Hunt - Chapter Twenty-Five
~ 25 ~
25 Arodus, 4692 AR; Defender’s Heart, Kenabres

Moonlight streamed through the wooden shutters covering a window facing out into the destroyed districts. It lit the mostly dark room, laying against its single twin-sized bed, the bedside table with its piles upon piles of paper and worn brown carpet. The only other source of light in the room was a large candle on top of the desk surrounded by even more piles of paper. The paper has diagrams, arcane notes and nonsense scribbles covering them and most of them also have a broad X slashed through them.

Snaga dipped his quill into the ink vial. The vial was almost empty and he knew it. He was also sure that he was close to the solution he was looking for and was not going to stop now. As he marked down some more notes, his mind was flying through his thoughts, trying to solve the enhancements that would make the device he was designing work.

In his furious line of thought, he lost concentration on his writing. After a minute of writing, he looked onto what he just wrote. It was correct for the first dozen sigils, but then he saw the incorrect line. If he had tried to actually place the enhancement on the device, it would fatally overheat at the first use. Not only that, but the line of ideas he had been chasing was completely wrong. It would not have worked, even if he wrote the enhancement correctly.

With an animalistic growl, he scratched an X onto the parchment so hard that it ripped. Seeing that, he let out an even angrier snarl and crumpled the parchment into a tiny ball. He then tossed it at the wall. The paper bounced off of the wall but he did not notice it as he snapped up another sheet of parchment to start over.

The feather quill was in the vial, about to touch the ink inside, when loud laughter erupted from downstairs. Snaga flinched hard, sending quill and vial both tumbling onto the floor. Thankfully the vial was empty enough to prevent any of its ink from escaping, but the laughter was the half-orc’s breaking point. Angry, Snaga shot out of his seat and aimed himself toward the door. He was going to go downstairs and give the men and women down there a piece of his mind.

There was a sensation that started at the base of his neck and gently slid down his spine. It was a familiar touch and one that usually gave him comfort. This time, though, it was just enough to make him stop. With a sigh, he lowered the hand that was reaching out for the door handle.

“Don’t do this to yourself.†A feminine but rough voice whispered in his ear.

Snaga turned around and sat down at his desk again, “I have to finish it.†His voice was hoarse sounding. Not because he was ill but because it was a voice not used to speaking, “Maybe Yalvik’s Theory on Heatless Friction is not what I need.†Not bothering to pick up the dropped quill and vial, he grabbed a replacement set from the desk drawer and scratched notes on the new sheet of parchment, “It could be that a thin layer of protective material should be woven into the rope. But that would mean I need to find someone skilled with ropes.â€

“You’ve already lost vital sleep trying to chase this project. You know that not only you lose effectiveness when you stay up like this, but I do as well. We are one and the same when we fuse and I am sure that a major battle is in our near future.â€

Snaga nearly snapped the quill in half in annoyance. They have done this song and dance before, especially when he got caught up in a project of his. Not only that, but he knew that she was right, damnit. The power of fusing with an outsider the way that some Summoners can has been studied in Absalom and Varisia for a couple of decades and it will most likely take a few more decades for them to make any headway. But, it was clear that while the power to Fuse is great, the risks in doing so are great as well.

“I know.†He sighed, “But I am on the verge of figuring it out! I am sure of it!â€

He could feel it when she took on her ethereal form behind him. There was no need for him to turn around and see the mix-match of angelic and corrupted armor nor the pudgy cheeks that lends itself to creasing when she smiled. He could even imagine the bags under her shining eyes if she was as tired as she sounded.

“You are wearing yourself thin, dear.†Nephalim said with obvious worry in her voice, “You have not gotten much sleep since the night in the vault because of this project of yours. Please don’t stay up all night again. You know what happens when you exhaust yourself.â€

He blinked and looked outside, as if seeing the moonlight for the first time, “What day is it?â€

“The twenty-fifth of Arodus.†Came the simple answer.

Snaga let out a sharp breath of surprise. Had so many days passed already? He looked down at his trash basket which not only had even more paper from his writing but also the remains of food that he did not remember eating. Damnit, Nephalim was even more right.

“Maybe you’re right.†He said, not wanting to admit it.

As he rose from his seat, he could now feel his muscles twinging and straining. The eidolon smiled at that and seemed to rise with him, even though he was sure that it was only a Sending. Typically, eidolons cannot send images between planes so relatively soon bonding with a summoner. Especially ones with the ability to touch another physical object. Yet, somehow, she had been able to do it since the first day they met. Snaga never figured out why and Nephalim either could not tell him or truly did not know. Maybe the bonding ritual helped with it.

“Of course I am right, fool.†She answered with a teasing tone.

Snaga gave her a snort and a tired smile before heading toward the other room. Irabeth had managed to grant the group the inn’s best rooms which included a bathroom of sorts. It was not a fancy bathroom, but it contained a large washbasin with a water pump built into the floor, a drain in the center of the room just in case water fell out of the basin, and a toilet that was basically an outhouse with a deeper hole to keep the stench as far away as possible.

He undressed himself and started pumping water into the wash basin. It was cold and he could feel the chill race through his body as he sunk into it. There was no way for him to get warm water without talking to the inn’s maids and butlers, but he was fine with that. The cold water should help focus his mind until he laid down. At least it was a lot better than the life of fire he lived.

And that was the only thought that was needed for the rush of memories to overtake him. Memories of red-hot, white-hot, and blue-hot iron pressed against green skin. The searing pain and sizzling of flesh. Memories so palpable that Snaga felt as if the last five years of his life were just a dream. That his freedom, his fight, his allies, were illusions created by a mind begging the world to let him go. He looked up to the face of the man that let it all happen, the scarred blonde haired human that pushed the branding iron closer to his skin. That held the dagger which bit deep. The one who gave him his name, orcish for â€~slave.’

Then, there was a soothing presence. He was back at his cell, moonlight streaming through the bars of his cell. During his nightly call out to whatever power exists out there, he finally got an answer. A goddess of golden and purple light descended into his mind-scape, a realm he imagined to get away from the pain. A place of peace. He would never know if he created her appearance himself, or if it was her natural look. But he remembered the rush of emotion that filled him as she formed in his mind. And it continuing as he realized that it was not just his imagination. Nephalim, the goddess, had come to save him.

Something touched his back and he returned to the real world, Nephalim behind him. She pulled her hand back from his spine and gave him a worried look, “You are about to break the basin.â€

Snaga looked around. His hands were clenched hard against the edge of the basin. The metal loop was bending inward slightly and the wood was starting to crack against the strength of his fists. Slowly, he released his grip and relaxed, letting the cold water race through him again.

After an hour, he finally stepped out and dried himself with the towel provided to all rooms. Nephalim watched him the whole time, making sure that he did not have another attack. When he returned to the main room without issue, she relaxed her vigil and looked back to the desk. Her eyes flashed across one of the sheets of paper that was completely finished. It was a diagram of the outer shell of the device Snaga was designing.

“Are you sure you can finish it?â€

Snaga followed her gaze and nodded, “I will.â€
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