The tunnels were a pain. According to Twila, some of them were naturally occurring while others had been deliberately dug by the dark elves. The result was a mess of winding, twisting paths that came to abrupt halts at places or merged unexpectedly with others. Axra found herself relying on Lilly’s sense of direction, knowing that she would be going in circles before too long if she were by herself.
They had reported back in for the second time. No one had found anything yet.
“Wait,” Lilly said.
“What is it?” Twila asked, pausing.
“That’s the way we went before,” Lilly said. “We need to take the other fork.”
“And this one might lead to a dead end too,” Axra said. “I’m so sick of these tunnels.”
“They are quite difficult to navigate,” Twila said. “Lilly, you seem to have the best grasp of where we’ve been already. So, you lead the way.”
“Oh… Okay, if you want me to,” Lilly said.
She led them down the tunnel for a while until they came to another fork.
“We haven’t been here before, right?” Twila asked.
“No, we haven’t,” Lilly said. “Which way would you like to go?”
“Let’s try the left,” Twila said. The three headed down the tunnel, eventually finding themselves against a wall.
“Dammit!” Axra cried.
“It’s okay,” Lilly said. “I know you’re frustrated. We all are… but I’m sure we’ll find our way.”
“We may already have,” Twila stated. She was examining the wall. “Look at this rock face.”
“It looks about like any other wall to me,” Axra said.
“Not quite,” Twila said. “It’s very smooth. Here, feel.”
Axra walked over and touched the wall. “Oh, so it is. Is it the entrance?”
“Possibly,” Twila said. “I’ll cast a mapping spell. It should show how thick the wall is. If it’s thin enough, I’ll try phasing through it.”
“Shouldn’t we all go?” Axra asked.
“Well, it’s a bit risky,” Twila said. “I can’t know what’s on the other side until I’m actually there. So, I should go alone.”
“Then send me,” Axra said. She quickly held up her hand to interrupt Twila’s protest. “You’re the only one who knows how to use that phasing thing. So, someone else should take the risk.”
“Th… then I should be the one,” Lilly stated. “Af… after all, I… I’m the least important.”
“You are not,” Axra said. She grabbed Lilly’s shoulders and looked her directly in the eyes. “You will always be important. I should go because I can draw my sword faster than you can notch an arrow, and I can keep swinging.”
“B… but…” Lilly started to protest.
“Calm down,” Twila interrupted. “Both of you. Listen to me for a moment. I have to go.” She looked from Axra to Lilly. “I just finished the mapping spell and I can get through the rock. But I’ll have to recast the phasing spell to get back here again. It won’t last long enough to make it a two way trip.”
“Then I’m going too,” Axra said. “To watch your back. I know you don’t want to risk anyone else, but there’s no way I’m letting any friend of mine go into something like this alone.”
“M… me too,” Lilly said. “Th… there’ll be strength in numbers.”
“Very well,” Twila agreed. “We’ll all go. After we’ve confirmed whether or not it’s the right place, we’ll come back and rendezvous with the others.”
The three stood together while Twila cast her phasing spell. Axra felt her body tingling. She also felt strangely light.
Twila nodded and the three ran into the wall. It felt a lot like swimming, but with greater weight and pressure. The three eventually came out the other side. They were on a ledge overlooking a pretty deep chasm.
There were signs that a large staircase had been carved leading up to their platform, but over the years it had been overrun with subterranean plants and there were several visible gaps where segments had worn away and fallen.
Axra looked out at the bottom. She could see the tops of several large buildings.
“We found it,” Lilly whispered.
“Indeed,” Twila said. “Let’s go get the others.”