Chapter 11

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She heard a whap followed by a cracking sound as she made her way down into the darkness. She imagined the stairs were covered with bits of brave moss and sticky puddles of dragon drool.

Emerson, of course, couldn't actually see the steps in order to judge what they looked like, but her imagination amused her on the blind trek downward into the dungeon.

She missed her son, she thought as her wool socks slipped a little on the step. They amused each other relentlessly and he'd be a fun little companion in the dark castle. He'd be in his socks too, sliding around on purpose, sailing across the floors in his Superman cape.

The hammering crack sounded again, this time louder than the last.

"Liam?" Her voice echoed for seconds and her eyes widened as she wondered how big the dungeon actually was. "Jesus. I hope there isn't really a dragon down here that will flame me to death. Hopefully it's a magical dragon. Like Puff," she muttered to herself.

She heard the sound again and walked toward it.

"Liam? Please say that sound is coming from you."

"Over here."

The soft white glow from his phone spread around him as he appeared from behind a wall and walked toward her. "What're you doing down here?"

There was edge to his voice that hadn't been there before.

"You were gone for awhile so I came to see what you were doing. Also I couldn't take any more hypothetical questions. God, it's freezing down here."

"Why were you answering hypothetical questions to begin with?" He asked as he tugged her hand and walked her back toward where he'd been.

"Math," she said, as if that explained it all. "What're you doing down here? You seem...different."

"Stand there," he instructed. "And hold this toward me, like this." Liam handed his phone to Emerson, held it at the angle he wanted the light to shine, then walked off.

"Okay..." She said skeptically then jiggled in place to keep warm.

She eyed the dark, waiting, then she realized she and the white spotlight were alone. "So, I suppose I'll try asking again." Her voice lifted and echoed to reach wherever he'd disappeared to. "What are you—"

Her words were cut off by the sight of an axe flying from the blackness down onto a piece of wood.

"Holy shit. You could've warned me you were about to murder me."

"I'm not murdering you."

"You could've been. You should have warned me."

"What kind of murderer warns you before killing you?" He asked, tossing the kindling he'd cut off to the side in a clank.

"One with morals?"

Another thwack came down hard, more wood was split into pieces and she shuddered even though she was standing away from the action.

"A murderer with morals. Let me know if you find one."

"I'll start looking for one as soon as I make it out of here alive. Jesus." She pressed a hand to her pounding heart. "So, are you going to tell me what's going on? You really do seem..."

As another swing of axe broke through the thin light and shattered wood into smaller slices, she waited for the lull between blows, no longer bothered.

"Tense," she finished. "Or, angry maybe? I don't know you well enough to know which it is. But it's one of those."

"Neither," he said as he threw the wood onto the pile with more force than was necessary.

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