Warning: This story has yet to be edited.
Being pulled into the darkness was one thing. Getting trapped underground was another. Getting trapped at all, in fact, terrified her.
Annie swallowed hard. Her hands felt along the wall for any sign of a door, patting, then slamming her palms against the cold rock in a desperate attempt to get out.
She whipped around, pulling her sword out of its scabbard. The eyes had returned, staring at her with a mixture of curiosity and wariness.
“Let me out,” she said, hating how her voice trembled with fear.
When the eyes spoke, they sounded annoyed. “Let you out? I didn’t let you in.”
“This place belongs to you, right?” Sweat gathered under her palms, making her terrified she’d lose her grip. “I want out.”
The eyes narrowed, refusing to give her an answer. Alarmed, she charged forward, slashing in a way that she hoped seemed intimidating. She had practiced enough that it should.
They moved quickly out of the way. “Assuming I truly did want to keep you prisoner, do you think attacking me is going to make me want to release you?”
Annie paused. “I’m not usually like this,” she said, trying not to sound breathless from her earlier attack. Rational. Must look rational.
“What are you usually like then?”
Its sincerity made her blink. She almost answered the question. “Please,” she said, trying to sound calm, “let me go.”
This time she waited while the eyes watched her. Finally, they, it said, “If you can get in, surely you can get out.”
It wants to see me try, she thought, noting how carefully those eyes watched her. “I saw the entrance to a cave and I walked through it. That’s all.”
They leaned back and Annie got the sense that whatever the eyes belonged to had sat down. “No keywords? No magical items? Not even a wave of the hand?”
“I saw the entrance. That’s all.”
“Fascinating,” the creature the eyes must belong to murmured. The breathing increased and she realized it was sniffing. “Must be turbulence.” The eyes disappeared, leaving only the shimmering darkness.
Turbulence? Like what an airplane goes through? Here? “We’re in a cave,” she said.
“Intelligent, too,” it chuckled.
Annie paused to regain control of at least some of her frustration. “Look, I don’t know what you are–” she began but the creature interrupted.
“I doubt you’ll stay calm if I tell you. I haven’t seen garb like that in quite some time. Are all humans dressed like you?”
She hesitated. “Um, no. This is a costume. What does this have to do with letting me out?”
“Nothing. Perhaps. Perhaps everything.” The eyes opened again, looking less tired than before. In fact, they almost seemed to sparkle in the darkness.
“If you let me out, maybe I can get you a book on human fashion?”
There was a pause. When the creature answered, she realized its thoughts had been far away, and still, to a large degree, were. “Oh, no. That’s not my interest.”
Then what are you talking about? She knew it was a risk but growing panic made her say, “If you don’t let me out soon, I’ll have to hurt you.”
The voice chuckled, louder this time, a deep sound that made her think of boulders crashing down the side of a mountain, though not nearly as loud. “I’d like to see you try.” From the way the eyes rose and moved forward, she knew the creature had stood up.
She hesitated, then swung forward. The shimmering darkness grew and part of it thinned out, slamming against her sword with a clang.
Metal. Was the creature armed? She swung again, and again, focusing now on the swift, nearly invisible appendages that blocked her attacks.
“You’re going to get tired soon,” the creature warned.
“You’re just saying that because I’ve made some progress.” She panted. The sword felt too heavy in her hands.
“If you had made any progress you would have known it by now.”
She watched an appendage take form in the darkness, looking almost like a silver arm. It blocked her swing but she dropped the point of her sword quickly, pulling back, then thrusting forward towards what she hoped was a soft underbelly. The eyes jerked back, wide with surprise.
She hadn’t touched it, but throwing the creature off-balance made her smile. Triumphant, Annie was just about to say, “Didn’t expect that, did you?” when a stream of white fire rushed toward her. Her chest expanded rapidly from a breath she couldn’t stop from taking. She felt a vague burning under her skin even though the white flame didn’t touch her. Then, the fire within and without her disappeared, leaving her feeling vaguely sick.
Once more, Annie and the eyes stared at each other. “What are you?” she whispered.
“Definitely turbulence,” the eyes whispered back as amazed, it seemed, as Annie. And thrilled.
I wanted to write a story today, but didn’t have the time. And, since this has moved on to the final editing, I thought it might be nice to put an excerpt up, even if it’s in (really) rough draft form and might end up changed somewhat when the book is published. Please let me know what you think.