Hey, everyone! I know you must be wondering after Misveri chose her path, so here it is! If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you might want to check out:

Magic Binds Part I

Magic Binds Part II

Magic Binds Part III

Magic Binds Part IV

Magic Binds Part V

Let’s begin! We will always start with the end of the end.

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He smiled. “Yes, and so I suppose you would not favor the desert path to your left or the ocean path to your right. However, I must warn you that each journey will be a perilous path, fraught with danger. Therefore, if you need me, just call out this ancient saying:

Sectara golum wekar quesid pekalas,
Foreas cuhi jerlawk yemes takaki,
Lewrque sgiohp furleih venoment
Dikaes nimaoe berwah, zids xaour."

I took that to mean:

Down by the river where the wolves howl,
Where the water dances and the cats prowl,
The guardian of the forest prays
That in the shadows, darkness stays.

I nodded and took a deep breath. “Thank you,” I told the statue as I headed towards the middle archway.

“Remember, Mistress, anytime you need me, say it. Even thinking it will summon me, if you are bound and gagged,” the giant rumbled.

I paused. “One more question,” I said, turning around. “Why do you keep calling me ‘Mistress’?”

He stared at me, then chuckled. “You must not recognize me. Why, your father was my maker, Mistress.”

I nodded again. “Thank you.” I turned again, aware of the giant’s gaze as I approached the archway.

I heard a grating sound and whirled around. The statue was moving again, but slowly, raising the wand and letting his right hand drop to the side, as I now had the spellbook. The movements became more sluggish, and finally stood motionless again. The water started pouring from the wand, first a few drops, which increased to a burst, but finally slowed to a steady flow that cascaded into the fountain below.

I took another deep breath and turned around to face the archway. It had runes around it–runes that told the story of the forest, described the lush green foliage, light-dappled mossy floor, and a cloudless blue sky. It also spoke of darkness and danger along the path, which was obvious.

I set my jaw and walked inside.

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This was the end of Part V. Continue on! 😀

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It was dark inside, so I pulled out the flashlight I had clipped to my army belt at all times. Shining the light ahead of me in the corridor, I was able to see about three feet in front of me.

I walked slowly, tense and nervous. The dark, wet stone corridor twisted and turned, and I was often too late to turn when the light illuminated the wall in front of me. I stumbled, dropping the flashlight as I slammed into yet another slimy wall.

I scrambled around for the flashlight, but my hands couldn’t find it. I was forced to accept that I had no source of light anymore.

I blundered through the darkness, panicking and running through the narrow corridors. I decided to drink a little water, but I fumbled with the cap and dropped it. I fell to the ground, balancing the remaining water and searched for the blue cap. I couldn’t find it.

Something swished in the darkness, and there was a flash of movement at the edge of my vision.

Wherever I was, I wasn’t alone.

“Need a hand?” I jumped as a boy’s voice came from ahead. “You seem a little preoccupied, and I thought you might need help.”

He pressed a thin, cylindrical object into my hand: my flashlight. I grasped it and clicked it on, illuminating a boy of my age, with brown hair and blue eyes.

“I found it back there,” the boy said, jerking his thumb in the direction I had come from. “I was able to slip past you. I’m Jax, by the way.”

“Misveri,” I gasped, heart thumping in my chest. My heartbeat was slowing to normal, but it was quite a scare in the dark.

I quickly found and screwed the cap back on my water bottle, then clipped it back to my belt. “Thanks.”

“No problem.” He extended a hand to help me up, and I took it gratefully. “We’d better get out of here, though, and into the forest before nightfall. Hurry.”

I followed him through the maze of tunnels, hoping he knew where he was going. His confidence never wavered, and my uneasiness started to fade.

“Why do we have to get to the forest by nightfall?” The path had begun to slow downward, and I was slipping a little, but I managed to force out the question.

“A dangerous serpent roams these tunnels at night and eats everything in its path. Sometimes it makes new tunnels. That’s how these tunnels were formed: It lived in the lake beyond these mountains, but a drought forced it to move. It used its fire breath to soften the rock, then ate through it. It cut through the entire mountain range this way and created this network of tunnels.”

My uneasiness returned.

I quickened my pace until I was directly behind him, shining the light on the path before us. “How do you know your way around here, then, if the paths keep changing?”

“I don’t.”

“What?!” I stopped walking.

He stopped and turned around. “Relax,” he said casually. “I was just messing with you. I’ve lived in the forest that surrounds these mountains my whole life. I made it my business to come through here and memorize the place in case something happened to the forest.”

I sighed in relief. “That wasn’t a very funny joke, then,” I huffed.

He didn’t reply, and we continued walking in silence.

After about two hours of walking in darkness, it was clear we weren’t going to make it to the forest in time. “I started out into the tunnels at dawn this morning. I must have reached you by sunset. There’s a small chance we could make it before the serpent reaches us,” he had informed me a while back.

“Then how do we survive?” I had whispered.

“I know of a small cave off the main tunnel formed by water. The entrance is too narrow for the serpent to fit through, and the tunnel too narrow for him to turn and blast fire at the opening.”

I was little reassured by that, but nevertheless i continued to follow him. He knew these tunnels much better than I did, and that cave was my only chance of survival.

We finally stopped in the middle of yet another dark, never-ending corridor. I ran my hands along the left wall, and they found a narrow crack, just wide enough for us to fit through. Jax went through first, and then I slipped in.

It was plain, the dark smooth walls glistening with water. It was about the size of an average bedroom, but a pool of cold, clear water in the center of the small space dominated most of the floor and largely eliminated any hope of lighting a fire for warmth in the cold cavern.

As we set up the one big sleeping bag he had brought, I thought back to what he had said. I shivered, not just with the cold. I hoped Jax was telling the truth, that the serpent couldn’t get in, because his description of it was terrifying.

A sudden thought hit me, and I glanced up at Jax. “Where am I sleeping?”

He gestured to the sleeping bag. “I hadn’t anticipated meeting you here, so I only brought one, but it’s big enough for the both of us. We’ll share, if you don’t mind.”

I nodded. “I’m good with that.”

After a small meal combining my snacks and his store of nuts, berries, and a little squirrel meat, we settled down in the sleeping bag. I fell asleep quickly.

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