Three Irons

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8. The Dark and the Light

Water dripped from the ceiling of the catacombs into awaiting puddles below. A rich earthen aroma permeated the narrow space of labyrinthine passageways. The Cleric led him deeper into the winding tunnels illuminated every few paces by bioluminescent mushrooms growing on the floor and walls.

“If you cross me---”

She cut him off. “If I wanted you dead or detained, I would have done it by now.” She took her long blonde hair in a hand and spun it in a knot at the back of her head. “What is so important about that thing in your chest?”

The black bear fur on the Stranger’s long coat floated past a cluster of glowing blue mushrooms. “I told you, it’s none of your concern.”

“It is now!” She stopped at an intersection, studying the options.

He halted next to her. “Problem?”

Her head turned from one route to the other. “One of these leads to the creek, and the other lets out behind the graveyard.”

He stroked the gold hoop pierced through his left nostril. “The creek would be preferable. Which way?”

The healer took a step down one path, doubted herself, and went the other way instead.

Something small and furry scuttled across her boots as she ventured deeper into the subterranean tunnels. “Once the two of you entered our village, your business became our business.”

Aside from the clank of his chainmail against his bare skin, the Stranger only grumbled under his breath.

“Well, what’s it for?”

“You won’t let it go, will you?”

The Cleric shook her head.

Another groan. “The jewel is the sole thing preventing them from eradicating your hamlet from existence.”

She crossed her arms, studying him. “Do elaborate.”

“They’ll send their emissaries first to clear the way for their masters. When the Walkers come, they’ll try to take it from me again.”

The healer rounded another turn. The sound of gurgling waters danced on the edge of their ears. “And, if they take it?”

A scoff. “They’ll be immune to daylight.” He kicked a dead animal from his path. “They’ll consume at will.”

The Cleric took a tunnel to her right and followed it down a long straightaway. “How do we stop them?”

The Stranger stuffed his hands into his coat’s pockets. “Survive until daylight.”

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