The soft footfalls echo into the dark as the group makes their way down the stairs. The passage of time and distance seems untrackable on the monotony that has become their world.
Staring off into the middle distance julian looks at the inky abyss and smiles. “Do you think there’s a faster way back up?”
The question hangs in the air for what seems like hours. Steps without end stretch before and behind the group, each worn unique by the passing of time. A dark eternity later, Terth replies.
“No. Probably not.”
The voices echo a few times coming from both above and below. The natural and unnatural lights dance on the walls, filled with worn etchings, graffiti, and the occasional hole. Luca studies it for a whole on the way down.
“I just hope we can make it down without another incident. I’d hate to damage this history any more than it has been”
Julian gentle rakes a claw along the wall. Not damaging it but making a light scraping sound.
“Yes the great history of the stairs. Built by someone in the year something. I never understood the idea that something old makes something venerable. Granted i do like some old thulain style buildings in the peoples. I feel like we’ve been at this forever ..Hey dont you have a watch? How long have we been going down?”
“Ages, it feels like.”
Iskanda taps the blade of her feebly-lit sword and the pale yellow glow renews. “You’re being awfully talkative today, Julian. Afraid of the dark?”
Terth’s mouth spreads into a shit eating grin.
“Are you not? You know things like grues enjoy hiding underground in the dark and preying on distracted travelers.”
Luca’s faces contorts with displeasure to Terth’s comment.
“I’d be more afraid of what those cultists have been unearthing down here, than grues. Who knows what they could find down here. Long forgotten magic, artifacts, or creatures that would be best left forgotten.”
“You’re quite curious about history and artifacts, hm?” Iskanda tilts her head. “I wouldn’t have guessed, given your…professions.”
Luca responds with a grim look, “History is the only life after death. There is some solace knowing that at least some part of those that have fallen before me are preserved. Even if their names are forgotten, the events they participated in won’t be.”
“Ah.” She looks to him for a moment. “Have you always had such an interest in the past? It’s not a common trait for one so devoted to fighting and taking orders.”
“Voice of experience? What do you base that on?” -julian
Iskanda sighs. “No, from observation. Forgive me for trying to have a conversation and learn more about my companions.”
With a dismissive shrug julian leans near luca and says “I just thought she was calling you uneducated.” returning to his pace on the steps julian looks at iskanda. “No need to be so testy iskanda. Im a chained dog now, hardly a man worth fighting with. As we saw upstairs that may be more dangerous than i was.”
“I was asking him if he had – Oh, nevermind.” She shakes her head.
“Anyway, yes, the men up there seemed very devoted to their task. No telling how many there will be down below. I do wonder if Jack knew more about this place than he’d mentioned…”
In a somewhat detached voice, “Julian, I believe she may have been implying as such, but it’s an easy mistake to make. Most warriors are little more than machines made to clumsily swing any blunt, spiked, or bladed object that is put into their hands.”
Luca’s voice picks up, “My training, however, involved countless lessons on forms, their individual histories, why they were invented, who uses each one, which ones counter others, how to switch and combine them. It was always the ‘why’ that intrigued me.”
“I fear this may hurt your standing in the group, but i’ve decided i like you. With spells or blades no one ever questions “why” when they’re so happy with the results. Like iskanda’s light. Does it fill the metal with light or is it more plated with light. Does it have a weight?
What if she casted it on a mirrored box? Would it still reflect the light? If it were cast on ice and we melted it what would the results be? Where does the light come from? God? If so where would terth’s come from? No one questions it as they are just happy with having it. The order questions why, but even then only when it fits their needs. ON that note. Jack didn’t say anything to me, maybe to terth? Maybe he wants us to find this knowlege and use it as some kind of blackmail? Maybe hide his own family history? Maybe having me burn from the inside saving one of you. I mean hemorrhaging hurts, but the blood boiling that stays with you. Does her lady have a “Curse”? I should of shopped around for my penance, but i didnt have the time really.
She purses her lips at Luca before glancing towards Julian. “Yes, we do have our own mark of justice. Chances are you would’ve liked it less than Azrelia’s method, as it’s a bit…stronger. Someone of my rank can’t generally carry it out, though. Usually it’s a High Justicar, and there aren’t any of those in the city. And the High Presbyter here isn’t really one for making a scene, so I doubt he would’ve approved.”
“Stronger? How so? Does it out right kill you, or is it more binding in the sense one can’t even think of harming another? Also i thought you were the highest ranking Justicar here. Doesn’t that make you defacto High Justicar? Who issues that edict? Granted i’m assuming your church operates much like a army. Speaking of armies who trained you luca? You know..i just realized how ignorant i am of all of you. I have no idea what made any of you come to this city. Not that you need to justify it.”
The edges of a landing come into view and fade behind them.
“I think that was forty or forty one. Has anyone been counting?”
Iskanda shakes her head. “No, I’m afraid I’ve lost track. And I’m from Ordahl, as you must know. It’s not the best place for a woman to live, so…” She trails off.
“Ah yes im told its very hot there. But why her lady of justice? Not a officer of the law, not a preistess nore a knight. But then im assuming you decided this. Sometimes such things are thrusted on us.”
“I believe Miss Iskanda was referring to how women are treated there. Perhaps she took up the cause of Her Lady Justice in order to raise her station, or perhaps ", turning to Iskanda, “to raise the station of all those she saw being mistreated.”
“Oh.” There’s a pause before Iskanda nods. “Er, yes. I didn’t become a part of the church until I came to Bastige…I hoped to make some sort of difference here, to rid it of the horrors of slavery. Ordahl was only my home in my youth.” She gives a small shrug.
“And what of you, Luca? Bashara, right? What brought you here?”
“Failure brought me here. Bashara is where I was trained. Though I can no longer call it home. Bastige has been hospitable enough, but I do not plan on staying here forever.”
“Hospitable?” She snorts. “Weren’t you indentured as a gladiator for over half a decade? Curious definition of ‘hospitable’…”
“Yes forced to fight fuck and drink one self till raw. How ever did you deal with the horrors?” Julian rubs his forehead and winces. “Then again its hard to enjoy anything when forced, hard to look ahead when you can’t decide the path i suppose.”