The interior of the magically sealed cave was not what Cato had expected. The walls were rock, there were torches at regular intervals, and a few tables and chairs here and there in the various chambers. Everyone they passed wore the same heavy, crimson robes that now concealed Cato, his brother, and the two Dorae-Kos that were leading the way. None of the regular occupants of the cave paid them any attention, either.

It was far too easy, in Cato’s opinion. And far too normal. Dark, evil caves full of dark, evil things should be far more dark and evil. This was, however, decently-lit and and uncomfortable. Blood didn’t run down the walls. The air smelled stale rather than rotting. There was no deep, echoing chanting through the tunnels. It was altogether very disappointing.

Except for the fact that they were alive and ignored. Cato liked those and was quite happy to keep things that way for as long as possible.

Anica, the robed shape in the lead, stopped at a small intersection of the tunnels and then, without pausing, turned left. Cato had no idea how she was deciding where to lead them, and was also doing his best to keep a mental track of the turns they’d taken. Best not to get lost in this cave network long enough for things to turn dark, evil, and blood-covered.

The current cave tunnel led them to a series of steps that wound upwards. They were narrow and crudely carved, and Cato couldn’t help but think that going too far up would lead them right out to the surface again. But after only twenty or so steps, they were up on an upper level of a large, open chamber. It looked like a large library of sorts.

They were on a second level, the walls lined with carvings that meant nothing to Cato and pocketed with recessed bookshelves carved directly into the stone. Every so often there was an opening that looked to lead to some kind of side chamber, but this second level seemed mostly unoccupied. Below them, however, was a maze of wooden shelves filled with everything from books to strange objects that Cato was fairly sure were not good. Crimson-clad figures moved about below, checking the shelves and referencing some of the tomes, but none bothered to look up to the four staring at them from above.

The smallest robe in their group, occupied by Pel, suddenly nodded off to the right before taking the lead that way. Anica’s robe looked back to Cato and Kyros, shrugged as much as one could in the heavy fabric, then followed Pel. The two brothers didn’t bother to look at one another and simply fell into step. They’d gotten this far by just following along and there didn’t seem to be much reason to stop.

Pel led them along the walkway encircling the upper level of the chamber and eventually into a small side chamber. There was a table to one side and a red tapestry on the wall, something Cato had been seeing more and more as they went deeper into the caves, and a simple looking door to the side. Pel seemed to be certain of her direction, and headed straight for the door.

With only a short pause to do something magic — Cato assumed that was what she was doing — Pel then opened the door to another small room with a table and bookshelves. The three of them followed her into the room that was clearly designed for one person, and Pel shut the door behind them as quietly as she could.

Once the door was closed, Pel moved over to the table, dropped the tome they’d carried all the way from Oriona onto it, and pulled her hood back, “Here we are.”

The other three followed suit, pulling their hoods down, but it was Cato that looked around curiously and responded, “I’m glad we’ve found a safe place to read away from the prying eyes of evil priests.”

“That’s the idea,” Pel either didn’t hear his sarcasm or was refusing to recognize it. Cato had the feeling she was capable of both at the same time. Somehow. The small Elf was infuriating in that way.

Cato sighed and looked to his brother, who just shrugged before they both pointed questioning looks to Anica. The young woman caught it right away, and motioned to the bookshelves on the walls, “Look.”

Rather than argue, Cato did as he was told. It didn’t take long to understand. All of the books on the walls in the room had identical spines. They were all of exactly the same design as the one they’d taken from the temple in Oriona, with the only difference being that each book had a small, unique symbol of some kind on the lower section of the spine.

Pel was already digging through the collection of tomes, though her eyes were oddly glossed over. Her voice was also distant as she spoke, “These look to be more records. I will do what I can to get through them as quickly as possible.”

Ah. That was the look. She was using magic to do something…magic.

Anica nodded, looked around the small room one more time, then pulled her hood back up, “Kyros, stay here with Pel. Cato, I want you to come with me.”

Oh. Great. He didn’t bother to ask where they were going, as he had a feeling the answer would do nothing to make him feel better. Instead, Cato simply pulled his own hood back up and checked to make sure his sword was still in a place he could access without too much trouble.

“Where are you going?” Kyros, of course, had to ask the question.

From beneath the robe, Anica’s voice was slightly harder to hear, “There has to be more here than books. We need to learn more.”

“We’re going to go find some horrible monsters and poke them,” Cato patted his brother on the shoulder, “When you hear us yelling, that means its time to pack up and go home.”

Kyros tilted his head to try to look under Cato’s hood and see if his brother was actually smiling. He failed, though, and just managed to look confused, “I guess I’ll just stay here and…look around at books.”

After a few words from Pel about being careful, Anica and Cato headed off into the cave network again. She led the way again, picking a door on the far side of the upper section of the library to lead them down another set of steps and into the main network of tunnels. They passed by a few more robed figures on the way, but thankfully they were still ignored.

This time, Anica took a more direct path, and it quickly became clear to Cato that she was heading for where most of the other figures were coming from. As they moved, the sounds of voices grew louder than before, and Cato soon realized they were approaching a very populated area of the caves. He didn’t think this was a good idea, but Anica seemed determined and he was starting to grow curious anyway.

The tunnel they followed eventually opened up into another huge, open chamber. Torches sat on the walls, as well as tapestries and corpses in various stages of decay. There were bookshelves here, too, that many robed figures were perusing. Cato couldn’t help but notice that at least a few hands reaching for books were conspicuously lacking in flesh.

But most strikingly, at the far end of the chamber, there stood a collection of the robed figures in front of what could only be described as an altar. There was nothing actually on that altar that Cato could see, but up on the wall behind it, nailed to the stone much like the corpses, was another of the black-skinned creatures that should not exist. Its head hung in such a way that implied it was dead, but when Cato looked at it he couldn’t help but feel, in addition to the wrongness of the thing’s very being, that it was looking right back at him.

It was at that moment that the creature’s head lifted up and it definitely looked at him. All of the figures around the altar noticed this change, went silent, and spun around. Suddenly, an entire room was staring at the two of them.

“I think they see us,” Cato said very, very quietly, knowing Anica was still close enough to hear him.

Her robes shifted slightly as she turned, “What did you do?”

Cato didn’t care that she couldn’t see his glare, “The same thing you did! Walked in and saw all of this!”

Again, Anica’s robes shifted. She was probably reaching for a dagger concealed beneath. Cato started to carefully reached for his sword, much more difficult to do casually, and noted that while everyone was staring at them, nothing had been said and no one had moved.

So, of course, he had to ask Anica the obvious question, “Time to go?”

Kill. Them. Both.

The words reverberated through Cato’s bones just as the other creature’s ‘voice’ had done. It also had the effect of freezing him in place while the mass of robed figures began to draw weapons and come after them.

Anica managed to get control first, withdrawing a short blade from beneath her robes and turning so that Cato could see her face beneath the hood, “Absolutely!”

Once again, Cato found himself running. At least this time there was only one way to go.