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Read Legends of Cobalt from the beginning:
Down Once More
A child wearing an elegant dress wandered into the dining room.“Livi, where did that other girl you brought home last night go?” She clutched a stuffed toy wolf to her chest.
“What do you mean, Ophilia?” Olivia placed her knife and fork on the table.
“That girl you brought home last night with the cold blue skin. I woke up this morning and she wasn’t there anymore.”
“Does she mean Nellie?” I stuffed a piece of bread in my mouth.
Ophilia nodded emphatically. “I think that’s what she said her name was.”
Lord Tiaran swept into the dining room, William on his heels. “Good morning everyone. I do apologise for the abysmal state of breakfast, but I have many mouths to feed. Are you prepared for today?”
“We’ll have to stop by the Atropa Belladonna to collect a few extra things, otherwise yes.” Bucephalus liked a glob of jam from his thumb.”
“It would seem though, that our guide vanished at some point in the night,” Wyanet added.
Lord Tiarna stroked his chin. “What does that matter? You know where you are going, and you’ll have my daughter with you if you need to go anywhere else.”
“Street kids know things that nobles don’t.” Phebes blushed and turned towards Olivia. “Not that I’m saying you’re dumb or unskilled. That’d be really rude… I’m going to stop talking now.” Phebes trailed off and stared into her breakfast.
Lord Tiarna shrugged. “If you need another guide, take Jacqueline.”
Olivia pushed back from the table. “Father, is that a wise decision?”
“I don’t see why it wouldn’t be. She has been under observation for two days now, and you removed the curse yourself. You want a more knowledgeable guide, she’s been inside the building you are heading to. Plus, she can defend herself. Give Jacqueline a knife or two and you don’t have to worry about her.”
“I thought the cleaver made her do all that stuff,” Phebes interjected.
“A curse can remove your inhibitions around a matter, but a curse can’t teach you things you didn’t know before.” Olivia folded her napkin and placed it over her plate.
Lord Tiarna waved his hand over the table. “By your own admission, Jacqueline is a skilled fighter.”
Wyanet tossed her napkin onto the table. “Who would train a child like that?”
“Many groups the world over teach children their ways from an early age,” William scowled at his father. “To make sure that their ideologies and way of life survive after they are dead.”
“If no one has any more pointless objections to make,” Lord Tiarna looked around the room. “I will have Jacqueline prepared and you can be on your way.”
“Maybe I should go with them. As an extra pair of eyes,” William suggested.
“No.” Lord Tiarna marched toward the door.
“Just to the shrine? As an escort?” William followed his father.
“I guess breakfast is over,” Bucephalus crammed the rest of his food into his mouth.
“It would seem so,” Olivia pushed her chair in. “Get dressed and gather your things. Our carriage leaves in half an hour. Fredrick, Ophilia, come.”
“Time to fight more monsters,” I sighed.
Wyanet put her hand on my arm. “We are better prepared this time and we are not alone.”
Our carriage reigned up to the steps of the shrine to the Father of Understanding. Phebes, Wyanet and I pried each other free from the bench and stepped out into the dreary afternoon haze. Fredrick and Bucephalus distributed our weapons from the carriage’s strongbox. Olivia checked the slender rod and dagger she’d strapped to her wrists.
“Why are we here?” Jacqueline climbed out of the carriage.
“This is how we are getting into the temple.” Wyanet slid her war club into her belt.
“Wouldn’t it be easier to go straight to the temple?”
Bucephalus secured a shield to his arm and fastened a hand axe to the strap on his rucksack. “We don’t want them to know we’re coming.”
“You, use, these?” Fredrick offered Jacqueline a belt bundled around a matching pair of stilettos.
“I guess I can.” Jacqueline took the offered knives. “Why are we sneaking into the temple?”
“Everyone ready?” Olivia inspected our party.
“Ready for what?” Jacqueline tied back the extra length of her belt.
The carriage rolled away. Wyanet and Bucephalus started up the stairs.
“Stick close, kid.” My foot landed on the first step. “And we can get out of this alive.”
The shrine looked the same as it had the night before. A handful of worshipers milled about. Our heavily armed and armoured party circled around to the back of the statue.
Phebes knocked an arrow. Wyanet, Bucephalus and Fredrick formed a half-circle around me. Olivia flicked her wand into her hand and stood beside Phebes. She pulled Jacqueline behind the line of fighters and held her there.
“Be ready.” I extended my hand to the button hidden in the sphinx carving. “We don’t know if they reset the trap.” I pressed the button.
The pedestal clicked. The sphinxes parted and turned inward. I braced for an attack. A yawning mouth of darkness opened before us as the doors stopped moving.
Fredrick sheathed his longswords. “Who… First?”
“I will.” Wyanet extended the tip of her spear to me.
I grabbed the spear point and spoke the arcane word for light into it. Cool white light radiated around us and pushed back some of the shadows. The six of us followed Wyanet into the hidden stairway. A second click echoed down the stairs. We turned to watch as the door rumbled shut, sealing us in darkness. In the cool white light of my spell, painted in blood, a left hand marked the back of the door. An eyeball stared back at us from the palm of the hand.
“Father?” Olivia pressed closer to Bucephalus to get a better look. “I hope I’m mistaken, but is that…”
“The mark of the Whispered One.” Bucephalus turned back to us. “We are all in great danger.”
The story will continue, April 30th, 2020.
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Written by: Sweeney (@oceansoul316 on twitter)
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