Fang flew next to Twila, making grunting sounds.
Twila shook her head. “Stay close to us. We aren’t sure if more of these things are out there. A little dragon like you could get hurt.”
Fang let out a tiny roar, but hesitantly returned to her shoulder.
They followed the trail. Waiting, hoping for it to end quickly.
“Gods,” Lysara whispered. “Please let her be okay.”
The group had to jump over two gaps. Finally, it led them to a sword hilt with jagged pieces of a blade sticking out of it. The jagged pieces had blood and bits of gore stuck to them.
“Someone broke Bonnie’s sword in half,” Velvet said. “She’s gotta be mad.”
“Is that Bonnie’s sword?” Axra asked. “You’re sure?”
“It can’t be!” Lysara cried. “Because… because if it is…” She felt Lilly’s hand on her shoulder. Lilly gave her a slight smile.
“I’m… I’m sure Bonnie used it to, you know, dispatch her assailant after it broke and she’s just fine.” Lilly turned to Axra. “It’s hers all right.”
“Lysara, you might want to see this,” Reginald said.
Lysara turned in the direction he was indicating.
Bonnie was sitting, back against the cavern wall. Blood was trickling from her mouth. She had a makeshift bandage tied over her chest. It had mostly turned a dark red. Her eyes were shut. A steel axe had fallen near the edge of the platform across from her.
“Bon! Bon!” Lysara ran over to her. “Please be okay. Please be okay. Bon, answer me, please answer me.”
A shaking arm reached up and gently brushed the tears from Lysara’s eyes.
“Such a racket,” Bonnie muttered, her voice weak.
“Bon!” Lysara hugged her. “Thank the Gods.”
“Lysara, let go of her!” Axra commanded.
“But I…” Lysara started to protest but then remembered Bonnie’s bandage. “Sorry.”
“I’ve got some actual bandages and healing salve,” Twila said, reaching into her bag. “They should help.”
“Is… everyone there?” Bonnie asked.
“We are,” Twila said. “I’ll recast the dark-vision spell for you after your wounds are treated.”
“Ummm… I could treat her wounds while you… while you cast it,” Lilly said.
“That would help,” Twila said. “Thank you.”
“If you need more time to tell us what happened, that’s fine,” Axra said. “Just tell us if there are more of them around.”
“My apologies, Princess,” Bonnie said. “I… I lost one of them.”
“Velvet, Reginald, keep watch,” Axra commanded. “As soon as Bonnie’s wounds are dressed we’ll head back up and find a cleric.”
“No need,” Bonnie said. “They look worse than they are. I just need some rest and I’ll be fine. Please, don’t make us lose more time over this.”
“Lilly,” Axra said. “How bad is it?”
“Well… it… nothing vital got hit,” Lilly said. “Sh… she’ll recover… with time and rest.”
Axra nodded. “Okay, we won’t go back yet.”
“Thank you,” Bonnie said. “Allow me to report about what happened.”
“You don’t have to do that yet,” Axra said. “Wait until you’re feeling better.”
“It shouldn’t wait,” Bonnie said. “It could be of vital importance.” She started coughing. Lysara gave her some water.
“Fine,” Axra said. “Make the report quick, okay?”
“Understood,” Bonnie said, sounding considerably better after having a drink. “I made my way up in an effort to intercept the enemy. I encountered three robed figures, two humans and an elf, along with four reapers.”
“And you fought them,” Axra said.
Bonnie nodded. “Eventually. But initially I tried to get information out of them. I asked them who they were and what their business down here was. They said that they were the Hestial League and that they had come to punish, and I’m quoting them here, ‘the hybrid child of those who dared defy them’.”
“That name sounds familiar,” Axra said. “They were…”
“An extremist group that blames half bloods for all of their problems,” Velvet said. “My Ma tossed some of them out when they tried to buy weapons from her.”
“Indeed,” Bonnie said. “They… they said that I could join them. They said that I could have revenge for…” she glanced at Lysara. “for certain events in my past. They also said that I could get out from under the thumb of, quote, ‘the hybrid brat of Nervius.’ I refused and we fought. I managed to kill the reapers and one of the humans, but my chest was clawed open in the process. I followed the other two up here. The elf turned to fight me while his comrade ran. He… he said… threatened…” Bonnie tensed up. “Some terrible things.”
“Bon,” Lysara whispered. She embraced Bonnie as gently as she could. Being very mindful of her wound this time.
“I’m okay,” Bonnie whispered. She continued, more loudly. “With a swing of his axe, he split my sword open and headbutt me in the face. I retreated back, he followed, trying to corner me. I jabbed what was left of my blade into his eye and kicked him off of the stairs. I… I wanted to pursue his friend, but… I’m sorry, I was too weak.”
“You aren’t weak,” Axra reassured her. “Not at all. You fought hard and acquitted yourself honourably.”
“Thank you,” Bonnie muttered.
“I don’t see why that couldn’t wait,” Lysara stated. “I mean, we already knew that there was one left and you really need to rest.”
“Because they knew about her past,” Twila observed.
Bonnie nodded. “They knew my name, intimate details of my past and they knew, or thought they knew, about my relationship with the Princess. They probably thought it was strained because of what happened after Derry’s song affected us.”
“Which means one of two things,” Twila said. “Either they’ve been watching us from a distance or…”
“They have a spy among us,” Bonnie finished. “And a group like that… they wouldn’t use a half blood.” She glared at Reginald.
“Milady, you couldn’t mean…” Reginald took a step back. “I don’t even know anything of your past. How could I tell them anything of the kind?”
“It’s true, I haven’t told you anything about it,” Bonnie said. “But it still seems convenient that they’d follow us here, where we’re separated from any potential help and that they’d know about the battle between myself and the Princess.”
“They must be following us!” Reginald declared. “Remember, I was unconscious for most of your battle with the beauteous Axra.”
“Well, we wouldn’t want to jump to conclusions,” Twila said. “They clearly have some resources and ways of gathering information.”
“And Reginald has been nothing but helpful,” Lilly added. “As far as I know, anyway.”
“Well, we’ll leave it at that,” Axra said. “Lysara, you and I will carry Bonnie, at least until we get to the bottom. I’ll take her over the gaps myself. Lilly, you and Velvet bring up the rear and watch for that last guy.”
“Sorry about this,” Bonnie whispered. “Velvet, can you grab that axe for me?”
“It’s a hassle, but I’ll do it,” Velvet said. He picked up the discarded weapon. “Need a trophy?”
“No. I need a new weapon,” Bonnie answered.
Axra turned to Lysara. “Are you ready?”
Lysara nodded. She glanced over at Reginald. Was he responsible for this? If he was, she would make him pay for causing harm to her precious Bon, definitely.