She hadn’t expected the monsters she released from the lab to be friendly. But she certainly hadn’t expected them to be as rude as they were either. The moment they were free they ran, or flew, or bounced around the lab in a panic. Eventually they all made their way into the strange tunnel that had formed on the opposite side of the lab. She had been so surprised by the sudden movement that she’d fallen over onto her butt and couldn’t seem to get up the courage to move until all of the freed Cryptix had disappeared down the tunnel.
“Well I never…” she said getting to her feet and brushing herself off. “You alright Dual?”
“Mreow,” the green cat was busy cleaning its green grassy body with its tongue. Apparently one of the rampaging Cryptix had put one or two patches of fur out of place.
Several tables had been knocked over, glass had been broken on the floor. And the already chaotic room was beyond repair.
Dad, what were you doing down here? She thought as hard as she could at the chaos. But her brain couldn’t make any sense of it. It seemed as though the lab was there for Cryptix experiments. But—her dad wouldn’t do that—or at least that’s what she tried to tell herself.
She felt something welling up in her, a deep dark sadness. But she pushed it down—queens didn’t cry. She reached down and grabbed her dad’s staff off the ground—no—she grabbed her staff off the ground. There was still something she hadn’t investigated in the lab. So, with only the slightest hesitation, she headed down the unatral tunnel.
She had expected it to be completely dark save for the magical light of her staff. But there was an unnatural green glow that seemed to bounce off the walls as though it was reflective. But the walls of the tunnel was made out of the solid rock of the mountain her home was built on.
Dual growled at the green light and hunched over into a defensive stance. She could feel his fear through their link. He could sense something powerful ahead. She held her staff in front of her like a shield. It was a little awkward, but it was all she could come up with.
The tunnel bent sharply, and as she rounded that bend the source of the green light came into view. The green bird she had let out of one of the tanks. Was perched on top of a fallen chunk of rock. It’s green feathers were covered in neon green flame and the smell of ozone filled the room. The tunnel came to a dead end just behind the creature. Which was odd, because the other Cryptix she’d let out were nowhere to be seen.
“You go no further Thaumaturge of darkness,” the Cryptix could talk. That was incredible, supposedly only Elder Cryptix could talk. She tried to think of something queenly to say. But the bird’s dramatic statement had completely caught her off guard.
“I actually can’t use Thaumaturgey,” the girl said, trying to keep herself from blushing. “But I’m still more than a match for you.”
The bird blinked in surprise. An expression she hadn’t expected to see from such a majestic looking creature. It leaned in and seemed to examine Sylvy more closely.
“You have the staff—hmm—but—you are a little shorter than I remember. You humans live and die so fast I can’t keep up.”
“My father, king Philliton the Second, died a few days ago. According to the rules of succession, I, Sylvy of Etherion, am now the Philosopher Queen,” she lifted the staff up slightly and hit the base against the rock tunnel. There wasn’t really a good reason to do that—she just thought it made her statement sound more official.
“Old Philly is dead?” the bird seemed surprised. “Well—when’s the funeral? When’s the coronation?”
Sylvy was taken aback by the bird’s sudden casual tone. She had never heard anyone call her dad “Philly” before. Though—something about the way he said it didn’t make her think it was an affectionate Nickname.
“There won’t be—either a funeral or a coronation—I’m the only one left—everyone else is—dead,” she forced herself to say dead instead of gone. But she couldn’t keep herself from looking away from the bird as she said it.
“I’m sorry? Did you say everyone? As in—all the humans? The bird looked around at the tunnel. Slowly at first and then with increasing panic. “This tunneling pattern—and the auric energy. No—Philly, you stupid greedy son of a Glyphgryph,” the green feathered Cryptix was shouting so loudly she had to cover her ears. It’s fire flared up causing the tunnel to heat up to unbearable temperatures.
“Calm down,” she said as loudly as she could. “Or I’ll have to use force.” At her suggestion of force Dual jumped forward and started to glow preparing one of its elemental attacks. That seemed to be enough to get the birds attention. It lowered its wings and the green fire withdrew back into its body causing the tunnel to rapidly cool.
“Philly’s daughter is a Linker?” The bird’s question caught her off guard. And Dual stopped glowing and resumed a more natural stance.
“I’m a wizard,” she corrected.
“I mean—okay—but that’s just a fancy type of Linker,” the truth of the bird’s statement made her wince. “Oh come on—don’t be ashamed. It was the one power your father could never master. It’s the one power the philosophy kings have not been able to master since the first of them at the founding of Etherion.”
“You sure know a lot for a Cryptix,” Sylvy observed out loud. “Do you have a name?”
“I’m called Necrosis, the undead phoenix. I was the partner of the first Philosopher King—the true archmage. Though since his death, his decedent’s have—experimented on me.” Necrosis said the last part quietly as though he didn’t want her to hear him.
The girl looked at the ground, trying to think of something to say. Something that could make everything better. But there wasn’t anything. So she adopted a queenly stance and hit the bottom of her staff against the tunnel floor.
“I decree that from now on, you, and all the Cryptix kept in this lab are now free, ” Then the tunnel got very quiet all of the sudden. And then something else escaped from her mouth, something very quiet even in the mostly empty tunnel. “I’m sorry…”
“What will you do, since you’re the only human left in Etherion?” the Cryptix watched Sylvy carefully as he waited for an answer.
“I–need to find out what caused this–and I need to stop it. That’s my responsibility as the Queen, especially if my dad–if he was the one who caused it.”
There was a silence as Necrosis seemed to size Sylvy up. Looking for something in her words, her eyes, her stance. Then at last he seemed to relax.
“Link with me,” he said. “I am as much your birthright as that staff is–I will help you.”