Chapter 37: Dragon’s Den

Will led them down the path. He wasn’t quite sure where Burnout had turned off the path, but if he was still in the cave, Will could find it easily enough.

He heard Allspades and Hawthorne whispering behind him again, but he was concentrating too hard to bother listening in. He knew what they were talking about anyway. They weren’t the first to try to figure out his power. Though he hadn’t used it as much around other groups.

‘Maybe I’m getting too nostalgic.’

Red Racer kept popping in and out of his range. The moment they had mentioned the cave, he had decided to run after it. Will had barely been able to tell him to stay close to the group before he vanished into the woods.

It wouldn’t do them much good; Will guessed there was a good chance the cave was glamoured. But there was a chance it wasn’t, and he might find something Will missed.

Unimportant and Mach followed in silence. Mach had volunteered to pull up local maps, but they hadn’t shown anything worthwhile. Unimportant hadn’t talked much since the Asclepios incident. Hopefully he would open up once they had a chance to really go over what happened, but with everything that had happened lately they might not get the chance.

Red Racer flashed through his senses again, he was passing by a cliff of some sort. A moment later he was gone.

Will froze.

Red had run right by it. If they were looking for anything else, Will might have ignored it too. Whatever it was, Red hadn’t noticed it at all, hadn’t even slowed down, and Will probably wouldn’t have if he hadn’t run by it at just the right time.

“This way,” Will said over his shoulder.

He stepped off the path. There was a small gap in the trees, the type of thing that would invite half the hikers to explore, and ward the rest away.

There wasn’t a path behind them. The branches barely even let light through, but it was enough for Will to work his way past the trees and to the cliff. Now that he was closer, he could feel the cave stretching back and down, away from the path. The entrance was concealed, like he expected, and a quick check confirmed it was definitely magic.

Red had noticed they stopped and ran up beside the group.

“Why’d you stop-op? There’s nothing here-ere.”

“No,” Allspades said. His face was contorted with confusion, like he smelled something wrong. “There’s something here, we just can’t see it.”

Will stepped to the side and let Allspades forward.

Allspades carefully reached his fingers out towards the wall.

He paused.

He knew in his gut that there was definitely something wrong with this part of the wall, but the glamour was effective. The contradiction between instinct and sense was forcing his heart to tighten in his chest.

“It’s not a trap,” Will said. “Apparently you’ve got something magic about you; you can sense the glamour.”

“Glamour-our?”

“Magic,” Allspades said. “Page used to use something similar. But I couldn’t ever sense anything she did.”

“Maybe you just weren’t trying hard enough.”

Allspades pushed the voice out of his head.

“Can you sense it too?” he asked Will.

Will shook his head. “I know there’s something behind it. Keep this up long enough, you learn not to trust your eyes too much.”

Allspades nodded. He took a deep breath and walked through the wall.

Will looked to the rest and gestured forward. “Glamours reassert themselves if you don’t keep an eye on them. I need to go last.”

One by one the others followed. Eventually only Mach and he were left.

“Will you be able to handle it?”

Mach looked at him.

“I want you to know, no matter what we find in there, you made the right choice. A lot of good heroes have died because people got caught up on stupid things. It’s worth the risk.”

Mach stared at him a moment longer. She walked through the wall without a word.

Will sighed and glanced back at the woods. He quickly scanned the trees for anything he might have missed. Then he stepped forward.

&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&

Mach was able to light up the cave much better than the last time they were underground, but there wasn’t much to look at.

“Didn’t he say the walls glowed?” Hawthorne asked. “Are we sure this is the right place?”

“Magic is fickle,” Will said. “Sometimes it’ll stick around forever, sometimes it vanishes once it’s done. I don’t’ know what the walls were doing, but apparently Burnout was the only one who needed to see them.”

“We are in the right place,” Mach said. “We have to be.”

Will opened himself up again. The cave went further than he would have expected, further than it should in this terrain, but there was definitely something up ahead.

But they weren’t getting any closer to it. Not as fast as they should be anyway.

“Allspades, do you feel anything?”

The rest of the group paused, but Allspades walked a few more steps. After a moment he turned back towards the group. “There’s this itch in my head. Kinda in the back, but up on top you know?”

“Good enough for me. It’s messing with us, making us think we’re moving faster than we are.”

“Can we get out of it?” Hawthorne asked.

Will shook his head. “We’d need a mage. Or we’d have to trick the spell into not noticing us.”

Red Racer scrunched up his face a little. Then he broke out in a wide smile. He turned to Unimportant. “Could you do that-at?”

Unimportant froze, even more than he had before. “i do not know…my power can extend to something i touch…but i have never tried it on another person.”

“You might as well try though,” Hawthorne said. “If you never test you’re power, you won’t get anywhere with it.”

After a moment, Unimportant nodded. “grab my hand…or my shoulder…and do not let go until i say.”

Will nodded. “I don’t think we want to know what would happen.”

Once everyone had grabbed on, Unimportant closed his eyes and concentrated. Fading himself took no real effort, but he had noticed that certain things were harder to fade. A flashlight was easy enough, but making people not noticed the beam was another story.

This was not like that.

It was easy, too easy.

Unimportant quickly snapped everyone back into the one universe.

The moment he could he pulled away from everyone, backing off into a corner.

Red moved toward him, but Will rested a hand on his shoulder.

Waves of fear rolled off of Unimportant like nothing they had ever felt from him. He was breathing quickly, and what they could make of his face was extremely pale.

Will took a step forward. “Unimportant, I need you to listen. You’re hyperventilating, and your heart is beating twice as fast as it should. You are going to pass out if you don’t force yourself to take a deep breath and hold it.”

Unimportant nodded but his breathing didn’t slow.

“Come on. Deep breath.”

Unimportant nodded again and forced himself to breathe deeply.

“Good, now let it out, and once you get your breath back, tell us what happened.”

Unimportant collapsed back onto the wall. He was breathing slower, but his breaths were still heavy and shallow. “I…couldn’t control it…I thought you were all going to vanish. I pulled you back as fast as I could, but I wasn’t sure if I could hold you here.”

Will nodded. “Take a look. We’re all here. We all knew something might happen, and you pulled us back before anything did. You couldn’t have known your power would act like that.”

“I-I don’t think I can move right now.”

Will smiled gently. “Take as long as you need. Red, stay with him. The rest of us need to move on ahead. Don’t touch him for now, let him run through his power first okay?”

The two of them nodded, and Will looked at the other three. “I don’t know how much this thing is messing with us. But it’s messing with our heads. Take longer steps than you’re used to; that might let us walk at a normal speed.”

The four of them walked down the cave.

Red stared at Unimportant for a moment before taking a seat across the cave from him. For a moment their eyes locked.

“Don’t worry. They’ll be back. And I’m not going anywhere.”

Unimportant nodded, and the two sat in silence.

 

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