Chapter 31

“You going to talk to me about what just happened back there?” Saber asked as she rushed to catch up. Riley strode down the dark corridor, not making it easy for her to do so.

The corridor seemed darker than they both remembered, and the torches along the walls didn’t seem as bright. With the uneven rocks they had to walk on, they both had to struggle to keep from staggering.

“What do you mean?” Riley didn’t look at her as her pace quickened.

“Hey, hold up.” Saber reached out to grasp her arm. “Talk to me.”

“You don’t know me.” Riley spun, Saber nearly running into her. “You and I just met the other day, so you have no idea who I am. I don’t need someone to watch over me or feel like they need to protect me. You do what you need to do-”

“Hey,” Saber said quietly, refusing to meet her burning glare.

“-and I will do what I need to do. You fight all you want. I might even help, but you do not need to protect me out of some sense of obligation!” Riley yelled, frustrated, then noticed Saber wasn’t looking at her, but somewhere above her.

Riley looked up, just in time to see the creature above her leap from the ceiling. She couldn’t distinguish much, but she did see large teeth, large claws, and bright orange eyes.

She tried to dodge out of the way, teeth coming straight toward her throat, but there wasn’t time. It was going to get her.

Riley barely registered a flash of light, but the goo that suddenly splashed down on her made her cry out and step back. Heart pounding, she looked at Saber, whose blade was extended. Riley had to shield her eyes from the blinding light.

Saber looked at the ground. Riley followed her gaze, seeing the creature lying at her feet, body sliced in two. The first thing she noticed was how much smaller it was. Only seeing the teeth coming at her, she imagined some large nightmare of a creature. However, if it were standing, it would have barely come up to her waist. It was also wiry, the arms and legs extremely long compared to the short torso. The reason Riley had only seen its eyes, claws, and teeth was because everything else on the creature was black. Its tough, leathery skin was completely dark, and as it lay on the ground, unmoving, it was hard to tell what was rock and what was creature.

Those teeth, though… She looked closer. Every single one was at least an inch long and protruded, its mouth full of them. And the thing’s face was mostly mouth. It looked like it could swallow one of their heads whole and it wasn’t even half their size.

Then there were the claws. Each was at least three inches in length and looked to be razor-sharp. They would have to be because the creature seemed to be able to cling to rock. It had been on the ceiling, ready to attack. They wouldn’t have even seen it had Saber not been looking up.

“What are these things?” Riley asked as she looked back at Saber, who scanned the walls around them.

“Shh,” she hissed.

“But what are these things? What are you not telling me? How did you know it was there?”

“I didn’t. Now shut up.”

“You were watching for it.”

Saber growled softly. “No, I wasn’t.”

“You were looking up. You knew it was going to attack us.”

“No. Now shut up.”

“Then how?”

“Shut up, will you?”

“Saber, what are you not telling me.”

“I’m not telling you…” She blew out a breath. “The only reason I was looking up was because I didn’t want to look at you. Not when you were being all crabby. I just heard something and happened to see the glint of the claws as it slipped out of the shadows. I almost didn’t see it, but I had heard it. Now, will you shut up and listen? I think there are more of them.”

Saber could tell there was more Riley wanted to say. She looked like a fish, opening and closing her mouth, struggling to keep in the angry words that wanted to spill out. It would have looked comical if Saber wasn’t trying so hard to listen to their surroundings.

There!

She heard it. A slight scratching sound just behind her on the right. Then another, getting closer. She felt the hairs rise on the back of her neck. It wasn’t quite on top of them yet, but she knew it was close. It might have been her imagination, but she swore she felt a change in the air.

Riley’s eyes grew wide as she stared over Saber’s shoulder, so she knew it must be right behind her. She turned swiftly, her blade slicing through the air, goo splashing as the creature fell into two pieces.

“Like I said, I heard it. Now shut up and listen,” Saber hissed.

They both stood there, listening, glancing around. Riley tried scanning the walls, but the lack of light made it difficult. If anything, the additional light from their weapons made it harder to see because they were so bright. It made adjusting their eyes to the darkness impossible.

Their vision useless, they needed to focus and listen. Around them, they heard a lot of clicking, the claws digging into the rock around them. There were more of them, a lot more, and they all scurried in their direction.

Riley looked back at Saber, whose eyes had gone wide. There had to be thousands of them, all moving closer from every direction.

“How do you like my little friends?” The creature’s voice echoed around them.

Riley and Saber spun, putting their backs to one another as they searched for the source.

“Oh, don’t worry. I’m not there with you. I’m having too much fun with your friend. I just thought you might be getting bored, so I conjured up some gremlins. Or are they goblins? I don’t know. They all kinda look alike, ya know? Anyway, one or two are nothing, so I made sure they brought a lot of friends. Enjoy.”

The voice faded on a bitter laugh, but as it fell away, the first few creatures became visible. They scrambled on the walls and ceiling, moving steadily toward them.

“What are we going to do?” Saber asked. “We’re trapped, and you, well… You know.”

“Shut up.”

“We can see them now, Riley, so we don’t really need to listen for them anymore.”

“No. Just shut up and follow me.”

“What?”

Run!” Riley said, taking off in the direction of the dragon’s lair. As she ran, she swung her axe furiously, cutting down the little goblins as she went.

“Riley! Wait!” Saber yelled, but she’d already disappeared into the darkness. Before Saber could follow, five of the creatures dropped down from the ceiling, blocking her way. Behind her, another three appeared from the darkness. Saber was surrounded. The only thing she could do was start swinging her blade.

The voice was right. Individually, these things were easy to kill, but when eight of them surrounded her and she killed five, the other three had gotten very close. One tried to bite her leg, which she barely avoided. She dodged and sliced through it, only to have the other two get behind her.

She spun and cut them down, then looked up and saw ten more of the little creatures ready to pounce.

She had no choice. Just as Riley had, Saber ran.

Published by JasonRDavis

Author of the #zombie apocalypse trilogy Invisible Spiders and the Edge of Darkness series.

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