On the Evil Scale: Keeper of La Tecla (The Key) Book Two

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𝒞𝒽𝒶𝓅𝓉𝑒𝓇 𝟣𝟨

𝒜pproaching the ruins, the snow was disturbed from constant traffic in and out; massive footprints overlapped one another, making one unable to determine exactly how many creatures we faced.

“Alright…” I announced, “before we do anything, I have something for everyone.” I laid my backpack on the nearest chunk of stone removing watches of futuristic design that I discovered in the Room of Secrets.

“I doubt these creatures need to tell time.” Leonus mocked.

“They’ll provide us with communication and have GPS tracking so we can keep track of each other or help us navigate around whatever lies ahead of us down there.” I groaned, “But if you don’t want it...then you can find your own way or better yet...find yourself in the Boar-wolves’ lair.”

Everyone remained silent as they strapped the watches onto their wrists, watching as Leonus was left on the spot. He knew he coudn’t object to the suggestion so without words, he roughly strapped it around his leather gauntlets.

“Do you know how to turn it on?” I mocked leaning on the stone near my bag.

“Let me guess...it’s the little green button?” he returned the mockery.

“Red...actually.” I turned away calling out for Zanz to heel, while Abraxas landed on my shoulder.

The others in our party laughed.

Stepping closer to the hole in the ground, Anthony once more, observed the stones piled creating steps that descended beneath our feet. Sets of very unusual footprints resembling boar and wolf prints were embedded in the snow of the surrounding area.

“These prints weren’t here before. At least not both wolf and boar.” he revealed as his eyes scanned the ground before approaching a large cluster of prints. Kneeling down, he reached out grabbing a handful of snow, feeling its cold sting through his gloves. Raising it close to his nose, it contained a foul scent causing Anthony to withdraw his head quickly. He frowned continuing his observation in his Italian tongue, wondering where they came from and who created them, “Ugh…creature disgustose. Da dove vengono e chi li ha creati?” then continued in English gesturing for the other present Lycynians to come forward, “Tell me what you think?” he stood, dusting the snow from his hands and knees.

Leonus flashed Anthony a frown then they knelt down, doing the same.

“Wow, Leonus...you’re in your natural state. A mutt with his nose to the ground.” Caleb sarcastically remarked, placing his hands on his hips; his remark received low chuckles in agreement.

Sarah rolled her eyes, turning away to stroll toward a boulder, taking her seat on its edge. Leonus glared as he stood. He watched as the young Wraith placed his hands on the hilt of his guns in an act of preparedness to use them. Rolling his tongue across his teeth, he turned away shaking his head.

“The Italian’s right. This isn’t any type of wolf I’ve ever smelled before.” Leonus said, ignoring Caleb’s remark.

“You should know, wouldn’t you... Redwood.” I added, clenching my fists.

“Do you have a problem!?” Leonus barked; his Scottish voice growing angry.

“We all do, Sasquatch.” Erik commented under his breath.

“What did you say!?” Leonus rushed toward Erik, not knowing who he really is.

“Leave him alone and stick to smelling things, like a good little dog.” I replied as I stood in front of Erik, looking up at Leonus 6’6 frame, who could very easily wipe me out in just one swing of his massive hands.

“Watch it, runt.” Leonus threatened, “And just remember accidents can happen. You could slip, fall or hurt yourself. And we wouldn’t want that now, would we?” he stared with his red wolf eyes and smirk, then took a quick whiff of the air around me, “I smell fear!”

“It’s not fear, Leonus...it’s hatred, and deeply rooted. But I’ll watch my back... if you watch yours.” I returned the smirk, “Remember the saying...the bigger they are, the harder they fall.” then I began walking away, “And also remember...you don’t want a hard hit on the head.” I mumbled sarcastically, “It’ll leave one hell of a headache from what I hear!”

“What was that!?” Leonus suspected, turning to me.

“Nothing. I just said you don’t want to lose your head.” I answered.

Derek smirked as he stood aside, enjoying the cat and mouse game I played with Leonus.

Without warning, a gust of the winter winds carried a putrid smell that permeated from within, causing us to cover our faces. Black tufts of fur blew to the surface getting caught on sharp edges of rock or frozen grass.

“Ugh...what’s that smell!?” Caleb asked, “It smells like...a mutt’s a** or something!”

Everyone laughed at Caleb’s humorous remark except for Leonus and Nathan.

“Sorry.” Caleb added, “But fact is fact. You guys stink!”

“Bloody hell, Caleb…” Sarah muttered, “really?”

Leonus strolled over, standing in front of Caleb and leered at him, replying in disgust,

“Likewise, Bloodsucker. At least we smell alive.”

Caleb glared at Leonus placing his hands on his guns once more, wanting a reason to use them.

“We don’t have time for this!” I ordered breaking up the moment between a Wraith and Lycynian and they both backed away as I stood engulfed in my Aura, “We’re wasting time and we don’t have all day, now stop this god damn childish bullsh*t and concentrate our efforts on Lucy!” I looked at Caleb who nodded as he backed away, then up at Leonus who huffed, turning away.

Everyone’s mood turned sour as we prepared ourselves; gathering our leather and bullet proof vests, attaching the necessary belts and straps, buckles and hooks, needed to carry our weapons. Poor Erik had a difficult time with the machete belt and couldn’t quite get the buckles to snap in place around his thigh. He stood there, mumbling under his breath fiddling with it in frustration,

“Bloody hell, come on…you piece of sh*t! Why won’t you just...snap in!”

I caught the action (reminding me a lot of the day I attempted to pitch that damn tent) then whispered as I strolled over,

“Erik...do you need help?” and as he turned, the buckles were set too close near his groin, “Oh...I see. Well I’m sorry, but I can’t help there.” I chuckled. “You still have your sword!”

“Wishful thinking, but no.” he replied, “I’ll get it.” then he turned.

Derek stood nearby, watching the encounter and officially knew it was Erik. He grinned then turned away, grabbing his weapons. Once I stepped away, he approached Erik carrying his bags down by his side. Erik sensing his presence behind, swiftly turned, releasing a low grunt-like growl.

“Easy, kid.” Derek muttered as he held his hands up, “I didn’t come to fight.”

“Then what do you want? To lock me up again?” Erik barked quietly, as he looked toward the others who were busy among themselves.

“You and I both know I...look, I didn’t come over here for this.” then he reached into his bags, making Erik nervous as he placed his hands on the hilt of his machete, “I believe this is yours.” he continued, handing Erik a wrapped object. Nodding, he stepped away leaving Erik to turn his back, unwrapping the object.

He grew surprised to see his dagger he had lost the night in the hallway. He quickly glanced over his shoulder in Derek’s direction, who nodded in respect. Erik gazed at his feet, then back up at Derek, returning the nod. Placing the dagger in his belt, he walked toward everyone else who gathered near the entrance.

Anthony removed a flashlight from his bag cautiously approaching the entrance hopefully for the last time, with Thomas offering his warnings; Anthony taking them to ear. At the edge of the hole that crumbled from constant vibrations on the ground, Anthony knelt down shining the flashlight’s beam down inside; upper chunks of the rock and crates visible. He bit his lower lip, remembering the brief encounter of the environment below and dreaded it again.

“What is it?” Leonus asked.

Anthony stood turning to everyone. Powering off his flashlight placing it in his belt, he replied,

“Nothing.” he rested his hands on his hips; eyes studying everyone’s facial expressions, “It’s pretty much an easy climb down, except for a few loose spots.”

“And?” Jon added.

“Anthony…what’s wrong?” I questioned.

“After the climb down, I don’t know what’s ahead.” he replied humorously, shrugging his shoulders.

“Well, then.” Leonus argued as he stepped forward, “Send a bloodsucker in there.”

“Of course you’d say that.” Nick argued, “You’ve always hated our race!”

“Enough!” I shouted, “I’m getting sick and tired of having to be stuck between this feud with you. With all the noise we’re making out here, I’m sure the creatures in there know we’re here by now. This bullsh*t is driving me crazy!”

“Maybe you should be committed.” Nathan added arrogantly.

“And give up being Keeper while you’re at it.” Leonus added.

“You…” I turned pointing at Leonus, “you know that’s never going to happen despite certain plans you may have. I’m Keeper and you’re going to deal with it! If you don’t like it, leave!” then I turned my gaze in Nathan’s direction, “And you!? Why are you even here!? To smoke your lungs out!? Well, congratulations, you’re succeeding!” I paused watching as Nathan remained silent with no words to say, “Nothing to say!? Either of you!? Good. Now…we need to figure out how far in it goes, by using someone I know can do the job number one, and...”

“I’ll show you how far in it goes.” Nathan interrupted with another derogatory comment, as he quickly grabbed his groin area while blowing the cigarette smoke in my direction, “I hope you and my lovely sister aren’t bleeding during that time of month, because that’s when a woman’s at her highest peak…so to speak.”

Leonus chuckled, enjoying Nathan’s disrespect and retaliation. The Wraiths and Demons in our group released hisses or grunts of annoyance and contempt, as did Erik quietly beneath his scarf. Sarah rolled her eyes, shaking her head. She loved her brother, but despised him at the same time. His actions and words made her sick. She bit her lower lip, waiting to hear what foul words spat from his mouth next.

I turned to Nathan once more, beginning a stroll toward him. He backed away, bumping into one of the remaining solid walls. Roughly pressing his back against the stone, he felt it sway but paid no attention. He smiled thinking all sorts of perverted scenarios of how this would’ve played out. I removed my sword, pressing the blades’ point directly above his treasured manhood. I watched as he flinched, feeling the pressure applied remembering the first time the blade was pointed in that region. Raising his gaze, he watched as the half-breed’s eyes flickered with a flame.

“How many times do I have to tell you that...I’m NOT...interested!?” I warned, “Because I’ve lost count, so I’m only going to say this one more time!” then I leaned in whispering something in his ear that faded his smug smile. Stepping away I removed my sword, holding it down; blade touching the snow and continuing to stare into his eyes, Nathan began feeling a warmth run through his body as his blood began heating creating a feverish-like warmth. It lasted only a few seconds but long enough to make my point.

Zanz and Abraxas approached, stalking Nathan’s presence and remained doing so until I called them away. When he attempted to move from his place, he immediately froze taking their warning seriously as they grew closer.

“Yzavela…” Anthony spoke as he stepped close, “I don’t care for Nathan either, none of us do except Sarah of course, but now’s not the time to kill him.”

“Who said anything about killing him?” I answered looking up into Anthony’s handsome face.

“Because Zanzabarr and Abraxas are...” Anthony stuttered, gesturing toward them.

I turned, observing as they stood before Nathan wanting to just…sink their teeth into him.

“They’re having their fun, Anthony. They won’t kill him unless I order them to do so.” I revealed with a smile then continued, “Where was I before I was so rudely interrupted? Oh, yes. For all of us who haven’t seen the chamber below physically, need to know where we’re going. The pictures Anthony snapped on his phone, didn’t give a clear image as to what’s fully down there. Anthony…how’s the climb down?”

Anthony cleared his throat replying clearly,

“The stones piled are secure in place, supporting heavy bulks of weight so Leonus shouldn’t have a problem climbing down.” he glanced in his alpha’s direction; his comment attracting everyone’s laughter or low chuckles regardless.

“Well, for all of us who haven’t made the climb, a rope tied around one of these stable pillars or frozen roots will provide enough support.” Derek suggested, “Believe me, I’ve made all sorts of climbs so this is nothing new and it’s not that difficult. Have a firm grip on the rope and careful footing and you’ll all be fine.” he paused, watching as everyone nodded in agreement.

“We could always use Leonus or Nathan as an anchor!” Jon muttered sarcastically.

“Tempting…very tempting, but no. Besides, they’ll probably cut the rope!” I chuckled, shaking my head, then glanced up at the sky, shielding my eyes from the sun, “Let’s get going. Time’s wasting.”

Derek nodded as he backed away, approaching his bag nearby. Removing a large coil of rope from his pack, he turned strolling toward one of the solid pillars that stood with half of its structure in place. Double tying it securely, he quickly pulled on the rope with full strength testing the stability and once he confirmed its safety, everyone gathered near the hole. Preparing for the descent, Leonus’ boisterous voice loudly proclaimed as he stepped forward,

“If anyone’s going to lead this venture, it’s going to be me.”

Derek and Leonus, Thomas, Jon, Nick and Caleb argued back and forth. Even Luke and Jeremy voiced their opinion.

I rolled my eyes in frustration because this was absolutely ridiculous as a group of adults argued over who goes first into an unknown territory.

“Everyone...SHUT UP!” I shouted as my Aura presented itself, “If none of you can come to a goddamn agreement, then I’ll go first if you gets all your a**es underground!” I released a moan of extreme irritation and doing so, I threw my left hand outward toward a frozen bush, releasing my built up energy that burned the bush and melted the snow beneath it.

“Please...go on right ahead.” Leonus smugly pleaded, gesturing his hand toward the entrance along with a slight bow.

“Yza…don’t.” Erik pleaded telepathically.

I looked back at him, frowning in irritation. I huffed before breaking my gaze, focusing it toward Leonus…for the umpteenth time.

“You know something...” I approached him, “accidents can happen. You could slip, fall or hurt yourself, or even get hit hard on the head by mistake. And we wouldn’t want that, now would we?” I waited for a reply, “Still want to go first, Leonus? Because it’s all yours, if you do.” I turned, gesturing toward the entrance with a slight bow.

“That’s the third time you made a reference to being hit on the head.” Leonus snapped.

“Is it? I haven’t noticed.” I barked, “Why do you ask? Have a secret you’d like to share?” I smiled turning away, approaching the hole and kneeling down, I grasped onto the rope with my gloved hands in a firm grip.

Abraxas flew down into the eight-foot deep hole below, igniting his scales that illuminated the area. The climb wasn’t that difficult but slippery due to snow melting from my boots onto the smooth stones and damp crates. Once reaching the bottom, I glanced around then gazed upward, watching as Zanz jumped downward until he landed firmly on his massive paws. His chain leash rattled against the stone ground, creating a faint echo so I quickly reached for it, firmly holding onto it. I scratched his neck offering my praise then with my free hand I gently yanked on the rope, alerting everyone above ground to begin their own descent. With caution, one by one, the others followed until we all stood in the large chamber. Abraxas landed on one of the crates still intact; scales remaining ignited. Derek removed flares from his pack; sparks of red smoke and fire rapidly appearing. Their red glow illuminated the area brightly along with Abraxas’ fiery aura. The crates were clearly visible as was the purpose of the space.

“This is definitely an old cellar.” Leonus proclaimed, “I’m surprised Marxus didn’t tell me.”

“There are a lot of things Marxus didn’t tell you.” I replied, receiving a grunt in response.

Zanz scampered around the cellar but not too far due to the short length of his leash. Taking in all the unsettling scents, he released low growls at times. I gave a brief pull of his leash, alerting him to heel.

“There’s a tunnel ahead over there, near the shattered crates.” Nick observed with his Wraith vision, “Over there…” he pointed in its direction.

Withdrawing our weapons, everyone quickly and cautiously marched forward. The flares behind us extinguished, leaving our visibility in pitch blackness. Unable to see our hands in front of our face; except for the Lycynians, Wraiths, Zanz and Abraxas, our feet occasionally slipped on the smooth or rough cut stone, making it difficult to navigate through the darkness.

“Abraxas...light please?” I instructed telepathically as he sat on my shoulder and once his scales ignited softly, his glow allowed enough light that didn’t draw attention from a distance. Jon posing as the only Demon in our party, created a small orb of energy that hovered above near Abraxas. Any or all illumination was appreciated. Continuing our dangerous stroll through the tunnel, we began hearing clicking sounds of some sort coming from all around us; lasting only a few seconds before ceasing. Holding onto Zanzs’ leash in a trembling grasp I muttered, “What was that!?”

“Sounds like bugs…or rats.” Caleb smiled knowing my fear of insects.

I reached over, smacking his arm.

“That’s not funny.” Sarah argued as Erik and I moaned in complaint when the clicks sounded off again.

Derek removed glow sticks from his pack, dropping them every twelve feet or so creating a bright enough trail ahead and behind. Taking a pause to lean against the walls that felt damp and cold to the touch, Derek complained,

“We’ve been venturing down this tunnel too long. We should’ve arrived somewhere by now. Can’t possibly be that many places to go. We’re close to the edge of the cliff.”

“We’ll examine the rest of the tunnel nonetheless.” Leonus replied, “It must lead somewhere.”

“No, sh*t. Really?” Derek mocked, “It must lead somewhere, that’s funny.”

All chuckled.

I stood toward the back momentarily, shaking my head as I thought about the scenario, “HERE I AM, IN A CAVE WITH LYCYNIANS, DEMONS AND WRAITHS WHO ARGUE LIKE CHILDREN AND ON TOP OF THAT, I’M HAVING TO DEAL WITH AN IDIOT THAT CLEARLY DOESN’T KNOW WHAT HE’S TALKING ABOUT AND WRAITHS THAT ARE DYING TO SINK THEIR FANGS INTO SOMETHING. NOT TO MENTION ME, A HALF-BREED DEMON STUCK IN THE MIDDLE WITH A TEMPER TO MATCH THEIR OWN. THIS IS JUST PERFECT. I’M GOING TO LOSE MY MIND, I KNOW IT. IT JUST CAN’T GET ANY BETTER THAN THIS!” I smiled, as I chuckled under my breath.

Leonus leered as he removed his flashlight, examining the walls taking notice they were gouged out; not by tools but by claws. He ran his gloved fingers along the chipped surface of the slate rock; light glistening off its sleek black glass-like surface. Turning back glancing at the path behind us, the slate endlessly continued.

“I’m guessing this is where Marxus mined the slate for the wall surrounding the manor?” Caleb questioned curiously.

“No. It’s not.” I answered, “The wall was built and enforced by magic and this here, Caleb…isn’t carved by tools or magic.” I gestured around.

Caleb nodded, accepting that answer without question.

“And you know that how?” Leonus sneered hating being the one who didn’t hold all the knowledge pertaining to the island; he shone his light ahead, taking notice of chunks of rock protruding outward.

“Marxus’ journals.” I answered.

“What journals?” Leonus questioned.

“Ones you apparently have never found and won’t find anytime soon. Please...lead on.” I gestured my flashlight ahead, “Your loyal sheep are right behind you.”

“You know what they say about sheep? One leads the herd over the cliff and the rest all follow.” Leonus mocked then he and Derek led the way ahead with everyone following close behind, shining our flashlights and dropping glow sticks.

The slate rock, upon closer inspection, was definitely dug out with sharp claws. There were rough edges and crevices everywhere and medium-to-small boulders; ones of which we had to walk around, making it difficult moving forward.

“We’re two hundred feet in or so.” Jon said glancing down at a mile meter he removed from his pocket.

Everyone remained silent when we abruptly paused to listen, hearing the clicking sounds once more, along with loud crackling beneath our feet and from the surrounding walls.

“Oh, bloody hell...what was that?” Sarah feared looking around; machete in hand.

Directing our flashlights toward the ground and with Abraxas illuminating his scales bright, the most horrific thing revealed itself. Uncurling from a rounded body, was an insect with a cockroach’s body and centipede legs, antennae, and a set of large pincers clicking together. This thing was about a foot long. God, a normal roach is ugly enough so imagine this! They’re something you’d find in a scene from Storm Troopers! You know, the giant insects!? As one scampered across my foot in the shadows away from the light, I couldn’t contain myself as I released one of my Banshee screams (which I’m sure the Boar-wolves heard) and burst of flame. Unfortunately, my scream caused more to escape from hiding, scampering across our feet and showering down upon our head from crevices in the ceiling. Their movements also brought down dust, dirt and pockets of large worms that opened. Their slimy bodies squirmed everywhere through our hair and necks. As the insects and worms fell, they sizzled and burned as they made contact with my flamed Aura and that of Abraxas’ as well. BBQ bugs and worms, anyone?

All including Leonus, squirmed around shaking them off our heads and shoulders, cutting the insects with our swords and machetes or stomping in place. They were difficult to squash as we had to stomp on them several times for their outer shells were tough. Or should I say, crunchy? Ugh! Abraxas managed to swallow a few whole, enjoying their taste so he assisted in diminishing their numbers. Zanz whined as a few fell on him, as well as shaking off worms that squiggled through his black fur. After fighting them off and as the worms settled in deeper crevices along the jagged uneven ground, everyone regained their composure, which wasn’t an easy thing to do. Especially for Sarah and I. Once we thought the attack was over, one more insect had to make its presence known by jumping on my back, crawling its way onto my head! Feeling something moving in my hair knowing the movement didn’t belong to worms, I asked standing there frozen with my sword in my trembling left hand,

“Something’s on my head, isn’t there?” and before anyone could answer, I heard its clicking sound as the insect crawled down the front of my face. You think the top of these things were ugly? I looked at it square in its under belly; indescribable. I screamed louder than before, trying to shake this thing off my head. Dropping my sword, I managed to grab one of its many moving legs igniting it, before throwing it against the wall.

Landing on the ground, I stomped on it several times until it crunched beneath my feet, leaving a puddle of unknown colored thick-goo-like blood. I continued stomping on it until there was nothing left, cursing under my breath a few not so polite sentences when another jumped on Zanz’s back, clicking it pincers. He whined trying to shake it off and turning my gaze, I focused on the insect; its large body rising in the air before being thrown against the opposite wall. I shook my head as I continued cursing as my Aura faded until someone came up from behind me, placing their right hand over my mouth for there was a rustling in the distance that echoed over my fading screams.

“Are you trying to alert the Boar-wolves we’re here!?” Leonus quietly argued as he approached me, “Or have the cave come crashing down? Shut your mouth, bitch! The f*cking bug is dead!”

“Leonus! That’s enough!” Derek argued, “She was caught off guard. We all were!”

I removed the hand covering my mouth and turned looking into Anthony’s eyes. He whispered as he leaned in closer,

“Quiet.” he gazed ahead, “Listen...”

Everyone listened as the ground beneath our feet vibrated violently.

“Great. Now you did it.” Leonus barked.

Anthony stepped away as I knelt down, grabbing my sword and glow stick. Again, we strolled forward but didn’t get very far because directly in front of us, was a clearing revealing a massive open pit, filled with some kind of liquid; steam hovering over the surface. There was a hole in the ceiling shining light upon the pit as if it were a spotlight, 1-2 feet in circumference. This must be where that putrid smell emanated from. We covered our faces the best we could with our scarves and masks but that didn’t help. It burned our eyes, causing us to squint. Zanz whined, pawing at his nose offended by the smell. This pit had no edges, so that caused a problem, making it difficult to get across. Even Abraxas was offended, landing on my shoulder releasing low unsettling roars.

“Shh…” I stroked his scales then petted Zanz’s head as he sat heeling, releasing low whines.

“Oh, please tell me this isn’t where they sh*t...” Caleb mocked and suddenly, heavy footsteps echoed throughout the tunnels. Our watches too, alerted us there was movement somewhere in the tunnels with us. Glancing down, we watched as red dots appeared on our small pop-up holographic screens; coming straight toward us. Squinting ahead across the pit, we focused our attention; red eyes charging toward us. Deep grunting, high pitched squeals and muffled snorting immediately followed.

“Against the wall!” Derek instructed everyone back, “Your lights...your lights...turn them off!”

We followed his orders, hugging the wall. Holding Abraxas who snuggled close and Zanz heeled, we stood quietly in the darkness feeling the dampness against our backs, all while observing the grotesque sight before our eyes that was lit enough by the faint glow sticks left in our path behind us. There were four shadows of the creatures we faced and unfortunately, we couldn’t catch a full clear glimpse at their appearance but all we could see was that they weren’t the size of a normal boar or wolf. We stood, listening as they grunted and squealed, followed by something plopping into the pit. Sarah covered her mouth keeping herself from upheaving as did Luke and Jeremy while the rest of us gagged at the smell.

“Bloody hell! They’re taking a dump...” Caleb whispered, frowning in disgust.

Leonus reached out his right hand pulling the young man close and in doing so, their feet shuffled along the ground, creating a disturbance that attracted the creatures’ attention. Derek pushed them back against the wall with a hard thud and examining their faces with his Lycynian night vision; his eyes taking on a fluorescent tint, he grunted as he pulled them apart. Nick tapped the soldier’s arm alerting him that the creatures were beginning to venture toward us and remaining perfectly still leaning against the wall, the creatures approached but Jon waved his hand making our presence invisible to their nocturnal eyes. We all felt their noses sniffing the ground leaving behind heavy bursts of air against our boots. Zanz shifted trying to back away but I grabbed his nose and he remained still in submission.

“Mother…” Abraxas’ voice sounded worried in my mind.

“Shh…” I urged.

“We can’t do this!” Leonus complained telepathically, “Not now after suspecting something.”

“He’s right.” Jon’s voice entered my thoughts.

“I know.” I agreed, “But we have to continue if we’re going to find Lucy.” my voice continued, reaching out to both Jon and Leonus.

Suddenly, a loud and deeper growl-like squeal filled the tunnel echoing in an eerie screech. Our eyes bulged from our sockets for something much larger; just by the echoing sound, called the creatures back. We stood and waited, feeling the vibrations under our feet grow faint until they ceased. We all glanced down at our watches; their red dots disappearing. As Derek peeked his head around the ledge of the wall, he gave the word the area was clear. Cautiously removing our flashlights, again, we examined the area.

“How are we going to get across the sh*t pit?” Nick asked and hearing Caleb’s scoff, they shared a knuckle bump.

“Enough you two!” I ordered.

“We can always teleport to the other side, but I don’t think the dogs will like that.” Caleb added, hating the Lycynian’s repulsive presence; hearing their mumbles under their breath that that was never going to happen, “Just a suggestion.” Caleb continued.

“And it was a good one, thank you.” I commented, “And it might come in handy if needed, but to avoid another hissy fit between dogs and bats, let’s find another way.”

Luke and Jeremy flashed their lights around, hoping to find a way but their human eyes saw nothing. Luke made a suggestion that seemed inappropriate in Leonus’ eyes, stating we needed an overhead light of some sort and wondered if the hole in the ceiling could be dug out, for further lighting. Leonus didn’t agree to suggestion for any disturbance to the cavern, could cause a reaction or collapse that we didn’t need. Besides, no one could reach it, except maybe Abraxas. I glanced down at him in my arms telepathically asking for his assistance, instructing him to illuminate the area once more. Nodding his small head, he flew from my arms, doing so.

“What are you doing!?” Leonus asked, “He’s going to ignite the gaseous fumes with his flames! Foolish girl.”

“She knows what she’s doing.” Jon added, “She wouldn’t put us in danger, unlike someone we all know.” he glared at Leonus, “Besides, it’s not a real flame, you dumba**…it’s an Aura, like Yza’s!”

“Of course you’d know that, half-breed lover!” Leonus mocked.

“Excuse me!?” Jon raged, “What was that!?”

I huffed and concentrating hard enough I took my hands, clenching them into fists and doing so, I quickly threw my arms and in this process, both Jon and Leonus were pushed forward leaning over the edge of the pit. They attempted to pull away from the magic, especially Jon being a pureblood but in this moment, my intent was too strong for him to retract from.

“If anyone else says one more goddamn thing...I swear by any God in Heaven and Demons in Hell, that I will throw you in this pit and leave you there! And no one here will help you out! I’m getting sick and tired of this bullsh*t between all of you and I won’t ask again! Is...that understood!?” I threatened in a low tone; my fists beginning to shake for the hold I had on them was beginning to overwhelm my capabilities.

“You have my word.” Jon agreed and I knew he’d keep his word.

“And you?” I pushed my left hand forward which lowered Leonus closer to the pit.

“Yes.” he reluctantly answered as he turned his head away from the steam that escaped the pits’ surface.

“Good!” I grunted and pulling my hands toward me, Leonus and Jon stumbled backwards away from the pit. I breathed heavily feeling a headache quickly stomp its way across my skull. I turned away, closing my eyes as I felt nauseous, “Abraxas...now, please.” I ordered over my shoulder.

He flew too close to the cavern ceiling, disturbing a massive nest of bats that flew from their place flying erratically, causing us to shield our heads. Abraxas enjoyed himself, hovering around catching a few. Between the bugs, worms and bats, I’d say he had himself a good level of protein. Zanz snapped, attacking any that came near, growling in the process as he grew agitated by their loud squeaks. Erik managed to contain his fear, but moaned in complaint as he waved his arms, chasing others away. To him, they resembled flying rats. Once the bats flew around making their way down the tunnel behind us, Zanz howled quickly. Thinking he stood near my feet as always, I glanced down but he wasn’t there. Frantically whispering his name, Luke pointed his flashlight across the pit revealing his large form.

“Over there! He’s...across the pit?” he pondered.

“How did...” Caleb added.

“Zanz...” I softly called out, “get back here. Now!”

He barked strolling toward the right, treading along the curve of the pit’s edge close to the wall. His massive paws cautiously stepped as his body hugged the wall.

“I see it.” Jeremy said, “Look, there.” he pointed to the right of the pit, “He’s crossing a hidden ledge, there...do you see it?”

“Great. Just what I need. Another pit.” I commented.

“Don’t worry, Keeps.” Erik’s voice reached out telepathically, “I got you this time but look...no swinging chains, walls of fire or iron shards shooting from the walls.”

“Don’t jinx it.” I nudged him as he stood alongside me then knelt down as Zanz ran toward me, “What were you thinking? Don’t do that again. Stay with me, okay?” I scratched his jowls then kissed his snout, “Good boy.”

“Alright, let’s get going.” Anthony urged as he, Derek and Thomas marched ahead, carefully side stepping along the hidden ledge until making it to the other side.

Thomas’ foot slipped at the very end as the ledge crumbled from the constant traffic back and forth. Anthony turned, grabbing hold of his brother’s arm before he fell to his left into the pit. Pulled forward, Thomas grabbed onto Anthony’s shoulder, giving them a brief squeeze while grinning slightly.

“Are you alright?” Jon’s voice called out softly.

“Yes, but be careful along the ledge. It’s beginning to crumble away.” Thomas answered, shining his flashlight toward the stone then turned, examining the area with no obstacles. Noticing a clearing half a football field in size, footprints disturbed the mud and muck along the stone ground.

Derek turned, revealing the area was safe and held sturdy footing.

One by one, we safely crossed and avoided the area Thomas pointed out. Sarah and I were grabbed from the ledge by our waists by the Italian brothers and gently planted on the ground beside them. Anthony smiled, giving me a wink.

“No.” I grinned, gently nudging him away.

“Aye…watch it, yeah?” he teased.

Erik rolled his eyes as he turned, taking notice of large chunks of rock piled around while Luke glanced ahead noticing the tunnels split in three in a fork-like pattern.

“Over here.” he revealed.

Derek, through experience, suggested we split but before doing so, he asked if Abraxas could scout them first to see what laid ahead, because our watches didn’t reveal anything so far. Everyone thought it was a good idea but of course, Leonus hated the suggestion and protested against it.

“You know...the only reason why I’m complying with your suggestions, is that the bat is helpful. But I don’t like the sudden control of the situation, especially when WE…” he leered in my direction, “agreed that I was to be the one to lead. Remember?” he raged, practically puffing his chest.

“Leonus...” I sighed, “have you ever been in a cave like this before? Other than clearing out tunnels scattered around the island?”

“No.”

“I have. Maybe not with Boar-wolves but with other dangerous circumstances and guess what...I survived it and I’m not controlling anything. Neither is Derek. We’re just making suggestions all while letting you lead the way but, if I or anyone else has any ideas, don’t you think it would be helpful? We’re all in this together, or have you forgotten that?” I interrupted.

Derek stood with a smirk, admiring the young womans’ guts standing up to Leonus.

“You and I loathe each other, yes…everyone in Ravenstone knows that but you want to lead the way? Go ahead.” Leonus spoke in a smug calm voice as he gestured toward the tunnels, “No one’s stopping you…Keeper. At least out here but none of us know what’s in there. So, go ahead…”

“No one’s stopping you either, so please...” I too, gestured toward the tunnels, “after you.”

“Right now, before anyone goes anywhere, we need to determine what’s in these God forsaken tunnels.” Derek shifted in place, “Your dragon…what can he do?” he waved his hand toward Abraxas, interrupting the moment between a Lycynian and half-breed.

“Anything, except shift into a human. Why?” I asked.

“Does he know Echolocation? You know…like bats and dolphins.”

“I know what that is and I think he can.” then I turned to Abraxas perched on a nearby boulder, “Can you do that?” I continued telepathically.

His head looked up, studying a cluster of remaining bats flapping about releasing a series of squeaks, utilizing their Echolocation. He stretched his wings, releasing a low roar as he lowered his head, nodding quickly.

“Yes, Mother.” he answered telepathically, hovering from the boulder, “But how will you know its length?”

“Derek will help with that.” I revealed verbally as I gestured toward him, “Ready?” I watched as the Samoan nodded as he removed a stop watch from his pocket.

“This is ridiculous.” Leonus muttered; arms across his bulky chest.

“Stop the timer until you hear his roar.” I ignored Leonus’ comment.

“Got it.”

Abraxas flew a few feet in each tunnel.

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