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Darkness enveloped me like a familiar friend. I could hear Wyanet’s steady breath a few feet away. Caeldrim and Kalista’s swords sang further behind me.
Barbs bit into my chest and tore away flesh. A whip cracked. Wyanet grunted in pain. I charged forward, blind. The whip cracked again, searing pain sliced across my cheek. My arm shot up before the whip could retract. The leather tendril tied itself around my forearm, the metal tip dug into my wrist. I grabbed hold of the whip and yanked it towards me. Feet scraped against stone ahead of me. Wyanet sprinted past me. I pulled on the whip again, shifting my hips and putting my full body into it. The whip came loose.
A woman screamed.
Metal smashed into stone.
The darkness vanished, replaced by the soft, blue-green glow of the lichen. Wyanet straddled the Dark Elf captain. Her dagger buried hilt deep between the other woman’s armour. Blood ran down half of Wyanet’s face. The Dark Elf fought desperately to throw Wyanet off. Wyanet grasped the woman’s head in her hands. She pushed her thumbs into the Dark Elf’s eyes until the woman stopped fighting.
Wyanet stood up and turned towards me. Blood dripped from her chin, spattering against her armour, and running down. “Are you hurt?” Wyanet asked.
I touched the slice on my cheek. “Wy, you’re bleeding pretty bad.”
Wyanet mirrored my action with her blood covered hands. She pulled her hands away from her face and wiped them on the rag on her belt. “I’ll live.” She pointed at the blood dripping from my arm, on my face and soaking into my shirt. “You’re bleeding too.”
I shrugged. “I got worse when I was training.”
Caeldrim walked past us guiding the two slaves. “Sit.” He ordered.
Kalista, the dead spider’s saddlebags draped around her neck, brought Wyanet her spear. “That was savage!” Kalists exclaimed.
Wyanet snatched her spear away and scowled at Kalista. Wyanet came over to me and placed on hand on my chest and the other my cheek.
“What did I say?” Kalista asked.
Warmth like the summer sun flowed into my wounds. I could feel the lacerated skin stitching itself back together. I pulled Wyanet’s hands away and looked her in the eye. “Go take care of yourself.” Wyanet nodded and stepped away. I walked past Kalista, heading toward the slaves. “Don’t call the first people savages, it’s derogatory.”
I joined Caeldrim by the slaves. Kalista rolled her eyes and looted the unburnt bodies.
“I don’t have to tell you anything, higborn swine.” a slave snarled.
Caeldrim kicked the man in the face. The slave fell backward, clutching his face and moaning.
“Speak to your superiors with respect.” Caeldrim snarled back.
I stepped between the two facing Caeldrim. “That is not how we do things.”
Caeldrim puffed out his chest and got inches from my face. “The spider fucker insulted me.” He spit.
I kept my face placid. “I don’t care about your injured Elven pride. We are not going to torture these two, they deserve to be treated with civility.”
Caeldrim’s mouth twitched and his nostrils flared. Storm like anger burned in his eyes. “Fine. I’ll help the other half-breed.” Caeldrim stormed off.
I helped the prisoner Caeldrim had kicked up. “”Sorry about that, friend. Some of our company are more barbaric than the rest of us. I only need you to answer a few questions, then we’ll let you go.”
Both prisoners were Dark Elf men. They wore a shiny piece of black silk wrapped around their waists, secured by a white cord. A spider web tattoo adorned both men’s chests. A silver collar with a spider carved into it clung to their necks.
Wyanet came up beside me, her face still covered in blood, but no longer bleeding. “What are your names?”
“We don’t have to tell you anything. You’re all murderers.” The first slave sneered through a split lip.
“Don’t listen to him.” The second slave interjected, stepping away from his fellow. “He chose this life for himself. My name’s Rolen, he’s Ivellios.” Rolen scratched the wiry beard growing from his chin. “I’ll be happy to answer whatever questions I can.”
“Traitor.” Muttered Ivellios.
“I’ve been looking for a way to escape, and you folks look like the best chance I’ve had in a long time.”
Ivellios’s jaw dropped and he sulked away and flopped down by the captain’s body.
“How far down the tunnel do we need to walk before we find a settlement?” Wyanet asked.
Rolen scratched his beard. “Maybe another six kilometers or so, and that’ll take you to the outskirts of the farming district.”
“Are there any more guards?”
“Yeah, about a kilometer from the farm gate is a checkpoint. On a good day, it only has two or three guards. Beyond that, all the Watchers on the outskirts of Delara act as guards.”
“Have an Elf woman and a dwarf entered the city recently?”
“Do you mean Phebes? We got her in one of the last trades with the Blarg. There wasn’t a Dwarf with them though.”
“Did a raid party capture a human woman recently?” Kalista blurted out as she came up behind us.
Rolen looked past us at her. “Slaves aren’t told anything about the raids.” Rolen paused and scratched his beard again. “But I do remember some of the Matron Mother’s soldiers escorting some human children through the farms a few weeks back. If you’re looking for them, you might as well give up hope. You’ll never make it into the Matron Mother’s compound.”
“At least we’re on the right track.” I muttered.
“How often do parties go up to trade with the Goblins?” Wyanet asked.
“Roughly every seven of eight cycles. That’s where we were headed when you attacked us.” Rolen replied. “When no one checks in, they’ll send out an investigation team.”
“I don’t know, two, maybe three cycles. Possibly longer with the festival coming up.”
“We should be long gone before then.” I said.
Wyanet took a few minutes to think. “You two are free to go where you wish.” Wyanet declared. “You are no longer slaves.
Ivellios jumped to his feet. “Great!” He exclaimed and started marching back towards Delara. Caeldrim stopped him.
“Our mission is suicidal enough, you may be free, but you can’t return home.” Caeldrim declared.
Wyanet nodded and forced one of the soldier’s coin purses into Ivellios’s hand. “Take this, and any clothes you want. Go to the surface and start over. You are free of this life of servitude.”
Ivellios took the purse and scowled. “You have forced me out of the security of my chains. You have sent me to my death.” Ivellios started down the tunnel in the opposite direction. “I can choose the knife, but I am dead nonetheless.”
“I beg your pardon,” Rolen interjected. “If it isn’t too much to ask, I would like to stay with you folks for awhile. I don’t know what you’re planning, but you might use some extra help. I know the city. I know the other slaves. And if I could get a chance to get some revenge on the woman who put me here, it would be much appreciated.”
“A local guide would be invaluable for subterfuge.” Caeldrim offered.
“Take what you need from your former masters.” Wyanet said. “You are welcome amongst us.”
The story will continue, July 11th.
Written by: Sweeney
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