((Collaboration with Jarrick! My contributions will be in bold text, his will be regular.))
It was difficult to determine how long they had been left there. Much like everything else that had happened to them thus far, they were given very little indication of where they were or how they had arrived there.
The only obvious truth was that both Jarrick and Janderius had been captured by their persuer and taken some where else entirely.
External stimulation was absent. There were no windows to reveal the sinister red and aqua skyline from that bizarre domain they’d landed in. No hints of airflow, not even the slightest draft. The darkened chamber that surrounded them was rarely quiet. Distant muffled screaming came from different directions beyond the room that enclosed them, rarely ceasing long enough for coherent thoughts to form without interruption.
Being locked in the same cell was perhaps the only factor worth feeling the smallest amount of relief for. However, with shackles keeping their legs anchored to the floor, and angled chains holding their arms at taught diagonal angles, there was no opportunity for the slightest degree of comfort.
Something kept Jander from speaking or responding for long after they had been secured in those places. Weakened in some manner, he seemed to be in a trance until the moment when he finally lifted his head to study Jarrick’s position on the other side of the room.
“… Shit fire.”
His chest rose, and then fell.
Catching a full breath while bound in chains was never easy but the stagnant air that sat heavy in the cell made it particularly challenging.
Through muffled screams and dim light his head rose at the sound of Jander’s voice, studying his own chains and shaking his head under a mess of long brown hair.
Neither were in a particularly good position to help the other out.
“Aye. That might even be an understatement at this point.”
His eyes rose, first to the chains that bound his left arm, then to the chains that bound his right, and ultimately to the floor where both of his feet lay shackled.
He flexed both arms and tightened his chest, testing the strength of his chains. They didn’t budge. He looked back to the chains that shackled his feet before looking back up at Jander.
“Are you hurt?”
Jander arched his back, straining to try and get any measure of relief on his own chest and lungs, to no avail.
“Yep.” He ended up just hanging his head again, releasing a ragged sounding breath. “That’s an understatement too.”
Since their arrival in the hostile, unfamiliar territory, his ‘body’ sustained several bites and arrow wounds, and while painful, they didn’t seem to have the same lasting or permanent effects he would have normally expected.
A long pause ensued while he just hung there, effectively crucified, struggling to breathe. “… We’re dead, aren’t we?”
He lowered his head down to the floor, not in defeat but in search of answers.
“I’ve replayed the events of Wintergarde over and over in my head ever since we arrived in this.. place.” He said, chest falling as he exhaled. “I just can’t find another logical explanation. The creatures, the hunter, the wounds with no blood..” He trailed off, clearly searching for answers amongst the chaos.
His head rose to meet Jander’s gaze, chains rattling.
“There’s no other explanation.”
Jander returned the look for a moment, before nodding in acknowledgement. His attention cast downwards, and his eyes seemed to glaze over a little bit at the thought.
It was in line with all the evidence , and every conclusion he’d drawn so far.
“To think… after everything we’ve done… everything we fought for… that this is where it all led…” His voice was quiet and weak, completely lacking in its usual charismatic warmth.
Jarrick keeps his gaze trained on Jander as he speaks, slowly lowering his eyes to the ground in thought as he finishes. He shakes his head, turning his gaze upwards again.
“I refuse to believe it. You’re right, we’ve fought too hard for this be the end. While this place is.. strange.. unfamiliar.. I can’t help but think there’s more to our situation.” He said, his eyes tracing his arms that are suspended by chains. “I only feel like half the man I was before those figures came from the sky at Wintergarde, but it doesn’t feel like weakness. It feels like I’m genuinely missing a portion of myself.” He said as he turns his gaze back to Jander.
“Do you feel it?”
“Oh I feel it.” Jander mused, glancing towards one of his bound wrists. He clenched his fingers into a fist, tensing his arm for a fleeting moment before relaxing it again. “I mean, look at us. I can see through my hand. I can see through you…”
“Any hits we make don’t really seem to land either.” His head drooped a little again. “Zaanthe really cranked that one enemy with his hammer, and they barely seemed to feel it. Our feet don’t slip through the ground, and those big ugly fuckers sure don’t seem to have any trouble dealing damage to us. It’s like this world can affect us, but we can’t can’t hit back.”
Jarrick nods his head slightly as he listens to Jander speak. “Like we’re here in spirit but not in body.” The sentence wasn’t meant to explain the obvious but reaffirm what he had long assumed ever since they landed in this strange realm.
“Perhaps” he said, jingling the chain that held his left arm prisoner, “we can use this to our advantage, if they haven’t already thought that far ahead.”
His shoulders, chest, biceps, and forearms all flexed taught as he tested the strength of his bonds. There wasn’t much give, but that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. With proper leverage and the right amount of force he could attempt to brute force these bonds. The lack of give in the chains meant he didn’t need to go as far to get some proper force against them and that was an advantage.
“My magic’s all wrong too…” He sighed again, blinking at the sight of Jarrick testing his bonds across the room. “It’s like… on top of the spells themselves barely tickling anything I’ve encountered out here… it’s a lot more difficult to actually perform the incantations. The ambient ley energy out here is… weird and unfamiliar.”
Following suit, he gave his own chains a half-hearted tug, then sighed. “I don’t like our chances. Wherever this is… I can’t imagine they wouldn’t be prepared for us to try it.”
“Hm.” He said quietly, turning Jander’s words over in his head. He looked at his shackles and over to Jander, his mind racing through possibilities. He couldn’t help but think that at full strength he may be able to wrest free of his shackles, but in his ethereal state he just couldn’t muster the strength for it. With a little help, though…
“I don’t know how much time we have before our jailer’s return to enact whatever cruel fate that deem appropriate but I’ll be damned if we don’t try to get away from here.” He stated, his face resolute. “You say the ley energy is weird and unfamiliar, but you can still feel it, right? What are the chances that you can muster enough energy to try and freeze these shackles?”
Jander looked up at his hands, and furrowed his brow. His fists clenched and unclenched, before he began shifting and moving individual fingers in more specific motions.
“Low. Without full use of my arms I’m gonna have a hell of a time controlling any ley I can grab hold of…” He closed his eyes for a moment, trying to get a greater feel of the powers he could draw upon from their location. “But that could work.”
His eyes opened again, and he paused to pant a little bit, just from his attempts at sensing the potential chaotic mana at his disposal. “… I’m gonna need some time.”
Jarrick nods in silence before the sound of footsteps echo down the hallway outside, drawing his attention to it. As the footsteps grow louder, he strains against his chains, even though he would have no chance of fighting. The footsteps grow louder still as he waits with bated breath. Sure enough, the echo of footsteps reaches a crescendo and begin to die down. Whoever passed by was clearly not there for them.
At least, not yet.
He turns back to Jander.
“Let’s hope we’ll have enough of it.”
For the next several minutes, Jander continued to make attempts at acclimating to the strange and dangerous pool of ambient ley energy around them.
There was potential there, and he knew it, but every time he felt like he was close to establishing a consistent connection, it ended up slipping through his fingers, like running in a dream.
“This is wrong… this is all wrong…” Despair continued eating at him as his frustration built. “It’s too soon… we… we shouldn’t be here… we don’t deserve this…”
After each failed attempt, he gasped and squeezed his eyes shut, before trying to steady himself to try again.
“I can’t be here… I’m nothing without my magic… ” Iconic memories raced through the mage’s mind as he idly reflected on the life he had lived. “I have to get back… my… my family…”
Jarrick watched helplessly from the other side of the room. For all that he felt was missing from himself, at least he had his own strength to rely upon. To watch a veteran of the arcane struggle to grasp for a lifeline in a swirling sea of chaos and confusion was difficult when he knew he could do nothing about it.
“Jander.” He said calmly, his voice low and steady. “Look at me.”
His voice was an anchor amidst the waves.
“We’re not done. It’s not our time. So many people rely on us to return home and we can’t abandon their faith in us.”
His right arm strained against his chains, the links jingling as they swayed.
“I can’t do this alone. You can do this.”
Jander looked up when prompted, the redness visible at the edges of his eyes despite the ghostly cyan hues that had encompassed the appearance of their imprisoned bodies. Loose locks of his own long brown hair draped down to veil his features at the sides.
He heard the words spoken, tensing briefly with a surge of forced pride before looking at his own bindings again.
For the spell he had in mind, the incantations and gestures he knew would not work. Too many factors were different. With the alterations to the mana, and the restrictions upon his arms, he would have to improvise. The execution required spell weaving at a more fundamental level, as if crafting an entirely new spell on his own.
“God dammit…” he breathed, with no small degree of spiteful indignation.
Keeping the chaotic swirl of shadowlands ley in mind, alongside everything he knew from all of his decades of experience, he went to work. His fingers began cycling through different posed arrangements, and he enunciated different arcane syllables out loud, experimenting with different combinations to try and eliminate incorrect steps of the required sequences.
Slowly, but surely, things started happening. The air currents in the room began to shift. The temperature fluctuated. Occasional lights of varying hues shot from his fingertips before dissipating again in an instant.
Jarrick kept his gaze trained on Jander as he wracked the encyclopedia of arcane knowledge stored deep in his mind. A small breeze swept across his face, his shoulder length hair slightly swaying with it. The corner of his lips curled ever so slightly as hope began to blossom.
He was doing it.
Jarrick continued to watch in silence to avoid breaking the mages concentration. Soon enough, a small chill ran down his spine as the hair on the back of his neck stood.
The power.. it was there. Undeniable. Nearly palpable, and incredible. Even in shackles, Jander had managed to pull a lifeline from the strange and chaotic world that surrounded them.
Jarrick flexed and curled the fingers in his right hand and then his left, bracing himself as best he could for when the right moment struck.
His voice took on an unnatural echo each time he drew out the syllables for a potential incantation. Over and over he would recite a sequence of (seemingly) gibberish, then do it again, changing one syllable at a time.
“Kaz-Kyf-Mah-Deo-Xho… Kaz-Nec-Mah-Deo-Xho… Fic-Nec-Mah-Deo-Xho… “ Occasionally he would lengthen or shorten the sequence, narrowing down his options more and more.
The random outbursts of different arcane spells seemed to become less chaotic over time, as he zeroed in on spell fragments that primarily contained frost components. His blind experimentation used the base fundamentals of arcane magic, and his unguided technique went against every lesson on protocol and restraint at the core of any Kirin Tor education. What he was doing was dangerous, but he had no other options.
Several more minutes of his reckless weaving attempts went by, until a sudden release of cold air shot through the room, along with the misting condensation that went along with it.
Jander blinked and looked up. “That’s… I think that’s it!” The spell was nowhere near potent enough to actually effect the integrity of the chains, but he had honed in on the technique necessary for a more thoroughly endeavored attempt.
Slowly but surely the mounting energy became impossible to ignore. This begged the question – would the guards outside sense it too, if there were even any guards out there? This realm was so strange that Jarrick didn’t know what to think or expect. The one thing he knew for sure was this – the sooner they escaped their bonds, the better.
He shuffled his feet against the stone floor, edging them backwards against the wall to get as much leverage in his legs as possible. He stood on the balls of his feet with his heels pressed against the stone wall, calves flexed. The way he braced himself caused the chains that bound his arms to be pulled taught, locked out to the fullest extent, while those that bound his legs had a slight give to them.
…Come on, Jander. You’ve got this…
He thought to himself.
Time was of the essence.
No matter what happened inside the cell, it didn’t seem like any outside presences were interested in coming in to investigate.
Jander paused to gather his strength, breathing heavily in an attempt to bolster himself as much as possible. He would need to transfer every last ounce of ley energy he could possibly muster in order to make this work.
The dull deafeat in his eyes was replaced by a brilliant glow with every attempt he made, and his voice boomed around the cramped stone chamber.
“Vraa-Tor-Pev-Xaac-Kes-Chih-Mul-Naa!” Another rush of cold air and mist, but no substantial effect upon the chains or anything else in the room.
This repeated several times. After each attempt, Jander’s posture seemed to sag with a flare of exhaustion. He had to breathe and wait long enough for his exertion to settle again before making any more attempts.
He glanced at Jarrick one more time, then steeled himself, clenching his teeth to make his next attempt count. He knew he couldn’t keep at it for too much longer.
Closing his eyes, he reached out to take control of the turbulent, destructive energy he had at his disposal, and began straining himself past his perceived limits. His fingers snapped into the required positions one after another, and his voice began thundering more loudly through the room.
“VRAA… TOR… PEV… XAAC…“
Shouting the words of power was generally not the best idea, but Jander focused so much of his efforts to strain and wrench the flow of mana for his purposes, he had to suppress the pained sensation that shot through his extremities in protest. He could feel parts of his weakened form start to unravel as he committed to the spell, determined to ensure that this would be the one to work.
By now, the surge of power was unmistakable. Jarrick knew that if they failed here they may not get a second chance.
His ethereal form strained against his shackles. Every fiber in his being was tensed against the chains. Both arms quivered as he braced his legs against the smooth stone wall, pushing off of it with all of his might.
He grit his teeth in protest against the chains that bound him. Wisps of blood red anima seeped from his wrists as he strained harder and harder to create the force necessary to break free once his shackles had become brittle.
The harder he struggled, the thicker it ran, until crimson flowed like a waterfall.
Rage fueled fire burned bright in his eyes as his chest heaved. With a final expanse, lungs full, he roared.
“HGHHH… JANDER, NOW!”
He began to feel faint. All the searing sensations in his limbs were replaced by a cold numbness, but still he pushed. His consciousness seemed to slip, and a dizzying faintness threatened to knock him out at any moment.
Jarrick’s booming voice cut right through the haze, and bolstered him in that final moment. Opening his jaws wide, he tilted his head back to roar the final syllable of his incantation.
Another rush of air passed through the room, accompanied by a bright flash. The temperature dropped considerably all in an instant, and all of the chain links in the room were coated in a thick formations of ice. A significant disturbance was created in the ambient ley energy, and the drafts continued to churn around with swirls of condensation as the air pressure stabilized again.
Jander’s head drooped down again, and more ragged panting sounds filled the chamber after the final, effective execution of a basic frost nova spell was completed.
All it took was an instant.
A vortex of frigid air, a blinding flash, and rage.
For a moment, Jarrick felt like the cold embrace of death had wrapped its bony hands around his wrists and ankles, trying to keep him as its captive. It was only for a moment, though, as his left arm shattered the shackles embrace causing frigid metal and frozen chain to clatter against the floor and wall, respectively.
It took him a moment to regain his senses. As he regained his sight from the blinding flash that lit up their cell he could barely make out Jander’s silhouette under furrowed brow and squinted eyes. He shook his head, trying to clear it, before turning his attention to his shackles.
Though his left arm had broken free, his right arm and both legs were still bound in frigid chains. All it took was a couple of good kicks with his right leg shattered the chain though the shackle, now free from the anchor of the stone wall, remained bouned to his right ankle.
Another few forceful kicks with his left leg bore fruit as well, leaving only his right arm chained.
He turned towards the wall and placed his left foot against the stone, leveraging himself to break through his final bond.
He grit his teeth once more, the shackle digging deep into his ethereal form, anima still flowing from his ghostly wounds.
“Hnnng.. Hrrraaghh… RRRAGH!” he bellowed from deep within his chest, shattering the chain halfway between the shackle and the stone wall, metal raining down to the floor. He had pulled with such force that he stumbled backwards towards the center of the cell and collapsed onto his back.
He raised his arms and surveyed the his wounds. Crimson anima continued to pour from his wrists, seeping out from underneath the icy shackles that were still clasped around them. He grimaced, but it wasn’t the first time he had to ignore his injuries for the sake of the greater goal.
He crawled back to his feet and steadied himself, turning to Jander. His head was hung low and his breath was ragged, but he had done it.
Somehow, he had managed to harness enough of the chaotic ambient ley energy that permeated this strange world and focus it into their cell to weaken their bonds.
Jarrick wrapped the broken chain that was still attached to the shackle on his right wrist around his arm and used it to make quick work of the chains that still bound Jander.
Before the final chain was broken his slid his arm underneath Jander’s shoulder to prop him up so he didn’t fall when the final chain gave way.
Though both men were worse for the wear, Jarrick couldn’t help give credit where credit was due.
“Hell of a job, Reed.” He said as he propped his ragged comrade up.
Jander did indeed need the support, because without it he definitely would have fallen on his face.
“Right back at ya…” He began with an exasperated sigh, savoring the ability to breathe freely again. “It’s a good thing you were here. I don’t think I could have gotten through it otherwise.”
Slowly he pushed himself off in order to support his own weight. Once he was sure he could stay upright, he gave Jarrick’s shoulder a little pat in thanks. “Definitely couldn’t have broken them myself either, especially not after all that.”
Jarrick gave Jander a bit of a push to help him to his feet. “Likewise.” He breathed with relief, eyeing the door. “Even at full strength I doubt I would have been able to break those bonds without your help.”
He stood tall, worse for the wear but flat out ignoring the pain that wracked his body. Dim light flickered and danced around the room as he made his way over towards the door.
“Let’s get the hell out of here.”
The barrier standing before them seemed to be a tall, arched door of cast metal with a small rectangular opening in it for when the guards needed to peek inside.
Jander stumbled his way across the room before bracing a palm against the smooth metallic surface. Much like with the chains and shackles, he could see the evidence of frozen formations around its edges. He could see warping in it from the contractions caused by the chill that had covered so much of the room.
“If we’re lucky, maybe that worked on the hinges too.” He took a step back, drawing in another deep breath and rolling his shoulder. “What do you think? On three?”
Jarrick offered a nod of affirmation as he shook one of his legs out and set his stance. This was exactly the kind of thing warriors were made for.
He narrowed his eyes and lowered his shoulder, preparing to charge. “For the Rose…”
Jander moved into position at his side, mirroring the warrior’s stance with intent to contribute his own strength to the effort as well.
“One… Two…” He took a deep breath, staring down the obstacle before them as his body started to move.