The Box (Part VIII)

As they crept through the dark tunnels, Oramiir began unconsciously falling farther behind the rest of the group.  His thoughts were wandering as he recounted his spell components.  Even though he had thought enough ahead to bring ample materials, his discipline demanded that he recall his inventory without error.

He wasn’t completely lost within himself.  Though he had grown unaware of his slowing pace, he’d still kept an ear open to the tunnels around him.

Earlier, he had used his power to project the sound from the noisiest parts of his body several yards behind him.  He had perfected this version of Sound Projection many years ago as an apprentice for his former master, a spell that he was quite fond and proud of.  While it didn’t protect its target from being detected at the rear of the party, it ensured that one could remain perfectly silent while still being able to hear the sounds around them.

It was his semi-state of alertness that saved him.  As he was passing by a small side tunnel, a soft whistle brought him to full attention.  The sound bounced off of the walls, amplified by the natural structures of the rock.  His first thought was that Joeshan was trying to signal him, but this was immediately dismissed when the whistle was answered from somewhere close behind.

He didn’t think about his next action, and acting purely on instinct, he stopped mid-stride with his right heel planted solidly in front of him.  Several thoughts ran through his head in the next split second; should he cast an illumination spell?  Should he make an attempt to warn his friends?  Or, would it be best to activate some type of defensive magic?  In the end, it was his instincts that forced his next move.  His right hand reached quickly over to his left, the thumb and index finger clamping on the sides of a ring he wore on his pinkie and he uttered a soft command.  Instantly, the ring’s magic coursed into his eyes, allowing him to see just a few feet around him as if it were day.

Just inches from his face, the drooling maw of a Destrachan quivered with hungry anticipation.  Its sightless eyes blinked, an action he would later ponder if he made it out of this alive.  The creature had two droopy ears hanging from the side of its head, and he held his breath when its right ear suddenly lifted and pointed directly at him.  As he looked into the three deep canals that allowed for the creature to ‘see’, he tried to remember as to whether or not he had placed the Sound Projection over his nose and mouth.

The right ear continued to point directly at him, twisting slightly to the right and left.  If he didn’t know any better, he’d say that the creature was studying him!

Just at that moment, however, there came a slight grumbling from somewhere deeper in the tunnels.  Much like the warning this creature had given, it reflected off of the walls with gleeful abandon, happy to share the hungry plight of its messenger.  Both of the creature’s ears twitched as they traced the sound back to where it began and the creature loped off, following the path he had only moments ago traversed.

A second Destrachan burst out of the darkness.  It was smaller than the previous one, but its hide was darker in color.  Whereas the first had been like that of a pale eggshell, this one’s was more the color of the stone around him.  Before it vanished into the tunnels ahead of him, it lifted its head and shrieked.  The sound was feminine, yet inhuman, and despite his preference for all things dark, it sent chills down his spine.

Once he was sure there were no others, he quickly gave chase.  If there was to be a battle, they would have to quickly end it, lest his magical wards wore off before they reached their destination.

As if to remind him of the urgency, the breath of the dragon rushed around him, much as the river would around a lonely stone.

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