Puppeteer Chapter 4

The Glittering Caves

The subterranean, interconnected caves were cold and dark, yet the walls kept the Returners far warmer by keeping them nuzzled and nested away from the wind. Along the walls, the aroma of both sulfur and mildew lingered from many years passed. Upon entering the network, a dominate path opened for the three creating a smooth stone floor, leading down a straight tunnel. This caused the rough traveling to become easier.

Very little light illuminated the path, but the ex-general told each of her companions not to light a torch. Another command she issued was that all of them need to keep a hand on a wall and stay as close as their eyes could see one another. Regrettably, Shadow and Terra complied with their friend. Celes took the lead, followed by Terra and then Shadow.

“How do you know we’re going the right way?” Shadow asked, keeping close to Terra.

No replied was forthcoming and only silence filled the path. Trusting others was never one of the ninja’s fortes. They were underneath tons of earth that could bury them alive. The air was thick in the caves, causing the assassin to breathe heavier and caused a feeling of unease in his mind.

Even though the walls were closing in, that he couldn’t breathe, and the darkness was uncomfortably hard to see, he wanted reassurance that they were indeed heading in the right direction. Silence continued in the tunnel, silent as death. With all his discipline and training, it was not enough to stop his claustrophobia from taking control.

“Don’t worry, Shadow. Celes knows where she’s going. The fact she’s not speaking must mean she picked this underground direction sense up during her training under the old empire,” Terra whispered back.

“I don’t know how to worry,” Shadow breathed.

The path continued for an hour, yet it seemed more like days. Lack of sight and hearing began causing the Returners to see apparitions where there were none or they heard something move, that didn’t exist. Both senses needed to be used, even if it was a trick of the mind. The demons followed them until a sudden change in light caused the travelers to breath easier. Sparkles began to shine off the walls, lighting the tunnel a little more, but enough that the trio could see one another.

“Aren’t these…” Terra trailed off, gazing at the walls full of shining materials.

“Diamonds, yes. We are in the Glittering Caves,” Celes clarified without losing a step.

“The Glittering Caves? I’ve never heard that such a place existed,” Shadow broke-off to stand beside Terra and gaze at the rich veins along the wall.

“That’s interesting, because these caves were founded only eighteen years ago. A Narshe miner traveled this far north and found this rich cave of precious gems. Since no one owned this land, people from Narshe, Figaro, South Figaro, and even as far as Doma flocked here by the hundreds,” Celes paused and extended both her arms out wide. “Everyone came here in hopes of striking it rich and coming home for a better life. Even the training center in Narshe, was once a jewel shop, where you could bring your gems to get them appraised and trade them in for gold.”

The former general folded her arms, thinking back to those old days. Vector was young, but not nearly as powerful as it would someday become. The city was a change of the times, when machinery reigned and magic was in its earlier development.

Daddy, why are you packing your bag? Are we going somewhere? asked the young, six years old Celes.

Ah, princess, I have finally found a job for my skills. There is a great mountain, where riches can be unearthed. We can finally leave this suppressed city, the man replied, hugging his daughter tightly, as if it may be the last time.

How long will you be gone?

About three weeks. That’ll be enough time to get enough jewels to get the Empire off my back and we could move someplace more comfortable, he paused, picking her up into another hug. If you are a good girl to your aunt Lilly, I’ll bring you home something nice.

Setting her down, the dirty blonde miner waved as he departed. The little girl ran to the window and waved back at her wonderful father. Everyday, she waited by the doorstep, expecting him to return with shiny jewels and great stories about his travels. How she dreamed about his adventures.

“Celes?” a voice spoke, waking her from her reverie. The former general sneered and turned her back to her friends.

“Many came here with that dream. A thousand people died from their journey here, in this unforgiving land. But the greatest tragedy was what happened in these caves,” she continued, punching one of the side walls. “One day, a miner was digging with his pick to remove a diamond and he… he hit a methane pocket. These tunnels were lined with torches and lanterns. The whole place became a firestorm. Three thousand, two hundred, sixty-six miners died that day. Only a handful survived and the entrances to these caves were sealed during the firestorm.”

“My god! No wonder you didn’t want us to use any torches,” Terra gasped.

“The entrances must have been reopened during the Great Rift,” Shadow finished, tipping his chin forward so Celes could continue their journey, as well as to distract whatever was on the ex-general’s mind.

With a nod, Celes led the others down the tunnel, a little easier now, with the glitters that came from the diamonds and other precious stones. To the miners, these tunnels were a sight to behold and probably more so if there was some more light, but none of the travelers dared to risk it. The Glittering Caves went on and on with haunting memories that Celes didn’t want to remember. All that mattered was Locke and the others. The demons of Celes’s dreams would have to wait for another time.

* * *

The crack of the whip echoed and rebounded off the large walls. Time and again would the sound of the whip be accompanied by the harmony of agonizing screams. Those screams have become the monk’s music, but today seemed different. Either his heart wasn’t into the beatings or his prisoner’s spirits have been rekindled. That thought angered him further, turning the whip to his platinum haired prisoner, catching him right in the face. The prisoner didn’t even whimper.

“You think you’re strong, don’t you?” the monk stated. The prisoner gave him a sheepish smile.

“Another scar, another mark to show the ladies how tough I am,” he replied smugly, as he tried to mock the monk further by bowing.

“I’ve had enough play for one day. But remember, I got plenty of acid to not just scar, but to completely ruin your face. Then we’ll see if anyone would even look at you,” the monk laughed, leaving his prisoners with their new wounds.

The laughter abruptly stopped, as the monk contemplated his next move. Advancing through the hall of the great temple, the monk felt uneasy about each new development. He wasn’t expecting Shadow to ignore his threats, especially regarding his only daughter. The monk changed his plan; by letting his black ninja puppet roam free and having him collect the rest of the Returners so he could rid himself of all the legends of this world. Again, Shadow threw a wrench into the works by only collecting Celes and Terra. Now they’re on their way, but he had no idea where they were and when they’ll show. The only thing he knew for certain was that the force field would slow them down.

Coming to two large, golden doors, the monk took a deep breath and entered his sanctuary. The high room of worship was decorated with fine carpeting and dazzling stain glass windows along the walls that sent out prismatic color throughout the room. At the far end of the room, was a grand altar made of jet and behind the altar stood a huge, marble statue of a man with his arms crossed against his chest. Around the statue, were one hundred candles that seemed to be ever burning. The monk fell to his knees at the spectacular sight.

“My lord, I fear the worse is upon us. I have four of the twelve remaining puppets and only three are on their way. I beg you, give me strength for the upcoming encounter and…”

“Paid your people their dues, just for the seven,” a feminine voice interrupted.

Suppressing his anger from the infidel that has just defiled this sacred place, the monk began to take deep breaths. He still needed the assassin but didn’t care if she survived what he had in store for her. The seven that will be in one group will be killed without delay. Those seven, were the strongest of the Returners. He could pick off the rest, leaving the teenage girl, Relm, for his own personal pleasure.

“Yes, Throne,” the monk snickered as his thoughts started to meld into a plan. “Once the seven are gone, you all will get paid… handsomely. Tell the others that the payout is coming and I’m doubling the payment. As long as Shadow is the last one alive. He needs to know the fate of his daughter. A fate… brought onto her by her own father.”

Chapter 5

All That Glitters Is Cold 3 Fanfic Competition

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