Darkening Sky, Chapter 4

  • Chapter 4





                    ‘Healers!’ Takarro yelled as his grandson began to thrash around uncontrollably.


                    Ambarro couldn’t even scream. Every single muscle fibre in his body was performing a mad dance and a black film was eating away at his vision.


                    ‘He’s going into shock,’ he heard a voice say from an ocean away. One of the healers. Was that Hideyo-jo?


                    ‘Don’t let his system stop!’ Another healer. ‘The potion’s too far gone. All we can do now is stabilise his vitals and let him ride out the transformation.’


                    He heard more orders being barked, different healers going to work on different parts of his body. The pain began to abate, but his vision continued to fade.


                    Am I dying? Ambarro wondered. There was a warm glow spreading in his chest. It grew hot – unbearably hot. I’m going to burst.


                    The heat increased until he could bear it no more, then just as quickly, it dissipated, leaving him feeling like a cold and empty husk. That was my soul, he realised. What did the potion do?


                    When the heat returned, it felt different. It brought with it a host of other sensations. A tingling through his nerves. A series of rips filling his head, as if his brain was expanding, pushing against his skull. He felt blood run from his nose.


                    Then there was a sudden pop, and the world exploded into darkness.


                    Exploded? Ambarro thought as consciousness deserted him. That doesn’t make any sense.


                    ‘We can’t put them out,’ Hideyo yelped, a hint of panic entering his voice. ‘What kind of fire is this?’


                    Takarro grunted as he staggered back from the centre of the hall. The heat was overwhelmingly intense. ‘Ambarro,’ he said, jets of ice shooting from his palms. The spells evaporated mid-air. ‘Ambarro!’


                    The lecture hall had been completely enveloped with flames as black as midnight. Ambarro was lying in the centre, motionless as burning shadows swirled around him.


                    Takarro’s first instinct was to rush through the arcane fire and grab his grandson. He did not live to two hundred and sixteen by following his every first instinct, however. On closer inspection, he could see that the flames weren’t harming Ambarro at all. His fur wasn’t even curling.


                    ‘The ones in the most danger right now are us,’ he said, waving for the healers to back away. ‘We’re lucky this building is isolated. Evacuate the entire hall.’


                    ‘We’re just going to let it burn, sir?’


                    ‘Have the mages set up a perimeter around the hall and control the fire if they can. It’s too late for the building itself.’


                    ‘And… and Ambarro, Grandmaster?’


                    ‘He will be fine,’ Takarro forced himself to say. ‘Move!’


                    In thirty seconds, every shinobi in the building had retreated one hundred feet from the burning lecture hall. Takarro felt his boot crunch and looked down. The snow and ice that normally coated the ground in Tsukikage was melting rapidly.


                    ‘Takarro-ri!’ Jorra said, running up next to him. ‘Is Ambarro all right?’


                    ‘He’s still inside, but don't worry. The fires are his own, and they cannot touch him,’ Takarro said.


                    Jorra stared at what little remained visible of the hall. The black flames were so forceful that the building wasn’t even collapsing – the ceiling and walls were all being blasted outward, with none of the debris landing inside the interior.


                    ‘Keep your distance,’ Takarro shouted over the roar of the inferno. ‘If we extinguish the flames now, we risk bringing the roof down on him.’


                    The wind picked up, tugging at the fire. Inky tongues flickered and whipped around the ruined lecture hall. ‘It almost seems alive,’ Jorra said as he squinted at the twisting fire. ‘Ambarro did this?’


                    As if in answer, a fist of flame punched the entire west side of the building into rubble.


                    ‘In all my years,’ Takarro murmured. ‘I’ve never seen such a violent reaction to the Black Flask. We must make some changes to the drinking ceremony. Maybe it needs to be held in one of our sealed chambers.’


                    The black flames began to die out, and the shinobi inched closer. The lecture hall had been reduced to a circle of charred matchsticks. Ambarro was still lying in the centre.


                    ‘Not a scratch on him.’ Jorra breathed a sigh of relief, then let out a chuckle. ‘Not even his tunic was singed.’


                    ‘Carry him to the hospice, but be careful. We don’t know if he’s going to set off another conflagration like that,’ Takarro commanded. The healers bowed, then gingerly raised Ambarro onto a stretcher. ‘Jorra…’


                    The blue-grey Po’ Tun nodded. ‘I’ll keep an eye on him as always, Grandmaster. I’ll inform you immediately when he wakes.’


                    The Tsukikage hospice had a very distinct scent. Ambarro knew that he was lying on one of the bunks even before he opened his eyes.


                    He had been knocked out before. Usually, waking up involved nursing a massive headache and complete disorientation. This time, however, it was different. He felt refreshed. Renewed. Not only that, but his sense of well-being and energy was even greater than before.


                    The Flask worked. Ambarro grinned, then relaxed into his pillow.


                    ‘Well, dunce, for someone who burned down an entire lecture hall, you seem to be in a remarkably good mood.’


                    ‘Hmph.’ Ambarro frowned and opened his eyes. ‘Then of course you had to show up and sour it. You’re back, I see. How long was I out?’


                    ‘One week, according to the healers. I came home with Master Torako yesterday.’ Harrow’s lips twitched in the barest approximation of a smile as he tapped his slender fingers on the bedstand. ‘So what does the Black Flask feel like?’


                    ‘I… can’t really describe it. It’s like being torn apart from the inside, then stitched back together again, only slightly differently.’


                    ‘You don’t look any different to me.’


                    ‘I don’t think it’s a… physical change like the other eight Flasks. Wait, did you say I burned down a lecture hall?’ Ambarro sat up.


                    ‘I should leave it to Jorra and the Grandmaster to explain, but yes,’ Harrow said, studying him more intently than usual. ‘The Black Flask must have given you very powerful abilities.’


                    Ambarro looked away awkwardly. Is he jealous? ‘Look, Harrow, just because I-’


                    ‘I have long since accepted my limitations,’ Harrow interrupted firmly, meeting his eyes. ‘There’s no need to be guilty.’


                    ‘Right,’ Ambarro stammered, scratching his head. ‘I wasn’t feeling guilty or anything, I just… uh…’


                    He was immeasurably grateful as Diia chose that moment to burst through the door to his room.


                    ‘Ambarro-to, you’re all right,’ she cried as she flung her arms around his neck.


                    Harrow blinked, rearranged his collar, and made for the doorway. ‘I’ll leave the two of you alone.’


                    ‘Oh, hello, Harrow-to,’ Diia said, going pink in the ears. ‘That won’t be necessary, I only wanted-’


                    ‘Nonsense,’ Harrow said, his face a deadpan mask. ‘I’m sure you two have a great deal to catch up on, being away from each other for one entire week. What was that saying about absences and hearts?’


                    Ambarro grabbed the closest throwable object – a book on his bedstand – and heaved it at Harrow’s head. The black-haired kit let out a little chuckle as he caught it backhanded and disappeared into the corridor.


                    ‘Our report on the fire, sir,’ Hideyo bowed and left a file on Takarro’s desk. The Grandmaster opened it and began to read. Each time he turned a page, his brow wrinkled further.


                    Twenty-foot-deep crater… analysis of leftover ash indicates extreme heat… thirty-inch thick steel support beams, completely molten… by cross-referencing historical records, we liken the effect to dragonflame. Takarro leant back in his chair, massaging his temples. What has the ninth potion made of you, Ambarro?


                    Every Po’ Tun who had drunk of the Black Flask and survived expressed different forms of magic. Takarro was no different. With his gift, he had earned the moniker of Shikabanegami. The Grandmaster raised a hand, willing black smoke from his fingertips and curling it around the office. A manifestation of my soul, with which I force dead flesh to do my bidding.


                    Ambarro’s new flames were of the same vein. He had always been comfortable with fire. It’s a straightforward ability, too. Fits his skillset like a glove. Is this why Rendanshu took this form? To suit his talents? What determines the Black Flask’s effects?


                    Takarro sighed. The Sages who had first devised the Rendanshu potions had only deigned to leave the smallest crumbs of knowledge behind – enough for the Shadeclaws to imitate their work, but never to understand the art fully. If only we could ask them ourselves.


                    It was snowing outside. Takarro stood and walked to the open window, feeling the snowflakes catch on his whiskers. He gazed out into the horizon, to the far east. Somewhere, across a vast ocean, our old homeland lies, along with all the secrets we have forgotten.


                    Then he snorted. Delusional old fool. You were born here, raised here, and will die here, as hundreds of generations of shinobi have before you. Tamriel is our home now, not Akavir. Leave the past be. The present is what matters.


                    And speaking of the present…


                    Takarro winced as he traced a small burn on his neck, courtesy of his grandson’s black flames. Ah, bother. It’s going to take a while for the fur to grow back. What am I to do with you, young man?


                    There was a knock on the door. ‘Come in,’ he called, keeping his voice jovial.


                    Jorra entered, bowing. ‘Takarro-ri, Ambarro is awake. He seems perfectly healthy and is… as active as ever.’


                    ‘Excellent,’ Takarro said, sliding the window shut and clasping his hands behind his back. ‘Have him meet me in the training fields tomorrow morning at six.’


                    ‘As you say, Grandmaster.’


                    ‘Oh, and Jorra…’ Takarro flipped his palm up and sent another wisp of black smoke drifting around his head.




                    ‘Tell him to prepare himself. I intend to see exactly what he is capable of.’








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7 Comments   |   KaiserSoSay and 4 others like this.
  • Sotek
    Sotek   ·  August 18
    Well that was intense..... 
    'Not even his tunic was singed' 

    Shame about the  lecture hall  :D
  • The Lorc of Flowers
    The Lorc of Flowers   ·  August 17
    Flames as an extension of soul. Soul flames? Interesting. Gotta be careful around fire, right? What's the saying? "Fire can be a faithful servant but also a cruel master." ? :)
    • KaiserSoSay
      The Lorc of Flowers
      The Lorc of Flowers
      The Lorc of Flowers
      Flames as an extension of soul. Soul flames? Interesting. Gotta be careful around fire, right? What's the saying? "Fire can be a faithful servant but also a cruel master." ? :)
        ·  August 17
      Only if the soul is cruel, I guess. A volatile soul means a volatile fire, right? :)
  • KaiserSoSay
    KaiserSoSay   ·  August 17
    Black flames? Great, now I'm getting Amaterasu vibes from Ambarro.
    • A Shadow Under the Moons
      A Shadow Under the Moons
      Black flames? Great, now I'm getting Amaterasu vibes from Ambarro.
        ·  August 17
      He's... not quite at the level of a sun goddess yet.
      • KaiserSoSay
        A Shadow Under the Moons
        A Shadow Under the Moons
        A Shadow Under the Moons
        He's... not quite at the level of a sun goddess yet.
          ·  August 17
        Actually I was referring to that jutsu from Naruto. You know the one with the purple flames and all.
        • A Shadow Under the Moons
          A Shadow Under the Moons
          Actually I was referring to that jutsu from Naruto. You know the one with the purple flames and all.
            ·  August 17
          Ahhhh... well, if you look at it that way, then it's almost as if I'm splitting Sasuke's abilities between Harrow and Ambarro, hehe.