With Ly’ Jug the Patient in the lead; Lei and Rai the Topaz follow him into the depths of Celestia. The stone walls that were meant to protect those inside gave off the feeling the kingdom was a prison where even the stars couldn’t shine through the darkness. The few inhabitants they passed looked like hollow shells living on willpower alone. A far cry from the tales of the proud, noble, and illustrious if not closed-minded Celestians…
“Was Celestia always like this?” Lei asks her guide.
“Yes.” Ly’ Jug answers simply.
“How come?” Rai questions the Sage.
“Fear.” he replies.
“Fear?” Rai says confused.
The trio continues their walk through the forgotten underside of Celestia. Past the homeless Sub-Humans who sought shelter wherever they could find it. Even here the proud Aizr were reduced to hollow shells of their former selves. Forced to get whatever scraps they could from the Human nobles that ruled with an iron fist. To them, none of the Sub-Humans or Sub-Mon could be trusted. Letting them live at all was a courtesy. In the past, some nobles feared the Vampire population could spark a revolt amongst the non-Human population. But with the might of the Celestian Army, their elite Werewolf Vanguard, the constant oppression, and the harsh unrelenting snow it was suicide to attempt such a feat. It was better to live in submission and misery than to die forgotten beneath the snow…
As much as it weighed on all their hearts, there was little that could be done to fix the living conditions. They averted their gaze and continued through the dismal streets when they arrive at a staircase leading into the ground. At the bottom of the staircase is a heavy wooden door that Ly’ Jug easily pushes open. Following his lead, they continue down the pitch black path that ends at a small staircase onlooking Baravor’s Crypt. A massive underground cave holding a castle that looked almost identical to Celestia Castle. The walls and spires were made of a black stone that stunk of blood. Torches were spread sporadically to illuminate the castle. The sound of the flickering flames and dripping water from the snow above were the only sound to be heard.
“Baravor’s Crypt is a castle?” Lei’s eyes widen at the sight. This raised a number of questions in her mind. She glances at Ly’ Jug who simply nods at her question.
“Vampires believe it was their rightful castle before the humans came.” he answers.
Like the poor living conditions many of its citizens must endure, the sizeable Vampire population that lived within the Kingdom of Celestia was seen as it’s dirty little secret. In fact, their presence was the main reason the Werewolves were tolerated and allowed within their walls. The Vampires kept to themselves during the day but would freely dwell the streets at night. To the humans, they are the primary source of all of Celestia’s problems. A monster in human skin that undermined all they held dear. But for the Vampires, the Humans are a parasite who usurped their rightful home. But even if they wanted to prove it, that’d entail having to come face to face with Baravor…So they live under the Celestian’s heel in an uneasy relationship. The Celestian’s presided over the Humans by day while the Vampires dealt with the Sub-Humans at night. At least that was how it was supposed to be. As history has shown, whether you were Human, Sub-Human, or Non-Human, lest you were a wealthy noble the Kingdom of Celestia was a miserable place to be…
“Do you have to go?” Rai asks Ly’ Jug with brows furled, ears low, and tail between his legs. Ly’ Jug just nods at his question.
“I must guard your exit.” Ly’ Jug sits down and crosses his legs. His eyes closed in meditation.
“Thank you, Ly’ Jug.” Lei thanks before turning her attention to Baravor’s Crypt. “Let’s go Rai…” her voice low in hesitation.
“Okay…” Rai responds following her meekly.
The inside of Baravor’s Crypt lived up to the rumors that drew the Stormraiders to its doorstep. The halls seemed ancient and rustic with chains and barred doors akin to a dungeon. The walls held no paintings and the ceiling no ornate chandeliers. The floors had no carpets, only dried blood. If this was, in fact, the previous Castle Celestia one had to wonder what befell it to have such a grim transformation. Was the Vampires old rule a far more sinister rule than they’d want you to believe? Or did Baravor truly expand what the castle once was into the form they found today? All questions that warranted investigation. But for now, Lei and Rai searched its winding halls for any clues pointing to the Ring of Spirit. The Staff of Nirvana serving as their primary source of lighting.
“If I had a magical ring where would I put it?” Lei thinks aloud.
“On your hand?” Rai suggests.
“Probably, which means we need to figure out where the body is.”
“So we need to know the history right?’
“Right, but looking at this place I’m not sure how easy that’s gonna be. I expected a labyrinth, not a castle…If Ly’ Jug didn’t tell us it was Baravor’s Crypt I’d think this was another dud.” she sighs reading her notes on Baravor’s Crypt. “Outside of the name I’m not sure how much we can trust.”
“Um…Lei…” Rai stops walking. His eyes darting around the chain filled hallway. His posture hunched, ears low, and his tail curled close while pointing upward. “I wanna go home. I don’t like it here.” his natural instincts screamed to escape while they still had a chance. He didn’t feel this often but when he did, he was usually right.
Lei turns to her fearful brother and walks back to his side. “It’s okay Rai.” she says petting him. “Do you want to go back to Ly’ Jug?” she waits for a response and receives a rapid nod. “Okay, we’ll-”
Lei is interrupted as a wall suddenly erects itself between them. Baravor’s Crypt glowing with Aether as the castle begins to reform itself. The walls falling back to reveal new pathways, floors raising leading to new floors, and even the ceiling spiraling downward leading to lower levels previously inaccessible. Like a living puzzle, the castles innards reshape themselves as if to ensure Lei and Rai didn’t leave. Lei remained in her hallway, albeit now having to choose between a new path that diverged left or right. Rai, on the other hand, was dropped into a basement level…No lights present to guide him and only the sound of something dripping and the occasional chain rattling.
“RAI!” Lei calls out to no response. “Shit…Rai, stay wherever you are! I’m coming for you!” she shouts before running to the left path. Hoping beyond hope that it was the right path to take.
Rai rubs his head and slowly gets back up to his feet. “I wanna go home…” he whimpers to himself alone in the darkness. While his natural night vision helped him see through the pitch blackness, being separated from Lei added to his mounting anxiety and fear. “Mraor!” he mews fearfully hoping Lei could hear him. “Mraor!” he continues while slowly crawling through the wet basement. The scent of blood was even thicker than the smell of mold that seemed endless against the walls and ceiling. His fur felt unpleasant and the floor sticky against his hands and feet. It was an overwhelmingly unpleasant experience he wouldn’t soon forget. “Mraor…” his mew low out of the sudden fear and realization he might attract something hidden within the darkness toward him like a wounded animal.
Rai continues his walks down the hallway at a snail’s pace. His mind and imagination racing at the sounds he could hear now echoing towards him. The path turns left and leads him into a morgue. Numerous coffins lined the floor and wall with an eerie fog covering them. At the end of the room stood a 9 foot tall Minotaur. It’s fur jet black and its eyes shone white against the darkness. Two forward pointing horns were on top of its head and its body covered in scars. In one hand was a War Axe as massive as he was being dragged along the floor. It’s blade leaving behind a crack in the ground and a fresh trail of blood in its wake. In the other was the torso of a peasant unfortunate enough to have stumbled into the castle. The minotaur tosses the dismembered torso into an open coffin haphazardly before sealing it. With a snort the minotaur glances in Rai’s direction. Baravor had trapped two new prey in his domain and believed one of them was in the room. But the fog made it difficult for him to confirm their location.
Baravor drags his War Axe as he heads towards Rai. His eyes slowly scanning the room for his prey. The Crypt acted and changed based on his will so he could easily disperse the fog. He could easily remove the caskets that allowed Rai to hide from him. But there was no sport in it…With a single downward swing of his massive pulsating muscles, he cleaves a coffin in two. The impact shook the entire crypt and sent shrapnel soaring across the room. The sudden attack terrified Rai but he managed to contain his fear. Even as Baravor stood looming overhead a few feet away with his broad back facing the young Trelza. He knew that this adventure had become a game of cat & mouse…and for once he wasn’t the cat…