Kara’s pulse raced. Her body couldn’t take this kind of stress for much longer. The brunette standing in the cave laughed and slid the gold cross into her pocket.
“It really is my lucky day!” the woman said. “So the Vagabond’s back, now? And it only took a thousand years. We were beginning to think you would never show up.”
Her arsenal of snappy comebacks exhausted, Kara shrugged. The brunette meandered closer, her loose curls sliding over her neck as she gloated. She stopped only when she could graze the Grimoire with her long, pale fingers.
The old leather book imploded at the woman’s touch, scattering its dust in the air. Kara gasped, and the clover pendant’s diamond glowed blue from where it hung around her neck.
“Bring it back!” the woman demanded.
Kara stuttered, unsure of what to say.
“I said bring it back!”
“I don’t know how!”
“Don’t lie to me.” The brunette grabbed Kara’s collar and lifted her to her toes.
She seized the woman’s freckled wrists without thinking. Heat flooded through her hands, just as it had when she pulled the clover pendant out of the lock, and something sparked in her palm. Blue light exploded from her fingers.
The woman sailed backward and crashed against a bookshelf, but Kara fell lightly back on her feet and examined her hands. All of the freckles and wrinkles of her palm were in the right place. There was no sign at all that lightning had just exploded from her fingers.
Books tumbled off the shelves, burying the brunette in parchment and crinkled leather that fell away just as quickly when the woman stood a second later. Her shoulders hunched as she glared, but she didn’t come closer. As much as Kara wanted to run, her feet would not listen.
“How long have you been the Vagabond?”
“You can’t even control what you are, can you?”
A white streak blazed across her vision, and the woman was gone. Something grabbed her shoulder and shoved her into the nearest bookshelf, pulling one of her hands behind her. An itchy material scratched her wrists. Before Kara could take another breath, the woman spun her around. Kara’s hands were now bound in front of her with thick rope.
“Hey! You can’t—”
The woman laughed. “I already did. My name is Deidre. I want you to remember that, because this was too easy. You’ll want a rematch someday, and I’ll be more than happy to oblige.”
Deidre dug her nails into Kara’s arm and pulled her away from the study. The rope wriggled like a worm as Kara struggled. Its fibers dug deeper into her wrists, stinging her fingertips with pins and needles as it cut off circulation to her hands. She stopped resisting, and the rope, in turn, was still.
They turned down a dark tunnel. Kara couldn’t see, and the only sensation besides the moldy damp of the cave was Deidre’s nails as they bruised her skin. They walked for a few minutes, slowing only when they neared the entrance to another passage. Light splashed from it, illuminating gray rocks that cast shadows into the hallway. They walked through, and the glare blinded Kara until her eyes adjusted to the rows of pale gray flame emanating from dozens of torches.
A massive cavern stretched into the expanses above, dissolving beyond the light’s edge into solid darkness. The torchlight illuminated a swarm of ash-gray creatures. The pores on their arms hissed, releasing streams of hot mist that hovered above them. She stopped to gape, but the brunette shoved her forward. Several of the gray monsters snickered or leered at the rips in her clothes.
Something roared nearby. Kara jumped. To her left, two lumbering monsters leaned on their forearms like apes. They loomed over her, their bodies clunky blocks of rock that sent pebbles falling to the earth with each movement. Each had a pair of gaping holes served as a nose. Their lipless mouths cracked and tore as they roared, revealing three rows of stubby teeth.
“Trolls,” Deidre interrupted. “Don’t get too close. We want you in one piece, at least for now.”
The brunette tightened her grip on Kara’s shoulder and turned her toward the trolls. The beasts snorted and shuffled in place, revealing glimpses of a wheeled metal cage that was attached to them with thick leather straps.
One troll lowered its head, leaning closer when Kara passed, and its brown iris shrank as it focused on her with a look of uneasy curiosity. When she was close enough to touch it, the creature lunged, twisting its head to snap at her neck.
Genre – Fantasy
Rating – PG13