Chapter One

Cropped Line 2


While Francine struggled to open the worn-out door, Eagen stared at the motionless body infused into the nearby wall, his senses on high-alert. To say the bricks shifting upon his approach to reveal such carnage, a man gruesomely carved up and left for dead inside the wall, was shocking would be a severe understatement.

“I got it open,” hollered Francine. “Come on!”

“This phrase on his body…does it mean…?” He rushed to catch her. “Wait! You didn’t see the murderous scene back there? The body? The passage chiseled into his flesh?”

“What are you talking about?” She shot a cynical gleam. “There’s nothing there.”

Glancing back, the bricks had already rotated back into position. The body was gone.  When he turned to Francine, she was already rushing full steam into the tunnel. For now, this massacre scene was going to have to wait.

The maze of corridors carved from the city’s deep foundation seemingly stretched and snaked forever as endless passageways to nowhere. The glows of the lamps burned brighter and the stale odor of damp air grew stronger as he followed her deeper. Many things about this sat uneasy with him, but that body, its message and Francine’s inability to see it vexed him most.

“I can’t believe I never knew these tunnels existed, and I made it my business to know such things. Everything from which buildings had secret rooms to—” He stopped to look behind.

“Eagen? What is it?”

Sticking his finger to his lips to instruct silence, he crouched and closed his eyes while placing his palms on each side of the passageway. After a moment, he stood up.

“It’s nothing. I was wrong.”

“Okay?” Francine rolled her eyes, turning to press on. “Come on. It’s not much further.”  “What was it again you said your brother did down here?”

“I don’t really know what they did. They’d hold meetings of some sort, but I was never made privy to it all. There are rooms up ahead, but I wasn’t ever allowed in any of them.”

Narrowing his eyes, “Why’d he bring you then?”

“It was only a few times and it was to bring supplies. They’d go for hours…sometimes all night. No idea why they were so secretive about it, you know? They were odd.”

Eagen met her words with silence.

“Know what I’m saying?” She halted her chubby body.

Only half listening to her, Eagen had stopped several yards back, again crouching with both palms caressing the chilly catacomb walls.

There it is again. “I knew it!” He shot up. “There’s someone here…about a hundred and fifty yards behind and closing in fast. How much further ‘til we get to those rooms?”

“I—I dunno, maybe another fifty yards or so. Not far.”

“Let’s get there quickly. We need to hide. Hurry now!”

The pair took off, running as fast as their bodies could carry them.

“No one knows we’re here,” Francine stammered between gasps. “I can’t imagine…whoever it is…would be looking for us.”

“After the last twenty-four hours, I’m not about to take any chances,” Eagen said.

The pair finally made it to the end of the tunnel where it opened into a cavernous chamber so large it was unimaginable to fathom it was all secretly hidden underneath the city streets. Eagen’s eyes darted in all directions, only to stop upon the lifelike dragon statues adorning the four corners of the chamber; each was carved with a critical stare, seemingly examining everyone and everything that entered the great hall.

These statues, he thought, they’re just like the ones we saw in the Temple. The blood-carved message, the dragons…no, this can’t be. I was assured of their demise!

His inspection of the room moved past the three steel doors on the far wall concealing the side rooms and finally settled upon the sarcophagus in the center. The eyes of the dragon effigy resting atop the tomb’s cover startlingly sprang open, and the tarnished cauldrons dangling above the coffin lit aflame, spewing with fire as he drew near.

He assured me they…but this is exactly what we saw. “Francine…where are we?”

The sound of footsteps rapidly approaching cut the woman short of answering.

“Come on…in here!” He grabbed her hand, thrusting her toward one of the doors.

After it refused to budge he stepped back and thrust his hands at the latch, sending an acute jolt of magical energy. The sealed door creaked as it opened.

“Hurry now. They’re almost here,” he urged.

After shoving the woman, he followed her into the obscurity and pulled the door until the latch clicked. He remained fixated, quietly listening with his back to the rest of the room.

The charging footsteps grew louder until finally coming to an unexpected stop. Eagen waited, ready to blast anyone who came through that door.

“Um, Eagen” Francine whispered.

“Shhh.” He waved her off.

“No, look!” she demanded, disregarding his plea for silence.

Slowly he turned around. It was as if someone had sucked the breath right out of him when a set of ghastly images emerged from the darkness.

Jeremy Shory

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