Jadivolett and the Shining City

Submitted into Contest #59 in response to: Write about a character arriving in a place unlike anywhere they’ve ever been.... view prompt

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Fantasy Adventure

The Xulch Desert's sands had given way to barren earth five days ago and the next stone marker still seemed to be hours away. The rays of Ottbof the Sun God bore down ceaselessly as Jadivolett and Tiego trudged across the Ermo Wastes. They sought a city hidden somewhere within the wasteland. The only way to find the city was to follow the markers, large pinnacles of stone that rose from the arid landscape. Yet, Jadivolett felt that they had been traveling in circles. One marker seemed to lead to another that lead back to the first. 


It was hard to tell how long they had been traveling. This far North, there was no night. The days stretched on as Ottbof burned in the sky above, baking the ground and causing the air to shimmer. The Ermo Wastes were a long expanse of flat, cracked ground crowned randomly by large rock formations. Rainfall was rare and little grew in this part of the world apart from a bush called Ermo Scrub that sprouted in the shadows of the rock formations. Unfortunately, Ermo Scrub was poisonous to humans, and wild game was scarce.


The travelers' supplies were dwindling and Jadivolett knew that even if they turned around now, they would most likely run out of water before they made it back to civilization. She and Tiego had decided to press on with the hope that the next marker would lead them to the city. Jadivolett was confident that her Patron would guide her. Even if she perished in the wasteland and could not complete her mission, Jadivolett would die knowing that her spirit would return to the embrace of her God. 


Jadivolett pushed a sweaty lock of brown hair from her forehead and turned her emerald green eyes to the horizon. The next stone marker was close now. Only a few minutes more and they would reach it, and with any luck, reach the city soon thereafter. Jadivolett was an Avitshu, a cleric of the highest order. She had dedicated her life to serving, and pledged her soul eternally, to a single God, Olentar Father of the Winds. She lived her life as a devout worshiper of Olentar and acted as his agent wherever he sent her. Wherever the winds of change were needed, Jadivolett would go, acting on behalf of her Patron.


Before starting this journey, Olentar had appeared to Jadivolett in a vision and commanded her to seek out the city and restore order there. Olentar had shown Jadivolett the best route to take North and had given her knowledge of the stone markers, but it was up to her to find the city.


Theirs was a world of spirits, invisible ethereal entities that inhabited all living things or resided within inanimate objects. The Gods were the most powerful of these spirits, followed by their demigod children. Next came the spirits that resided in humans, animals, and plants. The lowest ranking spirits were those whom inhabited objects, such as rocks, weapons, or tools. Jadivolett could use the power of her spirit to harness the power of Olentar, cast spells, and perform magical feats. 


As they neared the marker stone, Jadivolett glanced over at Tiego. Beads of sweat ran down his brown skin, collecting in his goatee, and his clothing was soaked through, just as hers was. Tiego had been Jadivolett's traveling companion for many years. He was the only person she'd ever met who didn't want anything from her. He didn't look over her body with hungry lust like nearly all other men. He wasn't jealous of her power and didn't try to use it for his own ends. He asked little of her, and only expected friendship, which she was happy to give. In return, he aided Jadivolett in her quests. 


Tiego was a master swordsman from the country of Pardesa. He carried two blades, each in an ornate scabbard. One was slung across his back and the other worn on his hip. Yet, he only ever used the one worn on his back. The other stayed in its scabbard and he refused to use it in combat, even if he was disarmed of his main sword. Tiego only took the sword from its scabbard in holy places. In these holy places, he would clean and sharpen the sword, whispering quiet prayers over it in his native tongue. 


As they neared the marker stone, Jadivolett noticed that the rock formations that surrounded it were different than the others they'd seen throughout the Ermo Wastes. The other rock formations were a dark red, but these were an odd shade of greenish gray. Jadivolett sensed an infernal presence as she and Tiego approached the marker stone, but she knew they had no choice but to continue onward. She needed to make contact with the enchantments carved into the marker stone to discern in which direction they were to travel next. 


Jadivolett approached the marker stone but before she could place her hand upon it, the surrounding rock formations dissolved into thick green smoke, revealing dozens of twisted creatures concealed within. At first glance, the creatures appeared to be Karomb, dog-like rodents, native to the Ermo Wastes. These Karomb had obviously be warped by sorcery. They were no longer quadruped rodents. They had been transformed into vaguely humanoid creatures, with hunched backs, long arms, curved claws, and razor-sharp fangs. Jadivolett knew this had to be the work of Ceirote the Sorcerer. Ceirote was Jadivolett's nemesis. They had clashed several times in the past and he never seemed to be far off. He rarely acted against Jadivolett directly, but set up traps that he hoped would lead to her demise.


Tiego and Jadivolett stood back to back as the first group of creatures charged. Using the holy talisman she wore around her neck, Jadivolett called upon the power of Olentar and conjured a great wind that pushed some of the creatures back. She had to be careful about using her magic, as it required pulling energy from her spirit. This energy was finite, and could only be replenished at one of Olentar's temples or a place of natural power, neither of which could be found in the Ermo Wastes. If she depleted her spirit energy, Jadivolett would die. Having used Olentar's power to give herself space, Jadivolett drew her mace and Tiego drew his sword.


The creatures encircled Jadivolett and Tiego, a few breaking from the circle at a time to charge forward. Both warriors wore chainmail under their robes, so the creatures' claws weren't much of a threat. It was the sheer number of the creatures that posed a danger. If they were overrun by the creatures, there would be little the warriors could to do keep from being torn to shreds.


Still back to back, Tiego and Jadivolett moved in a tight circle. Jadivolett knocked the creatures back, smashing their skulls with her mace when she saw an opening. Tiego's blade flashed in the Sun as he slashed and cut down creature after creature. After several minutes of heavy fighting, both realized that weary and dehydrated as they were from days of travel, the creatures would soon break through their defenses. Jadivolett and Tiego were so focused on fending off the creatures that neither noticed the group of men approaching from the West.


As the fight continued, Jadivolett suddenly saw a flash of bright light. She glanced to her left and saw the group of ten men spreading out in a half circle around the creatures. The men all held strange staves that shot short beams of light. Upon being struck by one of the beams, the creatures burst into flames. The creatures continued to attack, driven by the infernal forces that had mutated them, oblivious to their new enemy. Soon, all the creatures lay dead around Tiego and Jadivolett, having been reduced to piles of smoldering bones. 


Neither Jadivolett nor Tiego had ever seen anyone like the group of men who stood before them. Each one stood seven feet tall and had metallic skin. Their skin was the color of polished steel and reflected the rays of the Sun. Aside from their skin, each looked like a regular human, except for their heads. None of them had noses and the tops of their heads were completely flat with rounded edges that blended into the rest of the skull. One of the steel-men stepped forward and spoke to Jadivolett and Tiego.


"Are you the one sent by the Wind God to aid our people?"


"Yes," Jadivolett replied. "I am Olentar's faithful servant and he has sent me to help you."


"Excellent. Allow us to escort you to Gurmo Hask."


The steel-men led Tiego and Jadivolett to a large boulder. One raised his staff and a doorway slid open, revealing a tunnel within the boulder. As the doorway opened, Jadivolett examined the staves carried by the steel-men. Each staff was made of thick, frosted glass, topped with a glass sphere. Inside the shaft was a dark coil that wound down to a wide cylinder near the base. The staves were identical except for the one carried by their captain, who had addressed them earlier. His had a short metal bar that extended from the base of the glass sphere. Jadivolett wondered what strange sorcery powered the staves, but when she posed the question to the captain, he replied, "Tis not sorcery."


"What evil plagues your people?" Jadivolett asked instead. "I would know the nature of what we've been called here to face."


"Lord Matsaf will explain all when we reach Gurmo Hask," the captain said brusquely.


This answer struck Jadivolett as odd. In her vision, Olentar had told her that they were traveling to a shining city to give aid to its queen. She was just about to ask about the queen when Tiego interjected, "Might we trouble you for food and water? Tis been a long journey."


"You will be taken care of once we reach the city," was the captain's reply.


The group descended the slanted path and walked down until the tunnel became level again, many feet below the surface. It was pitch black inside the tunnel, but the steel-men provided light with their staves. The captain led the way while Tiego and Jadivolett walked behind, surrounded by the rest of the steel-men. 


After walking for several minutes, Tiego whispered, "These men are strange. Have you noticed they never blink? Their mouths hang open, but they do not seem to draw in breath or exhale. Can you sense any arcane magic or infernal sorcery that may be animating them?"


Jadivolett reached out with her senses, running her mind's eye over the steel-men before whispering back, "I sense life. These steel-men possess living spirits, but their life force is shielded by the metal that covers their bodies. Yet, there is something odd about them, so keep your guard up old friend."


"I will do so," Tiego replied. "But I don't know how much good my sword or your mace will do against them."


After some time, the group came to the end of the tunnel. The captain raised his staff and a crack of light appeared in the wall as a door slid open. The Sun outside was blinding after being in the dark tunnel. As Tiego and Jadivolett's vision adjusted to the brightness, they were amazed at what they saw before them. They had reached the city of Gurmo Hask, and it was like nothing they had ever seen before. 


Gurmo Hask was enormous and its buildings seemed tall as mountains. The buildings were made of steel and glass and every surface gleamed in the rays of the Sun. Enormous crescent shaped structures resembling fins jutted out from the tops of each building. These fins were jet-black and made of a reflective material. Thick tubes of glass with the same spiraled coil as were used in the steel-men's staves were connected to the base of each fin. The glass tubes crisscrossing above their heads. Every so often, bright sparks spun along the coils, projecting flashes along the streets below.


The streets themselves were paved with interlocking stones, each of varying shape and size. The streets reminded Jadivolett of a completed puzzle, each disparate stone must have been hand chosen and individually fit together. Each street was lined with a thin strip of glowing metal. Despite the intensity of the Sun's rays, the air within the city felt cool. The fins provided large swaths of shade on the streets below and a light breeze came from bulky rectangular blocks placed in between the buildings. Inside these blocks, fans spun, pushing out air and allowing it to circulate through the city.


Jadivolett knew the city was called Gurmo Hask, but she could think of it as nothing else but the shining city. The steel-men escorted them through streets full of people, who parted as they passed. Jadivolett also noticed more metal covered men as well. Some of these metal men were covered in steel like those who accompanied them while others seemed to be covered in dull gray iron or blue tinted cobalt. 


As they walked through the streets, Jadivolett craned her neck to look up at the buildings they passed. On one building she counted twenty rows of windows, but other buildings were so tall that she lost count. The glass in the windows reflected the Sun's rays, adding to the city's shine. Some of the windows had thick shades drawn to block out the rays and provide darkness in the rooms beyond. 


After several minutes they reached the palace. It was a long two story building whose roof was made entirely of the jet-black material that composed the reflective fins on the other buildings. Its second floor was ringed by large windows and the first-floor walls had been carved with intricate designs. The steel-men marched Tiego and Jadivolett into the palace and presented them to Lord Matsaf. He was a short man sitting on a large steel throne, set in the center of a large hall. It was almost cold in the hall; its walls were lined with the large rectangular fans. The steel-men’s captain approached the throne and presented Tiego and Jadivolett to Lord Matsaf. 


Tiego and Jadivolett bowed to Lord Matsaf and Jadivolett heard the palace's main doors close. She glanced back and saw a steel-man lay a heavy bar across the doors. Jadivolett looked around and saw that the hall was full of steel-men, all armed with glass staves. These steel-men also wore hammers or clubs on their belts. Similar weapons were stored in racks around the hall. Lord Matsaf stood and all the steel-men pointed their staves at Tiego and Jadivolett. Tiego's hand moved to his sword hilt. 


"Don't bother drawing your blade, warrior," Lord Matsaf said. "Your sword will not help you against my soldiers. You are now my prisoners. Submit to my rule and you shall keep your lives. Lady, you shall become my personal courtesan, fanning me with the winds of your former Patron. Warrior, you will train my soldiers in the art of swordsmanship. Furthermore --"


"I will never serve you, false king," Jadivolett interrupted. "My spirit belongs to Olentar."


"I will die before I pledge myself to you," Tiego added.


"Maybe you'll change your minds after a few days in the exhaust cells," Lord Matsaf said angrily. "Guards! Take them away!"


The steel-men began to herd Tiego and Jadivolett toward the hall's back wall. A guard stepped forward and slid open a door that led to the back half of the building. Suddenly, a group of cobalt-men burst through the door armed with hammers, clubs, and flails. The cobalt-men stormed into the room and Tiego and Jadivolett leapt out of the way as the steel-men fired beams of light from their staves. The beams struck the cobalt-men, but they didn't burst into flames as the Karomb creatures had. However, the cobalt-men obviously weren't invulnerable to the beams. Their metal skin glowed red with heat and eventually they would keel over.


The cobalt-men fought hard, closing the distance to take away the advantage of the steel-men's ranged attacks. Some managed to shatter the steel-men's staves with throwing hammers while others smashed right through the staves with their melee weapons. The steel-men took up weapons of their own and the fighting grew intense throughout the hall. Never one to miss a battle, Tiego picked up two throwing hammers off the floor and joined the fray, fighting alongside the cobalt-men. 


Jadivolett knew she needed to do something to turn the tide of the battle. Calling upon the power of Olentar, she reached out with her spirit and harnessed the air currents being generated by the fans at the sides of the hall. She combined the air currents into a mighty, nearly inexhaustible wind, and used it to disarm the steel-men. One of the steel-men charged her but she surrounded him with a whirlwind and tossed him across the hall. As she followed the path of his flight, she noticed that Lord Matsaf was trying to escape through a hidden side door. 


Calling upon the wind, Jadivolett used it to sweep Lord Matsaf off his feet. As he continued to crawl toward the door, Tiego sprinted after him. Tiego drew his sword and plunged it into Lord Matsaf's back. Seeing that their leader had been killed, the remaining steel-men surrendered and were escorted out of the hall by some of the cobalt-men. The cobalt-men soon returned with Queen Sarniya, the rightful ruler of Gurmo Hask. She thanked Tiego and Jadivolett for their help in reclaiming her throne and rewarded them handsomely. Several days later, Tiego and Jadivolett left Gurmo Hask to seek their next adventure. 


September 14, 2020 16:55

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3 comments

Ujjwal Dutta
06:53 Sep 17, 2020

I enjoyed reading your story.

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Felicity Edwards
16:11 Sep 30, 2020

What an interesting story! The first part was brilliant, the atmosphere and the way you introduced the characters was great. The latter portion not so good. I liked the description of the "soldiers" and their armour but once in the hall it lost impact. The fight between the good and the bad was not as well described or as full of atmosphere as the beginning. A great story though, well done.

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Michael Boquet
18:14 Sep 30, 2020

Thanks for reading, I appreciate your comments. Honestly, I was most focused on describing the setting, followed by world building, and ran out of words. I had to cut 200 just to be able to tack on the (admittedly lame) ending that I ended up with.

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