SANDSTORM PART 3

In general terms, there was no way of knowing if it would be safer to go up or down a tower. While going down usually meant fewer levels if there were at least four floors visible from the outside. The exact danger of each floor depended on what was hiding there. Springhill and Locke was fairly small for a tower, only three floors above the sand. That was one of the reasons Daniel had scouted it. It wasn’t always the case, but taller buildings normally contained more dangers. It was generally considered safer to go up then down, however, since it was possible to escape by jumping out a window. Two floors was about the highest anyone could reasonably think they could safely jump out of, and the first above ground floor was often called the safety net. Below was thought of as more dangerous for essentially the same reason, only instead of a person going out it was sand coming in.

Having convinced Louise to take the lead, equipped with a five-shot revolver and a 15cm blade, while he watched her back with a rifle. Apparently she was also short on ammo, only having nine more bullets in her pocket. Granted, a woman with her position should be able to handle a few hazes with only the knife. As they entered the stairwell, Louise started to wall up towards the next floor, cautiously, as he made sure nothing would come up from below and bite them in the ass.

As she went to open the door to the first floor, Daniel heard a familiar sound. Fighting back his fears and memories, he dashed forward at his fastest speed and pushed her to the ground and out of the doorway. Less than a second later, the passage was filled with bullets. The sound filled the stairwell like thunder and there were bullet holes just centimetres above where they lay.

Rolling off of her thin, soft body and onto his back, he let out a deep breath, he whispered to himself, “Not this time.”

He hadn’t intended it for her, but her elven hearing caught it anyway. It made her curious but she knew that wasn’t the sort of topic you brought up with strangers.

“I’ve seen that before,” he spoke in a soft low voice, unsure if he was speaking to her or himself, “it’s just a turret. It shoots at anything that moves but can’t think for itself.”

Having calmed himself, he started to move mana to his hands. The spell he was going to cast wasn’t a simple one, and required a more complicated spell then a simple hexagram. The shape was instead similar to six overlapping crescent moons of varying sizes. Unlike a simple spell, it required far more time to draw and control over the size of the shapes. For the spell Daniel was casting, the Wind and Anima Moons were both enlarged and the Fire moon was reduced below the starting point.

Louise looked on the process with surprise; she had seen magic plenty of times before, but found it difficult to use. She really admired anyone who took the time to learn it while maintaining a healthy body. To her even greater surprise, when Daniel finished his adjustments he glowed for a second and then vanished. She could feel a rapidly spinning field of air in front of her and could make out the vague and blurred outline of a person, but Daniel had otherwise vanished.

Having cast his spell, Daniel stood up and walked calmly into the room, being careful not to bump anything. Seeing that the turret hadn’t reacted to him, he moved to its side and shot its camera. Without its sight, it fired blindly at the place he had been. Having moved out of the way he walked up to it, having cancelled his spell to conserve mana. Since the turret couldn’t do anything, he took out a knife and cut its power crystal free. He wasn’t willing to take out his crystal in front of Louise, so he kept the turret’s crystal to use and would transfer it all over once she was gone. Pressing it to his forehead he found that it had five and a half charges in it. A clan elder once told him that when he was young, the government traded the currency of the time, dollars, for crystal charges at a rate of ten dollars per charge. He didn’t really know what that meant; it was a currency that didn’t exist anymore so that could translate to nearly any value.

After making sure there weren’t any more dangers in the room, he took out a pocket tool kit and started dismantling the turret. Taking apart the heavy weapon, he found its ammo supply was starting to run dry. It was built to hold four five-hundred bullet belts, and it was on the last belt. In total it had two-hundred and forty shots left. More than enough to kill him, but it hurt his profit that it had so few. If they fit his gun then it would be a great haul, but for selling purposes it was a bit lacking. Stupid 7.62mm rounds don’t fit in a 5.56mm gun. The rest of the turret, all forty kilos of it, was placed on a sturdy cloth tarp and dragged out to the stairwell. If they weren’t leaving in a hurry then they could drag it out with them and sell it as scrap, but otherwise it wasn’t worth much to him.

Going through the office desks didn’t grant much; another 3 crystal charge, a P9S pistol with nine bullets, a bottle of well-aged whiskey and a bunch of working pens. It was odd, but traders really loved pens. Even if they couldn’t sell for much, gifting them did wonders for relationships. The pistol and drink were both good finds also. Even a gun without bullets could sell for a lot, since someone out in the wastes was bound to find or make more eventually. The whiskey however, he would save. Daniel certainly didn’t mind a drink, but his taste wasn’t anywhere near refined enough to warrant drinking it himself. His younger sister, however, was a different story. Her scales shone a golden colour and when she drank, a smile spread across her face the made her look like the sun itself at night.

He gave the gun to Louise, who seemed somehow blissfully ignorant to the value of each object. She lit up when he passed it to her, but the way she barely looked at it made him think that the gun had next to nothing to do with the reaction. But that didn’t matter; she placed her old gun in her coat and used the P9S instead. The pistol used 9mm ammo, yet another different type. Between them they had three guns and four types of ammo; that was usually considered a bad situation but they didn’t have much choice.

The room also had a water tap, so they took a moment to fill up their water bottles with cold water. Cold water wasn’t the greatest of luxuries, since water could be made then cooled with magic, but since there were many other things the mana could be used on, it was still somewhat rare. The fact that almost every glass tower had its own cold water supply was one of the reasons that villages were often made in and around cleared towers. It was said that at the core, roof or bottom floor of every tower was a large crystal that had a thousand charges and generated more over time; the so-called crystal-hearts were what powered everything in the towers.

Daniel had been it two other towers before, once with a group and once by himself. In total, the number of floors he had cleared, not including the one he was currently in, was four. Two floors the first time, two floors the second time. On neither occasion did he see anything like a crystal-heart. Furthermore, there were towns inside of tower ruins, if crystal-hearts existed, someone in one of those villages would have found something.

Brushing aside his soft hair and the baseless rumours while he was at it, he looked into his unfortunate partner’s soft blue eyes. Even if her skin and hair were discoloured, those eyes, that were calming with a cool beauty, were her hallmark as an elf. Sure, she had the whole elf ear thing, but to him, the most elven trait was their enchanting eyes. Even if it was the result of selective breeding, her eyes drew him in like the sun’s rays in winter; a blue that could inspire or ignite. Without noticing, he had moved close and was staring into her eyes. Blush spread across her face, but she held his gaze. Suddenly the moment passed and they turned away, as if to try and remain professional. Despite that, he could still see those eyes when he shut his.

With the room stripped of valuables, they returned to the stairwell. The bullet holes that the turret made had already repaired themselves, leaving no trace of the damage. On the next floor they approached the door more carefully. Louise placed an ear against it and Daniel tried to sense traces mana through it. He didn’t have any luck; the walls were filled with mana and there was no way to distinguish anything inside.

Since it seemed to be clear, Louise opened the door slightly then re backed up to re-draw he knife. As she moved closer to open the rest of the way, things started to take a turn for the worse. A metal skeleton started to move its way down from the floor above. Metal skeletons were one of the more dangerous ruminants from the old age; they combined the endurance of the undead with the durability of metal. There were made from the bodies of the dead that were then coated in a metal alloy rich in ground crystal. Since their entire body conducted charge, they had no weak points and could see in every direction.

Not waiting for it to get close, Daniel’s f2000 lit up as bullets slammed into the metal ribs and skull.  A few moments passed and the thirty-round clip was empty. The creature however was unharmed. It approached slowly, the heavy metal of its body weighing it down. Not bothering to reload the ineffective gun he instead started casting spells as fast as he could. The earlier spell had used twenty-four mana units and he had since regenerated one. He had half his mana available and that meant he could test the water a little. With one hand he drew up a hexagram entirely with force element and used eight mana units. It created a wave through the air, like a ranged punch and wedged the skeleton into the plaster of the stairwell wall.

Its heavy bones flailed helplessly but it wouldn’t hold it for long; with his other hand he created a ray of fire that struck against it and heated it red hot. That ray had eaten another sixteen units. He hadn’t expected that. He only had a single point of mana left and he was starting to feel it. His body felt light, like his mist wasn’t quite attached to it. It was like he was completely drunk, but really sick at the same time.

Seeing Daniel look suddenly weak, Louise stepped up to the plate. She knew that the heat had stressed the metal and ran forward without hesitation. Her body seemed to glow with power; it seemed that she could use a divine strengthening technique. With the force of her trained body and the power that her faith had granted her, she swung her short knife down and shattered the metal. Not the metal of the skeleton, but the metal of her knife.

As fast as she reacted, it simply wasn’t fast enough, and the skeleton had cooled down enough to survive the attack. Not giving up, however, Louise ducked out of the way of its swinging claws. Taking a moment to brace herself she placed her 9mm pistol up against the creature’s sturdy head and fired repeatedly. At point blank range, while its body was still hot, in a spot that had been thinned by her knife; those parts together let the third bullet make a hole and the rest to follow through. The metal beast reached to grab her throat, but its arm fell limp before it made it to her.

With the creature dead, or as dead as the undead could be, a small level up notice popped up. With that, and the extra mana that came with it, his head cleared enough for him to move. He walked over to where she was stand, hovering over her kill. As he came to face her, he noticed what was wrong. A large fragment of her broken knife was lodged in her chest and a couple of bullets had rebounded to do the same.

With a skilled medical team of an abundance of mana, it didn’t have to be fatal, but as thing were, she would be dead in minutes. With tears down both their faces, they knew the situation all too well. Much to his own surprise he held her in his arms. It was odd, he had originally wanted to kill her, but in less than an hour, she had come to mean a lot to him. It was another stereotype humans had for long lived races; they say that the longer they live the longer they dated. It was often wrong, since Draconian would as often mate with the strongest mates they could find, without any affection, as they would a loving relationship. He wasn’t sure about elves, though they were probably similar only replacing strength with beauty.

They stayed there in each-other’s arms for a few minutes, once again locking eyes, though this time through tears. As she seemed to feel her last few breaths nearing she made a final request.

“Please tell my order. Please get word to the Central Morrigan Order that Smith Street Village has fallen. Enoksen has to know.”

With those words she went quiet. When he first entered a glass tower, this friends and kin died around him. He had thought that there was nothing worse the towers could do. When his dead brother stood back up and tried to eat him, he was forced to kill him with his own sword. The towers were a dark place, and he let his fear eat him up. Had he not panicked he could have cast that fire for half as much. Had it not brought back suck painful memories, he could have made it twice as hot. Had he not failed as both a mage and a gunner, she wouldn’t be dead in his arm.

As he swore to himself that he would see her request through, he could hear the nearby door open. A group of hazes though that he was in a state they could win against. He steeled himself like the cold-blooded creature he was. He drew Louise’s Ladysmith; the small-handled revolver didn’t fit well in his hands. Lining up the shots without thought, in a zen state devoid of emotion, he killed all four with one bullet each. The last round in the five-shooter, he removed from the cylinder. He intended to keep that one for himself, both as a memory and a manifestation of his promise.

 

 

<-Part 2 | TOC | Chapter 2 ->

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