229 The Fool“s Path seems Bleak*
*Eldovian Year 1713, 22nd day of the 7th month*
"So...and I'm only repeating this so I am absolutely certain of your answer...you want to let the Inktress try to kill us?"
Kit looked doubtfully at Olly as they approached the entrance to the underground tunnel beneath to Star Pavilion.
Olly nodded confidently, "In the Pavilion".
Kit sighed, "I had hoped that there was a part I'd somehow misheard, but no. Evidently we're not only going to let the Inktress attack and try to kill us, we're also going to let her into the most sacred place on the Continent despite what is no doubt it's protectors' wishes. Just out of curiosity, is there a plan the Mist gives you that doesn't involve risk?"
"What do you mean?" asked Olly, quite obviously confused.
"Well, you said you went after the Protection Charm originally because the Mist told you where it would be, though you were being chased by men who wanted to kill you, so if the charm hadn't worked, you would have died. Next, the Mist told you to find me at the Ruin where I was fully prepared to do some damage with my shadows to anyone that trespassed. And now this," said Kit.
"You forgot signing the blood contract and making the plan to smuggle us off Rouke Island," Olly stated.
Kit's jaw dropped, "The Mist told you to do those as well? I thought..."
Olly just shrugged, "The Mist may not have spoken those times, but the paths were still there for me to take. The Mist never presents a path without an element of risk involved, otherwise it would not be impartial".
"You always seem to choose the right one," Kit replied, resting his head on his hand in thought, "Unless you have impeccable luck".
"I choose the option that will lead to the fulfillment of my desires. The Mist cares not for such things, only about the balance," said Olly.
Kit decided not to argue further as they approached the gate, "Hey look, we're here".
"So is she," Olly said.
"Huh?" asked Kit, turning to face Olly in surprise.
"From the left".
Kit instinctively pulled the shadows of the trees on either side of the path as he stood and reformed them into a solid barrier around the horses and cart. The impact of another energy, an all too violent and familiar energy, collided with his barrier and Kit braced himself with a step back before he turned to the front of the carriage.
"Get the horses moving!"
The driver, who had long ago tuned out Olly and Kit's conversation, could only sit in shock as his world had turned to nothing but darkness. The horses gave nervous whinnies of protest at the sudden and new environment. Seeing the clear hesitation in the driver, Olly climbed over the divider and onto the driver's seat, snatching the reigns. He spurred the horses into motion as ripples again fluttered over the shield, the Inktress trying to break Kit's barrier.
Kit flinched. It was not the same one-sided battle as two and a half years ago. He was stronger this time, but the shadows were also more readily available. Here on this wooded path rather than the open field on Rouke.
Kit traced the Inky energy that sought a way through his barrier, occasionally trying to force her way in. As she pulled back to strike, Kit gathered the energy from the far side of his shield, his solid barrier becoming transparent on one side as he reshaped the energy into a sharpened spike that jabbed towards the Inktress in an instant.
He sensed the shift in the Inktress as her energy encompassed her entire body and she became one with her element. His sharp and solid shadow pierced the Ink, quickly before withdrawing once more, but the dark liquid couldn't be pierced as something solid could. Kit gritted his teeth as the Inktress's voice pierced his barrier.
"You may have grown and developed the courage to attack, young Magician, but you are not my match!"
Kit sneered right back, "I don't need to be your match to win!"
He broke off parts of the shadow and fashioned them like swords then shot them out rapidly at the Inktress's fluidly moving form as it twisted and warped away from the edge of his shield. Why would she retreat when she was in that form? She'd clearly proven that he couldn't hurt her.
"Kit!" shouted Olly, breaking through Kit's train of thought.
Kit barely needed to glance over his shoulder to know that Olly was informing him just how close the entrance to the cave was. Kit could feel the numerous shadows in the tunnel beyond. Kit pulled the thick shadows from the cave and pushed the door to the tunnel open. With greater access to the shadows he expanded his shield around the entrance as the Cart barrelled through, passing the guards stationed there. The ripples on the shield appeared again as the Inktress tried to penetrate it. She seemed more desperate this time as she threw her power into countering Kit, but in the flickering shadows of the tunnel, Kit was more powerful.
As a Shadow Magician, his element was not solid by nature, one could not grasp it, but the Inktress was different. Her element may have easily slipped passed unseen, but it could not penetrate something solid. It was a weakness of the Earth and Water Elements. Arguably, other elements couldn't pass through a door or barrier should it be sealed enough, but particularly the light and shadow elements possessed a greater spiritual connection to the Mist. They could reach beyond those seals with their intangible spirits. Luckily, this now became an advantage for Kit.
Kit threw his power into the shield as he pushed the gate closed again, sealing it tightly, then he let the magic disperse.
He dropped down and after a moment to catch his breath, he felt Olly's hand on his shoulder.
"You've been practicing," Olly observed.
"I'm a Shadow Magician before I'm a Craftsman, it'd be a disservice if I didn't," Kit smiled.
Olly nodded, "That is good. The plan relies on you".
Kit raised his eyebrows, "What?"
A week's journey from the Mines, and this was the first Kit had heard of that. He felt the overwhelming sense that he was going to regret coming with Olly.