Zarrek narrowed his eyes at the man. “Fine, then. Let’s Keep moving. Sallah can’t be too far ahead.”
The next hallway was wider than the others, and much longer, with no other hallways branching off of it. There was a pair of doors at the other end, as tall as four men, the doors cut from mahogany that had to have been over two thousand years old, but that was as dark and fresh as though it had been brought in only days ago. The handle was made of wrought iron, black and cold to the touch. Elezar grabbed it and pushed on one of the doors, but it would not budge. Neither would it pull open, and he looked ready to set his torch to it out of sheer desperation.
“The door might be barred from the inside,” Elezar said.
The man went on talking, but Zarrek was not listening to him. There was the whispering again, stronger and louder than ever before.
“You are either a fool to come to Thiizav,” one voice said. It was the first one that had actually been clear enough for him to understand the words, and somehow it seemed so small. “Or terribly sure of your strength.”
“Who said tha–”
Elezar would have chided him again for mentioning voices that were not really there, had it not been for the faerie that appeared just behind Bazalus. She had short black hair, and wore close-fitting clothes in a dark shade of purple. She was hardly bigger than Zarrek’s palm, and staring directly at him.
“We came to get Sallah and take her back home,” Zarrek told her.
“I know,” the faerie told him. “Believe me, we all know.”
“Do you have a particular friendship with faeries?” Elezar asked him.
Zarrek glared back at him. Meanwhile, Bazalus turned his head and growled at the small being fluttering above him. The faerie flew in spiraling circles, leaving a trail of purple light behind her, until her circle burst and she was small no more. Standing before them was now a fae woman of nearly Zarrek’s height, sleek and lithe, her crimson eyes once again on the young prince.
“Unless you came here to let us through those doors, I suggest that you leave us alone,” Zarrek told her.
She glanced down at the growling shadow hound before saying, “But you summoned your beast, and when you do such things, Relliké knows. And what Relliké knows, our Dark Lord most assured knows, too.”
“Why should I care what the beast-master knows?”
“Oh, but Zarrek,” the faerie replied, her voice teasing, just hinting that it might be bold enough to be sultry, too, “Métius knows exactly where you are now. He was so hoping that you would go directly to his temple in Onsira. What a surprise that you came all the way to his domain instead.”
“Just who are you?” Elezar demanded.
The faerie looked ready to laugh at him. “I am just as mortal as you are,” she replied. “I only hope that you intend to keep your loyalty to our dark master.”
Elezar narrowed his eyes at her. “I have been loyal to him all of my life. I did not deserve to have my k’haarana taken from me like this.”
“She is just fine, you should know,” she told him. “See for yourself.”
With one hand pressed to the door, it fell open. The hinges creaked, the wood groaned, and then before them was a wide room, the air in it stale and cold. The floor was a mess of dust and webs, and it contained only two stone coffins, both evenly spaced from one another and from the walls. The lids and sides were cracked here and there, but they manged to hold together well enough. It wasn’t the coffins that mattered, though.
Near the far wall, handing from chains that went up to a ceiling that was so high up that it was lost in darkness, were several cages. Elezar was gaping at them, the way they looked like over-sized birdcages– steel instead of some more delicate metal– most of them empty. Except two: one that held his son, and another that contained a woman with a wide, rounded belly. She was leaning against the back of her cage, exhaustion and terror filling her face.
“Sallah!” Elezar gasped.
He rushed towards her, only to be met by the fae woman. She was fast; some how she had been able to get in front of him. He glared down at her.
She looked disinterested. “I do not think you want to upset the wraith.”
“I do not care a single grrath about the wraith! I want my k’haarana back.”
“Elezar…?” the woman in the cage groaned. She sounded weak and disoriented. “Is that you?”
“I will get you home, Sallah!” he called to her.
“You will have to convince Zarrek to submit to our master first,” the faerie said, as though reminding him of an assigned task. “Otherwise that wraith will try to end your life.”
Elezar turned to the young prince.