3: Torsten Underground
Byron fell silent, as if waiting for applause. The river continued. Nature cared little for the tirades of poets. Neither did Joel, who looked caught between confusion and mirth.
“Bloody ‘ell, mate, what the fook happened to you? Did she turn you down or something?”
“Rather the opposite,” said Byron. “I do not need the help of one such as her, and neither do you. Here.” He aimed a silver baton at the ceiling and, with a snap-whoosh, it fired an Alchemium harpoon into the ceiling, where the intelligent material forged itself a secure anchor. “Orpheus, have you any revelations?”
Dante shook his head. “There’s no trace of any known weapons. It almost looks like it was ripped apart.” He daren’t add ‘by some kind of giant’ because that sounded silly and he had no actual evidence to support the claim — he could have well had said ‘a wizard did it’.
“Curious,” said Byron. “It seems that night holds many mysteries. I suggest we hurry to our destination.” He gave the rope a tug then made for the edge of the bridge. “Would either of you like to go first, or shall I?”
Joel kept his distance. “I don’t trust that shit, mate. It’s proper voodoo.”
With a sigh of despair, Byron pulled himself up the rope and swung across to the other side of the bridge. Dante followed his example — compared to some of the things Master al-Hakim and Sage Khandro put them through, it was a breeze.
Joel was not so confident. He had grown up in the underground, more interested in fantasy than reality, simulated obstacles generated on a screen rather than real challenges — but Byron knew his weak spot.
“Imagine Kaori’s face if she saw her heroic partner afraid of a trivial rope swing.”
Joel spun across the gap with a warbling cry, one hand and both legs clinging to the rope while his other hand gripped his beloved guitar, as if afraid it might slip from its scabbard to a watery doom.
With a few commands, Byron restored the rope to its original form and buried it back inside his satchel. Then, with a look of smug satisfaction, he led the way back into the tunnels. A few turns later and the sound of water had reduced to a rumble, taking the unpleasant smell with it. Dante never thought he would be so glad to breathe in the stale underground air.
“Mate, I bet that bridge were blown away to stop the Sophists,” said Joel, as they arrived at another junction. “I mean, how would they get across in all that armour? It’s not like they’ve got that Malkuthian voodoo crap to help them.”
“Quite,” said Byron, though he didn’t sound convinced. “Meanwhile, my ‘Malkuthian voodoo’ suggests our destination is yonder.” He gestured his cellular towards a tunnel that ended in a dead end about twenty metres away.
“Nah, mate, that’s a wall.”
“So it would seem.”
Alchemium is pretty useful!