There was a part of Randidly that was extremely disappointed at the extent of the destruction, and that side of him dominated for 10 seconds. Right up until the thin hairline crack extending from the area weakened root to the sun crystal also began collapsing, groaning from the weight of the shaking land.
Randidly was lucky in his placement; there were no giant pillars of stone nearby, likely so the sun crystal could cast its light over the underground space without shadows. They were purposefully designed that way. But when the line of collapsing ceiling reached the crystal, it shuddered for a bit, twitching.
Then the light went out, and the huge thing fell to the ground.
Right as the sun crystal fell, the original rubble from the cathedral collapsing hit the ground, sending a wave of force in every direction that leveled a good stretch of trees.
As his Death Cultist became to swerve around and through falling debris, Randidly looked around, checking the lay of the land. The giant pillars marred some of the wider views, but they were relatively far apart, likely spaced as far as feasibly possible, without destroying the structural integrity of the zone. Between them was a thick rainforest like area, spreading in every direction. There were some clear areas that ran along rivers, and when Randidly squinted at those he could see trails interspersed everywhere, but largely, it was just the dull flush of trees that met his vision.
But as he raised his head and glanced around, his eyes alighted on a building, and his eyes narrowed.
What the fuck is that?
Lucretia asked, the wonder clear in her voice.
It was a strange construct on top of a raised plateau, above a city. It looked like a dozen spiral seashells were pressed together, and then melted into one strange, curling, curving monstrosity. It was about the size of an apartment building, and as Randidly stared at it, he abruptly realized that it was somehow shredding the Aether in the air that came near it. Although Randidly couldn’t figure out what the purpose of such a building was, it wasn’t hard to realize that this was definitely the work of the Creature.
Now that the nearest sun crystal thing had gone dark and fallen, it was relatively shadowy in their area, so Randidly reached up and tapped his Death Cultist’s leg to get its attention. Then he pointed.
Nodding, the Grey Death Cultist screeched something out, that apparently its kin understood because all of the Death Cultists began gliding towards each other, entering into a formation. Randidly could still hear Ace’s whoops of glee, and he craned his neck around to get a look at the wound he had made in this underground world. As he did so, the sun crystal hit the ground, sounding like an entire glass factory exploded.
The fissure in the earth was still up there, and more and more debris was slowly cracking and falling as the tremors from his Earthquakes tapered off. It appeared this would be all of the destruction for now, which served Randidly’s purposes just fine. Although the idea had some appeal, Randidly had a hard time believing that the Creature could be killed just by collapsing a roof on it.
As they approached the city, Randidly’s mouth tightened, because the city and the strange monstrous seashell above it loomed ever larger. Which meant that they might still have a ways to it, and it was much, much larger than Randidly would have originally believed. It was a metropolitan area in its own right.
At least, when his sharp eyes scanned the city, he didn’t see many people. But it was clear that this city had been constructed with the eye towards the future, and a population in the hundreds of thousands.
The Creature had apparently taken inspiration from Earth, too, because he doubted that the high rise apartment buildings and skyways were common practice on most planets.
Then again, Randidly reflected, they might very well be. After all, at a certain level of materials engineering, this sort of feat was relatively simple. It was just a matter of how advanced technologically the race was before the System arrived… and if most races had magic or strange abilities beyond the humans, they might be more otherwise occupied that to turn their attention to the study of the world around them.
Of course, they would have their own area of advantages. But it likely wouldn’t be this.
Alana steered her Death Cultist over towards Randidly and then spoke. “Are we going in to kill?”
Randidly dearly wanted to say yes, but he bit his lip. The rest of the Raid Party came over towards him until they were all zipping over the treeline, the canopy beneath them a blur of green. Although a smash and grab approach had some advantages, the usual method was surprise, and he expected that he had already shot that horse in the foot.
No, better try and have a modicum of caution.
“Let’s land outside and knock on the front door. If they stop us, however…” Everyone else nodded at his words.
Randidly was cursing inwardly. Because he suddenly wondered whether this would be as easy as he wanted. Was the Creature really here…? Because if this was another strange diversion built by the Creature, and he just came in and killed the people here on his hunch…
But his eyes wandered up to the strange seashell thing, and it was hard for Randidly to believe that this was just a simple decoration. Of course, it could be a trap, because the closer they got to it, the clearer it was that this thing was extremely dangerous. Around its apex, Aether spiraled in a whirlpool, sucked into one of the upper openings of it. At the opening, they was a sharp protuberance, spanning almost the entirety of the diameter towards the other side of the opening, perhaps going 85% of the distance. It almost looked like a shark’s fin.
As the Aether was sucked past this, the oddly serrated shark’s fin caused it to… almost scream. There was a dull noise in the air that Randidly could now sense, like the shadow of a cloud on the ground, or the prickle of an oncoming headache. It was slightly beyond both his and Lucretia’s understand of Aether, what was happening here, but it set both of them on high alert.
They alighted on the ground, the 10 of them, then the couple thousand Death Cultists landed behind them, chittering excitedly to each other, looking around. The city was surrounded by a low wall, only about 3 meters high, nothing that would pose any real threat to even Rose.
Expecting the worst, Randidly walked towards the tall wooden door that had a road drapped from it like a beard, leading into the maw of the beast. To his surprise, when they approached, the door opened, and Randidly stopped short, his eyes narrowing.
Eight men in robes hurried out, unrolling a carpet, and then bowing to the black carpet they produced. Then, a man in a grey jumpsuit walked out and surveyed their group with keen eyes. He seemed to take them all in with only a second long glance, but Randidly was relatively amused to see the man glance back at them, specifically at Randidly’s bare feet, as if shocked.
For good measure, he wiggled his toes and grinned. The man sneered at him, raising his chin until he seemed to be staring almost directly upwards.
“You have the honor to be addressed by the immaculate Zith, greatest, and most giving among us, having led her chosen people promisedpromise land.”
A woman then walked out from the doors, in a brilliant white dress, that seemed to drip pearls from its hems and sleeves. She was not beautiful, but she was pretty, with a sharp, pointed face, and high, arching brows. Randidly didn’t fail to notice that as she appeared, guards up on a small rampart above the wall, holding bows and javelins, stood, gazing down over them all with a disapproving air. Almost 300, and just those they could see.
As the woman exited, the door slowly closed behind her, until it was only open a crack, but through that gap, Randidly had seen heavier troops, with weapons in had that were made to hack and break. His lips twitched farther upward, his nose flaring, as he sensed the approaching battle.
He considered the woman again, and then began clenching his fists so hard that the bones of his fingers popped. They had been warned about this, they had been told about her identity, btu that was from Aratta, the broken and ripped apart Wild Rider, so Randidly hadn’t thought too deeply about what it would mean that she was here, the villain in the story of the Death Cultists.
Or what that meant for his culpability for what she had to go through to get here. Her eyes were bright, and somewhat yellow, which Randidly didn’t remember, and her hair had darkened to a warm and refined chestnut. She wasn’t smiling, but she was inspecting Randidly with the same intensity that he was looking at her.
“Coward,” The head Grey Death Cultist hissed.
Her face twitched, and she shook her head, slowly, sadly.
Before they could get off track any further, Randidly spoke, his voice raw. “Is such an entrance…really necessary?”
Her smile was bitter, and when Gemma replied, her voice was just as raw. “If I hadn’t found small ways to amuse myself… I expect I would be slightly mad, living to the ripe old age of 408. Far, far beyond what a human should be forced to suffer through. Don’t you agree?”