And Cato’s story is back! If you want to read through the rest of the entries to catch up, you can click the Cato button on the sidebar, but here’s a quick recap anyway. Our ‘hero’, Cato, found his way to the city of Oriona after a message from his brother. He immediately found his brother being chased by a mob, and spent the rest of the day evading the mob himself, and trying to get his brother to safety. They were assisted by a young woman named Anica, who turned out to be part of a small organization looking into strange goings-on within the city…of which Kyros had stumbled into. That night, after much argument, Cato and Kyros led the way into a small temple on the far side of the city. They found a chamber underneath the building with a strange, monstrous creature’s corpse and a book detailing the dangerous things the priests there were a part of…but were quickly interrupted by the appearance of two more, very much alive, monsters and a mad priest…

 

 

The air in the temple’s lower chamber was perfectly still. No one moved. The alien horrors stood uncomfortably still, staring with eyes that weren’t really eyes while the priest between them grinned ear to ear like a madman. Anica clung to the tome with all of the priest’s records, her eyes locked on the crimson-robed man only because looking at the two creatures made her head hurt. Kyros had his hand on his sword, but hadn’t moved an inch since the words of the creatures had echoed inside of their heads.

Cato stared, too, but his mind suddenly caught up to the situation and informed him of a very important detail to their current situation. Yes, the priest and the shadowy, uncomfortably tall creatures had stepped in through a magic portal from Gods only knew where. Yes, those same creatures had spoken in such a way that the sounds had bypassed ears and gone directly into everyone around. And yes, the same horrific things had just threatened their lives.

All of those were very important facts and Cato had no reason to doubt any part of the situation he found himself in. They probably could kill him in an instant. But…they hadn’t. It had been nearly a minute, and they simply all stood there, staring at one another.

And directly behind Cato, Anica, and Kyros were the stairs leading out of the chamber.

It. Is. Pointless. There. Is. No. Way. To. Run. From. Us.

The words hit hard, but somehow it was not nearly as unsettling to experience a second time. Cato’s body didn’t lock up in fear as it had before. The fact that it had seemingly heard his thoughts was unsettling, yes, but somehow that detail wasn’t nearly as worrying considering everything else.

Ah hell. There were worse ways to die…

Cato reached out and grabbed both Kyros and Anica by the arms. He gripped them tightly, giving no chance for protest, and turned and ran, dragging the both of them after him and up the stairs.

As they bolted up the stone staircase, Cato couldn’t help himself and called back down, “I’ll run if I bloody well want to!”

It was not his best, but it had been a long day. Neither Anica nor Kyros seemed to have gathered themselves up enough to speak, but at least they were keeping up. Both of them were moving as fast as they could, probably as much on instinct as from Cato’s vice grip as he led the way.

Without seconds, they reached the door at the top of the staircase, and Cato swiftly pulled it open with a foot. The hallway was still empty. Good. He started running for the exit of the temple again, taking this, quite literally, one step at a time.

From behind, he heard the sound of a door closing and realized that he was no longer dragging his brother or Anica and they were running on their own now. One of them even had the foresight to shut the door behind them, for all the good that would do in holding back horrors that walked through magical portals and were too good to speak to people using mouths and ears like decent things.

There it was. Cato’s wit was coming back. He was thinking faster, too. Rollan was outside, protecting the entrance from the inevitable cascade of Oriona’s guards that were going to descend on them at any moment. Hopefully they weren’t going to exit right into another fight, as there was no way the things in the chamber below weren’t going to follow.

Reaching the entrance to the temple, Cato barreled through the door shoulder first. He was immediately greeted by the cool air of the Orionan night, which was a pleasant thing after the dank, corpse-containing chamber they’d run from. And there stood Rollan, at least ten more unconscious guards around him than when they’d arrived.

“What happened? Are you alright?” Rollan was understandably concerned.

Anica fielded the question as best as any of them could have, “GO!”

She took the lead now, turning south on the upper street they occupied and running full tilt, the massive tome under one arm as best as possible. Cato was right behind her, glancing back only long enough to see that Kyros had finally gotten his sword out. Better late than never. Rollan had also fallen into the escape, though he was a few yards behind, likely due to confusion.

“Where are we going?” Kyros yelled up to Anica as they turned a corner into a small alley. They needed to find stairs and get down to the ground level of the city.

Anica looked back mid-stride, “Away! Details later!”

It was as good a plan as any.

Until they heard the sound. There was a brief hint of the thrumming sound that the portal in the chamber had made, but it was quickly drowned out by a loud crack and then a cry of pain that caused Cato’s knees to go weak.

They all stopped out of shock, turning around to see Rollan was in about ten more places than any one person could occupy. There was really no other way for Cato’s brain to parse what he was looking at, as the mess of what had once been a massive, mountain of a man was every bit as hard to identify and observe as the jet-black, nearly eight foot tall creature in the center of it all.

Give. Us. The. Book.

One of the creature’s thin, long legs began to move forward in a slow, unsettling step. Its head tilted down at them as it moved, somehow managing to look more sinister than before. In fact, it looked angry.

As it moved towards them, Cato glanced behind him to see Anica clinging to the tome again. He also noticed that the alley opened up behind her and there was a stone railing just a few feet further. They were at the edge of this section, but there would be a street below…

For the second time, Cato grabbed his brother by the arm and yanked him away from approaching doom. He ran straight for Anica, who at least found her feet faster this time and only had to be pushed slightly to keep up. For the briefest of moments, she and Cato made eye contact.

They didn’t say anything, but an entire conversation passed. He didn’t apologize, though she clearly wondered if he was insane. Cato could only confirm this, but with the added importance that he was perfectly happy with being insane if they lived. The last look from Anica seemed to suggest she agreed, which was as much approval as he needed.

Without slowing down, they scaled the waist-high stone railing and jumped down to the ground far below. It was going to hurt. Especially for Kyros, since he’d been half dragged down. And the creature would undoubtedly follow. It was fast, but maybe this would be enough to give them time…if they didn’t break their legs…

But that was a concern for later, when they landed. Now, in that brief moment immediately after leaping off of the second level walkway with no rope to help break the fall, Cato couldn’t stop himself from turning to look back to the slowly approaching creature.

And then he yelled, “It’s our book now!”

Damn. That had sounded much better in his head and now he couldn’t see over the railing anymore and…

Oh. The ground was coming up very fast, too.

Next time, Cato assured himself, he would at least make sure there was something other than solid stone to land on.