Act II - Chapter 14: Ice-Cold Lemonade Magic, Please

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Western Ilfiria's true rage spared Tilan: north from Yalu's map shop, at the top of the steep, dusty crown of dirt that defined the boundaries of the town, me and Ali climbed to the proper exit of Tilan and the beginnings of the fields that surrounded it: the Hatia Lava Fields.

The town occupied a crowned gulch that sheltered it from the seething rivers of lava that snaked these boiling fields. Rivers that spiraled into churning lakes of fire housing geysers that belched violet ooze to the clouds as they curled and wretched about the smoking air in miserable patterns before they struck the ground with sprays of their molten, smoldering innards. The landscape screamed hatred, mal-intent wrapped in a thick seething steam that tried to paint your teeth when you opened your mouth for a pained breath against the daggers of heat in your lungs.

This was the start of the path to Lutus' Dwelling, and the path we would find our mage on, and so I stomped on behind Ali, one sweat soaked step after another. My body's liquid levels probably far lower than they'd ever been before. Why such an intense and difficult location for the beginning of our journey? Why not ease us in nicely with some more quaint grassy knolls—I guess that would be a little too kind, a little too build-your-own-adventure, and perhaps someone who'd stumbled into this expedition like I had didn't deserve that.

"Man, I can hear you complaining from here, Assassin Man, even though you're not saying anything," said Ali, crouched on one boulder along a very dangerous line that traced the side of a lava lake—something it'd be better for nobody to ever stand on. Ali, however, hands in pocket, walked across them and simply chatted down to me, occasionally even spinning and dancing during jumps between boulders. It almost seemed like he wasn't sweating as well.

When I opened my mouth to articulate anything about any of this I swore I spit out a thick cloud of smoke, so I stopped mid reply and instead removed my coat and shirt, and threw them over my shoulder. They slapped my back due to how sweat soaked they were. My sweat drenched hat kept me cool, yet still I lost all of my patience and perseverance through my pores. I tried to hold back, but there was little more I could do to prevent a complaint from coming out, and I basically cried as I let it rip: "I want the frosty snow of Ill," I said, then turning it basically into a shout that echoed through the soot, steam, and smoke that cluttered the horizon and mountain line. "Even if my guild kills me, just let me go back."

Ali burst out laughing. A robust laugh that probably echoed out across the horizon line to where this Mountain of Solitude waited, or at least where I assumed it did; sweat wavered my vision and nearly blinded me as it constantly seeped into my eyes.

"And now I can hear you. Come on. Pick up the pace. There's no point in going slow, we're shooting all the way through the smoke to the top of the mountain. Sweat not tears. Sweat not tears," he shouted to me, marching ahead somehow farther down the road, almost lost in the smoke.

I stopped instead and simply exhaled. I dug into my pocket I yanked out the Lavender Voice. Its color a rich blackish-purple as it reflected the swirling clouds above.

"Is this really the way ahead?" I asked it. I pleaded. She was probably laughing at me as well, despite being silent for days. "What I wouldn't give to be whisked away to the cool cloudscape that makes absolutely no sense. Are you sure you don't have anything to say to me?"

"Assassin Man, come on!"

As we squeezed progress out of our journey, it felt like time slowed to the pace of the lava gurgling across the fields. The largest geysers so far erupted in the distance directly in front of me, glowing, golden, and almost elegant. They shouted at me, but I held my tongue, now finally accepting my wandering through the steam, perhaps somewhat browbeaten into appreciating the illuminated spectacle of the area, unconsciously keeping pace with the shadow of Ali zig-zagging down the path ahead of me. I almost smirked at the idea that I could begin to see the smoldering grim red and scalding orange glows and hues that defined our current area as decorative, perhaps ethereal in their own life—the slow flows of lava like pumping veins through the area. The Hatia Lava Fields were very much a living creature, but I suppose the Itallis full of history, lore, and life that Ali knew it as was very much alive as well.

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