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Read Legends of Cobalt from the beginning:
“What are you looking for?” A little voice asked from the entrance to the Shrine of the Dawnfather.
Wyanet, Phebes, Bucephalus and I jumped at the sound. Weapons flew from their scabbards. We readied for an attack.
The little girl with the blue-tinted skin stood in the entryway. Fresh cuts marred her forearms and mud-stained the front of her dress. Tears trickle down her face. “Are you going to kill me?”
Wyanet lowered her club. “We are not going to kill you.”
I fumbled with sliding my sword back into its scabbard. “We’ve been looking for you. We’ve got some work for you.”
“Oh,” the girl’s shoulders sank and she started undoing her dress. “Groups cost extra, and he’s not allowed.” She pointed at Bucephalus.
“Not that kind of work,” Wyanet stopped the girl. “We need a guide. We will pay you well for your help.”
“What kind of work did she think we meant?” Phebes whispered to me.
“That’s much easier,” The girl fixed her dress.” Where do you want to go?”
“Men have vile appetites,” I whispered back. “We’re investigating the shrines in the city, but we don’t know where the rest of them are.”
“Why do you want to do that? Most of ‘em have got destroyed.”
“Do you know which ones haven’t been?” Bucephalus asked. “Those are more important than the defiled ones.”
“Sure, Mister Cow-man. It’s on the other side of the city though.”
Bucephalus leaned against the tree in the centre of the shrine. “There’s only one?”
“Take us to it, we thought we’d have a long day today.” Bucephalus marched toward the door.
“Wait,” The girl held her hand up. “You said this is a job. What ‘s my pay?”
“I’ll give you the same rate as last time,” I reached for my coin pouch.
“What if that’s not good enough?” The girl crossed her arms.
“I will double it when we reach our destination,” Wyanet offered.
The girl smiled. “That’ll do it. Let’s go.”
We walked North. Phebes walked beside the girl.
“I grew up on the streets too.”
“That’s nice,” The girl replied.
“Do you have a name? Where do you sleep? Is there a place that gives out food for the kids?”
“My parents never gave me a name, but my customers call me Nellie.” She ducked down an alleyway. “Stop asking questions. I don’t want to wake up with a stake in my heart.”
We walked for over an hour through a suspicious city. Nellie led us down alleyways and through abandoned houses until we came to a marble building surrounded by dead gardens. Stone tigers on pedestals flanked steps leading up to an archway. Soft orange light glowed through the archway and several large windows.
“Are you sure this is the right place?” Bucephalus stepped beside Nellie.
“Yup, other than the main temple, this is the only active shrine in the city.”
“This isn’t a shrine for the Raven Queen, is it?” I rubbed a tiger’s snout.
“No,” Bucephalus sighed. “It’s not.”
Wyanet brushed my arm. “Who is it for?”
“The Father of Understanding.”
Phebes stared at the tigers. “What’s wrong with that? Our plan still worked. It’s just a different guy than we thought.”
“It doesn’t make any sense,” Bucephalus scratched his head. “He doesn’t have any priests or priestess here, and there haven’t been for years.”
I smacked Bucephalus on the back. “Let’s check it out.”
Braziers lined the walls of the vacant shrine. A six-foot-tall marble pedestal carved with images of angels and a tiger fighting an army of undead rose in the centre of the room. A bronze statue of a man in a loincloth stood triumphant on the pedestal. The statue held a sword and a blackthorn club in one hand and a twisted knot in the other. The firelight from the braziers reflected off of the statue, making it glow.
“Why is he naked?” Phebes’s face turned pink.
Bucephalus went to the wall of the shrine and studied the floor. “It depends on who you ask. According to his priests, it’s because no secrets can be held when the world sees everything. Personally, I think it’s because he wants to flaunt how big his cock is. There are even rumours floating around he’s got a handful of bastards here on Cobalt.”
“Does this god not exist in Last Oasis?” Wyanet asked.
“No,” Phebes tugged at her collar. “I don’t know. I’ve never seen him before. Is it warm in here?”
Bucephalus tapped his hoof around the base of a column. “He exists, but his worship is rare amongst Elves. I don’t think he has a shrine in any Elven city.”
I stared into the eyes of the tiger on the base of the statue.
“What does this represent?” Wyanet ran her hand over one of the angles. “This work is beautiful.”
“I think it’s… “ Bucephalus started.
“A battle from the God war,” I interrupted. “The Father led the host of Celestia against the combined forces of The Whispered One and The Deathbringer. They outnumbered him, but he managed to defeat them and capture the sword Orna from the Deathbringer.”
Bucephalus scrunched his eyes together. “That sounds about right. How did you know that?”
I shrugged. “It sort of came to me.”
Bucephalus nodded. “Keep looking, there has to be something.”
“Does anyone else hear crying?” Phebes circled to the opposite side of the pedestal.
“It’s coming from back here!” Nellie called.
We moved around the pedestal. Nellie stood with her ear pressed against the stone.
Bucephalus rapped a knuckle against the stone. A hollow thud echoed back. “There’s something behind here.” He pulled his warhammer from his belt and pushed Nellie out of the way.
Wyanet grabbed Nellie and held her back with one hand. Phebes knocked an arrow. Bucephalus reared back ready to strike.
“Wait,” I stepped up to the pedestal and studied the carving.
Two sphinxes, one with a man’s head the other with a woman’s, stood on their hind legs. They stood on their hind legs with their front paws meeting in the middle. Both heads stared back at us. I reached up and put my thumb in the male sphinx’s eye.
“You’re the priest in the party and you wanted to destroy the temple.” I pressed the eye and it gave way.
The pedestal clicked twice and started to rumble. The sphinxes parted inward. A steep staircase descended into inky blackness. A spectral woman waited at the top of the steps. She wrung a blood-stained rag in her hands. Tears stained her face. She paused to look at us. The spectral woman’s eyes turned black, her jaw fell open revealing a maw of razor-sharp teeth. She let out a blood-curdling, ear-splitting scream that echoed off the walls.
Wyanet and Phebes dropped their weapons. They pressed their hands over their ears. I winced and pulled my sword free. I slashed at the spectre, but my blade passed through her.The banshee laughed and lunged at me with claw-like fingers. I dropped my sword and jumped backwards. I bumped into Nellie. She stood still as stone, a slight smile on her lips. Wyanet and Phebes writhed on the ground behind her. I got back into a fighting stance.
The banshee raked her claws across my chest. A chill, like the deepest ocean on the darkest night coursed through my veins.
Bucephalus’s war hammer connected with the banshee and knocked her away. “Stay out of the way, I can handle this.”
“Fuck that.” I dashed around Bucephalus and landed a haymaker on the banshee’s jaw. I followed through with an uppercut and a knee to the chest. Every blow sent a jolt of cold energy through my body.
The banshee slashed at my chest again. I blocked the attack and a halo of blue fire descended on her. Radiant flames consumed the banshee. She screamed until her form vanished.
“How did you do that?” Bucephalus panted.
“What?” I shrugged, “You can’t punch ghosts?”
“We should keep going.” Nellie stood at the top of the stairs.
Bucephalus grabbed the collar of Nellie’s dress and hauled her back. “We should not do that. We should get more help, then delve into the haunted stairway. You’ve got no sway in the decision anyway.”
“She’s right. We have a lead, we should follow it.” Wyanet took a shaky step forward.
“We can’t. We don’t know what we’re running into,” I put my back to the stairs. “We can wait until morning. We have friends who want to help, let them.”
“Everyone quiet,” Bucephalus ordered. “Does everyone hear that?”
We stood in silence. The rattle of bones and armour shuffled closer.
“I’ve been in a spot like this before,” Bucephalus sighed. And I had better fighters with me last time. We need to leave. Now.”
The story will continue, April 16th, 2020.
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Written by: Sweeney (@oceansoul316 on twitter)
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