Chapter 34

Riley sensed herself moving. She just wasn’t sure how or where she was. The world around her felt foggy, and there was a stabbing pain at the base of her neck.

“I got you,” a familiar voice said.

“Wha…,” Riley started to say, but her mouth felt full of cotton and she doubted she could say more.

“Don’t worry. You’re going to be okay. You’re one of us, and we take care of our own,” Saber said.

Riley cracked open her eyes and saw Saber supporting the weight of her upper body as she dragged her down the corridor.

“Wait… Was I sleeping?” Riley mumbled.

“You were out, that’s for sure.”

“How can I be asleep while I’m asleep. That-”

Saber shook her head, grunting, and Riley noticed the strain on her face. Riley struggled to dig in her feet to stop.

“Hey-” Saber started, but Riley slowly put her weight on her legs to stand on her own. Saber looked at her, jaw dropping.

“I was asleep, in a dream? How is that even possible?”

“I’ll do you one better… How are you walking?” Saber asked, looking down at Riley’s foot.

Riley followed her gaze and looked at her own two feet… Her own two feet that were whole, nothing wrong with either one. There wasn’t even a scratch in her shoe from where the goblin’s teeth had torn through it. It was like nothing had ever happened.

That was when Riley really looked around her. She needed to confirm that it really happened.

The walls were covered in soot, the ground a thick layer of ash, and the stalagmites were gone. There were also little flames burning around them, probably the remains of the goblins. One major plus, though, was all the torches were lit again, and with the goblin corpses on fire, it was actually brighter than before.

“Riley? How are you walking? You were in real pain before.” Saber shook her head. “I thought you’d lost your foot. Now it looks like you were never scratched. I thought you could really get hurt in here.”

She shrugged. “I don’t know.”

“But-”

“I don’t know, Saber. How long have we been walking? It feels like this corridor goes on forever.”

“I couldn’t tell ya. You were out for a while, so I guess I’ve been walking for some time. I was worried more of those goblins would show up, but they’ve left us alone.”

“Are you sure we’re going the right way?” Riley asked. It was really hard to tell which way they were walking. It did feel odd that she was able to walk on her foot again and that there was nothing wrong with it.

She’d changed the subject because one, she didn’t know why she was better, and two, she realized the more they talked about it, the more her foot had begun to ache.

Eyes full of doubt and biting her lip, Saber looked back at Riley. She felt her heart sink.

“We might be going the wrong way?”

“Well, we did do a lot of fighting. There’s a chance I could have gotten turned around and that we are going back the other way. Remember, the door to the castle was hard to find. It’s not like I would have seen it or anything.”

“So we could have been walking in the wrong direction for hours?”

Saber shrugged and looked back and forth down the two stretches of corridor. Both directions were identical.

“I am really beginning to hate this place,” Riley growled as she leaned against the cavern wall.

“It’s not usually like this.”

She snorted. “So you keep saying. Why can’t things be simple? The first time I popped in, the dragon was right there. Boom, we fight it, then we’re done. This is just too much walking. Who would have thought I would be doing this much walking in a dream?”

“Yeah. We’re usually just teleported, but that’s because we are always around our subject. This dream…” She shook her head. “This whole setup is massive. I’ve never-”

Riley held up a hand. “I know, you’ve never seen anything like it. Ya know what? I’m getting really tired of hearing that.”

Saber nodded. “Understood.”

They both heard some rocks fall from the direction they’d come. Then more sounds, though they were hard to place. It was almost like there were a lot of creatures shuffling toward them. It didn’t sound like claws, though, so Riley doubted it was the goblins again.

Saber extended her blade. Riley almost did the same, but something in her gut told her it wasn’t necessary.

Moments passed, the sound getting closer. It definitely sounded like a large stampede headed in their direction. Saber looked at Riley, motioning toward her axe with an expression on her face that screamed, What are you doing?

Still, Riley only pushed herself off the wall and walked over to Saber.

She bounced on the balls of her feet, ready to pounce the second anything attacked them.

Then she stopped and looked surprised. The sound of scurrying calmed, though didn’t go away completely. It still sounded like there was slight movement in the darkness, but it remained in one general area.

That was when the largest frog Riley had ever seen hopped out of the darkness. She blinked in surprise. Riley loved frogs. She’d read a lot about them, always finding the creatures so curious. In part, much of that fascination had started when she realized how much her father found them disgusting, but it had only grown with research.

This one was more than a foot tall, which made it larger than the Goliath frogs she had read about. In the darkness of the cavern, it’s dark green coloring was very hard see. That was another thing that amazed her about frogs. How they could easily hide in plain sight, even on the brightest of days.

Riley had to wonder how many more of them there were. There could be thousands, and they wouldn’t be too far behind this massive frog. Their natural camouflage would keep them hidden.

“Great. Killer frogs. What’s it going to do? Open its mouth and have rows of teeth?” Saber said, going into a fighter’s stance.

“I don’t know. I don’t think it’s here to hurt us.”

“You heard how many of the things are behind it. There’s gotta be thousands of ‘em. What else are they here for?”

“I don’t know.”

Saber groaned. “There’s a lot you don’t know.”

“Yeah, well, I’m the rookie. Come on, Obi-Wan. Start giving me some answers.”

“My answer is to kill it.”

“I don’t know,” Riley repeated to herself, looking at the frog. It seemed to be watching her. She didn’t sense that it wanted to hurt them, but why else would it be here?

Then the frog took a massive leap into the air, coming straight for them.

Published by JasonRDavis

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

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