Roaming with Fire
—A relaying of the travels of Mis’Kelin while he was tangentially employed by a team of Pori researchers in Northern Parallelium.
Aut: Nakhanibha yla Mabharl
Dt: 975 A.T.
Ogn: Scorched Surroundings
Scene: Raetpokg, Livbaptnog
Date: 19 Tos. 961 A.T.
For many years in the young avoc’s life, Raetpokt had housed the Pale Swords, the sword, shield, and other various weapon carrying members of a fighter’s guild that handled many non-avoc disputes among the Pale Shores, specifically in the sparsely populated southwestern reaches. Almost certainly the guild had stood longer than the avocs had been there, but he could only certify with his own experience that it had been running for the last six years of his young, eighteen-year life. There were Avotoc of many ages in the guild, wise and seasoned combat veterans, as well as energetic and ambitious ones like Mis’Kelin. Not that he asked, but he was sure none of them could imagine life in the area without the guild. At least, he could not imagine his life without the guild.
As he re-entered the complex, he saw two cloaked figures that he had hoped to never see. Two delegates from the Omne-Lata Ad-Hocracy were in the main area. One each from the Division of Abidance and Adherance—the guild was to be disbanded, and organizations like it would no longer be allowed.
“I may not be allowed to lead this guild anymore, but that doesn’t mean I don’t care about all of you.” Misk felt a heavy hand on his shoulder, that of Ak’Lendov.
“So what becomes of all of us? What am I to do, still not old enough to work according to those boneheads at Vanpog.”
“I know, I know. I am unsure of what most of us will do, but for you I have this: we received some correspondence from a pori by the name of, uh, bear with me … al hiks?”
“Yes, Alhicj! Good on him, still alive. What did he have to say?”
“Well I thought you might like to read for yourself, so we transcribed it out.” Ak’Lendov handed Misk a sheet with come what was noticeably hastily scrawled words. How long had the delegates been here?
“Mis’Kelin // I anticipate you will read this in good circumstances. Either way, I am compelled to again, thank you for rendering aid upon me the last time we met. Your assistance was invaluable to my pursuits. If not for your aid, I likely would have perished in unfavourable circumstances. // As an expression of my thanks, I extend an opportunity of business for your services. A team of ethno-archaeologists I now work for requires the services of an individual much like yourself. The coordinates of the destination can be transmitted to a map device after the duration of this message. We will be awaiting your reply in the next 10 hours. // Alhicj”
“10 hours?! When was this received?”
“Oh, do not worry. We replied in your name and said you accept. It’s all the way in Parallelium, but you could guess that.” The elder avoc began to steer Mik back to where he had been living, and away from the common area, where the delegates still lingered, answering questions from other guild members. “You’ll be leaving as soon as you can in our small craft. I’m trying to save the two others to ferry the remaining guild members around Pale Shores as this point of our lives comes to a close. But your story is just beginning. You must go.”
“Right. I was going to say I was going.” Mik paused, looking around what he now realized was his room. “So this is it? I just go and there’s nothing to come back to?” The tops of his eyes sagged as he turned to look at Ak’Lendov for perhaps the last time.
“You can always go home?”
“You think so?”
“With all you’ve accomplished?” Lendov took a moment to let the sadness dissipate from Misk’s face. “I’m going to go make sure your ship is ready. Gather all your things, but don’t take too long.”
Scene: Space between Pale Shores and Parallelium
Date: 25 Tos. 961 A.T.
In a way, he was glad to be free from the guild. All of the avocs insisted on using an s in his nickname, calling him Misk. While correct, he preferred Mik, as the speech impediment he had as a child made it hard for him to pronounce the letter s before his jaws had fused. Alhicj was a pori who did not always stick to the prescribed notions of decorum that pori seemed to inherently posses. For instance, Mik didn’t know Alhicj’s surname at all, as he had never said it. Because of this, Alhicj called the avoc Mik instead of Mis’Kelin or Misk, and Mik liked him for it.
In the 42nd hour of his journey to Zisdhalilci, Mik was awakened from a partial slumber to the sound of a wailing alarm. Not very loud, but very shrill and concentrated. Hungry and tired, he stumbled onto the deck. The alarm ceased, and the Avotoc added confused to his list of current adjectives. He placed his map into the receptacle next to the wheel and began checking on the ship using the map’s projected interface.
The alarm had come from a beacon, tuned to his ship’s frequency band. Perhaps there’s band saturation and I picked up the signal by mistake and now I’m out of range? Odd that it would stop as soon as I came to the deck. He tapped on the beacon, which fed him gibberish text. Well, not gibberish, but he could not decipher Jibhaga. He tapped the beacon again, and the map translated most of the text: EGUR INSTITUTE – ETHNO ARCHAEO DEPARTMENT. Wasn’t that the department Alhicj sent his correspondence from? Mik tapped the map, closing out of the text field and zoomed in on his current location to find the source of the beacon. Unable to find it at first, he changed the colour of the beacon in the display only to find the new red light blinking on top of the light representing his ship.
He looked up, and to his surprise found a ladder protruding from a ship flying perfectly above his own. Wait … when did this get here? I’ll have to get better about vigilance on these longer voyages. Despite perhaps better judgement, he scaled a mast partially, jumping to the ladder and proceeding upwards into the ship.
“Our apologies for not meeting you on your own ship, but we do not have enough suits for all of us to make the excursion to an open deck,” said a red-faced Poria, who was behind him as he climbed off of the ladder and into the ship. “You must be the security agent our colleague spoke of.”
“Well, yes,” said Mik, in a way that he hoped followed enough of their conventions. He was off guard, before remembering to introduce himself: “I am Mis’Kelin.”
“Greetings. We are the ethno-archaeologists from the Egur-Yeil Institute of Advancement.” said another Poria, whose yellow hues lit up the small room better than their counterparts. “More accurately, the four of us are ethnologists and archaeologists working on assignment, and you know our coordinator.” The Pori separated cleanly into two groups, of four and one, leaving Alhicj by himself, so Mik stood closer to him.
“What exactly are you five digging up?”
Alhicj was hesitant—this was a professional environment which dictated he stick to Poria convention as much as possible. “I will defer to Daekul dul Cukalizsy on the inquiry, and can follow up with you on your deck momentarily,” before bowing—to the other pori, not Mik—and leaving the room. Perhaps to get a suit?
“We are researching a previously-unknown city of Poria from early After Time, and assess the state of its architecture after its abandonment several centuries ago. In addition, we aim to analyze the area, discern whether any unraised Pori remain, and assess living conditions in an area with little-to-no recorded history. We were planning another assignment at the time in which we found and old tome that held the coordinates of a city we had no historical record of.” The pori paused momentarily before continuing, with a different face, “We will arrive on the planet-star Zisdhalilci within a few hours, and it should only be an hour to move our equipment to the location.”
It seemed like certain gibberish to Mik, but he nodded and made his way back down the ladder. If they only had a few hours left, he was hungry.
As he shoved the last bits of fish set aside for this voyage into his mouth, Alhicj came through his door, clad in a shiny suit to keep his molten insides safe from the vacuum of space.
“I kner yuh dih-ch profur daycawrm,” Mik finished his food and continued after cleaning his mouth off, “but don’t you still knock?”
“Do I need to?”
“Well no. So what’s the deal with this excavation?”
“Daekul wasn’t wrong. There’s a city we do not have a record of in history that appeared in one small anecdote, with coordinates. They dated the anecdote and soon we will be digging the city up to make a better record.”
“And this requires me?”
“We are not quite sure what will be found.”
“What does that mean, Alhicj?” In the only time Mik had ever seen Alhicj change his face, the pori also shrugged. With that, he turned and went back onto the deck, presumably back to the Poria ship. They’d be landing on Zisdhalilci soon.
Date: 25 Tos. 961 A.T.
As the two ships came down through the atmosphere , Mik guided his ship into the lead. It was wood where theirs was metal, but he was protection and he had to land his in the water—so he wanted to make sure they didn’t stray too far from where he could land.
Pirates. Mik could see them scattered about his ideal landing spot—a nice fat river. He had been trained, of sorts, to spot them over the years, but he wasn’t sure whether the pori could see the pirates, or knew to even look for them. Before he began the landing procedure he quickly ran inside, getting his double voulge, shield, and two pistols that he had never used on a guild mission. Hopefully it still worked. Upon returning to the helm, Mik pulled his ship up into a slower descent so that he could immediately disembark.
Before the engines shut off and without throwing any anchor overboard, the avoc flew from the railing onto the banks of the river, dropping his weapon as he landed so that he could roll. The pori in their ship seemed to stall overhead, so they must be able to see at least something was wrong. As they hung in the air, there were no shots or attacks from the pirates to the ship. Did they not have any firearms?
Not that he would have time or the interest in asking the pirates. After a few had been dispatched, he watched several more crawl out of the river, presumably coming from the other side. Typical pirates, didn’t climb into his ship and take his escape route away – just came and tried to kill him and take his stuff to sell for Lott. These pirates too were made quick work of and before he knew it, Mik was watching the pori land their ship on the opposite bank of the river. Disgruntled, the young avoc threw his voulge on his back and swam back to his ship. After climbing up the hull, he stood on the deck and motioned to the Poria ship. He wanted to talk.
When Alhicj was on the deck of the Poria ship, Mik called out. “Where to from here?”
“We need to travel an hour inland, away from the river.” Pointing perpendicular to the course of the river as it was, “Or we can take our ship there in minutes. Yours will be abandoned.”
“And if you leave your ship here; what happens to mine?”
In response, Alhicj threw a thick metal cable—like a rope wove from metallic fibers—that Mik struggled to catch. “Tie this to something metal and don’t get get in the water until after I return.” Alhicj then went into the ship, and moments later Mik saw a wave of electricity come towards him on the cable, stopping just short of where he had tied it. Momentarily, Alhicj was back outside the ship, motioning for Mik to come as close as possible. “Get as much as you can with weapons, and a few days of food. The cable is safe to travel, for now.” As quickly as the pori had come out of the ship he disappeared again.
While Mik was getting his supplies together, the pori retrieved their excavation supplies and a mobile camp that they would wheel to the dig site. Momentarily, Mik and his belongings were traveling along the cable, onto and quickly off of the Poria ship. The four archaeologists and ethnologists would be traveling with their gear, while Alhicj and the Avotoc would bring up the rear with the mobile camp and their supplies. Naturally, the two acquaintances passed time as they walked, in hushed voices to avoid the civility of the other Poria.
“How is your time at the guild coming? Have you saved many more people; you’ve been there a few years now right?”
“Actually the guild closed down just as I got back from my most recent mission.”
“Oh, so you won’t be going back there…What happened?”
“No, after this I’ll be trying to find consistent work. And as for the guild – OLAH.”
Alhicj was silent for several seconds, changing his face again while maintaining eye contact with Mik. “I see. Assuming this expedition is fruitful, there could be more work for you with our department. Perhaps this team or another—we were supposed to go on another research trip before we discovered this.”
Pondering, Mik was silent for a moment. “Have you ever heard of The Resistance?”
“I think they work against OLAH.”
“So they shut your guild down and you’re going to fight them? A war?”
“Maybe.” Mik shrugged as much he could with all this equipment on his back. “I need food, bed and something to do with the rest of my life.”
“I see.” The pori up front looked behind them at the pair, and Alhicj broke into his civil tone.
“We require your assistance here, however. Your contributions will be appropriately compensated, but I cannot guarantee future work.”
Mik shot a look ahead. That mountain was getting bigger. “Right.”
Date 25 Tos. 961 A.T.
Near the mountain, the group pushed on with Alhicj and Mis’Kelin at the rear, still speaking quietly. “After this are you going to The Resistance?”
“I don’t actually know where it is. I’ve heard that it is somewhere around here, on this end of Parallelium.”
“This is quite a large sub-section of Omneutta. You could be searching for years, if not decades.”
“What if they do not want you?”
Mik shot his Poria friend a sideways glance. “And why wouldn’t they want me?”
“OLAH could be tracking you and find their hideout that way, since they shut down your guild…Or they could be an organization that is invite only. Maybe what you have heard is wrong and they do not want or need warriors. Perhaps they do not like Avotoc?”
“Alright, that’s enough. Who doesn’t like Avotoc?”
After more idle conversation and silent trudging, they had reached the mountain that was believed to contain this lost city. Mik had no clue on how to operate the mobile camp so Alhicj and the other pori coached him through the process of opening the camp, which he would soon be watching. Not unlike other Poria establishments he had seen, the living spaces—if you could call them that—were efficient. The archaeologists and ethnologists had space to put their belongings that they had carried all this way, and spaces only slightly larger for them to sleep in.
When it was dark, the pori would return from the shaft they had dug into the mountain, several meters up the side and take short shifts throughout the night, ready to wake Mik if there was a problem. In return, the avoc would watch the camp during the day for any threats. For two days it was fine.
On the third day since they had set up camp, Mik couldn’t shake a feeling of unease for several hours. In the previous two days, one of the pori would at least come to the side of the mountain from the tunnel until he acknowledged them, but on this day several hours had passed without any sign from the cave. More troubling still was the feeling that he couldn’t shake. He knew something was lurking but could not figure what. Reluctantly, he left the camp and approached the mountain.
Several meters from the mountain, about halfway from the camp he had the inclination to turn around and look at the camp. He was a little higher than the camp now, and had a better viewpoint. From here he could see them, closing in on the camp – he looked around and they were coming from all directions. How had the pirates, in such large numbers closed in on him undetected? Out of the corner of his eye as he turned to run to the tunnel to alert the pori, he saw the pirates lighting torches before lowering them to the ground. Quickly—and still running up the mountain—Mik looked the other direction. The pirates were lighting the whole mountain on fire.
“HEY! ARE ANY OF YOU CLOSE? CAN YOU HEAR ME?” Mik shouted, as loud as he could into the tunnel. He didn’t wait long for a response before quickly scrambling back down the mountain, somewhere between running, falling, and sliding down the lose rock surface. Back at the camp, he could see the pirates, a couple hundred meters away as they all amassed in one group to move through one section that wasn’t on fire. Mik—and the pori in the mountain—were trapped, and the pirates knew it. They had planned it.
Thankfully, the scientists all had their instruments inside the mountain, so there wasn’t much in the camp that he couldn’t take. He had all of his weapons already on his body, so he filled his hands with as much of his own food as he could muster, and threw a couple canisters of the materials that the pori…ate? Whatever it was, it was heavy and he could only carry a couple canisters in addition to his food. They’d have to share.
By the time he got to the tunnel entrance the pirates were already through ransacking the camp and were advancing on his position with haste. He went several meters inside the tunnel, where the light from outside ran out, and dropped his belongings. Thankfully, the canisters provided a small amount of light. Back at the entrance, Mik could see maybe a hundred pirates making their way up the mountain, single file. That has to be a pretty big galleon, or several ships worth of pirates… There was no way he could handle them all, even if he had the stamina.
Without a better idea, Mik retreated just inside the tunnel and took out a pistol. The pori had set up the first few sets of tunnel supports as arches, but as he looked further inside the tunnel they had used sturdier supports. Maybe because if they knew where the side of the mountain is, it’s easier to dig out this little bit than dig out a mid-tunnel collapse? Poria are usually smarter than me, so that seems like a good idea. Taking aim, he shot at the first two keystones in the arches, hoping their fall would collapse the entrance to the tunnel and the pirates could advance no further.
His shots were a partial success, as the second keystone popped loose, bringing down that section of the tunnel with it, causing Mik to retreat under a support beam made out of metal several meters further into the tunnel, where he had left what he carried. Where did they even get metal for these support beams? After waiting a few moments to see if the pirates broke through, he picked up his items and moved further into the mountain, unaware that the collapse of the second section brought down the first as the pirates were beginning to enter the tunnel, and thus sparing further pursuit.
Scene: Inside the mountain, Zisdhalilci
Date: 28 Tos. 961 A.T.
After what felt like an hour of walking, the young avoc finally caught up to the pori, who were still working. For a few minutes, he was able to watch their work without being noticed. One of the five pori would heat their arms, removing all of the hardened plates and sticking their molten appendages into the far wall of the tunnel as far as they could without climbing into the wall themselves. After they removed their arms, two of the remaining four used tools shaped vaguely like pickaxes to pry the rock from the wall, beginning with the tools inside the holes the arms created and eventually spreading the full width and heigh of the tunnel. The other two would then feed the removed rock into a machine that slowly produced the beams that held the tunnel up.
The last Poria to take their turn melting the wall was Alhicj, who exclaimed when he saw the Avotoc standing there arms full. “Mik wha—“ He quickly caught himself, remembering the other pori were around. “Mis’Kelin! What is the purpose of your presence here?”
“Well uh…our camp got surrounded by pirates.”
Another pori spoke up, whose name Mik didn’t know. “Did you say pirates?”
“Are you certain these were pirates? What was the quantity of their presence?” A pori, still creating a new beam asked, obviously not distracted from the task at hand. Mik recognized this one as Daekul dul Cukalizsy.
“Yes, absolutely. I believe around one-hundred. But they didn’t follow me in, I knocked out the first two stone supports.”
The five pori stopped working for several seconds. Alhicj spoke first; changing his face as he spoke. “You did what?”
“Well the pirates were coming—and I’m good but not that good—and they had already taken our camp, which is why I have all this—“ Mik interrupted himself, motioning with his head to the pile of goods in his arms. “I shot the first two supports out to collapse the entrance – the ones that were rock so that they couldn’t get in.”
Daekul spoke up again, “It is no matter now,” turning to the others. “We have no option remaining other than to continue forward. It is fortuitous that Mis’Kelin saw fit to bring the lava containers.”
“LAVA?! That’s what in these things? How am I not burning alive?”
All five pori faces changed into somewhat similar shapes, all remembering some form of laughter or excitement. “There are Poria whose intellect far surpass those present here.” Alhicj spoke up, clarifying—somewhat—to Mik.
So the group continued forward, making progress slower than before, as during the time of day when the pori would normally sleep they kept tunneling, burning through the lava canisters just six hours after Mik arrived. When he woke up, Mik noticed the tunnel felt much different than when he began sleeping, perhaps some hours earlier. To his left—towards the outside of the mountain—he could feel less space and air, despite not being able to see further than a few meters in that direction. To his right he could see a faint glow in the distance, much further than he knew the tunnel to be.
He got up, slowly walking down the tunnel. His food was almost gone, as were the lava canisters. In the distance, he could distinctly see one pori walking towards him, separating itself from the glow. Just how far did they dig while I was asleep?
Scene: Tcir dul Caerta, Zisdhalilci
Date 30 Tos. 961 A.T.
Mik and Alhicj met, a good 20 meters from the rest of the pori, and from this distance Mik could tell something was off; their glow was hardly any brighter at even this distance. Alhicj held his hand up as Mik started to speak. “We have lost Daekul.”
“What do you mean lost? He couldn’t have wandered off.”
“Death, as you call it. Poria cannot survive in these conditions.”
Mik paused for a second. Down to four pori. “You…well, them too…you look dimmer.”
“We are now consuming the support beams from earlier in the tunnel. I personally stopped counting after twenty pillars.”
“Consuming…?” Mik slowly drew the word from his mouth, completely confused by even the consideration of the question. Quickly rebounding before Alhicj could answer, he continued: “Does the twenty include the top and both sides of the supports, or each set?”
“I counted the sets. Consume as in an attempt of replacing what the lava canisters were.”
“Right, you guys ate all the lava and now you’re eating the rock pillars?”
“Not quite. There is no direct equivalent to your process of eating, rather we consume the lava and it is both an energy source for us and somewhat equivalent to your blood and skin. We—quite literally—use up our bodies as energy, and the lava replaces both.”
“So the pillars are…?”
“Insufficient in both regards. It gives us what you might call malnutrition. Daekul was not in the best condition, but even the remaining four pori are not far behind. The worse possibility is that we might run out of air, which we also need in order to properly burn energy.”
“That could be a problem. A loss of air doesn’t impact me, but I can’t dig myself out – in either direction.”
“So far, we have been frankly lucky that enough air is filtering through the closed end of the tunnel and the mountain around us. None of us are advanced enough to determine which support beams could cut us off from our air supply.”
“I can help dig, if that’s burning too much of your energy.”
“You do not have much food left either, nor can you eat ro—“ Alhicj cut himself off, turning his head towards the other pori, where one of them was trying to get their attention, but it was barely louder than he and Mik were speaking.
All Mik could hear was “…and Mis’Kelin must come with haste.” Perhaps he heard his own name and made up the rest. Either way, the two made their way down the tunnel, where the three pori had finally found their destination. One of them turned to Alhicj and Mik. “Were there any research journals among the items brought into the tunnel?”
“I believe there is one stored with one of the two canisters. I will seek it.” They turned to Mik and spoke slightly softer. “You should go and get all of your things and hurry back here—“ the pori reached out, almost grabbing Mik’s shoulder before realizing his arms and hands bore no plates and would thus burn the avoc alive. “Do not run or unnecessarily spend your energy.”
In a few minutes the remaining five made their way through the hole in the tunnel, with one of the researchers carefully filling out the remaining journal, furiously tapping and clicking against the digital inputs. As they made their way into the city, the group found vents of magma, glowing several meters beneath the surface. What they needed was there, but out of reach.
In the city center they found a long-simmering volcano. A deep and narrow crater whose sides had clearly been dug in to carve paths down the main vent to where the surface of the magma should be, but it was presently even lower. From their vantage point, one Poria made the observation that lava had cooled over part of the lower pathway. The—apparently—remaining lead researcher handed the research journal to Alhicj and took another pori down the path, where they were able to consume enough lava to be near “full”. Alhicj handed the journal back and took the remaining pori to do the same. Upon their return, the three researchers spread out among the inner city, and Alhicj kept watch with Mik.
“Good thing we found this crater, right?”
“There are a few issues that this crater presents.”
“Foremost, this city seems to be in direct opposition to our previous conclusions about Tcir dul Caerta.”
“That sounds like a name for a pori, not a city.”
“You are not incorrect. It has been some time since we have named cities in this fashion. I did not do well in my studies of history, so I cannot accurately place this city, other than to say it seems to be older than our initial research led us to believe. The architectural style is from the period of time we suspected based on the age of our source, but the name of this place is problematic. The name suggests a city before the Timekeeping Reset, but the buildings are one hundred years after that, if not more.”
“That sounds odd.”
“Yes, and further, there was an abundance of pori eggs in one building as we came to the crater, suggesting the city was abandoned, rather than carefully left as our source suggested. In addition, Poria did not live this close to an active volcano—which the careful pathways down the main vent and auxiliary vents into the town center suggest they did—for hundreds of years before the reset, just after our creation as a species.”
“So what now?”
“We gather as much data and observations as our research journal can hold and figure out how to get back to our research institute. I hope our ship is operable or otherwise ignored by the pirates.”
“If ours survived, yours likely did as well. The ship can power the low voltage cable for several weeks if need be.”
Scene: Tcir dul Caerta, Zisdhalilci
Date: 30 Tos. 961 A.T.
As the pair watched the three remaining archeologists and ethnologists go from the remains of one building to another, one of the pori had been in one place for quite a while while the other two had come and gone between several buildings. Mik went to investigate. Inside he found no pori after asking several times, but a rustling of rocks and metal that would not subsist.
Suddenly, a creature much larger than Mik shot forth from the ground, causing the young avoc to flee. “ALHICJ!” Mik was shouting while running back to the pori. “What is this?!”
A strange face was adopted by the molten figure – one which Mik had not seen before. Alhicj began to backpedal towards the crater before mustering an answer, which did not seem entirely directed at the avoc fleeing the beast. “Daekoiz! Run!”
The three remaining pori quickly scrambled together, trailed by the diminutive Mik and now two of the large daekoiz. Unable to catch up with the pori, he quickly scrambled up to the top of a building, only standing a couple meters higher than the daekoiz on its hind legs. Both of the creatures continued to chase the pori around the largest vent in the center of town, seemingly buying time until Mik could figure out how to defend them.
In a rash burst of confidence, Mik jumped off of the building and landed in front of the pori, motioning them to continue running and to get on top of the building he came from. Quickly, he pulled his double voulge out, attempting to slash across the face of the first daekoiz he met. Unsuccessful, he began backpedalling while he pulled out his two pistols, firing them off as quickly as he could. This startled the creature enough to force it back on its smaller hind legs. Mik took this opportunity to thrust at its plated underbelly, staggering it backwards into the other daekoiz. Both tumbled into the crater and let out terrible shrieks as they burned alive.
By the time Alhicj and the other two pori had climbed down and caught up to Mik, he had been watching the magma slowly rise up the vent. Alhicj saw it too, and was alarmed. “It is time to leave. Most if not all of the auxiliary vents are full of cooled magma, and the daekoiz falling in seem to have stirred the chamber.”
“How long do we have? Also what were those things?”
“I am untrained to make that assessment. Come, I will explain.”
“Where are we even going?” Mik was confused, but complied nonetheless. He trusted Alhicj. Mostly.
The pori responded first by pointing at a lone ray of light poking through the mountain that surrounded Tcir dul Caerta. “That shaft of light is likely why we—pori—have not yet died in this main chamber. We must climb.”
“How are Poria at climbing?” Mik was fairly adept at climbing, but this angle would be rough, hanging nearly upside-down at certain spots before reaching the exit.
The three pori were in the process of melting the plates on their hands, which now looked more like the amorphous hands of a Kettlah. “We can make our own ladders in the wall.” And almost sensing his apprehension, continued. “You will be fine.”
As the magma began to audibly bubble and hiss with the dissolution of the daekoiz, another pair emerged from the ground. Now sprinting, Mik demanded answers from Alhicj, who was the only pori keeping pace with his pace.
“Have to know now – what are those things?”
“Daekoiz live around volcanic ven—”
“Alhicj! The research journal must be delivered!” The third pori was falling behind, as Mik looked he was noticeably dimmer, the volcano’s magma had not responded well within his body.
“Do not worry!” Alhicj produced the journal in the hand he had not removed plates from before quickly returning it back amongst his garments. Turning and running again with Mik, he continued. “Daekoiz can hibernate for hundreds of years, keeping their rock plates tight to their body to retain heat, and open them again when they are awake. Like Poria, they consume molten material to survive, but they cannot touch it. The insides of their bodies are much tougher than the outsides, which is why they prefer smaller pori, who they can eat whole.” As they reached the side of the mountain, the two remaining pori had fully molten hands and feet, thrusting them into the side of the mountain much like how Mik would climb a glacier with ice picks and pointed boots in Pale Shores. Well, if he wore boots.
“Don’t you have any sort of defense against them?” Mik now climbed in their indentations along the wall. They were right, this was no problem at all for him. Still, he kept his head turned, watching for the Daekoiz to follow them up the wall.
“Not particularly, other than pori gifted with some of Porrair’s more explosive talents. This is one of many reasons Poria no longer live this close to volcanos.”
“You don’t? What’s the difference between Tcir dul Caerta and modern Poria cities?”
“Several hundred meters, lava refinement factories, and buildings built to withstand creatures of such size. In addition, daekoiz do not normally travel outside of volcanoes. They live in dormant or barely-active volcanoes, and are forced to flee when it is nearing eruption, so their presence in pre-modern Poria cities was used as an early indication of an impending eruption.”
“So you don’t have anything to kill them?”
“It is hard to kill them. As a species we are generally opposed to unnecessary violence, so we have not developed any weaponry for this scenario. You need not look behind you to see if they follow. If a daekoiz wanted to chase us, they would likely burrow through the side of the mountain, run up the much easier outer-slope, and burrow back in where we are.”
“Great.” Mik instead looked up at the hole in the side of the mountain, which was now close, but not close enough to soothe his anxiety. “I just have to worry about a giant monster digging through a mountain I’m climbing from the inside and eating me.”
“You will be fine, as you are not made of molten material. They likely would be unable to detect your presence through rock as you do not exude enough heat.” Alhicj looked down at Mik past the other pori and then back up. “We are not far now, we must climb only a couple minutes more.”
Just as predicted, within a few minutes they were climbing from the mountain, and after a few minutes more they were near the top, looking over the mountain at their camp on the other side. With no pirates in sight, and Astran beginning to disappear over the horizon behind them, the now-trio began their journey back to their ships. It would be an hour’s journey. Just as long as they had taken from the ships to camp, but this time they could walk faster without that equipment, which made up for the increased distance.
Shortly after most of the light from Zisdhalilci faded, the two pori went into their ship, disabled the electricity and Mik got on his. Shortly after detaching the metal cable, that too was returned to the research vessel, and Alhicj came out carrying something small. He motioned for Mik to come to the railing of his ship. Once there, the pori tossed the small item with a good amount of force just over Mik’s head, where with a jump and outstretched arms he was able to grab the item. The familiar jingle of Lott in a pouch greeted Mik as his hands closed around the coins, and he walked back to the railing.
“So now we’re even?”
“No. You saved me again and we are paying you for it, so I still owe you from last time.”
“Help me look for The Resistance then. We’ll be even.”
“Unfortunately for you, I have to return to our research institute immediately with this data. When I can contact you, your ship will have a beacon. I remember your frequency quite well.” With that, Alhicj bode farewell and returned to the ship, which took off rather quickly.