Rory blinked hard and shook her head. She just had a vivid memory of making love to Colin from before they had left on this journey.
“Get your head in the game girl,” she muttered to herself.
She focused as she had been taught, trying to feel the flows of life energy around her. It was a struggle as the flows felt chaotic and jumbled. She doubled down and tried again, really willing her conscious self away and just becoming one with the energy. Fear. She felt a current of fear so strong it caused her to physically recoil.
“It’s not real. Its static in the system,” she told herself as she tried to keep her focus and ignore the biological response of her body.
Astra came up behind her and placed a hand on her shoulder, using her own training to will calm to the other girl. It helped. Rory reached out again, trying to follow the thread of fear but it became tangled as more lines intersected with it.
Rory pulled back, turning to Astra. “Something terrified them. All of them,” she said.
Leela and the elves had taken the left hand pathway from the entrance. They came to a large chamber with a channel of water in the center.
“This was the well for the citadel,” Lugh observed.
He grunted and pointed with his axe. There were various weapons scattered across the floor. Knives, short swords, spears, arrows, all randomly jumbled as if dropped in battle but there was no other signs anything was wrong. Battles with these types of weapons left bodies, and parts of bodies and blood. The room was as clean as if it had been swept, other than the weapons. They themselves were clean and shiny as if polished.
“Stay alert,” Leela said. “There is something very wrong here.”
“No shi’ lady,” Lir grumbled under her breath.
“Call the others,” Leela instructed. “We’re getting close to whatever the key to this is.”
Dee nodded and set off down the hallway in the direction the rest of the party had taken. While they waited, Leela shed the overskirt she had worn traveling.
“I hated these bloody things two hundred years ago and I hate the bloody things now.”
Free to move, she went to each of the discarded weapons, trying to get some connection of life energy from them but they were strangely void of any sense of connection to the living.
Lugh was torn between fear and intrigue by the priestess. He wasn’t afraid to admit that she terrified him. Unnatural stuff this life energy manipulation. It was bad enough Rory and now Astra did it but this woman reeked of it. On the other hand she seemed like the key to finding out what the hell was going on.
“Can you, you know, sense anything?” Lugh asked her.
“No I bloody well can’t and that’s WRONG.” She fumed.
“Why?” Lugh asked.
She sighed. “When a human or an elf or any living, intelligent creature spends significant time with an inanimate object, traces of it’s own life energy are left on it. Like footprints in wet soil. Weapons are especially good for sensing these footprints as the being using them is often in a heightened state of emotion while doing it. The more you’re radiating emotion, the deeper the footprint, do you understand?”
“Yes,” Lugh said. “So can you feel these footprints here?”
Leela grimaced. “No. I can’t and that’s what’s bloody wrong. Even without a fight I should feel something from them practicing or being cleaned or such but I feel nothing. It’s like someone raked the soil smooth. There’s fuckery afoot.”
Dee returned with the rest of the party.
“Anything?” Leela asked Rory and Astra.
“Fear. I got a giant tangled knot of fear in the dining hall,” Rory said. “Almost overwhelming when I found it. They left their meal right on the table and no one came back to it.”
“There are weapons all over this room and I’ve gotten nothing off any of the ones I’ve checked.”
“Nothing?” Astra asked.
“Not a bloody thing. I’ve a few more to go. Help me?”
“Of course,” Rory said.
While the two women checked the remaining weapons, Dee noticed the elven woman Era acting oddly. She sort of wandered around the chamber as if in a daze. Dee nudged Astra and nodded at the elf.
“I’m getting something here,” Leela said excitedly, kneeling in front of a short sword. “This one isn’t wiped clean.”
Era wandered through the room, absently running her hand along the wall. She came to the archway at the end of the room and paused, her face going from blank to confused and back again.
“OH!” Leela gasped. “I…”
Era went through the arch into the next room. Astra followed.
The next room was a dead end. There was a raised platform with a statute and a brazier, still burning in front of it. Above the platform, the ceiling opened to, Astra couldn’t tell what. She would have assumed the outside but for the fact that it was still daylight outside and whatever that opened to was pitch black. Era had climbed to the platform and was looking into the opening.
“Bloody hell!” Leela exclaimed, pulling back. “We need to get out of here! Now!”
“Era! Get away from there!” Astra shouted.