes it fun for us," Lance said, feeling his face pale.

Zidane smiled, turning ahead. "We'll get through it," he said. The staff on his back shifted with a shrug of the shoulder. "We have to."

Lance nodded, determination sinking into his gut and mixing with the fear. He swallowed, trying to back the emotion away, and continued on. Converse shoes scraping against unknown, rock-like material.

They came across the first jump a few minutes later, the gap splitting apart their path.

Zidane suddenly stopped walking, turning to Lance and nodding towards the bag at his side. "There should be a rope in your duffel bag."

Lance unzipped the bag, digging through flat, translucent rectangles and bags filled with clear liquid. Lance knew the rectangles were trays that formed thoughts into food; the bags, however, Lance questioned aloud.

"They're for healing. Hopefully, we won't have to use them."

"Found it." Lance pulled out a tightly coiled rope. "Now what?"

Zidane stepped up to him, taking the rope and flicking it out. It draped to its full length and Zidane tied one end around his waist. He stepped back, tossing the other half of the rope. Lance caught it, wrapping the rope around his waist. He cursed, fumbling with the knot. It slipped from his hands, brain too preoccupied with the image of falling to his death.

"Here." Zidane stepped forward, and Lance watched the rope retract, slipping to a shorter length.

"It... Gets shorter."

Zidane nodded, taking Lance's side of the rope as he glanced up. "Gets longer, too. It'll come in handy."

Lance nodded, trying to become fascinated with the magic of it instead of the gaping drop a few feet to his right. He tried to breathe, putting a hand to his hair. Just breathe, he was still alive.

Maybe not for long, though.

Zidane suddenly stopped, and Lance copied his movement.

"First jump."

Lance rose onto his tip-toes, trying to see what he was talking about when Zidane stepped to the left, allowing Lance view of the space between this path and another one. Shit.

Zidane smiled, reaching up to ruffle Lance's already-messed up hair. "Don't worry about it."

Lance only briefly looked up, deciding not to bother with the inevitable wind-swept look. He walked forward, seeing Zidane stop a few feet from the edge. The crossbreed stepped back, hand going behind him, finger sweeping against the body of the rope. He pulled on it, making sure it would extend, and moved back until he was almost directly in front of Lance.

He sprinted, bounding across and quickly beginning to drop. A hand reached out, catching the ledge.

Lance let out the breath he'd been holding in. Way too close; how the hell was he supposed to get to the other side if Zidane barely made it?

"So, how are we going about this?" he asked, leaning his weight to the side as his hands slipped into the pocket of his hoodie. He watched Zidane stand, brushing off his legs.

"Step off"—a hand reached out, fingertip sliding against the rope's body. Zidane yanked it, stumbling Lance for a moment—"And I'll pull you back up."

Lance's heart leapt to his throat. That was his plan?

"You serious?" he asked.

Zidane nodded, shrugging as he held the rope, prepared to tug. "What else would you have me do?"

Lance briefly looked down, taking a few steps forward to see the end of the path. The immediate drop into the firewater.

Shit. He really didn't have a choice.

With his heart hammering, he spoke aloud.

"You sure it'll stay?" he asked, speaking about the rope.

Zidane nodded, tugging again a few times. Lance shuffled forward. "Alright, alright I get it."

Zidane grinned, but Lance couldn't return the expression.

He held his breath, and stepped off the ledge.

Gravity slammed into him, chilling his body and numbing his insides. Placing his stomach in his throat. He suddenly stopped falling, body jerked by the rope around his waist, and began to swing, turning to avoid slamming face-first into the new path. Body bumping, he looked up, seeing Zidane smile down at him. Already beginning to hoist him up.

Lance let out a breath, trying not to feel like dead weight.

He reached up, Zidane taking his wrist and pulling him past the ledge of the path. Lance's shoes scraped against the ledge, finally finding stability.

"That was stupid," he breathed shakily, hearing Zidane laugh.

"Hopefully, that's our last one," he said. "Not sure how many could make it."

"Are these ropes common?"

Zidane shook his head. "Not really; this one was modified by Yittek for length." At Lance's nod, he grinned. "Let's keep going."

They continued on, each jump more difficult than the last. Further apart, and it was when Zidane briefly ran along the wall and jumped to safety that Lance questioned him.

"You're using some of the reserve?"

Zidane nodded, hands slipping into his pockets. "Have to." He gave a reverse-nod to Lance's ledge. "It's okay, though. Step off and I'll pull you up."

Lance sighed. His fear of heights wasn't coming in handy. It's not like he was getting used to this, either...

He did as he was told, dropping off, feeling gravity scream at him, and waited to be pulled up. Just perfect.

He spun until he was hanging in front of the ledge, stepping onto it and taking Zidane's forearm, the crossbreed returning the hold. Zidane stepped back as Lance stepped up onto the ledge, giving a grin.

"Think we got a hike before the next one."

Lance looked beyond him, seeing the path wind around and disappear around a corner. Judging from the distant paths he could see, there weren't any jumps for a while.

"Good," he breathed. He held his tongue, stopping himself from saying how his body was starting to hurt from getting slammed into stone over and over again.

Zidane slapped a hand to his shoulder, the pressure falling away as the crossbreed started forward. "Better than the alternative, right?"

Yeah, guess so...

Lance read the wall as they passed by, seeing fewer signatures the further they went.

"Shouldn't this be easy for Razaleks?" Lance asked.

Zidane shook his head. "Most aren't used to having a drastically reduced energy storage, so they probably burnt it all out early on."

"Couldn't they just teleport out?"

"Not enough energy." Zidane shrugged.

He suddenly slowed down. Lance stepped to the side, looking past Zidane and feeling his stomach drop. A thin pathway—no more than a few inches in width—wound alongside the mountain wall.

They were going to have to scale.

Submitted: December 04, 2019

© Copyright 2023 Meaghan Kalena. All rights reserved.


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