Tunnel

The Depths-Elixir – Part 1: Wandering the Dark

“How long have I been down this path?” Lazuli thought to himself. He scratched his fingers along the wall, simply glad to have another sound over his breathing and the crunching echoes from boots on stone that reverberated through the tunnel as Lazuli walked on. A sense of time was always the first to go when travelling outside of a large city. Lazuli mentally kicked himself over his foolishness for only packing one time-piece, a rookie mistake. The ticking of cogs was often enough to stave off the maddening effects of travel into the long sections of black road between cities.

Low light environments were not uncommon as you made your way through the fringes of cities. However, when swallowed by the inky shadows of the tunnels every instinct screamed. The dark induced slight unease at best but could cause you to collapse into sheer panic as well. The indifferent void isn’t always the worst part. The skittering of insects or slight moans that can be heard coming from all around you were enough to put anyone on edge. If not for the fungi that glowed faintly in Lazuli’s lantern, he would be in total darkness himself. The pale green light that illuminated the immediate area teased his eyes with the hope of another turn out of the long walkway.

The luminescent mushrooms were limited. If not for the section of soil filling half the lantern the precious light would only glow for half a day at most. The only hope was finding a section of civilization before it died completely. In the case of long trips like Lazuli’s, travelers should have a whole cart full of fungi; they should, but Lazuli didn’t. He was traveling alone. His mission required it.

The day Lazuli was called to the castle of Ten-Pillars had been altogether joyous and terrifying. One of the Ten Kings had requested to see him. Lazuli wasn’t a very devout man by the standards of the masses, but standing before the great Lord Demiurgeis, ruler of Lazuli’s home city of Quartz, who stood nearly fifteen feet tall with every inch of him glowing faintly. The old tales of the ten kings that lead the people after the great fall into the earth always seemed exaggerated and often fanciful. Most of the Subjects caste wouldn’t fault you for thinking so but to stand before one of their descendants you believed. Every time his Lord had spoken the air quivered and Lazuli felt like a blade was twisting in his chest.

His Lord told Lazuli why he was chosen to undertake this task. The first was Lazuli had spent almost his entire life traveling between cities, though this was the only time he would do so alone. The second reason was that he was among the Subjects caste a middle-ranked citizen. He was competent while still being expendable, unlike his literal Betters, the next caste up. Still, the honor for being chosen was great alone, and Lazuli was given a few leads that made his quest feel less than impossible.

As if being before one legend wasn’t life altering enough, Lord Demiurgeis had told Lazuli to go find another one. Something Lazuli remembered from his early teachings as a child was that it was simply called Elixir. As it was, the Elixir was a mythical substance capable of restoring anyone to prime physical condition. As mages often lose fingers and sometimes whole limbs just to use their magic, rending living flesh into chemically similar constructs. The uses are Limited but a mage with enough creativity could get out of many situations.

To start, he needed to find an alchemist in the city of Ruby named Augustus, a Better citizen that reportedly had been researching the legends of regeneration. Ruby was his current destination but how far away that was had become blurred a bit; it could be another day. Lazuli felt his hand give way on the wall and turned to see a faint glow down another passage. “Is that it?” The thought passed through his mind as he closed his eyes to listen more intently. At first nothing, but as he stopped breathing for a moment the sounds of life flowed into his ears. If his pack wasn’t so heavy Lazuli would have jumped for joy. As his breathing steadied after holding it he walked on, remembering to find the wall again before he headed towards the pale blue light.