Author: WhiteZephyr PM
It turns out video games aren't all they're cracked out to be. Ani discovers this when she washes up on a beach with a guy who happens to like to encorperate belts into his fashion sense. She's sure it's all just a game. Games don't kill, right? Hope not. Reviews are welcome and appreciated, so please review!Rated: Fiction T - English - Adventure/Fantasy - Chapters: 36 - Words: 106,320 - Reviews: 19 - Favs: 12 - Follows: 13 - Updated: 10-28-12 - Published: 05-27-12 - Status: Complete - id: 3026421
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
I couldn't ride very fast back to camp for fear of my stitches coming apart, so it had taken the better part of an hour to find my way back to Cydril in the cold rain. I then made for the army and the healer, who made a tutting sound when he saw my stitches.
He had barely started healing my side after pulling the stitches out when Megera practically sprinted into the tent, the open visor of her helm momentarily forgotten.
"Where the hell have you been?!" she hissed, stopping beside my cot.
"Having tea with Starrk," I replied sarcastically.
And then I realized that Megera didn't know who he was. Her face scrunched up comically in confusion. "Huh?"
I shook my head. "It doesn't matter. What matters is that I'm back."
"And wounded!" Megera crossed her arms. "Revion's been freaking out, did you know that? He's taken to searching the entire camp for you, even the battlefield! Lucky he didn't get killed!"
"Megera!" I snapped suddenly. "He kissed me. I have a boyfriend! I'm not sure if you remembered, but I argued against pursuing a relationship with him because I already had someone else!"
She threw her hands in the air. She was frustrated, angry, and on her last nerve. And I wasn't entirely sure why.
"Why are you so angry that I'm refusing him?!" I pressed.
Megera opened her mouth to answer when the healer at my side shot a look at her. "Do you both mind?! I'm trying to heal wounds here, and it won't get done if you two continue to speak about this damned man!"
When the healer turned away, Megera gave her the one-fingered salute. I couldn't help but snicker. At least Megera smiled when she saw that such a rude gesture could brighten my day.
We were silent for a time before I sighed, defeated. "Why was Revion so concerned about me? He has no idea who I am." I wondered if the healer was listening to our conversation, but I doubted it. She was too preoccupied chanting incantations. "This place makes me so confused. All I want is to go home, but... at the same time, I find relief here. I can't believe that such things exist, but here they are."
"You're the one talking crazy," Megera snickered. "Revion cares about all his soldiers. I find no surprise that he was so worried about you. After he kissed you and you ran out, one could see plainly on his face that what he'd done was wrong, and he knew it. So he went after you, most likely to apologize."
"But I told him."
"And we were all playing a game." The healer finished her work and moved on to other wounded soldiers. Megera sat down in her chair while I sat up, feeling almost no pain in my side. "By the way, I think you blew our cover."
My eyes snapped to her. "How?!" I groaned.
Megera smiled. "People here don't have 'boyfriends'. They are 'taken'. We refer to such a thing as 'courting' here. You're the only one who's ever used the term 'boyfriend', and we've just repeated what you've said. We know the meaning of it now, but you should've seen Daniel's face when he asked what a boyfriend was."
I facepalmed. "Dammit... Was Revion angry?"
"I said that I think you blew our cover. We'll just have to wait and see for now."
Frowning, I swung my legs over the cot and stood up, stretching my arms behind my head. "I'm tired. Are we going into the battlefield today?"
Megera shook her head. "Daugion decided we were working too hard, especially Revion, so he gave our shift over to Squad Three—."
"What time is it?!" I asked, suddenly remembering what Anarchy had said.
"Hm? Oh, must be around four in the morning, actually..."
I took a deep breath. "Okay, please listen to me for a second. This is really important—!"
Megera silenced me by holding up a hand. "If it's important, we'd better talk somewhere privately."
I agreed readily. We went to Megera's tent, where random things were strewn about. I smirked as I realized the latest vision I'd had. Old habits die hard, it seems...
"Stop staring at it already!" Megera snapped. "Don't you have something important to say?!"
"R-Right..." I cleared my throat. "The Purge is getting ready to coordinate an attack sometime tomorrow. Don't ask me how I know this, but from where I learned it from, I think it's better to be safe than sorry."
Megera placed her hands on her hips. "You know, if they really are coordinating an attack, then you'll have to give Daugion a better excuse than, 'Don't ask me how I know'." She pursed her lips. "But then that means that there's an Officer on their side..."
I blinked, unsure of what Megera had said. She realized that I hadn't understood, and began to reiterate.
"The Purge monsters you regularly see are the foot soldiers. Officers are monsters with higher intelligence, and they graft any kind of armour they find onto their bodies. Officers are rare, and they bring a lot of trouble. There are also things called 'Infants', which are child-like Purge monsters."
"I think I ran into an Infant once," I said. "The first time I fought any of these things, we were in Spire, and I saw a kid. By the time I realized it wasn't what I thought it was, it was already leaping for my face. Revion stabbed it before it got to me though."
"Good for him," she commented. "Infants leap at their opponents and rip their faces off, whether it be with their claws or their teeth. It isn't a pretty sight." Megera groaned. "What're you gonna do then? Lie to the General of the King's Army?"
"Well, I just think I might not tell the whole truth..."
"That's still lying!"
I sighed. "Well, what am I supposed to say?!"
"How 'bout you just tell me who told you this?" she suggested. "Perhaps I can help."
"The last time I told you something, you looked at me like I sprouted from the ground suddenly."
Megera rolled her eyes. "Look, I'm just trying to understand some things. Forgive me if I don't understand the way you work. You're unpredictable and predictable at the same time, which is hard to keep up with, and you have a really bad habit of fawning over men."
She smiled at that. "Okay, so you don't fawn."
"I hate you. I really do."
Two years passed without an incident, and before we knew it, Megera and I were true Blades of the Goddess. We joined Mona to guard the Princess, since two older Goddess' Blades retired. Marian was ecstatic to have us, and even Mona seemed pleased. I knew that Megera's parents were happy that she was in an important position, but they still wanted her to return to them so they could make her into a "proper lady" and marry her off. Megera wasn't pleased.
Our graduation from the Academy wasn't anything large. Indeed, no graduations were, but Megera and I were both surprised to find large sacks full of letters to us. Megera grabbed the first letter she saw and read it quickly. She held it up to me, grinned, and declared it "fan-mail". A lot of the mail she received was mostly about how amazing she was and how many looked up to her. I could tell that she was flattered, but she didn't admit it. I opened mine shortly after I'd packed the few things I owned, and found that many of mine were similar. I didn't dislike this "fan-mail" at all.
It wasn't for several weeks after we started protecting the Princess that anything actually happened. It began as a normal day, really. I rose from my bed and woke Megera up so we could do some early morning stretches, as we had done since our second year in the Academy of the Blades, and when we returned Megera was the first to take a bath.
When we were both ready for duty, Mona woke up. She glanced at us and shook her head, having become accustomed to our morning ritual, and then entered the kitchen for something to eat. When I'd first met Mona five years ago, she had towered over me. Now, I was just barely taller than the experienced Blade of the Goddess. Her blonde hair still spilled over her shoulders, not a touch of grey in it, and her brown eyes were attentive, despite how early in the morning it was. My own hair was pulled back into a ponytail; Megera had convinced me not to get it cut, but I wanted it out of my way. It was inconvenient to have an enemy grab hold of your hair.
"Sleep well from duty?" Mona asked as she spread some raspberry jam over a slice of bread that the cook had provided her with.
I nodded. "Very well, thank-you."
Mona was handed an apple to go along with her breakfast, but she tossed it to me. The servants in the spire disliked interacting with me, much like the students at the Academy. I didn't mind at all.
When I took a bite, Mona asked, "Is it very different from the Academy?"
"The spire. The palace, I suppose."
I shook my head. "Not much. The only difference being that I guard the Princess and don't attend classes."
"I suppose the boring classes are substituted with boring parties by nobles, huh?"
I shrugged and then nodded. "I suppose so, though I don't dislike watching when people dance. It's the talking and the fake smiles that I dislike."
Mona nodded in agreement, and then her brow furrowed. "You enjoy watching people dance?"
"I don't dislike it," I repeated.
She smiled. "Why?"
I wasn't even sure of my own answer, so I gave it some thought. "When people dance, it reminds me of fighting a duel. One person leads, though sometimes you have to fight for the lead. But dancing is much more fluid than fighting, and with less blood."
"Not if you're dancing with Lord Markus," Mona quipped with a smirk. "But I suppose you're right. Have you ever danced before?"
I gave her a "look". At the Academy, we were taught how to blend into crowds to avoid being spotted by assassins, though we would be able to see them. We were taught combat and tactics, but not dancing. Such a thing wasn't part of the job description.
Mona took the hint. "Ah, well. I suppose it can't be helped."
Megera finished making her bed and joined us in the kitchen, grabbing an apple. "Have you heard from Revion lately?"
I shook my head. "He hasn't sent any letters in a while. Then again, it's likely that they are being stopped at the door of the spire, for fear of both the Queen's and Princess' life."
"Those idiots. King Cyril would have kicked them on their arses, the way they treat you sometimes." Megera took a bite of her apple. "I would've thought that you'd be tired of all the crap they put you through."
"I dislike it, but I can't stop it. I will bear it, as I did before."
Mona poured herself a glass of water. "Who's Revion?" she asked, taking a sip.
Megera grinned. "They're courting."
The water Mona was drinking was on the floor in an instant. Some of the servants had even stopped to stare.
I crossed my arms. "What?"
"N-Nothing! It was just... a bit of a shock," Mona replied, stooping to grab her fallen glass. "Don't you think you're a bit young to be courted?"
"I'm nineteen. I'll be fine. It's not like we're doing much, anyway."
Mona blinked, as if she'd finally realized something. "Revion?" she repeated. "Isn't that the name of the Elf that trains occasionally with Prince Eric? The Paladin Knight?"
"Oh, did he get in? I'll have to congratulate him."
Mona facepalmed. "Don't you know what this means?! An Elf is courting you! He'll live for... how long has he lived already?"
I shrugged. "Dunno."
"My point is that he's probably looking for a cheap thrill in this part of his life, especially if it's from a Human."
I shrugged again. "If that's it, I guess that's it. I wouldn't dislike him for it if that was the case."
Mona shook her head. "Teenagers..."
The butler of the spire, Brackett, entered the kitchen in his usual attire of a black suit with a white shirt underneath and poured himself a glass of water, eyeing the mess Mona had made.
"I've just awakened the Princess, and she's rousing from her sleep very slowly today," Brackett said. "I suppose she's yours now, since you're the bodyguards."
Mona nodded and ran out of the kitchen, back to her room where she would no doubt get changed. Megera and I bounded up the steps of the spire until we reached the fifth level, where the bedchambers for the members of the household were. As we quietly entered Marian's room, Marian was beginning to sit up in her bed. She looked exhausted, no doubt from the numerous duties that the kingdom was giving her since the Queen's health had declined.
"Good morning, you two," she greeted, yawning. "I trust Mona and Danielle will be here soon?"
As protocol demanded, Megera and I crossed our right arms over our chests, so our hands rested on our hearts, and we bowed together.
"Yes, your Highness," Megera said. "Please take your time to get ready. You don't have many duties today."
"Welcoming news," the Princess remarked. "Eric is out hunting still?"
"The Prince has not yet returned. He sent his squire ahead to let us know of the delay," I replied. "Apparently, they had just got a stag when a mantis appeared. The mantis was dispatched easily, but they could not continue through the darkness. However, I am certain that Prince Eric will be here before noon."
"I hope so." Marian strode across the room and opened the shutters of her window. "Seems like a nice day today. I think I may run some errands... What's on the schedule today?"
It was part of our job as bodyguard's to know what would be going on for her each and every day, and ensure that she carried it out. Megera had checked her schedule before joining Mona and I in the kitchen, so she opened a leather pouch on her belt and grabbed a piece of parchment that she had written everything down on.
Megera cleared her throat. "At ten, Lady Cora is attending an exhibit to be held in the spire today and asks that you join her."
"Exhibit?" the Princess repeated.
"On the arts, Highness," Megera explained. "New artists come every year. At noon, lunch on the terrace with Prince Eric. You are given from one to four to run whatever errands you may have and take some time for yourself. At five, supper in the dining room with Prince Eric and a diplomat from the South, Lord James, and then you get to spend your evening with your husband."
"Not a bad day at all, then. At least I won't do any paperwork today. My wrist is sore from yesterday..." Marian gazed out the window a moment longer before she shut it. "I'll be getting ready now."
"Yes, your Highness," I said.
Megera and I bowed again and retreated out of the room, only to stand guard outside it. Megera stuffed the parchment back into the pouch and crossed her arms.
"Thank the Goddess that the day's more exciting than yesterday," she grumbled. "I'm about to hang whoever keeps making the Princess do paperwork! I can't stand to see her writing for hours at a time! It makes my head hurt!"
"The Queen's health is declining, and soon the Princess will be doing such work daily." I looked down the hallways. "I have a feeling that Prince Eric had a hand in freeing her day."
"Probably thought she deserved a break." Megera grinned. "I wonder who could have let him know of the strain on her Highness...?"
"You know I'm talking about you, right?"
"Mhm. I'm not so daft that I don't know when you're hinting at something."
Megera's smile widened. "Why?"
"I just told Revion the last time he was here that the Princess' duties were becoming tedious and it was obvious she needed a break. He must have passed the word along. I've barely even glanced at the Prince, much less spoken to him."
"Your Paladin Knight is quite enthralled by you, I'd say."
I pursed my lips. "Revion's intentions are... a mystery to me."
Megera gave me a sympathetic smile and then fell silent. We waited patiently for the Princess, and when she finally left her chambers, we started our day. However, Mona and Danielle would be unable to join us for the morning due to a patrol that a guard missed. I didn't know the details and sincerely didn't care to.
After the Princess had breakfast, she met with Lady Cora, and they toured the art exhibit. Cora didn't pay much attention to the art (she was much more interested in gossip), but Marian seemed enthralled by a lot of the exhibits.
That is, until the Prince came in.
Prince Eric had dark brown eyes and hair, and had recently grown some facial hair to make himself look slightly older, just a moustache that went halfway up his upper lip and a half-goatee. He was a fit man, but he had to be in order to train with Revion on equal grounds. Eric was still wearing his hunting clothing; a loose, white, long-sleeved shirt, black slacks, and brown cloth boots. The Prince strode into the throne room with every intention of finding his wife, and she had spotted him first.
Marian excused herself from the company of Lady Cora and met her husband at the entrance of the throne room. Eric embraced her and then swiftly met her lips with his.
"I missed you too," she remarked with a smile when he pulled away.
"How are you, Mary?" he asked.
The Princess nodded. "I'm well. I heard you fought a mantis?"
"The thing ambushed us when we were gutting the stag," Eric explained. "Good thing, because I had the knife out, and my weapons were with my horse. Not a scratch on me, so don't worry."
"Asking me not to worry is like asking the sun not to set," Marian replied. "Get changed, love. It says in my schedule that we're to have dinner together at noon."
"Oh, does it?" Eric was obviously pretending that he didn't know. Megera smiled at it. "Well, I suppose I will then. But if you wouldn't mind, I'd like Revion to join us. He's returning from Paladin Knight business in Rubil, and he'll be here soon."
"Speaking with the Dwarves and the Easterners, I suppose?"
"As always. He can somehow get through to them, and I just want to congratulate him on a job well done. He'd said in his last letter that politics were going smoothly. Well, at least the strike has finished."
"Then he is more than welcome at the table." Marian waved us with her as she bade her husband a "Good-bye", and we followed her to the dining room.
We didn't have to wait long for Eric to join the Princess. He'd changed into some leather armour and swapped his shirt for a sleeveless undershirt, but otherwise hadn't changed much. Anyone who lived in the spire knew that such an attire was Eric's "casual" wear. He was a Prince who didn't mind getting his hands dirty, and dressed accordingly.
Revion entered the dining hall soon after, removing his riding gloves and shoving them unceremoniously into his pocket. He glanced at me and winked, his smile broadening. I nodded to him formally in return.
"Highnesses," Revion regarded, bowing quickly. "Sorry I'm late. I got chased off the road by an Adar. Those things always find a way to talk my ear off..."
"Don't worry about it, Revion." Eric motioned for the Elf to sit, and Revion wasted no time. He seemed sore from the ride. "Rubil is handled for now?"
"Pardon my saying, Prince, but if you and the Princess went down to deal with it personally, it'd go much smoother."
"I can't force my wife all over the land just for appearances and morale," Eric grumbled. "It's difficult to leave home for so long."
"I know how you feel." Revion locked eyes with me. "Have fun while I was away?"
"Business, as usual," I answered curtly.
"Geez, I'll need to take you out sometime and teach you what 'fun' really is." Revion crossed his arms and looked me up and down. "Your taste hasn't changed."
"It suits me."
"It does, but you're predictable."
I pursed my lips. "Not on the battlefield. I can take you easily."
"And there's the competitiveness I love."
Marian and Megera were attempting to hide their smiles with their hands as casually as possible, but it was proving difficult. Eric's eyebrows raised.
"Oh, so now you're going to fraternize with my wife's guard?" he asked, a disapproving frown settling on his naturally stoic face.
"Already fraternizing," Revion replied, grinning. "Don't tell me that she didn't tell anyone but Megera?"
Marian twisted around in her chair to look at me. "Really?! You and Revion?!"
"I'm just surprised that Megera hasn't told the entire kingdom by now..." I mumbled.
"Oh, please. Do you really think that I'd do something like that?" Megera asked, pretending to be offended.
I narrowed my eyes at her. She rolled her eyes in return.
A hand connected with my cheek hard enough to stagger me. I fought to keep my balance as I almost smashed my head into the pole of a tent—it made me realize that we were in the camp, not Megera's tent any longer. When I was stable on my feet, I put a hand to my cheek and looked in the direction the attack had come from.
Megera's hand was in the stationary "I've-just-slapped-you" position. "Can you stop creeping me out already?!" she snapped. "Every time you zone out like that I can barely even get your attention!"
"So... you slapped me?"
"Had to. You weren't reacting to the profanities I was telling you about your mother." Megera dropped her hand to her side. "What the hell, Anima?!"
I opened my mouth, ready to give her a good ol' smart-ass comeback, when I hesitated. The stinging in my cheek was intense, but it was likely deserved. Well, not that having random-ass "visions" was a choice of mine, but hey.
"Um... There's something I haven't told you..." I mumbled, intertwining my fingers. "See, uh... I kinda recognized you when Revion and I got you from under the spire..."
Megera looked me square in the eye for a time, her expression unchanged. "What?"
"W-Well it wasn't until we were back at Daugion's, and the reason I recognized you was because...!" I cleared my throat. Ah, crap. I knew I'd have to tell her about my invasion of her privacy sometime... "I've, uh, been having these vision things, and um... they're about you and your old friend."
Megera took a deliberate step back. Her hands were clenching and unclenching, and... speaking honestly, she looked so lost.
"I-I don't have any control over when it happens or anything!" I stammered in an attempt to assure her. "I didn't even get a choice about it! It just happens!"
Megera took a deep breath and covered her mouth with a hand, cradling that arm gently. "I've... I've tried my best not to think about her..." Megera admitted remorsefully. "We were best friends. I don't know what drew me to her, but I didn't ignore the feeling I got and... Goddess, I couldn't even protect her..." She shook her head. "I told you she died. The last image I saw before she put me in that blasted tree was of Dûrion's sword through her gut. And that idiot smiled."
"She doesn't seem like the kind to smile..."
"Exactly!" She crossed her arms. "But before the magic totally sealed me in the tree, Dûrion... He used a spell to make me forget. Ironically, if I could tell you what he made me forget about my friend, I would tell you, but I don't know. It's like, even though I remember some things about her, most of it is gone."
I snapped my fingers. "Then I know! I know why these things're coming! Your friend is communicating from beyond the grave to help us get your Goddess-y powers back! Perhaps she knows something to at least give us a kick-start!"
"I-I don't think she could—."
"I'm almost sure of it!" I grasped her shoulder. "You two were best friends. If I had a best friend and I died, I'd sure as hell help them out when they needed it, afterlife or no!"
"What the heck are you guys talking about?" Revion's voice made me cringe on the inside, bringing back memories of the previous night.
It was a damn good thing that Megera was facing away from him. She had time to jam her helmet on before she turned to face him.
"J-Just some, uh..."
"Friendly advice!" I finished for Megera. "Making sure Reyna is okay and all..."
Revion's arms were crossed, his mouth lopsided and frowning as he gave us a once-over. He looked tired, which was odd for him, as if he'd been up the entire night.
"It's pretty early in the morning to be giving 'friendly advice'," he retorted.
I shook my head. "It's never too early for girl-talk! You know... O-Or I guess you don't, since you're not a girl..."
Revion studied me, his crimson eyes locked on the hood and scarf I used to conceal my face. He bit his lip, and then sighed, hanging his head.
"Nina, I'd like to speak with you for a moment," he said.
I stiffened, suddenly dreading the moment I would be alone with him. "B-But I need to speak to Dau—the General!" I stammered.
Revion locked his eyes with mine. "My brother isn't seeing any common soldiers. If he did, a lot of Humans would have a few insults to swing his way. Officers only. If you want to speak with him, it'll have to go through me first."
"Follow me, would you?" he asked, softly this time.
I felt my palms get sweaty, but I didn't pay them any attention. I followed Revion, who led me to the outskirts of the camp near the forest. Megera was left behind, and Revion and I were alone.
Lord James from the South arrived promptly at four-thirty with a diplomat and his own personal guard in tow. A few greetings and a quick chat later, supper was ready for them.
James spoke of many things I'd heard before to the Prince and Princess. The crops in the South were failing due to the swamp, and the sands of the desert from the East did nothing to help. Of course, it was just Lord James complaining. The Royals could do nothing to stop the wind, and they could not tell him when the weather would permit a good year for the crops.
Danielle and Mona arrived during the middle of supper and traded our posts so we could get something to eat. As Megera and I left the dining hall, I noticed some of James' bodyguards leave as well. It was not the way the bathrooms were.
Megera whined for only a moment before I explained to her my suspicions, and then she was all business. Food forgotten, we followed the three bodyguards quietly through the spire. One seemed to be leading them, but only his long black hair was visible, for he wore a helm to conceal his face.
They eventually went into a hallway we'd never seen before, or even heard of. It was darker than the rest of the spire, despite the torches that lined the walls. I pressed a finger to my lips to signal Megera. She nodded, and we gave the bodyguards some more space. When they reached a narrow staircase, we stopped.
"What do you think they're doing?" Megera asked.
I took a moment to think. "They're supposed to be James' bodyguards," I explained. "So why aren't they guarding their lord? I think they may be scouting the spire for possible escape routes."
Megera looked at me increduously. "You think that James is going to attack Spire?"
"I'm not sure," I admitted, "but I'll be damned if he does it on my watch!"
I stepped forward, but Megera grabbed hold of my arm. "Those stairs don't have much room," she said. "What if they turn around? They'll surely hear us."
"We should risk it. They aren't supposed to go wandering around, as it is."
Megera nodded in agreement, and so we descended the stairs. It took us a long time, but we eventually reached the bottom. When we heard no sounds, I summoned my avatar. The small orb of silver-grey light blossomed into existance and began darting about the room. I took control of it and commanded it to light the room. My avatar brightened, illuminating the room.
Bones and bodies littered the floor. Megera's hand went to her mouth to cover the abyssal hole it had become. I pinched my nose at the rauncious odour.
"How'd this one get by us?" Megera asked.
I took a deep breath, released my nose, and shook my head. "I don't know, but we need to follow those so-called bodyguards."
We pressed on, being careful not to step on any bones and make noise. I was certain that the men we were pursuing were no longer in the room as it was. We reached a door at the other end of the room and flung it open, revealing a wide space in front of us, lined with columns that looked like they were shaped after the North and the East. Megera gravitated towards them and studied them with wide-eyed interest.
"I've never seen two styles encorperated so well!" she exclaimed.
I agreed with her, and we moved further into the room. Plants and grass grew from seemingly nowhere on the stone floor, but it was completely covered. Megera stooped to smell one of the flowers, but I felt the danger and yanked her upwards by her shoulder.
She glared at me. "Poppyseeds," I said simply. "Hold your breath."
Megera did as I instructed. My avatar zipped through the room to search for a way forward. It finally found one encased in stone. Megera and I hurried toward it and pressed our hands against the stone, pushing it with all our might. It gave way with surprising ease, and once we entered, we could release our breaths. A door was beyond the stone, and when we opened it, we emerged into a well-lit hallway with corpses scattered around. Old bloodstains were smeared against the walls, floors, and even the roof. Megera stepped forward and nearly got her leg chopped off by an axe that erupted from the floor.
"Go!" I yelled.
We sprinted through the hallway as more traps became known to us. We had to dive overtop a large metal swing and slide underneath small darts that were undoubtedly tipped with poison. When we finally got to the end of the hallway, the traps stopped. Continuing onward, we entered another large room, but this one had a single candle at its centre. I bade my avatar to illuminate the rest of the room, but Megera put a hand on my shoulder.
"My turn," she said. "I don't want you to exhaust yourself. I know how bad you are at magic."
"I just haven't had the time to practice," I grumbled, but released my avatar from its physical form.
Megera summoned her own avatar, the teal orb illuminating the room better than the candle ever could. The were only shadows in the corners now. We could hear dull hissing from them.
"Shades," Megera grumbled. "Hate those things. Remember when we went into that cave—?"
"Don't remind me."
Megera grinned. "Oh, please. At least the shade liked you!"
"They can go die in a pit. I dislike them."
"If you're saying that they should go die, don't you think you 'hate' them, rather than 'dislike' them?"
I narrowed my eyes at her. "Smart-ass."
We went to the other side of the room and descended into the tunnel there, leaving the candle—and the shades—behind.