Reira and Lexine walked down the streets, past a few merchants. They made their way towards the Matron’s Manor.
“You don’t have to come with me,” Reira said.
“You’re wrong about that,” Lexine stated. “I do, because I promised a long time ago to stay by your side during difficult times.” She gently squeezed Reira’s hand.
They continued moving in silence. Lulu’s wolves greeted them at the door. They made their way to the study.
“Hello, Elaine,” Reira greeted.
“Well met,” Elaine returned, getting up to greet them.”Seeing you two is a nice surprise. I wasn’t…” She looked them over, her gaze piercing. “You both look so serious.” She sat back down. “He’s not coming back, is he?”
“He isn’t,” Reira said, her voice soft.
“How did it happen?” Elaine asked.
“The Hestial League summoned the titan Typhon,” Reira explained. “Under a magic compulsion to slay all half bloods. Lulu… Lulu heroically fought him with everything he had so that we would have time to undo that compulsion.”
“I see,” Elaine said. “Just like him, isn’t it? Going ahead and leaving me behind.”
“I was in his mind when he… fell,” Reira said. “His final thoughts were of you. He really wanted to stay by your side as long as he could. He did love you.”
“I know,” Elaine said, her voice shaking. “I’m sorry, but could you leave me alone?”
“Of course,” Reira said. She and Lexine walked out, heads bowed.
Elaine waited until they were gone and moved to their… no, her bedroom. She lay down on the bed and wept.
The group made their way down the cavern’s path. They had come to a few branches in the road and started leaving a trail behind them using brightly coloured marbles that Twila had brought along in preparation for the labyrinth.
“Should we prepare something to block our ears in the event of another Selkie?” Bonnie asked.
“I’m still not sure why it didn’t work when the first one tried it,” Lysara stated.
“Simple enough,” Twila said. “A Selkie’s power works by amplifying attraction felt towards them. If there’s no attraction then it won’t work.”
“Oh, I see,” Lysara said. “So there’s no worry about us being charmed by a Selkie!”
Velvet muttered something under his breath.
“It does bother me that there was a Selkie here at all,” Twila said. “As Bonnie rightly pointed out, they usually stay near the ocean. Deflum may not be really far away from the ocean, but it should still be too far for a Selkie.”
“That snake looked aquatic too,” Bonnie added.
“W… wait,” Lilly said.
“What’s wrong?” Axra asked. “Do you need me to carry you for a while?”
“It… it’s not that,” Lilly said. “I… I heard something, or I think I did.”
The group stopped and listened.
“I hear it too,” Axra said.
“Same,” Lysara said.”It’s like a weird scuttling sound.”
“Where is it coming from?” Bonnie asked, looking around.
“Ahead, I would say,” Twila said.
“We’ll keep moving but stay alert,” Axra said. She nodded towards Twila. Twila moved next to Lilly. Bonnie, Axra and Lysara drew their weapons and they continued onward.
The scuttling grew progressively louder as they went until it unexpectedly fell silent. Bonnie and Axra nodded at each other and they continued forward, right into a dead end.
“Weird,” Axra muttered. “I could have sworn it was coming from here.”
“It could have been from a chambre near here,” Twila said. “The walls could be thin enough that sound travels through them.”
“Or the wall could be hollow,” Bonnie said. “Some kind of secret passageway. Look!” She pointed. “There is open space around the wall.”
Axra looked at where she was indicating. Bonnie was right. She could see through cracks along the sides of it.
“It does look kind of funny,” Lysara noted. She reached a hand out to touch it. Within seconds Bonnie had tackled her to the ground.
“Bon, not in front of the others!” Lysara cried. “You can ravish me later when we’re in our tent..”
“I wasn’t!” Bonnie declared. “I was just saving you from that.”
Lysara looked up. A massive claw was snapped shut where she had been standing. A scrap of her shirt was clutched in it. Following the claw, she noticed the tip of a black crustacean peeking out from under a shell.
Axra plunged her blade into the creature’s claw, which it hurriedly retracted.
“How did something this big get up here?” Axra asked. The crustacean’s claw swiped at her. She blocked it with the flat of her blade.
“Lightning Lance!” Twila cried. She snapped her fingers and a bolt flew at the creature. It pulled back its claw and retreated into its shell. The bolt shattered through part of it, singing part of the beast’s hide.
It reared out of its shell and flailed its claws. Axra jumped back to avoid them. Bonnie shielded Lysara. One of its claws raked across her back.
“Bon!” Lysara cried. She got on her feet and rushed at the creature, hurling her chakram through the hole in its shell.
A second bolt from Twila hit the soft flesh of its face. The creature slumped down and went still.
“You can put down your bow,” Twila said. “It’s down.”
“S… sorry,” Lilly said. “I… I tried to get a shot but…”
“Don’t worry about it,” Axra said. “It’s better if you wait until your certain.”
“Bon, are you okay?” Lysara asked.
“Fine,” Bonnie answered. “It doesn’t seem to have made it through my armour.”
“Velvet, get this thing moved!” Axra ordered.
“Why me?” Velvet asked.
“Because you did nothing during the fight,” Axra answered.
“I was guarding the dogs,” Velvet said. “And the horses.”
“Velvet,” Axra said.
“All right, all right,” Velvet said. “I’m going. What a hassle.”
“Another sea creature,” Twila muttered. “Just what is going on in this labyrinth?”