he sleeping quarters were largely abandoned during the lighthours. A few dejected individuals still loitered about. Some slept; some fidgeted; others simply sat and did nothing. For the most part, the only motion came from the light balls that drifted around the ceiling in lazy circles, illuminating a few piles of armor, several vines wrapped into crude imitations of head cushions, and numerous wall-carvings. Time drifted onward, steadily, silently, slowly.
“Oh, hey, Nimbus!”
“Hm?” Nimbus looked up from where he sat on the cavern floor. It was the teenager whom he met when he first entered the Sanctuary. “Oh, hi, uh…”
“So… you settled in yet?”
“There’s not much to settle.” Nimbus gestured at the small pile or armor beside him.
“Whoa, nice sword!” Hermes said, reaching for the blade that rested on top of the pile.
“Don’t touch that!” Nimbus snapped.
Hermes pulled back. “Sorry. Protective of your stuff. I get it.”
“No, it’s just—”
“I mean, if I woke up in cave with no memory and only a sword and some armor to my name, I’d probably be protective of my few possessions too.”
“Well, the sword—”
“I guess that did happen to me, well, minus the sword.”
“Minus the armor too, for that matter.”
“The sword has a defensive spell on it. Only I can touch it without getting electrocuted.”
“Really? That’s awesome!”
Nimbus sighed. “Yes, well, it would have been a lot more awesome if I had known about it before Talos touched it.”
“Oh, wow, is he OK?” Hermes sat down.
“He’s got some burns and a lot of pain. Methuselah is seeing to him.”
“Methuselah knows some healing magic; he can probably help.”
“I hope so.”
A moment of silence passed, then Hermes stood up. “Hey, have you seen Sting around?”
“No, not since last night.”
“Hm. I guess he left already. Well, tell me if you ever see him around.”
With that, Hermes made his exit, jogging out of the sleeping quarters on his way to some other abysmal corner of the Sanctuary.
Nimbus slumped against the wall, slowly working his way down to the cave floor. He had been trying to get a little sleep. Ever since blasting those three bloodwolves with lightning, he had been feeling fatigued, exhausted, even. I wonder where that power came from? I must have known magic before but… Try as he might, Nimbus could not remember how magic worked. He could understand neither how he had done it earlier, nor how his sword was involved, if indeed, it was.
Finally, with fuzzy thoughts of magic and lightning buzzing around in his head, he drifted of into a light sleep.
Nimbus squinted through the wind and rain. He shivered as the water dripped through his armor, soaking the clothes underneath. He could hear nothing over the sheer volume of the squall that engulfed him. He took a few steps forward on the squishy, saturated ground, noticing the heavy object in his hand for the first time.
The metal pole was at least ten feet long, but through the darkness and the deluge, he couldn’t see all the way to the top, as it faded into the gray frenzy of water above. He steadied it carefully, trying to keep it upright.
To the left, a harsh light flashed in his peripheral vision. Almost immediately, a clap of thunder shook the ground, causing him almost to lose control of the pole, which teetered precariously. Another bolt flashed in the distance, and again the earth shuddered.
Nimbus stood, teeth chattering in the cold, waiting, waiting, waiting.
Suddenly, the world turned white! A resounding crash, a barrage of noise seemed to fill the entire universe. It was over in an instant. The rain subsided, and the wind died down, leaving only a ringing in Nimbus’ ears to mark their passing. The fog of the storm dissipated, revealing his location.
Nimbus stood atop a hill, fields stretching out for miles in every direction. To the left, he could just make out the roofs of a village in the distance; to the right, the white towers of a marble castle rose up proudly among a group of hills; and before him stretched an endless sea, an eternal, blue field, the dazzling light of the sun reflected off its rippling surface like a shower of gemstones.
The pole in his hand was heavy. He brought it down to examine the tip. Strapped to its end was his sword, blade black as the heart of a raging storm cloud, gilded with golden details that shone like brilliant lightning. The sword crackled with all the might and wrath of the tempest.
Nimbus turned to see Talos, walking up the hill towards him, smile on his face, hammer swinging loosely in his belt.
“Hey, Talos. I—”
Without warning, lightning arced from the blade in Nimbus’ hands and enveloped Talos. Nimbus ran to him, but it was too late. Talos was but mere ashes, blowing in the wind.
Once again, Nimbus was shaken awake. Once again, it was Gilgamesh.
“Ugh, what do you want? How’s Talos doing?”
“He’s not dead, and I’m not either, thanks to your little trick.”
“Well, I’m glad I didn’t ruin every facet of the entire operation.” Nimbus rolled over on the cave floor so that he was face down against the stone. “Is that all?”
“Not quite, Shellfish.” Gilgamesh rolled Nimbus over with his boot. “As I’ve said before, our only chance of getting out of these caves is to put together a unit and fight our way out.”
“Have fun.” Nimbus rolled back.
“Now hold on; you may not have the best physical fighting chops, but that can be taught. What you do have is some impressive offensive magic.”
“Do you always begin recruitment drives by waking people up while they’re sleeping?”
“C’mon! Don’t be like these milksops.” Gilgamesh gestured towards some of the other people at the far side of the cave. “Look at them: soldiers, hunters, and all cowards, the lot of ’em. We could get out of this hole today if they would just suck it up and do something.”
“Look, I don’t even know how I did the thing with the lightning.”
“There is a lady at the Vinefront who knows magic. She’ll help with that.”
“Just let me sleep.” Nimbus groaned. “We can talk about this later. It’s not like we’re going anywhere.”
“Hey, Nimbus!” It was Hermes again. “Methuselah wants you!”
Nimbus took a seat in front of the mystical dirt pile, just across from the old man.
Methuselah didn’t look up. “Ah, Nimbus. Was your respite restorative?”
“Um, a bit. How is Talos?”
Methuselah frowned down at the mound of moist soil before him. “Talos is strong and young. His vitality does not desert him freely. I believe he will survive, but he has great pain; the lightning did damage that I cannot comprehend.”
“I’m so sorry…”
“He was worried that you might accuse yourself. You are not culpable for this error. Magic is a dangerous instrument, one that is never meant to be utilized without extensive study and edification. Down here, we have but meager means to those ends. Tell me, Nimbus, have you heard of the Vinefront?”
“I think, briefly.”
“There is someone there who may be able to assist you with your magic, and perhaps even do something for Talos as well.”
“I don’t want to go back into those tunnels.”
“And I don’t want you to go back. However, sometimes risk is necessary. Ultimately, I leave it to your discretion.”
“I’ll think about it.”
“Think about it on the morrow. The Nighthours are upon us, and it’s clear you need more rest.”