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TotTSM – Part 10

  Running Cover

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    Phena’s lungs couldn’t seem to get enough air as she and Voren crawled through this tunnel as fast as they were able to in the dark. There wasn’t an inch she moved that she didn’t wish both that things had transpired differently, and that they had brought the torch. They had long since moved beyond the point where its light would’ve been useful where they had left it. And then again, perhaps it was best she NOT know what it was her hands were touching. Gods only knew. Dead rats, dead buys, LIVE bugs? The thoughts made her shudder but she didn’t slow down, despite the things she had taken from Ori’s chambers. It was a balancing act to move and not drop any of it, while he palms and her knees scrapped and scuttled across icy cold, wet, slimy bricks or cobblestones.

 “How… much.. longer.. does… does this go on…?” she huffed, not looking back nor stopping as she panted those words.

 “I don’t know…” came the equally heavy reply. “She said we would know when we got to the end. Ob…viously.. we… we haven’t gotten there yet. I.. imagine it’s quite the distance from the palace to the north city wall…. I should… I should have explored that area a little… more.. I might.. have some idea where the door is…” he huffed, sweat pouring off his brow. Even so, he didn’t stop. They couldn’t afford to. He couldn’t get Ori and her last words out of his head. What did she mean when she called him ‘my son’?

 “I can’t… I have to stop for a moment…” Phena gasped, stopping where she crawled; chest heaving as she did so.

“No… no  we can’t.. Go on Phena. We need every second…. Ori…. Ori was right, as soon as they attacked her… Killed her… our clock began tick… ticking.. They know we know… Or they know that someone has been talking to her recently… I wouldn’t be… be surprised if … they’ve got guards swarming every inch of the place and the grounds.. Maybe… even.. the walls itself…. Go on.. phena… p-Please…” he wheezed, but Phena only shook her head; vain as the gesture might have been in the pitch black void they were crawling through.

  Every  inch of her hated this. She couldn’t stand to feel so closed in.. Although, who in their right mind would have found something like this to be a fun time?  Not only was the walls too close for her comfort, but the complete darkness also gave her the willies. She could only guess how many cob webs she had plastered across her face and hands; the insects possibly crawling through her hair and clothes.

 “Urg..” she huffed. “Alright… fine… I’m.. I’m sorry… to have… have stopped..” she noted with a bitter taste in her mouth.

 Despite the protests of their aching limbs and nearly numb hands, Phena and Voren continued on through the tunnel until it suddenly opened in to a small room, with a crate in the ceiling through which a bit of moonlight was streaming through.

 “We’ve got to be nearly through.” Voren breathed, glancing around for a moment. At the very far end, he noticed two doors, roughly the same size as the one they had come through earlier into this hellish tunnel. Crawling closer, he noticed each door had a small symbol in the center. There appeared to be some kind of theme about them and the other decorations engraved in each door, but the symbols themselves were very different. In the light they were given from the moon, Voren and Phena could see the symbols were some kind of animal perhaps. They noted the shapes and curves of something, but anything detailed had either been eaten away by time and the elements, or were just too faint to make out in this light.

  “Please tell me we can rest here? Even for a second?” Phena breathed, already settling onto her backside defiantly.

“Yeah… I sure as hell am…” Voren breathed. Sinking down himself until his lungs seemed sufficently filled and relaxed enough as to not cause him any more trouble. “Judging by the position of the moon, from what I can see anyway, I would say its… I don’t know… nearly eleven? Close to midnight. Somewhere around there.”

 “We’ve been in the tunnel THAT long?” Phena questioned in disbelief. Of course the tunnel felt endless, but she really didn’t think they had been passing through it for so long. “And yes.. I’d say closer to midnight from what I can see anyway.  Looks like the star Fheanom is visible. That only appears around midnight or so…. If that’s what I’m seeing anyway through these bars.” she squinted one last time and say back with a minor sigh of relief. “Do you think we’ve passed them? Or eluded them? The guards, I mean.”

 “I’d say it’s a good possibility… but I wouldn’t put a copper on anything until we’re out and I can breath some fresh air. Then we’ll figure out our first move…”

 “Yeah.. Me neither.” Phena sighed. Having to resist the urge to flop back as she might have done were she some place clean and with a bed. “What are you looking at, by the way?”

 “There are marks on these doors. I’ve sure you’ve seen them in the light.. What light we have anyway.. Do you have that ring Ori gave you? I seem to remember a design on it that seems vaguely familiar..”

“Yeah,” Phena nodded, plucking the ring from inside the light bodice sewn into the dress Ori had given her. Conveniently, it had a small pouch on the inside into which the ring fit perfectly.. Somehow, she couldn’t help but believe it was hardly coincidence. “here you are..” exhaling loudly as the ring passed from her hand to Voren’s. “Can you see it well enough?”

“I think so…” returned Voren, scooting over towards the moonlight streaming in. “Well, enough anyway.. I think we take the door on the left… The markings look similar.. I can’t believe Ori told us to take this if this wasn’t meant to happen.. From what I can tell in the markings… These lines here look the same on that door. The crest here.. Looks maybe like a wave or some kind of water mark.”

 “And you’re certain we’re supposed to take THAT way? What if it leads to the sewers or something? Or we get to the end and it suddenly floods and we die?!” Phena asked incredulously. Plucking the ring back, she too examined it in detail beneath the moonlight. Turning it this way that way, to and fro, close to her eyes and then back a little. Her gaze shifted then to the small doors, and before long she too noted that the door on the left had the same kind of markings as was engraved within the azure stone of this ring. “Ori… she must’ve… I mean.. I guess.. we really ought to go that way.. But if it winds up a trap or something.. I’m going to kill her..”

 Despite his sorrow over losing Ori, Phena noted Voren gave a tiny smile and chuckle of his own..

 “I’m sure she would tell you the same..” he mused.

 They sat for a couple more minutes to catch their breath and rest up for what each of them hoped was the last leg of this insane marathon to get away. Finally Phena tucked the ring into the bodice pocket and started for the door on the left.

“Let’s get going… We shouldn’t rest too long. Time is of the essence, after all..”

 With a nod, Voren was right behind her, helping to pry open the cold iron door, which like all the other ones so far was not exactly kept in the best condition.. He wondered if anyone in the palace remembered these tunnels were down here..

 With the door open enough to crawl through, closing it again was out of the question, but that didn’t stop Voren from turning on his back long enough to snake his foot up underneath the bar behind the door, and pull it mostly shut. Gods forbid there really was anyone following them, he didn’t want to leave it wide open as a calling card. That done, he turned back onto all fours and quickly caught up with Phena, who seemed to be having a great deal of difficulty.

 “Whats the matter?” he whispered, touching the small of her back.

 “It’s just.. this tunnel… and the last one… I’m … it’s just so dark and I have no way of knowing whats in front of me… I just have this fear that it’s going to suddenly collapse around me and no one will ever know what happened..”

 “Such is the way with life Phena.. We just have to keep moving forward until it comes to the end.. I’ll be right behind you, alright? If you fall, I fall. I wont abandon you now.”

 Rather touched by his words, Phena smiled for a moment, drew a deep breath and started back down this winding tunnel. Silently praying with every forward step taken that they would see some kind of light streaming in. The moment they were free of this place could not come soon enough..

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