Casket of Shadows

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Urgent Intervention

Dralinmer grunted.

“Well, it looks like we are in for some excitement again. I hope you two are ready and remember you need to be really on your toes with this group. I still believe my hair went two shades greyer when we took this species on last. At least this time we don’t have the black magic of the High Priestess and Sisterhood of Athena under Ares control, to contend with at the same time.”

Beloldwen laughed quietly.

“Well at least now we know to watch out for them sending webs like projectiles to tie us up. Last time that came as an uncomfortable and rather sticky surprise.”

She blew at the holographic images and they disintegrated, falling like grains of sand to the desert floor.

“Okay. Let’s go and find out what these creatures are up to, I smell a wicked game afoot. Go on Aisha, lead the way, after all you are the one with the unique connection to both Little One and Ares’s sister, Athena.”

Now it was Dralinmer's turn to tease me. Mind you he had only heard what had happened from someone else, he had not been there at the time. Maybe, the gift she had given me might prove useful going up against these darklings, I hoped so, but then I also hoped that with luck no extra help would be needed.

The darklings had a good start on us. Little One was still ghosting their movements and relayed them to me. It seemed as if they had a destination programmed in and were not deviating from the path, they had set themselves.

So far, no scouts had been sent either ahead nor left to guard the rear, a sure sign they felt there was no one else around. Still, it was a bad professional laps for any group going into hostile territory. We at this time had the upper hand when we caught up to them and I had no intention of them detecting us. Their spider senses could well be tuned to pick up vibrations through the ground, similar to a spider feeling a fly on its web. It was my turn to use some magic, and just to be sure, I used a spell.

I drew my short sword and touched the blade to the ground just in front of where the holographic image had been, as I cast the spell I gently pushed it in turning it into my favorite hickory wood wand.

“As the sun now brings the light,

Show us that which hidden be,

Silver thread of spider silk,

Glow upon the sand for me to see.”

And there it was. A continuous carpet stretching off into the distance, shimmering along the path we would have walked, no rear guard was needed because the spider senses would detect our every step.

I gently removed my wand and, once more as my short sword, placed it back in the scabbard on my hip.

“I think we had better fly, don’t you?”

It was not so much a question as an observation that came at the same time as both Beloldwen and Dralinmer shapeshifted into ravens.

I turned to the portal that the creatures had used to enter and feeling inside my hidden pocket drew out several miniaturized pieces of obsidian, bringing them back to size, I placed them both on the sand in front of the portal and also into the outer edges finding small cracks on the rockface into which to wedge them. This would seal the portal to any darkling without sending alarm bells to the other end of the link, at least, not until they attempted to actually exit at this end. Time now to join the others as we all took silently to the sky.

We flew high, allowing our excellent sight to enable us to keep in touch with our quarry and each other, Little One was still with them and from up here we could see the edge of his transparency as he remained in camouflage mode.

The four beings had turned in a southerly direction from their original trajectory when they stopped on a small mound with an old windswept tree. Ancient as it obviously was surviving here in the desert, maybe a reminder from better climatic times. No one looked up, nor did they halt, it was as if they had a mission and could not stop until it was completed. Where were they going? Why?

Looking back from where we had started, the escarpment now was only a narrow strip on the horizon. The sun was now nearly halfway between the largest of the three moons that this planet had. We were still in the first half of the daylight time here, I looked back down as one of the other two ravens flew in close and drew my attention towards the ground again. We were not using any other communication methods, so this basically was drawing my attention to something new happening below.

The figures below had stopped again, this time in a small depression, shaped like a circular amphitheater. Now, one of them had removed something from within his desert-suit, I caught the glint of something small in his hand and then he knelt down and seemed to be brushing the sand away from something. The other three seemed to be doing the same now but separated as if working in a specific semi-circular arc with maybe ten steps between them. The leader being the central key. Suddenly a very low vibrational sound could be heard. Then the leader moved from his position and aimed for a space that would make up a fourth marker on the circle around his central key.

Suddenly Dralinmer screamed in raven and flew like a dart at him, pulling up as soon as he had caused them all to look at him. Now he materialized as himself on the rim of the depression where they were. His walking staff pointed at them as if he was ready to blast them to oblivion if anyone moved. In fact he was holding the leader in a freeze ray. The others went to move towards him and Beloldwen and I materialized as ourselves on the rim of the depression behind them.

They swung around and the first web flew from the wrist gland of the one nearest Beloldwen. She threw out an ice bomb and the web wrapped around it and fell short as a frozen ball. Now I ducked, and as the three of them ran to re-group near their still frozen leader it became apparent that whatever he had been stopped from completing was so important that they were willing to do anything to complete the cycle they had started.

“Aisha. A containment cube please.”

Boomed Dralinmer as with his wand he threw another of the creatures through the air and it landed on its back. There was a hissing, clicking of the mandibular as it screeched before landing. So great was its rage and the force that two webs were automatically ejected, both went skywards in no particular direction. The next second however these turned to fire and burnt up before landing close to us. Little One was fully visible and was joining in the fun.

“Cover me.”

I threw the thought out to all concerned as I needed to concentrate on the containment cube. I materialized my own walking staff and centering my power within me I charged the crystal in the head of it. As the force flowed from my core, so the crystal started to throb with diamond white light. I couldn’t afford to make a mistake, I pointed it and started the flow of power to create a fast setting crystal glass containment cube to hold them captive, but unharmed. Starting from just below the sand, it was important to stop them from turning that key. That was when I found the metallic lock and the inserted key. With my mind’s eye I traced this all the way around the depression. It was a large entranceway. Sealed at present, but with the twist of that final key it would open and there was no saying what would be released. Without thinking I raised slightly the depth and curved the base of the cube, but instead of only creating a containment around the one. I aimed to put the crystalline base of the cube between them and all the keys. The sand shivered and moved below their feet and they looked down in horror.

I had started to raise the sides on the cube when the air turned into a blast of static blue and the entire depression started to shimmer. There was no time to think. I simply joined all my inner power with my external force and closed my eyes. I called on the goddess Athena for help. After all it was her brother Ares who ran these creatures. I had to stop them from teleporting or doing anything else which would prevent us from capturing them.

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