Falling was always an interesting sensation. The mix of terror and exhilaration that went right back to terror upon looking down was like nothing else. Cato was, however, tired of it. He had spent far too much of the past day off the ground in various ways, and it was in no way natural.

This time, at least, looked to be the last. The stone-covered ground of the Orionan street below was rapidly approaching. There were no carts, convenient overhangs, or helpful ropes to save them. No. In another second Cato, his brother Kyros, and Anica, still clinging to a tome half her size, would never have to worry about falling again.

Dragging the three of them off of the ledge of one of the upper-level walkways of Oriona had seemed a good idea at the time. One of those horrible, jet black creatures that caused the mind to disagree on it’s existence was mere yards behind them, gliding towards them as if even the ground refused to acknowledge the creature’s reality. But the ground below was further than Cato had remembered, and the best outcome his mind could come up with involved hitting their heads on the stone and dying instantly. The worst seemed more likely, though: Only breaking their legs from the fall, leaving them unable to move as the creature found them and did much worse.

Cato forced himself to keep his eyes open. At the very least, he would face whatever came next.

The ground never came, though.

His feet should have been in pain from the fall. He shouldn’t have felt the arms of both Anica and Kyros as he held onto them. But…he still did. And for some reason everything had gone black.

Suddenly, direction changed. The feeling of air rushing up was replaced with the opposite, as if they were now falling on their backs. To confirm this, a half second later, pain shot through his back and everything stopped.

“Get up!” the voice that yelled at him was familiar, but it was neither Kyros nor Anica. He did hear a few groans which sounded like the other two, though. What in the Hells had happened…?

A hand grabbed his collar, and Cato found himself yanked up to his feet.Cato quickly opened his eyes, unable to remember when they’d closed, and found himself staring completely over the head of someone. Turning to look down, he saw one of the members of Anica’s little group: the slightly-built Elf girl, Pel.

She was already moving to help the other two up onto their feet, speaking quietly and sharply, “Teleportation is disorienting. Stand up. Open your eyes. Everything will stop spinning in a moment.”


Cato looked around and realized that, yes, they were still outside but this was not the street they had been falling into. This was a back alley, barely wide enough for two people to stand side by side in. Somehow, they had fallen sideways into the side of a wooden building rather than vertically onto the stone street.

“Why did you take so long to do that?” Kyros’s voice wavered as he attempted to steady himself.

Pel was busy helping Anica to her feet, eyeing the large book in the woman’s arms, and responded out of the side of her mouth, “I couldn’t see you. Dangerous enough using a spell like that to change your orientation. Had to make sure I didn’t grab whatever was after you, too.”

“You saw it?” suddenly, Cato didn’t care about the fact that forward felt like it should be up, “Where is it?”

Pel pointed to her left, “A mile that way. We’re on the opposite end of Oriona. It shouldn’t be able to track us right away.”

“The others?” finally, Anica spoke up. Her voice was shaky, which was not something Cato was used to hearing from a girl that had spent the entire day feigning a foreign accent and pretending she couldn’t speak Common.

“Safe,” Pel’s response was immediate, “Everyone did exactly what they were supposed to when you left the temple.”

Everyone except Rollan. But no, he’d done what he was supposed to have done…protect them. They’d just failed to anticipate such a threat.

The silence told Cato that all of them thought the same thing. But when the moment was gone, Cato’s pragmatic side began screaming at him. Not one to disagree with it, he looked to Anica and Pel, “That thing is going to come for us.”

“And quickly,” Kyros added, “I’ve never seen anything move like that.”

Pel nodded, though her attention was still on Anica. She was clearly shaken by how quickly things had gone wrong. In Cato’s experience, nothing went wrong slowly, so he assumed this was the first time Anica had encountered failure. Just give her a moment to breathe and then they were going to have to get back into the tunnels beneath Oriona…

“Oriona isn’t safe. We need to leave,” Anica looked up to meet Pel with a serious expression, then turned to Cato and Kyros, “You want out? Come with us.”

Once again, Anica had proven Cato completely wrong. She wasn’t inexperienced or even shaken. She had been thinking. Everything had been internalized as her mind raced through what to do, and in seconds she was planning. Of course she was. How else would she lead a group of people like the Dorae-Kos?

“I’ll get back to the others, then,” Pel turned to leave but Anica grabbed her shoulder to stop her.

“You need to come with us,” Anica nodded to the book she held, “You may be able to read what I can’t and this holds the key to all of this.”

With a nod, Pel spun around, “I’ll send a message to the others.”

Anica nodded and then pointed a serious expression in Cato’s direction, “We have a way out of the city nearby. After we’re outside, you’re free to go as you will.”

Of course she said that. The only reason she’d said that to his face was because she clearly knew what he was going to do. It was written on his face. But Cato was becoming too tired to bother fighting petty things, “We’ll go with you.”

“We will?” Kyros grabbed his brother by the arm and gave him a confused stare.

Cato nodded to his brother, though he answered the question to Anica, “We’re involved in this now. Those priests are up to something and you were all right. We need to do something about it.”

Anica actually smiled at that before nodding and pushing past the two brothers to lead the way. Pel was next, pushing past while somehow managing to glare at him approvingly. Kyros simply continued to stare at him in shock.

But Cato rolled his eyes and kicked his brother on, “Don’t say it because this is your fault in the first place. Just follow them and let’s get out of here.”