Mistica Chronicles

Welcome to Issue 34

Pastiche Winning Entry

A dark haze covers the sky. I take in a sharp breath and cough violently as the smokey air catches in my throat. This... this is Inferno Terrain? I blink hard, my eyes watering from the sharp sting of the polluted air distinctly reminiscent of the feel of hot pepper fumes eating away at my eyes. Somehow this isn't quite how I'd imagined my first impression of Inferno Terrain to be.

I'd imagined being breathless not from the noxious fumes but from the sight of the majestic volcano not so far off. It is the home of Volcan after all; as one of the most well-known figures of Mistica, I would assume his dwelling-place would be just as impressive as he is.

With a handkerchief pressing against my mouth and filtering out the dust I head towards the nearest building. The clean white of the fabric sign stands out to me immediately.

"Fashion" the sign reads. I'm not particularly interested in clothing shopping but if I were to meet Volcan... well let's just leave it at that.

"Welcome to Flashy Fashion!" I hear an equally flashy sounding voice call to me as I enter the shop, "Only the most famous creatures shop here."

I blink a few more times, my eyes cooling off and adjusting to the clearer air of the shop. I smile and shake the hand of the fiery shopkeeper "Lance" as he calls himself.

I pray he isn't the type of shopowner to follow me around everywhere, or constantly ask "Would you like some help?" or mention "Oh this owl scarf is incredibly popular among our clients right now! Perhaps you'd like to give one a try?"

Within the first 20 seconds, my prayers are answered.

"If you need any help, darling, do not hesitate to ask" Lance murmurs in a soothing voice. "I am certain many of these pieces will accentuate your curves quite nicely."

I suppose this is why all the famous creatures shop here, I think to myself in a daze.

Before I know it, I am sent on my way with my coinpurse significantly lighter. I had picked up a few pretty trinkets among other things. I draw up some rapid calculations including the service fees and... oh. I had easily spent at least half a million at the shop.

I regret nothing, I whisper to myself rather unconvincingly.

I set off at a brisk walk towards the volcano, handkerchief pressing close against my mouth and nose. The ground is dark and dusty. With each step, the sooty residue from the volcano's heavy breaths fly up. I feel like one of the cowboys (or girls, if you please) galloping through the wild wild west, their horses kicking up a large dustcloud with their rapid steps and loud whinnies.

Slowing my pace slightly, I glance around the flat terrain, my eyes squinting and watering as I do so. No one in sight. I strain my hearing for any other noises. Nothing. I smile behind my handkerchief and let out a whinny and run with my feet imitating the sound of a horse's gallop. I want to laugh; I have never felt so free! After a few quick minutes though I'm out of breath and sweaty, the grime in the air sticking to my skin. My skin feels gritty but I can't stop the grin spreading on my lips. I blink again and rub my watering eyes... only succeeding in making my eyes burn more from the grit lightly coating my hands.

The air becomes harsher as I approach and climb the active volcano. My eyes begin to burn with an intensity I have never experienced before, my breath growing more laboured. The hot air invades my lungs choking out the oxygen they cry for. In front of me, the ground shimmers in a strange way not unlike main roads during a particularly hot and sunny day - just much much worse.

And just as I think I can't go any further, I stumble in front of a cave. Volcan's Cave. It isn't particularly impressive. Even in the befuddled state I'm in, hundreds of questions begin flooding my head.

This is Volcan's cave? This small, average looking thing? What about the rumours of ruby encrusted gold doors lined with small diamonds and crystal handles? The strange mystical incense that permeates the very grounds and infests your thoughts, making your mind clearer than ever before? The cave of wishes and desires? THIS is his cave?

It can't be. I knew something was wrong when I got here so quick. The only trial and tribulation being the natural terrain of the land itself. No monsters. No traps. No anything. I shake my head quickly once, twice, and once more.

Well nothing I can do now except enter the cave and wait for nightfall. The subdued glow of the volcano's lava should be enough to faintly light part of the way back to the town and with darkness the air would cool to a bearable temperature. With slow halting movements I draw into the promising dark cave.

I heave a sigh as I step into the cave. It's heaven. Almost as soon as I take a step into the cave, I feel a refreshing breeze blow first in front of me, then behind. Cautiously I lower my handerkerchief and take a small breath.

The air's clean. I touch along my skin... it's dry. The sticky traces of the outside humidity seemingly long-since forgotten. My eyes no longer water, but my tongue is parched with thirst. I look around the cave my eyes quickly adjusting to the darkness. Without a second thought I wander towards the deeper depths of the cave.

Winding, twisting, my mind is overwhelmed. Without thinking I reach my hands out to touch the walls of the cave. It feels warm and moist to the touch, the ridges flowing naturally and smoothly. It feels wrong but I'm strangely fascinated.


That was the only warning I had. That barely audible click, a loud groan, and then a rushing torrent of wind blowing me down through the floor, a pit opening up beneath my feet.

I desperately try to grab hold of the walls as I fall but to no avail. The wind screams against my ear, the small trinkets I'd bought earlier flying up out of my bag.

"Welcome to my mountain," an eerie voice calls, "I am Volcan. What pleasures do you seek?"