So, hilariously massive fate-snarl. For the entire Age of Blood and Bone, I've been writing Alina's name as Nia. Which is silly, because Nia diedish.
Anyway, fixed now.
Kieran stepped through the gateway onto empty air.
He gasped and twisted, instinctively throwing himself forwards, a blur of darkness and motion around him as he called on his Charms and pushed. Almost instinctively, he reached out a hand, and he felt slim fingers wrap tightly around his wrist and heave, flinging him up and over to land safely on a metal grate. He gasped in surprise, looking around. â€œThanks.â€
Alina, now standing directly next to Kieran, smiled self-consciously. â€œWe all had the same problem. I think there was a platform here at one point.â€ She craned her neck, looking at the tight pipes coiling around each other above them, and then down the gaping pit in front of the gate. Behind it, the gateway back to Creation was visible; a circular portal with dozens of interconnecting sigils surrounding its rim. The gateway still hummed with crackling electrical Essence, but the power was already fading away, the sigils gradually turning dark.
â€œThere definitely was.â€ Tenrek was in a kneeling position by the edge of the pit. â€œAnd a big one, I think. Something proper for a gateway to another world. But no one's been by this way in ages. Centuries, maybe, but I can't be sure. Moisture corroded the support struts, and the first time any weight was put on it...â€ He trailed off and pointed down the pit. â€œIt crashed down. See where it dented or broke pipes? Must have falled a couple hundred yards.â€
â€œIt would be too much to hope that our Infernal friend triggered it, I suppose?â€ Fokuf sounded vaguely hopeful.
â€œMight have been him - the collapse was pretty recent, I think.â€ Tenrek peered into the depths. â€œDoubt it killed him, though. We don't have that much luck.â€ He paused, glancing over at Alina. â€œYou going to let go of him anytime soon?â€
Alina and Kieran stared at the beastman in confusion for a moment, and then looked down to where their hands were still interlocked. Hastily, the two let go. Alina coughed, her face beet red. â€œSorry. I just... I was distracted.â€ Turning quickly, she waved a hand at their surroundings. â€œI mean, look at this place!â€
They stood in a metal-clad tunnel, easily twenty feet across, crisscrossed by hundreds of pipes of brass and iron. Steam hissed somewhere in the distance, and the air was dry and warm, not unlike what they had left behind. The tunnel was lit by hundreds of tiny lights spaced evenly along the pipes, and stretched into the distance; faintly, Kieran could see more lights stretching off into hundreds of side passages. He whistled under his breath. â€œI don't know what I expected, but this wasn't it. It's like a... a building.â€
â€œOr maybe a sewer.â€ Tenrek shook his head. â€œI thought there'd be buildings at least. People we could talk to. How are we supposed to find our way to the Seal if there's no one here to meet us?â€
Fokuf stepped forwards, looking around, and then nodded grimly. â€œWe walk.â€ When the others turned to look at him, he shrugged. â€œThis area's clearly been abandoned - which, if the Maker is sick, makes some sense. But the lights are still on, so if we move until we find traces of activity, we should be alright.â€
After a moment, Kieran shrugged. â€œThat sounds as good a course as any, Master Fokuf. Let's do it.â€
â€œOh, don't 'Master' me, kid. I got a lifetime's worth of that already.â€ Fokuf stepped forwards, then turned to Tenrek. â€œI'm not much of a tracker - you'd better take the lead, Tenrek.â€
â€œI can do that.â€ Tenrek closed his eyes a moment, speaking softly in Old Realm. â€œSol Invictus, if you can see us in this far-off realm, guide us to the paths we must take.â€ With that simple prayer, he started forwards, his boots patting softly on the metal floor as he carefully sidestepped stagnant puddles and dripping conduits, leading the way down the path. Fokuf was right behind him, humming a pleasant tune that echoed oddly in the tunnel space, and Kieran and Alina quickly moved to keep up with them.
Aside from Fokuf's humming, the first hour of travel passed in silence. Kieran spent the time considering what had happened at the platform ruins, and a nasty suspicion began to gather in him. When he had fallen, it had been the most natural thing in the world to reach out to Alina - and he remembered that sort of feeling from before. But this time, there were no memories to accompany them. Just the feelings. And the more he thought about that, the less he liked it.
Finally, he spoke up. â€œSo... we were all a Circle, in the First Age.â€
â€œSo it seems.â€ Tenrek was distracted, stepping quickly around a fallen pillar as he scented the air.
â€œHm.â€ Kieran nodded a moment, and then forged on. â€œSo what do you know about our lives back then?â€
There was a long pause. The four Solars looked at each other. Even Tenrek paused to glance back at the others. After a few moments, Fokuf spoke. â€œWhy would we know anything?â€
â€œVisions of the past.â€ The others stared blankly at him for a few moments, and Kieran's eyebrows rose. â€œYou've never had any?â€
â€œNo. Wait, yes.â€ Alina raised a hand thoughtfully, rubbing her head. â€œOnce. I remembered my death during the Usurpation, fighting the Dragon-Blooded. There were Solars there - but I don't think they were you. They didn't feel like you.â€
Kieran frowned thoughtfully. â€œI had flashbacks from the days before the Primordial Wars, but nothing from the First Age.â€ He looked over to Tenrek and Fokuf, who wordlessly shook their heads. Kieran's frown deepened. â€œWhat happened, I wonder...?â€
â€œSsh.â€ Tenrek's hiss was sudden. After a moment, he broke into a run. â€œThis way! Quickly!â€
The others looked at each other in confusion, and then broke into a run after him.