Rowen made her way surprisingly easily through the maze… it seemed the slide she had fallen through had left her in a prime spot, and she did not have to go very far around the maze of walls before reaching its entrance. On the entrance-wall of the maze, a plaque was carved. It must have been from when the tunnels were first created, for it was in a few different languages. Rowen could not read any of these, but she recognized one word, not as old of a carving as the others, at the bottom of a list of names: Larenteth. It must be a list of the names of Larenteth’s ancestors, all possessors of the Master Key. Rowen could gather that this plaque meant that this maze, these tunnels, these vaults… they were all the dominion of Larenteth. It seemed a lot for the youngest elf of the Seerganash… Rowen wondered how he could manage so much. Perhaps he was tougher than he seemed.
A sudden presence of growing noise yanked Rowen from her musings. It was difficult to tell how far or near the source was; echoes prevailed for miles sometimes. Rowen pressed her ear to the ground… it seemed like a lot of feet running. She dismissed this however and began walking down a long tunnel that ran in front of her now, away from the maze. At least echoes made it possible to hear if anyone was coming a long time before they actually reached her, even if the tunnel was exceptionally dim in lighting. Things seemed to be going great, and prospects looking up, as Rowen continued down the tunnel without meeting anyone.
…..She barely heard the sound of running feet until he crashed into her.
Rowen gasped as the black haired, black-cloaked figure nearly toppled her over. The ashen, panic-stricken and deathly frightened face of Larenteth met her gaze, his terrified green Seerganash eyes boring into her yellow ones. As soon as he saw it was she, he relaxed a tiny bit, but looked hurriedly behind him before gripping Rowen.
“Rowen!! Oh I hoped I could find you before…” He gulped and continued quickly. “They know, they know everything! I can’t escape… They know! They know!!! They know it all… They will make me tell, or get rid of me…The hunt has begun.. I just barely escaped…. Castamir knows! You can’t escape Rowen, he has a the Dragon Stone… Get rid of your gold bands!!”
“Larenteth slow down! I can’t do that. I won’t do that. What is going on?? What is a Dragon Stone?”
“No time to explain… LISTEN TO ME!!!” He gripped her arms more tightly and made sure her gaze was locked in his own eerie green eyes. “Castamir is going to use you to… he’s going to make sure you live but…” Larenteth kept stopping as if deciding what was most important to say. Apparently, he decided it was not the latter. He shoved the Master Key into her hands. “Take it, go to the Vantranack, the liquid, it will… your bands, they – “
Larenteth’s voice cut off abruptly. The grip on Rowen’s arms tightened fiercely for a second, then loosened. His eyes went wide in shock, and he sank to his knees. His glazing gaze flicked up to Rowen’s face for a second.
“I’m sorry,” He whispered.
As she struggled to support him, he fell forward into her arms, giving her a clear view of what had just happened.
A single arrow shaft protruded from his back.
When the archer finally reached them, Rowen hardly knew he was coming until he was a few feet away. Before she was really aware of what she was doing, Rowen’s fist had evaded the sword strike, only a lock of her hair catching the blade, and collided with the skull of the attacking elf. She could dimly feel the skull shatter beneath her fist.
In the distance, the sound of hoof beats grew.
Her mind in a misty faze, Rowen kicked aside the dead form of the archer and ran back to Larenteth. He had unlocked her cell. He had given her the frosted glass. He had helped her. And now he was dead for it.
The hoof beats were coming closer, but she couldn’t leave Larenteth’s body there. A clear stream came out of the stone tunnel-wall beside her, and washed swiftly back underneath the stone. Perhaps it would carry his body outside the accursed tunnels, where it had never before been. At least it was better than this tunnel.
With a mighty pull Rowen heaved him into it, and watched him be washed into the water tunnel underneath the rock. She did not take notice that the shaft of stone around her neck was glowing blue.
What to do, what to do? Where was she to go now? Tears streamed down her dark face as Rowen tried to sort out her colliding thoughts. Seerganash were nearing closer on their tunnel horses, Rowen could hear them. Go back to the maze? She would probably be lost, or found quickly by the Seerganash, who would know the way better than she. Plus the place was like a trap, for if found there was no way out over the sharp walls. But Rowen really had no choice right now, for the hoof beats had taken on a metallic clear ring; they were in this tunnel now. How far away, Rowen did not know.
Thinking quickly, she grabbed the black cloak and sword off the dead form of the elf on the ground, hoping it would help to hide and protect her at least somewhat. She gave a moment of pity for the archer elf – perhaps he would not have met such an end had he not grown up with the Seerganash. She felt no anger towards him.
Castamir. It hit her like a wave of icy water. He was the one she directed her anger at, him alone. The realization snapped her out of whatever lasting effects the elixir of Castamir had left on her. He was doing this. He was behind it all.
But why? Was it really his fault? The thought lasted only a fleeting moment in her mind before her newfound blind anger kicked it out. No pity. Those who killed her family did not have pity. There could be no hesitation
With that last prevailing thought, Rowen tore down the tunnel to sift her way through the maze of walls. She had to find Jack.
The band of guards streaked down the hall, their thick-necked, boxy-headed steeds panting through closed teeth and bit. The echo of hooves rang loud and clear in the immaculate tunnel, and the speed of the horses billowed open each Seerganash’s cape. They were on the trail of a traitor. And no one escaped the hunting party of Seerganash. No one and no thing. That this child elf of their own kind had evaded them thus far was beyond disgraceful, it was unspeakably atrocious. If it was any consolation, the young elf did have advantages, for only he dwelled in this wing. No other elf other than one of Lunatrodar’s heir had ever set food inside here. The little turncoat knew every passage and hall, or just about every, and had access by the Master Key through all of them, which no other elf would be able to enter if he locked himself in a room. Strangely, the filthy renegade had not passed doors entered solely by the master key, and thus the hunting party was still on his trail. Though it made it easier for the guard, they wondered why he would do such a thing, keep on running with no hope instead of permanently evading his predators. Probably some devious plot or another… but still the captain of the guard could not dismiss it from her head.
The company skidded to a stop as they nearly trampled a prostrate form on the ground. Archers had been set out; perhaps one had gotten to Larenteth already. Smiling, the captain dismounted and kicked over the body to look at the traitor’s face.
It was not Larenteth.
It was the archer… though what had happened the captain could only guess. One side of his head was smashed in, blood pooling around it on the stone ground, running down into a stream the looped out from underneath the rock. Larenteth’s work? Perhaps, but they had never know him to be very strong or smart at fighting. And on closer inspection… blood on the ground – there was two different puddles. A smaller one lay about six feet from the dead Seerganash elf, and not of the same blood. The captain bent down, her leather creaking, and dipped her fingers in it.
“Larenteth’s blood.” She announced to the rest of her company. Nearby, half of a shaft of broken arrow lay on the ground, covered in the same blood. So Larenteth had been shot… but how had he managed to kill the elf and get away, without even trailing blood? Seerganash archers do not strike lightly. The answer to this question came swiftly; on closer inspection of the dead archer, the captain of the guard found a lock of coarse black hair, hewn neatly by a sword blade. The captain pushed back her hood and let her sleek black hair cascade softly over her shoulders. With piercing green Seerganash eyes, she held the lock of found hair to her own. The hair was not Seerganash hair. There was only one head of hair that matched this: the dragon girl’s hair. Rowen had been here; she had killed the archer
The captain stiffened. The archer had been her brother. With a scowl she pocketed the hair and remounted her horse. What had Larenteth been able to tell her? Hopefully not much, her brother’s skill with a bow would have finished him quickly. But could it be that the reason Larenteth had not locked himself safely behind Master Key-ed doors for the sole purpose of finding Rowen and talking to? No matter. Larenteth was dead. The captain had specific instructions not to chase Rowen unless the girl was in her sight.
It was time to report to Castamir. With a whistle, Réllika brought her company swiftly around, their tunnel horses pivoting with amazing precision, and they galloped back up the tunnel.
Chapter 1: https://www.theonering.com/docs/9127.html
Chapter 30: https://www.theonering.com/docs/11165.html