50 Into The Inferno Part 2
"Dad, something's not right..." Hein voiced his concern as they headed deeper into the cave, his sword at the ready. In his left hand, a flame was suspended in order to light the path.
Chief Orn agreed with his son's concerns, but he just couldn't pinpoint what was making him feel uneasy. Rubbing the burns on his arms, Orn maintained his vigilance, constantly shifting his gaze to prevent any ambushes.
Finn followed closely behind, unwilling to lose them in the maze like structure. The cave they had entered was not linear, and had many branching paths leading into the dark unknown. Contrary to the entrance's size, which was just big enough for the fire drake, the interior was far more spacious.
It was more like a large cavern, and in different circumstances, Finn would have paused to admire the beautiful stalactites and stalagmites that dotted the surroundings.
Its a bit too dark... Finn noticed that Hein was illuminating the path with a flame held in his hand, like a torch. However, just like a torch, the mellow orange glow combined with the flickering made for a poor light source.
Willing a sphere of bright light into existence, Finn causally let it float in front of the path to light the way, surprising the two human warriors. Unlike Hein's flame, Finn's light was bright like a miniature sun, and provided constant luminescence.
Snorting, Hein shook the flame in his hand out, while Orn turned and beat his chest once, an action that Finn had learned meant "thanks."
Finn nodded, and the trio continued on into the dark.
After about half an hour passed, Finn was starting to get suspicious. How deep does this go? Finn couldn't help but think that they had been walking in circles, but he couldn't voice his concerns.
However, there was something else that was beginning to trouble him more. The air was getting warmer...
"Dad, are you sure you know where we're going?" Even Hein was beginning to feel doubt.
Not slowing down, Orn continued to maintain his vigilance as they passed every junction and corner, preparing to be ambushed at any moment. "Listen boy, I grew up exploring these caves. They extend very deep, and I believe that the fire drake would be-" Orn's response was cut short as they came to a fork in the path.
Ahead, there were three tunnels from which to chose, spread out evenly. Noticing his father's sudden lack of words, Hein inquired, "What is it?"
"This... there should only be two tunnels here..." Orn whispered as he approached the one in the middle. As he did so, Finn conjured up two more light spheres and sent them down the other two paths to see where they went.
The paths on the right and left eventually looped back, rejoining the more complex cave system. As for the one in the middle...
"This tunnel was dug out! Come, look at these markings on the walls..." Orn gestured to his son. Seeing the two humans studying something intently, Finn made a sphere of light appear over their heads to give them more light.
When he approached, he also saw what they were looking at.
Claw marks... This tunnel was dug out by a creature with claws even bigger than Finn's own, and there was only one possible creature it could be.
The fire drake dug out this tunnel? Finn willed a sphere of light down the middle path. Unlike the other two, this path went straight and down, seemingly further into the depths of the mountain. Not an ominous sign at all...
As if to add to the mood, a sudden and hot breeze blew past the trio, as if the mountain was warning them of what's ahead.
Hein suddenly twitched, and Orn was alerted as well. "Father, did you sense it?"
Orn's grip on his spear tightened significantly. "Aye son, there's a massive amount of fire elemental energy ahead, but it doesn't feel like it belongs to the fire drake."
Hein nodded. "I know, it feels... purer somehow. Do you know what it's coming from."
Orn frowned in thought. "There are a few possibilities, but I'm not certain of any of them."
Hein shook his shoulders to stretch them out. "Well, what's the worst it could be? I say we keep moving. My sword is thirsting for blood." Hein boldly stated as he flipped the sword in his hand.
Orn chuckled humorlessly. "The worst it could be is something I dare not imagine, but that is not likely. If it was, we would have sensed its energy long ago..."
Hein's bravado cooled off at that. His smirk trending into a frown. "Well... what should we do then?"
Orn looked down in thought as he leaned on his spear. Finn and Hein stood by quietly, sensing the mood.
They were heading into the unknown with a possibly dangerous new variable at play. Orn was not one to run in blind. However, right now they had the initiative.
If they left now, the fire drake could retaliate at any moment against their village. If it managed to find their village once, Orn was certain it could do it again. At least right here and now, they could kill the beast without involving their fellow tribesmen.
Besides, Orn had come fully prepared to fight a bitter battle against the beast that destroyed their home. Vengeance was always a compelling reason to fight.
Having come to a decision, Orn slammed his spear into the ground with finality.
"We continue forward!"
Hein smiled, feeling reinvigorated. "Onward to glory!" He declared as he followed after his father.
Finn just stood there for a moment before following after them. I really wish I knew what they were saying... Whatever motivational speech the Chief just gave would have been nice to hear.
As the trio continued onward and downward, Finn was finally able to sense what the two humans had sensed earlier. He felt as though intense hot waves of energy were beginning to wash over his body, making him feel hot and tired. Every breath he let out now had traces of steam in it.
It feels like a sauna, what's causing this? As Finn circulated his energy to keep his body condition stable, he only now recognized a real issue.
There wasn't any sunlight in a cave!
Finn had followed them without a second thought since they simply charged in right after the fire drake, but now he was noticing that his energy supply was currently recharging much slower than normal.
Finn was normally used to a near limitless supply of ambient energy, but now he was deep underground where the sunlight couldn't reach him.
Well... this isn't good... Finn felt a grim realization that he was biting off more than he could chew, but he wasn't going to simply abandon these two, even if they were strong enough on their own.
Gathering his determination, Finn pressed onward as he followed the two humans to their fate.
Hmm! A familiar and unwelcome scent drifted into Finn's nostrils. Without even realizing it, Finn began to let out a low growl. Noticing this, the two humans turned to look at Finn before nodding at eachother.
"I think we're getting close..." Hein offered.
Orn nodded. "Normally, we would be able to sense the fire drake's energy, but with all this excess energy flowing through the air, its become nearly impossible."
Hein held his swords at the ready. "Yea, even now, I can barely sense yours even though you're right here."
Orn lowered his spear defensively. "Stay vigilant son..."
The group's walking pace slowed a bit. Off in the distance down the cave, a blood red glow started forming.
A light at the end of the tunnel? Finn thought in passing before realizing that in this situation, it wasn't necessarily a good sign.
As they approached, the smell of the fire drake grew stronger, as if it was all around Finn, which made him shiver in nervousness.
"This is..." Hein started asking but stopped when the cave exit opened up into a massive cavern space.
The ceiling of the space was covered with sharp juts of rock that appeared very dangerous should they fall, like arrows waiting to skewer those below.
The surrounding area was mostly flat, with several ditches and crevices of rock spaced out here and there.
However, none of these features were what caught the attention of the trio as they entered the space. Right in the center of the cavern, a massive pillar of rock stretched from floor to ceiling, like a wooden mast holding up a pavilion.
Embedded in this rocky column were chunks of red colored gems that were emitting a pale red glow.
"Fire crystal! So that's why!" Orn exclaimed in surprise. It was like a major puzzle piece finally fell into place. Years ago, the fire drake attacked their village, drove them away, and took residence in this cave all for one reason.
"What's fire crystal?" Hein asked in response, his eyes glued to the red glowing crystals as if they were calling to him.
Orn glanced at his son. "Fire crystals are incredibly pure condensed forms of fire energy. They can aid those of a fire affinity to grow in power. The fire drake must have sense their presence and attacked us to drive us away and claim them."
"Wait..." Hein felt confused about something. "How come you didn't know about these before?"
Orn shook his head. "I never sensed them until now. They were buried too deep even for me. Somehow the fire drake found out about them, which is why it attacked us..."
While the two humans were talking, Finn took his eyes off the glowing energy emitting ruby-like crystals long enough to realize a big problem.
Where was the fire drake? Finn could smell its presence everywhere, but he could not see it anywhere, unless...
A deep and menacing growl echoed throughout the cavern space, sending chills down Finn's spine. From behind the massive stone pillar in the center, the massive figure of the fire drake appeared as it casually strolled to the front.
Finn heard the two humans yell warcries as they began to move towards it, ready to battle.
Finn followed behind, but suddenly came to a stop.
Something's wrong here... Finn had learned to trust his instincts during his time in this world, and right now they were screaming that something was not right. The amount of danger he felt was far greater then the last time he faced the fire drake, which didn't make sense!
What is it! Finn frantically his head around and tuned up all his senses. Ignoring the cries from the humans, Finn could hear the thuds of massive footsteps approaching from behind.
Focusing his vision on where he heard the footfalls, Finn's eyes narrowed to pinpricks.
Exiting out of a tunnel that was adjacent to the one they came into the cavern from, a massive creature came walking into view.
Blood red scales, long, razor-sharp claws, body currently on fire...
Oh my god... Finn felt the crushing weight of despair settle onto him.
There were two of them!