In the previous episode, Gremlaw finally reached Huleta and Neevis. Both of them notice the change their abduction has brought upon him. Next, readers voted that as they attempt to leave, they are captured by the Lost Ancestors in the castle.
Gremlaw crept through the semi-darkness, hand clasped tightly by Huleta who was followed by their daughter. His eyes picked out the negative spaces he came across as the trio made their way towards the stone steps he had come down earlier.
Their breathing and footsteps sounded like thunder to Gremlaw’s ears even though they all took as much care as possible to keep silent. At the apex of the stairwell, he halted to spend some time listening and scenting the air. A tiny breeze wafted across his right cheek, bringing the scent of damp moss, soil and stagnating water.
Ushering his wife and daughter along the brightening hallway, Gremlaw kept them all pressed against one wall, pausing every so often to listen for any danger.
Disappointment welled up in his chest as Gremlaw saw a small, high window, more of a ragged hole, in the wall – the source of the minor breeze he had detected. It was too high to reach and look through and the inner walls had not been exposed to the same erosion as the outer walls making them impossible to scale. Gremlaw abandoned the idea of breaking out through this way and found another set of stairs.
“I didn’t come through this way,” he breathed gently to his small family, “So I have no idea what’s likely to be up here.” Gremlaw paused, “Or who.” Huleta and Neevis nodded and Neevis moved in front of her mother. Huleta frowned and tugged on the rough clothing her daughter had been given,
“Get back behind me, Neevis!” She hissed. Neevis shook her head,
“If there’s trouble up there, I’m better able to help protect you than you are me.” Gremlaw’s daughter gently told her mother, “Let me follow father.” Huleta looked into her daughter’s eyes for what seemed an age before lowering her head and nodding.
They crept up the stairs as silently as humanly possible, eventually reaching a thick, rough-hewed, wooden door which Gremlaw laid his ear against. He turned and shrugged, indicating he could hear nothing, then reached for the latch.
Neevis watched her father’s hand as he lifted the small, wooden door-latch, raising it so slowly it made her want to scream. Weeks of travel, followed by incarceration in the dank filth they had just escaped, left her entire being aching for freedom. It felt as if her skin would drag the rest of her body forward and it took a massive amount of concentration not to thrash her way out through the door.
Eventually Gremlaw opened the door a hairsbreadth and peered through the crack to see nothing on the other side. He slowly opened the door, lifting the edge to try to minimize any squeaking the rusted hinges might make, and the three people slipped through.
The air was marginally warmer in this hallway, Gremlaw’s eyes picked up a flickering light coming from their left, and Gremlaw chose to turn this way. Thirteen steps brought them to an open archway through which Gremlaw could see what appeared to be an empty great hall. He swore under his breath; they had emerged in the heart of the keep.
Flames from the open hearth cast dancing shadows high up the walls as he led his wife and daughter around the edge of the hall, dodging piles of smashed wood and broken furniture.
Footsteps announced the newcomers a fraction of a second before they appeared through the corridor Gremlaw was headed for. Both men halted as they came face to face with Gremlaw, Neevis and Huleta, surprise written plainly across their tattooed faces.
Gremlaw did not hesitate. Crossing his wrists, he shot his hands out and grabbed the collar of the nearest man’s shirt, twisting his powerful hands over and cutting off the blood supply to his brain. In the few seconds it took for the Lost Ancestor to die, Neevis had attacked the other man, slamming the flat blade of her hand upwards into his nose. Blood exploded from his nose as his head snapped backwards and the young woman lashed out with her foot, kicking him in the testicles as hard as possible.
Gremlaw’s heart sank as he saw the man stagger and fall backwards into a stack of wooden shelves. The shattering, crashing sound of wood rang out through the keep and shouts sounded from in front and behind them.
Gremlaw drew his dagger and prepared to fight as bobbing torch and lamplight illuminated the walls of the corridors leading into the hall. A ragged group of Lost Ancestors with an array of weapons stormed into the hall, looked at the dead and injured man, then at the three people who stood in the hall.
Gremlaw killed the first man to approach them by slashing his dagger across his throat. Horror rose in his chest as he saw the man desperately clawing at his own neck, eyes wide in terror. He pushed his feelings to one side, spinning to hack his blade at the face of another man who dodged back in shock at how fast Gremlaw could move.
Neevis was engaged in a similar fight, throwing kicks and punches at her own set of opponents. Her weeks of ill treatment, however, had slowed her reactions and made her weak, sapping her stamina to the point she was easily overwhelmed by her opponents.
Gremlaw had a group of men and two women backed up into a corner, ready to end the life of each one of them if need be. His concentration was broken by a high-pitched scream from behind him, knowing instinctively it came from Neevis’ throat.
He backed away from the cornered people and turned to see Huleta and Neevis both held in the grips of two Lost Ancestors. Neevis was being systematically choked by a wooden spear and Huleta had a vicious looking, serrated edged knife against her throat.
His chest heaved and he took two steps forward until a voice cracked through the darkness,
“Stop! Drop the weapon and get on your knees or your daughter dies.” Shock coursed through him as he complied. The female voice had spoken in almost perfect Trathlainian.
A female Lost Ancestor appeared from the shadows and crossed to where Gremlaw knelt with rage burning through his system as he watched Huleta and Neevis tormented by the men who held them. His eyes flicked up to meet the woman’s,
“Who the piss are you?” Gremlaw spat the question with as much hate as he could summon. Tattoos shifted as the Lavashian woman sneered,
“Me?” Her voice dripped with triumphant joy, “I am Zhul-Quin,” she paused for a second then added, “I think you met my father.” Vote below on what will happen next or if reading in email click Take our Poll.