A Flame Symbol For Nohisos
He had hoped that he would be alone when he reached the red door hidden at the very end of the darkened cave, but alas, it was not to be.
Crouching before the door was a man wearing a long, burgundy cloak, repeating the same four actions over and over again: shoving a key into the lock, opening the door, closing the door, and trying again.
Whenever he opened the door, there was nothing on the other side but the rock of the cave wall.
He watched the man’s struggles for a moment, an amused smirk on his lips, before he decided to step out of the shadows and make himself known.
“Well, well, well, what do we have here? Struggling to make your key work, Padern? It’s a flame symbol for Nohisos, and an ice symbol for The White Isles…”
He trailed off into a chuckle as Padern jumped out of his skin, ceasing his desperate mumblings to spring to his feet and turn to face him. His hood fell to reveal his wide face, which sported a thick and shaggy black beard and piercing but startled brown eyes.
He soon regained his composure, and his face settled into a snarl.
“Gabriel,” he growled. “Fancy seeing you here. Surprised you even managed to find this place, after the fiasco at Caegrimel.”
Gabriel glared. “I got the ring, didn’t I?”
He held up his right hand to show off the ring he was wearing: gold with a dragon insignia.
The man snorted. “There was more treasure down there, and you know it.”
“Then why don’t you go after it?”
“Because I am here. For the same reason, I believe, as you are.”
“The Cloud Sanctum,” Gabriel admitted.
Padern smirked. “Biggest score ever. Gold, jewels… Who knows what we’ll find there.”
“You mean what I’ll find there,” Gabriel corrected him.
“You think you will get there before me?”
“You are yet to get there yourself. You clearly do not know, or you simply lack the magic, to conjure the right symbol onto that key of yours. Which is not surprising. The only reason you made it to The Desolate Lands was because one of your lackeys could conjure the fang symbol and open the door to the right dimension for you. The Cloud Sanctum is an infinitely more difficult plane of existence to reach than the other petty dimensions, especially if you have not been there before, and, to my knowledge, no one from this dimension ever has.”
“Then surely we are on equal footing?”
Gabriel snorted. “I have far more chance of getting through to The Cloud Sanctum than you do. You struggle to make it even to Nohisos.”
“And you struggle to bring back any loot wherever you do get to. Maybe we should team up.”
“In your dreams. Now step aside before I make you.”
Padern backed up against the door, barring it from Gabriel.
“You know, it might just be the case that your key is simply more powerful than mine, rather than that I lack the magical ability to traverse dimensions easily,” he mused. “So maybe I don’t even need you to open the door to The Cloud Sanctum for me after all. Maybe I only need your key.”
“So you plan on taking my key from me?”
“You never know, it could work. Plus, I’ll be getting rid of the competition.”
Padern snarled and rushed forward. In his hand, his key began to glow and the symbol of a block of ice appeared on the bow. He thrust it towards Gabriel.
Gabriel tried to dodge, but he was too slow.
The key sliced into his side. It was not a deep wound, but his flesh froze as the key touched it, and the skin surrounding the cut turned ugly shades of black and blue.
Growling in pain and anger, Gabriel pulled his own key from his pocket. Focusing his magic, he imagined a door opening to Nohisos and the symbol of a flame appeared upon his key. It burned in his fingers as he thrust his hand forward, ready to plunge the key into Padern’s spleen.
Padern sidestepped the attack; the key merely brushed against the skin of his hand. He cried out as his skin burned, turning angry and red.
Gabriel took advantage of Padern’s distraction and focused his magic on his key once more. Thinking of another dimension, he conjured the symbol of a blade onto his key and lunged forward.
Feeling stronger than he ever had before, he readied himself to drive the sharp edge into Padern’s heart.
Yet his hand had not made it to Padern’s chest when he was stopped in his tracks by a devastating pain radiating from his side. His key ceased to glow and fell from his fingers; it clattered to the floor. He grunted, and his hands fell on Padern’s shoulders to steady himself as he looked down.
Padern’s key was pushed into the frozen wound that he had already inflicted, pushed to the bow. Padern moved his thumb so that Gabriel could see the symbol on his key: a fang.
“No…” Gabriel managed to croak, as his vision began to swim. His limbs grew heavy, his throat began to close up, and a white froth gurgled at his mouth and dripped down his chin.
Padern wrapped an arm carefully around Gabriel’s shoulders and slowly lowered him to the ground. With a swift movement, he wrenched the key from Gabriel’s side and stood back up.
“Well, then,” he said matter-of-factly, as Gabriel found it more and more difficult to properly focus on anything, “I think I should dispose of your body somewhere no one will notice, don’t you? Or perhaps, somewhere no one will care.”
Through his blurred vision, Gabriel watched as Padern’s key began to glow, but no symbol appeared upon it. A jolt of fear shot through his slowing heart: he knew very well which dimension a blank key led to.
Padern turned towards the door and inserted the key into the lock. Once it was open, there was nothing but blackness beyond, punctuated by screams and the snarling of terrifying but unseeable creatures.
Gabriel was powerless to resist as Padern slipped his hands under his shoulders and dragged him over to the door. He grunted as it jarred his wound, but his throat was too full of foam to fully vocalise his pain.
As he was pulled towards the door, his limp fingers passed over the smooth, cool metal of his key where it had fallen. He mustered up the strength to curl his fingers around it; he doubted Padern noticed.
The rocky flooring beneath his body turned to smooth marble as he was moved. Padern waited until Gabriel’s feet were a few yards from the door before placing him on the ground.
“There.” He straightened himself up and rubbed his hands together. “I’ll leave you to it. Have a nice death. I hear Ianibis is rather nice this time of year.”
As he walked away and closed the door behind him, Gabriel tried to ignore the sound behind him: claws on marble flooring and the sound of heavy breathing. There was the putrid smell of some foul monster’s breath as it approached him.
Gabriel clutched his key tightly in his hand as he choked on the foam still bubbling up from his throat. Though he tried to focus his magic, all he could really hope for was that he would be dead by the time the monster reached him…
Suddenly, the key in his hand began to glow a bright gold – brighter than it had ever done so in the past. Behind him, the monster screeched and fled, while he himself seemed to grow in strength. His vision began to clear, his heartbeat increased within his chest, and he had the energy to move again.
He rolled onto his side and coughed up the foam, purging it from his system and wiping the last remnants of it from his lips when he could breathe again. He sat up and reached around to his side, feeling for his wound. There was still blood on his skin, but his flesh had been knit back together.
For a moment, he sat there in shock, unsure of quite how he should react. He lifted his key to inspect the symbol that had been conjured upon it: a cross.
“The Cloud Sanctum?” he murmured to himself, wondering if he even dared to hope.
He pushed himself to his shaky legs and made his way over to the door. Inserting the key into the lock, he turned it and opened the door.
The world beyond made his eyes hurt.
Bright white light poured in from the other side, and behind him, the screeching of the monsters intensified, now pained and frightened. A curious burning smell reached his nostrils from the monsters lurking in the shadows, but he paid it no heed.
The dimension beyond the door was The Cloud Sanctum.
He laughed, and ran through the door, slamming it behind him. Magic thrummed in his veins, stronger than it had ever been before.
He seemed to have emerged in a wilderness: sand stretched ahead as far as he could see, and from what he could tell he was completely alone.
He had no idea where the treasure he sought would be kept, but he only had to look.
“There is nothing here.”
Gabriel jumped, twisting around to see who had spoken.
The door stood oddly alone in the middle of the sand, with no walls surrounding it. There was no sign of anyone else.
Gabriel walked around the door to see a man standing in long white robes. He had short brown hair and thin, pinched features. His dark eyes were boring into Gabriel, as though scrutinising his very being.
“What do you mean, there’s nothing here?”
“There is nothing for you to steal, thief. This dimension is empty of treasure that would bring you any value on any other plane of existence, and our citizens know when something had been gained dishonestly. If you wish to remain here, I suggest you leave your days of larceny behind. Otherwise, return to your home dimension.”
Gabriel’s heart sank. “How do I know you’re not lying to me?”
The man smirked. “You do not know how. But you do.”
Gabriel sneered, for the man was right; there was something trustworthy about him, something that even he couldn’t doubt. The man was telling the truth. There was no treasure here.
“Well, in that case, I have a settle to score.” Gabriel walked around the door again and conjured the image of a rock on his key. “Someone tried to kill me, and I intend to return the favour.”