Phil the snake was giving me a nice little French kiss, I tried to return with a bit of mouth to mouth action of my own, but I think Phil got uncomfortable. He swam away, leaving me alone in the dark, cold water.
Oh well time to stop messing around, otherwise they’ll all be on my ass again. They were treating me especially cold ever since the whole Urysus incident, and Zahkon had glued on I was seeing visions. What he didn’t realise, and what I refused to tell him, was that they weren’t visions. They were forced memories brought up whenever Desdemonda forced her way into my mind somehow to spy on us. Or at least, that’s what I assumed.
Well in any case, I was in the clear for now. Plus I really didn’t want that bloody idiot questioning me; I was in a bad mood. A mood not made better by the vibes Brena had been giving me. So anyways I swam a ways down, ignoring the need to breathe as it didn’t matter.
If I drowned, my body would float to the surface, and I would breathe again. Although my body would have to stay under here for a few days before I lost conscience.
A glimmer of light shined my way down, until eventually I found a giant point rock exuding from the distant floor. I clambered onto the rock and examined it closely; there were inscriptions of squiggly lines, things I could not decipher clearly. Last time I was here this rock was on the surface, so I hadn’t actually done this bit before. My own stupidity caused it to sink.
Just then my senses went crazy, I looked around me and I could see weird blobby shapes in the water, made of water? What? Oh hey! It must be Yara or Lyra!
The blob like substances came towards me, and I pointed at the rock. They hovered around the rock, clearly not sure of what they were doing. I continued to examine the rock when I saw indents, big enough to stick an arm in. I did so and a small rumbling took place, and beside the hole in the rock, another one opened up.
As I did that the holes clamped down on my arms, pinning me to the rock. I tried to yank them away but to no avail. Clearly this was a trap to prevent people from accessing the stone. I floated there for a minute thinking what to do when some letters began glowing in front of me. Vaan letters.
I tried to mouth the words as good as possible, but all that came out were bubbles. I don’t think it was a problem though.
“Ack jumiani kiri tyu detry buyhuk Sanfadier” I said the words as best I could. ‘Only the wise may find the Sanfadier’
Something happened, because my arms were released and the whole rock began shaking and breaking apart. It rose to the surface, taking me and the Sievere along with me.
The surface broke, and a giant mounded rock was now erected out of it. HA! Erected… I kill myself! Oh wait… if only… Never mind.
So yeah I was standing on top of this rock thing on the lake, and Yara and Lyra had become human again beside me. At the base of the rock, a door opened by retreating into itself, and the air rushed inside it as it had clearly been airtight like the one before it.
“What was that about?” Lyra asked.
“Oh nothing my Lovely Lyra, just pressing buttons, seeing what works” I bragged.
“You knew what you were doing, didn’t you?” Yara questioned me.
“A little, but that’s not the problem. The problem is inside the cave” I said cryptically.
The two Sievere looked at each other whilst I slid down the rock in front of the entrance inside.
The other three came to the bank side, and I waved for them to join me. Brena was the first in, followed by a reluctant Destran, and then finally Zahkon, who took a full minute to summon the courage to swim. Yara and Lyra had slid down to join me and they helped the others out of the water. I was just enjoying the view.
We stood in a line, me in the centre, looking down the long, empty, dark tunnel. I took the first step, and the others promptly followed me. A few minutes of walking forward and I could not see my way at all, only the very small light on the other end of the tunnel showed us where we needed to go to get out. We kept on walking until I walked face first into a wall. Despite the annoyance, we had found the end.
I fumbled around, looking for the latch to open the cave door into the next compartment, where, if memory served me right, the final test was to reach the vault. I never got past it, but then again I haven’t been around here in a few years, and I knew what to say now.
“It smells in here” Brena said holding her nose.
“Sorry” I said goofily. She didn’t respond to me.
“What are you doing? I can’t even see my hand!” Destran said as his voice echoed throughout the cave.
“I can see, difficultly, but I can still see” Zahkon said.
“Why is that?” Lyra asked.
“Falath’Nakan have super eyesight, didn’t Idiot ever tell you?” I said mindlessly.
“That is… one way to describe it” Zahkon winced at the disrespect I gave him.
“Speaking of which, when did you wake up Lyra? I was playing with Phil and you were out for the count” I asked her.
“A few minutes after you went beneath the water, I was feeling fine after that so that’s why Yara and I went to find you. We still need to discuss what you did by the way…” she said ominously.
“What thing? There are lots” I laughed.
“About why you attacked me earlier, and also why you attacked Urysus” she said.
“Actually Lyra…” Zahkon began.
I was in no mood to discuss Urysus, and I was getting frustrated finding nothing. I needed light, and Zahkon’s voice gave me an idea. Light coming right up.
“Oh it wasn’t me. Idiot was the one who tried to kill you! Tell her Idiot!” I gloated.
“Shut up Jack!” Brena and Yara said simultaneously. Brena sounding unusually aggressive.
“What?!” Lyra yelled.
Zahkon stuttered. “I… I can explain…”
“It was you?!” Lyra cried.
“BAH HA!” I laughed at them.
And just like that I could see. Zahkon’s tattoos were glowing from his anger, and I instantly saw what I was meant to be pushing, and did so. The cave opened up, and we were met by a blinding light of yellowy proportions. I stepped through, and the sudden change made the others forget they were about to attack me, but Lyra and Zahkon looked at each other for a while.
Lyra walked away in a huff, and Zahkon looked very hurt. Ah I was such the matchmaker! We stepped into the new room and we were met with a mountain of gold, doubloons, jewellery, crowns, gems, diamonds, and all sorts of other shiny trinkets worth a lot.
They were all stunned to say the least, but before anybody took a step forward to see if the treasure was real or not I put my arm out to stop them. Just as I did a suit of silver armour came to life and clunked over to us with a raised sword. The others jumped into action but I hissed for them to stand down. It was part of the test.
I took a few steps up to the suit of armour and posed heroically. The armour put its metallic hand up and began speaking in Vaan.
“Huji yuk telen ju berdris kahano letry nuk kinionandik.” ‘Halt there and answer the riddle of the Guardian.’
“Haha! Gheydrisk kahno! Kiki lushni polio derti!” ‘Haha! It’s me again! I already know it!’
“Jerus khando uru leshni-” ‘There are two guards-’
“-Leb leb vivin wer kishta kurik ko leshni dromana geelong! Lala vem di kest tor norilk catchun!” ‘You have to ask one of the guards what the other would say he would be! Now hurry up and get out of my way!’
“Li… li… li veliek vrokny.” ‘Umm… err… you may pass.’
The metal suit of armour fell apart and the way was clear. It took me five freaking years to figure that one out, so that felt good. Destran came up beside me with a quizzical look.
“What just happened?” He asked me.
“Riddles in Vaan Prince Prick! If you said the wrong answer he would have thrown you out to drown because the whole place would have collapsed. It’s not fun spending a few days digging yourself out of here!” I laughed at him.
“What was the riddle?” Yara asked me.
“Long and stupid” I answered.
“And where did you learn to speak Vaan?” Brena also began to ask.
“What is this? Kiddie playtime where the game is let’s all bug Grandpa Jack with annoying things? Leave me alone! Find the stone, don’t take any of the other treasure, yadda yadda yadda” I said bored and aggravated.
Brena shot me… a dirty look?! What was wrong with miss happy-with-everything? Ugh! Women! Destran immediately began to rummage around the pile of treasure, swiftly followed by everyone else. An eerie, uncomfortable silence now dominated the cavern. Lyra and Zahkon weren’t talking to each other, well Lyra not to Zahkon, and Zahkon seemed too guilty to speak up. Yara and Destran were focusing on the pile. And most strange of all, Brena was making a single attempt to chat me up! The audacity!
I was just relaxing by the side of the cave playing with my boomerang, about half an hour later Yara shouted she had found something. She picked up a chest and opened it, looked at the inside before passing it to Destran. Destran looked at it before throwing it too me.
“I take it you have an excuse for this as well?” He asked me rather coldly.
I looked at the chest and saw only a piece of paper inside. I picked it up and recognised it as the handwriting as the piece of paper we had seen in the underwater cave by the sea.
The stone is not here, the stone is where it ended. The past shapes the future; the future must never shape the past.
“That’s two down, two to go!” I said cheerily, but I was faking it.
“Another dead end? DAMN IT!!” Destran yelled completely out of character. He kicked the treasure out of frustration.
A few days later we were travelling north-east, to get out of the Marshes. We had decidedly taken a route that avoided Vaan settlements, but we were running out of supplies. Yara and Destran had barely spoken since Destran’s outburst. Lyra and Zahkon still hadn’t said a word. Finally Brena had said a few words to me, but they were vague and unresponsive, like she was trying to avoid me for some reason.
I had to slap her butt to get something more than a ‘meh’ out of her; I never knew axes made good crotch cups.
So moving on we were taking a break, and during this break nobody was saying anything. This kind of silence disturbed even me! Everyone should be ignoring me, not each other! I stood up and walked in the middle of the group, looking around them and trying to avoid their prying eyes.
“I spy with my little eye, something that begins with B” I chanted.
“Bugger off” Brena said with a roll of her eyes.
“HA! No it was boob!” I began laughing.
“You seem to be getting really friendly, yet solemn, ever since Urysus ran off. Any reason why?” She asked me.
“Well I like you guys, in an I'm gonna kill you unless you get back to normal kinda way!” I laugh as I joked. She looked very confused and upset; come on it was a joke!
“Are you going to tell us about Urysus yet?” Yara asked.
“Are you going to stop poking your noses where they don’t belong?” I asked her back.
“You owe us an explanation!” She yelled, getting a bit carried away with herself.
“I owe you lot a slap for trying to intrude!” I raised my voice also.
“I don’t take kindly to being thrown around like you did back then, or to threats!” Yara said getting face to face with me.
“What are you gonna do?” I sneered at her.
“Nothing. I can’t do anything, isn’t that the point?!” She said practically yelling now.
“Not on your own, but tell you what. Since you all seem to be sooo interested in me, why don’t you all take me on? If you can disarm me, I’ll tell you what you want to know!” I bellowed, reaching for my sword. “Consider this your next lesson!” I added.
They all looked at each other, wondering what was going to happen next. Surprisingly it was Destran who came at me first with his sword. I deflected it with no problem, and I analysed the next few of his swings.
“You’re gripping the sword too tightly! You have rhythm, but you don’t have control!” I lectured him as I parried one blow and sent his sword flying out of his hands. “Now you’re gripping it too lightly.”
The next attack came from Brena surprisingly, who attacked me with full force with her axe. I dodged to the side, and then blocked a follow up swing from her. I continued to duck and dive after that until she tired, so I brought my sword up and knocked her axe out of her hands.
“You put too much energy into a swing, you need to balance out your strength, try a defensive stance to regain stamina once you tire” I said with a wink.
I dodged to the side immediately to avoid an arrow, and then brought my sword around and around to deflect the combined efforts of Lyra and Yara attacking me with their ¾ swords. They put me on the defensive when I saw Zahkon activating his magic but beginning to lose control.
I jumped over their heads, ran up to Zahkon, and put a sleeper move on his shoulder. Whilst I knew sleeper moves didn’t work on Falath’Nakan physiology, they were capable constraining techniques. Zahkon was immobilised until his tattoos stopped glowing.
“Don’t use that until you’re alone. I don’t care if you have no control over it, you have to learn control. Otherwise you’ll end up killing Lyra. That’s why I'm here, to help you” I spoke to him.
“What do you mean, that’s why you’re here?” Zahkon asked confused whilst looking up to me.
“Oops! Slip of the tongue!” I laughed as I let go and cartwheeled away to avoid the combined slashes of Lyra and Yara.
They got on either side of me and I skilfully deflected each of their blows whilst spinning on the spot.
“Watch my feet! Watch them! I can deflect you two because swordplay is like a dance! Sievere can dance I take it? Match your rhythm like you were dancing to the sounds of the metal clanging” I taught them, and they seemed to take notice. Because their moves began to match my own.
They gracefully spun their bodies, and they quickly got the hang of it. Soon enough they were perfectly synchronised to strike with each other at the same time at the same spot, causing me to get a few scratches that healed.
“You see!?” I yelled as I matched my own movements to first knock Lyra’s sword out of her hand.
“Dancing is the key to true swordplay!” I finished as I brought my sword over and did the same the Yara on the other side.
“It’s not often people can actually get through my defence” I admitted, something they seemed very pleased to hear.
Just then, I was alerted to danger, fast! I pushed the two Sievere down and turned to see something small, brown, and ugly spinning through the air with a double bladed spear like a vertical propeller. I could barely bring my sword up in time, it slashed me and I was knocked down.
I shot back to my feet and was able to block a second attack. I returned with my own attack but the creature deflected me. We stood on the spot, exchanging at least five blows per second for a few minutes. I couldn’t get past this guy’s defence, but likewise he couldn’t get past mine.
I could tell he was going to play hit and run because he feet positioned themselves to begin to run. I feinted an attack, giving him the chance to run, but stuck my leg out in time. As he did so, as I predicted, he tripped over but hand planted away to regain balance, I followed up by running at his intended stopping area and sticking my blade to his throat.
I got a good look at him, and I was genuinely surprised. It was a Vaan, and not just any old Vaan. “Do you have any tips for me sword master?” He asked me.
“Yeah… you’re predictable” I told him, which made him laugh.
“Interesting, well I’ll take your word for it sword master. Thanks for the lesson, let me take you to a settlement nearby for supplies which I see you lack” He said with a somewhat cruel persona.
“Excuse me, who are you?” Destran asked after retrieving his sword and pointing it at him, wary of this new Vaan.
“This is Valak Prince Prick, former General of the Vaan Armies” I told him, thinking as to why Valak had just shown up out of the blue.
First Urysus, now Valak? This had Sethos stunk all over it. But I decided to keep my mouth shut, to see what would happen next.