The parties ran inside and bent over huffing and puffing. Torrential rains pounded the forest into a watery submission and made the enterance almost seem as if it lay behind a waterfall.
"We're safe now," happily stated Peewee, "now let's have some fun!"
"We're safe now," happily stated Peewee, "now let's have some fun!"
The picnic proceeded wonderfully. Everyone had changed into skimpy subligar and were running about and having fun. Xaeon made an analogy to a part of his figure being as if he had Peewee tucked in the tight cloth. Peewee retorted and went on about how Xaeon was always stuffing him in parts of his armor "for his own good". Everyone laughed. When all the meals had been eaten everyone was ready for more fun.
"Ok everyone," said Eleusynia, "turn your pearls to 'party chat' and listen up." Everyone fidgeted with the spheres resting just inside their ears. Soon Eleusynia's voice came in clearly. "I want you all to grab a buddy so in case something happens, you will be together to help until others can arrive. I want this to be a safe trip. If worst comes to worst I can help us all escape out of here." Eleven other heads nodded. "That said, I will be going with Ishido to help him look for a pair of ancient armored gloves rumored to be buried here."
"I want to go, too," cheered in Awias. Eleusynia smiled and nodded.
"Baba and I'll go mining," said Yekan.
"Me 'n Peewee will too," added Xaeon.
"Yeah, maybe we'll find enough of other things that Xae can stuff in his armor besides me."
Everyone burst out laughing.
"Ooooh precious metal! Let's go, Kro," urged Noxx to Krosan, "There's gold in them thar volcanic tunnels!"
Eleusynia asked Lyliandra what she was doing. "Shard and I want to explore the volcano's tunnels together."
"That's not the only tunnel she wants explored," quipped Babagana.
"Hey, shut up!"
"Rampart, what about you?" The black mage's eyes shifted to the lone dragoon.
"What do you mean?"
"Do you want to come with us to help Ishido find the gloves?"
"No, I’ve got my own partner to go exploring."
At that he slung his pack off and opened the top flap. A blue head sleepily poked out and yawned.
"Ooooh Raiden, that’s right. I always forget about him." Rampart turned the bag over and out tumbled the small wyvern. "Ok then," summed up Eleusynia, "let’s roll out! Everyone have fun and don’t get into too much trouble now. I’ll see you all back here tomorrow morning to get us all home."
Yekan tried to tune into the link channel to tell Phyree they were all starting out and to have a big meal waiting for them when they got back. Whether it was due to the distance, the raging typhoon outside, or being inside a volcano, all she heard was static.
Several hours passed and everyone was well dispersed throughout Ifrit’s Cauldron. In hopes of finding a private getaway, Lyliandra and Shard had turned off their pearls. Rampart was weaving through the cave system upwards with Raiden behind him. The mining teams had set to work, and in fact, Krosan spotted what could be a large diamond buried near a cliff close to the central core leading to the lake of lava below. Elsewhere, another significant find was made...
Ishido returned to the spot Awias and Eleusynia were waiting. “I think I found it,” he excitedly uttered, “but there is one of those bomb creatures guarding it. I think I can sneak by it, open the chest, and sneak out again with no trouble.
“I dunno…”, cautioned Eleusynia, “it just doesn’t seem safe.”
“I agree with Ele, Ishi,” nervously added Awias, “I don’t feel good about this.” The summoner’s face frowned and her body language seemed timid.
“It’ll be ok, Awi. I’m a pro at sneaking around.” Ishido gave Awias a roguish grin. Before Eleusynia could ward against this again, the ninja disappeared in front of them.
They watched ashen footsteps walk away and stop a little distance away from the coffer. “That bomb better not turn around when Ishi opens the chest else things will get really bad.” He waited until he was sure the bomb was looking away and he opened the box, becoming visible in the process. Ishido smiled and donned the gloves, completing his ancient ninja ensemble. He turned to two women, smiling wide. They motioned for him to hurry back. Just before he could make himself invisible again the bomb turned. Awias screamed. She quickly summoned Carbuncle to come and help and had it rush in to attack. Eleusynia yelled for her to stop just after the quickly-cast sleep spell went off. The avatar’s attack immediately awoke the sleeping bomb and it headed straight for Eleusynia.
Awias ran away. Ishido chased after but couldn’t get far as Eleusynia was in danger. He gritted himself for a battle and began using ninjutsu. Awias turned a corner and came face to face with another bomb. It took a swipe at her but missed and she went screaming back to where Ishido and Eleusynia were fighting. The ninja grabbed the new monster’s attention and began to fight it. The one that was attacking Eleusynia began to shake violently.
“It’s gonna blow,” shouted Ishido. The black mage nodded coolly and began an incant that would stun the exploding creature. It was successful, but the second one then began to shake in some kind of chain reaction.
Awias ran past the two crying and promising to get help. Eleusynia told her not to run and was cut off by a blinding light and massive explosion. Then another. The two tremendous blasts caused the ground to shake and the ceiling collapsed on the area where Ishido and Eleusynia were fighting. Awias looked back and cried. She curled up in a ball of sadness, guilt, and shock and mumbled how it was all her fault.
The shockwave of the blast rumbled a lot of the surrounding area. Noxx was helping Krosan down to a small ledge so he could try to work the exposed diamond out of the cliff face. He lost his footing at the blast echo and held firmly to Noxx’s pawed hand. “Don’t let me fall, Noxx! Please, oh Altana, hold on. Hold on please Noxx!”
The mithra strained under Krosan’s weight. “Krosan…I can’t hold on…for much longer.” Every inch he slipped his face became more panicked. Noxx looked him straight in the eye as he finally fell toward the burning lake at the bottom of the volcanic cone.
At the same time, Babagana pushed Yekan out of the way of tumbling rocks to save her from being crushed in the tunnel they were mining. He was hurt but alive. “What was that,” Yekan demanded.
“Cave in some place…I’m just happy you are safe, Yek.” Babagana coughed two lungfuls of dust and had a trickle of blood coming from his head where he was struck by a large rock. Yekan used some curative magic and began to heal her heroic friend.
“Everyone, report in. Are you all ok?!”
Rampart had to put his finger to his ear to help him hear the report request. He had made his way to an outside plateau along the volcano. The rain and wind was horrendous and each drop turned to steam against the hot rocks and exposed magma pools. The rock field was swathed in both hot steam and cool rain. The dragoon saw some kind of movement through the water both coming down and rising up. He gave up on whatever Yekan was talking about and went to see who it was.
In the middle of the steaming storm a figure jumped out and attacked Rampart. He couldn’t make out who or what it was but it knocked him to the ground. His linkpearl fell out of his ear. Suddenly his assailant backed off as Raiden swooped in despite the wind. Rampart drew up his lance and thrust from the ground. The tip passed through flesh, then more.
In shock and through poor visibility Rampart saw Raiden was skewered but still clawing at the attacker who was hit through the shoulder. Rampart withdrew the lance and the attacker fled. Quickly the dragoon brooded over the dying wyvern. Warm water fell on the ground now as his tears mixed with the rain. In his arms Raiden died. He stowed his lance and tried to chase down the murderer in a fury as blind as the storm and steam made him.
Xaeon and Peewee had been mining on the other side of the volcano the whole time. Xaeon reported in to Yekan’s call and went back to mining with no further thought. The little thief chose a good spot and they struck several large chunks of darksteel. Swinging away with their pickaxes, neither the elvaan nor tarutaru noticed invisible movement behind them. Flasks in their packs were carefully removed and replaced. The ghostly figure silently slinked away.
“Hey Xae, let’s take a break. I need to sit down for a while.”
“Fine, more ore for my pile.”
Peewee gave the paladin a rude gesture and sat down. Nimble fingers fumbled around a pack and produced his water flask. He drank heartily.
“Slow down there short stuff.”
“Or else what? You’ll put me in your backpack? Under your breastplate? Where this time?”
“Peewee, look, that was a one-time thing ok? Hey Yekan,” Xaeon reported in, “what all is going on there?” As Xaeon talked, Peewee concentrated on the pearl in his ear to see who all was doing what.
“That’s funny,” Peewee mused between swigs, “I don’t see Ishi, Ele, Kro, Ramp, Lyl, or Shard as having their pearl.”
“Altana…I hope they are ok,” sullenly responded Xaeon. Just then Awias came over the link crying. Between frantic sobs everyone who was still on finally found out just what happened from the woman who had been there. She fell silent.
“Awi? Awi? Come in Awi, are you there?” Xaeon tapped the pearl.
“Xae…I don’t feel so good,” mumbled Peewee.
“I told you that you shouldn’t of drank that water so quickly. You never liste…” Xaeon was cut off as he saw the tarutaru curl up tightly and vomit blood. “Peewee?! What’s wrong?!”
“What?! That’s impossible!” The thief shuddered violently and stopped moving. Xaeon shook his adventuring buddy. “C’mon Peewee stop playing around. Peewee? PEEWEE?!”