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    Cia
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

Broken Path, Starless Tail - 26. Chapter 26

The one-eyed-winking windbag, as Beckett dubbed him in his mind, looked like a tube that had been unrolled, then inflated partway. Lumpy, with no real defined shape, it still filled the entire archway that appeared to have a set of stairs leading down into a squat stone building. Every time the thing breathed out of holes on either side of its eye, it emitted a cloud of… something foul into the air with a greenish tinge. The mix of cooked broccoli and three week old gym socks made Beckett gag and then have to swallow down a thin stream of bile that burned on its way back down.

“How do I get passed it?” he hissed. He hid around the corner of a building a block away. That’s how far the stench went, so he couldn’t begin to imagine how bad it was up close. He’d pass out! No locker room had ever rivaled that smell. No way he could hold his breath that long.

The wisps must have been as stumped as he was. “Guys?” Beckett looked behind him… and they were nowhere to be seen. “What the hell? Damn it!”

Beckett turned back to the windbag, and his eyes widened. The wisps hadn’t abandoned him! They were swarmed around the thing, and had rolled it in a shiny net. He’d have preferred a bag that trapped it in its own odors, but beggars couldn’t be choosers because in that moment, the wisps were rolling it away from the archway. He took off running. “Thanks!” he called over his shoulder as he sailed down the stairs and down into the depths of the building. He didn’t look back, and he kept going, determined to find Valrinda.

One wisp stayed by his side, not having any trouble keeping up despite how small it was. Seriously, what were they like under those robes? He ran down the uneven stone steps until his side ached, and then he stumbled to a stop, leaning against the gritty stone wall. It was cold and damp.

Glowing sconces on the walls kept it from being pitch black, and Beckett prayed they were removable. Who knew what the tunnels were like? While he caught his breath, he examined one. It looked like something was moving inside the globe, and he shuddered, but he still grabbed the bottom of the post in the bracket and pulled. It came free with a loud scrape.

He looked back and forth, but nothing was behind them and he didn’t see anything in the murky depths of the stairs still leading down. How far was it? “Can you still sense Val?” he asked the wisp.

“Yes, he is ahead and that way.” It pointed to one side.

“Okay.” He heaved a big breath. “Let’s go.”

 

They walked, and walked, and walked. Once they were off the stairs, they found tunnels. Thank fuck a wisp came with him because they branched everywhere like snakes. Some were huge, and some small, and Beckett would never have found any sign of Valrinda on his own. There were definitely things living down here, but he never saw anything, just heard sounds and saw the bones.

That was worse. Wet, sucking noises or soft scraping. Dry clicks or raspy rattles. He would hold up the globe high or spin, but never saw the gleam of an eye or a hint of a body.

The wisp tugged him along, and Beckett went as fast as he could. He wanted out of here, his skin crawling constantly.

“Wait! Did you hear that?” It hadn’t been like the other sounds. It had sounded like… “There! Chains, I think it’s the chains you guys put on Val!” Excited, Beckett took off toward the end of the huge tunnel he was in. “Valrinda! I’m coming! Wait for me!” Was he trying to find the way out? To look for Beckett?

Beckett ran into a space where three large tunnels came together right before Valrinda left by another tunnel. “Val! Wait!” He ran up to him and threw his body against his dragon. “I found you!”

Val’s wing swept out and knocked him away. He turned, barely fitting in the space, and bared his teeth, growling.

“What the hell?” Beckett wheezed on the ground, the breath knocked out of him. “It’s me!”

What was wrong with him? Beckett crawled backward on his elbows and heels, not taking his eyes off the milky orbs that were fixed on his chest.

His tunic had popped open with the force of the fall, and the raw red claw marks were still visible. He’d learned to ignore them, since they’d never gone away, but now Valrinda was staring with his nostrils flaring and his teeth bared.

Like he was enraged. At Beckett? Himself? Maybe Valrinda thought he hurt him.

“They’re just those scratches from before. I’m fine. You didn’t do it. It’s okay.” He tried to soothe Valrinda, but it didn’t work. As soon as he spoke, Valrinda snarled and the sound held nothing but hostile menace.

Something wasn’t right, and Beckett had no idea what. He had to get out of here. His eyes burned but he refused to let the tears fall. He’d figure this out on his own. But he had to free Valrinda. Maybe he could lead him out….

No, the tunnels were too small the way he came. He’d just have to let him find his own way out. Beckett gathered himself to jump up and run. He’d have to make it past that deadly mouth full of fangs and those claws and through the tunnel to his left.

He waited for an eternity of a moment when a sound distracted Valrinda. In the second his head turned to the side, Beckett leaped to his feet to bolt away. Then he saw the dripping puncture marks, and the side of Valrinda’s head caught him and swept him against his neck, right against the wound.

Copyright © 2023 Cia; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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