Light Seekers #15 – Lys

I wasn’t in the mood to argue when Mask woke me up and led me to the largest forest I’ve ever seen. He made us stop and rest so I could get Levi off my mind, but I can’t. I keep going back and forth between anger and sadness. One moment I’m mad that he would leave me. How can he do that to me? We’ve been through so much together just to get to the city and in the past. I took so many beatings trying to keep other kids from beating the crap out of him. How could he just abandon me like that? But at the same time, I get it. I wasn’t listening to what he wanted. I listened to what he wanted to eat, what he wanted to do in our free time, but I never listened to the important things. Mask isn’t much for conversation so he’s not done a lot to keep my mind off the topic. He just keeps pausing and rubbing on trees for some reason. I thought he was a creep before, and rubbing on trees hasn’t changed my mind.

“What are you doing,” I ask as he strokes and rubs on another tree.

“Markings. There’s markings that’ll lead us through the woods so we can avoid climbing the mountain.”

“Just say you don’t know where we’re going.”

“I know where we’re going. I know several ways to get there. I was preparing for this trip before I met you. I’ve already made plans. If you had planned things, your friend might be here still.”

“I thought you said you wanted me to clear my mind, and here you are rubbing sand in my open wound.”

“It’s your fault the metaphorical wound still hurts. You could have accepted it, bandaged it, and moved on. You could have just ignored it and pressed forward fueled by determination. Instead, you’re sitting on the battlefield staring at the wound asking how could this happen. You know why it happened, you know how it happened, and you’re still sitting there in disbelief,” he nods at the tree and starts walking.

“This isn’t a battlefield. In case you didn’t notice, there’s nobody trying to kill us out here. We’re just wandering through the woods while you measure trees.”

“Physical pain, emotional pain, it’s all the same.”

“It’s not the same at all.”

Mask ignores me like he didn’t hear what I just said and starts to climb over a small hill made up of rocks. He reaches the top and looks down at me, waiting for me to climb. I start the climb; my fingers keep getting caught between the rocks. A rock beneath my foot slips and I feel the same sense of panic I did jumping off the train. The impact never comes, but I’m afraid to open my eyes.

“I can’t keep holding you, climb up,” Mask yells through gritted teeth, while gripping my arm.

I finally make it to the top and climb to my knees. “Thank you.”

“Emotional pain and physical pain are the same. Physical pain is the sign that something has gone wrong. It’s why when I overload your body with pain, it shuts down. It can’t figure out what went wrong. Emotional pain is the same, it’s a sign that something has gone wrong. If you leave either one untreated for too long, it’ll kill you.”

Mask starts to examine another tree, “what are you looking for,” I ask.

“Come look,” he points out a circle with lines extending from it. Inside the circle is an arrow pointing to the right. “The circle is the sun, the arrow points towards the Sun Temple.”

“What’s the Sun Temple.”

“The sorcerer’s home. There used to be a whole city up there, but most people fled after the sun’s light was blocked out.”

“You sure seem to know a lot.”

“I told you, research.”

We keep following the symbols and I keep trying to take my mind off Levi. We’re heading upwards at a slow pace, but he’s sure this isn’t the actual mountain, just a hill leading to the mountain. It seems like we’ve been out here forever, slipping in mud and squeezing through tightly planted trees. Even with my magic and the flashlights, I can’t see much of anything out here, it’s just that dark. Darker than anything I’ve ever seen. I can’t even tell how close we are to the mountain because the treetops are so thick I can’t see past them.

“We’re here,” Mask says as we approach a cave.

“It’s a cave.”

“A path, to the temple, a short cut.”

“Short cut,” I follow him in.

“In the past, many aspiring sorcerers would take a pilgrimage to the top. There’s a path that takes 5 days before you reach the infinite stairway.”

“Infinite stairway?”

“Really it’s closer to 10,000 stairs. The town around the temple was built by people who made the pilgrimage but became discouraged when they reached the stairs. Rather than climb and chase the dream of being true sorcerers they settled there.”

“Did you study a book or something? How do you-,” I lose my train of thought spotting a large creature I’ve never seen.

The creature lets out a roar that makes me want to run, but I’m frozen. I can’t move as it stands tall on it’s hind legs. The fur across it’s body is patchy in places. In other places body parts seem to be missing or attached from other creatures. It roars again, but my legs still won’t move. Even being able to see a complete 360 degrees, I don’t know where Mask has gone. The creature roars one last time before it comes down on all four. The hind legs, large, brown fury and sturdy, the front legs look thinner, feline like with stripes. It rushes towards me.

“Throw a knife you idiot,” I hear mask call out.

I panic and throw knife after knife. Each one piercing the flesh of the beast, sticking out, but never bringing it down. I mange to land knives in each of the six eyes, but it still approaches without hesitation. I grip the combat knives, preparing for a fight, because I can’t outrun it. A gunshot rings out, echoing in the cave. Another roar, I launch a combat knife through it’s mouth and down it’s throat. It stands up and roars again, strained, a painful roar. It falls over to it’s back, flailing.

“Cut the throw and finish it off,” Mask says as he approaches.

“What is this?”

“A chimera. Some sorcerers make them for defense. They’re made out of different kinds of animals, held together by magic.”

“That’s sick.”

“There’s more sick stuff the closer we get to the top.”

I kneel on the creatures chest, and run my knife across it’s throat as hard as I can. Blood squirts out and lands on my face. I almost vomit, but hold it together. Mask and I begin to pull my knives from it once it has taken it’s last breaths. I should have left with Levi.