“You’re… sure?” he asked in a troubled voice.
She mm-hmed around the belt.
“It’ll hurt…” he said, but she made no further sounds, until she felt the blade cut into her flesh.
Then she sobbed, biting down on the belt so hard she thought she might bite right through it. Phoenix stopped, but as she didn’t take the belt from her mouth and pull away, he went back to sheering the skin away from her shoulder. The pain had stopped almost as soon as he took the knife away, but it became a searing agony as he reopened the already healed wound. Tears rolled down her cheeks. She clenched her right hand into a fist and felt her nails cutting into her palm. Her left arm spasmed and lost its shape, the bones turning to jelly and her fingers melting to a solid mass as the pain made her lose what control she had.
Phoenix dropped the dagger and grabbed the linen she’d bought for bandages before she’d discovered her wounds would heal just as quickly without his direction. She spat out the belt and drew a ragged breath, while Phoenix swabbed at her shoulder, dampening the linen with water to get the last of the blood.
“Is it gone?” she asked, wiping her cheeks with the back of her right hand. The left was still a useless tentacle draped over the ground. She didn’t even try to fix it yet.
“Yeah,” he said in a shaky voice. She made a face as he held a flap of skin up, the elder sign bold on the bloodless flesh. “What should I do with it?”
“I don’t know. I burned the other one,” she said, pulling her shirt back up.
Phoenix dropped the skin onto the bloody linen with a look of disgust. After a moment of indecision, he riffled through her pack for the tinderbox and gathered some dead scrub for a fire. Glory focused on making her left arm go back to its regular shape, as Phoenix built up the fire. It slowly shrank and twisted as the bones and joints reformed, though where the extra mass had come from or was going, she had no idea. At least there was no pain as the limb reformed, though she would have liked it to go faster than it was. He winced at the crackling sound her skin made when he dropped it into the fire, slowly feeding the damp linen into it so as not to quench the flames.
“Are you hungry?” she asked as he finished getting rid of the linen.
“Hell no,” he said, disgust written all over his face. It was funny how human he’d become. On earth, he’d constantly been trying to get her to burn things. Maybe burning her skin came down to a dirty habit, like biting fingernails or chewing on hair.
“Well, come on then,” Glory said, pulling her belt tight around her waist again and slipping the dagger into its sheath. She scooped up her pack with her good hand and slung it around until she got it back around her shoulders. Already her left arm was looking better than it had in weeks, though there was still a lot of room for improvement. “I want to be in Ygiroth before dark so we can get into the catacombs without worrying about the goblins Atal mentioned.”
“Why does every city have catacombs?” Phoenix groused as if trying to put what he‘d just done behind him. “I’d rather have the sky above me than a ton of earth hanging over my head.”
Glory smiled but didn’t respond. It didn’t surprise her that he might be claustrophobic. After all, he came from the vacuum of space where technically there was nothing but sky.
The shadow of the mountain covered them long before the sun set, but whatever goblins were inhabiting the area stayed hidden. They reached Ygiroth just in time for the setting sun to send its red rays spilling over the tumbled buildings. Glory could immediately see why Atal had suggested there would be no problem getting down into the catacombs. Though much of the city remained intact, there were deep cracks in the street into which several of the buildings had collapsed. They would have no trouble finding their way underground.
There were furtive sounds from the buildings around them as they entered the city. It might be devoid of human life, but it was far from abandoned. The goblins left the interlopers alone though. Glory felt the weight of eyes on her from the shadowed doors and windows, but the skittering came to a standstill as they made a beeline for the nearest opening in the ground. The goblins might have the city above, but the catacombs were off limits.
The first hole was filled in with rubble. It looked as if someone had thrown more into the hole to block it off. The second was the same, but the third showed signs that something had forced its way out of the hole at some point. The skree pile of fallen masonry had been pushed outward to reveal a dark fissure.
“Maybe we should keep looking,” Phoenix suggested as they stared into the black space.
Glory looked up at the sun which had nearly disappeared behind the mountain. “I don’t think we have the time,” she said, pulling her pack off and rooting around for the tinderbox. Her arm had stalled out again. It was nearly the correct proportion in all but her fingers which were long and bony and witch-like.
Phoenix took the box from her and struck the flint until one of the torches caught, scanning the buildings behind her with every click of the steel. She held the torches in one hand and dropped the tinderbox back into her pack with the other while Phoenix slid part of the way down a slab of rock that had once been paving. Handing the torches down to him, she followed him down. At the bottom they peered into the dark crevice, but if something had been using the place as its lair, it was gone now.
“Cold,” Phoenix said, exhaling fog into the opening.
Glory sniffed. “But I don’t smell anything. Whatever pushed out all this rock … I don’t think it’s still here.”
to Book 6, part 3, page 43