32/366 – The Dark Place (Cont.)

Continued from 31/366 – The Dark Place (Cont.)

“We are looking for something precious to us,” Morn said, “We think there’s a good chance it’s down here.”

The figure stepped forward, revealing silver hair that hung just below its shoulder. It motioned with its hand, and two more stepped out of the darkness. Morn could see vaguely elven features on its face and ears. Though the skin was far too pale from what he had read at school.

“You will come with us,” he said.

“We can’t leave the proximity of this staff,” Celeste said. “If we do, we will suffocate. We can’t breathe the air down here.”

A flash of fire streaked past Morn’s face and slammed into the creature. Morn spun to see Koldian running up to his staff as he prepped another ball of fire that turned just above his palm.

“You will leave us in peace, or I will show you true power,” Koldian whispered. Even the whisper seemed to echo through space as the creatures recoiled further into the dark.

“You will pay for this dishonor, I promise you that,” the creature said before Morn could no longer see him.

“What was that?” Jaque asked.

“A Deep Dweller,” Koldian said. “They used to be something pure that enjoyed the surface, but their kind were driven down by dragon attacks eons ago. They took deals with forbidden beings to get revenge on the dragons, but it came at a price that made them less than what they were. Less than any creature could be.”

“Are they dangerous?” Celeste asked.

“Very much so,” Koldian said. “If they’ve found us, they will follow just outside the light. We had better get moving. I think I may have found where the stone is located.”

Morn felt a flash of excitement followed immediately by the realization that the Deep Dwellers weren’t going to go away. He felt the hairs stand on the back of his neck, knowing that it was from them watching him.

Koldian led them down the second passage, which spiraled down, growing warmer with every step. Morn noticed small sounds behind them of something shifting in the dirt or scraping a rock.

Morn walked up to stand beside Koldian, “Do they have weapons?”

“Did you see any?” Koldian asked, looking over his shoulder. He grimaced as though he saw something they didn’t.

Morn shook his head, “No, I only saw the first one. It didn’t look like he had any, but I didn’t get a good look at the other two.”

“There is something I should tell you about elemental stones before we get too close to this one,” Koldian said. “They change the things around them. If they are water stones, they draw springs up around them, earth stones will produce clay golems that protect them, air will keep never-ending storms surrounding them-”

“Fire will create hot spots and far worse,” Jaque said.

“Too right, Jaque,” Koldian replied, “there is a likelihood that we may have some issues retrieving the stone, but I can tell you we won’t give up until we’ve exhausted every option. Do you know what element your mother has bonded with?”

“I think fire,” Morn replied.

Koldian nodded.

“Thank you,” Morn said.

Morn dropped back a few paces from Koldian and let Jaque walk beside him. He imagines that they would find a lake of lava swirling around the stone, or perhaps the stone would be so hot it would create a kiln that would kill them instantly if they stepped into it. He felt sweat beading on his forehead.

“It’ll be okay,” Celeste said, squeezing his shoulder.

Morn nodded, “I hope you’re right.”

“Koldian wouldn’t venture this far if he didn’t have some ideas on how to get it. He’s gotten a lot of other stones already,” Celeste said.

“But I don’t think he was doing it to save a person’s life,” Morn said. “I trust him, but there’s something about the things following us, and the way Koldian looked at me when I told him what element I think my mother may have been. I can’t place it, but something feels off about this whole thing.”

Celeste pulled Morn closer to her before she whispered, “If things go wrong, I’m sure Rashem will protect us. I will do everything I can to get us out of here with, or without, Koldian, if necessary.”

A small pebble collided with the back of Morn’s head, making him turn around. If the creature he had seen before was creepy, now it looked like a thing of nightmares. It stopped walking and let them continue, but a smile spread across its face revealing pointed teeth and a sinister glint in its eyes.

“Those things are creepy,” Celeste said. “Koldian, can I ask a question?”

“Of course!” Koldian replied.

“You said that you’ve dealt with Deep Dwellers before,” Celeste said, “What would have happened had you not come back in time?”

“From my interactions with them, as well as my academic studies, they would have brought you to where ever their clutch lives. They would have performed a cleansing ritual unique to their religion, then either converted you or eaten you. It’s hard to know what they want you for without knowing more about the clutch specifically,” Koldian said.

“That’s comforting,” Celeste said. “What do you think they meant when they said that we would pay for our dishonor?”

“I’ve heard that several times in the past. There was one time, in the Western Illican mountains, that they took one of the workers from our work sight. A few others went after the man, but they got turned around and couldn’t find him right away to get him back. It took two days to find the clutch of them, and by then, they had eaten him,” Koldian said, “His brothers were so upset that they hunted down every member of the clutch and did terribly cruel things to them before finally killing them.”

“Terribly cruel?” Jaque asked.

“Best to not talk about such things in the presence of children,” Koldian said. “Just stay in the light, and stay close to me. I’ll make sure nothing happens to you. Moving on!”

“Is it just me, or is there light up ahead?” Celeste asked as she pointed down the tunnel.

“Look at that,” Jaque said, “The rock itself is glowing.”

Koldian stopped and pulled a feather from a pouch on his side. He planted his staff once more and stepped forward with the feather held gingerly in front. At the point that Koldian had left the safety of the staff before the feather ignited startling Koldian.

“Good to know,” Koldian said. “We are going to be moving slower for now. Stay just behind me so the magic from my staff has a chance to cool the floor sufficiently before we walk on it. I think we may have found where the stone is located! My theory was correct!”

Contiinued 33/366 – The Fire Stone

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