Chapter 33: Deep voice

“CALM DOWN!” Solus thundered as he kept his arms wrapped around Vingria. She was struggling, knocking her head backward, only the whites of her eyes visible. As soon as her evolution began, she had started screaming and hitting everything around her. With no ability to move out of the way, Drys got knocked into a wall and Sig, who had tried to help, was flattened into the ground. Solus managed to grab her and was now pinning her arms to her sides to keep her from harming anyone.

All of sudden Vingria stopped moving, hanging limply in Solus’ arms. Looking at her, Solus shook her a bit. When there was no response, he dropped her on the ground waiting for a reaction. Some cracks appeared on the floor where she had landed, but Vingria made no more movement.

“Next time I’m sitting on them before they evolve,” Solus muttered.

A groan came from the corner where Drys had landed, followed by a hoarse voice. “That might be a good idea. That, or we toss anyone evolving into a pit. I think she broke half of my ribs.”

Solus walked towards Drys and picked him up, placing him with his back against a wall. Looking around he saw Sig was lying in a crumpled heap on the ground. He had almost been smashed through the floor and was not moving. Walking over, Solus prodded his minion a bit, finding he was unresponsive but seemed intact. After thinking for a moment, he put him beside Drys and sat down next to Vingria.

“She grew a lot. Not as much as Skull, but more than I had anticipated.” Drys said as he inspected Vingrias still form. “Hopefully she will wake up soon. ”

Grunting, Solus kept his eyes on the changed zombie. Her body was a shade darker than before, with a slight red tint to it. Her hair was about a hands length and stood straight up, as bright red as the sunrise.

“She looks different” Solus said eventually.

Getting no response, he looked at Drys and saw that the zombie had fallen asleep. Probably resting to regain energy he thought. He put his attention back on Vingria and prepared for a long wait.

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When it was almost the middle of the night, and all noise from outside had long since stopped, Vingria stirred. Solus stood and got ready to jump her if she tried anything. He had long since lost his good mood, and he had realized he didn’t like waiting in silence. Drys was still sleeping, and Sig had woken up for only a short while muttering something about more rest before falling back asleep as well.

Vingria gasped and sat up, looking around she saw Solus loom over her.

“What happened?” She asked, her voice a little deeper then it had been before.

“You evolved and while doing so began hitting everything around you” Solus replied, scrutinizing her. Seeing that she was back in control, Solus sat down next to the crumpled heap of Sig. “How are you feeling? Are your emotions in check?”

Vingria was silent, seemingly inspecting herself. After a while, she blinked, a smile appearing on her face. “…Yes! They feel stable, staying the same instead of going up and down at every moment.”

She looked at Solus for a long time, causing Solus to become uncomfortable. “Thank you.” She said eventually, before standing up and walking towards the stairs. As she moved, Solus noticed that her movements were more fluid compared to before. She was still wearing what remained of her armor, now ripped in many places, and Solus could see her muscles ripple where her skin was uncovered.

“Where are you going?” He asked, curious.

“I am going outside. Try my new abilities and find out how well my emotions hold up.” She turned, about to leave before stopping. “Is that alright with you?” She asked, her back still towards Solus.

Solus was stunned for a moment before hurriedly recovering. “Yes, that’s fine. Try not to break anything.”

Vingria nodded with her back towards him and disappeared down the stairs.

Solus stayed behind, feeling somewhat stunned by her changes. As far as he knew that was the first time Vingria had ever asked him anything. And she had not cursed a single time he realized. Leaning his head back against the wall he focused on feeling what was going on outside. He was planning on keeping an eye out, and see what she would do. He could sleep later when he headed inside the caverns.

“Woooooohooooo!” Vingria was yelling as she jumped off the edge of the wall. Seconds later she landed, and a loud crash reverberated through the surroundings. Nobody paid it any attention though, because she had been doing it since the break of dawn, and everyone was used to it by now.

Solus was looking out of one of the windows, seeing her walk back to the wall. He was holding Drys up so he could watch, and the limbless zombie was grinning softly. “It’s good to see that she is feeling better. From what I can see she will be more than able to deal with anything that might threaten us while you are away.”

“Yes, the way she tossed Skull around was pretty impressive!” Solus said, and he meant it. Vingria had found his largest minion and demanded that the skeleton fight her so she could find out how strong she was. It had only taken her a few moments to shove him into the ground, almost breaking his arms off. Although the skeleton was much bigger, she was now twice evolved, and her zombie body had far more raw strength.

“She will have to get used to it when Skull evolves another time. The roles will be reversed again then.” Drys said, sounding a bit tired. “It’s time to go find your army Solus. We have no idea when Silt will return.”

“You are right.” Solus turned around and headed towards the stair. “I will bring you to Sig. He can take care of you while I am gone.” Halfway down the stair, he added. ”And Drys? If you manage to find more manaorbs under the ruins absorb as many as you can. The sooner you can evolve when I get back the better.”

On the lower floor, Sig was sitting at the table, studying some stone tablets Drys had given him. During some conversation after they woke up, they had realized that the wraith was one of the more intelligent undead remaining in Skull town, and Drys had decided he needed to learn as much as he could.

“Sig. Put those things away and take Drys.” Solus said, moving towards the table. When Sig got up, he handed Drys to the wraith, who easily held him.

“I am going to talk with Skull for a moment and then head down.” As he was speaking, Solus moved to stand in front of the cage holding Norg. He looked inside at the sleeping figure on the ground and sighed.” While I am gone, try and find a way to fix him.”

“I have a few ideas already. If you bring enough manaorbs, it should be possible.” Drys replied, looking at the large grey being.

Solus nodded and turned away. He left the building, stepping out onto the sunlit sandy waste on which the remains of Skulltown stood. Looking around at the few buildings that were standing again he sighed and walked towards the wall. Below it, Skull was standing, watching as Vingria got ready to jump down again.

“Skull.”

The skeleton swirled his head around, his eye-sockets glowing dimly. “Master! Me want stronger!” As he spoke, his eye-sockets began burning brighter.

Inspecting his densest minion for a moment, Solus knew he was the only one he could ask what he wanted. “You will become stronger, but first I need to go find more sigmitons. There will be more fighting, and we can’t do it alone. Skull, guard Drys and Sig but listen very carefully now.” Solus waited for a moment to make sure the skeleton was paying attention. “If anything happens, and you don’t think Vingria can handle it? Pick up both Drys and Sig, even if they try and resist, and start running towards the white forest where I found you. Do you remember where that is?”

The skeleton nodded,

Happy he didn’t have to draw a map, Solus continued. ”If I come to Skulltown and you are not here, I will head to the white forest and look for you there. Do you understand?”

The humongous Skeleton looked at Solus while nodding. “Me understand. Fighting go bad, carry Drys and Sig. Run for white stickies with hole in ground.” As he responded the skeleton’s skull was bobbing up and down.

Solus felt somewhat relieved. He had been afraid Skull would have been too stupid to understand what he wanted. It was still possible that the skeleton would do something wrong, he knew, but there was nothing else he could do. For a moment he pondered about taking them with him, but he had no idea what to expect below Skulltown.

Sighing, he said goodbye to Skull and walked towards the wall. Looking at Vingria standing at the edge, ready to jump, he felt curious. Feeling his somber mood fade a bit, he put his hands on the ground after crouching down. Looking up, Solus straightened his legs with as much force as he could muster, propelling himself into the air. At the spot he had been standing at, the ground changed into a large pit. Debris scattered everywhere as an incredibly loud boom echoed between the walls that stood around the remains of Skulltown.

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Solus was propelled up with great force, hurtling along the side of the wall towards the edge. When he was almost there his upward momentum began slowing and he was only barely able to place his hands on the top of the wall. Pushing, he leaped over the edge, standing next to a wide-eyed, startled Vingria. Looking at her, a wide grin on his face he let out a long breath. “Jumping down is fun, but why don’t you try jumping up? It’s much more fun! Show me how far you can get when I come back!”

Before Vingria had a chance to recover and reply he walked to the other side of the wall and jumped down. As he was falling, he heard a soft, unintelligible shout from up top. When he hit the ground, he used his power to absorb some of the impact, dispersing it into the surrounding stone. It was no use to create random pits everywhere he thought. Jumping forward he began running towards the nearest hill. He had found the closest cavern leading downwards inside it, and he had decided to create a more permanent opening there.

Rushing across the wasteland between the hills, he left behind a trail of dust hanging in the air. When he arrived at the bottom, he already knew the best location to create his new entrance, and he directly ran to the highest point of the hill.

It was a small hill compared to those surrounding it, but it had the advantage of being almost flat, creating a perfect spot for an entrance. After taking one last look around, Solus began channeling his stone shaping power and created a tunnel nearly straight down. The incline was just enough for him to slide down into the dark depths instead of plummeting. Looking at the opening, in his eyes, it was like an illuminated tube worming into the ground. With a hop, Solus jumped down, sliding across the smooth surface. As he picked up speed, he felt an exhilarating rush as the air batted his face and he felt the stone blur past him.

“Raaaaawwwww” Hollering as loud as he could, he disappeared into the depths.

It took a long time to reach the bottom because he kept increasing the length of the tunnel, directing it towards the highest concentration of sigmitons he could detect. When he finally stopped Solus had long since gotten used to the sliding and was happy to stand still again. Looking up through the winding pipe, he wondered if he should throw Vingria down after returning. If she liked jumping so much, perhaps she would enjoy the thrill. Shrugging he looked around his surroundings.

He was standing inside a deep crevice. High above he could see rocks sticking from the ceiling shining brightly. The walls at this point were so close he could almost touch them when he stretched out his arms, but even for him, it was impossible to see how long the crevice was. He could only see darkness in front of him, lined by glowing walls that quickly widened until they to disappear out of view. As he began moving forward, looking at the soft glow of the rock under the dust and sand on the bottom, he thought it would have been impossible to go down here blind. Or at least highly dangerous. Scanning in front of him he felt soft vibrations, indicating something was moving. Somewhere not too far from where he was were at least twenty, sigmitons he guessed, wandering around. As far as he could tell, they were not doing anything, just following each other like…

“SHEEEEEPPPPP”

Solus froze, as the echoes of the low grumbling voice stopped, leaving him with pictures of soft white things in his head. Looking around, feeling the stone all around him, he tried to determine the origin of the voice.

“NOOOOTTTTTT THEEERREEEEEEE”

The voice became deeper the more it spoke, and the vibration it caused made Solus’ head throb in pain. Somewhere in front of him, he heard soft thuds, as if things fell to the ground, but he had no time to check what they were.

“What are you, and don’t talk so loud!” Solus groaned holding his hands against the sides of his head.

A rumbling sound caused the stones and dust on the ground the jitter and hop. Solus wondered if the bloody thing had just laughed at him or not.

“YESSSSSSSSSS”

Gritting his teeth, Solus noticed the voice was still loud, but not as harsh as it had been before.

“Where are you? And what are you?”

“BELOOWWW…….SAAMEEEEE”

Another softer vibration came from the ground as the thing laughed again.

Using his stoneshaping, Solus began feeling deeper into the ground, extending his senses far beyond anything he had attempted before. When he almost felt his mind go thin, he found something. It was an enormous object, so deep in the earth, he wondered if it was the center of the world. He was still far away, but a familiar overwhelming power emanated from it in waves that rippled outward. He realized it was the same power he had sensed flowing into himself and the undead when he was standing on the valley floor.

Feeling his energy swiftly diminish, he stopped reaching and retracted his senses back towards the surface. Again inside his body, he was overwhelmed by a feeling of powerlessness and fell forward, barely catching himself on his hands.

“WEEEAAAKKK…” The voice sounded sad and tired, and Solus could almost feel the presence fade away, back into the ground. When it was gone entirely, Solut felt a weight lifted from his mind, one he had not realized was there. Closing his eyes, Solus swallowed before carefully stretching his senses around. He found nothing and sighed in relief.

After a moment he stood back up. Staggering, he almost fell flat on his face, catching himself on his hands again and he grimaced, wondering what other surprises he would get down here. Gathering what he had left of his strength, Solus wobbly rose to his feet and looked towards the place from which he had heard things fall to the ground. In a slow and unsteady step, he walked forward, every now and against stopping to feel around and gather his energy.

After a while he saw something lie on the ground, dampening the slight glow from the dust-covered stone. Walking forward he saw a sigmiton, identical to any he had seen before, crumpled on the ground. Carefully walking next to it, he prodded it with his foot, but it didn’t move. Dropping to his knees he rolled the sigmiton over, and with his hands on the body tried finding any energy. There was none, and as far as he could tell the sigmiton’s existence had ended. With a quick flick of the wrist, Solus ripped the sigmitons skull off and crushed it in his hand, reducing it to dust. Shaking the bone dust off, he looked at the small manaorb, grimacing. No matter how low on energy he was, this thing wouldn’t help him. Looking at his waist he sighed, his armor had long since fallen to shreds, leaving barely any to cover himself with, let alone enough to stuff the manaorb in.

Wondering if he shouldn’t just throw it away, he looked blankly across the vast glowing floor, noticing some stones and rocks. Rocks! A flash went through his listless mind. He focused on his stone shaping and quickly summoned some rocks around his lower body, shaping them into the form of armor. A shiver went through his body, as he felt some of his just regained energy leave him again. Trying to ignore it as best he could he added a few containers along the waist and placed the small manaorb in one of them. Patting the stone armor that was wrapped snug around his legs, he looked around, scanning the surroundings for more sigmitons.

Kicking the body of another sigmiton away, Solus stood and looked around. He had been harvesting manaorbs for some time now, and three of the seven small containers around his waist where full. He had found that none of the sigmitons that he had previously detected were still moving, all now dead on the ground. Fear clouded his mind for a moment when he realized the immense power of the being under the ground.

Walking forward again he saw a bright wall of stone blocking his way, indicating he had almost reached his next destination. From what he could tell, some distance inside the stonewall was another cavern, smaller than the one he was in now. Inside he could feel vibrations and small amounts of energy, indicating there should be sigmitons there that were still moving. Walking up to the wall he created a tunnel connecting the two caverns and stepped inside. By his estimate, he was now two days under the ground, and he was worried it was taking to long.

Walking through the tunnel, he saw a different light at the end of it and slowed down. Summoning a hammer, and more armor to cover the top of his body, he rolled his shoulders. Feeling ready he moved on, stepping out into a smaller cavern. Immediately he noticed an enormous square pillar in the middle. It was covered in glowing red symbols, distantly resembling a pattern and was high enough to almost connect to the ceiling. Surrounding the pillar were hordes of sigmitons, more than Solus had seen gathered together in a long time. The sigmitons were moving around, sometimes bumping into each other, all of their heads turned towards the square pillar.

Using his sensing abilities, Solus could feel nothing else in the vicinity, and taking a quick look, he noticed he could see all of the walls of the cavern. There should be nothing ready to jump him he thought.

Walking forward, he headed towards the center, targeting one of the sigmitons that was at the outside of the group surrounding the pillar. Almost there he stopped, looking for any reaction from the surrounding sigmitons. They did nothing, and he started exerting his power, putting pressure on the sigmiton in front of him. Although he felt some pressure leak away to the surroundings, he hoped the other sigmitons would ignore it. Keeping his eyes on his target, he saw the sigmiton shudder and then stand erect. It slowly began rotating its head until it was looking at Solus with eye sockets that were glowing a dim red. Noticing something was wrong, Solus took a step forward and increased the pressure as much as he could. The sigmiton started trembling, and slowly the reddish glow in its eye sockets faded until it blinked out and a healthy green took its place. Seeing cracks appear in the sigmitons skull, Solus quickly decreased the pressure and walked forward. He seized the sigmiton, and immediately the other sigmitons stopped moving and slowly turn their heads his way, eyes glowing red. Backing up as fast as he could, he dragged along the unmoving sigmiton.

When he reached the tunnel entrance, the sigmitons resumed their wandering, turning their heads back to the pillar. Sighing in relief, Solus looked at the sigmiton he was holding. It was still shivering, but it had stopped cracking. Putting it on the ground, he put his full attention on it, slowly increasing the pressure. When he saw cracks appear, he toned it back down a bit and kept it there. The sigmiton began shaking, and Solus placed his hand on his skull. A small, incredibly weak manafield shimmered into existence around the sigmiton, and Solus summoned his own, overlapping it. The sigmiton became rigid, and Solus inscribed his oldest inscription on its manafield. As he did, he felt some satisfaction realizing how useful it still was to him.

When he finished, he retracted his pressure and looked at the form of the sigmiton as it lay on the ground and began evolving. Solus moved to the side of the tunnel and sat down facing the weird group of sigmitons as they staggered around the pillar.

“And we wait again.” He grumbled as he crossed his arms.

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