Chapter Nine – One on the Inside
Day three came sooner than he thought it would. The food was delicious, the bed was comfortable, and ultimately, it was a nice vacation besides the looming threat of a backstabbing villain hiding somewhere nearby. This was also the last day he was able to stay. With his blue attire on, he left from his room and sought out the final of the Three.
They were never hard to find, as they didn’t tread far from Eldrian at any given time. However, it was only Huanca in the garden that morning, probably because they knew he was the last. The hairless man garbed in red turned to him as he approached and smiled warmly.
“Good morning, Eldrian.”
“Have you learned anything yet of our dilemma?”
“A little bit. I’m still not sure what’s going on, but maybe you can help.”
“If I am able to help, I will certainly try,” he said as he waved his hand away. “Let us speak deeper into the garden.”
He nodded in agreement and they walked along the path. The two of them made their way across the grass, and to a more secluded area where a wooden bench was set. Both of them sat down. It was quiet there. The rest of the citizens were either elsewhere in the garden or back at their homes.
“I have something to admit, Eldrian. I am unable to contain it any longer. With these dire circumstances, we may all soon fall, so secrets are irrelevant. I have feelings for somebody, although I am disallowed to do as such. It has become an obstacle in my way as one of the Three.”
“It’s Pachama, isn’t it?”
He hung his head. “Is it that obvious? I want only the protection of my people. I always have. We joined together as the Three countless years ago to maintain the lifespan of the Inca Empire. Over that time, we’ve split apart several times. Each of us handled situations around the world. It was only over the last decade that we’ve been able to rest and become close once again. However, that proved to be bad. I had forgotten how beautiful she was.”
“How does she feel about this?”
“She… does care for me, truly.”
“And how do you know?”
Before Eldrian could speak more on the matter, a furious shout came from behind them both. There was a man, storming from the bushes. As he arose his body shimmered into visibility. Not only was he hiding, but a magical spell had cloaked his body. The man was red in the face, but his clothing was blue.
“I knew you had feelings for Pachama!” blurted Urco. “And I bet you were behind all of this. You’d do anything for her, right? Even if it was something terrible.”
Huanca stood. “When have you ever spoken like this? We used to be friends. And I see how she looks at you. It is obvious that she has feelings for you.”
“And you resent me for her choice?”
“I resent you because I feel as if I am no longer able to trust you, Urco!”
Eldrian, feeling rather awkward around the argument, stood and took a step back. He waited for the worst. With his own hands, he prepared for the need to cast a spell.
“Just tell me the truth, Huanca. Did you sell us out?” the blue man asked as he rose both his hands up in front of himself.
“No! Did you sell us out, Urco?” he retorted as he mimicked the gesture with his own body.
It was Huanca that was first to act. His sleeves wavered through the air in a melodic dance of gestures. It was quick, however, and obviously practised. From his palm, an elongated dragon made of roaring flames fired out towards the other man.
Urco wasn’t new to magical combat. His own magic was cast. Using both his hands, a warding force overtook the fiery dragon and launched it straight upwards, where it burst into a explosion of smoke. As a counter attack, he stepped forwards, and thrust out his hand. Push!
The shock of kinetic force launched Huanca backwards and onto the ground. He stood swiftly, and took his own martial stance. Continuing to watch, Eldrian inspected them both closely. Neither of them had been in such a position before. It was interesting to see. He subtly moved his hands.
“Enough!” shouted Pachama as she hurried over. “Both of you. Stop it this moment.”
They did. Huanca and Urco panted, but relaxed after a few seconds. She continued.
“Come with me. Eldrian, you remain here in the garden. These two have grown unstable. I must take care of them before they hurt each other, or somebody else. Please understand. I will return shortly.”
“Right,” said Eldrian. “No problem. I’ll just be here.”
Like two scolded children, the blue and red clothed men followed behind the green. They soon disappeared from his view, leaving him rather uncomfortable. He wasn’t sure what to do after that. It was obvious the two of them had good intentions, yet they were prone to anger over jealousy. But could either of them be behind all of this?
Eldrian sat. During the confusion, he had attempted something. He slipped a magic hand into the robe of Huanca, and he had found exactly what he had worried about—a slip of paper.
It could be anything, he thought. It could be a coincidence. This paper, however, was important enough for Huanca to carry around at all times, much like something belonging to Urco. Dreading the thought, he finally lifted it up and looked it over thoroughly.
The worst outcome had occurred. It was a love letter to Huanca, written and signed by Pachama. Eldrian went pale, and he sprinted.
“Where’s Pachama?” shouted Eldrian at the several folk occupying the garden. “I need to find the Three!”
“The Three are only found if they wish to be,” said a young boy.
“Screw that. I need to find them right now!”
He hustled through the courtyard and towards the temple, begging that they’d be there somewhere. It took several moments longer than he had hoped. Finally, at long last, he made his way to the basement before seeing a gigantic stone door. It was luckily open, but what he saw on the other side was horrifying.
Pachama stood before Huanca and Urco, but the two men were locked into a large bronze machine. It was covered with intricate magic glyphs. The left and right compartments were filled with the two, while the third was empty. Soon, it would be no longer, as Pachama was stepping into it, and Eldrian was too late.
She gave the wizard boy a somber smile before it activated.
The machine flashed bright and pulled life from the two captured men. They began to turn pale as they struggled unconscious in their bindings. Eldrian was not one to give up, however. He looked quickly around the room.
He grabbed the closest thing he could. It was a maul—the blunt end designed to appear as a bearded man’s face. It was probably ancient and expensive, so he swung it with all his might at the back of the machine with no regard to the safety of the weapon. A thunderous roar emitted from the impact, and then an explosion. Everything was dark for what felt like an eternity to Eldrian, but only seconds passed. He opened his eyes to see Huanca and Urco laying beside a pile of rubble, but Pachama, the woman in green, was standing. No, she was floating—surging with a visible energy.
“I believe you destroyed two of our sacred relics in a single blow, Eldrian,” she said as she stared daggers towards him. “Including the Life Infuser. But, it does not matter. I obtained most of what I wanted. I must remove you, sadly, from the picture, as much as I wish not to. But nobody can know the truth.”
“Why did you do this, Pachama? Why trick them both? Why help Rend?”
“Helping Rend was not something I wished to do, but it was necessary. Wizards and demons need to be hunted and stopped, or contained. They can not be free. No more people will die by the hands of darkness!”
She flashed into a burst of green, as whatever had happened with the Life Infuser had an effect. All of her characteristics had grown to be exaggerated. Her nose was so pointed and long that she resembled a vulture, and her skin itself had become green, molding with her clothes, down to her feet and hands which ended at claws. She had eyes blank and white.
Eldrian stood ready, despite the monstrous visage. The air stood still.
Pachama danced two hands with palms pointed forwards, and twisted them apart. She brought a single clawed hand down as a rapid swipe. Three vibrant green flames soared forwards across the rocky floor, and grew larger with distance as they hurled towards the place where Eldrian stood. Animus Claw!
The boy leapt barely out of the way as he landed between two of the blasts. He was ready to counter, but the attack was easy to dodge on purpose. He was grabbed between her claws, and she started soaring towards the wall beside the entrance to shatter his skull on impact.
Before they hit, Eldrian pressed his palm against her lower chest. Suddenly, an explosion of force collided with her torso, causing her to scream out in pain as Eldrian was catapulted through the archway and onto the stairs. Push!
“You learn fast.” shouted Pachama from inside. “Too fast.”
He used all he knew so far of flight, and running frantically away, to make his way out the front gate moments before a foot smacked against his back. He tumbled into the garden as he looked up at the floating Pachama, still transformed.
“Why did helping Rend stop demons and wizards, huh? That makes no sense!” shouted Eldrian.
“Isn’t it obvious? Don’t you remember what he was trying to do?”
Pachama lunged out her hand, and a green ball of flames came quickly from her palm. Like a small meteorite, it fell and smashed a devastating impact where Eldrian was standing, leaving behind a small, smouldering hole. He still stood there, however, as if it did nothing at all.
Citizens were screaming and panicking, and running away, but not Eldrian, as he wasn’t there to begin with. The illusion fizzled away. Pachama cursed out and looked to the side but she was far too late, because while she was distracted, he was readying a spell.
Two fingers from each hand were out-stretched, and they moved in circles as the tips sparked with energy. They met at the end, creating an elongated spear of electricity. He thrust forward both hands, and it fired like a beam to collide with her flying body. Lightning Lance!
“Aah!” She cried out as she fell to the ground, sizzling.
Her hands struggled to push herself back up from the ground. She seemed to be struggling, even though the Life Infuser had clearly taken power from the two men. He started to think that destroying the machine likely created a mistake in the process. That also could mean Huanca and Urco still lived.
Her form flickered. Before he knew it, there were three Pachamas standing before him.
“Crap. It’s like that move from Poké—“
“Die!” shouted all three as she lunged towards him.
Eldrian pressed a hand against the grass. Quickly, he brought both of them up, pivoting his wrists as his palms remained level. He spun, and the wind picked up. Just before the three Pachamas arrived, a rapid tornado appeared around him., and with them, launched upwards. Twister!
She was powerful, but something occurred when she tried to resist the spell. Her arm rose up but ceased with pain. It tensed, and she lost her focus. The infused energy was rejecting her body, it seemed, but Eldrian couldn’t think about that. He instead slammed down his foot and clawed one hand upwards as the other pointed down. Three small, grass-covered rocks fired up from beneath him and towards the stunned Pachamas in the air. All three were pelted in the body, but only one remained soon after. The illusions disappeared, as did the twister.
Pachama fell from the sky and slammed to the ground with a thud. She snarled. Never before was she so unlike her self—growling and hissing like a monster. She squeezed his wrists after a burst of speed he could hardly see.
“My power… It’s unstable,” muttered the woman. She trembled. “But I’m taking you with me, Eldrian.”
His eyes widened. Before she could act, they were forced apart by something unknown. He saw a barrier overtake Pachama’s body a second before it was all over. She detonated. The explosion was contained, barely, through the ward. It cracked, and eventually shattered, sending out a wave of green smoke, and leaving behind a large hole where she once knelt.
Urco and Huanca were stumbling into the garden. It was their spell that kept the woman from destroying them all. But it also seemed to be the last of their energy, as they both collapsed to the ground. Eldrian quickly jogged over to comfort them.
“Guys. Are you all right?” he asked as he shook them gently.
“We are fine,” came a quiet sound from Huanca. “In a sense.”
Urco looked up to the hole in the center of the garden. “Yes… In a sense.”
“I’m so sorry,” Eldrian said beneath his breath.
Huanca closed his eyes. “So are we.”
“What do we do now?” asked Eldrian as he sat.
The other two joined him, pulling themselves up to sit cross-legged at the foot of the temple.
“I do not know,” Huanca said. “We never learned the details of what she did.”
“I’ll tell you what I know, but I also have no idea how she did those things, or how she contacted Rend Devilclaw. There must have been some other people involved, right?” Eldrian looked over the destruction around him that their battle had brought.
Urco nodded. “She had contact with somebody on the outside for certain, but now we do not know until they try again. But with her… gone. We will rebuild, and we will be stronger and more ready than before.
Eldrian stood up. “I’ll help your people fix things up as best I can before I leave tomorrow.”
“Your help is most appreciated. Everything you have done for us is far more than we could have hoped for,” spoke Huanca. “You may explore our lands as much as you wish before you leave. However, we do not know if we will see you again. Not for some time. We can not risk opening the gates until the real problem is solved.”
The wizard gave a melancholy nod. “Yeah. All right. I’ll come back here when that happens then. And if I can’t ever return, I hope the Two get along well. Good luck!”
“Enough goodbyes for one day,” muttered Urco as he looked off to the sky. “Let us relax.”
All three looked to the clouds. The sky wasn’t real, but it didn’t matter to them. The area was finally at a rest once more. As they remained there, they listened. They didn’t know what they were listening for, or for how long they wished to linger there at the foot of the temple, and in the end, all Eldrian heard was the sound of the wind. It was comforting.
Tune in next time for Chapter Ten – Survival of the Fittest!