Cerberus is a few paces ahead of us, sniffing along. Marcus is at my right, and Chloe is just behind us with XOTӔL in the rear. The wood is thinning and we are approaching a guard tower that marks the beginning of Gilramore. We’re walking at a decent pace and breathing easily, making good time. I’m scanning the wood in front of us past Cerberus when I see his ears prick up just as I hear XOTӔL shout.
“To the tower” I call to the others and head toward the looming stone building. I reach it first searching the base for a door. “Go that way” I point Marcus toward the other side. “Look for a door”.
I round the base of the tower as Chloe joins me.
“Here” Marcus’s yell draws us to him. He is standing in front of a wooden door with metal braces. “There’s no handle” He states, his hands frantically searching the door and wall for a lever.
“Move” XOTӔL demands, joining us, she closes her eyes and places her hands on the door, a soft blue light expands from her hands over the wood and then the door swings inward. Cerberus is first, followed by Chloe, Marcus, me and last XOTӔL. She presses her hands on the inside of the door, her magic spreading out like before and giving just enough glow for us to realize we are in a very narrow chamber with 2 paths and two sets of stairs, one leading up the other leading down.
THUMP THWING THUMP
“Μέσα. Είναι μέσα, Είναι παγιδευμένοι. Σπάστε την πόρτα.” A gruff gravely voice reverberates from the other side of the door.
“Move” XOTӔL demands.
“Which way” Chloe sounds panicked, Marcus is looking at me.
“Do these tunnels lead to the Dwarves Mountain” XOTӔL Asks
“Only one way to find out” Replies Marcus
“You’re both idiots!” Chloe whispers harshly “What if they get in and we are trapped in tunnels? What if there’s a cave in? What if there’s Orcs? Do you not think about anything!”
Marcus looks sheepish and XOTӔL is glaring. “I’ll go first” she offers.
“Chloe, pomme de mon couer” I say gently touching her arm. “Dwarven tunnels don’t experience cave ins. If there were Orc’s we would more than likely smell them, and the only other option is up, and be trapped up in a tower with no escape or back out there and if XOTӔL can’t repel those arrow’s, how will we?”
“I still don’t like it” Chloe states, sounding worried, but she follows XOTӔL down the stairs regardless.
“I can feel ahead for barriers with my magick, and they won’t be able to get through that door. It’s old magick, the most powerful type. The only thing that can get through that door now is a Dwarf. I can see perfectly fine in the dark, but if you’d like I can conjure fire into my hand for the rest of you to see by”
“Yes please” Marcus says. “I would appreciate some light.”
“Me too” I offer.
XOTӔL doesn’t respond, but a small flame ignites in her hand. Cerberus stays with me as we finish the decent of the stairs into the tunnel. The smell of damp earth is comforting. There’s no sound except the dull echo of Marcus’s footsteps and my own, Chloe and XOTӔL are silent. Cerberus’s nails and pads don’t make any noise on the packed dirt either. The walls of the tunnel are as smooth as a dirt wall can be, and periodically there’s a stone arch. Sconces are spaced out on the wall’s, with torches periodically. The tunnel is wide for Marcus and Chloe to walk side by side, and Cerberus to keep next to me. XOTӔL leading us all, with her black hair flowing freely down her back like a black river. I don’t understand how it can be so smooth, so dark, reflect light, shine and sway all at once especially given our recent escapes. It must be a Dӕmon thing.
Her body looks relaxed and ready for battle at the same time. Her movements leave no energy wasted, her feet stepping carefully and confidently. She looks at me over her shoulder, did she feel me staring?
“I can feel you staring at me, stop it.” She doesn’t sound angry, or annoyed which is a nice change. I hear Marcus and Chloe snicker behind me.
“Sorry” I offer. I’m not sorry. She’s beautiful. The way her hips sway with each step, the curve of her waist, her ass, her thighs. I feel a stirring in my groin and quickly avert my eyes, trying to distract myself I think about what a weird fluke it is we ran into her on our annual trip together. Last year we explored Crescent Island, Marcus almost fell into a volcano, and Chloe lost her eyebrows when a steam vent opened suddenly in front of her. I smile remembering our annual trips over the years. This is by far the most exciting and probably worst. I finger the small hourglass, filled with sand from our first trip out of Episos together. I wear it always, I feel naked without it. We had each grabbed a pinch of sand from the mountain at the elvan border and put it in the cheap hourglass figurine I bought from the sand people.
This wasn’t our first time in the Wood, but this is the first time we ran into a Dӕmon. We’ve met Fairies, elves, Dwarves and humans all exploring, and camping. It’s mostly deserted, folks from Lysandros fear it.
“How did you get into Lysandros, by the way” I ask XOTӔL, speeding up to walk next to her.
She bites her lip and I see the corner of her fang. I shudder remembering her lips on my neck and shake my head slightly to focus back on topic.
“I guess it won’t hurt to tell you” She takes a deep breath, “the old portal, at the top of the Temple of the Fae, can be used with the right spell. It isn’t completely broken. However, getting to it on the side of Encantadia is hell. The king has a private portal, for business dealings with Lysandros, however no one except his majesty himself can use it.” I pick up her less than favorable tone
“Don’t all Dӕmons work under and for the King?” I inquire, possibly making her think I’m less educated than she already assumes.
“In a way, I suppose. However, we don’t all work directly with him or even at the castle. I was working in the outlands, a sorcerer’s apprentice.” She looks at me and I nod to keep her talking, aware of Cerberus right behind me and Chloe and Marcus still close by.
“I was working on becoming a Sorceress and moving into Lysandros, not all of us can use magick, its very rare for Dӕmons. The king was sending ambassadors to our village requesting an apprentice to join them in the castle. I kept declining, but a few of my fellow students were taken. Once they go we never hear from them again.”
My face must look worried or shocked because she pauses and bites her lip harder, a bead of blood pooling where her fang sank into the skin. “Ah” she gasps. “I’m not used to bleeding. We don’t bleed in Encantadia. We’re not immortal, but we don’t bleed.” Her tongue flicks out to taste it and I look away, down the tunnel as far as the light lets me see.