Lourek started pacing. Lukren had been gone for eight minutes and the dwarf was getting restless. “Should we wait two more minutes? I think we should go.”
Helena leaned against the wall and slowly stood up. “I think it would be best if we started moving. If he’s not in trouble we’ll meet up with him.” She paused as Sorley helped her finish standing. “If he’s in trouble getting there quicker will only help.”
A light became visible in the direction they were headed. It seemed to be coming towards them.
“Maybe that’s him now.” Sorley pointed at the light, torch in hand.
The soft plodding of fox paws started as Ember began to trot towards the light. “I’ll check it out.”
Ember looked back and nodded at Helena. “Of course.” Then she scampered forward, torch left behind.
– – –
The light wasn’t torchlight. But it also wasn’t one of those flameskull things. Ember watched as a small creature seemingly made of green fire floated slowly toward where Sorley and the others were. She tried to remember what the thing was called, but all she could think of were will o’ wisps, which this thing certainly wasn’t.
As it passed by Ember hid in a small crevice in the rock wall. The floating orb of light paused and seemed to notice her. It bobbed down to her eye level and floated there. Ember felt like she was being scrutinized by the light.
A small voice spoke within Ember’s mind. To Ember telepathy was something that only conveyed emotion or uncomplicated thoughts, but this was full on speech. What are you, little creature? You are no ordinary fox.
Ember tried to think back to the creature. I’m not. What are you?
I’m a light elemental. Call me Orby. The light did a little circle. I’m searching for Helena. Do you know where she is?
Before it could be stopped the image of Helena appeared in Ember’s mind. It showed her walking towards them.
Thank you. We can wait here then.
Ember nodded, uncertain if she had made a mistake or not.
– – –
Sorley felt the confusion in Ember’s mind and started walking faster.
“Oi, slow down. I can’t keep up.”
“Sorry. I’m getting confusion from Ember. I don’t think it’s Lukren that’s ahead. He didn’t have a torch with him anyway, did he?”
Lourek started moving more swiftly down the tunnel. “Well, I’m going to look for him. You can deal with whatever Ember found.”
Orby and Ember watched as Lourek walked past them at a quickened pace. He barely glanced at them as he continued forward.
Who’s that? Orby asked, floating in the direction Lourek had gone for a few feet then stopping. I think I saw another one earlier. He wasn’t in that much of a hurry though.
That’s Lourek. The one you saw before was probably Lukren.
Ember shook her head. So’s Orby.
Ember looked in the direction Lukren had come from and saw a torch coming closer. She focused on Sorley and tried to think to him like Orby was to her. Can you hear me?
The torch paused for a moment in the distance then started approaching faster than before. Could we always talk like this?
Ember hopped a few times, excited that she discovered a new layer to her connection to Sorley. I have no idea. I found the source of the light. It’s a light elemental that’s named Orby. It says it was looking for Helena.
– – –
Helena watched as Sorley’s face twisted into confusion then into excitement and back into confusion. He turned toward her and his expression became a questioning one.
“Do you know a light elemental that calls itself Orby?”
The name seemed familiar to Helena, but she couldn’t quite place it. “The name seems familiar for some reason. If I did know a light elemental, it was before…”
Sorley nodded. “Can we walk faster?”
“Yes, I think I can go a little faster.”
– – –
So, how do you know Helena? Ember asked. She was slowly walking in the direction of the torch-light and Orby had started to follow behind.
The elemental bobbed along, almost seeming to dance. I knew her when she was very little. She’s a dracomage you know. Dracomages bond with elementals. When the orcs attacked I was too small and weak to help her. She may not remember though. We’ve been apart for so long.
How long? Ember wondered why Helena wouldn’t remember. She was surely no older than Sorley was.
Forty years maybe. I can sense your confusion. Elves live a long time.
I think I knew that, on some level. Ember remembered Sorley’s lessons with his mother on the history of non-humans. It just never clicked.
Sorley and Helena paused in front of Ember and a floating orb of light. The two seemed to be having some sort of conversation and Ember bumped into Sorley.
“Oops. Sorry. Wasn’t paying attention.” Ember looked up at Sorley and Helena. “This is Orby. Orby this is Sorley, and this is Helena.” She pointed at them with her snout.
The green light floated up to Helena and floated near her wound. A wisp of light reached out and touched the bandage. Nice work. Seems to be healing nicely. Everyone was able to hear the elemental. I suppose I have Sorley to thank for the bandage? Orby floated up to Helena’s scale impression arm. Ah, a quick spell cast. Seems recent. That might be why I sensed where you were.
Helena started at the green orb. It was the same color as the fire she had conjured before. “Do I know you from somewhere?”
In response the elemental flowed into her arm and the scale pattern receded slightly. I am your focus. I can slow the scales, but only slightly. If you cast like you did before too often you will start growing scales. Helena, you vowed you would never grow scales. You didn’t want to be a battle mage.
The reminder of the vow brought some memories flooding back into Helena’s mind. The block had the taste of her mother within it. “Times change. I was merely ten when I made that vow. Mother blocked my memories. Though she couldn’t block the ones of The Leak.”
“We can’t hear it anymore. It’s only talking to you.” Sorley slowed down with Helena. “Can you still continue or do you need a moment?”
Before Helena could respond cries of agony echoed down the tunnel. It sounded like Lourek and Lukren. “Let’s go.”
I see memories of another rend. Is it in this cave?
Not now. We need to focus on the dwarves.
– – –
Lourek came upon Lukren who was fending off a small, undead creature. It looked similar to a skeleton except that it had dark tendrils seeping from it. Lourek had heard stories of this creature before. It was actually two creatures. One was the skeleton, the other was a shadow. Working together the two could take down more prey.
“Careful Lukren! That’s a shadow-skeleton!” Lourek rushed forward to help.
Lukren glanced back to see Lourek. “I told you ten minutes!” He smacked the shadow-skeleton with the flat of his blade. “Also, I know what it is!”
Lourek pulled the daggers from his back and closed in on the creature. Together the two dwarves made swift work of it.
“Well, Flaskheart. That wasn’t so bad, was it?”
“Aye, brother. Not bad at all.”
“Don’t call me brother!”
“Then don’t call me Flaskheart!”
The two dwarves broke into an argument, yelling at each other in dwarvish. While they were distracted another shadow-skeleton appeared from the darkness and sent tendrils of darkness toward them.
In unison the dwarves cried out in agony as they took massive damage. Their shadows started to disconnect from their bodies. In the dim light they were unable to tell what was happening at first. When they realized the predicament they were in they saw torchlight coming around a bend in the corridor. Sorley, Helena, and Ember stood in shock of what they saw, but they swiftly moved into an attack formation.
The arm where the faint scales were still visible on Helena glowed a strange green light as she pointed at the shadow-skeleton.
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