Axra carried Twila the rest of the way up the steps. By the time they’d reached the top, she was feeling really worn down, her arms aching. Lilly had offered to carry Twila for a while at one point, but Axra had turned her down. She was determined to finish the job she’d started. Especially since Twila had it even worse.
Axra hadn’t noticed how much of an effort spell casting took before. But after maintaining the energy bridge long enough for everyone to cross Twila would be sweating and she’d quickly go limp. She even fell asleep for nearly an hour at one point.
They’d finally reached the top and Twila was using her phasing spells on small groups. Sending them through one by one.
“Do you need to rest for a bit?” Axra asked.
“I’m fine,” Twila said. “I’ll rest after we get through.”
Twila nodded. “It’s too dangerous to linger here right now. The reapers may return or the psyrens could try to stop us from getting more through.”
Twila continued her work. Lilly and Lysara kept guard around the entrance, watching for any signs whatsoever of danger. Bonnie, Velvet and Reginald watched the rear, slowly but surely approaching the others. Fang flew around above.
Eventually, the eight of them were all that remained. They’d gotten the dark elves through.
“Do we have to rest up here?” Lysara asked.
“It’ll be for the best,” Bonnie answered. “I don’t think either Twila or Axra is in any shape to climb back down today.”
“I know, but it’s so… creepy up here,” Lysara said. “It feels like there could be a rock-slide and we’d all just fall.”
“Would’ve happened already if it was going to,” Bonnie assured her. “You have nothing to fear.”
“Will you catch me if I look like I’m going to fall?” Lysara asked.
“Well, yes,” Bonnie said.
“Because you love me,” Lysara stated.
“Well, no,” Bonnie said. “I’d do the same for any comrade.”
“Terribly sorry to interrupt,” Twila said. “But we have to go through too. I need to drop the books the elder gave me off with my aunt. We can rest on the other side and come back through after we’ve rested.”
“In short, gather round because she’s only using the spell once more today,” Axra said.
With difficulty, Twila managed to get them phased. They hurried through the rocks. Axra quickly found moving forward difficult. It hadn’t been that bad before, but she had been well rested and not carrying all that much. She trudged on, making it out right before the spell wore off.
Derry and Elaine were watching as they emerged. The rest of Derry’s group were preparing for the final leg of their journey. A couple soldiers were standing a respectful distance from Elaine, while watching everything near her.
“Thank you all so much,” Derry said. “On behalf of all of us. You can visit us as honoured guests at anytime.”
“Our sisters are going to be living down one of the more rural tunnels,” Elaine explained. “It’s relatively free of the main city, but close enough to be offered our protection. They’ll get a few seats on the council to be decided by their own methods. It will certainly take some adjustment for all of us.”
Derry nodded. “At least we’re free to explore this strange but magnificent surface world of yours.”
“I’m happy for you,” Twila said.
“Do you want to come back to the city with us or are you going to camp here and leave as soon as you can?” Elaine inquired.
“We’ll camp,” Twila answered. “Our business with the old city really is pressing.”
“Figured you’d say that,” Elaine said. “Good fortune to you all. Since you aren’t coming along I’ll grab those books before we head out.”
“They’re in my bag,” Twila said. With an effort, she unlatched it and handed it to her aunt.
“I’ll return it shortly,” Elaine promised. She looked back at Axra. “Do you intend to hold my niece all night or are you going to let her down to sleep?”
Axra put Twila gently down.
“Excuse me, Mister.”
Velvet yawned and looked over. “Yeah, Kid?”
The young girl moved right up to his face. “You know, you saved me and mommy in there.”
Velvet studied her briefly. “Was that you? Well, you’re welcome.”
“And, you know something else,” she continued. “Someday, I’m gonna work really hard and be super strong like you!”
“That’ll be a sight to see,” Velvet muttered. He lazily reached up and ruffled her hair. “You do that.”
“Blome, don’t bother the nice gentleman.” The girl’s mother approached. “Sorry about that. We are truly grateful for your heroism though.”
“well, you’re welcome,” Velvet said. “But I really didn’t do anything except what I had to.”
“Yes you did,” she insisted. “And we won’t forget it.”
“Will you look at that,” Reginald said. “She’s practically fawning over him.”
“He did save her life,” Bonnie said.
“Even so,” Reginald said. “You’d think the rest of us hadn’t done anything.”
Bonnie shrugged. “We all did our parts. He’s just getting extra recognition from her because he’s the one who personally carried her to safety. It’s not a big deal.”
Elaine grabbed the books from Twila’s bag, returned it to her, hugged Twila goodbye and marched out with Derry and her group following behind.
Bonnie and Reginald got their tents up while Lilly did the cooking. Twila and Axra were resting side by side and Velvet had fallen asleep on the ground.
“Bon!” Lysara called in a sing-song voice. She skipped over and grabbed Bonnie’s hand. “Come over here, just for a bit, okay?”
“Well, since we are safe for the moment I guess I can,” Bonnie said. She let Lysara lead her away.
Lysara led her down an empty tunnel away from the others. “You know,” she began. “I had a talk with Twila while her aunt was getting the books.”
“I see,” Bonnie said, looking nervously back the way they’d come.
“I told her I was giving up on her,” Lysara said. “I hope I didn’t hurt her, but I have to be true to myself, you know?”
“Really?” Bonnie was shocked to hear that. Her head swiveled around. Lysara was standing really close to her. Bonnie felt her cheeks flush.
Lysara nodded. “I thought about it a lot and I realised something.” She was circling around Bonnie as she spoke. “I was grateful to Twila and I thought she was cute, but all it was was a crush. What I feel for you…” Lysara stopped and gazed directly into Bonnie’s eyes. “It’s so much more.”
Bonnie couldn’t bring herself to respond. Her heart was beating far too fast. Was this really happening?
“Bon… Bon,” Lysara said. “Would… would it be okay if…”
“I’m sorry?” Bonnie asked. “I didn’t catch all of that.”
Lysara took a deep breath and spoke louder and more clearly. “Would it be okay if I kiss you right now?”
Bonnie nearly jumped backwards. She studied Lysara’s face for any signs that she was joking. Lysara looked back at her, with a face filled with longing.
“I’ve never with anyone before,” Bonnie whispered. “But… but if it’s you, I’ll allow it.”
Lysara smiled widely and stepped forward. She leaned her head towards Bonnie’s. Without thinking, Bonnie leaned towards her as well and it was in that moment that their lips met.