A scream from the previous room, reverberated into the current one and Raithe stopped. Every strand of fur on his tail and ears, stood on end. He knew what it was. The frightening creature from the crypt. He had only maimed it a little... no, it was less than maimed. More like irritated. Sharp claws scraped stone and Raithe whirled around, catching its hands on his dagger before it really had the chance to attack.
He glanced quickly to the side, where Mika was currently standing. Like him, the kid's tail was fat and his ears were down. “It's alright Mika, I'll... be fine,” he said through gritted teeth. He knew he actually wouldn't be fine. It was taking all of his strength to hold the creature up. “You should probably... go...”
“I won't!” Mika said determinedly.
“Come... on Mika.”
“No! I refuse to leave you behind like a coward!”
Despite all the trouble he was currently having, Raithe still found time to roll his eyes. Children didn't often know what it meant to be brave. Sometimes they thought that by staying and fighting a battle they couldn't possibly win, they'd be showing bravery. Raithe knew, because he was like that once. At least... he thought he might have been. The truth was actually very different.
Being brave was more like, standing up against a terrible injustice. Running away from a battle which couldn't be won and defending your friends. “I don't... know if I can defeat this... thing,” Raithe said. His arms were now being pushed even further into an awkward position and they were starting to hurt.
“Go... Mika...” Raithe said.
Mika shook his head, but continued to stand there.
“Oh for cryin out...!” with every bit of strength he could muster up, Raithe twisted the dagger and threw the creature across the room. In that moment, the dagger glowed a luminescent blue and began to change. Its hild became longer, wider and its crystalline blade, became longer and sharper.
The creature's toe nails dug into the stone, slowing it and they gave it just enough traction to leap toward him again.
Raithe rolled as one of those sharp clawed hands, came towards him. Then he came back to his feet. The monster he was looking at, was something else. A creature so strange and foreign to him, that he had to wonder where in the universe, it came from. Another claw came at him fast and Raithe twisted to the side. Rolling with the blow, allowing it to miss him.
It screamed again and then lept into the air. Those long legs were meant for jumping. Its long arms were meant for grabbing and its claws for slicing. But not him.
As it fell back down, Raithe swept the sword in a large arc around the room. He didn't even feel any force when it went through the creature's body. It happened so quickly, that Raithe didn't even know until it was already done. At his feet, it fell.
Raithe flicked the sword and little flecks of green fell from it. Then it changed once again, back into the thing it wanted to be.
“W-what is that?” Mika asked incredulous.
“During the third challenge, I found this dagger,” Raithe answered.
“And they let you keep it?”
“Not exactly,” Raithe said, pointedly looking away. “I don't have any other weapons and obviously I didn't receive enough for one when I arrived. Besides, this seems a little too valuable to give to people I know nothing about.”
“Yeah... it is.”
“Alright, let's go,” Raithe said as he slipped the dagger back into his belt.
Crossing the room, the found a trap door with a staircase leading down. The wooden steps squeaked as they descended. In the air, the scent of must, mold and mildew. About halfway down, one of them cracked with large chunks and splinters flying towards the ground below. Mika's foot became stuck in the poorly maintained structure and Raithe had to reach over and pull him out.
“You alright?” Raithe asked.
“Yeah, let's keep going.”
It was when his foot reached the bottom, where he stood on solid ground, that the entire area suddenly lit up. Torches in their sconces whooshed alight with crackling flames. In response to them, Mika hid as close to Raithe as was even possible and Felix nudged up against his leg. Well... he didn't blame them, he was nervous too. He breathed in a deep, calming breath and nearly gagged.
“Wha... what could... possibly smell this... bad!” Raithe covered his nose.
Mika did the same, shaking his head because he must have been unable to speak.
Felix on the other hand, put her ears back and growled, low and menacing. She meant business and would attack anything that appeared. The smell must have really been getting to her, considering she probably had a better sense of smell than either of them.
“We... shouldn't linger here,” Mika said, still struggling to breathe.
“You're right,” Raithe replied.
The smell, was almost the same as the black goo. Somehow though, it was far worse and potent. Trying to ignore it the best he could, Raithe covered his nose and mouth and led the way into an adjacent hallway.
It was long and narrow. The corridor seemed to go on forever and he was unable to see the end. Looking down it, it almost seemed like a trap to him. Was it a trap? But as far as he could tell, there were no other ways out of the previous room. Cautiously, he began to walk forward. Raithe kept his ears on alert for any sound that could alert him to danger.
Another amount of time went by and he was sure this time, that it was more then just a couple of hours. The other room had long since vanished from view and the corridor seemed to extend for an eternity.
“When is this going to end Raithe?” Mika asked.
Raithe shook his head. “I don't know,” he replied. “But let's keep going.”
After walking for a while longer, Raithe began to notice a pattern on the wall. Two torches that were lit, followed by two that were not. The pattern would then repeat, over and over again. Raithe stopped and began to inspect one. Perhaps their way out had something to do with this.
“Raithe?” Mika asked.
“Do you maybe... have any way of lighting a fire?” he asked without looking away.
“Um... yeah I do. With magic.”
“Can you light this?”
Mika nodded. “Okay, now stand back,” he warned.
Raithe did and watched curiously as Mika cupped his hands and blew gently into them. Orange flickered to life and glowed within them and then the boy took a step back and blew a quiet flame out of his hands. It was like a ribbon of fiery gold as it streamed upwards and into the torches. At first, nothing happened. Then they both flickered to life.
The floor rumbled quietly and Raithe looked towards the noise. A section of it had opened up, with a staircase leading down into the deep, dark. “This way,” Raithe said as he led the way down. The door rumbled closed, leaving them in pitch blackness.