70 Humming Along
The raptors proved themselves to be fairly good rides once you got used to the way they moved. Athena had complete control over them thanks to the whistle she had used, so now that they had transportation, they continued on their way towards the black line on the horizon.
Strangely, even though the raptors were made of flesh and blood, they did not tire or grow hungry, so the group only had to worry about their own stamina when riding.
It was a full day of traveling before they saw action again. They had been riding along on the raptors when the timer appeared. It was only a minute long timer and they were shortly attacked by a large flock of thousands and thousands of small bird-like creatures that dove at them in clouds of needle-beaked fury. Thanks to her Ice Armor array Zoey was able to shrug off the damage and counter attack with her knife, that turned out to be ineffective as the creatures were extremely agile in the air and Zoey's Dark Star Control was not fast enough. Viridi came to her rescue by landing on her shoulder and spewing large clouds of Ice Venom at the diving swarm of avians. The Ice Venom was very effective against the creatures, killing them by the hundreds as they encountered it.
Athena on the other hand simply twirled her staff so fast in the air that any of the avians that tried to attack her got their flight path disrupted by the turbulence and were subsequently killed by the whirling staff. Like the other creatures that had been sent after them the avians had a one track mind to kill them and kept diving at them until all of them were dead.
As they stopped to rest and clean up, Zoey asked Athena, "What were those little things? They seemed vicious."
"Oh they are vicious hun. We call them needlewings. They like to stab into you and suck your blood like a mosquito. Nasty little buggers if you can't fend them off. They normally come in flocks of a few hundred, so you should never see a group this large. They like to live around swamps, so watch out if you are ever near one."
Zoey thanked Athena for the info, and they continued on their way. They had been getting progressively closer to their objective and they could tell that they were only about a day away from whatever the black line was. Zoey hoped that it was the way out. She was getting tired of the endless, flat, grey landscape they had been traveling on for nearly two days now.
Athena also felt that she wanted to be free of this place, so they pressed on towards the goal. Hours later the finally were able to see where the black line touched the ground. From the distance they were at, Zoey could only make out that it was a cathedral like building that was the only feature on the otherwise empty landscape.
"Zoey, look," Athena called out and pointed off to the left into the empty expanse of grey. Zoey looked and saw some black dots, too far away to make out even for her, moving towards the cathedral.
"Could it be the other people that entered the dungeon?" Zoey asked as she scratched Viridi's ears. The cat was actually getting quite big from the steady diet of blood that Zoey was providing.
"It likely is some of the ones that entered before us, or maybe after... Its hard to say" Athena replied. "The building there will be the goal for all the ones that could survive the trials. We should try to make it there quickly."
Zoey agreed, and they headed off riding their raptors. As they drew closer to the cathedral, they realized that the place was actually quite big. The building was several stories tall and sported four tall towers on each corner that pointed at the sky. In the center of the cathedral was a larger tower that was projecting the black beam that they had been following until now.
Now that they were closer, Zoey felt a strange melodic hum coming from the beam of energy. It was odd, like a strange tune she could almost remember, but yet still eluded her memory. The hum seemed to be inside her head, yet she knew that it originated from the black beam of energy.
"Do you hear that? The humming?" She asked.
Athena looked at her in puzzlement, "Humming? I'm afraid I can't hear it, but Viridi seems like she can." She pointed to the cat sitting on Zoey's shoulder.
Sure enough, Viridi was sitting straight up and staring at the black beam, ears twitching as if listening to something. Zoey sent her thoughts to her friend to ask what she heard, and Viridi sent back the same humming sound that Zoey was hearing. Seems like Athena was the only one that could not hear the sound.
"We will figure it out once we get there," Athena prompted, patting Zoey's shoulder. "We should keep moving."
They reached the cathedral and dismounted their raptors in front of the large doors that blocked the entrance. Looking around, Zoey saw no evidence that anyone had made it here before them. Behind them the other black dots moving towards the cathedral were still a ways away and would likely still take some time to catch up.
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Athena motioned Zoey over, and with a push, the two of them opened the doors to the cathedral and cautiously walked inside. Zoey felt that the humming was getting stronger and stronger, and Viridi also reflected that as her entire body was pointed like an arrow towards the source deeper inside the building.
"The hum is getting stronger... almost as if it's calling to me..." Zoey said while shaking her head. The sound was messing up her concentration.
"You going to be ok hun?" Athena asked, her concern evident as she patted Zoey's shoulder.
Zoey nodded to her friend to reassure her. Suddenly, Athena whipped her staff behind them and faced the open door of the cathedral. When Zoey turned and looked she found that a large group of armored mercenaries had showed up at the door, and at their front stood Loxon, leader of the Sand Sharks with a crooked smile on his face.