Everyone gathers their belongings and Jaxon leads them into a large passageway. Rock formations from the ceiling and floor remind those walking of teeth. The dampness of the cave makes the stone glisten in the torchlight. Dripping water echoes against the walls and the sound of falling rocks send shivers through the spines of many. Several times the sound of rocks falling sounds similar to footsteps and fear shoots through the group. Jaxon assures them the noises are normal and nothing to be afraid of.
Hours pass in silence. Meah stares at the dark walls of the cave and wonders what time it is outside. She wonders if the sun had already set or if it is still high in the sky. A shiver runs through her body as she realizes how easy it would be to get lost in these caves and never really know how much time has passed.
Sensing her unease, Ime pulls her close and rubs her arm. She smiles at him, but the comfort his arms provide only helps a little.
The sound of rocks falling in the distance stops Jaxon. He raises his hand and the group freezes. Jaxon’s blue eyes search the darkness and his ears strain to hear. The rocks settle and a new silence fills the cave. The dripping of water has stopped and no wind blew through the caverns.
Jaxon remains still a moment longer, sending a wave of unease through the group. Fleance and Bruer place their hands on their weapons, keeping their eyes on Jaxon’s still frame. Jaxon signals the group forward.
They enter a smaller cavern and pools of water reflect the light from the torches. In the darkness it is impossible to tell how deep the pools are, but as members of the group wave their torches over the water, the brief light shows the water is perfectly clear. Water drops fall from the stalactites on the ceiling creating ripples in the pools.
Another sound of rocks shifting stops Jaxon. It sounds much closer than before. He moves his torch in front of him, trying to find the cause. The group searches the cavern as more rocks shift around them.
Meah stares at Jaxon, feeling her heart pound in her chest as she sees the confusion and fear in his eyes. Her eyes move to look ahead and something catches the light of Jaxon’s torch. It lasts for only a second, but she could’ve sworn she saw something reflect the light. Something large and alive.
A shaky breath escapes Jaxon’s lips and he presses on. The group begins following cautiously. They move carefully along the path. Meah slips on a wet patch of stone, but Ime catches her before she falls into the water. As she opens her mouth to thank him, a scream from the back of the group startles everyone.
“Something grabbed me! Something grabbed my leg!” a woman’s voice shrieked.
“Jayda! Calm down!”
Eyes turn to the woman who had her hair cut by Bruer. One of the men tries to calm her down, but she only grows more excited. Others try to hush the frantic woman, but her screams only escalate. Jaxon signals to Bruer and the large man grabs the woman and drags her forward.
Jayda struggles against Bruer’s hold as he moves her towards Jaxon, Ime, and Meah. Jaxon grabs Jayda’s skirt and lifts it, holding his torch close to see her leg. Ime and Meah lean close to see a dark spot on the frightened woman’s leg.
“What is that?” Kylii asks, spying over Meah’s shoulder.
The light of Jaxon’s torch reflects something wet on Jayda’s leg. Jaxon reaches out and touches the liquid. Jayda winces and releases a small whine of pain. The group’s voices rise as uneasiness rushes through them. Jaxon brings the liquid closer to the torchlight and his expression darkens.
“Everyone be quiet!” he orders.
The group falls silent and their voices fade in the cavern, but another sound rises from the darkness. The group huddles closer together as the strange sounds seem to surround them.
“Jaxon?” Meah asks, her eyes searching the darkness.
Jaxon meets Bruer and Fleance’s eyes and nods quickly. They both move to opposite ends of the group, grabbing torches from nearby members of the group.
Splashes in the water cause some in the group to scream, startled. Those still holding torches wave the light in front of them, trying to make the circle of light wider.
Jaxon grabs Meah and pulls her down to Jayda’s leg. “We need your magic.”
Meah looks at Jayda’s leg and her eyes widen as the mark on Jayda’s leg becomes clear. A misshapen handprint is carved into Jayda’s leg. It looks as though the skin was ripped away as whatever had a hold of her leg lost its grip. The liquid on her leg is a mixture of her blood and a milky substance.
“Meah.” Jaxon’s voice snaps Meah into action. She places her hands on Jayda’s leg and quickly heals the wound.
Dark shadows appear outside of the circle of light, small flashes of reflected light hit wet flesh. Strange shapes in the pools surrounding the group rise and a new sound is heard. A soft clicking followed by a wet suction sound.
“Is she done?” Jaxon whispers in Meah’s ear.
Meah nods and Jaxon signals to Bruer and Fleance. The two pull small jugs from their bags and take large sips of the contents. They raise the torches in front of them and spray the liquids from their mouths.
The torch flames mix with the liquids creating large fireballs that fill the cavern with sudden bright light. Screams fill the caverns as the group sees what is crawling in the darkness.
Hundreds of creatures fill the cavern, surrounding the group. They crawl across the walls, appear from the pools, or stand on the small stretches of stone. They are no larger than an infant. Their long bodies are pale, dark colorings being the organs beneath the thin flesh. Tails move across the surfaces around the creatures, searching for anything to grab. Limbs are long ending on webbed fingers and toes. Milky substances are left behind wherever the creatures place their hands.
The heads are triangular, but where there should be eyes there are only rows of slits that open and close, creating the wet suction sounds. Below the slits, a line cuts across the entire length of the head. When it opens rows of teeth are seen as the mouth takes up most of the head.
Screams erupt through the group echoed by the high-pitched shrieks of the creatures. The heat from the fire balls chase creatures close to the group away.
Two members of the group panic and drop their torches, immediately extinguishing the flames in the water. They shove others to the side, knocking Skara into a pool of water. Ripples increase as the small creatures move swiftly through the water towards her, but Tristan and Bern grab her flailing arms and pull her from the water. Several creatures leap from the water after her, but are frozen in ice.
Tristan, Bern, and Skara look at Daniil who has his hand aimed in front of him. “You okay?” he asks.
Skara nods her head. “Thank you, all of you.”
The two members who knocked Skara into the water run back the way the group had come, disappearing into the darkness. Creatures chase after them. Their screams fill the cave and the shrieking from the creatures escalates.
The screams stop and new sounds rise from the dark, tearing flesh and breaking bones. The group presses forward, trying to escape the terrifying sounds.
Jaxon grabs Meah’s hand. “Run!”