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Late Night Guests
The iron gate slid open on well oiled hinges. The light orbs in the cavern ceiling glowed like the light of a full moon. We slipped through the gate and sprinted along the stone path to cover.
“Stay low.” Rolen whispered as we all crouched in a barley field. “Watchers still patrol the fields during the dark cycle.
We slithered through the grain fields. Rolen lead us on an hour long trek towards a collection of orange lights flickering on the opposite end of the cavern. Ten feet from the edge of the last field, a Dark Elf riding a reptilian bird stopped in front of us.
I crouched as close to the ground as I could without disturbing the crops. My hand found my sword hilt and rested there.
The dark elf studied the field, his mount licked the air.
My heart pounded in my ears. I heard Stargazer pull his sword from its scabbard. Caeldrim snapped his fingers somewhere behind me.
The barley rustled and shifted.
The Dark Elf focused on where the noise came from.
Strix shot up into the air and raced towards a dark patch in the cavern ceiling.
The mount jumped back a step, chirped once, and spit a gout of fire at the owl familiar. Bright light washed over everything and faded away in an instant. The Dark Elf punched the creature in the back of the head, muttered something, and yanked the creature’s reigns back towards the path. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief.
We waited another minute, and crept out of the field. We slunk our way across open ground towards a large stone carved building. We worked our way to the back of the building and pushed back a worn silk curtain into a dim room. Puddles of the artificial moonlight reflected off of old tool heads and vanished in mounds of burlap bags.
“What was that thing?” Kalista hissed.
Rolen came through the curtain last. “The Watchers call them giant striders. They prefer them to spiders.”
“And they breath fire!” Kalista half shouted.
Caeldrim brushed past Kalista heading for a window. “Yes, they’re very intimidating monsters.”
“Keep your voices down.” Wyanet scolded.
“Wait here.” Rolen declared. “I will go upstairs and tell Bibi you are here.” He went to the darkest corner of the room and vanished into the shadows.
“We should try to learn the guards patterns.” I offered. “We don’t know how long we will be here.”
“Good idea Half-breed.” Caeldrim replied and crouched beneath a window. “We might be able to figure out how many there are at least.”
“Why do you call them that?” Wyanet demanded.
Caeldrim looked back to Wyanet. “Call them what? Half-breed? It’s what they are.”
“Damian is human, and Kalista has a proper name.” Wyanet replied.
Caeldrim stood up, squared his shoulders, and puffed out his chest, inches from Wyanet. “Your lack of years can be forgiven, but you will speak to me with respect, woman.”
My hand crept to my sword.
Wyanet didn’t move. She stared up at Caeldrim. “I have no respect for those who use the circumstances of their birth to place themselves above others.”
Caeldrim sputtered out a collection of meaningless syllables and stomped back to his window.
“What was that all about?” Kalista whispered into my ear.
I pulled her toward the front of the building. “Don’t take it to heart. Wyanet is still pissed at you, but she doesn’t like to see others treated poorly.” I paused for a second. “Kalista, why are you here?”
Kalista looked at me, confused. “I already told you, it’s complicated.”
“Not what I meant.” I rubbed the bridge of my nose. “You’re from the Archipelago. You love booze and people, and you are more flamboyant than a peacock. Why then, are you staying in a tiny farming village on the frontier instead of New Horizon, or one of the other eight cities?”
Kalista crossed her arms and looked away from me. “Maybe, I wanted to try a small town life.”
“If that was the case, half the town wouldn’t hate you and the other half wouldn’t be trying to have sex with you. Tell me the truth.” I turned Kalista back to face me. “And don’t try to say you’re running from something either. Runners don’t settle down, I would know.”
Kalista dropped her arms and rolled her eyes. “Fine. Five years ago Clas hired me as scout for his expedition. I was sixteen, and the only woman in the militia. I never felt safe when we made camp, they all made me nervous. After a few close encounters with Baldrick, I always stayed in the followers camp”
“Wait,” I interrupted. “Baldrick as in the kid who guards the manor house?”
“No, he’s a junior, and his father was a disgusting man. I’m glad he’s dead.” Kalista paused for a second. “Never trust some one over thirty who tries to coerce a sixteen year old into their bed.” She spit on the ground. “I got close with one of the officer’s daughters in the follower’s camp. She was a few years younger than me, and her father wasn’t happy about our friendship. He wanted to have sex with me too and fucking his daughter’s friends would have been unacceptable. A few weeks ago, she disappeared.” Kalista wiped at her face with the heel of her palm. “At first I thought she had run away without telling me. Baldrick had an eye for her too, and he was her father’s most trusted friend.” Kalista sniffed. “When I saw that cage in the Goblin camp, and realised they might have gotten her.”
“Don’t worry.” I cut her off. “If she’s down here, we’ll find her.”
Nervous silence filled the air. Half an hour crept by. Heavy feet thudded against wood. An ocean-deep gravelly voice spoke from the shadows. “Rolen said you were down here. Come with me. Bibi wants to talk to you.”
Wyanet and Caeldrim crouched, frozen beneath their respective windows. I stayed still.
“I know you’re there. I can see all four of you.” The voice spoke again. “If we wanted to turn you into the Watchers, we would have done it already. Bibi is waiting.”
Wyanet moved first, keeping her spear parallel to the ground. “Where is Rolen?”
The voice chuckled. “He is in no more danger than the rest of us Miss.” A match flared and lit a candle. The warm little light reflected off the face and tusks of a seven foot tall half-orc. “Watch your step here, the stairs are dark and hard to see.” The half orc stepped to the side to let us pass. “There is food and drink if you would like it. Be careful with the curtain, sometimes it likes to stick to ya.”
Wyanet and I ascended the stairs together. We pushed back a heavy black curtain. The scent of fresh bread and hearty stew buffeted our nostrils.
A slow ragged voice called from beyond another curtain. “We are in here.”
The story will continue, July 25th.
Written by: Sweeney
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