Mistica Chronicles

Welcome to Issue 34

Red Winning Entry

Sango Reef had always been, in Py's mind, somewhat of a bore. He'd long since put it down to a matter of perception, for he seemed the only one who gave the idea any attention, but as the sun set on the last day of an uneventful summer, it came to the Risylki that perhaps his misgivings were more truthful than he'd given them credit for.

He'd been sprawled atop the Rift for most of the day, fins splayed over the mossy rock, eyes set on the city below. In all he'd seen two Kelpies running about between shops, Daniel hauling through his doors a sack of the sea, the fish within squirming, flipping, and flopping their anguish. The struggle amused him only so long as the door swung shut, and after that the only excitement about Sango Reef was that his tail made in the unpleasantly turgid water.

A shout brought his attention to the reef beneath him. Starting, Py looked about, searching the rows of messy coral jutting from the sea floor. When that yielded nothing, he padded silently down the sloping surface of the Rift, curious to know what exactly had happened. Shouts were seldom heard in the Reef, much less from the quiet circle about Caribyss Reef; if adventure was afoot, Py wanted to be a part of it.

After some time whoever had made the cry decided to pick it up again, and Py paddled off in the direction of the sound, more than curious. He piloted himself with sure strokes, wending his way through the water until he reached a massive limestone wall limned with algae. Fins beating away at the water, he looked about to gauge whether the sound was truly coming from so strange a place;

He wasn't expecting much else than a lost Misticpal, so when he saw the side of the rock plunge off into the mouth of a sea-cave, he gave an astonished murmur. Certainly he would have noticed this large an opening at some point in his visits to the Rift. "The Traveler couldn't have asked for better an opportunity," he marveled, vacillating only a moment at the entrance before letting his boredom take the better of him.

As he neared it, the opening presented itself as a rather precipitous slope; Py squinted into the darkness, trying to make sense of the shapes dancing in the shadows..

Impressed by the enormity of the cavern, and rather satisfied with the way the night was unfolding thus far, Py dropped down to the sand to pad his way through the darkness, the light hanging above his nose serving to guide him. He no longer heard shouting -- rather, a dull thrum that reverberated through the chalky walls about him, intermittent almost to suggest a pattern.

After some time of wandering in awed silence, it came to Py that perhaps he should be putting more attention into his bearing in regards to the entrance. He'd never been one for map-plotting, and in no way was he blessed with the integral compass so coveted by adventurers. He considered this for a moment, dread rising in his stomach. What if he'd gotten lost somewhere along the way? For all he knew, this cavern was an ancient undersea labyrinth, made to ensnare those foolish enough to think treasure awaited them at its end. The darkness pressed close around him, and his light faltered just long enough to allow fear to pounce.

At that moment three things happened in quick succession: a shriek came from the same room Py was in, a sharp rumble echoed through the walls, and a piece of sharp coral struck Py squarely on the nose.

Yelping, he broke into a hurtle. His headlight popped back to life, but for its dimness he couldn't catch a glimpse of what exactly had made the scream; truth be told, at this point he didn't want to know what sort of monster he was sharing the cave with.

Darting around this corner and that, favoring ground-travel one moment and swimming the next, Py tried frantically recount his steps, but the beat of his heart in his ears drowned any hopes of clear thought. Despite this he pressed on, dodging rocky pillars by less than a hair and ducking under clusters of seaweed made mobile by the current.

Eventually he found his way to the surface, collapsing against the side of the rock that had drawn him to the cave to catch his breath. He was fairly certain the creature had given up the chase; he wasn't the meatiest prospect, and quick besides. Who needs maps? he thought, still flushed.

A Kelpie was passing, and when Py saw her he gave a polite wave. Anemone was familiar enough to him; perhaps she would know more about this cave than he did. But when he met her eyes, she cast them to the seafloor, bustling by him with no more than an inconsequential word of greeting.

"Anemone--" Py started, when he saw she was heading in the direction of the cave. "Anemone, wait!"

But she had already vanished beneath the level of shadow separating the Reef from... whatever it was he'd nearly been the lunch of.

A shiver went through him.