, , , , ,


Chapter 33

Alexis ran through the stone tunnels, taking a left here and a right here. She felt like she was zig-zagging all over the place. It didn’t take long for her to become lost. The fear she would end up in a circle to come back to the room she had started from. She hoped her constant change of direction would confuse whoever was following her. Professor Draper would know the tunnels off by heart, he may have already closed the exits by now. Alexis would not give up, despite the bleeding and pain from the crucio curse, she kept running.

Everything echoed around her, she darted into a dark shadow fearful that Professor Draper would appear just around a corner. The echo’s would fade and she would run in the opposite direction to pause again when the voices pick back up. There were moments that Alexis swore the others were just on the other side of a wall from her.

It might have been minutes or hours that Alexis began the maze – time had no meaning down here when she found a corridor in total darkness. No lights or torches of any kind lit the path. It could be a dead end – Alexis thought to herself, but it would at least give her a place to hide and reflect before starting the maze again. She took the turn and almost stumbled head over heals down a flight of stairs. Alexis reached out her hands against the damp stone walls to steady herself before continuing down the tunnel.

The tunnel was in rough shape, stones were missing along the stairs which made Alexis slow down and test each step before she went forward. The walls turned to earth, held up by timber frames. Alexis wondered if mines were like this, so dark one couldn’t see their hand in front of their face. She was blind going down, her hands stretched out in front of her. One was to the wall as she kept walking the other waved about hoping she wouldn’t hit a solid wall of earth or stone.

As the stillness pressed onto her, Alexis took a break and held her breath. She was trying to listen for footsteps behind her, if Leon had followed her down, or would he be waiting at the end? As she waited, trying to catch her breath and steady her racing heartbeat, the sound of running water caught her attention. She followed the sound with a flicker of hope. Maybe she found an exit, one that Leon didn’t know about. It was all too much to hope for, deep down Alexis’s logical mind tried to warn her of the possibility of a trap.

Ten feet away was an iron gate. Alexis held onto the cold metal as she pushed and pulled against them wondering which way they open. It took a few tries until the rust gave way and the gate flew open tossing Alexis’ face down on cold, wet stone. Inches from her face, she felt a lip of a pool of water. As she felt around the floor, gathering whatever information she could from her surroundings, she realized the pool of water was more like a drain for an underground stream.

Alexis jumped into the knee deep water. She followed the flow down a few feet before she came to another set of iron bars. This time there were no hinges. She pressed herself between the bars, without luck. They were too close together. She shook each bar one by one trying to see if she could loosen one enough to pry it away. They didn’t move. With a cry of despair, Alexis sang into the dirty water and banged her head against the bars. She had come so far, it couldn’t end here.

Through the soft sound of running water, a set of footprints echoed nearby.

“They found me.” Alexis whispered, giving her body the extra jolt of energy it needed. She stared at darkness her hands on the iron bars and tried to think of another spell she could preform in her predicament. Every spell she’d done without a wand felt like a fluke, could she do it again?

“Third time’s a charm, right?” She tried to reason with herself as her hands grabbed one iron bar.

“Reducio” Alexis whispered. Nothing happened. She closed her eyes and focused her magical energies again. Reducio! She thought in her head, over and over and over. The echo of footprints sounded closer. “REDUCIO” Alexis shouted, not caring who heard her by now.

The iron bar in her hands shook. Alexis pushed it back and forth feeling the bar loosening itself from the stone. It shrank, slowly until she could yank the bar out of its hold and toss it behind her with a splash. Alexis squeezed herself between the gap and hurried into the opening on all fours just in time. With a single look back the teenager could see a light appearing from the stairwell she had arrived by.

The waterway was full of mud, slim and other substances that stank and clung to Alexis’ body. Fear was the only motivation she had that kept her moving in the undignified condition she was in. She feared Leon coming up behind her, she feared death at every twist and turn in the pipe. The fear kept her going, and Alexis was grateful to that.

Minutes felt like hours and crawling on all fours put more pain and pressure on her already worn and broken body. Alexis wondered how far this water pipe would go, or if there would be an end at all. She could be stuck in the pipes forever, her bones washed away as her body decomposed. Alexis shook her head, trying to rid herself of the dark thoughts that bubbled up more often than she liked.

Just when the stench of the pipes were too much to handle, Alexis had a whiff of fresh air. Her spirits lifted as she increased her speed. She saw her surroundings, soft light poured in from the end of the pipe. She took in a breath of fresh air before falling into a pool of ice cold water that stung at her wounds. The current was strong and pushed her further down river. Alexis couldn’t remember any rivers or streams around her grandfather’s house and with that underground dungeon she could be miles away. The further away the better. The cold ate away at her bare skin. Alexis reached the edge and lifted herself up and onto the ground just as a light snow fell from the clouded night sky.

Even though she was out of that dungeon, Alexis knew she had to keep going. Leon could be anywhere, and she was so far from home. She had to get back to London, to tell everyone about the Liberators before Professor Draper could cover his tracks.

There was nothing but trees and grass around her. Alexis kept walking, she would have to hit civilization sometime, she told herself. A shadow caught her eye that made Alexis pause. The cold January wind whistled through the tree branches brining with it a chill that shook her to the bones. It was just the wind – Alexis told her paranoid mind, but a movement to her left made her jump back.

The shadow emerged from the underbrush. A cold chill ran down her spin, all the hairs on the back of her neck rose. It was a Kurai Seishin, wolf-shaped, with glowing red eyes. Alexis stepped back only to hear more rustling from behind her. A second Kurai Seishin appeared and snapped its jaws at her. Two? Alexis thought, gazing at their size. Where did they come from, and how could they be so large? Before Alexis could run, a third dark spirit appeared. They had her surrounded.

“Draper.” Alexis mumbled to herself. One Kurai Seishin had been enough of a problem before, three signified his desire to execute her with haste. With no way of defending herself, all Alexis could hope for was to outrun the beasts. Slipping through two of them, she ran as fast as her legs could carry her. Her endurance level had already passed its peak back in the tunnels. Trying to outrun three dark spirits was pointless, but she kept pushing her body to its limits. Tears fell down her checks as her body protested against the pain that kept building within her. Exhaustion was almost upon her, she could feel the dark bliss of unconsciousness catching up. Maybe death wouldn’t be so bad if she was out cold?

At that second a Kurai Seishin jumped onto Alexis’ back, pushing her to the ground and dug its sharp claws into her skin. A yell pierced the silence as Alexis accepted her fate.

“Mother, father…” Alexis whined, wishing the pain would disappear.

A bright yellow bolt shot through the air, piercing the darkness of the night sky like lightning. The weight of the Kurai Seishin on her back vanished to be replaced by a sturdy arm. The man picked her up by the shoulder and sheltered her next to a tree. Another two shots of the same light came out of the man’s wand, hitting the other spirits that jumped towards them. Their dark energy dissipated upon impact. With the threat subdued, the man made an orb of light that hovered above the pair. Alexis glanced up into the face of her saviour.

“Crow?” She whispered with chattering teeth. Cadfan, Crowe’s pet crow flew down and landed on his shoulder as if he had been called.

“Alexis are you alright?” He asked, his eyes were wide and full of worry, as he took in her appearance, injuries and shivering body. Taking off his leather coat, he wrapped it around her shoulders. Sounds echoed nearby as more people appeared out of nowhere. “Where’s Leon?”

“I’m fine.” Alexis mumbled, glad to be leaning against a tree or she was sure she would have fallen down by now. “I don’t know… I left him back in the maze of tunnels. He said we were under the Rune Manor.”

“Damn house – I can never seem to leave it behind.” Crowe spat back. “Potter, Weasley, I’ll take you there. It’s about time the ghosts inside are flushed out.”  Through the artificial light created by magic, Alexis saw Lilly’s dad and uncle step forward, along with a small group of other witches and wizards.

“Don’t leave.” Alexis said with alarm as she clutched at her uncle’s shirt. She didn’t know why she said that. He glared down at her with those silver eyes, not with annoyance or impatience but with a warmth she had never seen before. He wrapped her in a hug.

“Don’t worry, I’ll be back. Minky will take you back to the Dragon’s Scroll and Kaylee will look after you.”

Alexis nodded to Crow’s words as Cadfan jumped from her uncles shoulder to hers. Minky grabbed her hand, she had not even noticed her until that moment and with a puff and a lurch the two left the forest.

Chapter 32                            INDEX