As they rounded the first bend, their access to light was completely cut off. Gabriel reached into his pouch and put the last trick Father Meinos had taught him to the test. Concentrating on an air stone, Gabriel caused one of the fire stones to float, he then shifted his focus and the glow from the fire stone illuminated the area around them. The light revealed shale walls, the ground covered in broken rock. The sides of the cavern were far enough for the two men to walk astride with enough room between them to swing their blades if necessary. With this thought, both men withdrew their blades and put on their shields, prepared for the werewolf’s pounce.
Gabriel shuffled forward quietly, barely picking his feat up, his head poking our from behind his almost triangular shield while Lear marched forward, taking long strides, the round piece of metal strapped to his arm almost an afterthought.
By the stonelight that Gabriel had conjured, the two men advanced, the floor strewn with broken shale. Twice they came across small animal corpses, possibly rabbits, but neither man lingered long enough to get a positive identification. The walls started to narrow and soon the Paladins were walking single file, with Lear in front, the floating firestone hovering over his shoulder. Another turn brought them into a large chamber, a small pool taking up most of the floor.
The two men got the impression of dozens of little feet scampering away from the light as they entered the room as the loose gravel skittered in all directions. One creature that did not run was a large lizard, nearly the size of a draft horse, who looked menacingly at the Paladins, hissed once, and charged.
Lear rolled in one direction the moment the creature moved, but the lizards eyes remained focused on Gabriel. Gabriel managed to roll out of the way himself at the last minute, but not without being clipped in the leg by the club-like tail of the beast.
As Gabriel turned, so did the creature and he found himself facing a mouth full of large, flat teeth.
Lear charged in from the side, his round shield leading, and Gabriel heard a loud thud as the older Paladin staggered backwards and fell to his back. The charge, meant to topple the reptile, had done nothing more that rock it slightly, although Gabriel thought he could hear a change in the way it was breathing. Swinging his sword, the creature backed up, watching the sharp blade carefully.
Recovering, Lear charged again, this time pouncing on the scaly back of the monster. It thrashed about wildly and made a charge of its own, at Gabriel. The young man had not expected the charge and found that the large beast had trapped his sword arm in its mouth. The flat teeth posed no real risk, but the pressure as the lizard shut its mouth was almost unbearable. Gabriel gritted his teeth and was about to scream in pain when suddenly the pressure, and the pain, was gone.
Lear jumped down from the back of the beast, his blade covered in blood. Gabriel looked closer and saw that the lizards neck had been completely split open.
The two men rested for a moment, their hearts beating heavily in their chests, before proceeding down a tunnel opposite of where they came in. As they left the room, both men could hear the claws of scavengers coming to feast in the encompassing darkness behind them.
The tunnel was now wide enough for them to stand side by side, but a quick experiment showed that they could not wield their blades without bumping into each other, so they opted to stagger themselves, Lear again taking the point. The passage had begun to slope downward, and at one point Gabriel could have sworn they had gotten turned around and were passing through a rock formation that they had already encountered. Lear had told him it was his imagination.
Time lost all meaning as they travelled through the tunnels, the sun and the moon countless feet above them, on the other side of a wall of shale. The sound of more shifting gravel caused Lear to halt, holding up his hand, but Gabriel managed to send the stonelight into the shadows, revealing a smaller version of the lizard they had just killed. This one had better instincts, and retreated into a corridor too small for either man to traverse.
A mournful howl arose somewhere within the cave, the echos making it hard to determine which direction it actually came from. Amidst the echos, Gabriel could have sworn that he heard two more howls join the first, but when he pressed Lear on the matter, the old man just shook his head and said “Let them come.”
By the stonelight, Gabriel saw a gleam in the older Paladin’s eyes that he did not like. Gabriel did had not liked being used as bait for the chances that Lear had taken with the large lizard, and was afraid of what would happen when they encountered the werewolf.
Another skeleton, this one a deer or a small horse, lay in the middle of the cave around the next bend. Gabriel leaned down to look over the bones, which were picked clean with sharp grooves where he imagined teeth stripping the meat off of them. The thought of a group of werewolves tearing hunks of flesh from a still writhing creature sent a chill down his spine. He jumped when a hand clamped down over his mouth. He had been kneeling and lost track of Lear, who now stood over him. He held up two fingers and pointed towards the next bend in the passageway. Gabriel raised his eyebrows and mouthed the word “two” back at Lear who smiled and nodded just as he was knocked to the ground by a large shadowy form behind him.
Gabriel lost focus for a moment and the stonelight went out, long enough for Lear to cry out in pain. When Gabriel had regained his concentration and the stone was glowing again, he found himself face to face with not two, but three werewolves.