Chapter 28. Found
Erin sat, leaning against the wall. It had been days since the feast and Erin still felt numb. She'd lost a friend before in a car accident. But she hadn't been there, it had been an accident, no one had set out to kill her friend. But this was intentional. Murder. Vechs was dead because Blame decided he would be. Not because someone lost control of their car.
Chad had been curled up in the foetal position since Vechs' death, only moving to eat and drink the rations they were given once every twelve hours. Or at least they'd been told it was every twelve hours. Erin was using it as a clock now. So far there'd been twelve lots of food. Almost a week since it had happened.
At this point, Erin was starting to give up hope. Everything felt bleak. She ached to see Skereth again. To return to Obrary and never go back to Zopru. But instead she was probably going to live the rest of her days in a dungeon living off bland food and sleeping only when she could brave the nightmares. She was afraid to sleep, every time she did her mind was attacked by the moment again and again. The details changed, but every time Vechs' blood ended up all over the table and his head was no longer on his shoulders.
The dreams she was having before seemed so tame and nice in comparison.
Erin stared at the ceiling, or at least where it would be if she could see it. Zisteau's body had been removed and Erin liked to think that he and Vechs would be buried together. That's what she told herself because any alternative was too horrible to bear with.
Erin missed the sun. She missed clean air. She missed freedom. In fact, she really missed freedom. The feeling of the shackles around her wrists had become normal. She had grown used to the pain of the bittermist in them; it was just a dull feeling now, reminding her that she could still feel.
The time dragged on. Erin's thoughts plagued her mind as she fought off sleep. Then something happened that made Erin certain she'd gone mad.
Slowly at first, then faster and faster two figures begun to materialise in front of her. She instantly recognised the man who'd landed her in this mess all those months ago.
"Do you see us?" Greenwood asked, he was leaning on a cane and looked slightly dishevelled. The other man Erin didn't recognise. He was made entirely of a plant with a mass of thin vines sticking up in imitation of wild hair.
"Yes...have I gone mad?"
"It is a possibility," Greenwood shrugged, "but we wouldn't be a symptom of that madness. You've been having nightmares that have been interrupting the ones I was sending."
"That was you!" Erin's shout wasn't really a shout, it was just louder than her raspy whisper.
Greenwood bowed his head, "Yes, I was trying to lead you to the Erizul Guild so they could free Etho," he gestured to the plant man.
"Well, I still ended up with them. I don't know if you can see this, but I'm currently in a dungeon." Erin spat weakly.
"No, you're actually sat on the floor of my study right now," the man waved his hand, "anyway, that is of no importance. Right now, I need your help."
"My help? You got me into this mess in the first place."
"Actually, that was your mother's fault," Etho said, speaking for the first time. When Erin squinted at him he elaborated, "It was your mother's soul in that dog. She brought you here, or there, or whatever." Etho threw his arms up in the air.
Erin frowned, "Right...people always talked about you being human in stories."
Etho looked down at his plant body then back to Erin, "Uh, long story. Although, I'm not human…wherever did you hear that?"
"Maybe she just assumed, very Earthling thing to do, assume something about someone." Greenwood said matter-of-factly.
"Shut up. What do you two want? And how are you here?"
Greenwood clasped his hands together, "Yes, yes, we should probably get to the point. The 'How' is quite simple. When casters and/or hexers come into contact they have a temporary connection. The stronger the casters, the stronger and longer the connection. You and I are both fairly powerful therefore the connection is lasting a while, even if you were unaware of it. Normally it is used to send messages through dreams, which is fairly tricky if you don't know how, and you need to be in a stable, or semi-stable emotional state for it to be successful.”
“Now what I've done is do something only casters with a strong connection can do, which is to project an image of myself to you and have one of yourself projected to me. I need to have a proper conversation with you and because you're having the incorrect terrible nightmares, I am unable to reach you any other way."
"That was a convoluted way of saying "magic shit"." Erin deadpanned.
"Well, yes, but I thought you might be interested in the way it works. Apparently I was incorrect."
"Stop jibber-jabbering and tell her why we're here." Etho reminded him.
"Yes, right. We're here so you can free Etho."
Erin blinked, "Okay, I'm going to need to you be a little more monologue-y than that. Try to find a balance."
"Basically, Etho is a fallen angel. Fallen angels can make contracts with people and they become their servant of sorts. Etho here used to serve Blame until I found a loophole and made a new contract. When I went to Earth I made him bind himself with bittermist, something Blame taught him, and he was buried alive."
"And I have been for eighty years." Etho added.
"Yes, I have apologised for that!" Greenwood snapped, "Anyway, I need your help to dig him up so he can rescue me from Earth."
"And what makes you think I will? You're one of the biggest dicks I have ever met. I know what you've done and had Etho do." Erin said with a glare.
"Because I thought you might enjoy getting out of this dungeon long enough to send for help." Greenwood replied.
Erin considered it. If she was outside she might be able to send a messenger pigeon. She assumed that was a thing on Sunreth, "Alright, how do I do it?"
Greenwood waved his hand in the air and a map appeared, "Use your magic to create a copy of this map, I can't give you physical items. But, what I can do to ensure you get taken to the surface is put your name on the contract I have with Etho which will allow you to issue one command. That command will be "free yourself". No one else will be able to do that, which would make you valuable."
"What if Blame doesn't want to get Etho back?" Erin asked.
"Oh he will, he's probably spent decades trying to figure out the loophole I found. He'll want to try."
Erin took a deep breath and looked at the sleeping Chad. She had to try to get them out of the dungeon, even if it meant making a deal with Greenwood.
"You have yourself a deal, Greenwood." Erin said standing to shake his hand.
"Fantastic," Greenwood placed his hand next to Erin's and they did a motion that would have been a shake had they been able to physically touch each other.
The fourteenth meal was brought to them in person by Otto. Erin had told Chad everything and they'd come up with a plan. They were going to escape, or at least, their escape plan was about to begin.
Otto sneered at the bedraggled prisoners, "I thought I'd better make sure you were still alive."
Erin grit her teeth, she had to play this smartly otherwise they might never see the sun again, "I know how to get Etho back."
The felin's eyes went wide, "He's been missing for years, how do you know where he is?" He ran over to her, bittermist curling around his hand, "If you've known where he was all-"
"I've only just found out. Greenwood visited me using our connection and told me where he is," she pulled the map from her pocket, "he designed me a map and everything."
Otto grabbed the map and looked at it frantically. He looked back up at Erin, "I'm taking you to Blame, you're going to tell him everything."
"All right, if Chad comes too, I'll go."
"Fine, fine, just come on." He waved a hand so the chains attached to their shackles dissipated then led them out.
Walking up the stairway and then through the manor brought back vivid memories of the previous week. Erin had to stop herself wondering where Vechs' body was. They walked through the dimly lit halls and up a flight of stairs. They soon reached a door. Otto knocked twice and waited.
"Enter," Blame's voice could be heard from within.
Otto turned the handle and walked inside.
Blame sat up at the sight of Erin and Chad, "Otto, what are they doing out of the dungeon?" Otto just shoved Erin forward.
The madman leaned back in his chair and raised his eyebrows expectantly. Erin took another step, "Well, to cut a long, hallucinogenic, story short; I know where to find Etho."
There was barely a second between Blame leaping up and him standing in front of her, "Where is he?" Otto threw him the map. Blame looked down at it, "I know exactly where this is! We have to go immediately! I think I've worked out what it was Greenwood did to steal him in the first place."
"Hold your horses, Prince Charming," Erin said, "Etho is bound by his own bittermist which can only be removed if Greenwood orders him to or," she paused for dramatic effect, "if I do."
Blame frowned, "What do you mean?"
"Greenwood wrote my name on the contract. I can issue one order and I will use it to order him to free himself."
"All right then!" Blame clapped excitedly, "Otto, gather the troops! We leave in five minutes."
Six minutes later they stood in a clearing in a vast pine forest. The Erizul Guild members all wore their masks and Erin and Chad were standing with their eyes closed. As it turned out, weeks in a dungeon without any decent light isn't great for your eyes when you eventually resurface. Erin conjured up goggles for the both of them to keep the sun out of their unadjusted eyes.
"Right, this is where the map says Etho is buried," Zada said looking down at the ground.
Blame reached out his hand and blasted the ground the bittermist. Dirt, sticks, dead leaves, and whatever else was on the ground went flying. Erin was suddenly even more grateful for her "sungoggles".
After checking to see if the first blast had been enough, Blame shot more bittermist, causing more dirt to fly. It took three more blasts for Blame to find the coffin. When he did he levitated it out on a cushion of bittermist. Erin wondered how he would cope without bittermist, he was so dependent on it.
Once the coffin was standing in front of Blame, he stepped forward and ripped the lid off and flung it behind him. Dust and bittermist came from the coffin in a cloud. Blame batted at it and once it had cleared, it revealed Etho. He was bound by ropes of the mist. His eyes opened and as they did he took in a deep breath.
"Oooo, that feels gooood!" He said happily.
"Erin! Free him!," Blame ordered, "Etho you have no idea how pleased I am to see you."
Just as Erin was about to open her mouth, something stopped her. It was the look in Etho's eyes. He was trying to tell her something. Then it clicked, "Etho, I order you to free yourself!" the man burst from his bindings, and as he did, Erin formed two samurai style swords from the air. They glistened with her gold magic in the sunlight.
Etho leapt forward and grabbed the swords from Erin. They fizzed with a crackling blue magic as he wielded them, "I have been bound to another person long enough!" He ran at Blame and started to slash the blades through the air.
The other Guild members ran to their leader's aid, arming themselves with swords, too. Erin ran to Chad, "Now's our chance, come on." And they started to run. Erin didn't know how they did it, but somehow their tired limbs carried them through the forest. They ignored the shouts from the battle. They ignored the panic that they would be chased. But if what Erin suspected was true, it would take the combined strength of the Erizul Guild to take on Etho. He was a one man killing machine.
Erin started to focus on Sevadus. She didn't know how to do the trick Greenwood used. She had no idea if it'd work, but it was worth a try. One thing she did know Sevadus would be able to fly to get them.
Slowly then all at once Sevadus' image appeared, "Erin!? What the hell?"
"No questions, can you do some kind of locater magic?" Sevadus, who was floating alongside her as she ran, nodded, "Okay, locate me or Chad and come to get us. I don't know how long Etho will be able to hold them off."
"Hold who off? Etho? How the hell did you guys even run into him? As soon as I find you two, you have to tell me what the fuck is going on."
"Deal, just get here as soon as you can!" And then the connection broke, "I just contacted Sevadus, he's on his way." Chad only nodded, wanting to reserve his energy for running.
Erin's legs were burning, but still she ran. She ran like her life depended on it, she then realised that it literally did.
Sevadus' image appeared in front of her, "Stop!" Erin stopped so abruptly that she fell over.
"Chad!" Chad stopped, turned around, then ran back.
"Are you oka-" he was interrupted by a ladder falling from the sky. They both begun to climb. Magic was holding it steady, something Erin was very thankful for. When they got to the top Sevadus pulled them both up. Once on deck they collapsed and just lay there. Sevadus pulled up the ladder again and started to guide the airship away.
"Okay, what happened and where's Vechs?"
Erin took a deep breath, trying to figure out where to begin. Everything seemed so insane once it was over. She took another deep breath and started to tell the long story of their encounter with the notorious Erizul Guild.
Erin practically fell into Skereth's arms when she opened the door. She hugged her as tight as she could, not wanting to ever let go of her again, "Whoa, what happened to you?"
"I'll tell you everything, I just need a big dinner and maybe some tea." Erin said weakly."Certainly, Green Eyes."