TotTSM – Part 11
It felt like another solid hour of slow, tedious crawling passed before Phena finally saw the last door of the tunnels. She had no way to know, of course, just how long she and Voren crawled through this cold, dark, dank, freezing, nasty tunnel before that point, but it was definitely long enough. They might’ve made better time had they not needed to stop a few times and catch their breath again before continuing on, but the further each of them crawled, the more hope slowly began to permeate through them of seeing an end. Perhaps that was more desperation than hope, but by the time Phena slammed her shoulder against the cold iron door, neither of them cared.
The ancient iron door opened with a loud groan and creak of protest but slowly gave way to Phena, and eventually Vorens ministrations. Once the door was open enough to let them through, each of them drank deep of the fresh night air. Sweat pouring off their bodies, the pair huddled by the door for some time though they were well aware it couldn’t be as long as they wanted. By now half the palace guard had to have been dispatched to find them; find the murderer or murderers of Ori and bring them to justice.
Well, it would be more probably that Voren would be the one left to hang and Phena would be whisked off to.. whatever it was they had planned for her… If what Ori said had been true.. Although why would she lie about something like that; make it up in the last moments of her life, no less.
“What… what do you think they’re doing now?” whispered Phena, who tore her eyes away from the heavens to look at Voren while she spoke.
“That’s anyone’s guess, I suppose..” he shrugged, returning the gaze with a solemn look upon his countenance. “It’s been…” his eyes craning to the sky and noting the position of the biggest moon. “Goddess… an hour– no. Two since we started on our escape… They’ve probably got half the guard and most of the reserve drummed up looking for the culprits.. The pretend culprits anyway…” unintentionally echoing Phena’s thoughts, causing her to smile slightly.
“Probably.. I suppose I can understand why they might kill her, question is how did they know… anything about her?” Phena signed. pushing handfuls of dirt away from the door that prevented it from opening a great deal. Once outside, she turned and noticed that the little door had opened beneath a small ledge of earth on the outskirt of the city itself. There was so much over growth and tangling vines that she found it a wonder the door had even opened at all, between that and how tight the hinges seemed to be. “We’re even beyond the city walls.” Phena noted with a quiet, almost relieved sigh.
“Yeah.. it’s no wonder then why it took so long for us to get through..” Voren noted and tentatively crawled beyond the safety of the tunnel and rose to his feet; scanning the area intently while Phena listened to the sounds of the night. Aside from some hooting owls and a few odd crickets, there didn’t seem to be anything suspicious. No hiding soldiers, no clinking of armor or swords thumping against shields awaiting the order to attack. Thus far, all appeared tame. Though she dare not linger too long.
“I wish I knew what she meant,” Phena breathed, also rising to her feet.
“About them wanting you for something?” Voren inquired, ducking back into the tunnel for a moment to grab the chest and the other items they had been bade to take from Ori’s room before she passed.
“Mmhm,” Phena nodded, hands upon her hips, still not quite tired of breathing in the fresh air. For a while there, it felt as though they were doomed to breathe that stale, putrid air for the rest of their lives. As if the stink of the Palace and its inhabitants would never leave her.. “I mean, why would she say such things? Why would they- whoever ‘they’ are, want to find me? For what? I’m nothing special, Voren. Hardly that. Just a girl with some strange dreams every now and then.”
“Dreams that plucked you from your bed on more than one occasion and deposited you however far away from home. And this time chose to drop you on my door step in the middle of some very unusual circumstances and a growing air of darkness. Where innocent girls like yourself have been taken off the streets int he last few weeks for nothing more than wearing the wrong dress or something these people deemed as inappropriate.. I’ve seen a few of them when they’ve been returned to their families and it isn’t difficult to see that something terrible had been done to them. At least that they perceived as something terrible in any case..” Voren sighed, growing almost irritated at her confusion.
What did it matter what these people or any people wanted with her? the fact that ‘They’ wanted Phena for whatever reason should’ve been cause enough for her to want to put as much distance between her and them as possible until she learned of the reasons. Certainly Ori would not have spoken of or to Phena like that just because. Maybe she wasn’t some deity incarnate, but if the goddesses thought Phena special enough to pluck her from her town; from her very own bed in the middle of the night and bring her here, than it -meant- something.
Phena realized Voren was staring at her, with an almost harsh, rather critical look on his face, and she shivered. Hugging herself around her chest out of habit.
“What?” she snapped, scowling at him.
“Nothing… I just… think you’re thinking too much, Phena. You don’t think you’re ‘special’, but someone obviously does. You can’t breathe fire, or levitate I don’t think, but that doesn’t mean that some part of you isn’t considered valuable enough to covet above all else. And in any event it doesn’t really matter. Right now we’ve got to focus on getting you out and away from this place; finding someone who might See what we’re supposed to do.”
It was Phena’s turn to look at her companion oddly. Perhaps she was over-thinking it, but she couldn’t help that.. Whatever was going on was affecting her directly, and now Voren as well. Ori’s life had been taken because of her, and somehow she felt more than a touch responsible for that..
“I guess you’re right..” smoothing a stray piece of hair behind an ear. “I guess we should head off now.” a little more than grateful that Voren said ‘WE’ and not ‘you’. Phena was not one to normally rely on companionship as of late, but this wasn’t exactly her everyday, hum-drum life either. Plus Voren knew this area, she didn’t.. To cast off such a person at a time like this would be suicide.
Voren nodded, a light smile then softening his sudden stern visage.
“Ori said.. directly out from the city edge to the river, right?” she asked, grabbing some of their belongings.
“Thereabouts.” nodded Voren, who glanced around them one last time. “I don’t think I’ve ever been this way before. Not in recent memory anyway, but a rive is pretty hard to miss. So.. let’s see if we can find it soon, if not, we find some out of the way spot to make camp in and start out first thing. Sound like a plan?” He inquired with dare Phena say an almost optimistic tone to his voice?
“Mm.” She nodded. “Sounds like a plan..”
“Shall I lead the way?” Voren mused, almost in a purr. Causing Phena to roll her eyes playfully.
“No. I know the stars well enough to guide myself in a straight line. However, you may walk beside me if you’d like.”
“I’d like.” Voren mused in the affirmative, and together they started off into the woods, finding their steps came much easier and quicker than hurried crawling through cramped tunnels in the pitch black.
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