"Aftó eínai arketó, Kalándra," the bearded man shouted, ethereal chains glowing with an eery black light extending out of his hand.
They swiftly swam threw the air and wrapped around Calandra's hand, snuffing the magical purple fire inches before it could reach Albert's face. This close up, Albert could see agonized faces each face dissolving into smoke and reforming into a new face every few seconds within the transparent metal of the chains. He wasn't sure he was imagining it because the deadly heat of the purple fire, so close to him before, was extinguished or not, but a the chains seemed to be emitting a misty cold, filling Albert's mind with visions of corpses of men and women, recently dead, graveyards and coffins. At the same time, he thought he could faintly hear the distinct metallic noise of a shovel scooping up dirt.
More so than the sword and flames that the Calandra had used, and even more than Myrin's den of monsters, this chain made Albert's blood run cold. He crab scuttled backwards on his hands and feet, desperate to get away from those horrible chains.
Calandra looked as though her very soul was absent, absorbed into the myriad of tormented spirits that looked to dwell with in the chains wrapped around her. All of the color had drained from her face and her skin had become a clammy, milky white. She wobbled where she stood, eyes glazed over, then, as suddenly as they had appeared, the chains vanished back into the nether and Calandra collapsed to her knees. The bearded man quickly knelt down beside Calandra, balancing her against his shoulder.
"Δυστυχώς, το μικρό," the bearded man muttered to her, gently laying her on the ground. Calandra groaned and whispered something back and Albert gasped aloud, feeling like a faucet had just opened in his mind. Though the words coming from the two were undoubtedly Greek, Al could suddenly understand them as easily as though it were English.
"Why?" She whispered, betrayal evident in her voice.
"You were about to do something we both would end up regretting, I had to stop you, little one."
"But...he's a spy!" Calandra gasped, glaring at Albert from where she lay.
The bearded man shook his head.
"Calandra, I only needed you to help translate his English, not interrogate him. He's no spy, but he is special indeed."
"Myrin," Al breathed, trying to keep quiet enough that the two wouldn't hear him. "They aren't suddenly speaking in English, are they?"
"No, as I may have mentioned before, our hosts may gain special abilities based on which god inhabits you. In your case, you seem to have gained near instantaneous learning. Hearing them speak for a few minutes was enough for you to learn the language."
"Rest up now, Calandra, I will need your help once you recover. I will try to speak with the boy myself while you do."
He turned to Al, hands up in the air to signify that he meant no harm.
"I sorry, boy, my student misunderstanding," the man said in his broken English.
Albert nodded slowly at him, mind reeling with the changes that had been wrought in him.
"That's okay, I understand," he replied absentmindedly, pulling himself up off of the floor with a little effort.
The bearded man's eyebrows rose so far up his face, it seemed that they may fall off.
"You speak Greek?" He asked, switching back to Greek.
"See, Master, he must be a spy!" Calandra said, pulling herself up in to a sitting position with some effort.
"A spy for what? Albert shouted, glaring at the murderous girl.
"I don't even know how I got here and the first thing that greets me after nearly being mauled to death by monsters is a crazy bitch who tried to kill me with some weird magic!"
"Monsters?" The bearded master asked, ignoring Calandra's sudden intake of breath at being called a bitch.
Albert turned back to the man, relieved that he believed him and that he was about to get some answers.
"Yes, I was just in Massachusetts an hour or two ago, then I found a cave and temple filled with monsters disguised as statues that got up and tried to kill me."
Calandra snorted from where she sat, rubbing her hand that was wrapped in the chains as if it were frost bitten.
"Yeah, a likely story. How did you escape a cave of monsters in Massachusetts and just so happen to end up in a set of hidden ruins where Master and I were?" Calandra spat, color slowly returning to her face.
"Take heed not to reveal too much, Al. If my shrine and several monsters could escape from Atlantis, it's possible that enemy agents could too," Myrin warned, stopping Albert as he was about to explain about the teleport pad. "Monsters could be the least of our worries if a demon escaped."
"I, well, I don't know," Albert said, quickly deciding to use half truths to bluff his way through. "I managed to escape the main temple area and found another ruined building down a tunnel. When I stepped in there, there was a flash of light and the next thing I know, I woke up here."
Calandra rolled her eyes and the bearded man leaned forward, eyes drilling holes into Albert.
"Tell me, son, what did this temple look like? Was any of it built out of a glowing white stone? How about any writing, were there any inscriptions?"
"How does he know about the temple?" Al thought to himself, alarm bells ringing in mind. Could this man and girl be the demons that Myrin mentioned?
"Yes, there were white stones bricks and a tablet with some sort of writing on it," Albert said after a while, again deciding on the path of partial truths. If this bearded man and girl were indeed enemies, there wasn't much he could do about it in his current situation. He would offer just enough to answer his questions, but nothing else.
"I don't know what language it was in though, things escalated too fast to really take time to study it."
"I believe you, boy," the bearded man said, sitting back against the opposite wall and running a thoughtful hand through his beard.
"What? Master, you can't honestly believe-"
"Remember why we're here, Calandra!" The bearded man snapped, breaking from his friendly manner in an instant. "I've warned you repeatedly about jumping to conclusions and thinking things through. Think! Where did you say you found him again?"
Calandra's mouth dropped open in a comical, "O"-like fashion, her eyes wide.
The bearded man chuckled, the friendly manner that Albert was already used to him wearing dropping back onto his face. The stern and cold atmosphere from seconds before seemed like a dream.
"You see? You're smart when you think things through."
"Yes master," Calandra said mulishly, face growing red.
"Right, now that we've decided that I'm not a spy, can you PLEASE tell me where I am and what's going on?" Albert snapped, grimacing as he pulled himself up using the leg of a statue that was missing its torso.
As it looked like the two weren't about to kill him anytime soon, his temper was getting the better of him. His wounds ached after being tossed around and he wanted to find some semblance of understanding as to what was happening to him.
"Ah, yes, I'm sorry son, I forgot myself," The man turned back to Albert. "My name is Kuzma Theos, I'm an Elder Mystic from Olympus."
"Olympus, as in the mountain?" Al asked, curious as to how one could be an Elder of a mountain.
"Yes," Kuzma chuckled, "And it is also the name of the Mystic Sect that was built upon the peak, where the Gods themselves once walked."
As Kuzma spoke, a cool breeze swept past them, corralled through the narrow alleyway created by the old ruin walls. Off along the horizon, dark clouds beckoned. Albert noticed a flash of light from the depths of the clouds and a few moments later, a resounding rumble rocked through the ruins.
"Ah, but it seems we must continue our conversation huddled in the warmth of the hearth of our camp," Kuzma added, following Albert's gaze.
"Shit, already? Master, I know you said that the ruins would be unstable, but this dimension's weather is crazy. Didn't it just snow three hours ago?" Calandra groaned, grabbing the remnants of her sword with a frown, tucking the bent metal blade and the hilt and tucking it under her arm.
"Oi, spy! Come on, the camp's this way!" She turned and strode out of sight without even looking back.
Kuzma shook his head and sighed, shrugging apologetically at Albert. "Don't mind her, this is her way of apologizing. She's one of the most talented students in our sect, but due to some reasons she's a bit…lacking in the personal interactions department. I hope you'll get along with her regardless."
"Yeah, sure," Albert said, inwardly hoping he never saw the girl again.
"Come then," Kuzma said, leading the way up a hill and out of the valley that the ruins were nestled in.
Their camp consisted of two cloth tents, held up by hardwood poles and rope, that sat on either side of a campfire. They looked like the kind of tents one would see in a renaissance fair, not a speck of nylon or plastic anywhere to be seen. The campfire itself was protected by a stack of stones that walled the fire in like walls on a castle. Atop the fire, a wrought iron metal grate that was balanced on the stones held a simple cooking pot that was steaming in the rapidly cooling air.
When Kuzma and Al arrived, Calandra was walking around the perimeter of the camp, every so often stopping, digging something out of a satchel that she had apparently retrieved from camp, and burying something in the ground. Each time she did so, the air above it wavered like the air over asphalt on a hot summer's day.
Kuzma calmly strode in and sat by the fire, humming a tune as he retrieved a bowl and spoon and heaped a large portion of whatever was in the pot into it. He beckoned Albert over and shoved the bowl into his hands, handing him a spoon and piece of hard bread with it. It looked like some kind of meat stew, potatoes and other vegetables bobbed around in a red broth.
"Come eat, you must be hungry."
Albert's stomach growled in response, turning over itself in hunger. Now that he thought about it, he didn't know when the last time he actually ate was. It was obviously before he found Myrin's tomb, but he wasn't even sure how long he was trapped there, or how long he had been unconscious for. He shoveled a spoonful of stew into his mouth, gasping and dissolving into a coughing fit as the hot liquid scalded his tongue and throat as it slid down.
"Calm down son, the Stifado isn't going anywhere," Kuzma said, rubbing Albert's back and passing him a leather canteen.
Albert nodded gratefully and took a swig from the canteen, which turned out to be filled with a red wine.
"Now, where were we?" Kuzma asked aloud, preparing another bowl for himself and Calandra, who had just finished whatever she was doing and sat down on the opposite side of the fire to Albert. She took the bowl from Kuzma and dipped a corner of bread into the broth, nibbling daintily on it.
"You said you were an Elder from something called a Mystic sect?" Albert reminded him, copying Calandra and dipping his bread into the broth. The juices from the beef and tangy acidity of the tomato broth melded perfectly together with the bread, which became soft and chewy when wet.
"Ah, yes, yes, I remember now! But why the questioning tone?"
"What's a Mystic Sect?"
Kuzma blinked, and even Calandra forgot to pretend to be ignoring their conversation for a moment.
"Surely you've heard of a Mystic Sect," Kuzma said, gesturing with his spoon. "Even If you were self-trained to an extent, you would have to have some business with certain fellow Mystics to purchase supplies and gather information."
Albert shook his head, then took another bite of stew-soaked bread.
"No," Albert said with his mouth half-full. "I'd never even heard of Mystics before recently."
"That's impossible, how can you not have heard of Mystics before? You're already at the Mana Emission stage!" Calandra snapped, interjecting in spite of her apparent decision to ignore Albert.
Albert narrowed his eyes at her from across the fire. She 'hmph'd' and stared down into her stew, stirring it absently with her spoon. If she was going to be like that, Albert doubted he would ever be able to get along with her like Kuzma had asked, even if he had wanted to.
He stole a glance at the girl one last time. The clouds that looked as if they were miles away the last he saw them were now directly overhead, casting the camp into darkness. Darkness, that is, minus the firelight that flickered and reflected off of Calandra's hair, making it look as if it were spun from gold. Her pale cheeks were red in the cold air and her icy blue eyes stared into her food as if not really seeing it. If it weren't for her personality, she might well be the most attractive girl Albert had ever seen. He shook the thought from his head, remember how eager she had been to kill him moments before.
"I mean it! I've never heard of them before this. And what is Mana Emission stage?"
"You really don't know?" Kuzma cocked his head, scratching at his beard. "How were you taught that you don't know?"
Albert twitched in shock, hearting beating a hundred miles a minute, as several bright flashes of light appeared overhead, accompanied by the loudest thunder he had ever heard. The storm had snuck up on him, engulfed as he was in eating and talking, and was now literally on top of them. That being said, despite the howling winds and deluge of water outside, the campsite remained just as dry and calm as it had been before the storm reached them. Water droplets were buffeted against the invisible barrier that Calandra had placed earlier, none of it reaching inside the circle.
"It doesn't matter I suppose," Kuzma said, oblivious to Albert's surprise and acting as if the storm around them were an everyday occurrence. "We have time to kill, so I'll help you learn some of the basics."
He dug a clear, crystal-like, stone out of a leather pouch that he had strapped to his belt, holding it out to Albert.
"Do you know what this is?" He asked, letting the stone rest in the palm of his hand. Despite being transparent, the stone looked as if it were devouring the firelight, the yellow glow disappearing as it hit the stone and emerging on the other side as a different color.
Albert shook his head, transfixed.
"This," Kuzma said with a flourish, enjoying the chance to teach,"is a Mana Stone."
The next chapter is out! Not having internet made it a bit more difficult but I really enjoyed writing this.
World building is my favorite part of writing and this is where the story will really begin to kick off. I'm actually really looking forward to writing more of this, so don't be surprised if I release a couple more chapters soon! ;)
Thanks again guys!
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