Autumn Whispers (Page 20)

Trenyth pushed aside the elf trying to help the woman and knelt beside her. “Have you called for the healers?”

“Yes, Lord Trenyth. They are on the way.”

“What happened?” He managed to flip her over so the froth didn’t choke her. As her body spasmed, he laid his hands on her and I had the feeling he was working some sort of magic.

The elf he’d pushed aside answered. “We were discussing what the . . .” He paused, glancing our way, and his gaze flickered back to Trenyth, who seemed to understand what he was about to say.

“It’s all right. They’re here to help.”

“Thank you, my Lord. We were talking about the energy looming over the city when Elthea slipped into a trance. Her eyes rolled back in her head and she said, in a loud male voice, ‘It’s too late . . . we are here.’ And then, she went into seizure.”

At that moment, the healers burst through the room and took over. Trenyth moved back to give them space. I tapped Camille and Menolly on the shoulder, and we moved off to the side. Shade followed.

“What the hell is going on?” I told them what Greta had said to me, figuring we’d better have everything out in the open.

Camille pressed her lips together and glanced over her shoulder at Elthea, who now seemed to be out of the convulsions, but was still unconscious. “The question is, who spoke through her?”

Trenyth joined us. “Come with me. This requires a visit. I normally would never allow you where we’re going, but after what you felt, Camille, and what Greta said to you, Delilah, you must come with me. I’m afraid Shade cannot join us. We don’t allow dragons in the restricted area. Nor Menolly, I’m afraid.”

Menolly held up her hand when I started to protest. “It’s all right. Shade and I’ll join Trillian to help watch after Chase and Sharah. We’ll be right here when you get back.”

Without waiting for our answer, Trenyth hurried Camille and me through the room and out the back. He said nothing, hushing me before I could ask where we were going. We followed silently, rushing to keep up with him. His feet were flying, and while we could keep to a pace, it wasn’t easy. Elves were lighter on their feet than the Fae.

The corridors went by in a haze of marble and magical light, and I lost track of the twists and turns as we wound our way through the palace. Camille gave me a strained look but remained silent. As we passed, no sound followed except for the hollow stroke of her heels against the marble, and the soft fall of my boots. We were a blur of motion, a whirlwind racing through the empty corridors. I had no sense of what time it was, though I knew it couldn’t be later than eight o’clock ES time.

And then, we were there. Wherever there was. A solid gray door, carved in granite, stood before us. There was no knocker, and no handle. Trenyth motioned for us to stand back and began to incant a spell. The elvish he was speaking was older than time, older than I could recognize, and when I looked to Camille, she shook her head.

The ancient, sonorous rhythm of Trenyth’s voice lulled me. He sang the words, on and on, weaving the magic through them. He was a charmer with a snake, a whisperer of horses, a tamer of all beasts and wild things, and his voice could cajole blood from the body, stones from the earth.

A minute passed, then another. On the third, the door shifted, slowly swinging inward. Trenyth let his words drift back into silence and nodded for us to follow him through. As we entered the room, I was surprised to see it was quite plain, not elaborate at all. There was a table in the center, and on that table, in a stand large enough to safely hold it, a glowing crystal orb. It was bigger than my head, bigger than a bowling ball, and it was emanating a brilliant blue light from its core.

The room was nearly empty, except for the dais and the orb. There were chairs around the table, tall enough to lean over to gaze at the crystal. The room was lit by eye catchers, softly glowing near the ceiling. Trenyth motioned for us to take a seat. Camille slid into the chair next to him, and I sat on the other side.

I wanted to ask what we were looking for, but a crackle sounded from the orb and the light began to spin. Camille leaned closer. I wanted to say “back away” . . . I wanted to shout “get out of there” . . . but there was no time.

The spinning blue light swirled into a vortex that rose over our heads. It spread out, clouds filling the room, flickering silver with sparkles of blue mixed throughout.

“Pretty . . .” Camille sounded entranced. She stood and reached up, as if to touch the mist. As Trenyth realized what was going on, he dove for her, as I tried to make my way across the table.

The clouds began to spin again, faster and faster, filling the room, expanding out, forks of miniature lightning flaring out to attach themselves to Camille. They began to attack her, racing up and down her body as she tried to slap them away.

Trenyth lunged, trying to protect her as I tripped over a hidden flange on the table and went skidding over the edge, hitting my chin on the floor. We all went down, with the lightning focusing on Camille. A moment later, as we scrambled for the door, the room shook and a sound like crashing thunder rolled through the air. The storm clouds we were facing shrank and vanished.

“Fuck, what’s happening?” Camille managed to pull herself by holding on to one of the chairs.

I followed suit, realizing that the floor was rolling under our feet. “Earthquake!”

Trenyth panicked. “The Queen! I must get to her side!” He turned to us.

“Go—we’ll find our way out. Just go.” I shoved him toward the door and he stumbled out as the quaking went on and on. The sound grew from thunder to freight train, and I thought I could hear screams racing by, a blur in the mayhem.

Camille made her way over to the door, crawling on her hands and knees. “We need to get in the arch!”

But the door had swung shut again and there was no visible handle, no way to open it. We were trapped in the room. On the plus side, our nasty lightning storm seemed to be gone, but on the other hand—so did any escape. And the rumbling beneath our feet continued to grow.

“Get under the table, it looks strong enough to shield us.” I grabbed Camille by the arm. We crawled under the dais, which was made of solid marble. If it cracked on us, we’d have one hell of a headache, but if it held, we’d be protected from falling debris. And given that the quake hadn’t stopped, I doubted we’d get through without something breaking off and tumbling down from the ceiling.

The rumbling became more violent. Camille and I held on to each other, cowering against the center pedestal. I could hear her whispering something under her breath but couldn’t tell if it was a spell or a prayer.

Rolling in waves, the floor rippled beneath us, like an ocean of marble, fracturing as a network of faults ran through it. And then, a loud crash, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw something thunder to the ground in a shower of dust. Another crack, and another shower of dust.

I had no clue how long the quake had been rolling through the palace. It felt like forever, like it would never end, and my stomach lurched with both fear and nausea. The worst boat ride in the world would be better than this. And then . . . slowly, the noise began to fade, and Camille squeezed my hand as the rolling slowed and—finally—stopped.

We waited for a moment, then scrambled out from beneath the table. The eye catchers were still glowing, but the dust clouded our sight. Only a few feet away, one of the stone figurines ornamenting the walls had tumbled to the floor, barely missing the table. It was big enough that it would have smashed us flat, for sure, if it had hit.

Coughing as the clouds of dust and debris filled the air, we stared at the destruction. The room was unrecognizable. Whatever decoration there had been lay in ruins, and the floor was a mishmash of broken marble. Camille inched her way closer to me and I took her hand, afraid to move for fear of setting off something.

Just then, an aftershock hit. Camille let out a scream as another one of the statues in the room toppled toward us. I grabbed her and ran, pulling her along with me by the wrist. Seconds later, the marble figurine landed right where we’d been standing, smashing into huge chunks and shaking the room.

“We have to get out of here. How are we going to get that fucking door open?” We skirted debris until we were at the door.

Camille stared at the huge gray obstacle. “I can get us out.”

Her voice grim, she reached into her cloak and brought out her unicorn horn. A powerful artifact, given to her by the Dahns unicorns, it was one of eight in existence. The Black Unicorn, the father of the Dahns race, shed his body every few thousand years, and in return for playing the fire to his phoenix, Camille had been gifted with his hide and horn. It was an incredibly powerful weapon, with limited usage, and it needed to be recharged every month under the dark of the moon.

I backed away. “Get to cracking, then, because I doubt that will be the only aftershock we’re going to feel.”

Her gaze narrowed as she gauged the door. “I just hope I don’t bring on the next one.” She closed her eyes, sliding into trance.

I didn’t understand the full mechanics of the horn, but I knew that there was a spirit inside of it, and that she’d caused havoc with it before.

A moment later, she raised the horn into the air, aiming it at the door. A wind seemed to rise in the room, growing steadily stronger. Another moment, and the floor began to shake again, though I didn’t know if it was from another aftershock, or the powers from the unicorn horn.

Camille’s hair rose in the wind, streaming back as if she were facing a giant fan, and as the tiles beneath the door began to collapse, creating an opening of about two inches below the door, the wind increased until it became a howling gale. I made sure I wasn’t in the path of anything that might blow over on me, and crouched to the ground, holding on for dear life. How Camille managed to stand in the force of the winds she was raising was a mystery to me, but stand she did.

The doors creaked and shifted, groaning as they began to open. Slowly the winds pushed them inward. Inch by inch they moved, and with a hurricane gust, they slammed open so hard that the walls cracked, and a shiver of fractures ran through the gray stone, shattering the gates. Another huge cloud of dust swept into the air, blowing past us, from the rubble that cascaded to the ground.

As the winds began to die, Camille motioned to me. She looked dark, a dour expression on her face, and I wasn’t sure what was running through her mind, but there was no time to sit around and chat. We headed through the broken remnants of the doorway, just in time for another aftershock.

This one was bad, perhaps as bad as the first one. I tripped, slamming against a wall. Camille went tumbling in the opposite direction as the world shifted. She landed hard and I heard her shout “Fuck!” but then we were plunged into darkness as all of the eye catchers faded and there was no more light.

The shaking continued, and all around us the sound of crashing stonework continued to reverberate through the air. I scrambled to get on my hands and knees, trying to regain some of my equilibrium, but up was down and left was right and it was one big blur of motion and sound.

“Camille? Can you hear me?” I held my breath, praying to Bastus that she would answer.

“Yes, I’m over . . . I’m here, trying to dodge the rubble.” She sounded petrified, but at least she was alive.

“We need to get up to ground level. If this continues we’re going to be buried alive. Which way did we come? Do you know where we are?”

After a moment, she answered. “When we first arrived, the room was to our right. So we need to make sure to head left if it’s behind us.” A pause, “Am I right?”

“Right? I don’t—Oh! I know what you mean.” I thought for a moment. We’d barely exited the room when this aftershock hit. I flailed around in the darkness, and found the wall. Following it, a few crawls forward gave me the opening to the room on my right. Okay, then, I had to turn around so the entrance was on my left. Then I’d be aiming on target. I positioned myself as best as I could, with the wall to my left shoulder, and then waited.

“Camille? Follow my voice. I’m pointing in the right direction. If you can find me, we can try to crawl out of here. Once the shaking stops, get the fuck up on your feet and we hurry as far as we can till the next one.”

“Continue talking so I can follow your voice.”

I didn’t know what to say, so instead I began singing “Godzilla,” by Blue Oyster Cult.

“Oh Kitten, can’t you pick something else?” But there was an edge of a smile in her voice and the next moment, she was beside me. I got her positioned in back, just as the shaking stopped.

“Fuck, how long did that go on?” Camille’s voice rose, and I realized she was standing up.

I followed suit. “Come on, keep your left hand against the wall at all times. We need to make certain we’re not headed in the wrong direction.” Without further chitchat, I started out.

“Delilah, be careful—if you go too fast, you might run into debris and hurt yourself—”

She had no sooner spoken when I hit my foot against a piece of what felt like marble that had lifted up from the floor.

“Fuck, oh fuck! Geez, I may have just broken my big toe!” I wanted to hop up and down as the pain raced through my foot, but I also realized that a broken toe was nothing compared to being buried under tons of rubble, so I sucked it up. “Be careful, there’s a big block of marble right in front of you—well, as soon as I skirt it. It’s. . . .” I paced it out until I was able to stand flush against the wall again. “It’s five paces long. Six of yours, probably.”

“One . . . two . . . three . . . four . . . five . . . six . . .” Camille counted them off and then grunted. “Yeah, that’s about right. You okay? How’s your toe?”