Puppeteer Chapter 5

The Temple of Chaos

The silent owl took flight, tearing into the skies for another futile search for the elusive warriors. She knew as well as her master that the three were close and having a spy outside the barrier only thinned their defenses. But, the monk ordered another sweep of the immediate area, so she flew higher passed the opening of the force field, remembering to hold her breath as her master instructed when she entered the smoking cloud.

Down below, Daithi sighed when his only friend and ally faded from view. He needed her company as well as her keen eyes to survive this entire ordeal. Shaking away his usual fear of loneliness he started back to the temple, until a motion from his side gave him pause.

Snapping to attention, the hunter thought he saw something duck behind the side of the temple. He rushed to the location, drawing his rapier to prepare for the deadly dance he wished he didn’t have to lead into. Three experienced fighters, two of them were powerful soldiers of the old Empire. Damn my luck.

Once he turned the corner, only a tree greeted him with a branch swinging up and down before him. A snicker escaped his lips, laughing at his own paranoia. With a flick of his left wrist, the branch severed from the incredible sharpness of the blade.

“I could use more timber for my fire,” he softly said to himself before heading into the temple.

As the sound of a door slamming, Shadow dropped from the next branch up from the severed limb. He shook his head from the carelessness of his actions. He was almost spotted and if the young man would’ve just glanced up, the ninja would have been in trouble. With the blade the guard wielded, Shadow knew he would be hard press at winning that conflict.

Reaching the rope that was caught on a sturdy bush at the edge of the cliff; the ninja began shimmying down to his comrades. Celes and Terra double-checked their equipment as they waited for their spy to return. The wind was calm with the field’s sheltering walls and the volcano’s heat kept the area comfortably warm. Regardless of the shelter, the half-Esper began to shake subconsciously once she came to a realization that Celes already came to earlier.

“This cold will kill our friends,” Terra stated, looking back into the cave.

“We’ll worry about that later. First we need to get in there,” Celes responded instantly.

“I have a report,” a voice whispered to the two. “They think we’re still out in the mountain range, since they sent the owl out again. As far as I have seen, there is a single guard, a boy, with an extraordinarily sharp blade. He is also the owner of the owl. I’m sure we can get in there without anyone noticing.”

After finishing his report, the ninja began his ascend back up the cliff, forcing his companions to follow. Time was not on their side, for every minute that went by, was another minute their friends remained in the Puppeteer’s clutches. That thought caused the ninja to increase his pace up the rope. If they got caught trying to sneak in, then they would have to force their way through to the prisoners. Either way would work.

Following every step the ninja took the two women tried to keep pace and tried to remain silent with the armor they wore. Pointing to them both and then pointing to the left door, Shadow pushed the right door in a crack. Without hearing any voices or footsteps coming from the opened portal, he peeked in. Only a main hall on the other side of the door could be seen. Noticing a pillar immediately to his right, he through the door open and skipped to the piece of cover. Celes followed, then Terra, shutting the door quietly behind her.

Slinking from pillar to table to pillar, which was far easier than the wilderness covers, the three made their way down the main hall and into a side hall. A noise was detected by Shadow. It wasn’t loud and it sounded like a rhythmic suction sound of a bare foot walking across the stone floor. The sound was coming closer. Ducking into the nearest room, a supply closet, the three placed their ears to the door.

“Why do you continue to pester me?” a deep voice asked passively.

“I’m not pestering. I asked you a simple question,” replied a soft voice that Shadow knew was that of the young man. The two conversing men stopped at the door.

“I’m going to do my duty, as should you.”

“Yeah, but killing isn’t what I signed up for.”

“A child you’ll forever remain,” the deep voice finished, moving again down the hall, followed closely by the other.

After several moments and no sounds coming from the hall, the three quickly left the room and headed down the opposite direction of the footfalls. Celes took the lead, keeping her eyes focused on any turns or any open doors while Terra stayed behind, keeping an eye out from the rear.

The temple turned in random directions, similar to a maze with its halls and rooms looking exactly alike. Keeping close to the right wall, they moved from hall to hall, wherever the right wall lead. If it turned right, they went right. If it continued on, they moved on. Until Terra abruptly stopped before she could bump into the still ninja. Noticing that her friends weren’t behind her, the former general inched her way back.

“What is it?” both of them asked the ninja in unison and in equal whispered volume.

“I’ve been checking each door we came across. This one is the only one that appears to be locked,” Shadow stated, pointing in opposite directions.

Celes and Terra understood and immediately ran down their appointed directions where the hall turned. Keeping a diligent watch, both felt this was too easy. Yet, this was supposed to be the easy part. Getting the others out, given if they were even in that room, was going to be difficult. Their friends would likely be weak from the lack of food and the constant torture that they all had endured.

Taking a chance, the former general glanced back at Shadow, picking his way through the door. Hearing a curse, Celes saw the ninja remove the picks, one being obviously broken. She knew he was an assassin, but it was easy to see that he didn’t use his lock picks to get to his targets.

With a click the door opened. Casting his gaze over his shoulder, he noticed Celes staring at him instead of keeping guard. He narrowed his eyes at this, showing his disappointment in his friend and he whistled low to get Terra’s attention. Without regarding the ninja Celes was the first in the circular chamber.

“LOCKE!” she cried, running with full haste towards her closest friend.

“Celes,” all four prisoners gasped.

“Keep quiet!” the ninja commanded harshly.

“Who did this to you?” Celes asked, ignoring Shadow’s order.

“Heh, depends on when. Any wounds from this huge native barbarian have already healed. Any pummeling damage is due to a female ninja, but the flaying cuts were from a monk,” the bald thief replied.

“Enough talking,” the ninja snapped as loudly as he dared. Removing his picks, he started to work on the complicated lock on Locke’s shackles. Within a few seconds, the thief couldn’t take it anymore.

“No, no, no. Use the Master pick to hold down the turning mechanism and use a Hook pick to get around the locking gear,” Locke instructed.

Suppressing his temper, the ninja knew his friend was a master with locks and had to know what he was talking about. Luckily, Shadow did have a Hook pick and he began to follow Locke’s orders. The seconds ticked on, while the Master pick laid low on the mechanism. Locke flinched when he heard the Hook pick miss the gear by a hair.

“Go back juuuuust a little,” Locke whispered to his friend. Shadow nodded and in another second, the treasure hunter was freed on his right side.

Holding up his comrade and handing him the picks, Locke went to work on his other bond. Five seconds, with one hand, he was completely freed. Brushing away Celes anxious arms from the treasure hunter, Shadow dragged him to the next prisoner, the shaggy blonde, Edgar. Only Locke could get them out in a timely manner and already they spent too much time on the door and Locke’s left shackle to spare any more time.

With Locke’s help, the king fell into Terra’s arms. They moved to the gruff, bearded prisoner, Sabin, who fell into Celes’s arms. Finally, the two came to their platinum haired friend who seemed to have taken the worse of the beatings. Click, the first shackle unlocked.

“What took you guys so long? My money was on you getting here five days ago,” the gambler chuckled as his other hand was freed.

The floor immediately began to fall as the last bond was undone. Clearly on instinct, both Shadow and Locke leapt for the shackles on the wall, missing them by inches. The stone floor collapsed on itself, melding into a funnel, which all the Returners slid down into. All reached out, hoping to grasp a handhold in the smooth stone. As they tumbled into the darkened hole, laughter of an unknown source followed them. Then… all there was was oblivion in the Temple of Chaos.

Chapter 6

All That Glitters Is Cold 3 Fanfic Competition

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