It was the moment as Delias took the stone path down that he saw more. The path curved against the wall, and every twenty meters, an entire level came into view, and another path would appear on his left prompting him to travel along it. As Delias looked down, he saw the entire bottom chamber was like a hollowed out cylinder but with uniformed floors, while, when you look up, the top was a dome dotted with light crystals. So not naturally made. Great. So not only are there wraiths, but it’s now confirmed that there is a potentially evil mastermind living here. Unless… Are wraiths intellectual? There was a lot of information that was not present in the book. As Delias thought and thought, it was more like a general description that most people could find at a common library. But Delias was not complaining. Some information was better than none.
As Delias went down, he looked at each floor. Everyone of them had ten cave or cavern entrances equidistant from each other. Some glowed an eerie green, and so Delias made sure his steps were silent as he travelled. He placed his foot down, toe first, and rolled it down until it was firm on the ground. Each step was silent. Each breath he took was as light as they could be. He was nervous. There could be anything in behind these entrances. Delias sighed. At least there are no shadows. No shadows. No wraiths.
“Almost done.” A shout echoed through enormous chamber from below.
Delias jumped, stifling a yell. He had been hearing the cackling and laughter all this time, but he was not prepared for the sudden outburst. At that moment he was somewhere in between floors. He saw some shadows move to his left coming from one of the green glowing entrances above his head. .
Delias fell flat on his back, not making a single move. Wraiths? I barely made a sound.
Delias could not see as he was now laying on his back, and from where he went down, he was a tad below the floor.
Suddenly, a black wispy smog rolled over him. Delias did not blink. His eyes remained wide open as he looked above.
Standing over him was twisting form. It had a black mask-like face and it was looking out above him.
Delias’s throat clenched. He stifled his breath, and his heart skipped. He could hear the beat thrash within his ears. He slid his hand seamlessly to his knife, but with a bit of hesitation, slid it over towards his satchel. He quietly pushed his hand under the flap and into the bag. And just when he was going to grab a light crystal, the wraith left.
Delias closed his eyes. They burned. And he suddenly felt very tired. The entire time the wraith was there, it did not look down! And as Delias thought about it, it did not look up either. Is there a reason for this? But Delias cursed at himself. It was not time to be asking questions that he won’t get the answer to at the moment. He withdrew his hand from the satchel and crept down the path until he was sure he could stand without being in clear view. It was at that moment that Delias took a breath. I could have died. What if the crystal failed to work? Just thinking about it made gave Delias a cold sweat.
I should go back. But… I’ve already gone this far. I can’t go back now! Furthermore, Delias was a bit worried about going up and passing the floor with the wraith so soon. For all he knew, the wraith would catch sight of him. It may be better to wait a few. But it could also be worse.
After a few more minutes, Delias went down upon a new floor entirely unlike the others. On the other floors, reaching a cave entrance was only a few meters away, but on this floor, it was deep. The entire floor was black with darkness and over fifty meters away, it was there that Delias saw a small cave entrance. And only one! As Delias gazed into the darkness, a green glow spilled out of the cave. It flickered intermittently from twisting shadows.
Delias gulped. He was not sure on what to do. He came all this way to find out more on the keys, but he was not brave enough or stupid enough to go searching tens and tens of caves or caverns with the prospect of running into wraiths or deadly creatures, especially with night a few hours away. But searching one cave, though obviously more dangerous than the others, was less of a risk when looking at it at a hole. Furthermore, there was a higher chance of finding information. But that one cave also could be the most dangerous of them all. After all, a single cave on a floor with a crazed man laughing? A wraith popped out when he made a slight noise, but whoever was here was very loud, and he saw nothing. This… This was too suspicious! But this was also a major chance.
Delias went into the darkness. It shrouded him, and fear gripped his heart. There could be anything in here. Anything! Dammit. Who thought this was a good idea? But Delias focused himself on the mouth of that glowing cave. He took a deep breath and told himself over and over that he had no other choice. It was soon that he came upon the entrance, dashing to the right, his back against the outer wall as he tilted his head forward to take a look inside.
More and more shadows were visible, plastered against the cave walls, but he could not see a anything. The cave seemed to turn, not giving him a straight view.
“So close! So close. Just a bit more. Ha ha!” Laughter echoed out.
Do I really need to go inside?
Delias steeled himself and went in.
As he turned the corner, he saw a man jumping up and down hollering in front of a green lava pool.
So the green glow are from the lava pools. I didn’t see any outside. Seems that inside the realm they exist only within the stalagmites.
Delias crouched low near the corner. The harder for him to be spot the better.
The man continued to cackle as he glared at the pool. And on occasion, he would pour some kind of white powder into the lava pool.
Delias watched for a few minutes. But nothing interesting was happening. Could it be just some old fool? Someone from the previous trials? His soul so wretched that even the wraiths don’t want to bother him?
Delias was getting antsy. His legs were cramping. He saw no key, and had no plans on popping in front of the old man. And just when he was about to get up, he stopped. Wait. Old man? As in human?
Delias’s eyes went wide.
He was stumped and just when his thoughts were churning, a shadow covered him.
Delias’s head snapped back. A wraith loomed above, part of it a whisper black vapor but the center congealed into something more solid. He looked into the dark crystal-like eyes. And his eyes went wide. All of that happened in less than a single breath of time before Delias launched himself forward. The wraith blocked the exit, so the only way to go was forwards.
The old man turned as he heard the noise.
Delias ran to the side and turned around, not fully putting his back to the old man and not fully turning towards the wraith. If the old man is an enemy, I’m screwed!
Delias made a quick decision. If that old man lived in the realm even for a little while within the stalagmites then it was highly possible that he could fight against the wraiths or had methods to stave them off.
Once the wraith was taken care of then the overall threat lowered more than half. A human old man was much simpler to deal with than a wraith.
“Who are you?” The old man asked.
“Shouldn’t you be worried about the wraith first?!” Delias shouted back. Delias was glum. His odds were not good, and from the old man’s question, he was having a bad premonition.
The old man snorted. “What a cheeky brat.” And then turned to the wraith, “leave us.”
The wraith stared for a moment before finally turning around and disappearing from view.
Delias’s heart was pounding. He gulped. So he can control the wraiths. Delias did not know if that was a good or bad thing. But he had a feeling that he would soon find out. Anyone that could control the wraiths and still decide to be alone with some random stranger had some confidence in their power.
“You are lucky you’ve caught me in a good mood. So I’ve amused you. The wraith is gone. So I will ask one more time. Who are you?” The old man’s voice was cold and cool. Delias glanced at the him. He didn’t keep his eyes away from the cave entrance for more than a long moment in case the wraith came back, but he also did not keep the old man from his sight.
“I’m just a passerby. A nobody really. This nobody will get going then.” So far this old man didn’t try to kill me… Better leave before he has other ideas. But… I’ve come this far. But Delias didn’t entertain the idea of trying to get information from him. It was just too dangerous. He lost the fact that he was not seen.
“Passerby my ass! Tell me who you are and why you are here!” The old man roared. That laughing lasciviousness on his face no longer present. He was obviously very perturbed to Delia’s presence.
Delias was not sure what to do. What could he do? Tell the man? Tell him what? That he came by from hearing his yells and cackling in case he could end up with a key in midst of a trial where hundreds of averati, the human race’s enemy, were roaming about from up above? At the moment, Delias looked averati himself. That knowledge did not go past him. Knowing the things that could get him killed was something he made sure of, and he was definitely not going to out himself here. If he did, then there would be one more person, other than the skunk, that would know who he was. And he was not going to let that happen. First thing when keeping things secret. Control the amount of those who know the secret in the first place! And with the Crawfields school nearby, it was even more risky to do so now. Furthermore, for all Delias knew, the guy could actually be an averati that looked human.
Come on think of something. Think!
“Not going to tell me? Well, I could always bring back that wraith!”
“ No. Wait.” Delias yelled out. “I truly am from the top. I’ve just been searching for a way out. I was told that there were some kind of rod shaped keys that could get me out of this realm towards the north. And in my search, I stumbled here after hearing some noise.”
The old man glared into Delias’s eyes. At this moment, Delias saw that the man’s iris’s were the color of green, with black and white flecks that seemed to churn within. The sight made Delias internally jump. What is that? Is he not human? But that thought was more likely true. A human so deep within an averati nation? And running around the backyard of a highly reputable averati academy? That was preposterous. But… For some reason, Delias could not get the idea that the old man was not averati.
Suddenly a chill ran down Delias’s back and the old man looked away.
“Someone told you?” The old man’s eyebrow twitched. “So they’re more of you. I can tell you are being truthful, but you’re hiding something. Then again, who doesn’t hid things. Well, so you didn’t come here knowing that I was here?”
Delias shook his head. As the man stared at him, he felt another chill.
“Did you come purposefully to investigate?”
By now Delias realized that the old man was capable of telling whether he was lying or not. I need to phrase things so it doesn’t seem like I didn’t come searching for him. One mistake. I feel like I cannot take this old man head on, and if he calls back that wraith I’m finished.
Delias had a feeling that whatever truth he said though, he would not get out of the chamber alive. No matter how he saw it, he had no information on what was going on, and if he were in the old man’s shoes, he would kill the guy after getting all the information that he could. So Delias needed to steer things in his favor. And it was at this moment that his mind was churning faster and faster.
He needed surpass this guy’s detection and lie his way out!