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Another chapter! Wooo!
Anyhow, special thanks to sivercheers for being my wonderful beta as always. <3


Chapter 6 - Into the Fire
The rain fell ceaselessly, coating the plains in an impenetrable white haze. Cold seeped into their skin, and it looked as though they were peering at the outside world through frosted glass. But, soaked by the downpour, the group stood united at the foot of Pyro’s obsidian monstrosity. It burned with an entrancing purple fire, and the air around it steamed and warped inexplicably.

They were scared, nervous, and fidgeting in their iron armour, but most of all, they were desperately awed. This was their hope. This was their opportunity.

And now was the time to seize it.

Guude stood at the head of the group, sword sticking from the mud like a staff. All eyes were upon him; their group of six, impervious to the rain, stood proud and ready. Determination, like a cleansing breath, broke through the flood of turbid emotions. They had been waiting for this. All of them.

Seth stood at the back, sword at his side and helmet cradled in his arms. Water dripped from the bridge of his nose. He stared and the sky, then at the grass. Of all those around him, he felt the least prepared. Only in the late of the evening before, among the flurry of the bustling compound and the storm, had he been asked to join the group of adventurers braving the portal.

This portal: it could mean so many things to him. Freedom? Memory? Home? Seth had only just wound up in this world. He hadn't had the time to think about what leaving it would mean. Guude, Zisteau, Pyro, Bdubs, and BTC: those here today were all determined to find a way ‘back home’. Others doubted their cause and said they were stuck here forever. But they refused to believe that.

"Everyone ready?" Guude asked, his voice booming across the mud-stained landscape. Silent nods met his determined gaze. This was it, no backing out now. "Then let's go."

The party exhaled as a whole, and Guude stepped into the portal. A violet glow encased his form, and in a blink he was gone.

Seth blinked. The eight who remained faltered as the reality of what they were about to do set in. Wind swept through the plain, icy fingers curling under the confines of sodden armour. Then, time leapt forward again, and the remaining group began to surge forward. Seth watched as, one-by-one, they disappeared into the purple haze.

Then, he was up.

The portal loomed above him like a nightman daring him to look, waiting to strike. He swallowed. Eyes closed, he took a step forward into the glowing abyss.

The first thing he noticed was the heat. It was burning and all-encompassing, filling his lungs with a heavy weight and pressing into his skin. His sodden clothes stuck to him like a second skin and his armour began to grow warm to the touch. Then, he opened his eyes.

Around him was red—a brilliant, burnt red stretching in every direction—and above, light pierced through the hot darkness from brilliant clusters of yellow stone. It was entrancing. It was breathtaking. Seth knew it wasn't home.

He wiped his eyes and placed his helmet upon his head. The rest of the group were already gathered, taking stock of their surroundings. A few blocks ahead, a pool of lava flowed stiffly from a crack within the burgundy stone. They had clustered around it, many drying their clothes in the crisp heat.

Guude stood atop a small peak, watching over the group, and Seth joined him. The view was alien, but splendid: an identical obsidian portal, framed by a landscape of sheer red cliffs and overhands, and curling dark caves embedded in the walls. It was nothing like what he had expected, even if Seth hadn't really known what to expect in the first place.

"So?" he breathed, lungs burning on the hot air. "This is it?"

Guude continued to take in the landscape. "It's something alright…"

"Yeah- But what now?" Go back? Go home? It was a discovery, but it was just as much a failure. This wasn’t what they were looking for.

Guude cracked his knuckles. His assumptions were wrong. This wasn't the hope he had preached, nor the answers he had searched for so diligently. He took a steadying breath and said, "We explore."

And so they did.

The group of six ventured across the seemingly abandoned landscape, leaving behind a trail of grey stones as a beacon home. With sweat-smeared faces and armour weighing down their limbs, they travelled a good several hundred blocks before there was any noticeable change in the landscape.

In the distance, rising between a bed of gravity-defying gravel and a sheer drop into a lake of lava, a dark red structure rose from the ground. It was clearly engineered. The weary group began to hum with excitement, their trudging paces speeding up as they approached.

Seth wiped his brow, coming to a full jog to keep in line with the group. People? It had to be other people. They were not alone! The sentiment echoed among the group, and hearts racing, they sprinted towards the structure.

It grew ever-more impressive as they approached, its spires of dark red brick rising high into the cavern. People! Other people had to have done this. They'd survived in this barren land and built a fortress. They had to! Unless they had found a portal just like them. Another camp- another colony of people living in this world. Answers! If they'd found this place and done all this. They had to know more.

The group stopped where stone met gravel, marvelling at the structure before them. "What do ya think, guys?" Guude said.

"I think I can't believe my eyes," said Bdubs, voice full of awe and wonder.

Guude gave his friend a friendly slap on the back. "I think we explore this baby!"

Cheers resounded from the group, and behind them, as if to join in, an ear-piercing screech filled the air.

In an instant, they all turned, frantically searching the landscape before them. The ground was still barren—an uninhabited lifeless plain of burning heat and red. Seth drew his sword and his comrades followed.

A whiz, and a crack just before them, and the ground burst into a crater of fire. They raised their swords, but still, nothing in sight. Guude barked orders and the group arranged themselves into a back-to-back formation. Another whiz, and this time Seth could follow the path of the small projectile, tracing back to its source.

Another garbled screech like a drowning scream. Seth stared up at the writhing white mass as it hovered far above them. "Look," he breathed, sword weakly pointing at the horrendous sight. The creature stared at them with a distorted face and a mass of tentacles. They stared back, hearts pounding and mouths agape.

It screamed again, spitting a projectile down towards them. They split, jumping out of the way as another fiery crater opened where they had just stood.

"Run?" Zisteau asked.

"Run." Bdubs confirmed.

As a group, they moved, sprinting towards the safety of a nearby cave.

Seth stayed frozen, staring at the creature floating above him. He'd never seen anything like it in his life. Voices called from behind him, urging him to run. His feet remained planted, paralysed by awe and terror.

The creature growled, then spit again. Seth was a sitting duck, his sword raised in a half-witted defence. The projectile sped towards him, unstoppable.

It was BTC, unseen by Seth's locked gaze, who came sprinting through the hazy red to jump in front of him, sword drawn. In a blur of iron, there was a sharp ping. Suddenly, the projectile was rocketing away, back towards the unholy fusion of ghost and tentacles above them.

The creature screeched again, this time in a mangled cry of fear as its own weapon impacted. It burst into a fiery rain, dissolving to dust as its final scream echoed through the cavern.

BTC picked himself up from where he’d landed on the floor, dusting red dirt from his armour. He seemed unscathed. "You alright there?" he asked.

Seth nodded slowly, sword still held limply in his hand. BTC gave him a pat on the shoulder and beckoned for the others to come back out. Seth blinked, staring at his hands, which, he noted somewhat distantly, had progressed from uselessly numb to quivering faintly. "We shouldn't be here," he said. In the flurry of the group reassembling, his voice remained unheard.

The party carried on, Seth lingering at the back, still shaken by the encounter. With Guude at the head, the group re-approached the fortress with cautious steps. Excitement still buzzed in the background, but the monstrous creature from the sky lingered in their minds as they built their way up to the fortress.

In silence, they broke through the fortress wall and stepped into a long hall. The carefully carved, maroon bricks reminded Seth of blood, and a sense of foreboding built. He peered over his shoulder as he entered the hall. As an afterthought, he placed a single stone behind him, then turned to the group.

They chattered softly, taking a moment to regroup themselves after the attack. The plain fortress seemed safe enough. Despite their earlier predictions, so far there was no other sign of life. The structure appeared well-kept but was otherwise abandoned.

Seth watched Bdubs give Guude, who was looking worse for the wear, an encouraging smile. Guude shrugged it off and began re-organising the party.

It was decided that they would head to the left, continuing to leave a trail of stone behind them. They were to stick together and keep on their guard. The array of halls branching off from the corridor looked awfully intimidating. It would be only too easy to get lost.

After a while of wandering carefully through the red halls, hopes were dimming. All they'd found was a small patch of red root-like flowers growing from a pit of coarse, heavy sand. Eventually, they stumbled upon a single chest filled with a scrap of rotten flesh and an old strip of leather. Still no people. Still no portal.

Guude declared the place to be abandoned, a false lead. Time to go home. The constant heat and the heavy armour were wearing them down and they were running low on supplies. With a sense of defeat, they began to retrace their steps through the fortress, shoulders hunched and heads low.

Seth gave the empty corridor behind them a lingering glance, before breaking into a jog to catch up with the rest of the group.

Two corners later, and several blocks ahead, the group stumbled into disarray as Guude halted them in the hall. Seth bumped into the person in front of him before getting a glimpse at the trouble ahead.

At the end of the hall, three tall, dark shadows lingered. Nightmen- No. Something else. They were too thin and their forms were coloured charcoal grey—far too light to be one of the shadowy creatures they had come to fear.

Each held a single stone sword, and their skeletal forms rattled as they guarded their post, blocking the group’s only path back the way they came. Guude drew his sword, as did the others. "Looks like we're fighting these bitches," he said, a grim lit to his words. Those around him nodded.

"They're just like bigger, badder skellies without the bows," said Pyro. "We can take them."

Seth gave a nervous laugh. He'd seen the skeletons mentioned lingering beyond the fence of the compound at night. Their bones rattled and they held their bows poised with empty, lifeless eyes. He shuddered. These grey monstrosities were taller, their large skulls almost brushing the fortress' ceiling.

Ever-eager, Pyro skipped forward. "Come at me mate!" he yelled, sword raised to strike. Guude and BTC followed behind, heading for the other two skeletons.

They fought with skilled hits and precise dodges. BTC took his down swiftly, its bones pulling apart as it clattered to the floor. Guude, an almost as equally skilled fighter, took his down shortly after.

Pyro, sweat dripping from his nose, found himself locked in a stalemate of swords. His arms shook and his fingers readjusted on the hilt of his blade. The skeleton pushed back with unnatural strength, but before he could falter, Pyro retaliated with a lunge, gaining some ground.

Metal ground against sharpened stone, and the blades slipped. Seeing Pyro's struggle, Guude darted in to assist. The skeleton swung its blade at Pyro, but just before it made contact Guude brought his own sword forward into a block. Iron clanged against stone and Pyro yelped as the skeleton’s blade sliced across his exposed arm, Guude's block knocked aside by the sheer force of the skeleton’s blow.

Taking advantage of the skeleton’s momentary opening, Pyro severed its spine in a single sweep. It clattered to the floor in a heap of bone and Pyro grinned triumphantly. "Just a scratch," he announced, holding up his bleeding arm. He stumbled as he took a step forward but laughed it off.

The path clear, they made their way out of the fortress and started heading back home.

As they trekked, Pyro stuck to the back of the group and Seth helped patch up his arm. Pyro gave him a warm smile, and Seth did his best to smile back weakly. Despite the 'scratch', the man was looking paler than usual, and although he did a fairly good job of hiding it, Seth caught him stumbling a few times more.

"You alright?" he asked.

Pyro just smiled and shrugged it off. "I'm fine. Don't worry about me."

Seth contemplated saying something to the others but Pyro insisted that he could take care of himself. Leaving the man to his own devices, Seth let his mind wander as they made their way back to the portal…
"Home," Guude announced, staring up at the obsidian structure before them. The purple fire burned less brilliantly in the ambient red light. This time it seemed calming—welcoming almost. With renewed energy the group passed through the portal’s purple haze, arriving back in the muddy plain where they had left.

A light drizzle of rain hit Seth's face as he stepped into the cool air. He breathed in deeply, revelling in the damp rush of breeze. Everything seemed so much lighter out here, and with a laugh, some of his comrades flopped down on the grass.

From his usual position at the head of the group, Guude breathed a sigh of relief. "That was something, alright," he said to no-one in particular. Beside him, Bdubs nodded. The two looked out across the plain towards the compound, the mid-afternoon sun beginning to peek through the clouds. "That sure was something."

Behind the portal, away from the group, Pyro keeled over a rock. Coughs wracked his body and sweat still dripped from his brow. Unnoticed by the others, he coughed again, throwing up on the grass below him. He gasped in the fresh air and wiped his uninjured arm across his mouth. Straightening himself out, he put on a brave face and re-joined the group.

Seth laid down on the muddy grass, armour half unbuckled. He smiled a little and let out a sigh. He was glad to be going back to the compound. He was glad to be going home.

~ ~ ~

Don't forget to show your love if you enjoyed.
Anyhow, what are your thoughts so far? Have any of you concocted any theories on what's happening? What about Pyro? He wasn't seeming all too well after the trip to the nether...

~ ~ ~

 
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Date: Monday, October 5th, 2015 12:08 pm (UTC)
eclipse3: (Default)
From: [personal profile] eclipse3
Oh no, not little Pyro!
Great chapter!

Date: Monday, October 5th, 2015 02:33 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Yay! I love this series. I always smile very time an ao3 notification comes up in my email <3

Date: Monday, October 5th, 2015 02:33 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
- ladies of thrones on mobile

Date: Monday, October 5th, 2015 05:33 pm (UTC)
featherscope: (Default)
From: [personal profile] featherscope
I love this!

I hope Pyro hasn't caught some deadly disease or something...

(This series also vaguely reminds me of the maze runner for some reason...)

Date: Tuesday, October 6th, 2015 10:39 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Ooh, I like this story! I'm always happy when a new chapter comes out.

The end made me nervous, though. I do not want anything to happen to Pyro, got it?

-the lurkiest lurker

Date: Thursday, January 21st, 2016 07:22 am (UTC)
yamina_chan: (Default)
From: [personal profile] yamina_chan
An adventure that was less helpfull then they had hoped, BTC coming to the rescue of the new guy (I'm surprised that they took him along for tis first venture into the unknown) and Pyro coming out with a scratch and what is probabbly this worlds equivavilent of the wither effect... all in all things could have gone better for the group =(

A confounding place, this world.

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