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Corruptor: Chapter Thirteen

       Last updated: Friday, October 29, 2010 21:07 EDT



    The city, Tori thought as she carefully moved around another large pile of rubble, even smelled old. If age had a smell, she corrected herself as she moved carefully through the first parts of the abandoned city. The city was dusty and ancient, with little breeze and close walls from the buildings. The close proximity of the buildings to one another made each step echo noisily for blocks. Tori cringed with each loud step, but there was little they could do. She knew that the Sublime Key was in one of the four main districts of the city, inside one of the chapels. In each district, however, were four chapels. Tori had little idea as to which one held the key. She had not been given many clues when she picked the mission up.

    Dylan moved carefully behind Tori, watching her left as she scanned the right and front. He knew from experience that Raul and Stephanie were copying them, with Raul watching their rear. He moved carefully, each step placed with the utmost care, following each of Tori’s footsteps in the dusty road. It seemed, however, that the game wanted them to be noisy. No matter how silently he tried to walk, his boots scraped upon the small pieces of rock and rubble scattered upon the abandoned streets. He sighed in frustration.

    “I hate noise,” he muttered to Tori as she sidestepped a large, protruding steel bar. He, too, moved around it and looked up at the tall buildings. They were dark, dank and apparently empty. He had no idea where to look for the key. He and the others was blindly trusting Tori to show them the way.

    “It seems like the chaos code wants us to give away our position,” Tori replied. She looked around and spotted the first chapel. She jerked her carbine towards the abandoned chapel. “There. Let’s check that one.”

    Dylan looked at the building, confused. “A chapel?”

    “Trust me,” Tori said simply. Dylan nodded and slipped the safety for his weapon to “off”. Behind him, he heard Stephanie and Raul do the same.

    “Okay, I’m officially calling parley,” Stephanie murmured suddenly, appearing at Tori’s elbow. Her own slight frame leaned in close to Tori’s. “This royally sucks.”

    “Agreed,” Tori said with a small smile. “Sometimes I forget that there are Moderators out there who are trying to hold us all hostages for money. This is almost fun, in a ‘everything totally sucks’ sort of way.”

    “Ready?” Dylan asked, pressing his back to the wall next to the front door.

    “Smash and grab?” Raul muttered quietly. Tori shook her head.

    “No, it might damage the key,” she replied. She looked down at the doorknob and frowned. Sometimes the simplest way is the best way. “Why not just walk in and see what’s up?”

    “What the-” Dylan began to protest, but was too late.

    Tori turned the knob before anybody could move to stop her and pushed the heavy door open. The rusted hinges screamed in protest until the door stopped, half open. Sunlight poured into the small chapel, giving it a little light in the entranceway. At first glance inside, she could see little. She moved into the building and looked again. She frowned and turned her head to look around.

    “This is a chapel?” she wondered out loud. Dylan moved in and stopped next to her, surprised.

    “Huh,” Dylan grunted. He moved out of the doorway as Raul and Stephanie moved passed him. Tori looked at the walls and began to inspect the tiny room.

    The chapel had no pews or any sign that it had once been a church. Instead the floors were littered with random bits of paper and trash from what appeared to be squatters. None were there now, though Tori was not entirely sure that it would remain that way. She let her eyes trace the walls, which were a bare gray color. Small streams of light shone upon the walls through cracks in the ceiling. She guessed immediately that this chapel was not the right one.

    “No key,” Dylan replied. He, too, was looking around at the walls and ceiling for any sign of a secret entrance or hidden room. Tori moved over to him.

    “There are four chapels in each sector,” she whispered into his ear. “Sixteen chapels total.”

    “Oh, man,” Dylan breathed and closed his eyes as the immensity of their task came to light. He opened them after a moment, his expression one of resolve. “This had better be one hell of a prize.”

    “Agreed,” Tori whispered as she repeated to Raul and Stephanie what she had just told Dylan. Stephanie nodded, understanding, though Raul was annoyed.

    “Sixteen damn chapels?” he bristled angrily. He closed his dark eyes and breathed deeply. When he opened them once more, he was calm. “Okay, so it’ll take longer than we originally thought.”

    “Actually, we have only eight,” Stephanie corrected him gently. “The other group has eight as well. So it shouldn’t be too bad, right?”

    “I hadn’t thought of that,” Raul admitted to her. He looked at Tori. “Sorry.”

    “Don’t worry,” Tori said dismissively, not wanting to anger or upset any of them more than they already were. “I didn’t think of it either.”

    “Okay, back outside and continuing east,” Dylan said into his comm.

    “We heard everything,” Jade replied over the comm. “We’ll take the northern sectors, you take the southern ones. Sounds good?”

    “Yeah, sounds great,” Tori replied. She looked at the others and smiled. “Let’s roll.”

    They stepped outside and looked around at the surrounding buildings. Although they all appeared to be in various states of disrepair, they could easily tell which buildings were older than the others. Tori looked to her right and saw a small street leading between a series of tall buildings. The street, despite the bright sunlight overhead, was dark and moody. She sighed and prodded Dylan, who was facing a different direction.

    “Doesn’t that just scream ‘evil lurks here’?” she asked him as she pointed to what she could only imagine was a dark alley masquerading as a street. Dylan turned to look and nodded after a brief inspection.

    “I assume we’re taking it anyways?” Raul asked from behind. Tori shrugged.

    “There’s a chapel down there,” she pointed with her carbine. “See it?”

    “Figures,” Raul grumbled. Stephanie smacked his muscular arm.

    “Stop being a baby,” she chided her boyfriend. Raul grimaced and rubbed his arm in mock pain.

    Dylan activated his cloak code once more and darted off quickly, moving around piles of rubble. Tori and the others moved slowly behind him, watching the blurred blackness flit easily through obstacles. Once more did she marvel at his speed and ingenuity, as well as his bravery. She felt her stomach flutter and she paused briefly as she tried to figure out her emotions. Am I developing a crush on another gamer, she wondered, alarmed. She remembered how well that had turned out before.

    They reached the beginning of the dark street and Dylan, still cloaked, crouched behind a fallen pillar. She looked down at him expectantly.

    “I’ll go first,” he said simply. Tori already knew he was going to say that and had begun to nod in agreement when he spoke.

    With Raul and Stephanie on either flank, Tori followed Dylan down the dark, narrow street. Instantly the street plunged into total blackness and Tori stifled a gasp. She had suspected it would get dark, but not this dark. She squinted her eyes as best as she could, but was unable to see Dylan any longer. In fact, she noticed as she took another careful step forward, she could barely see the chapel itself.

    A pebble skipped across the ground not too far in front of her. She bit off her shout of surprise and looked around. There were long shadows in the doorways and windows of each building with indiscernible shapes in each, seemingly watching her. She felt a trickle of sweat drip off her brow as she moved forward. She struggled to ignore the odd sounds around her and focused instead on her destination.

    “Hey,” a voice whispered hotly in front of her. This time she did scream and slugged Dylan, the source of the whisper, hard in the stomach before she had any time to think about a different reaction. The teen crumpled to the ground, gasping and coughing. His cloak code disappeared once she hit him and he lay there, his brown cloak mostly covering his face. He looked up at Tori, shocked. His eyes were wide.

    “Ouch,” he managed to wheeze out between painful gasps. Tori knelt down to help him back up to his feet. “You’re a stupid idiot,” she whispered hoarsely as he regained his balance. She punched him again, hard. He managed to turn at the last moment, however, and she only glanced his arm this time. He looked at her, confused. He rubbed his throbbing arm.

    “What?” he asked as innocently as he could manage. She glared at him.

    “You’re lucky I didn’t put a round or fifty into you,” Tori stated murderously. Raul chuckled softly, but wisely said nothing more upon seeing Tori’s glare shift to him. He kicked the ground and looked down, whistling softly.

    “I... found... the chapel,” Dylan stated, exaggerating his breath. She looked over his shoulder and remembered why they were there in the creepy, dark, smelly and evil-looking alley in the first place. She shuddered in the chill shadow of the buildings. He continued in a normal tone. “And I’m pretty sure that this is the right one.”

    “How so?” Tori asked, excited and confused at the same time. Dylan smiled and jerked a thumb over his shoulder at the entrance of the chapel.

    “The key’s symbol is above the front door.”




    The chapel, like the one previous, was small and abandoned. Trash littered the floors and where there had once been stained glass windows only boards remained. An old, rusted chandelier hung from the rafters, threatening to fall at any moment. It was covered in cobwebs and appeared to Tori as though it had not been used in decades. As before, there were no pews in the chapel, just the broken wood from what could have once been pews and litter spread across the floor. It was there where the similarities ended, however.

    All along the walls were murals carved into the stone, murals and symbols, keys and letters. Four rows high and circling the entire chapel, the ciphers seemed to tell a story. Each symbol was perfectly symmetrical in shape, although they all were eerily related at first glance. Tori looked at them, slightly disappointed. This was the mission?

    “Looks like a puzzle,” Stephanie said needlessly as she moved around the room, eyeing random symbols individually. She traced a finger over one of the etched keys and frowned. “I can see when they repeat, as though we should know the story and the answer is right here in front of us.”

    Tori silently agreed. The room was plain if you took away the giant puzzle, she thought.

    “I don’t get it,” Tori admitted, a hint of frustration in her voice. “Four rows high, four walls of codes?”

    “Yeah, you’re right,” Dylan said and traced one of the odder symbols with a finger, mimicking Stephanie. “Four walls, four lines. A hint?”

    “How many symbols between each repeat?” Raul suddenly asked, surprising Tori. The bulky man was not normally one for the intellectual aspects of the game. His interests ran along the lines of Stephanie, alcohol consumption and demolitions. Especially demolitions, Tori recalled.

    “Um,” Dylan counted carefully before he turned around and smiled. “Six. On each line, by the way.”

    “So,” Tori thought quickly. “Six codes before they repeat across four lines? Twenty-four different code patterns, right?”

    “Right,” Dylan replied. Tori pursed her lips and thought furiously.

    “And they’re all repeated in the same sequence?” she asked.

    “Looks like it,” Dylan said with a nod.

    “No,” Stephanie called out near the back of the chapel, where it was darkest. She had flicked on a flashlight and was looking intently at another series of the symbols, although it was evident after close inspection that they were situated differently. Stephanie grunted as she looked closer. “This one here is out of order.”

    Tori moved to where she was at and looked over her shoulder. She stifled a laugh and looked over at Dylan, who was confused.

    “That’s where I’ve seen these before. Egyptian hieroglyphs,” she said and pointed to the six which were position differently. Each one was an individual panel of stone, instead of being engraved on the main walls, she noticed as she inspected the set closely. “I know these.”

    “And?” Raul asked, looking over Stephanie’s other shoulder. Tori peered at them, her mind racing at the speed of light.

    “This one,” she began and pointed to a symbol which resembled a cup. “This means ‘altar’. This next one is the sign of Horus, or Isis. I forget. This other one-” she pointed to one which resembled the Sublime Key vaguely- “means ‘enter’. Or ‘death’. Not certain. Damn, how’d I miss this earlier?”

    “The other three?” Dylan asked. Tori shrugged apologetically.

    “No idea, though I do know this other one from somewhere,” she answered as she pointed at one which vaguely resembled a bird.

    She looked down at the individual panels and suddenly realized what she had said a moment before. She turned around and looked at the floor. Nothing. She looked back at the hieroglyphs, realization dawning upon her slowly. It couldn’t be that simple, she thought, astonished. Could it?

    “No way,” she murmured. She reached out and, gently, pressed the panel which signified “altar”. She waited for a few seconds, hopeful.


    She sighed deeply, disappointed, and looked at the other panel. If she was wrong, then she would not only look foolish, but would be completely out of ideas. But really, she wondered as she reached out nervously, what else can I do? I’m all out of ideas.

    She pressed the hieroglyph which she remembered to be “enter” and behind her, something clicked. She whirled around and watched, amazed, as the floor at the foot of the altar began to open up slowly, stone by stone. A slow rumble sounded at her feet and she stepped backwards as the stones began to morph slowly. Each stone folded in half and seemingly melted into the large hole in the ground, forming steps. Tori whooped in delight and celebration as the way became clear.

    “Flashlight?” Stephanie offered. Tori took it and shined it down into the hole. It was deep, she could tell immediately. But how deep did it run? Only one way to find out, she rationalized. “Who wants to go down the dark, creepy, scary hole with me, which will probably mean our virtual death and destruction?”

    “Well, put that way...” Dylan said before he grinned. “I will.” Tori nodded and smiled inwardly, her opinion of Dylan rising rapidly.

    “You two okay staying up here and guarding the entrance?” she asked. Stephanie nodded and looked at Raul. The big man shrugged, though Tori could see he was not particularly thrilled with being left as the door keeper.

    “Sure, I guess,” he said, slightly disappointed. “I mean, we still get the experience points and the prize itself, right?”

    Yeah,” Tori agreed and gingerly stepped on the first step of the stairwell. It was firm and held her weight easily. She had not really expected otherwise, but one could never be too careful, she knew from past experience. Another step and another. Soon the passage no longer seemed as terrifying and her confidence rose as she descended with Dylan following close behind her.

    The stairwell twisted in a tight spiral as it dropped lower under the chapel, the smell of mold growing stronger and stronger as they descended. Somewhere below, Tori could hear a steady drip of water. She also could hear Dylan behind her, keeping close. She continued to silently count stairs as she moved farther down the staircase. She had just counted the eightieth step when suddenly she realized they were out of stairs. She shined the flashlight around and gasped, her eyes wide.



    In the center of the room was an altar with a gold beam of light shining on it from directly above. The room itself was plain and, save the altar, completely empty. The mold smell was strong, but the only thing that seemed to fill Tori was the golden light of peace and tranquility. She shined her light on it and it seemed to grow brighter.

    She blinked and shook her head, but the golden light remained. It filled the entire space now, welcoming and warm. She felt the tension in her shoulders and back slowly slip away as the warmth that radiated from the light enveloped her, massaging her, relaxing her. Her fears went away and she smiled at Dylan, who was staring at her curiously. Can’t he feel the warmth of the light, she wondered before she realized that he was simply not worthy of the light. A fierce feeling of protectiveness came over her. He can’t hurt the light!

    Tori looked around the room, which was now filled with treasure indescribable. She could see scepters, crowns, and bags of gold spilling forth onto the stone floor. Gems of a wide variety were everywhere, and she could feel the light offering it all to her. The light pulsed pleasantly, invitingly. Her smile grew wider. Of course it would offer all the treasure to me and me alone, she thought. I am the best gamer ever. The light pulsed again, this time in agreement. She smiled and sighed softly as the light compelled her feet slowly forward, gently urging her on.

    Collect the prize, a whisper came unbidden to her mind.

    Tori found herself moving slowly towards the center of the room, completely enraptured with the golden light. It beckoned her, calling her name. It filled her soul with hope and promise, with power. Oh, the power. Tori thrilled at the gentle touch. The power of fame the light could give her was intoxicating. She sighed loudly as the golden light promised to restore everything, to make her problems go away. It promised her the world, and she was more than ready to accept the light’s offer.

    He comes to steal me, the light whispered in her mind.

    Something had irritated the golden light. Something that did not partake of its love. Tori stopped as the light shared with her its feelings, and fear. It felt fear towards something, something that wanted to make the light go away. Tori felt overwhelming sadness for the light, for all it wanted to do was to help her. It caressed her cheek lovingly.

    You’re the only one who can help me, it told her with a gentle push in her mind. Tori nodded and smiled. Of course it needed her, she realized. She was the best, after all. She took another step towards the light. More warmth spilled forth, wrapping her entire body in a blanket of hope and love.

    A hand suddenly reached to grab her and pulled her back from the warmth. The hand was cruel and cold, clammy against her skin. The touch chilled her to the soul. She whirled around, both terrified and enraged.

    “How dare you!” she shrieked and raised her fists to hit whoever had pulled her back. It was a boy, a teen really, she saw.

    Immature little brat! The light proclaimed. The boy grabbed her arm again and held her while she continued to scream and curse at him. She wanted to rip those blue eyes out of his head. She knew who the light hated and feared now. The boy. He was the cause of pain and suffering, and she felt the light quiver in fear. She could not get free from his strong grip. The light pulsed frantically. “Let me go!” she screamed.

    Suddenly, the light which had filled her earlier was gone, leaving her empty and blank. It had abandoned her, she realized. Tori slumped to the ground, shocked, and let out a small guttural cry of loss and anguish. The teen crouched down with her and held her hand as she quietly lamented the loss of the warm, reassuring light.

    It was gone. Everything was gone, she sobbed silently. The boy patted her arm and rubbed her shoulder comfortingly. Tori looked up suddenly, her eyes filled with tears.

    She was torn and confused.

    “What happened?” she asked, her voice half-choked with loss. “Where’d the light go?”

    “There was no light, Tori,” Dylan said as gently as he could. He rubbed her hand soothingly. “You don’t see them?” He made a small motion with his head towards the rest of the room.

    Tori blinked her eyes and looked around the room again. Dylan aimed the flashlight around to help her see everything better. This time, instead of the altar with the golden light, only a bare altar stood in the center of the room. No light shone down on it, and only a small item was on it. No treasure was strewn about the room, only mold and cobwebs. Her eyes tracked back to the altar. She gasped as she saw what lay below the altar.

    Bodies surrounded the altar, each covered in cobwebs and completely dry. Each corpse had been kneeling in front of the altar, smiling upwards towards the ceiling. There were six bodies total, and Tori knew immediately what had happened. And what had almost happened to her. She turned and looked back into Dylan’s eyes.

    “A siren’s call,” she marveled breathlessly. “Thank you, Dylan. You saved me.” Dylan blushed furiously and looked away. She rested her head on his chest for a moment, regaining her semblance of self.

    She shook her head as the last effects of the golden light wore off. She could not believe she had almost fallen under the spell of the siren’s call. That was too close, she realized as she glanced around the dingy, dirty room. She stood up and looked at the altar again, shining her borrowed flashlight on it. This time she could fully see the item on the altar.

    “The Sublime Key,” she whispered. She moved carefully around each body on the floor and stood before the small altar, impressed.

    The key was wrought in heavy iron with the triangle and circle the handle of the key. The two lines, she believed, were merely decorative. The key unlocked something of great importance, her mission parameters had told her. She looked at the inlaid jewels which ran along the handle. They glittered in the pale light offered by the flashlight. She smiled triumphantly.

    “Should I?” she asked him. Dylan nodded.

    “Yeah, the siren’s call was a pretty powerful trap,” he said, his voice pensive. “I doubt they would have something else down here. Not after how powerful that code was.”

    Tori reached out hesitantly, nervous. The key was so close now she could almost feel it in her hand already. Her fingers paused mere inches from the prize. She swallowed and licked her lips nervously. So close now. Another inch now, she thought, and I have it.

    She grabbed it and yanked her hand back. She stepped away from the altar and looked around. No poisonous arrows fired out of the walls, and no rolling boulder of doom tried to chase her out of a long tunnel. No pygmy warriors began shooting poison darts into her back. She sighed with relief and grinned. She turned to Dylan, who also had a huge smile on his face. Above her, a message appeared:

    Mission Complete.

    “Let’s get out of here,” she said, her happiness coloring her voice. Just then, her comm squawked loudly, startling the duo.

    “Someone’s fired a starburst nearby!” Raul called out frantically. Tori quickly placed the key in her inventory and looked at Dylan as it faded from view.

    “Coincidence?” Dylan asked, disturbed.

    “Ain’t no such thing,” Tori merely grunted. Together, the two ran up the stairs and back to the main level of the chapel. There, Raul and Stephanie were both waiting at the entrance of the chapel, nervous. Stephanie had her rifle out, while Raul appeared to be unarmed. Tori knew better, though. Raul spoke first.

    “I didn’t want to leave without you two,” he said, his eyes looking to the north, where the last light from the starburst could be seen as it descended from high in the sky. Tori nodded.

    “I didn’t hear them over the comm,” Tori said. Raul shook his head.

    “Neither did we,” Raul admitted.

    “Okay, let’s go,” Tori ordered, and the four hurried out of the chapel and into the dark street. Tori hoped against hope that nothing too bad had happened to her friends, and that there was still time to save them from whatever danger they may be in.

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