“We’re not allowed.”

“That’s why it’s important for you to be quiet.” I pushed the shorter boy to the side and stumbled down the embankment. Just in front of us, surrounded by slopping hills, sat the entrance to the demon’s lair. A black hole carved into the side of the mountain which led to the underworld, or so the legends said. 

“Raja, I think we should leave.” 

“A warrior isn’t afraid of anything.” I slipped down to a lower level and adjusted my quiver strap across my bare chest. 

“But you’re not a warrior,” said Nyko in a hushed voice.

“Not yet,” I muttered. “But my coming of age will be soon.” 

“You won’t be sixteen until next year.”

Glancing over my shoulder, I glared at him. “Azuka said to be a great warrior you have to think like one.” 

“I don’t think he meant this, Raja. This place is forbidden; not even your brothers come here. If the chief finds out-”

“My father isn’t going to find out.” I continued down the steep path.

He grabbed my arm. “What if one of those creatures is down there?”

“They haven’t come in years.” I jerked my arm free. “What makes you think today will be any different?” I took a step forward and felt the ground shift beneath me.

“Raja!” Nyko tried to grabbed me as I toppled forward and rolled the rest of the way down the incline.  

I landed on my stomach in the dirt and felt a pain in my ankle. The rock I had stepped came to a stop by my head. 

“Raja!” Nyko sided down to a lower ledge and used a tree to stop himself.

“I’m fine,” I muttered as I sat up and wiped my face. “Just stay up there.” Rising to my elbows, I peered into the dark tunnel. “Wow,” I breathed. I slowly stood up and hobbled toward the entrance. 

“Raja,” hissed my friend. “Please Raja, let’s go back.”

“Just a minute.” I ran my hand down the wooden pillar surrounding the door. 

“Raja, don’t touch it.”

“It’s fine.” I traced the black symbols that a wise-man had burned not the wood long ago had to keep the demon inside. It didn’t work though; the giant beast would still emerged from hell and dragged members of my tribe to the dark underworld. 

“Raja,” begged Nyko. “Please can we go now?”

“Alright.” I limped back to the tree. “Give me a hand.”

Nyko crawled down to a lower overhand and grabbed my outstretched arm. “What are you going to tell your dad about your ankle?”

I shrugged as I climbed up on the rock where he was standing. “I’ll think of something.”

“Did you hear that?” asked Nyko.

I sat down and rubbed the slightly swollen joint. “No. You’re just hearing things.”

He stood still. “There it was again.”

“You’re hearing things,” I muttered annoyed. “Come on let’s go. Azuka will come looking if we don’t get back soon.” I started up the hill.

Nyko grabbed my arm. “I mean it Raja. Something’s in there.” He glanced toward the tunnel.

Shaking my head, I continued up in the incline. “Like I said you’re hearing things. You’re just afraid, so you mind is playing tricks on you.”

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