The Mystic: Part 2

Red was standing by the door when we got back.  She looked at Rain and rolled her eyes.

“Danvir is waiting.”  She told us.

 

I pushed open the door and walked into the house, Rain trailing behind me.

 

Danvir was coming down the stairs when he saw us.

“As Equola is my witness, boy.”  Danvir shouted at Rain.  “I should whip you and teach you to better obey.”

 

Rain stepped around me, his chest puffed out.  “Try it.”  He challenged.

 

Danvir growled as he strode down the last few steps and marched towards the tribesman.  I stepped between them and put my hand on the Clansman’s chest, stopping him in his tracks.

 

“Take a breath and calm yourself.”  I advised the Danvir.

 

“Get your hand off me, Kenan.  I mean to teach this boy some respect.”

 

“I said calm yourself.”  I repeated, forcefully.

 

Danvir glared at me, furious.  “It’s high time someone taught this tribesman a little respect.  I had hoped you’d do it, but as you haven’t, I’ll do it myself.”

 

“Let him try.”  Rain urged.

 

“Quiet.”  I ordered Rain.  “Sit down and hold your tongue.”

 

Danvir sneered at Rain and tried to push me aside, but a little concentration and a little effort on my part stopped him in his tracks.

 

“No.”  I told him.  “If you can’t calm yourself, go back upstairs until you’re fit company.”

 

The Clansman continued to try and push forward, and if I’m honest, he was starting to annoy me.  There was a flash of light, and Danvir found himself thrown back.  He stared wide eyed at me. 

 

I pointed at the stairs.  “Go.  Sit with your Clan Lord.”

 

Danvir picked himself up, glanced at Rain and retreated back upstairs.

 

I turned to Rain who was staring at me in wonder.

 

“Serves him right.”  He laughed.

 

“Shut up.”  I told him, disgusted.  “Danvir was right.  You have no respect.  We agreed that we’d all stick together, no wandering off, but you did exactly that.  Without telling anyone where you were going.  If you want to live a long life, you’d better find some sense.  Fast.”

 

Rain growled something under his breath, but an angry glare from me and he simmered down.

 

“Go walk it off.”  I advised him.  “But stay in sight of the house.”

 

I sighed and strode up the stairs as I heard the door bang shut.  I wondered if I’d ever been that feckless.  Probably not.  We hadn’t exactly had the same upbringing.  I might have been worse.

 

I opened the bedroom door and found Danvir sitting beside Lord Putcha’s bed.  He had his sword out and a whetstone in one hand, as he examined the blade for damage.  I glanced at Lord Putcha, who was still sleeping. 

 

“I have news.”  I said to Danvir, as he stood up.

 

He sheathed his sword and sat down again, folding his arms.  I crossed the small room to the night stand and poured myself some water.

 

“Not just a healer and a guide then.”  Danvir remarked, sourly.

 

“No.”  I replied.

 

“Rain didn’t seem too surprised.”

 

I shrugged.  “He knows what I am.  His people have a little more respect for people like me.”

 

Danvir snorted.  “What does that kid know about respect?”

 

“He’s young, he’ll learn.”

 

“What did you find?”

 

“Sohan.  Maybe.”

 

“Maybe?”

 

“I found footprints.  They’re not Elvish, and they’re recent.”

 

“Where?”

 

“The pyramid.”

 

“How recent?”

 

“Hard to say.”  I admitted.  “But recent enough that there’s a good chance he’s in there, or close by.”

 

I hesitated, and Danvir caught it.

“What else?”  He asked.

 

“There were other footprints.  I don’t know what they were, but they’re more recent than the human footprints.”

 

Danvir sighed.  “Well, one thing at a time.  As soon as Ravi wakes, I’ll tell him.  He’ll want to go find him right away.”

 

“I won’t be going anywhere near that pyramid until the morning.”  I said.

 

“Understandable.  So we’ll wait for the morning.”

 

“Lord Putcha won’t be able to go with us.  I’ve no idea what’s in there, but he needs as much rest as possible.  He’ll be staying here.”

 

“He won’t be happy with that.”

 

“He needs to rest and heal as much as possible before we leave.  If we have to carry him out, we might not make it.”

 

“Fair point.”  Danvir acceded.  “I’ll talk him around, but I don’t like the idea of splitting the party.”

 

“Me neither, but it has to be done.  I’ll take Rain with me, that’ll remove one of your problems.  He can watch my back.”

 

“You think you’ll need him?”

 

I gestured around us.  “Something drove the people here out.”

 

“True.  Any thoughts on who lived here?”

 

“Elves.”

 

Danvir looked surprised.  “You really think so?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Surely they didn’t build this city.”  The Clansman scoffed.

 

“No, I think they took it over.  The rooms are all regular sized, the doors and windows are at our height, but the furniture is sized for them.” 

 

“Whatever drove them out, it’s still here.”  Danvir mused.

 

“That’s my thinking.”  I confirmed.  “We need to leave as soon as possible.”

 

*

 

“No.”  Lord Putcha said, firmly.  “I will not remain behind.  We will all go together.”

 

“He’s right, Ravi.”  Danvir cautioned the Clan Lord.  “Listen to him.”

 

Lord Putcha had woken during the night, not long before dawn.  Danvir had woken me and I’d checked him over.  After informing him that he was recovering, but still needed more rest, I’d told him about the pyramid.

 

“I won’t have anyone go where I won’t go myself.” Lord Putcha protested. 

 

“You need to conserve your strength.”  I told him.  “You’ll need all you have for when we leave.  We won’t make it if we have to carry you.”

 

“Tell him the rest.”  Danvir said, softly.

 

So I did.  I told him about this being an Elvish city, about the footprints in the pyramid and the probability that the Elves’ enemy still being in the city.

 

“If that’s the case.”  Lord Putcha countered.  “Where is this enemy?  Why haven’t we seen it?”

 

I shook my head.  “I don’t know, but we haven’t explored the entire city, just a small part of it.  Maybe it’s in the pyramid.  It was, after all, broken into recently.”

 

“In any case.”  Danvir interrupted.  “We should be ready to leave here as fast as possible.  It’ll be a long trek back to the river.”

 

“Let’s hope the smugglers show up.”  I muttered.  “If they don’t…”

 

“They’ll show.”  Lord Putcha growled.  “Danvir put the fear of Badbh in them.”

 

Danvir and I shifted nervously.  Nobody liked hearing the name of the Mistress of Death.

 

“That aside.”  I continued.  “I’ll search the pyramid.  I’ll take Rain with me.”

 

“Take Red as well.”  Lord Putcha ordered.

 

“You may need her here with Danvir to keep you safe.”  I pointed out.

 

“You’ll need more help than we will.  Danvir will be enough.”

 

“Are you sure Ravi?”  Danvir asked, concerned.

 

“I said it, didn’t I?”

 

“Alright.”  I agreed.  “We’ll go once the sun is up.”

 

*

 

Sunrise found Rain, Red and I standing in front of the Pyramid.

 

“Never seen anything like this before.”  Red said, quietly.  “It’s huge.”

 

“I’ve seen buildings like this.”  I replied, thinking of Elar-i-Um.  “But they were much smaller.”

 

Rain, for a change, stayed quiet, his hand resting on the hilt of his sword.

 

“Alright.”  I said after a few moments.  “I’ll lead, Red, you take the rear, Rain, keep your eyes open.”

 

“Uh, how are we going to see in there?”  Red asked.

 

“I’ll take care of that.”  I replied.  “Stay close.”

 

I strode into the darkness and paused once inside to create a small ball of light.  Red’s eyes widened, but she quickly got a hold of herself.  The little ball of light bobbed into the air and floated up towards the ceiling.  As I walked, it followed me, as though tied to my shoulder.

 

The air inside was cool and everything was as we’d seen it yesterday.  It was silent, like a crypt.  We hadn’t gone much farther than I’d ventured yesterday when I found the first body.  I stopped beside it and crouched down to examine it.

 

Whoever it was, they were wearing a cloak that covered them from shoulders to feet.  I reached out and touched the body.  I felt a snap, a little jolt of power that made me curse.  I reached out again, rolled them over and recoiled in horror.  I took a breath and looked at the thing before me.  It may have been a man once.  It was anything but when it died.  Its skin was dark, almost black.  There was no variance to the colour, at least none that I could see.  It was as if the creature had been dipped in a vat of dye.  Its teeth were pointed, I wasn’t sure if they were filed, or if this was how it was supposed to be. 

 

“Gods!”  Rain gasped as he approached.  “What in the Void is that?”

 

“No idea.”  I replied.

 

I braced myself and placed my hand on the dead creature’s chest.  I was sure I didn’t want to do this, but I had to know.  I Listened.  A moment later I shuddered and removed my hand

 

“Well?”  Red asked from behind Rain.

 

I spat to one side and stood up.  “Whatever that, thing, is, there’s nothing of it left.  I can’t tell when it was last alive.  It may have died a minute ago or a thousand years past.”

 

Rain pointed to a stain on the wall near the creature.  “That suggests that it may have died recently enough.”

 

“Yeah.”  I replied.  “I noticed that too.”

 

I bent down again and felt the back of the creature’s head.  I could feel the shattered pieces of its skull moving beneath its skin.

 

“Smashed against the wall.”  I concluded. 

 

“Something fought it and threw it hard enough against the wall to crack open its head?”  Rain asked.  “What could do that?”

 

I shrugged.  “No idea.  Come on, we have to keep moving.”

 

We came to the end of the corridor and found a set of stairs leading up to the next level.  About half way up I felt something odd in the air.  I could feel the hairs on my body rising a little.  I stopped suddenly, gesturing for the other two to stay where they were.  I slowly made my way further up the stairs, reaching out with my senses.  Listening.  I found another stain on the wall, but no body.  Strange.  I gestured again, to Rain and Red, and we continued up the stairs.

 

At the top of the stairs, another corridor continued off into the darkness.  Midway along the corridor, I found a door.  It was closed and covered in dust.  I reached for the handle and stopped as I felt another little snap of power.  I stepped back from the door, cautious.  Rain reached forward, but I grabbed his hand before it touched the door.

 

“Don’t.”  I hissed.

 

“What?”  He asked.

 

“I’m not sure.  It may be a trap of some kind.”

 

Rain eyed the door.  “I don’t see anything.”

 

“There’s something there.”  I insisted.  “Leave it alone.  It’s not opened in a very long time anyway.  Look at the dust.  It hasn’t been disturbed.”

 

Rain shrugged.  “Fair enough.”

 

We turned to continue on, but I paused as I heard a whisper of movement.

 

“Either of you hear that?”  I murmured.

 

Red nodded.  “Somewhere along the corridor beyond your light.”

 

I heard more noise, clearer this time.  It was coming towards us, fast.

 

“Looks like it’s not trying to sneak up on us anymore.”  Rain warned, as he drew his sword.

 

Red pushed me behind her.  “We got this.”

 

I stretched out my senses, seeking that which hunted us.  I had a brief sense of mindless rage, then it was upon us.  A creature like the dead one we’d seen before.

 

Rain was batted aside, as though he were nothing more than an insect.  I saw him bounce off the wall and fall to his hands and knees.  Red stood firm, between the creature and me.  Her sword moved in an unceasing blur, parrying and cutting.  Despite her best efforts though, she only found air.  The creature twisted and dodged with savage grace.  For all of that though, it too was unable to strike.

 

Beyond the fight, I saw Rain regain his feet, and felt his anger at being so easily dismissed.  He hurled himself towards the fight and thrust his sword deep into the creature’s back.  The creature didn’t even slow.  It casually backhanded the tribesman, even as it fended off another attack from Red.  Rain went down like he’d taken a hammer to the head, leaving his sword embedded in the creature. 

 

Focusing myself, I reached out and with a surge of power I grabbed the creature and hurled it against the door.  There was a flash of light and the creature slammed into the wall opposite the door.  I heard several of its bones break, but, sadly, not its skull.  I reached out again and threw the creature down the corridor, away from us. A slight change in focus and as it charged at us again, I slammed a ball of fire into it.  The creature screamed in agony as it burned and writhed.  Another slight change of focus and I grabbed Rain’s sword, before it could be damaged by the fire, and ripped it out of the creature. 

 

It only took a few more moments before the creature ceased moving, its body now little more than charcoal.  Red was looking at me, her mouth open, while Rain was still pulling himself together.

 

“Close your mouth Red, before you start gathering flies.”  I told her wearily as I grabbed Rain’s sword from where it floated in front of me. 

 

Rain looked a little bleary as he took back his sword.  I put a hand on his chest and listened.

 

“You’ll be fine.”  I told him.  “You just had your head rattled like a dice cup.”

 

“I could have told you that.”  The tribesman grumbled.

 

“Who are you?”  Red asked, quietly.  “Really?”

 

I sighed.  “Just a guide who knows things.”

 

Red gestured to the burning corpse.  “That’s a little more than knowing a few things.”

 

“He’s a Mystic.”  Rain informed Red.

 

I rolled my eyes.  “Thanks.”  I muttered to Rain.

 

“A Mystic?”  Red asked, slowly.  “Like in the old stories?  Masters of power and keepers of mystery?”

 

I snorted.  “Come on Red.  Those are just stories told to keep children entertained.  I know some things and that’s all there is to it.”

 

“Enough to kill whatever that creature is.”

 

“That’s not exactly complicated.”  I protested.  “I just smashed it about a bit.”

 

“It was more than we could do.”  Red admitted.  “Rain and I might as well have been tickling it.  At least we’ll have you if we run into more of them.”

 

“Not too many, I hope.  That takes a lot of energy, I wouldn’t want to be doing it too often.”

 

“The door’s open.”  Rain interrupted. 

 

“Hmm?”  I asked.

 

“The door.  It’s open, the lock is broken at least.”

 

I turned to look and saw the door was badly damaged.  I guess bouncing the creature off it hadn’t done it any good.  I brought my hand close to it, but the earlier sensation I got was gone.  It seemed that it had indeed been trapped.  Before I could say anything more, Rain kicked the door in.

 

“Really?”  I asked, exasperated.

 

He shrugged.  “I want to see what’s inside.”

 

“Fine, but I’m going in first, there might be more traps.”

 

I brushed past Rain and entered the room.  My little ball of light following close behind through the door before floating back up towards the ceiling.

 

The room was large, I guessed it took up most of this level of the pyramid.  Floor to ceiling shelving made up the walls.  Empty shelving.  The room was heavy with dust.  At the back of the room, hidden in the gloom, I saw a large desk.  I walked towards it, my ball of light following me.  The light fell on the desk, revealing it to be as dusty as the rest of the room.  A chair sat behind the desk and as I got closer, I saw that a figure was seated at the desk.  I heard a sword leaving its scabbard, behind me.  I waved the other two back and moved closer to the desk.  A gesture from me and my little ball of light swept forward until it was hovering high over the figure at the desk.

 

“You can relax.”  I assured the other two.  “Whoever this was won’t be bothering us.”

 

The figure, dressed in what looked like the remnants of a monk’s habit, was long dead.  I walked around the desk and examined the figure.  It sat with its hands resting on the desk before it, its head bowed.  Scraps of desiccated flesh still clung to the bones, somehow keeping the figure more or less intact.  I’d never seen anything like it before.  I called down my ball of light so I could more closely look upon the long dead person.  The first thing I noticed was the clear crystal embedded in the skull, where the forehead would have been.  I stepped back in surprise and almost tripped over myself.  This was the remains of an ancient Mystic.  I whispered a silent prayer to Kaol, the keeper of mysteries, the one who hides in shadows.

 

“What is it?”  Red whispered.

 

I shook my head.  “Quiet.”

 

I took a breath and ran my eyes over the figure.  The bones of the forearms were gone, replaced by more clear crystal, perfect replacements.  The breastbone was likewise formed from clear crystal, as were several of the vertebrae.  It was breath-taking work.  I shook my head in wonderment.  How had this been done, how had it been possible.  I had so many questions.

 

I’d mostly ignored the desk up to now, but as I looked at it a little more closely, I noticed that there were several books buried beneath the dust.  I picked them up, one by one and wiped the dust off them.  Two of the books were in ruins, and almost fell apart as I picked them up.  They were far beyond rescue.  The other two were a different matter.  Somehow, they were in almost perfect condition and warranted further examination.  I placed them carefully in my bag and hoped that would be enough to keep them safe.

 

We left the room and I closed the door as well as I could after us. 

 

“Who was that?”  Red asked, carefully.

 

“An ancient Mystic.”  I replied, softly.  “They must be centuries dead, sealed in here when the pyramid was sealed.”

 

“Do you think this was a prison?”

 

The thought hadn’t crossed my mind, and I didn’t have an answer, so I shrugged.

 

“Come on.”  I said, changing the subject.  “We still have to find Sohan.”

 

I led us past the remnants of the creature to the end of the corridor.  We turned a corner and found another set of stairs.  At the top, another corridor.  Another door sat midway along.  I felt a familiar sensation, an almost silent buzz.  My neck hairs lifted again.  I looked at Rain.

 

“Leave it.”  I told him, firmly.

 

“I wasn’t going to do anything.”  Rain protested.

 

“It’s trapped and I don’t feel like having it go off in our faces.”

 

Rain looked a little sulky but followed as I left the door behind.

 

At the end of the corridor, another set of stairs. 

 

Another corridor at the top, as I now expected.  The expected door at the midway point was missing though.  Or rather, the entryway was there, but the door itself was absent.  Judging by the damage to the frame, the door had been trapped, but far more potently than the one I’d used to stun the creature.  I heard a noise and gestured for Rain and Red to be silent.  They already had their weapons out, ready for another fight.

 

I cast a second, much smaller, ball of light into the room and peered in.  The room was large, taking up most of the level.  It was apparently a common theme.  In the centre of the room was a large cage.  I couldn’t make out much detail, but something was moving inside it.  I edged into the room, Red and Rain following.  As my large ball of light followed us in, I extinguished the little light.  With more light now, I could see that the cage was a crude thing.  I lowered the ball of light, closer to the cage, so I could better see into it and found a young man looking out, covering his eyes.

 

“Sohan!”  Red gasped.

 

“Who’s there?”  the young man asked.

 

Red pushed past me, towards the cage. 

 

“Putcha Sohan, it’s Odeta.”

 

“Red?”  Sohan asked, disbelievingly.

 

“It’s me.”  Red confirmed.  “I came with your father.  A few of us did.  To find you.”

 

“Thank the Gods!”  Sohan exclaimed.  “We must get out of here.  As fast as we can.”

 

I stepped closer to the cage and Sohan looked at me.

 

“I’ve seen you before.”  He observed.  “Around the town.  You’re the guide.”

 

I nodded.  “Kenan Estan.  Your father hired me to find you.”

 

Sohan looked around.  “I only see the three of you.  Where’s father?”

 

“Resting.”  Red answered.  “He was injured on the way here.  He’s waiting, with Putcha Danvir, for us to come back with you.”

 

While they spoke, I walked around the cage.  There was a rough door, held shut with a thick pin, that couldn’t be manipulated from anyone on the other side.  I noticed another shape in the cage, lying on the floor, unmoving.

 

“Who’s on the floor?”  I interrupted, pointing at the unmoving form.

 

Sohan hesitated, looking upset.  “Barra.”

 

“Your tutor?”

 

Sohan nodded.  “The creature that put us here did that last night.”

 

I pulled the pin out and opened the cell.

 

“When will it be back?”

 

Sohan looked around, fearfully.  “I don’t know.  It comes and goes.”

 

“What does it look like?”  I asked, as the man stumbled out into the room.

 

“It’s always dark here, I, I don’t know.”

 

I stepped into the cell, knelt down beside the body, and rolled it over.  Barra’s throat had been ripped out, but there wasn’t a drop of blood to be seen.

 

Sohan was looking at me as I turned around.  “I think the creature drank his blood.” He whispered, fearfully.

 

I heard a faint noise, somewhere deep inside the building, and I stood abruptly.

 

“We need to leave.”  I said, firmly.  “Now.”

 

“What is it?”  Rain asked.

 

I shook my head.  “Something I once read about.  We need to leave, as fast as we can.”

 

“Stay with me, Sohan.”  Red commanded.  “We’ll get you back to your father.”

 

“Rain, you’re at the rear.”  I ordered.  “I’ll lead.  Don’t stop for anything.”

 

I led us at a fast walk from the room.  Sohan seemed in fairly good health, all things considered, but I didn’t want to push him, unless I had to.  We retraced our steps, down through the pyramid, not stopping until we arrived back at the entrance.

 

It was an hour or two to midday when we emerged from the pyramid.  Evidently our exploration had taken much longer than I had expected.  I kept everyone moving until we got back to the house, I had every intention of having us leave before nightfall.  We needed to put as much ground as possible between us and this dead place.

 

Danvir was standing by the open door as we approached, and he ducked back inside.  A moment later he reappeared with Lord Putcha close behind.  The Clan lord almost sprinted towards his son and almost bowled him over as he embraced him.  Sohan seemed surprised at the gesture, but returned the embrace after a moment.  Lord Putcha slapped his son on the back and stepped back.

 

“I never doubted you’d be alive, not for a second.”  The Clan Lord informed Sohan.  “Even when everyone else suggested that you’d perished, I refused to believe it.”

 

“It was a near thing father.”  Sohan admitted.  “I was certain that I was going to die.”

 

“Nonsense!”  Lord Putcha enthused.  “No son of mine could die so easily.”

 

Sohan looked troubled.  “None of it was easy father.  The damned smugglers tried to renege on our agreement, then we had near constant attacks from the Elves.  They harried us for days, following just out of sight, occasionally loosing volleys of arrows before fading away again.  I was sure the map had lied, but Barra was certain.”

 

“Speaking of Barra.”  Lord Putcha interrupted.  “Where is that miscreant.  I want to string him up by his guts.”

 

“He’s already dead.”  Sohan replied, angrily.  “You should be thanking him, he kept us together when we were ready to run.  We’d never have found our way here without him.”

 

“You’d never have tried without him.”  The Clan Lord pointed out.

 

“He’s dead now.  What does it matter?  In the end, he saved my life.  I’d have been killed last night if he hadn’t been there, I’m certain.”

 

“Well.  You’re still alive, and that’s all that matters.”

 

I couldn’t afford to wait any longer.  I coughed, and Lord Putcha looked in my direction, annoyed.

 

“We need to leave.”  I told him.  “Now.”

 

“What?  Why?  Surely we can afford to rest for the rest of the day and leave tomorrow.”  Danvir protested.

 

“We can’t.”  I replied, firmly.  “We’re all in terrible danger.  Whoever forced the Elves out of the city will now know for certain that there’s someone else here.  We must leave.”

 

“He’s right.”  Sohan advised his father.  “We need to leave.”

 

Lord Putcha looked disturbed but nodded his head.  “Very well.  Danvir, get everyone ready.  I want to talk to Kenan.”

 

Danvir ushered Sohan upstairs so he could change out of his filthy, torn clothing.  They were followed by Rain and Red who were going to pack up their gear.  Lord Putcha waited until everyone was out of earshot before opening his mouth.

 

“What are we up against?”  He demanded.

 

I shrugged.  “Blood drinkers.  I know enough about them to know that I don’t know enough.”

 

“Blood drinkers?”  Lord Putcha scoffed.  “They’re a myth to scare children.”

 

I shook my head.  “I read about them in Elar-i-Um.  They are rare, it’s true, but they do exist, or at least they did.  The books I studied were old, very old, but they were not speaking of myths.”

 

The Clan Lord rolled his eyes.  “Supposing they were real, what did you learn.”

 

“They feed irregularly, only at need, they look like us, and they should be avoided if at all possible.”

 

“That’s not particularly helpful.”  Lord Putcha pointed out.  “And it doesn’t warrant the fear that you’re causing.”

 

“You’re right.  I was curious, so I went digging in the archives.  I found a few other references, most referred to other books that I could find no trace of, but one book had a little more detail.”

 

Lord Putcha now looked interested.  “Go on.”  He urged.

 

“You must understand that the book was ancient, almost falling apart.  I don’t know if it had been opened in years.  The text was fading badly and barely legible.  What I was able to read was bad enough that it stuck in my mind.”

 

The Clan Lord leaned forward, intrigued.

 

“They can heal almost any injury, and they are stronger and faster than even the most skilled warrior.  They hide among us and it’s almost impossible to see them until it’s too late.  All that’s bad enough, but what was worse was that towards the bottom of the page a few more lines were clear enough to be read.  They said something about Blood Drinkers being agents for far darker powers, beings of such abilities that Blood Drinkers are as children to them.”

 

“Did they say who or what they were?”

 

I shook my head.  “The rest of the text was too faded.  I searched as much of the archives as I could, but I found no more references to either the Blood Drinkers or the darker powers.”

 

The Clan Lord shook his head in disbelief. 

 

“It’s an interesting story, to say the least.”  He allowed.  “But surely it’s just a fiction.  Darker powers?  Agents?  It sounds like a bloody good taproom tale to get the blood up on a deep winter’s eve.”

 

“I’d agree with you.”  I replied, cautiously.  “But the archive was part of the Mystic’s College, and while it’s not complete and falling into ruin, the Mystics of old didn’t record these things for fun.  And take the Elves.  If this is their city, then what forced them out?  What would make you abandon Rech?”

 

“Nothing.”  Lord Putcha spat.  “I’d die before abandoning my people.”

 

“Would you lead your people away in the face of an overwhelming threat?  Would you lead them to safety?”

 

The Clan Lord hesitated and rubbed his chin.  “Maybe, but once the civilians were safe, I’d fight to reclaim the town.”

 

“I think that’s exactly what they’re doing.  It’d explain why we didn’t run into more Elven warriors.  They’re too busy fighting.”

 

“What about the Elves who pursued us?”

 

“Hunters, I’d bet, not warriors.”

 

“Small difference.”

 

“But enough that we survived to get here.”

 

Putcha sighed.  “Okay.  You’ve convinced me that we need to leave.  I still say that Blood Drinkers are a myth, but better we leave than discover that they’re real.”

 

“Fair enough.  I’ll grab my gear and we’ll head out as soon as everyone is ready.”

 

I jogged up the stairs to find Rain securing my bed roll.

 

“I thought you’d appreciate the help.”  He offered.

 

“Thanks.”  I replied.  “I do.”

 

“We’re leaving now?”

 

“As soon as everyone is back downstairs.”

 

Rain handed over my bedroll and I secured it to my pack.

 

It was heading towards late afternoon as we left the city.  I looked back towards the pyramid and promised myself that someday I’d come back.  There was more to discover there, I was certain.  For now, I’d be satisfied with the books I’d found.

 

We made our way down the last set of crumbling steps and gathered at the bottom.

 

“Same as we came in.”  I said, firmly.  “I’ll lead, Rain will follow, making sure you don’t lose me.  Red, you’ll take the rear.  Danvir, you’ll stay with Lord Putcha and his son.  I want to put as much distance between us and this place as possible, so we don’t stop for anything.  Clear?”

 

Everyone nodded.  Good enough.  I didn’t particularly care if they believed me or not, about the danger I suspected we were in, as long as they kept up the pace.  Gods willing we’d never find out.  I set a fast pace, knowing that I’d pull ahead, but Rain would keep them on track.  It wouldn’t be difficult anyway, until we got to the place where we’d leave this paved track.  I did worry though that the Elves might be waiting for us to come back out.  Surely they’d expect us to, unless they thought we’d die in the city.  I really wanted a full quiver, my bow was so much dead weight without any arrows to loose. 

 

I’d stopped at the far end of the bridge, taking a moment to chew on some dried meat when I heard Rain shout.  I tossed the scrap aside and dashed back towards the rest of the party.

 

I met Lord Putcha and Sohan running as fast as they could manage towards me, Danvir not far behind them, his sword drawn.

 

“Some creatures.”  The Clan Lord gasped.  “Behind.”

 

“Wait on the bridge.”  I called, as I dashed past.  “And watch for Elves!”

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© ODunin 2020