Authors: Callie Kanno
E’nes had to remind himself not to stare at the boy in shock. The
lad could not have been more than seven years old. What was he doing in a place
such as this?
There were two exits from the stable, and Adesina had not
mentioned which one they should take. Sa’jan only hesitated a moment before
walking towards the one on the left. It was larger, and seemed more frequented
than the other.
They moved quickly and quietly, searching for stairs that would
take them down to the lower levels. The path that Adesina had described to them
appeared to be outdated, so they were on their own in their search efforts.
They stayed to the shadows as much as possible, but the halls were
too well lit. E’nes’s heart almost stopped when they heard the sound of
The two of them moved to one side, like Adesina had instructed
them, and leaned their heads together as if in whispered conversation.
The Shimat walking past glanced at them suspiciously, but said
The young L’avan exhaled in relief. “We need to get off of this
floor. There are too many people around!”
Sa’jan nodded his agreement. He connected to his
and walked over to the nearest
door, reaching out to sense how many people were beyond it. After a moment he
shook his head and moved on to the next door.
E’nes followed him, glancing down the hallway nervously. Occasionally,
if the room was empty of Shimat, the older L’avan would nod to him and he would
use his own
to sense what the
“Storage,” E’nes would whisper. “Restroom. Bedroom. Study. Study.
Some kind of servants’ quarters.”
Far down one of the branching corridors, the sound of multiple
footsteps could be heard. The two L’avan glanced at each other in alarm and
hurried to find someplace to hide.
Sa’jan nodded to the nearest door, but E’nes shook his head. “Council
room,” he mouthed. They couldn’t hide in a room where the group of Shimat might
They moved on to the next door. “Study.”
The footsteps were drawing closer.
Sa’jan passed several doors that held occupants, then peeked
around the corner to make sure the next corridor was empty. No one was
patrolling that hall, so they hurried to turn the corner. The footsteps were
still coming toward them, so they went on with their frantic search of the
rooms. Most of the rooms in this corridor were filled with Shimat.
Sa’jan moved from door to door, shaking his head and glancing
behind them as the footsteps grew closer and closer.
They both whipped around in surprise, searching for the source of
the noise. Far down the hall they spotted Ravi’s feline face in a doorway. He
urgently inclined his head to the side, beckoning for them to join him.
The L’avan ran as silently as they could, ducking in the room just
in time to avoid being seen by the Shimat patrol.
E’nes saw that they were in the stairway for which they had been
searching, but his relief was only briefly felt. He turned to the Rashad and
whispered, “What are you doing here? Where are Adesina and L’iam?”
“You actually passed them,” he replied. “They are in a study down
Sa’jan frowned. “What are they doing down here? They are supposed
to be searching the upper levels.”
Ravi hurried to explain so he could get back to Adesina, where he
belonged. “We were brought down here by the Shimat guards. They took us to the
person in charge while the Sharifal is away, and he ended up being Adesina’s
“Are they being held prisoner?” E’nes asked anxiously.
He shook his head. “No, her teacher offered to help. He told us
where all of the L’avan prisoners are being kept.”
“What does she want us to do?” was the immediate response from
“The two of you are to go one level down, where the laboratories
are located. That is where most of the L’avan prisoners are being held. Adesina
wants to take our group to the dungeon, where Me’shan is imprisoned.”
Sa’jan gave a curt nod. “Are we still meeting up at the stables?”
Ravi’s reply was cut off by the piercing ring of bells sounding an
alarm. The three looked at each other in horror.
The Rashad sprang out the door from whence they had entered the
stairway, shouting over his shoulder as he ran.
“Hurry! We are out of time!”
Adesina watched as Ravi slipped out the door of Kendan’s study.
She felt uncomfortable and vulnerable without her guardian at her side, but she
shoved such feelings to the back of her mind. She paced back and forth for a
couple of minutes, trying to decide the best course of action. It was only when
L’iam took her hand that she realized that she was shaking.
“Are you all right?” he asked gently.
Her eyes strayed to Kendan’s unconscious form. “I am fine.”
He smiled at her lie and gave her hand a squeeze. “You know I do
not believe you. Why not tell me the truth?”
Her jaw clenched as she fought the waves of emotion crashing over
her. “Because that would mean admitting it to myself.” She shook her head
impatiently. “We do not have time for this! We need to get going.”
L’iam nodded slowly. “Should we wait for Ravi?”
Adesina was undecided on that point. “We do not know how long it
will take him to find the others.”
The thoughtful pause was interrupted by the faint echo of
footsteps approaching. The two L’avan froze, staring at each other in
A forceful knock sounded at the door.
She spun around, taking in her surroundings. Pools of blood
collected on the stone floor, and there was no place to hide the bodies. There
was no place for the two L’avan to hide either.
Adesina grabbed L’iam and held him close, allowing her
to flare up and shield them from
the eyes of others. He wrapped his arms around her, adding his energy to hers.
The knock sounded again.
“Shar Kendan?” a deep voice called.
The door opened to reveal three Shimat. The first was a burly man
with bristly black hair and a thick beard. He was very clearly the leader of
the trio, asserting himself with his chest stuck out. Following close behind
was a face that was all too familiar to Adesina.
Basha’s eyes widened in surprise as she surveyed the scene before
her. “What happened here?”
The leader gestured to the third figure behind him, who was
blocked from Adesina’s view. “Sound the alarm. There are intruders in the
Basha shook her head stubbornly. “That is impossible.”
The man gave her a scathing glare. “Is it?”
She was immediately cowed. “I just meant that…”
His harsh voice continued. “Can you think of no one capable of
breaking into the fortress?”
Understanding dawned in her eyes, and her voice came out in a
A shrill bell began to ring, alarming everyone of the presence of
the intruders. The man and Basha retreated from the room and out into the
hallway. He pointed to her commandingly as he walked away.
“You know what to do.”
Basha gave one curt nod and hurried in the opposite direction.
Even after they were left alone, the two L’avan stared at each
other in disbelief. L’iam whispered in Adesina’s ear, “What are we going to do
Ravi burst through the door. “Ma’eve!”
She quickly dropped the illusion that her
had been creating and stepped away from L’iam, who still had
his arms wrapped around her.
“We must go
There was no argument from either L’avan. The three of them
sprinted from the room and down the corridor towards the stairs that would take
them to the lower levels.
The door was opened before they reached it, and a rather
disheveled looking Shimat appeared.
Adesina increased her speed and leapt into the air, kicking him
squarely in the chest. He was thrown backward and head over heels down the
She landed on her feet and led the way downward without pause. The
stairs were steep and treacherous, making speed difficult. They hopped over the
crumpled form of the Shimat that lay huddled against the door leading to the
second level, and continued their descent to the dungeon.
The stone stairs between the second and third levels became damp
and slick, making them even harder to maintain a quick pace. The torches were
fewer, and the temperature dropped several degrees.
The door at the bottom of the stairs was hard to open. The hinges
were rusted, making it screech horribly when forced to move. L’iam was prepared
to rush onward, but Adesina placed a hand on his arm, bringing him to a halt.
They stepped into the dungeon, looking around cautiously.
The smell of refuse and decay met them in sickening waves, and the
darkness seemed to dance fiendishly in various shades of black. The constant
drip of brackish water echoed around the stone tomb until it was maddening.
Not a torch was to be seen, so Adesina created a small ball of
light to rest in the palm of her hand. She took a few cautious steps forward,
straining to see as much of her surroundings as possible.
A quick scan of the surrounding area, using her
, revealed that they were alone for
the moment; but she used as little of her power as possible, not knowing if she
would need it later.
Most of the cell doors stood open, like gaping mouths waiting to
swallow them up. It was clear to Adesina that these dungeons were seldom used,
which was understandable since the fortress was not a location that the Shimat
liked outsiders seeing, even as prisoners.
The dungeon consisted of three main corridors that were linked by
four smaller hallways. Adesina began to systematically search each of these
corridors, looking for the cells that were being used.
After a few minutes they came across a door that was locked. L’iam
connected to his
and swept the
room on the other side, searching for what was inside. With glowing eyes he
nodded to her, indicating that the cell held a prisoner.
She flicked her fingers backward, and the small ball of energy she
had been holding hopped up from her palm and remained floating in the air. With
her hands free, she leaned down and began picking the lock.
It took only a few expert movement before she heard the telltale
click. Adesina cupped the ball of energy again, bringing it forward. Then, drawing
back the bolt, she pushed the door open.
Three figures lay huddled on the ground. The L’avan took a
hesitant step forward.
The slight scuff of a boot warned Adesina that someone was coming
up behind them. She threw the ball of light into the air, where it hovered and
grew brighter, then whipped around to see the hateful face of Basha.
Adesina immediately drew her Blood Sword, bringing it down as hard
as she could. Basha blocked the assault with her own blade, grappling with the
“Welcome home,” she hissed spitefully. “Come to save your
The young L’avan threw back her opponent, but her follow-up attack
faltered when she saw the commotion going on around her out of the corner of
The three figures in the cell leapt to their feet and tossed aside
the rags that had been covering their Shimat uniforms. They both rushed forward
to attack L’iam and would have overpowered him if it had not been for Ravi. He
let out a ferocious growl and became visible, which startled the attacking
Shimat. This gave L’iam enough time to draw his weapon and prepare to defend
Adesina almost paid dearly for her distraction. Basha swung
viciously at her legs, but her reflexes were just quick enough to jump over the
intended blow. She brought her blade down again, and Basha had to roll to get
out of the way.
The Shimat scrambled to her feet, backing away from Adesina in
order to regain her footing. Trying to distract her opponent, she began to
“You should not have come back here. You might have stood a chance
of evading us in the outside world, but now you will surely die.”
Adesina’s smile was without humor. “We shall see.”
She did a quick feint and then spun around to add more force to
her attack. Basha was not fast enough to evade it completely, and she cried out
in pain as the sword slashed her upper arm. Her gloved fingers strayed to the
small pouch on her belt, but Adesina shook her head in warning.
“Your powders will not work this time, Basha. I will use my magic
to throw them back into your face.”