Ash and Ellia stare in open shock. Remains line the length of the chamber. Some are fleshless skeletons. Others appear to be badly decayed mummies. However, all sport circular bite marks. A soft whimpering sound echoes through the chamber. The two teens turn and see a survivor and another one of the creatures.
Ash leaps forward.
Energy flows and explodes as a point of light. The creature howls in pain as the impact from Ash’s attack slams into the cavern’s wall. The teen struggles to keep her blade in place as the creature writhes in agony.
A few moments later, the creature grows still.
“Is it… dead?” Ellia asks from the chamber entrance.
“Yes.” Ash says as she kneels down next to the captive.
She gently pushes the captive’s hair back. The Fae is young, maybe fifteen or sixteen human years. There are a dozen fresh bite marks. Ash makes short work of the chains. Ellia kneels down next to the teen.
“So this is what a feeding looks like…”
Ash looks over at the second Fae. Ellia’s face is pale with a hint of green to it. She cannot judge too harshly though. Her own stomach is twisted at the thought of being fed on. With an effort, Ash shoves the feeling aside.
“Come on. Talon should be done with the Ta.” At that, Ash frowns. She glances at the now dead creature. “I thought there were only two.”
“So did I.”
Ash and Ellia helps the unconscious Fae. Ash looks at the others. Her heart aches at the dozen or so dead.
The sounds of stones and chattering noise fill the cavern. Neither one says a word. The noise fades away.
“Something isn’t right.” Ellia says quietly as they work their way through the cavern, “That is what you are thinking.”
“Maybe. I am hoping that only one of them went up to deal with Talon and there other came down here.”
“To feed? When there is an enemy on the nest?” Ellia replies, “From everything I have read about…the Ta says that they group in pairs.”
The stench of burned and rotting flesh fills their nose. Ellia groans and steps back from the smells. Ash tightens her grip. She gives the younger Fae an encouraging smile. Ellia still looks as afraid as before, but she isn’t walking away like before.
Together the three of them walk forward, following the smells. Ahead of them, harsh white light casts long shadows. Stones gleam in the light. The three Fae come to a stop at the edge of the entrance. They wait until their eyes adjust. The Fae step forward into the cavern.
Ash feels her stomach drops into the ground.
Dozens of pods fill the immense cavern. Each one is a frame of six ribs with semi-transparent wall between the ribs. Inside the pods, more creatures are stirring. Their clawed limbs press against the clear membranes holding them trapped.
A shadow flies overhead and slams into the wall.
Ash throws up a defensive barrier as loosened stones fall from the wall. She readies herself for another fight but the creature falls lifeless to the ground.
“Ash? Are you hurt?”
She turns and sees Talon walking towards them.
“No. Are you?”
“Ten percent damage. But you need to go.”
“What is this?” She waves an arm.
“They are growing an army.” Talon says grimly, “I will destroy them.”
The three girls leave the room and head towards the entrance of the cave. They can hear the crackle of energy exploding and the dying screeches of Ta.
The teens break into the open air. The fresh air is a relief compared to the horrid smell from inside the caves. Dawn is already breaking across the sky. The girls head towards the town. Their freed captive begins to stir. She jerks but Ash and Ellia hold her steady.
“Easy. You’re safe.” Ash says quietly, “You’re safe.”
The Fae sags with relief.
“They fed on me.” She moans in pain.
“We’re going to take you home.”
“Please. I want to go home.”
“We’ll get you home.” Ash says. She turns to Ellia, “Both of you. You’ll be drinking water drawn from the Mans River itself.”
The crunch of tires causes all three girls to look. A small car rolls to a stop. A man and a woman leap from the tires. The girls freeze. Ash’s mind races as she tries to come out with an answer. Two adults step out of the car.
“Mr. Joseph. Miss Penny.”
“What happened?” Penny calls out as they run towards them, “Joseph, she’s bleeding! They’re bleeding!”
“I’ll get the medical kit!”
“Hurry, we can get her to the car.”
“No.” Ash says, “We need to go to our home.”
“But she’s hurt.”
A low rumble rolls through the ground. The trees tremble.
“What was that?”
“Talon at work.”
“What is going on?” Joseph notices the remains of the Ta. “And what is that?”
“A longtime enemy of the Fae. We thought they had passed after the great wars. Apparently they have been massing a force here.”
Another rumble and they can feel it through their feet.
Joseph and Penny exchange worried looks.
“Go.” Ash says, “Take them.”
“What is happening?”
“What is going on?”
“There is a force of enemies from our world. And Talon is in trouble.”
“Do we want to know?”
“Probably not.” She says with a smile. It fades after a moment after another shock wave rolls through the ground, “Take care of them. Please.”
“Wait, you said you were going to explain everything.”
Ash chuckles, “We were, weren’t we? I guess I’ll tell you afterwards.”
Ash turns and runs towards the cave entrance. The ground begins to split in several places as shockwaves roll through. Joseph helps the girl into the car. As Joseph gets in the car is pitched three feet into the air. He slams the car into reverse and starts driving backwards. He comes to a stop at the edge of the lake.
“We need to leave.” Ellia says, “Now.”
“Wait, why are they staying?”
“Because she is a soldier and he is a weapon.”
“Why are they fighting?”
“Because that is their duty.”
“But they’re just kids.”
She smiles weakly, “Who else is going to stop them?”
“But what are they fighting?” Penny asks.
Ellia sags in the seat, “They’re fighting something that should have disappeared a long time ago. But there are dozens here. And they’re feeding.”
“What does that mean?”
“I can’t tell you.”
“Then what happened to my daughter?”
The ground bucks and knocks the car into the air once again. Joseph glances at Penny. He turns around and drives away from the lake. He looks in the back and he sees that both girls sport deep wounds.
“What will you do?”
“I don’t know.”
The adults exchange worried glances.
“Our people.” She answers their question, “They would have closed the door on him.”