By Alicia Steen
Hill region, Gathyra. Year After Shadow 2097
The very next day as the Gathyran sun greets the forested wilderness, the three princes and Synrn land on the hill Mykl and Parkr cleared the day before. As the group dismounts from various steeds, Kyle and Jeske greet them.
“This is quite the hill you’ve uncovered,” Jeske comments. “The satyrs apparently hold a very good reason for desiring to keep it.”
“Why, was there excitement while you waited?” Parkr asks. A dragon of dark green drops in from the sky, and Parkr responds to his greeting by rubbing the dragon’s nose. “Both of you look like you’ve been busy.”
“Some two hundred satyrs rushed the hill just before sunup. They were definitely waiting to ambush whoever landed here. Kyle and I took care of them, of course.”
Mykl grunts. “So that’s why this hill has grown a moat overnight.” He looks carefully into the wilderness beyond. “There’s activity past the moat. We can expect another assault before the day’s end.”
“Not a problem,” Parkr replies confidently. Mystery, whom Parkr flew in on, pushes off into the sky, followed by James’ dragon of sky blue and the dark green dragon charged with patrolling the hill. “Mystery will handle them.”
Synrn’s fiery phoenix joins the dragons in the sky. Synrn asks Kyle, “Did the satyrs say anything before you swept them away?”
Kyle nods. “They mentioned an old saying: sentinels rise when champions awaken.”
Jeske continues, “However, they didn’t mention what that has to do with this place.”
“Then we shall press on and find out,” James concludes. The group of six marches into the ruins, now quiet but with fresh signs on the old stones of Parkr and Mykl’s cleansing the day previous. In an odd corner down what surely used to be an alley of this ancient outpost, they find an opening that leads deep inside the hill itself. The opening is framed by stones still old but obviously newer than the ruin surrounding it.
“You’d never know this was here unless you were looking for it,” James says. “I was sure we were walking into a wall back there.”
Jeske slants a gaze toward Parkr. “Parkr, how’d you ever discover this?”
Parkr shrugs. “Something about the hill seemed off.”
James turns to Mykl. “And based on that you went with him to relocate an entire outpost of satyrs with just the two of you.”
“Mystery helped,” Mykl grins. “It was going to be done eventually anyhow.”
Kyle crouches near the stone framing the opening. “The symbol of sentinels.”
“And the Gathyran royal seal below it. This has to be the place where First King Cenryr hid his resting place.”
“Especially for us to find, it would seem,” Jeske finishes. “Shall we go?”
The group descends, with the serid Princess Erelynn loaned them going first. Eventually the stairs level out. Past a sharp left a wide hallway lit by beams of light in random places greets them. The three princes immediately groan with slumped shoulders in undesired recognition of the nature of the various traps set in the hallway.
“Oh come on,” Mykl exclaims. In unison the three princes recite the word.
The other three look at them questioningly. “Flags?” Synrn asks.
“That’s right, you wouldn’t have been around then,” Mykl explains. “You know our dad sets up those insane obstacle courses for us, right?”
Synrn nods, and James continues. “The very first course he set up involved an ungodly number of red flags. Contact with their shadows sent you flying out of the course.”
“Ah,” Jeske says. “In that case it looks as though we must traverse this hallway while avoiding the beams of light.”
“Do your best,” Synrn calls. The others glare at him.
“You are the reverse element user. You’re going first,” Parkr tells him.
“I think this guy would make a better candidate,” Synrn says, holding up the serid. The group grins. “‘He shall light your way where none other dare to tread,’” Synrn quotes. He sets the serid down, and after a tentative look back at them, the serid runs onto the course. Thanks to his quite literally lightning-fast reflexes, the serid was able to just manage to arrive safely at the end of the hallway.
“Whoa, that is intense,” comes Mykl’s reaction.
“I know we’re all dying to duplicate that performance, but did you see what happened on some of those traps?” Parkr asks.
“When the serid shone brightly enough, the trap in the vicinity deactivated,” Jeske answers.
Synrn and Parkr exchange dangerous smiles. “Let’s light it up!”
The rest of the traps they met were traversed in a similar fashion. Some favored the talents of the princes, others were more suited to Synrn, Jeske, or Kyle. The serid proved to be so useful time and again that they started calling him Zip, short for zip or zap. The traps also continued to generate various exclamations of surprise, awe, and pure unbelief, the highlights of which ran something like this:
“I’m not sure I’ve ever said this before, but that was a close one.”
“Surprising how this King Cenryr continues to be unpredictable.”
“All right, I am not swimming through that when we go back.”
“Now I know where dad gets it. Apparently diabolical runs in the family.”
“Uh oh. I’m not sure we’ll be able to pass this one.”