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TWENTY

When the trees finally gave way to the moorland that led up towards the mountains, Lakor was thankful. There was no chance any creature – demon or otherwise – would be able to sneak up on them without him knowing about it. For a few days at least, the road was clear and they could see for miles in every direction, over the slightly hazy landscape.

Kantou assured them that they were still heading in the right direction, even when it seemed they were lost. She tried to explain that the path had become overgrown with lichen and moss, but it was still there.

The ground was boggy; their feet sunk into the saturated sward and made a disgusting squelch with each step. But every hill climbed meant that the land was becoming drier. Bare rock replaced the moorland of the days past and eventually, they moved out of the mist and climbed back into the sun.

They re-joined the path through the rocks and boulders and followed the trail for another few days until they came to a tall set of roughly hewn steps. It was tiring, but they soon reached the top.

But their hearts fell when they came out onto a plateau and stared at what was ahead.

A huge cliff face loomed over them from the north and stretched out as far as they could see in either direction. A few isaa trees were left, lingering on the barren rock; the only greenery left on the mountainside.

Lakor stood forwards, panting heavily. "So now what are we meant to do?" he enquired. "I really hope you're not going to ask us to climb."

"We'll have to go around…" Rantil admitted to himself regrettably.

The cliff started far in the west and vanished into the east. It stretched high into the sky and cast a great shadow over the land like the dominance of an approaching army. Beyond, were the Phayorian Mountains; the Temple was nestled somewhere at their snowy peak.

"That's going to take ages," Lakor sighed.

Rantil turned to him in dismay. "What else are we meant to do?"

Lakor groaned and let out a lengthy sigh. "Can we at least have a rest for a few minutes?" he asked.

Rantil's feet were hurting too from the climb and he knew Putoko was probably feeling the same. He turned to Kantou, who quickly said, "I'm not tired at all," she smiled.

"You never fail to amaze me, Kantou," Lakor congratulated.

Kantou smiled and leant back into the warmth of the sun. "I've got stories you wouldn't believe," she revealed. "Stories you probably won't understand."

Lakor grumbled. Compared to the unnerved Kantou he met on that first night in Nichal, she really had changed. She was more open; she was more talkative; she was more relaxed. If there was anything that bothered him about her, it was the fact she was so mysterious in what she did and how she acted.

Regardless of his feelings towards her, he hobbled over to a nearby boulder in the hopes of taking his sandals off, if only for a minute. Blisters rubbed against the straps of his shoes. He rested his hand down on a large, sandy coloured boulder and with a quick hop, jumped up onto it. He yearned for the relief of his feet and smiled when he could dangle them off the side of the boulder. But that smile quickly vanished when he looked down to his feet. "That's just what I need."

His sandals were worn through and one of the straps had broken. He didn't realise how far it would be to the Temple, having lived his whole life in Siale. It seemed to him now, that it would have been a good idea to bring a spare pair of footwear.

Rantil and Kantou laughed. Putoko turned around from the cliff face and scowled at him. "Do you ever stop complaining?" he joked.

Lakor disregarded the annoyance in his voice and waved his broken sandal in his direction. "As soon as you've got shoes with holes in, we'll see how you like it!" he replied.

"I don't even see why you bother," Kantou pondered, as if she was in a daydream. "You get a much better feel for the ground beneath you don't wear anything on your feet."

"Yes, but it must hurt though… sometimes…" Rantil interjected, pointing at the bare-rock floor.

Kantou shrugged. "You get used to it."

Lakor stretched back his arms and leant on the boulder. The stone unexpectedly sunk into the floor. It thumped, and juddered, and then came to a stop. He jumped off it in surprise and watched the boulder quickly rise back into place.

"I didn't do anything," he said swiftly, lifting his hands into the air.

There was silence for a few seconds, before part of the cliff face began to shift and slide away. The grinding of the rock echoed for miles around as a huge section of stone scraped away. Slowly, a tunnel revealed itself within the rock. Light poured into the passage and eradicated the shadows, illuminating the grand entrance.

Eventually, the rock came to a halt and the rumbling stopped.

Kantou squinted her brown eyes, and took a few ambled steps closer. "That looks like Ciamethian writing," she murmured to herself as she approached the tunnel. A cool, damp draught ran from within.

Buried behind the cliff face, where the rock had moved aside, was a hidden passage. Two smooth-carved pillars stood proudly at its entrance, and held up the vast ceiling. Along the archway way above Kantou's head was delicately carved writing. They meant very little to the others, but the more she stared at them, the more she understood what they said.

"They're not exactly the same," she thought aloud, "but they're very similar to ancient Ciamethian."

"Ciamethian?" Rantil repeated. "What does it say?"

Kantou stared up at the writing for a few more seconds and then said, with frequent pauses, "Temper's Wall – three. Completion date: third of the fourth Season, in the ninth Year of Armaru."

"I hope that means more to you than it does to me," Lakor said to Kantou.

"Well," she started, stretching her back. "I think it's safe to say this is Temper's Wall," she suggested nodding her head towards it. "And that," she gestured to the second section of the writing, "is the date. We still use the same system on Ciameth, but without knowing who Armaru is, it's almost impossible to know how long ago it was."

"Temper's Wall – three? Could that mean there are more of these tunnels?" Rantil pondered, rubbing his chin. He hadn't realised, but he had grown a slight stubble. He reminded himself that when they rested for the night, he needed a shave.

"Possibly," she replied.

"Where do you think they lead?" Lakor asked.

Kantou looked up, and could just see the tops of the Mountains over the cliff top, the snow glinting in the light of the afternoon sun. "Where do you think?" she said, leading Lakor's gaze to the mountain peak with her eyes.

"The Temple?" he asked after a few moments. "Are you sure?"

"Where else would it go?" she continued. "We followed the path from Melcrieth and it seems to lead here," she pointed back along the dirt trail. "Thousands of people would have travelled from the city to the Temple, why wouldn't they have built a tunnel?"

"It does save them from having to go all the way round…" Rantil figured.

Putoko called to them from further inside the entrance. "Come on then!"

"But you can't be sure it goes to the Temple, can you?" Lakor continued. He wanted to be sure it was safe, regardless of Putoko's frustration.

"There's one way to find out," Kantou smiled, proceeding towards the looming entrance where Putoko was already waiting. She soon turned back when she realised they weren't following. "Come on," she urged.

She stopped and looked down a rotting wooden barrel, filled with thick branches. She lifted one out to find a wrapping of damp cloth pulled over its end. The smell wafted to her nose. "Jannica Oil," she smiled. "Looks like these are torches. Hold on."

The others in the barrel were useless; the oil had sept away. "Well, one will have to do," she said optimistically. It flickered into life when she waved her hand past the end and illuminated the darkness beyond the entrance of the tunnel.

"Are you sure this is a good idea?" Lakor asked as they followed her inside.

"Not afraid of the dark, are you?" Putoko joked as he pushed past him.

He shook his head, and replied unconvincingly, "No…"

"We'll be fine," Rantil assured.

They all followed on cautiously after Kantou and kept close to the light of the torch. As soon as the shadows had enveloped them the rumbling returned. Slowly, the passage resealed itself, and the cliff concealed its secrets once more.

* * *

Leading the way, Kantou set a steady pace through the ruined tunnel. It seemed to stretch on forever, as it slowly climbed higher and higher. She urged the others to move faster, but the ancient passage was taking its toll.

Rantil kept patting his chest, to make sure the Claviet was still there. After last night, he realised how important it was to keep it safe; he fused the latch together, and shortened the chain, so now, it couldn't slip off accidentally.

They continued through the tunnel. Their footsteps echoed all around them on the hard stone floor and occasionally a drip-drip-dripping of water filled the crisp air.

It was clear, right from the start, that the tunnel was incredibly old. Despite the cracks and broken rock, there was still something so intimidating about the passage. Hundreds of stone eyes watched them as they walked, high above from the huge grey-rock statues that lined both sides of the tunnel. They were once finely carved and stood proudly. Now, they were entwined in age-old roots, and had layers of thick grime and soil smeared across the once gleaming stone.

"Who do you think they are?" Lakor asked, pointing up to the statues.

"I doubt we'll ever know," Rantil sighed as he briefly stopped to stare into one of the old worn faces of rock.

Kantou shone the light closer to the figure. "Have you noticed," she began, "it's the same person, over and over again?" She paused, and pointed the fire in a different direction to reveal the same statues on the other side of the wide tunnel.

"He must have been very important," Lakor admired.

"I wonder what made him so special?" Rantil thought, aloud. "Hey Kantou, do you think that it's Armaru? The man mentioned at the start of the tunnel?"

"Possibly," she nodded.

Rantil turned to Putoko. "What do you think?"

"Does it really matter who he is?" Putoko replied. "It's not like we're going to meet him," he joked.

"I don't think I'd want to," Lakor shuddered.

They all glanced up to the statues, noticing the same blank look was chiselled into every firm, stone face. Even his beard seemed oddly stern and dominant. It was a little sad to see them neglected and forgotten.

They continued walking for several hours. The monotony of the passage began to wear thin, so when they came face to face with a cave-in, and the tunnel came to an abrupt halt, they were glad for the change in pace.

"Is it me, or can you see a light?" Lakor muttered, looking up.

Rantil turned to him, "Where?"

With Lakor pointing towards the ceiling, they could all see a faint glimmer of something bright. It glistened in the darkness like a single star in the night sky.

"We've got no other way to go," Kantou said, shrugging her shoulders. "Time to start climbing again."

Lakor was too curious about the light to realise what a long way it was to the top. Without any hesitation, they started to climb.

The rocks were piled unevenly and were sharp and jagged. On more than one occasion, they slipped on the loose shingle that covered the surface.

As they climbed higher and higher towards the mysterious glowing, it became clear that it wasn't coming from a single source. Tiny speckles of light twinkled through the shadows above and glistened with life. When they reached the top, they realised why.

"They're crystals?" Lakor gasped.

The ceiling was covered in hundreds of aramite crystals. They gave off a natural hue that shone out with a glistening silver light. It made them feel as though the whole passage was filled with water and they were swimming through a sea of ever changing light. Kantou realised the torch she was still carrying seemed a little useless now, but she kept hold of it anyway.

They took the passage away from the cave-in and followed the crystals that lit their way. It wasn't long before the tunnel opened out into a much larger room, which had three identical doors over the far side, raised up on a small ledge.

"Well," Lakor sighed, "now which one do we take?"

"Here," Kantou said, passing Lakor the torch. She quickly jumped up and helped the others onto the ledge. Rantil was glad for the help, but Putoko insisted that he could do it himself.

Kantou turned to the doors and glanced between all three. The crystals shone brightly from above and stretched through into each of the doors, though the tunnels beyond soon turned and moved out of sight. If they chose the wrong tunnel, there was no way they could reach the Temple in time.

She moved closer and could make out rows of faded writing on an archway of rock that stretched over all three doors. The symbols looked similar to those at the start of the tunnel.

Rantil appeared at her side. "What do they say?" he asked.

"Long life to the Spectra," she replied.

"What's the Spectra?" Lakor asked, but Kantou just shrugged her shoulders.

She turned back to them. The ground here was flat, and they had been walking all day. They had stopped once for something to eat, but now weariness was taking over. "We should rest," she announced. "Get some sleep."

"But what about the doors?" Lakor asked. "We still don't know which one to take…"

"Leave that to me," she replied.

* * *

Kantou stayed awake long after the others had fallen to sleep. The light from the aramite crystals rippled over the walls and made her feel drowsy. Absently, she stared at the three doors that led further into Temper's Wall. One of them must lead to the Temple, but she couldn't figure out which.

She looked back to the writing carved along the arch of smooth rock that ran over all three doors. 'Long life to the Spectra.'

She hoped that somewhere she'd missed something in the ancient writing, and that it was really a form of direction and it would tell her which tunnel to take. She stared at it a little while longer and then settled down to sleep, hoping that she'd think of something in her dreams.

She was disturbed during the night by a faint whispering.

"You've been very helpful."

Kantou listened, half asleep. It was as though she was hearing a memory that replayed and spoke to her inside her head.

"I never thought that it would have been so easy." The voice chuckled quietly. "You're right, but what does that matter? No one will ever know."

The voice drifted through Kantou's mind as she slept.

"There's not far left now," the voice continued. "It is a shame really… I was beginning to enjoy your company. There is just one thing I need to make my master's plan reality."

Kantou awoke with a jolt.

At first the light shining from the crystals stung her eyes, and her vision was blurred. She glanced around at the others, they all slept soundly. She rubbed her eyes, wondering how long she'd been asleep.

The torch rested nearby, the flames had gone, but a faint drift of smoke wafted up into the air where the thick cloth was still burning. In a sudden soft breeze, the smoke changed direction and wavered towards her.

She stared at it for a moment, and then realised what it meant.

She leapt up, and nudged Rantil on the shoulder. "Time to get up," she said. "You too."

Lakor pulled the blankets further over his head. "Just another five minutes…"

Rantil looked up. "Why are you in such a hurry?"

"I think we're rested enough," she replied.

Lakor yawned. "What time is it?"

"Time to get up!" she repeated.

Putoko woke suddenly, a little flustered. He jumped up, drowsy and half asleep.

They packed away the thin blankets back into their satchels, and joined Kantou at the entrance to the doors.

"Have you figured out which one to take?" Rantil asked.

She nodded. "We came through Temper's Wall – three."

"Yes…"

"There are three doors here, two of them must lead to other huge entrances to Temper's Wall… like the one we went through. They're locked and closed so they can't be making a draught. The final door must lead to the surface, to the Temple."

She didn't stop to see if they agreed and headed towards the passage. The light of the crystals was still strong when she turned the corner. It was brighter than the previous tunnel, and she was glad for it. Lakor was thankful for the light too, but paused and was waiting for Rantil to follow.

Rantil was about to join them when Putoko spoke. "Can I ask you something?"

"What?"

He stuttered, "Do you really think it's wise for you to be carrying the Claviet?"

Puzzled, Rantil asked, "What makes you say that?"

"Well… if we do see the demon again, isn't he going to assume you've got it? If, I don't know, if I had it, he wouldn't expect…"

"You don't have to do that you know," Rantil interrupted.

"Do what?"

"Try and protect me," Rantil smiled. "I'm sure I'll be fine."

Putoko couldn't come up with a reply, and their conversation ended. Lakor stared at him with an untrusting gaze; they stared at each other for a lingering moment, before Putoko broke away and followed Rantil in the direction Kantou walked. Lakor tried to shake off the strange feeling in his gut and ran up after them.

For quite a while, they walked in silence. The light from the crystals was strong and the tunnel floor was smooth and easy to walk on. It gave them all time to think.

"After we reach the Temple," Lakor started, "what happens to you?" He glanced over to Kantou. At first, she didn't realise he was talking to her, but when she did, she looked up.

"I'm not sure yet."

"Are you going home?" he asked.

She sighed. "I want to… but I'm not sure if I can. Ciameth seems like such a long way away."

Lakor heard something behind him and he turned to look back down the passage. At first he thought he saw something dark scurry across the floor, but he shook his head, assuming it was nothing.

"What's Ciameth even like?" he asked as he turned back around.

"It's…" she stuttered, finding it hard to think of the perfect way to describe her home. After pausing for a while, she said, "busy."

"Busy…?" Lakor repeated.

"I spent much of my life alone, but then suddenly, I found a new way to live. Since then… it's been – busy."

"Any good stories to tell?" Lakor asked, hopeful that there would be.

She smiled, though it looked more like a smirk in the silver light. "Plenty." She glanced over at Rantil. "Though this is not the time or place for me to tell them."

"Please," Lakor pleaded. "Just a short…"

Without finishing his sentence, he turned back down the passage again. As before, he saw the outline of something dark run across the floor. A growl echoed softly through the tunnel, but he couldn't be sure from where it came. He glanced around. The crystals were beginning to thin out and the light wasn't as strong.

"Are you alright?" Rantil asked.

"Yeah… yeah, I just thought…" Lakor stuttered. He continued staring down the passage, half hoping that whatever he saw would come back. Nothing did.

Nervousness took over his mind. He was sure there was something following them, stalking them. He was sure he could hear the scratching of claws against the rock, but every time he looked, the passage was empty. Kantou noticed his agitation and started the conversation going again, in a hope to take his mind off where they were.

"How about you?" she asked. "You must have plenty of stories."

"Um," he muttered. "There's not really much to tell. I've lived in Siale all my life, never knew my family. Hamsol brought me in off the streets when I was sixteen and… I've been a Watcher ever since."

"What's it like being a Watcher?"

"You'd be better asking Rantil that," he sighed.

"I'm asking you."

Lakor smiled. "It's hard to explain… I can't ever imagine going back to being, well, normal. After a few years of Hamsol's teachings, I began to see things I could never see before and hear things from a different place. It's like there's us… here on this world. But at the same time, there's also another world, the spirit world." He paused. "Is this making sense?"

Kantou wasn't sure if he was explaining it very well, but at least he seemed to have relaxed a little. She nodded and said, "I think so." Noticing Putoko hadn't said much, she looked over to him. "What about you?"

He looked back over his shoulder. "I don't want to talk about it. At least not with you."

"Putoko!" Rantil snapped.

"We don't have time for this," Putoko replied. "For all we know the demon could already be at the Temple."

"I think we would have sensed something by now," Kantou said. "But I suppose you're right, we should hurry. It's just… I've missed this."

"This?" Rantil asked, confused.

"My life's been so hectic that it seems forever since I had the time to… to chat to someone."

The feeling that they were being watched washed over Lakor again. Kantou and the others continued walking, but he paused, and took a hasty glance in every direction. He gasped softly when he looked up and down a crack in the rock between the fading crystals. He could see two beady yellow eyes glaring at him from above.

"Rantil…?" he called.

He was showered in dust and small rocks as something dropped down on top of him.

Rantil appeared back around a corner. Lakor was pinned to the ground by a jet-black creature, which snarled and snapped at him. He cried out, and tried to push the beast away. Rantil quickly ran over and kicked the creature in the side and off his friend.

Combed back against its muscular body was dark black fur. Its eyes were deeply sunken into its head, and a short horn stuck out from its thick brow. It waved its tail in the air, dug its claws into the ground, and tried to stand strong.

It growled, baring its razor-sharp teeth.

"What is it?" Lakor stammered as Kantou helped him back to his feet.

Suddenly, it leapt towards her and slashed at the air with its claws. Kantou was just able to move aside. It thudded back to the floor unexpectedly and skidded along the rock into the wall. A few more loose stones drop down from the tunnel roof. It shook its head as it tried to regain its balance.

Rantil shook his head. "It looks like a buckwri, just a lot bigger."

"Buckwri don't have horns, or so many teeth!" Lakor objected.

The creature leapt for Kantou again, but this time, she pulled her sword from behind her back and used it to knock the beast aside. It wailed out in pain and collapsed to the floor. Dark red blood dribbled through its fur. It opened its mouth wide, and screeched, sending a shrill whine piercing into their minds.

As quickly as the creature had appeared, it was gone. It turned to the wall, and used its long claws to dig at the rock. It burrowed through the stone surprisingly quickly and vanished from sight. The silver light was fading and there wasn't enough to shine down the wide tunnel the beast left.

"Did that sound like it was calling for help to you?" Lakor asked, with a hint of apprehension in his voice.

"No… it couldn't have done…" Rantil replied.

They could hear the rock shifting inside the walls and the scratching of claws against stone.

"…could it?"

Tiny shards of crystal fell from the ceiling, as a mangled horn dug its way through the rock. It dropped down from above, turned to them and growled; its mouth was frothing. Kantou spun around. There were more advancing on them from behind.

They were being surrounded.

"Any ideas?" she asked.

"Erm…" Rantil replied. One of the creatures tried to bite at his feet. He kicked it away, but it glared at him, snarling and spitting.

Suddenly, all the beasts wailed out in unison and leapt towards their prey.

The attack had begun.

Rantil stumbled backwards, shouting furiously, "Run!"

The creatures backed away from the bright light of the sword Kantou held and as soon as they were through, they sprinted down the tunnel. Rantil pushed Lakor forwards, urging him to run faster from the hoard that pursued them, which growled, roared and gave chase.

Lakor glanced back over his shoulder. The creatures covered the walls completely, and made it look as though the whole passage was alive. In the faint light, he could see hundreds of beady yellow eyes. They shone out from the sea of black, which surged towards them like an all-consuming tidal wave.

Putoko shouted from the back of the line. "You need to move faster!"

He could hear the creatures' feet scraping against the rock so close behind. They clung to the walls with their sharp claws, and scurried over the ceiling like insects. He could see the hate in their eyes.

They ran out into a large cavern, which was scattered through with several small patches of aramite. Kantou turned back on the passage entrance and shone her sword into the darkness. For only a few seconds, the creatures were scared of the bright orange light; but they overcame their fear and leapt forwards again.

Rantil pulled her backwards by the scruff of her collar, and dragged her onwards. They wove between the tall columns of rock that stretched high into the shadowy parts of the cavern roof. They ran for their lives, sure that the creatures were right behind them, crawling down the walls and digging up through the floor.

Kantou looked up. The ceiling was covered in cracks and crevices, and sharp stalactites looked unstable and ready to fall. She skidded to a stop.

"What are you doing?" Rantil said, letting Putoko and Lakor run ahead of him.

"Keep moving!" she shouted back.

The sword glowed a little brighter, as she channelled all of her energy into the blade. Spirals of light coiled around the translucent metal mystically. Then, she thrust the sword forwards, and released the energy built up inside. Lightening shot from its tip, which crackled through the air, and struck a huge stone pillar that held up the roof. Directing the sword at another, it crumbled under the stress, and collapsed to the ground.

The ceiling gave way, and thousands of tonnes of rock collapsed down onto the ground. Kantou watched as the creatures were crushed underneath. They cried out, and fled in different directions. In the light of the aramite crystals, she lost all sight of the beasts, trapped beneath the rock.

But the cave-in continued.

The whole cavern shook, and she stumbled backwards when she realised the rock above her head was ready to fall. She turned and ran from the cavern, out through a small archway and down the adjoining passage. Rantil and the others were waiting for her.

"What did you do?" he shouted over the quaking roar.

She didn't reply. Instead, she cried, "Come on!"

Her sword vanished, leaving the crystals as their only source of light. She guided Rantil through the tunnel, until they emerged from the passage, and stepped out onto a stone bridge over a dark and never-ending chasm.

Rantil stumbled and fell to the floor. He landed with his head over the side of the bridge and stared down into the darkness. There was no light, there was nothing. Something cold and unsettling burrowed into his mind as he glared into the shadowed pit, until Kantou yanked his arm and pulled him up.

Together, they ran over to the other side of the fissure and through into the tunnel beyond.

Putoko watched them disappear into the passage and out of sight. He glanced back over his shoulder as he ran across the bridge, which was beginning to crack from the continual shaking. Lakor ran from the shadows of the previous tunnel and out into the light of the aramite gulf. He looked up to the ceiling, high above, where a large boulder was coming loose.

With Rantil and Kantou nowhere to be seen, Putoko skidded to a halt.

Lakor sprinted towards him as fast as he could.

The boulder broke away and plummeted towards him; it scraped against the side of the chasm, and churned and grated against the rock. Lakor knew it was somewhere above, but he daren't look up.

Like the ripples in a pond, the boulder crashed into the bridge, and sent a wave through the rock. The stone cracked and shattered into hundreds of tiny pieces, causing the walkway to fall away from under Lakor's feet. He desperately tried to save himself, but the bridge gave way too fast. With the last of his strength he jumped forwards, hoping that it was enough to save his life.

Putoko was showered in finely powered rock and rubble. He stared on without saying a word.

The dust quickly settled.

Lakor clung onto the bridge by the tips of his fingers and each time the cavern shook, his grip loosened. He tried to use his legs to push himself up, but there was nothing for him to push against. The darkness crept up on him, and his heart pounded in his chest.

"Help!" he cried, not even sure if anyone was there.

Putoko appeared at the precipice, and stared down.

"Help me!"

The rock shuddered and a crack appeared along the width the bridge. Lakor dropped down a few inches. He cried out again.

"Putoko! Help me!"

He didn't move, instead, he just stared down over the edge absently. The shaking continued and Putoko stood still and silent through it all. Dread seeped into Lakor's mind, the feeling from before returned when he looked into Putoko's eyes. Small rocks showered them both, and knocked one of his hands from the bridge. He hung on by a few fingers, which were slowly slipping.

"Putoko…?"

He lost his grip, and he started to plummet down into the lifeless chasm.

His arm was pulled back suddenly, when Putoko stretched out and took hold of him.

Lakor stared upwards, overcome with relief. "Thank you…"

Putoko smiled, but it was not one of joy. "You will be the first to fall," he smirked. "You will be the first of… oh so many."

"What are you talk…"

He let go of his arm again and Lakor began to fall.

In an instant, he felt as though all life was drawn from him. He felt overwhelming fear and confusion. He felt betrayed.

Putoko stood slowly, and watched Lakor vanish down into the darkness. The shadows consumed him, and he was gone.

He glanced around; the cavern would soon collapse completely. He turned from the crevasse and began to run back through into the passage beyond, where Rantil and Kantou were waiting.

He ran towards them – alone.

Rantil looked up expectantly, and back along the passage. "Where's Lakor?"

Putoko kept his eyes to the floor.

"Well…?"

"He…" Putoko stuttered. "He didn't escape the cave-in."

Rantil recoiled in shock.

"I'm sorry, there was nothing I could do…"

With his heart thumping, Rantil backtracked down the tunnel to the bridge.

"Wait!" Kantou shouted. "It's not safe!"

His eyes widened when he saw the bridge in ruin. Rocks rained down from the ceiling and fissures had appeared along every inch of stone on the other side of the chasm. He was about to run forwards when a thunderous crack tore through the rock.

Suddenly, the light was sealed away as a huge slab of rock shifted and blocked the way back to the bridge. Rantil stumbled backwards, and fell to the floor. He didn't have the energy to get back up.

"He's gone…" he stuttered as Kantou came to help him up. He stared at her blankly. "Lakor's gone…?"
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My work, including cover image, may not be reproduced, copied, edited, published, transmitted in any way without my permission.

Hover over any underlinded words to have a definition of their meaning.

THE FALLEN STAR: [link]

Map of Truaine: [link]

<<< Chapter 19 <<< --|||-- >>> Chapter 21 >>>
:iconwalt-marsters:
This one has it all. A classic riddle (choice between three possible tunnels), exciting action (Next to zombies, a huge unstoppable horde of little, or not so little critters is my most gruesome monstrous threat), some cool magic and terrible tragedy. It's sad ofcourse, but I feared for a while now, the guy was doomed.
Still sad to see him go, though.
As for Putoko, he's either possessed or it's not him at all, but a demon in disguise. In any case, he is not the messiah, he is a very naughty boy!
I did notice a few minor spelling errors. I'm just listing them here, for your information:

sneak up of them -> sneak up on them?
let out a lengthy sign -> let out a lengthy sigh?

Oh, yes. Just another minor remark. I'm not sure I would describe Kantou as 'panicked' when they first met her. Sure, she was agitated and worried. Who wouldn't be after a fight with a demon? But not really panicked.

Anyway, overall another great chapter, which I enjoyed a lot.
What do you think?
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