The Mind Vault (pt 2) by Jestina Michaels


“What did he mean,” Cassia yells through staggered breaths as she launches lightning from her hands at a stone wall. She does this for a long while until crystals that made the cave ceiling resemble the night sky fall to the cave floor. She overexerts herself and falls to the floor.
Terence comes up beside her and picks her up. “Cassia, what are you going on about? What did who mean?”
“My father,” Cassia says, defeated. “When I briefly died, he came to me. He mentioned being lonely but feeling better when I arrived. And he mentioned something about my mother, where she could be, but he didn’t finish the sentence.” She dejectedly throws one last bolt of lightning at the wall.
“Could be worse, kid,” Sully says while shoving some of the fallen crystals into his bag. “You could know where your parents are and know there’s nothing you can do about it.” Sully stares off for a moment before saying, “Come on now, let’s get out of here before you die again.”
Terence gives her a hearty pat on the shoulder blade, chuckles a bit and then motions for her to move forward. In their marching order, Cassia is always in the middle so nothing can hit her first. The one time they ever strayed from that, she died. Best not to do that again. The three of them trapes through the underdark, kicking rocks as they go on for a few hours. Occasionally, Cassia hears something scuttling along the cave floor but nothing tries to hit them.
Walking for quite some time, Cassia ponders what her father was going to tell her. Was he going to tell me where she was? Would he even know that? She has to be alive. But… Her thoughts trail off as the cavern opens up into a massive pit with a rushing river miles below. The only way across to the other side is a rickety rope bridge that looks almost completely disheveled. “Well this is just fucking great,” she says, rubbing her temples. “How’re we doing this?”
“Well, I think our best bet is to cross one at a time. Don’t want to put too much weight on it,” Sully says. He takes his first step onto the bridge. It creaks but doesn’t snap. So far so good. He takes a few more steps before the cavern erupts with a gust of wind and the bridge shakes furiously. Sully just barely grabs the rope rail on it before he’s blown away. He lets out a yell while Cassia and Terence watch in horror as a giant mosquito flies into view from the depths of this dimly lit cavern.
“Hang on, Sully,” Terence shouts as he charges forward, Warhammer drawn and glowing.
Cassia puts a firm hand to his chest. “Terence, your armor is heavy. We’re better off if I step onto that bridge.”
Terence begrudgingly agrees and steps aside. Cassia’s eyes flash blue along with her circlet as she glides out onto the bridge. Wood elves are light on their feet, so she has no problem nimbly jumping from plank to plank in between strong gusts. She barely reaches Sully when the creature sticks out its long tongue and jabs at the two of them. Cassia strikes it with lightning and it recoils in pain. She reaches out a hand to Sully and pulls him back to his feet.
Sully nods at Cassia before charging at the monster. He grapples onto its back as it trashes wildly. He throws several punches at it until the creature bleeds and cries out in anguish. He jumps off it and lands on the other side of the bridge.
Cassia continues to strike the creature with lightning until its pace slows. She hurls a ball of acid right at one of the wings. It dissolves as the creature falls lower into the cavern. She hurls another acid ball at the same wing and it bubbles off. The creature, unable to support its mass with only one wing, falls into the river at the bottom of the cavern and is washed away.
Terence lets out a loud cheer and makes his way out onto the bridge. Cassia was right about his armor being heavy. Terence finds himself running across as each plank of wood snaps under his weight.
“Shit!” Cassia says, noticing this and running toward Sully. The two just barely make it off the bridge before the remaining pieces, just a few ropes, snap and fall into the river.
Terence bends down, hands on his knees, to catch his breath. Cassia walks over to Sully. “You all right?”
“Yeah, I think so,” Sully says through staggered breaths. “You?”
She nods back. “Let’s keep moving.” She resumes her place in the marching order and the three walk into the cave on this side.


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