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Our party stalked down a tunnel that lead deeper underground. Caeldrim’s familiar, a barred owl named Strix, escorted the party. Kalista walked after the owl. Wyanet guided Caeldrim at the back of our group, and I stayed in the middle.
The colossal tunnel stretched ahead and behind. We walked for more than two hours and it never changed. The tunnel formed a perfect cylinder, and lacked any sign of hand carving. The ceiling arched another ten feet above us. Bioluminescent lichen clung to every inch of the walls and ceiling giving off a dim green glow.
“I wanted to talk to you about something.” I said to Kalista as I caught up to her.
“Are you going to yell at me for running away too?”
“No,” I replied. “I didn’t think you would stick around in the first place.”
“Thanks for the vote of confidence.”
“I know how people like you are. I would have done the same.”
Kalista paused and looked at me for a moment, then continued walking.
“I’m curious why you came back.” I continued.
We walked in silence for a while before Kalista spoke. “I’ve got a spécial interest in finding Katerina and Kilian. Kilian is a little shit. He would always scare game away when he sneaked after me on a hunt, but the kid is high spirited. And Katerina…” Kalista trailed off. “Let’s leave it at love makes liars of us all.” Kalista and I continued to walk on in silence.
“Why are you here?” Kalista asked. “You have no obligation to these kids.”
“Because Wyanet wants to be here.” I replied. “She saved me after my home was destroyed, and she didn’t ask for anything in return. I’m here because this is something she feels she needs to do, and I owe her too much to abandon her now.”
Strix flew on silent wings toward us. He landed at our feet, hooted once, and took off again toward Caeldrim and Wyanet.
“I think they want us to come back to them.” Kalista whispered.
Kalista and I jogged back to Wyanet and Caeldrim. They squatted close to the ground, Strix waddled around them. Wyanet waved us over.
“We have got a problem.” Wyanet whispered as we joined them.
“What’s going on?” I whispered back.
“A party of Dark Elves is coming toward us.” Wyanet replied.
“Five soldiers,two slaves, and one a spider.” Caeldrim leaned back against the wall, his eyes clouded over and Strix took off down the tunnel. “Four of the soldiers have short swords and hand crossbows. The one riding the spider has a scimitar. The soldiers shouldn’t be a problem, but as long as their captain is on that monstrosity, we’re dead.”
“I’ll kill the spider.” Kalista offered eagerly.
“Damian and I will deal with the captain, after the spider is dead.” Wyanet said.
“That’s probably the best. Dark Elves are vicious fighters, and their captains are even more ferocious.” Caeldrim stated. “ After she kills the spider, Kalista and I will make sure the other soldiers don’t get involved. Strix and Stargazer should be able to get behind them, and provide us with a decent distraction.”
“No.” I declared. “Stargazer isn’t some familiar spirit I summoned to serve my every whim. He is my friend, and I will not intentionally put him in harm’s way.”
Caeldrim glared death back at me.
“They will be on us any minute. We do not have the time for an argument.” Wyanet interrupted.
We dropped our rucksacks, and shed the gear we wouldn’t need to fight. I stood in the center of the tunnel with Wyanet at my side. Kalista, hood up and muffler on, crouched behind our pile of discarded gear. Her crossbow rested on the pile, focused down the tunnel before us. Caeldrim, lacking any cover, pressed himself as close to the ground as he could. We waited.
“Who are you!” a booming woman’s voice demanded.
The Dark Elf party came closer, hands on weapons.
“In the name of the Demon Queen of Spiders, I demand to know who you are!” The woman shouted.
I looked to Wyanet. We remained silent.
“Answer me, and you may be allowed to live!”
The four soldiers and their captain came closer. They drew their weapons and fanned out. The captain on her spider scurried toward us, faster than her subordinates. I waited for Kalista to shoot. The spider rider got closer. Still nothing.
“Brace me.” Wyanet ordered. She lowered her spear and got into a fighting stance.
I jumped behind Wyanet. I leaned my left shoulder into her back and locked my right hand against her right shoulder. The spider continued to bear down on us.
Five feet away, The spider reared up on its four hind legs and screeched. Wyanet thrust her spear into the creature’s face. The gargantuan spider clawed at Wyanet’s spear. Wyanet twisted her spear. The spider screeched again and backed away from Wyanet. Wyanet lost the grip on her spear. The spider continued to struggle with the spear. Kalista’s crossbow thudded a bolt beside the spear. The spider went silent, all eight of its legs went in different directions.
The Dark Elf captain glared through her helmet, and stepped out of her saddle. Slowly, the Dark Elf pulled her scimitar from its scabbard and uncoiled a whip from her hip.
A soldier erupted in bright orange flame. Caeldrim rushed past us.
The captain focused on Wyanet, she took slow steps toward her. “You have chosen death, and I am her.”
Kalista broke her cover and sprinted toward the soldiers. The captain cracked her whip, the metal barb at the end lashed across Kalista’s neck. Kalista cried out, but kept running.
I held my sword in a low defense, and shuffled to my right.
Wyanet yanked her dagger from her belt and held it in a reverse grip. “I will not suffer you to live, slaver.”
I lunged for the captain’s throat.
The captain tilted her head to the right. She brought up her armoured left arm and turned my blade. The captain slashed towards Wyanet. Wyanet blocked the attack with her shield. She stepped into the captain’s guard. Wyanet’s dagger sparked as it dragged across the Dark Elf’s breast plate.
The Captain kicked Wyanet away. She snapped her whip at me and turned her full attention on Wyanet.
Wyanet blocked the captain’s first attack. She dove under the second and sliced a deep wound in the exposed flesh above the Captain’s knee.
I ran behind the Dark Elf, and kicked her with a roundhouse kick.
The Captain stumbled forward a few steps and turned back to us. “Don’t want to fight fair?” She smirked. “I can play that way too. The Dark Elf muttered some arcane words. A spinning black sphere, the size of a child’s ball popped into existence between the three of us. The sphere spun faster. It flared outward. In the next instant, an impenetrable darkness enveloped the tunnel.
The story will continue, July 4th.
Written by: Sweeney
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