The party gradually made their way down the steps, encountering a surprising lack of resistance. They eventually came to rest at the foot of the stairs, setting up camp in roughly the same spot they had before.
“Princess, I’m going to go back up the stairs, at least for a little bit,” Bonnie said.
“Why?” Axra asked.
“Still worried about the reapers?” Twila asked.
Bonnie nodded. “If we’re being followed I may be able to catch a glimpse of our pursuers while they think all of us are resting. I’ll return by the time you all wake up.”
“But what if the people following us stayed down here while we were gone?” Velvet asked. “I mean, I didn’t see anyone follow us on our way up.”
“It’s possible they did stay down here,” Bonnie said. “Just like it’s possible that the psyrens were responsible and I’m being paranoid. Still, I’d like to check.”
Axra scratched her head. “It’s fine by me if you wanna do it. Just be careful up there, okay?”
“I shall be,” Bonnie said.
“Bon can I…” Lysara began.
“No,” Bonnie answered. “You have to stay here.”
“How come?” Lysara asked. “I… I just wanna be by your side. I want to help and protect you.”
“I appreciate the sentiment,” Bonnie said. “But this mission is going to require stealth. One person can do it more effectively than two. Besides, you should rest. Please, for my sake.”
“Fine,” Lysara agreed. “But make sure you don’t get hurt.”
“I won’t be,” Bonnie said. She gave Lysara a quick kiss and went on her way.
“She’ll be okay, won’t she?” Lysara asked, her voice just above a whisper.
“Oh, absolutely,” Lilly reassured her. “I… I’ve known Bonnie for quite a while and, well, she’s strong. I just know it won’t be a problem for her.”
Lysara nodded, but it was an awkward, uncertain nod.
“We should figure out the watch schedule for tonight,” Axra said. “No telling what might come from the ruins.”
In spite of Axra’s misgivings, the night was quiet. There was nary a sound, much less anything in sight.
Lysara and Velvet took the last watch. Velvet kept his gaze directed at the ruins whereas Lysara’s eyes kept darting towards the stairs.
Lilly woke up first.
“Lilly,” Lysara ran up to her, tears starting to form in her eyes. “Bon… Bon hasn’t come back.”
“She hasn’t?” Lilly asked. “Th… I… She’s probably on her way back. She… she probably went too far and it’s taking longer than she thought.”
“Really?” Lysara asked.
“Now dear Lady,” Reginald began, causing Lilly to jump a little. “Pardon me fair Lilly, I didn’t mean to startle you.”
“It… it’s fine,” Lilly said. “I… I was listening to Lysara and… I didn’t… Never mind, it doesn’t matter.”
“In any case, dear Lysara, you mustn’t panic,” Reginald said. “Let’s sit down, have breakfast and I’m sure the lovely Bonnie shall grace us with her presence before we finish.”
Axra and Twila got up not long afterwards. The group worked together to prepare their meal. Save Lysara who was watching the stone stairs and Velvet who offered to keep lying back and watching for danger.
They hurriedly ate, Lysara barely touching her portion.
“We have to go find Bon!” Lysara said.
“True,” Twila said. “If she doesn’t get back soon the dark-vision spell will wear off and she’ll be in real trouble.”
“Assuming she isn’t already,” Axra said. “Could she have actually found something?”
Twila recast the spell and the group doubled back.
It took them nearly an hour of walking before they came across an area covered with blood. Several reapers were in pieces and one robed human was among them. Her head severed from her body.
Axra examined the corpse. “It’s that HL emblem again,” she noted.
“Cou… could that woman have been the one controlling the reapers?” Lilly asked.
“It would appear so,” Twila said. “Bonnie must have run into her.”
“But where’s Bon?” Lysara asked.
“Th… there,” Lilly pointed. “It… it’s a bl… blood trail.”
“Leading up,” Velvet muttered. “What a hassle.”
“No way!” Lysara cried. “She’s hurt?”
“Not necessarily,” Twila said. “The trail is quite faint. It could have been caused by a bloodied sword or by her boots. She may very well be fine.”
“But why would she go back up?” Axra wondered.
“Perhaps she was chasing more opponents,” Reginald said. “In any case, we should follow.”