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

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๐’ž๐’ฝ๐’ถ๐“…๐“‰๐‘’๐“‡ ๐Ÿฃ๐Ÿฉ

๐’ฐsing Echolocation; a sonar-like sound used to detect and locate solid objects, he hovered, waiting as it determined the tunnelsโ€™ depths. Zanz jumped around, whining nervously, causing me to tightly strap on his muzzle.

โ€œHush, Zanz.โ€ I whispered.

Derek accurately recorded the distances, based on the time it took for Abraxas to throw his sonar.

โ€œHereโ€™s what weโ€™ve got.โ€ Derek revealed as he read scribbles on a piece of paper, โ€œThese are approximate readings. The left tunnel runs for sixteen minutes. The center for twenty and the right, for ten. But the better question here isโ€ฆwhatโ€™s in them.โ€

โ€œI can help with that.โ€ I answered as Abraxas returned, landing on my shoulder, โ€œShow me what you saw.โ€

Abraxas snuggled his head against my chin and with my eyes closed, I could see through his eyes what it was he saw. Sonar images more likely, but they revealed just enough to go by. I described the images. The left tunnel; wider than the others, revealed piled mounds of debris at the end, and large bulks huddled and packed together. The center contained what looked like human figures packed in groups. And the right tunnel; piled with bones and remains. Thankfully, tunnels didnโ€™t branch out, which would have resulted in a labyrinth. After relaying everything Abraxas discovered, Leonus grew nervous as he spoke,

โ€œNow that we know what lies ahead, we need to find Lucy. Did your bat detect her anywhere?โ€

โ€œHeโ€™s not a bat, Leonus and no.โ€ I snapped.

โ€œOh God...โ€ Jon added, โ€œI hope they didnโ€™t...โ€ he turned his back, feeling nauseous; clenching his fists in anticipation and fear.

Sarah, who remained rather quiet during everything taking place, walked over, trying to offer her support.

โ€œSo...whoโ€™s going in which tunnel?โ€ Luke asked.

โ€œThatโ€™s easy.โ€ Derek ordered, โ€œLeonus, Thomas, Anthony...youโ€™re coming with me down the left tunnel. Jon, Sarah, Yzavela, Caleb...and Ben, will go down the center, leaving Nick, Luke, Jeremy and Nathan to head down the right. Once we scout the tunnels and if we find nothing, return here and wait for the others. If needed, use the watches to communicate but use them as a last resort. At least we can track each other through them the built-in GPS system.โ€

โ€œUm...since weโ€™re spit-balling ideas here...โ€ Nick added raising his right hand, โ€œI think we should leave a trail of glow sticks behind us. That way weโ€™d be able to mark our trail back.โ€

โ€œGood idea.โ€ Thomas remarked, โ€œAnd we have many.โ€

Leonus scoffed, as he turned his back; arms folded.

Everyone nodded as we began snapping the sticks and standing near the tunnel archways, we looked at each other, then pushed forward, venturing down the tunnel assigned.

Leonus, Derek, Thomas and Anthony strolled down their tunnel, examining the area with their flashlights, dropping glow sticks every twelve feet. Growing closer toward the end, they began hearing heavy breathing, growling, and stirring. They glanced at each other turning off their flashlights placing them in their pockets. They turned on their watches watching as the small holographic radar maps appeared; massive clusters of red dots moving around up head in what looked like a large chamber. Walking further watching their steps in the process, they ran their hands along the wall for guidance, using their night vision except Thomas who held onto his brotherโ€™s shoulder. Suddenly, they came to an abrupt halt. The three Lycyniansโ€™ eyes scanned the space, examining a massive occupied chamber. Thomas removed binoculars from his bags, activating night vision lenses, using them to examine the sight for himself.

โ€œBy the heavens...โ€ Leonus pondered as he stared into the lair of the Boar-wolves.

There must have been at least two hundred, possibly more, all sleeping on mounds of Earthly debris, including bones. There were so many clustered together, they laid over one another in an overlapping pattern. Some moved in place when one was suddenly grabbed by the back of its neck with a large clawed hand. Casting its shadow on the rear wall, it appeared to be larger than Leonus when heโ€™s in his Lycan form. The Boar-wolf was thrown across the cavern, squealing in pain as it hit the stone wall. It shook it off, finding another place among the others. Leonus held his arms out to either side, whispering over his shoulder,

โ€œBack up slowly and donโ€™tโ€ฆmake a sound.โ€

The others moaned in disgust as they backed away retreating quietly into the darkness of the tunnel behind them. Their feet crunched on bones and twigs creating an echoed snap. They all paused hoping it wasnโ€™t heard but it was for they could hear the creatures stirring. However, thankfully, it didnโ€™t attract their attention. That is, until Leonusโ€™ watch loudly beeped due to an incoming message. He grabbed at the contraption on his wrist, throwing it in his pocket then ceased movement, for there was another stir in the cavern ahead; faint grunts echoing then silencing. He scrunched his mouth in a distasteful grimace. He glanced over his right shoulder leering at the others who made sure their watches were turned off.

โ€œThat was too close.โ€ Anthony muttered constantly glancing behind them and checking the radar.

โ€œToo close yes, and these f*cking thingsโ€ฆโ€ Leonus removed the watch from his pocket, โ€œalmost gave us away.โ€ he threw it to the ground; hearing it shatter against the stone.

โ€œWell, you should have turned it off.โ€ Thomas argued; frowning in disappointment.

โ€œDonโ€™t patronize me, Giovanniโ€ฆIโ€™m not an idiot! I thought I did. Itโ€™s not my fault that stupid girl brought fancy technology and gadgets into a place where any sound; whether itโ€™s footsteps or beeps, can be heard throughout!โ€

Anthony and Thomas bit their lower lips wanting to say more, but they knew now wasnโ€™t the time and held back their words with much control.

โ€œShe knew exactly what she was doing.โ€ Derek agreed, โ€œThese gadgets come in handy, Lancasterโ€ฆespecially in places like this when onesโ€™ eyes are blinded by darkness. Believe me, Iโ€™ve used things like this and how do you think Iโ€™m alive today? So, shut the f*ck up and quit putting the blame on everyone but yourself. You knew we were going into unknown territoryโ€ฆthat was up to you to put the damn thing on mute. Not that it matters now, anyway. You destroyed it.โ€ he gestured toward the ground, seeing the shards laying in crevices.

โ€œWhat side are you on, Derek!?โ€ Leonus approached, shining his flashlight in the Samoanโ€™s face.

โ€œIโ€™m not on anyoneโ€™s side but my own.โ€ Derek growled, โ€œIโ€™m just finding those I can agree with, thatโ€™s all, Lancaster.โ€ Then he stepped around Leonus continuing his observation in hopes to ignore the alpha Lycynian, โ€œNow, does anyone here want to know what that was!?โ€ he feared as he aimed his flashlight ahead, โ€œIt was bigger than you!โ€ turning to face Leonus once more.

โ€œI donโ€™t know.โ€ Leonus huffed, โ€œI didnโ€™t catch the scent of our kind.โ€ he paused turning to Derek, โ€œAnd how the f*ck do you know itโ€™s bigger than I am, when you transition with everyone else?โ€

โ€œIโ€™ve heard stories that youโ€™re big andโ€ฆugly. Well, actuallyโ€ฆf*cking ugly.โ€

โ€œHave you seen yourself, Derek?โ€ Leonus mocked as he walked away.

Thomas and Anthony moved aside, allowing Leonus to pass. Stepping forward following after, Anthony commented,

โ€œThatโ€™s enough! Right now, we need to figure out how weโ€™re going to defeat them! The map...โ€ he held up his left wrist, โ€œshowed a massive cluster ofโ€ฆwhatever they are and I donโ€™t think itโ€™s a small handful either.โ€

โ€œAnthonyโ€™s right.โ€ Thomas added his words, โ€œAnd now that we know the dragon was right, we need to put together a plan. Derek?โ€

Even Leonus at this point, realized having the dragon was helpful, but heโ€™d never admit that. Not a chance in hell!

Jon, Sarah, Caleb, Erik, Zanz, Abraxas and myself ventured down our twenty minute tunnel, dropping our glow sticks every few feet, until loud crunching was heard beneath our feet. Our hands running along the surface of the rough walls, felt crevices along the tunnelโ€™s length; dug out with claws. We focused our flashlights downwards seeing sets of human bones scattered about. Some in full skeletal form; others broken or shattered. Zanz sneezed at the unpleasant scents, while Abraxas grew nervous as he rested on my shoulder.

โ€œGod, Yza...you donโ€™t think theyโ€™re more cannibals, do you?โ€ Jon questioned.

โ€œLooks that way, Jon.โ€ Erik said disguising his voice in a whisper.

I looked at Erik, tilting my head. He casually shrugged then continued looking around.

โ€œI wonder who they were?โ€ Caleb asked.

โ€œDonโ€™t know.โ€ I added as we continued further, until small rocks and bones laying on the ground began bouncing in place as strong vibrations were felt beneath our feet but that wasnโ€™t all; our watches began beeping simultaneously and glancing down, a red dot appeared on all our holographic maps and it was heading straight toward us. Focusing ahead, we listened as heavy feet pounded against stone. Watching and waiting, red eyes glowed in the distance, reflecting off our flashlight beams.

โ€œQuick...hide in the crevices! Now!โ€ Caleb shouted over the vibrations, as the entity grew closer.

We scampered, throwing sets of bones from their places, down to the ground. Hiding quietly with Abraxas who turned into a rat tucked in my jacket and Zanz between my feet, we stood perfectly still. I shortened Zanzsโ€™leash, holding onto his harness tightly. Smaller bone shards crunched beneath our feet as we shuffled in place. Jon and Erik muttered chants that masked our physical presence invisible but if the creatures persisted the chant would wear off and weโ€™d be detected.

The vibrations were intense; causing bugs and worms to scatter everywhere. The light given from the glow sticks down the tunnel was enough to get a better glimpse at not one Boar-wolf but two, before they rolled into hidden crevices. I released a faint squeal, causing the Boar-wolves to pause where Erik and I stood. They sniffed the air toward Jon, Sarah and Calebโ€™s hiding place, giving Erik enough time to quickly switch standing positions with his back facing the Boar-wolf. The other creatures proceeded forward coming across the others.

By chance, Erik rubbed against the wall of the crevice, covering the back of his jacket with the scent of the cave, masking his scent. When the Boar-wolf turned its focus on us, its nose rubbed against Erikโ€™s neck, causing him to flinch in fear. I wrapped my arms around his waist, trying to offer a sense of comfort and safety. I looked into his covered eyes when the movement behind him broke my gaze. Peeking slightly around him, I caught a glimpse of this creature up close. It was the most grotesque looking creature Iโ€™ve ever seen. Other than the cave bugs. The head, tusks and hind feet were of a boar; the body, legs and front feet of a wolf. Running down its back from the top of its head to its scraggly boarโ€™s tail, were sharp spikes with stiff bristle-like fur in between. All together, this thing was the size of an adult Moose; minus the antlers. Sniffing as it nudged Erikโ€™s back, it released loud grunts. Even in the shadows, Erik squinted his eyes under his yellow glasses.

The other Boar-wolf inches ahead replied with a string of grunts that terrified the others hiding away. Caleb and Jon placed their hands on their weapons in case they needed to use them and hoped the creatures would pass. Caleb pressed his back closer to the wall as the creature sniffed the ground at his feet before raising its large nose upward, sniffing around his face. The snorts released, blew strands of Calebโ€™s floppy bangs back; Caleb grunted as he held his breath from the smell given off the creatures foul stench.

I stared into the Boar-wolfโ€™s eyes; film over the surface as if having cataracts, gave it poor eyesight due to their living conditions. They could only make out outlines but basically relied on scent. It continued breathing heavily at Erikโ€™s back, then up his neck, where I could feel its heavy breathing against my face. I couldnโ€™t begin to describe its breath as I lowered my head, burying it into Erikโ€™s chest. He kept himself calm as he held his hands out, leaning them against the wall behind me in a protective manner.

Sarah squeaked as the Boar-wolfโ€™s large backside pressed against her as she stood in front of Jon. Jon placed his hand over her mouth concealing her fear. He whispered shushing sounds in her ear as the beast backed away inspecting their niche. They knew something was here but couldnโ€™t detect the intrusion for whatever it was to them, knew to remain still. They grunted and squealed loudly and as Caleb peeked his head from his hiding places, he watched the Boar-wolves thinking of a way to lure them away when they released another round loud squeals and grunts, causing us to cover our ears, as if signaling the others there were intruders in their domain.

Zanzsโ€™ whimpers and growls were masked by the Boar-wolvesโ€™ squeals. His massive size made it difficult for Erik and I to move around and as the Boar-wolf lowered its nose, he caught Zanzsโ€™ wolf scent. He growled then attempted to bite the Boar-wolfโ€™s nose through his muzzle. I tried pulling him back but if I gave off too much movement, things could have grown much worse. Abraxas squiggled around inside my jacket then calmed his movements after receiving my thoughts to stop moving around. I instructed him to communicate with Zanz, ordering him to stand down. Reluctantly, Zanz obeyed but shook his head, releasing a sneeze of disappointment.

The Boar-wolfโ€™s head leaned in closer, nudging Erik forward. It continued grunting and snorting knowing something was there. Abraxas crawled out resting on my shoulder holding his head up. Poor Erik looked down seeing his rat form and tried his best not to react. He closed his eyes, continuing to stand there. Abraxas began mimicking the Boar-wolfโ€™s grunts and snorts. After a few minutes it stopped, letting out a loud snort-like-sneeze, growing frustrated with what was said between itself and Abraxas. It turned its head, continuing down the tunnel with the other beast, flicking their tails and shaking their heads as they passed. Caleb quickly reached down grabbing a handful of medium sized rocks, throwing them down the tunnel which attracted their attention and being a Wraith, he threw them far. Their heavy feet thumped against the stone bringing dust and debris falling in their wake.

Jon, Sarah and Caleb released sighs of relief that they made it through that, but they werenโ€™t sure if theyโ€™d be able to trick them again. The beasts knew they had intruders, catching unfamiliar scents everywhere.

I stood there momentarily grateful we made it through that, then looked up at Erik.

โ€œAre you okay?โ€ I felt his hands on my waist.

โ€œYeah. Iโ€™m fine.โ€ he answered with a grin that faded as he glanced down at Zanz who stood with his ears perked and tail between his legs. Backing away, Erik quietly complained, โ€œIf it werenโ€™t for him, the Boar-wolves wouldโ€™ve kept going. Why is he even here!?โ€

โ€œErikโ€ฆdonโ€™t start! Not now!โ€ I warned knowing this was about to lead to another argument, โ€œYou donโ€™t like him, thatโ€™s fine, because he doesnโ€™t like you either!โ€ I pushed him aside, hearing voices of our friends down the tunnel, whispering among themselves.

โ€œGuys...psst...โ€ Caleb called out, โ€œare you still alive over there?โ€

We stepped out, nodding our heads trying to hide.

โ€œWe should get going.โ€ I stated firmly with a nervous undertone.

โ€œYes, please.โ€ Jon urged as he stepped toward us then whispered as he leaned in, โ€œYou two need to control yourselves. No one knows heโ€™s Erik, remember?โ€

โ€œI know.โ€ Erik muttered.

I nodded as I glanced down at Abraxasโ€™ rat form in my hands, asking softly as I examined the tunnel ahead and behind us making sure the Boar-wolves werenโ€™t returning,

โ€œAbraxas...scout ahead and make sure nothing else is coming.โ€

โ€œYes, Mother.โ€ he answered telepathically and jumping from my hands, we watched as he immediately transformed, stretching out his wings. He hovered above our heads as we cautiously continued, sending out his Echolocation once more, revealing something ahead, โ€œThere is something ahead, Mother.โ€

โ€œWhat is it?โ€ I asked as I and the others paused in concern.

โ€œWhatโ€™s wrong?โ€ Caleb asked.

โ€œHe says thereโ€™s something ahead.โ€

โ€œOh, God...not another bloody Boar-wolf!โ€ Sarah questioned as she glanced up and down the tunnel, โ€œAnd is it just me, or is the air getting heavy.โ€ she panted slowly.

โ€œNo, itโ€™s not just you.โ€ I too, breathed heavily feeling the effect, โ€œBut noโ€ฆjust a large cavern.โ€ I raised my right wrist, utilizing the map; red blips flashing as they clustered together.

Caleb examined his watch as well, seeing for himself then tapped Jonathan on the shoulder showing him the blips.

โ€œMaybe Lucyโ€™s in there.โ€ Jon fretted as he quickly turned, walking in fast speed, causing all of us to follow in the same manner; losing our footing once again on slippery stone.

We suddenly came to a halt because Jon had stopped; staring straight ahead, holding his arms down with his flashlight in hand.

โ€œJonathan?โ€ Sarah asked, โ€œWhatโ€™s wrong?โ€

I pulled on Sarahโ€™s jacket sleeve causing her to look from me to the cavern before us. Moving our flashlights around illuminating the area, women and children (or at least we thought they were children) were spread out everywhere, overlapping one another. Even sleeping on rocks along the cavernโ€™s walls. Unable to catch glimpses around the large boulders around the room, Jon shone his flashlight, looking for any sign of Lucy. Jon frantically asked as he glanced around among the occupants,

โ€œDo you see her anywhere?โ€

โ€œJonโ€ฆSarah and I canโ€™t see.โ€ I mumbled then examined the cavernโ€™s walls taking notice they were covered in some sort of a Bioluminescence bacteria giving off a faint bluish color that wasnโ€™t disturbing to a sleeping brood below, โ€œAbraxasโ€ฆโ€ I called out telepathically as I observed his form flying above, โ€œtake on the caveโ€™s bluish glow to avoid our detection. Your fiery Aura will be too bright and noticeable.โ€

We powered down our flashlights, placing them in our pockets, watching as he flew closer to the walls, observing the surface seeing it was nothing more than microorganisms and bacteria. He continued flapping his wings as he closed his eyes, beginning to take on the bluish glow. I smiled proudly, watching as he adapted. His glow provided ample illumination that added to the natural lighting. We were now able to see what laid before us. Anxious, Jon stepped forward when I glanced down noticing he was about to step off a five foot ledge leading down into the cavern. I grabbed onto the back of his jacket before he fell.

Caleb turned away momentarily dialing one of the watches codes to connect. Holding his wrist up to his mouth, he whispered into the speaker, glancing back several times down the tunnel behind us,

โ€œHello...can you hear me? Hello? Bloody hell, anyone...can you hear me?โ€

Nick, Luke, Jeremy and Nathan cautioned down their tunnel when they approached a smaller cavern. Before venturing any further, their watches beeped alerting them of movement ahead and carefully moving forward, they arrived at the opening of the cavern filled with the most horrific sight and smell possible; one they couldnโ€™t believe. All around were piles upon piles of human bones; some were freshly gnawed on. Nathan observed a group of women with knotted hair and absolutely filthy, gnawing on the bones.

They covered the beams of their flashlights with their hands, as they slowly backed away. Nathan hoped that wasnโ€™t Lucy they were eating. He might have been what he was, but he wasnโ€™t that cruel and would never harm a child. The sight made him nauseous but he blocked the image from his thoughts as he walked in silence with the others who were silent themselves, back toward the pit, waiting for the others.

Jeremy fiddled with his watch, typing a quick message using the holographic keyboard. The message revealed nothing was found in the right chamber once it was sent, he turned off the watch.

โ€œWhere did they get the fresh meat?โ€ Nick muttered.

โ€œI donโ€™t know and I donโ€™t want to know.โ€ Luke replied disgruntled.

โ€œI hope that wasnโ€™t Lucy.โ€ Jeremy feared.

โ€œNone of us hope for that, you dumbsh*tโ€ฆโ€ Nathan barked over his shoulder as he walked by them.

Leonus and the others waited near the pit when he suddenly heard shuffling erupt from the right tunnel. Placing their hands on their weapons, the shuffling belonged to Nathan and the others.

โ€œBy the Heavens...we thought you were them again.โ€ Thomas sighed in relief.

โ€œI sent you a message.โ€ Jeremy revealed, aiming his complaint toward Leonus.

โ€™Oh, he threw and broke his watch.โ€ Derek grunted.

โ€œWhy?โ€ Nick questioned, โ€œTheyโ€™re to communicate!โ€

Before Leonus could argue, Derek suddenly heard a voice from his watch. Raising his wrist, he observed a holographic image of Calebโ€™s head appearing from all their watchesโ€™ face; except Leonusโ€™.

โ€œYes, Calebโ€ฆโ€ Anthony replied, โ€œwhat is it? Did you find Lucy?โ€

โ€œWeโ€™re not sure yet.โ€ Caleb replied, observing the seven inch version of Anthony, โ€œWeโ€™re going to be here for a bit checking this out. Just thought you should know. And ohโ€ฆthere are two Boar-wolves coming your way and theyโ€™re ugly b*tches!โ€

โ€œThereโ€™s what comingโ€ฆโ€ Anthony muttered but was interrupted when he and the others gathered around him felt heavy vibrations under their feet. Glancing ahead, red eyes approached alerting Anthony to continue shouting out urgently, โ€œEveryone hide! Quick!โ€ he ended the call.

They scattered, hiding behind large boulders surrounding the pit; Anthony shuffled behind one of the boulders alongside Thomas. Nick released low hisses in agitation as he bumped elbows with Nathan. Leonus peeked over the boulder, watching as two Boar-wolves shuffled down the tunnel, toward the pit. He withdrew his head enough to hide but continued observing the creatures. They sniffed the air around the pit catching the stench of its own kind among the scent of intruders. Releasing low grunts followed by a brief sneeze they turned, placing their hairy rears over the edge and relieved themselves. One urinated loudly as if heavy rains suddenly poured and the other beast, well...the scent from its feces was absolutely foul.

Leonus said under his breath as he looked down at the ground,

โ€œBy the Godsโ€ฆthatโ€™s disgusting.โ€ he peeked up again watching as the Boar-wolves sniffed the pit then ventured toward the left, returning to their lair while engaging in a momentary spat as they clawed and squealed at one another.

โ€œWhat...no toilet paper?โ€ Anthony joked as they all stood, dusting off the moist dirt from their surroundings; Thomas smiled admiring his brotherโ€™s humor; even during a time such as this. He shook his head giving Anthony a quick push.

Leonus rolled his eyes at Anthonyโ€™s joke then had Derek attempt to contact us, but noticed our watches were offline.

โ€œShould we go after the young ones?โ€ Anthony veered in our direction with worry.

โ€œNo. Too many people in one place will definitely draw attention.โ€ Leonus instructed, โ€œWeโ€™ll wait for them here unless they call, yes?โ€

โ€œLancaster is right.โ€ Derek added, โ€œI donโ€™t want to think the worst here either, but obviously the kids managed to hide from them, soโ€ฆโ€

โ€œNo!โ€ Nick firmy interrupted, โ€œIf theyโ€™re not back in thirty minutes, all of usโ€ฆโ€ he approached Leonus, โ€œare going in after them, is that understood? Thatโ€™s our Keeper and my friends in there, but you donโ€™t care...do you?โ€

โ€œEveryone knows how I feel about that little runt.โ€ Leonus stood closer to the young Wraith standing before him, โ€œBut if youโ€™d like to go in after them, then go ahead Goldy-locksโ€ฆโ€ he referred to Nickโ€™s blonde dyed-hair, โ€œno oneโ€™s stopping you!โ€

โ€œThe Wraithโ€™s right.โ€ Derek added breaking the tension.

Leonus frowned, glancing around realizing his plans might fail, and that he was outnumbered.

Searching the cavern, we heard a whimper. Directing our lights around the cavern among Abraxasโ€™ glow, Jon whispered,

โ€œLucy!? Lucyโ€ฆbutton, is that you?โ€

Another whimper answered followed by the sounds of a crying child.

Aiming our flashlights as Abraxas hovered closer near the ground toward the back of the cavern, was Lucy tucked inside a gouged out niche. She sat curled up with her knees to her chin; arms around her legs and face buried in her lap, crying out in soft sobs. She was covered in dirt from her long hair to her bare feet, with clothing torn in several places. Hearing her cries and our voices, the women and children began to stir.

โ€œHow are we going to get to her, without waking them!?โ€ Caleb asked, searching for a way to get to Lucy, โ€œI could teleport over there but I canโ€™t see the ground. Even with my Wraith sight.โ€

โ€œOne of us will have to sneak around the women and children.โ€ Erik suggested.

โ€œIโ€™ll go. Sheโ€™s my sister.โ€ Jon commented. โ€œIโ€™ll portal over there...โ€

โ€œNo. Iโ€™ll go. Other than Sarah, Iโ€™m the only other petite figure here. Jonathan, listenโ€ฆโ€ I stood in front placing my hands on his shoulders continuing telepathically, โ€œthere isnโ€™t much room around her, and the smallest slip of your foot could cause you or Caleb to trip; falling on or waking the sleeping brood. Plus, your portals make a buzzing-crackling sound that may alert them. We donโ€™t know whatโ€™s behind that boulder in front of her. Thereโ€™s a blind spot none of our eyes can see. Abraxas doesnโ€™t see anything but just the same. I could do this.โ€ I offered a comforting smile, โ€œYou good?โ€

โ€œIโ€™ll be better once I have my sister in my arms.โ€ Jon fretted fearfully then muttered verbally in a faint whisper that echoed, โ€œBut yeah, Iโ€™m goodโ€ฆโ€ he nodded.

โ€œGood. Now, we should stop using the flashlights. Itโ€™ll draw attention. Utilize your night vision and goggles.โ€ I started removing my weapons handing them to Caleb.

โ€œKeeps...be careful.โ€ Erikโ€™s voice entered my mind.

โ€œIโ€™ll be fine.โ€ I nodded in his direction then turned, facing the cavern watching as Abraxas continued hovering above our heads.

โ€œMotherโ€ฆyouโ€™re correct. There is no steady footing near the child, except for small spaces. One of which a large male canโ€™t step. Even for a Wraith or Demon.โ€ Abraxas revealed telepathically.

I nodded, hearing Abraxas confirm my suspicion and knowing his temperament, I knelt down staring into Zanzsโ€™ eyes, scratching his neck.

โ€œNow, you need to listen to me.โ€ I whispered quickly, โ€œYou need to stay here and donโ€™t make a sound. Behave, do you understand?โ€ and I received a soft whimper through his muzzle, โ€œGood boy. Stay!โ€

Taking a deep breath, I carefully slid off the ledge and upon landing on my feet as gently as I could, it created a loud echo, causing the women and children to stir once more. Abraxas hovered in illuminated scales, allowing me to see the placement of my feet, along with the faint glow from a glow stick I held out. I carefully placed my feet in open spots between hands and feet sprawled out in every direction, trying to avoid the crunching beneath my feet from debris of bones, rocks and twigs. Glancing around, I took notice there werenโ€™t any men; not even young men or teenagers. I wondered if maybe they were somewhere else in these caverns but hoped that wasnโ€™t the case. I worked my way through where at one point, a woman grunted as she rolled over landing her left hand across my right foot, causing me to pause in my tracks. I glanced down at the woman remaining paused, thinking maybe sheโ€™d wake but thankfully, in this moment, she didnโ€™t. I carefully reached down gently, removing her hand just enough so I could slip my foot away.

As I did a little too slowly, she turned her head facing upward. Yawning, she sent her foul breath into my face. I almost gagged from the odor as I covered my face with my left hand preventing myself from getting sick, which really didnโ€™t help because I already felt nauseous. Once gaining my composure and shaking my head after several gulps, I continued my way toward Lucy. Thank god for Shung-Leeโ€™s training in careful placement of footing.

The innocent child huddled close to the wall watching as a shadow moved toward her in the faint light. She mumbled and cried, not knowing if the shadow belonged to one of the women or children that terrorized her on a nightly basis. She didnโ€™t want their hands clawing at her; not again. She attempted to scoot away but there was nowhere for her to retreat to.

As I approached peeking around the large boulder, Lucy was absolutely terrified; trembling in place from fear and the cold dampness within the cavern. Placing both my feet in a small enough area, I held onto the boulder for extra support. Kneeling down, I glanced around realizing it was tight and cramped but shook the thought from focus. Placing my glow stick between my knees, I whispered softly as I slowly reached out touching her arm,

โ€œLucy...Lucy, sweetheart. Hey there, sweetieโ€ฆโ€

She cried but hearing the womanโ€™s soft voice, she raised her head, looking upon the woman with puffy eyes and tears running down her little cheeks, leaving streak marks on her dirty face. After blinking, she replied in a squeaky voice,

โ€œIโ€™m Lucyโ€ฆโ€ she sniffled.

โ€œYes you are, sweetie. Iโ€™m Yza...the Keeper.โ€ I replied telepathically frightening the child for she was too young to understand the concept of telepathy but after a few seconds, she calmed down. She combed her dirty red hair back off her face giving a brief smile of which I returned, โ€œYouโ€™re familiar with telepathy?โ€ I watched as the small child nodded, โ€œOkay, good. Jonathanโ€™s here.โ€

โ€œJohnny?โ€ her innocent voice answered in a high pitch tone as our connection linked.

I felt tears welling in my eyes as I gently moved hair from her face. Poor little thing. Her face was covered in mud, dirt and whatever else was in here. Her clothing was filthy; torn in places, as well as her white stockings with holes in the knees and feet, revealing her little toes peeking through with pink polish.

โ€œJohnny?โ€ she asked once more.

โ€œYes...over there.โ€ I gently turned, pointing over my shoulder toward other figures.

Jon stood anxious on the ledge, tightening his grip on his flashlight watching as the young woman knelt for the longest time. He watched as she moved aside, revealing his little sisterโ€™s round face peeking at him. He smiled, almost jumping off the ledge and forgetting about his stealth but Erik and Caleb both pulled him back, shaking their heads.

โ€œJonathan, mate...no. You jump in there, youโ€™ll get us all killed.โ€ Caleb warned, โ€œEspecially Yza, for sheโ€™s invading their lair.โ€

Jon stood hesitant, knowing his friend was right. Nodding, he patted Caleb and Erikโ€™s shoulders then approached Sarah who held onto him for comfort. Caleb frowned then turned, making contact with the others once more, or attempted to for he took notice most of the watches were offline.

โ€œAlright, sweetie...you need to be very quiet for me, okay?โ€ I instructed, โ€œIโ€™m going to turn around and when I do, I want you to climb on my back and hold on as tight as you can, yes?โ€

โ€œLike horsie?โ€ she sniffled once more.

I chuckled, nodding.

โ€œYes. Like horsie. Ready?โ€ I watched as the child nodded, โ€œGood girl.โ€ I cautiously turned with my back facing her then glanced over my shoulder, watching as she pushed herself from her crouched position, reaching out her little arms of which she wrapped around my neck and her legs around my torso. Her little body felt so tiny and fragile as she leaned against my back, shivering from the dampness. Holding onto the rock for support and retrieving the glow stick from between my feet, I quietly stood, adjusting her weight and my footing. Glancing over my shoulder at her little face that tucked along my neck I whispered verbally, โ€œStay very quiet and keep your eyes on Abraxasโ€ฆโ€ I pointed at him as he hovered continuously without tiring.

โ€œOoo...โ€ she whispered, โ€œa fairy. So pretty.โ€

โ€œYes...very pretty fairy.โ€

โ€œOooโ€ฆโ€ and she listened, leaning her head against my back.

โ€œGood girl...โ€ I mumbled, making my way; step by step, back toward the others but it was far more difficult this time because I had the extra weight from carrying Lucy, but I managed regardless; Jon paced the ledge; feet loudly echoing shuffling. He wouldnโ€™t remain calm until he held Lucy in his arms and she was home safe.

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