Chapter 11 - Tsurbaron Counter
Half the chamber walls were now encased in the golem’s ice, as Rhemar and Cato continued to dodge their attacker’s vicious attempts. One icy blast after another, the duo managed to evade every frigid beam, but unfrosted space was wearing thin. As it gained distance and stalked its prey, the crystalline giant plotted a tactical kill strike. With their current position furthest from the staircase, they desperately need an immediate exit plan. Seemingly convinced that its current tactic was insufficient, the corundum cyclops shifted its lens configuration to the citrine stone and charged it to capacity. A neon aureolin light burst from the golem’s lens, as crackling lightning slithered out and crashed into the pillar nearest to Cato’s right side.
Cato jolted to his left and bumped into Rhemar with frantic reaction, “Run!”
Rhemar took the lead, heading in the direction of a three-meter-thick ice wall constructed by the stone sentinel, and raised his right hand, “Ignis trabem flumen!”
A hellfire jet stream unleashed from his palm and melted a clean carved tunnel in the ice. As they entered the glaciered burrow, another electrified bolt smashed into the side of the ice wall and cracked the arctic formation from its crown down to the foundation.
Rhemar clenched Cato’s shoulder, “This wall won’t hold against another blow like that. We need to disable its eye somehow. When it fires the next bolt, we make our move. Follow my lead.”
Just as the crystalline giant’s electric lens reached capacity, Rhemar sprung from the exit of the tunnel with Cato at his coattails. The piercing lightning blast struck with lethiferous force and effortlessly shattered the glacier barricade to smithereens. They sprinted back toward the staircase, weaving between the many pillars of stone and ice. The golem turned its sights to the fleeing intruders and shifted its lens to the fiery crimson configuration. A cerise glow radiated as the simmering ruby gained energy, ready to discharge a molten maelstrom.
Rhemar slid to a halt and spun astern, motioning Cato to take his rear, “Lutum lacus sepulcrum civitas copulus montis!”
A massive torrent of mud rose from the ground and encircled the corundum assailant. As the muddled sludge vortexed around the golem, it gained momentum and rose with every rotation. Before the mud twister could rise enough to encase the golem, the shining ruby lens unleashed a lethal fire blast directly at the daring mage. Scorching flames lashed through the air as the blazing fireball hurtled toward Rhemar, intent on cremating the vulnerable wizard.
Unable to recite a protective charm in time, Rhemar stood resolute and embraced his fiery fate. He expected to experience engulfing agony from the raging inferno; instead, he felt his gut wrench to one side as a whirling gust slammed him into a nearby stone pillar. The abrupt abdication from his position ironically knocked the wind out of him.
Perceiving his comrade’s inevitable incineration, Cato instinctively brushed Rhemar out of the fireball’s path and attempted to evade the conflagration himself. As he drew away from their location, the fireball collided with Cato’s left arm and blasted the flaming shaman to the ground. With his arm wrapped in tormenting flames, Cato could hear his skin bubbling as the baneful hellfire melted his flesh. Screaming in pain, Cato called the wind to aid his detriment. Air currents congregated around his flaming arm and created an extinguishing vacuum that snuffed the smoldering embers. The extensive damage to his maimed appendage was horrifying and reeked of sulfurous charcoal.
Rhemar ran to Cato’s side as the torrenting mud fully encased the sentinel and solidified, “What were you thinking? I would have been fine you idiot. Now you’re injured and worthless. We don’t have time for mistakes!”
Shaking in anguish, Cato rolled over on his back, took a deep breath, and gave Rhemar a disdained look, “Some gratitude would be nice you Draining DICKHOLE...aaaghh”
As he grinded his clenched teeth, Cato fought his tears until he could no longer withhold the excruciating agony. Lamenting shrieks filled the chamber and echoed against the haughty stone walls. Rhemar steadied his friend, tore off Cato’s remaining sleeve and wrapped his blistered, medium-rare arm. Before Rhemar could cast a healing incantation, he was interrupted by a piercing whistle that resounded from the mudbrick dome still holding the clamored arsonist.
After seconds of buzzing, cracks formed along the sludged tomb’s perimeter and started hissing. Steamed vapors shot from the cracks as the crevices began growing larger and deeper. A hammering thud reverberated from the clay prison. Then another, bang. With the next pound, the golem’s arm burst through the mud sarcophagus. It crushed the kilned structure with a sweeping blow from its gargantuan stone-forearm.
Rhemar lifted Cato to his feet and they dashed towards the exit. The crystalline sentinel escaped Rhemar’s earthen tomb and continued its pursuit. Predicting the fleeing duo’s path, the golem shot a flaring fireball at the base of the staircase. The fire blast shattered the bottom eight steps when it collided against the ancient stones. This effectively erased their only means of escape. With little remaining options and their bodies aching with cumbersome fatigue, their only chance of survival is to stand a final fight and win.
Rhemar delved deep within his psyche, positioned himself in a hunter’s stance, and drew an invisible bowstring to full flex, as he muttered an incantation, “Umbra sagitta magna damnum.”
An enigmatic aura surrounded Rhemar, thickening the air with demonic majin. The energy molded into a vantablack arrow at the tip of his right thumb and index finger. Rhemar’s emerald eyes aimed for the giant’s head, as the dark aura intensified and churned around him. Confident he wouldn’t miss, he steadied his shoulders, exhaled any doubts, and unleashed the shadow arrow with killer intent.
An ink shockwave erupted from the black arrow as it quivered through the air. The giant reciprocated with another fire blast, but the frenetic arrow effortlessly pierced the flaming maelstrom and burrowed into the giant’s sizzling ruby lens. It shattered to bits on impact and extinguished the scattering flames. The corundum golem shook its head violently in apparent agony. It quickly recovered with calculated ferocity and shifted its configuration back to the electric citrine lens.
Rhemar kept his sights on the golem and prepared another attack. He chanted the words of power and notched another insidious arrow. As he gathered enough composure for a second kill-strike, the sentinel split its arms and legs into eight appendages, like a giant stone spider chiseled from crystal, and moved with remarkable agility. The arachnid sentinel scampered between several stone pillars and up the walls. With its new vantage point, the spider golem charged its electrified lens and unleashed a crackling bolt. Rhemar, unstartled from his opponent’s transformation, kept his vicious sights honed on the crystalline target. He released the maleficent arrow, aiming toward the approaching lightning bolt.
When the two projectiles collided, a debilitating percussion resounded through the chamber and shook the foundations. An exact match of power countered the two attacks and violently dispersed the energy in all directions. This was not to say Rhemar’s power matched the golems. No, the golem’s supremacy was evident. Painfully evident. Horribly and hopelessly evident. Rhemar’s majin was diminishing at an alarming rate and his next attack was unlikely to find success. With several lenses remaining before the giant would be disarmed, Rhemar panted heavily and began his incantation once again. He formed another blackened arrow in his fatiguing grip and set his crosshairs back to the looming, iridescent arachnid.
As Rhemar prepared for his final shot, the golem scurried across the ceiling and took a new position directly above the duo. With a charged lens ready, the spider sentinel unleashed a savage lightning bolt. Rhemar bade his final arrow directly into the electrified missile, but this collision did not counter each other like before. Instead, the lightning absorbed the vantablack arrow and mutated into an enigmatic shadow bolt. The demonic bolt hurled towards Rhemar and struck him mid-sternum. His body convulsed from the electrifying blow as he toppled to the ground.
Cato’s eyes widened in disbelief as Rhemar’s body steadied and remained motionless. All words left Cato. Nothing his brain could muster defined the inexplicable emotion of raw sorrow, nor the brewing fury beginning to boil in his veins. Cato shuffled over to his fallen comrade and dropped to his knees beside him. He prodded Rhemar’s side to prick him back to life, but the mage remained still.
“Hey. Get up. GET UP!” Cato lifted his arms and thrusted his fists onto Rhemar’s chest, “WAKE THE FUCK UP! Please…I can’t – I can’t do this without you. Please, just wake up.”
A cracking noise from the ceiling throttled Cato back to his worsening situation. The crystalline spider still loomed above, preparing for its next assault. Another low rumble shook the walls, as the chamber continued to tremble. Cato clenched his fists and stood with wrath in his eyes, ready to kill.
Before the golem could fire another bolt, the ceiling cracked louder and abruptly caved in. The falling debris dislocated the corundum sentinel from its vigilant perch, where it toppled down and landed just over the duo. The golem’s massive body acted as a shield and protected them from the collapsed ceiling. The spider seemed unphased by its capsizing and turned its sights to Cato. Without hindrance, it filled the citrine lens with screeching electricity and was ready for the next round.
The increasingly frequent tremors continued. Cato felt the floor tremble and creak, as though it were about to collapse. Without further thought, Cato smacked his palms to the floor with raging certainty. The winds wafting the room surged and slammed into the floor with unrelenting gusto. A shockwave escaped from Cato’s hands as the floor crumbled and gave way. Cato, an unconscious Rhemar, and the stone sentinel plunged into another chamber of equal size. As they fell, Cato condensed a pocket of air to ensure a safe landing. The golem however, crashed into the stone floor with bone-breaking force. After the rubble settled, he noticed the sentinel was pinned by several larger boulders and immobilized for the moment.
Cato regained his bearings, checked on his comrade’s steadied breath, and attempted to discover a new escape option. Instead, he identified a short pillar mounted with a peculiar hourglass gourd. Ash toned and smooth to the touch, the gourd was carved from ornate ox-bone and corked with an ivory stopper. Wrapped in vibrant emerald sashings of tightly woven silk, Cato ran his fingers along its threads as he lifted the surprisingly buoyant vessel. At its base, an engraved symbol inlaid with copper glinted in Cato’s vision. The sigil of the Wind God, Gobu.
Without hesitation, Cato plundered the vessel and made his way back to Rhemar. At the sight of the gourd’s theft, the golem burst from the pinning rubble and rushed towards the duo. Cato stopped in his tracks, pulled the gourd to his side, and uncorked the ivory stopper. A hurricane unfurled from the calabash container and rampaged outwards. The roaring winds destroyed several pillars and tore down the remnants of the ceiling.
As the winds rushed around Cato, the golem was lifted into the air and sent to the far side of the chamber. Astonished, Cato admired his feat for several moments. He moved into a resolute shamanic stance, centered his majin, and directed the wind to increase its rampage.
The ashen gourd continued to spew as though it contained an unlimited source of Gobu’s power. The longer Cato held the gourd open, the more the wind intensified. After several moments, the torrenting winds reached Cato’s maximum capacity and could no longer be contained. He forced the unyielding winds to terminate with the opaque ivory stopper. Without the frenzied winds abating their assailant, the stone sentinel tumbled back to the ground and began another lunge toward the duo.
Cato unstopped the gourd a second time as he swept his hand from right to left. The gushing wind followed Cato’s motion and effortlessly brushed the crystalline spider to the side. While in the air, the stone arachnid unleashed another lightning bolt, but missed both Cato and Rhemar by a wide margin. Cato re-stopped the gourd and prepared for the next attack. After crash landing, the golem changed its tactic and shifted its lens to the emerald configuration. Radioactive neon-light emitted from the emerald lens as the golem charged it to capacity.
The crystalline sentinel pointed its sights at the shaman and released its radiant energy. A thin laser shot from the emerald lens and hit Cato’s bandaged arm. To his surprise, the impact lacked the detrimental force he expected. His reaction remained skeptical until the bandages transfigured into adamant stone and encased his wounded arm. Cato panicked. The slate cast could not be removed by his efforts. Although his arm wreathed in pain, he knew a direct hit from the petrifying laser would be his ultimate demise. Cato crouched low and turned his gaze abroad. He sought an immediate exit and quickly scanned the room. Ten meters from his position, a minuscule beam of sunlight filtered through a crevice in the wall.
Cato smirked a wry smile, “Bingo.”
While the golem charged its viridian lens, Cato pivoted and unleashed another storm from the gourd. He molded the berserk zephyr into a precision twister and directed it at the crumbling wall. The tornado drilled into the dismantling stone and increased intensity. After a few seconds, the wind burst through the chamber wall and escaped into the open air. Blinding sunlight flooded into the chamber and illuminated every detail drenched in darkness.
As he took in the long-sought sunlight, Cato felt a gentle simmer on his face. Unconcerned with the latest development, the golem fired another laser at Cato before he could react and dodge out of sight. As the laser traveled toward Cato, a cast iron pot flew into its path and absorbed the insidious blast. With a pang against the ground, the iron pot converted to stone and remained still. During Cato’s liberation movement from the chamber, the comatose mage regained consciousness and noticed the golem’s lethal intentions. He flung his cooking pot at the last instance and saved his comrade from a mineraled demise.
Rhemar, fully coherent, erect and at the ready, started sprinting for Cato, “Don’t look at me, Run you Bastard!”
Rhemar dashed pass Cato with overzealous excitement, as he sprinted toward the gaping exit. Cato followed closely behind with a smile plastered on his jubilant mug. The crystalline spider continued its pursuit and changed its lens to the icy sapphire. Rhemar and Cato dodged a wicked frost beam as they reached the newformed opening. Without hesitation, Rhemar and Cato leapt from the crumbling edge into the open air. The corundum golem shuffled at the edge and focused a final icy blast at the plummeting duo. As it unleashed a final attack, a boulder dislodged from above and knocked the golem’s sights askew. The discharged ice beam missed Rhemar and dissipated in the arid heat. They gazed at the defeated corundum golem as it receded back into the darkness
As they plummeted from the heights of the mountain, Rhemar shouted to his airborne comrade, “CAN YOU SLOW US DOWN?”
With a vaunted smirk and slight nod, Cato gestured an affirmative, as he rotated his sights to the ground and uncorked the ashen gourd. A wild tempest shot out as Cato restructured it into a cushioning nimbus. With enough force to slow their terminal descent, they skidded down the mountainside at reducing speed. With a muffled thud, the duo abruptly landed at the base of the mountain and rolled another ten meters before they hit softened soil. Sprawled across a luscious field, Rhemar and Cato triumphantly raised their arms to the heavens and heaved uncontrollable laughter at their near demise. The trials of Seneca were complete, and the unassuming comrades emerged the victors.