"Eśmįr æda? Łenkœ mÿoor dū fłę. "
An echoing voice reverberated inside Al's mind, a stabbing pain shooting through his nerves with each word it spoke. Groggily, Albert brushed the darkness from his mind and sat up, groaning as the voice said something else, sending another wave of pain through his mind.
"Nær sę bœ? Eśmįr æda?"
"Who are you! What are you doing in my head?!"
Albert spun around on the spot, trying to locate the source of the voice around him but saw only the statues around the pool and the darkness beyond the reach of the glowing blue stones of the shrine.
"Vę, bo næ sę bœ. Çæło, bę ÿ rało..."
Albert screamed as another wave of pain shot through his brain. It felt like a snake had somehow slithered up his spinal cord and was now worming around his brain. A few moments later, the pain stopped and Al was left gasping for breath on the cool marble floor.
"There, can you understand me now?" The voice said again, spoken words understandable to him at last.
It spoke in an odd staccato, with a silky accent that wouldn't feel too out of place in the Mediterranean, yet Albert had never heard an accent quite like it before. He wasn't sure if it was because the voice was speaking English now, but, though the words reverberating in his skull still hurt, it only felt like a regular headache. It was nothing compared to the writhing pain from when the light flowed into him from the altar or when this voice ruffled through his mind a second ago.
"Who-what are you?" Albert asked, heart pounding in his chest so fast that he worried it might burst.
"Ah, good, you can understand me now. I must say, this is a language I've not heard before. English, is it? Quite fascinating."
"What do you mean? Who are you?" Albert asked again, using the altar to help him stand shakily. It didn't seem like another wave of pain was going to knock him down again, but he kept a sweaty palm against the marble of the altar just in case.
"Who am I? You mean you came all this way and made a contract with me without knowing that?"
Albert yelped as Tendrils began slithering through his mind again.
"Oh, I see, I see, so you have the sight! You followed the energy leaking from my shrine and made it here that way. But how did you know what to do for the ritual? Let's see here..."
The tendrils in his mind shifted as the voice said that and Albert realized that they were the result of the voice rummaging through his mind. The voice's searching tendrils withdrew from his mind and a hearty chuckle filled him.
"Well, I'd never imagined that someone would manage to guess their way through the binding ritual!"
"Will you stop doing that!" Albert shouted, rubbing his temples. His voice bounced off the walls and echoed eerily in the large cavern.
"Ah, it has been too long, I apologize. I'd forgotten how painful the binding ritual and subsequent searches were. I'll try to refrain from it until you've recovered."
Albert sighed, leaning against the altar wearily. If what the voice said was true, he wasn't going to need to deal with more painful rummaging through his head, but his face reddened and heat rose up at the tone of the thing.
"Will you PLEASE tell me what this 'binding ritual' is? And you never told me who or WHAT you are!"
"No need to be so rude about it! We're going to be together for a long time so you should really learn to watch your tone."
"Wait, what do you mean 'together for a long time?'" Albert shuddered. He already longed for the quiet he used to enjoy when his mind was his own and it had only been a few minutes.
"I'll get to that," the voice said, exasperated. Albert could have sworn it sighed but how a voice in his own mind could exhale was beyond him.
"My name is Mæłin, though in your tongue it would be pronounced as 'Myrin.' I am the Atlantean God of Knowledge and Studies."
"Atlantis, as in that mythological continent Atlantis?" Al asked, pushing the fact that Myrin claimed to be a god aside for the moment.
"It's no myth, it is as real as you and I," Myrin stated. "Thousands of years ago, back when the Atlantean Empire was at its' peak, several mystic scholars accidentally tore open a rift to a dimension filled with blood thirsty demons, ravenous beasts, and indescribable monsters. Unable to close the rift, the residents of that dimension flooded into the land and The Atlantean Empire fell soon after. We advised the remaining mystics to use our shrines as focal points in a massive seal that would separate Atlantis from the rest of the world, keeping the invaders at bay."
Myrin's voice was tinged with sadness and images of fire, smoke and tears running down the soot stained face of a young girl flashed through Albert's mind.
Albert shook his head, trying to shake the strange images from him like a dog would shake off water.
"Okay, how do I fit in here then?"
" In the times before the seal, we, the gods, each had a contractor in which we imparted some of our power and knowledge in return for a vessel to reside in. That was the main way the we were able to interact with the mortal realm. After the Empire fell, our contractors retreated into our shrines to maintain the seal and were sealed alongside Atlantis. As far as I'm aware, you are the first contractor in thousands of years."
Chills ran down Albert's spine and goosebumps raised on his skin. If Myrin and his shrine were supposedly sealed away in Atlantis, how did he find it in Massachusetts?
"What does it mean that your shrine is here, with me as a new contractor?"
"Yes, that IS the question isn't it? It's worrying that my shrine found its way here. Something must have happened to its original location for it to move. I fear the seal is weakening."
Albert's gaze wandered over the countless statues of beasts and monsters that were located around the pool. Each one of these creatures looked just as bad, if not worse, as the Chimera he escaped.
"If a seal holding back countless numbers of these things escaped into the world..." Albert thought, eyes darting back to the pig-centaur from earlier. Or, at least, where the pig-centaur from earlier USED to be. Albert dashed to the edge of the raised plinth, craning his head around the shrine to make sure he hadn't mistaken the location. Chills ran down his spine when he saw the pedestal where the beady-eyed pig-centaur had glared down at him before empty and bare.
"As for your earlier question," Myrin continued, seemingly unaware of Albert's distress.
"Contractors are bound with their contractee for until death. So, once again, it's a pleasure to meet you Albert Chen, I look forward to our time together."
"Yeah, sure," Albert breathed distractedly. "Myrin? Your monster statues don't attack contractors, right?
"Monster statues? My shrine never had any-"
A large cracking sound echoed through the cavern, quickly followed by the distinct sound of clattering of hoofs on stone. The pig faced centaur, now no longer the color and texture of the blue stone from the shrine, had broken off a stalactite from the ceiling and was now charging towards the stairs of the raised plinth, stalactite raised over its head like a club. All around the pool, the blue stone of other monstrous statues were draining of color, their skin and scales regaining their original skin tone and textures. The only thing each creature had in common was that their eyes were all focused on the same thing.
"Albert, run! Those aren't statues!"
"You think!?"Albert shouted, leaping off the plinth and into the pool below, narrowly avoiding a crushing blow from the pig-centaur's club. The club slammed into the pillar next to where Albert had been standing. An explosion of dust and rubble rained down around him as he splashed his way through the freezing water and towards the entrance of the cavern.
The angry squealing of the pig-centaur was now accompanied by various other roars and screeching from the other beasts that had awoken from their slumber. A slight hiss was the only warning Albert had before diving out of the way of the fangs of a massive snake that broke through the cloud of dust and lunged at him. The snake hissed again, coiling its body around a couple of the pillars between Albert and the entrance to the cavern. What looked like a horse-sized Komodo Dragon joined the snake, tongue darting out and tasting Albert's sweat and fear in the air. Behind him, a loud splash accompanied the pig-centaur as he dove off the plinth after him.
"You're supposed to be a god, right? Can't you do something?!" Albert shouted, looking for an opening between the beasts that were encircling him.
"My powers are severely limited at the moment!" Myrin sputtered. Alberti could feel the panic dripping off of his voice, even if he couldn't see him. "You must remember that you are my only conduit for this world and I have only just entered your body. You need time and training for you to be able to utilize my powers."
Albert spotted his chance as the Komodo dragon skittered forwards, fangs dripping with either saliva or venom, he couldn't tell which. Albert pushed off its head and vaulted onto its back and slid down its other side, using a pillar as cover as he dashed past the snake and back into the cavern proper. Behind him, a cacophony of angry squealing, hissing erupted as the Komodo Dragon's momentum carried its fangs straight into the hindquarters of the pig-centaur.
"If you don't do something, then I'm never going to have a chance to learn to use your powers," Albert wheezed as his water laden shoes slapped against the stone beneath him. He knew that the scuffle behind him wouldn't stop all of the creatures. As if to demonstrate that point, rhythmic thudding of a pair of large wings drew closer behind him.
"Left, go left!" Myrin shouted as the the cave branched out in front of them.
Albert barreled left, screaming in pain as a pair of talons dug into the flesh of his shoulder. He jerked his body forwards, feeling the razor sharp talons slide out of him with a loud squelch. The walls of the passage began to close in around him and he ducked under the low ceiling ahead. The bird monster's wild flapping and screeching trailed off behind him, too large to fit in the seal passageway. With blood trailing down his shoulder and his right arm hanging limply to his side, he continued forward, needing to crouch and keep his left hand against the wall in order to find his way in the darkness that lied ahead. He also needed to continuously bend further and further over to avoid the ceiling that drew nearer as he walked.
"Just ahead now," Myrin said, voice light and encouraging. "If my entire shrine complex was moved, then the priest's quarters should be somewhere up ahead."
"What...what good will that do?" Albert asked through gritted teeth, holding his right arm with his left. "
"There should be some weapons and a teleportation pad that used to lead to the teleportation bay of Mystic City, the capital of the Atlantean Empire."
"You mean the Empire that you said fell because they opened a rift to a world filled with monsters?"
"The very same," Myrin said, confused. "Why did you stop?"
"You want me to escape a room full of monsters by going to an entire continent of them?"
"Ah, no, no," Myrin's voice bright once again now that he understood Albert's trepidation. "Now that the pad has moved, it will lead somewhere else. By my calculations, it should take you somewhere near what used to be Mycenea."
"Where the hell is-" Albert stopped mid-sentence and shook his head.
"You know what, as long as it's as far away from here and those things, then I don't care."
The passage began to open up after a few minutes and Albert was able to stand upright. Before him a small chamber, whose only occupant was a small marble building, was illuminated by a set of metal sconces that were attached to the walls of the building. Eery blue fire flickered around the small chamber, giving the illusion that they were underwater. The walls of the structure, dull and dim even though it appeared to be made of the same material as the glowing stone of Myrin's shrine, were broken and crumbled in places. In fact, one wall was almost completely missing. Scattered pieces of stone and rubble littered the floor, the only evidence that there even was a wall there at one point.
Exceedingly aware that a monster small enough to fit in the passage behind him could emerge at any moment, Albert leaped over the rubble and through the open wall and into the priest's quarters.
Hello everyone, sorry about the delay.
A large case of writer's block combined with a nasty cold meant I took much longer to get this chapter out than I wanted.
But, hey, at least you got an extra long chapter this time, right?
Huge thanks to everyone who stuck with the story. You guys are the reason I can keep motivated to keep writing through the tough times.
The next chapter will be out next Monday and I should be able to get back into the usual two chapters a week.
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