A Hidden Quest
Part 38 of Quest
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Outside darkness gnashed
They’re safe in caves behind wards
away from Undeem’s rage
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Light crisscrossed, stabbing through the darkness ‘tween
cave roof and floor, crosshatching wards to keep
the howling Undeem out with magic’s screen.
Hen looked for their savoir, as shadows creep
away from the spell’s light down the tunnel.
No sign of her remained after the ward
activated creating a funnel
of Undeem unable to come forward.
His last glimpse had been of woman a wreathed
in shadow melting to escape the light.
In his arms, he held the baby who teethed
on his stained tunic, his eyes on the sight
of two winged Anandarwen hovering
by the wards that protected the living.
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“We’re safe, aren’t we?” Anasril asked, her wings a blue blur behind her, her voice tired.
Henneth waited for Chero to answer her but his gaze remained fixed on a shadow on the uneven cave’s floor.
“What do your sharp eyes see?”
Chero shook his head, uncertain what he had seen. Though the shadow Hennth threw seemed twice the size it should be. It almost looked like something hid within his shdaow bloating it. That wasn’t possible though. None of the Undeem could pass that wall of coruscating light that blocked the cave’s sole entrance. Or was that the only entrance. He thought back to their last stay here and then shot down the tunnel.
“Chero? What is it?” Anasril looked to Hennth. At six times hers and Chero’s size, and male, he should have some idea of what had sent her beloved flying.
Henneth shrugged. He had no idea what had sent the youth off. But a glance at the wards clued him in. Outside, just visible between the lines of the spell, he could see the Undeem moving off, but not away.
“Is there another entrance?” He asked unable to recall. His visit here before had been cut short by the need to rescue the baby he held. A baby who spat out a mouthful of his tunic and bobbed his head. Surely not in answer to Henneth’s question…
“Yes there is!” Anasril flew off, chasing Chero without explanation.
Hefting baby and sword, Henneth got his tired legs moving. After they barricaded that entrance, he’d get a meal and a rest. God knew he needed it.
The tunnel he followed changed to a ramp that twisted ever downwards, corkscrewing into the earth until one rock wall dropped away revealing a hamlet of little folk. Groundlings were three times the size of Chero and Anasril, yet half the size of a full grown man. They moved between their cottages without hurrying as if an army of evil hadn’t encamped on their doorstep. How could they not know?
Swans floated across a subterranean lake that bordered a garden where Groundlings tended their vegetables in neat rows. A black blur shot past Henneth arrowing for an oculus in the vaulted ceiling above. Directly under that hole, a huge globe of white lumir hung in a silver cage.
‘neath the painted sky
hangs a pendulum that glows–
each swing’s a life blessed.
“No! Don’t get too close!” Anasril shouted but the dark blur gave no heed to her words.
Up and up Chero flew until he saw what he needed to know. Into the light, through its magic matrix, he rose until he could see beyond it into the night framed in the oculus. Demonic eyes met his. Shadows clawed at the barrier but couldn’t pass. Just their regard crossed that barrier.
Gaze lock freezes thoughts,
peels back layers to reveal–
paths to overthrow.
Then he fell, unable to think or fly; his wings had become lead weights that pulled him down to land soft on a blanket held. Sleep claimed him as Anasril crawled across the blanket hastily grabbed and held by Groundlings in the garden. They had seen him fall.
“They can’t get in, can they?” she asked and he had enough strength to shake his head before passing out.
Anasril turned scared eyes on Henneth who looked to the Groundling with a blue-violelet kerchief constraining graying ringlets. Eloaysa had an answer for them.
“He’s been touched by the dark. I see their mark upon him.” Seeing Anasril’s fear, Eloaysa, hastened to reassure her. “It’ll fade. He’ll take no harm from it. Rest is what he and all of you likely need.” Her astute eyes took in their frazzled state with a glance and she nodded. “Welcome to Bayasheru, you’ll be safe here for the night. Unless you’ve packed a wet nurse, you’re going to need one to feed the child. Come, I’ll show you where you can rest.”
Her words implied that when dawn came, they’d best move on. How would they evade the Undeem when tomorrow night came? No answer occurred to Henneth as he followed Eloaysa, holding an increasingly fracious baby.
“Hush, you’ll be fed soon,” he said to the baby trying not to see his son in this unfortunate child of another man. Though the babe’s fussing made him wonder when the last time the child had been fed. Such thoughts chased themselves around his head until a Groundling wet nurse, who stood even with his belt, accepted the baby. Two other Groundlings carried Chero.
Would the Undeem pursue them still when night
again fell with veiling dark to cover all?
Henneth wondered that as he spooned a light
broth into his mouth, scalding tongue and all.
Anasril sat by Chero’s pallet, she
sipped nectar from flowers, spider gathered,
by Chero’s eight eyed pet–who had the key.
If the spider’d sling a door together…
Hen blew on a spoonful of soup to cool
it as he thought of ways to convince Chero.
But where could this portal drop him that cruel
demons like the Undeem wouldn’t know to go?
He glanced at the baby, swaddled and clean,
fed and sleeping and an answer he gleaned.
~ ~ ~
In shadows hidden,
she’s watching, waiting for dark
to hold a babe marked…
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The Quest continues tomorrow…
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