The escape: III

A tale from the world of the Cursed Eight

By

Accipiter G. Goshawk

The story continues from where The escape: II left off…

They ran pell-mell along dank corridors, leaping down steps and dashing down tunnels, moving ever lower into the bowels of the Imperial Palace. They sped past empty prison cells, an abandoned armoury, a room with rotting bags of flour…and always behind them the tramping feet. Always searching, yelling, ordering, and clanging.

“We need to find the sewers!” gasped Sora as she struggled to match her older sister’s strides.

“I know, I know!” hissed the bronze-scaled maiden, her eyes flitting over walls and floors, searching for an opening, a trapdoor- anything!

They took a left and swung down another endless flight of stairs. As the light from the torches behind them faded, Tara quickly conjured a small sphere of light that hovered in front of them. She kept the glowing ball dimmed so as to not alert any pursuers to their presence.

“With a bit of luck, we might be able to lose them,” she thought to herself.

They stopped abruptly as they reached the bottom. A large door of some dark wood barred their passage into the room beyond. It felt out of place in this dirty forgotten corner of the Palace. As her eyes adapted to the gloom, Tara noticed a series of intricate golden words lining its edges. The language was unfamiliar.

Sora began to tremble. She clutched her older sister’s arm and pulled her back towards the stairs, her eyes never leaving the door.

“We shouldn’t go in there…it’s wrong. We need to go back.”

The sound of iron boots echoed along the stone walls, a treacherous sound shepherding Tara relentlessly forward. Ignoring her sister’s fearful mumblings, she quickly threw open the door and forced them both inside.

As the door clicked shut behind them, the faerie light went out.

Beside Tara, Sora moaned and clung to her tightly, trying to push back the oppressing silence and the odd persistent smell that wafted around them. Stretching her hand out in front of her, Tara was soon able to find a table and, a few nervous minutes later, a candle.

Flames blossomed from between her fingers and the wick caught.

“Oh no…”

Her younger sister’s singsong whisper curled around the room, drawing horrid details from every corner.

They were in the lair of a necromancer.

Body parts hung neatly on long racks against the walls, while eyes stared out from glass jars and dark crystals radiated malice from atop tall shelves. Long metal rods lined the central space, which Tara recognized to be a summoning circle. Countless jars of powders and liquids were neatly arranged on elaborate desks.

“This is bad,” Tara hissed as she drew her violet-scaled sibling closer to her.

“Indeed.”

They jumped backwards as the soft, familiar voice slithered from behind one of the bookshelves. A small figure stepped into the light: he was clothed in the same simple tunic he’d been wearing only a few hours ago, but now he carried a dark metal staff topped with a single gleaming opal.

“I had a feeling you brats would be a nuisance…however it seems that your trouble-making is going to work to my advantage. Now I can interrogate you without interference.”

Magical shadows spiralled from the staff and immediately the air began to feel caustic. Tara clutched at her throat, while still trying to use her own magic to shield Sora from Dodo’s spell.

“There is no need for all this suffering children. Just tell me where your mother is hiding and we can all go back to being friends.” His dark promise floated in the miasma around them. For a second, Tara believed him: they should at least try and help him find mother.

The foggy confusion faded as her eyes caught sight of a series of smaller skulls sitting in small pyramid around one of the summoning rods. As the dark poison filled her lungs and sent fiery pain rushing through her veins, she searched the room looking for a weapon, a way out, anything!

A dull glint caught her attention: there! Beneath the third table: a trapdoor!

“Sora-!” she pointed, fighting back a cough.

There was an answering cough behind her. She tried to move forward, but her body felt sluggish and in moments she was on her knees, gasping like a fish.

“It is pointless to struggle. You are merely infants while I – I am the Emperor.”

Tara felt her eyes close. Her will was slipping; soon she would be another dead plaything for this twisted monster.

“I don’t care who you are. You hurt my family. You are evil! Go away!”

Behind Tara, something flared.

She felt jets of magical flames shoot past her and towards the half-elf, spiralling around the laboratory and enveloping it in a raging inferno.

You brats!” Dodo howled as he clawed at his robes, staggering away from the fire.

The poison immediately dissipated and Tara’s eyes fluttered open.

The room was a devastation of burning wood, flesh and exploding jars. She scrambled to her feet and grabbing her sister, dashed for the third table. They ducked beneath its blazing surface, shielding their eyes as sparks flew in every direction. A touch from Sora completely disintegrated the trapdoor and soon they were shimming down the ladder into the sewers of Ra’thelas.

As they rushed into the dark maze, they heard a deranged scream from the hellish blaze above:

Run! Run insects! I will catch you! I will have you and your mother! You cannot hide from me!”

Sora paused for a moment, then turned and blew a raspberry.

Then the two sisters disappeared into the welcoming shadows.-

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