Chapter 16: Take Stand
The earthquakes continued for what seemed like hours. Eddy had no trouble falling asleep and soon Ozzy sat alone in the underground room, dust falling down every now and then.
He kept hearing Eddy’s last sentence over and over again in his head:
“All I’m saying is that the gnomes killed my parents and I hate them for it.”
The boy glanced at the little elf, who lay curled up as a ball, snoring peacefully despite the chaos around him.
Inside the room underground, the boy sighed, leaning back against the wall. Ozzy himself had no memory of his parents. He knew he had parents, otherwise he wouldn’t be sitting there. He just didn’t know what they looked like, but he didn’t mind that. He’d sometimes imagine his father being a brave night who fought dragons. A man with dark hair like his own, bright eyes and a thick beard. He’d always be dressed in full shining armour and a red cape, which flew in the wind when he drove off to adventures on his bravest and most loyal horse.
His mother was the most beautiful princess of the world. Her hair was also dark and very long, with shining crystals braided between the curls. She’d wear pretty dresses with long sleeves and jewels around her neck and arms. Sometimes, when Ozzy was dreaming, he’d hear a woman’s voice. A warm soft voice echoed through his sleep, wishing him a good night. He liked to think that was what his mother sounded like.
Another earthquake went through the ground, and more dust fell down. Coughing and sneezing, the boy wiped the sand from his eyes.
Currently, the only one who came close to being a parent for Ozzy, was the old book seller Gerald. For as far as Ozzy knew, Gerald did have a son. The boy had never met him and only knew of his existence due to a picture he found in a drawer of the reading table. It showed a young man in a long robe, holding a scroll with a golden ring around it. He held it up in the air and was smiling, Gerald stood next to him with his hand on the young man’s shoulder. The book seller looked a lot younger there, he still had hair on his head.
When Ozzy had asked about it, Gerald snapped at him.
“That’s my son and none of your business!”
“A son? Really? How old is he?”
“Not the age to play around with you.” The old man had sighed. “As if he’d ever come here again.”
Ozzy noticed the change in Gerald’s voice and decided that he might be right this time. It wasn’t of his business.
The boy gazed at the wall in front of him. He couldn’t help but sometimes wonder what had happened to Gerald’s son. Maybe he too found something like magic to go after.
Ozzy frowned. Didn’t he do the same thing to the book seller as the son? He left as well, he left Gerald behind, even though he said that wasn’t a good idea.
He shook his head. No, it wasn’t the same. Because he would come back. Ozzy folded his hands into fists, and silently swore he’d go back to the book store after becoming the greatest wizard of all time. He grinned to himself, feeling more determined than ever. He wouldn’t allow himself to fail.
While sitting there alone, he suddenly noticed the silence. He dropped his fists and looked up the ceiling. There were no earthquakes, or rumblings from above. Was it over already?
Ozzy leaned over to Eddy. “Hey! Eddy! I think it stopped!”
The little elf grumbled something in his own elven language, and clearly didn’t hear the boy whispering at all. Ozzy sighed, and started softly poking the little elf with his index finger. But instead of waking up, the little elf giggled. “No, stop it! Heheh, no, c’mon….” he then continued in his own language.
Ozzy grunted in frustration, and concluded this wasn’t going to work. He tried a different tactic, which was grabbing the little elf’s ear and pulling. The smile disappeared from the round face, and the skin started reddening. First, the little elf only grunted, but then it seemed he turned the volume up. With a scream he sat up, immediately awake.
“By the Lord!” he cried out, grabbing his ear with both hands. Ozzy felt an apology in his throat, but swallowed it. He was the one who decided to sleep.
“What is wrong with you?!” the little elf groaned, rubbing his reddened ear.
“It’s over” Ozzy replied. “You told me to wake you up when it was over. Now it is.”
The little elf crawled onto his feet and narrowed his dark eyes. “Don’t get smart with me, piglet. There was no need to-“
Suddenly, the eyes of the little elf widened. His face got as pale as a sheet and he dropped his arms. Ozzy’s grin disappeared. He knew that expression.
Eddy turned towards the tunnel they arrived through earlier. Footsteps were heading their way, but only the little elf could hear them coming. And he knew exactly who those belonged to. He licked his lips. “Another one…?”
Ozzy’s eyes widened now as well. “What? There were two demons?!”
Eddy’s jaw dropped, as if he couldn’t find the words to describe what he was thinking. His mind was thinking so fast he couldn’t get a hold of anything.
There was only one entrance to this room and this was also the exit. From what he was hearing, the demon was already close. There was no means of escaping if they went through there. They also had no time to dig another tunnel, or reach the surface. They were too deep under. They were stuck, very stuck.
The demon was now so close even human ears could hear the footsteps coming. From the corner of his eyes Eddy could see the boy pushing his back against the wall, in the hopes of disappearing into it.
If there were two demons, Buck must’ve been in trouble. The earthquakes had stopped, which meant the fight was over. With the demon heading their way, that would mean the demon hunter had lost. And if Buck couldn’t even defeat it, what was a little elf going to do?
Eddy sat down, his head in his hands. “By the Lord, how did we get ourselves into this mess?”
After saying that, the footsteps fastened, as if the demon had heard. Eddy quickly covered his mouth with his hand.
“What are we going to do?” Ozzy whispered, his voice trembling. Eddy shook his head over and over again.
“Just…wait.” That was all the little elf could think of. He wasn’t the kind of elf to battle a demon. He had more in common with a human farmer than with a knight of the Gilmore March. He didn’t even know any shielding spells. Escaping, on the other hand, was his speciality. With his wings, he could easily escape any tight situation.
But there, in the underground room, he somehow didn’t feel the need to run. If the boy couldn’t, he wouldn’t.
The footsteps came closer, and Eddy predicted the demon would come into view in a few moments. He stood up again, taking a deep breath. He held his chest high, as if that would make him bigger. It did make him feel that way. To the boy, it looked like the little elf was choking himself.
Eddy could see the shadow already, a dark silhouette of a monster from the underworld. The light of the lanterns in the room would soon reveal a hideous face and eyes with a hunger for bloodshed. Probably claws the size of swords and teeth like saws.
This was their last stance, and Eddy was alright with that.
Then the silhouette came into view. First, there was white hair, surrounding a pretty face full freckles and two brown eyes.
“Dawn…?” Ozzy stuttered. The girl sighed, crossing her arms in an annoyed manner.
“Who else?” Her eyes than caught the little elf, who still posed like a warrior but looked more like a toad. “What are you doing?”
The little elf slowly dropped his stance, a little dazzled by anti-climax. “Nothing.”
Dawn stared at him for a while, her brown eyes analysing every drop of sweat falling down the little elf’s face. “What happened here?”
Ozzy frowned, completely unaware of the situation. “Nothing. We just waited it out.”
Dawn didn’t look away from the little elf. “I see. Good thinking.”
Eddy felt a chill when the brown eyes kept looking at him like that. Something wasn’t right about the girl. Her footsteps had so much in common with a demon’s. From what he’d heard and seen, the Devil Bird wasn’t able to take on different forms. He was forever trapped in his bird form.
But if there was indeed another demon involved….
Dawn finally turned around, and Eddy felt like he could breathe again. Her brown eyes seemed to have chocked him the whole time.
“As you can tell, we managed to defeat the bird,” Dawn said, and Ozzy cheered for her. She glared at him, and he fell silent. With a grunt the girl added “for now.”
The boy’s smile disappeared as soon as it had appeared. “You mean it’s not over yet?”
The girl made her way over to the tunnel she just came from, her arms still crossed. “Of course not, idiot. Did you actually think it would be that easy?”
Ozzy quickly shut his mouth, his cheeks reddening. Dawn treated him like a little kid, while she couldn’t be much older than he was. He wanted to snap back at her, but decided not to. Because after all, this whole situation revolved around him so much he might just actually be the cause of it.
“C’mon” Dawn said, with one foot already in the darkness of the tunnel. “Buck’s outside repairing the outer sphere. And considering the looks on your faces, you could use a little sunlight.”
Dawn grabbed one of the lanterns close to the entrance and casually walked into the darkness, the light held in front of her. Eddy gestured to Ozzy, who bowed towards the little elf.
“What is it?”
The little elf glared at Dawn’s back, which was slowly disappearing in the darkness. His eyes spoke nothing but suspicion. “Nothing, I just want to sit on your shoulder.”
Ozzy sighed. “Alright, just don’t grab my ear again.”
The little elf chuckled while the boy placed him on his shoulder. “Ironic.”
Ozzy didn’t hesitate to enter the tunnel this time. The light of Dawn’s lantern was already fading and he was afraid of getting lost in the underground maze. He slowed down when there was only one step between them and the girl. When Ozzy greeted her, she didn’t respond, as if she hadn’t noticed they were not with her the entire way.
The boy and the little elf eyed one another, Eddy shrugged. Both of them hoped Buck would be more eager to tell them what was going on.
The sunlight appearing through a hole in the roof of the tunnel seemed more welcoming than the little lantern. Ozzy let out a sigh of relief, which earned him a glare from Dawn’s side.
The girl placed the lantern on the ground and then turned around to look Ozzy in the eyes.
The boy blinked in confusion. “Is there…something wrong?”
Dawn tapped her with her finger on her arm and breathed out through her nose. She nodded at the ladder, which leaned against the wall, just underneath the hole. “I’ll go first….but you can’t look.”
Ozzy frowned, and stared at the ladder, wondering what was wrong with it. “Is there some secret?”
Dawn’s eyes suddenly shut towards the ground. Ozzy felt something shaking on his shoulder. Eddy was laughing behind his hands and could barely contain himself.
“What is it?” Ozzy asked, as he was clearly missing out on something. Dawn grunted, grabbed Ozzy by the shoulders and made him turn around herself.
“Don’t peek” she mumbled. Eddy was still having the greatest time, but the boy felt nervous. He was clearly not seeing what the little elf was seeing.
“She’s…” Eddy finally managed to say, “wearing a dress.”
Ozzy shrugged. “So? What does that have to do with climbing a ladder?”
Eddy giggled again. “E-very-thing.”