The Grotto appears, and the sad secret that it holds within it as well…
Temptations XXXV – The Grotto – Part V
By TeraS and Thamior, Cyprusmage, and Darkwalker’s Shadow
A blank expression remained on Tristan’s hidden visage as the world around them seemed to twist and turn as soon as they stepped out in the next floor. Almost like a ride from an amusement park, the young hunter would muse. He took note of the several wings, included the one sealed behind them. For a moment he wondered if the shotgun he carried could breach the barriers. There was no doubt a number of mystical guards in place…but he wasn’t carrying just any shotgun. Still, it was prudent to go where directed, at least for the time being. That meant entering the rather lush garden. Tristan admired the tranquilty of this room, which seemed to serve as a foyer for the grotto. Complete with dragon guide no less.
“So…I’m ready when you are,” Tristan said to John once the key had been delivered.
Something about the show bothered him. He did not doubt for one second that this was real. He knew the extent of Tera’s power…or at least, he knew that she was capable of this much. But why would she need to do this? He assumed that this particular section of the library (no doubt hidden from the public) was created long before he and Tristan made their entrances into the library. But why bring them here? Tera was (as near as he could tell) omnipresent, able to be at any point in the library (and indeed, at every point) whenever she wanted. Why did she want them here…?
“Well, we’re not going to get our answers just standing here,” he said, and slipped the key into the lock. The key turned smoothly, and there was a faint “click” as the door was unlocked. Removing the key, John pushed slightly, making the way clear for them both.
The door opened to a passageway leading off into the distance. The walls of the passage were carved in strange glyphs of an ancient world. There was no roof to the passage, but the tops of the walls were covered with what looked to be brambles and thorns. A warm sun sent streamers of light through the branches of the trees that shaded the passageway somewhat. Far off in the distance they could hear the sound of water crashing into rocks and then on occasion the song of a bird hidden in the foliage around them.
The two walked for a time along the path provided until they found themselves exiting the passageway at a cliff. Around them was shear rock cliffs and wild plants that neither truly recognized. When they looked across the chasm in front of them, they saw a waterfall streaming over the rocks, the waters falling from hundreds of feet above them into a vast bay leading towards a shimmering blue green sea in the distance.
They noticed a wide path leading towards the bottom of the waterfall a short walk away….
On the other side of the bay, the shape of a woman was outlined in one of the smaller waterfall branches, her body being washed by the waters as they fell, the Dragon from before floating in the waters nearby seemingly holding something in his right hand, a stream of smoke arcing from his mouth into the air…
Despite his experience with the supernatural, John was still impressed. Not only was it beautiful when taken at face value, but the patterns that made up this pocket realm were perfect; even the best mage leaves behind someimperfection in their work. Tera, of course, was far older and much more powerful. Of course she was this good.
But it only distracted him for so long. The question that had been nagging at him furrowed his brow, and set him walking toward’s the water’s edge. For a moment, he considered waiting before speaking, his logic being that she would be unable to hear him over the waterfall. Then he remember who she was.
“OK,” he said, his voice showing a slight hint of impatience, “We’re here. You wanted to see us?”
Tristan let John take the first steps down the trail, towards the water’s edge. He was regarding their new surroundings with a bit more wide-eyed astonishment than John was. Then again, John seemed to have more experience with pocket dimensions than he did. Which was fine, of course. This simply meant that Tristan was bringing up the rear. He was constantly fighting the urge to draw a weapon as an act of precaution. He wasn’t a violent person by any means…he simply preferred to have his bases covered. And that meant being prepared. But with the dragon circling in the waters and John’s advice constantly cycling through his mind, he remained a careful observer, only for a moment admiring the female form painted upon the falling water across the way.
Tera was under the waterfall washing her hair in the warm stream of water that cascaded from the rocks just above her. She was just running her fingers through her long raven hair, the ends of it sticking to her naked bum when she heard John’s question. She smiled to herself and then continued to finish her bath as she sent into his mind, “I did John… Thank you for bringing Tristan with you…” Her mind shifted to Tristan and she sent, “Tristan? You can only be harmed in my domain if I will it… You have a great deal of talent but so little focus to it… Try to focus on the point that there is a lot of power around you… You have a means to hurt…. Not kill… And wounded beings are a very threatening thing…”
She turned to the side and then dove into the pool below the waterfall. She swam under the surface of the water for a time and then surfaced in front of John and Tristan in the waters perhaps 10 feet away.
Her hair was slicked back on her head, the waters shimmering off her skin as they cascaded from her face. The waters were just opaque enough that her body was draped in shadow under the surface, but she was raised high enough in them that most of her breasts were bare to the air and visible to them both.
She treaded water easily and then said to Tristan, “If the threat is visible but does no harm… What do you do?” She looked at John and asked, “If the reason is not sufficient then where do you go?”
More riddles. It seemed that the more…sentient entities preferred to hide their intentions and meaning with puzzles and falsehoods. All of this was part of her game, and in her realm you had no choice but to play along and hope you’d win.
“There’s always sufficient reason,” he said, voicing his personal philosophy, Even the incomprehensable has a reason, we just can’t see it. Regardless…you go where you’re needed.”
Tristan watched with a limited patience as Tera spoke to each of them individually, drawing closer and closer as she did so. His expression remained a blank stone, but he did admire her figure. He was a mortal, heterosexual male…appreciating the beauty of this woman was like an appreciation of art; one doesn’t need to be a musuem buff in order to recognize something that might be artistic. The key was determining whether the beauty of the art is authentic…or simply the intended representation of what’s on the surface. Regardless, he did well not let his mind wander on the exotic curves and nature of this woman, careful to listen in on her words. Did she consider him a threat of some sort? Or was she simply toying with him? She had said he didn’t have focus…and that he should focus where she directed him, so to speak. Tristan, of course, believed himself to have plenty of focus.
Wounded beings as a threat…with him capable of hurting others. Hurting her? Was she the danger she spoke of?
“A threat is just that…the potential for harm. Until that potential reaches the point where the harm is imminent, you do not act. Each threat must be judged on the amount of harm that could be inflicted and the potential for that harm…almost like an equation. That is why information and patience is essential…”
Information and patience are a virtue…
Sometimes that isn’t enough as we will see next time….