Chapter Twenty-Four - The Daemon and The Sacrifice

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THE STEADY DRIP OF WATER was the only sound that could be heard within the cavern. Each drop echoing, growing louder as it bounced off the rocky walls.

George and the Elves were frozen in place, staring up at the Daemon crouched on the ledge above them. Its skin rippled, flashing green to black in the light of the torches scattered around the chamber. Eyes like glowing coals studied them closely. Skittering from the ledge—holding the Princess before it like some ill-gotten prize—it dropped closer to where they stood.

George cried out, feeling the familiar buzz of the creature invading his mind once again. Sensing his discomfort Stryker crouched beside him a low whine emanating from his throat. George took a firm grip on the dog's mane and trying to calm him.

Have you decided on your course of action yet, boy?

George paused, fighting back the pain, trying to think of a way to delay the Daemon. 'I do not know what you mean,' he said slowly.

Do not play games, you know exactly what is expected of you, the Daemon hissed holding up the princess' body to emphasise the point.

George tried to clear his mind, using Meriol to fire his rage at the creature holding her. He could see no signs of life, but Malin said that she still lived. If so, and there was a way of saving her and getting out of here alive, then they needed a plan. And fast.

'But I don't have the stones,' George shouted angrily. 'I don't know where they are.'

You try to play me for a fool boy, they are here. Look around you.

George turned slowly, surveying the chamber. He was stood on the edge of a circular platform that filled the cavern floor. His eyes were drawn to a raised plinth on the far side. On its top sat a glowing multifaceted stone.

The stones? He wondered. Was that one of them? If so where were the others?

Bring it to me, the Daemon roared inside his mind. Do not delay, you know well the consequences of defying me.

A picture of blood-soaked bodies scattered around the cave floor flashed in his mind. It was no use; he could think of no way to delay the inevitable. He knew that the Daemon would kill them all whatever the outcome, delaying any longer changed nothing. He turned towards the plinth and stepped forward.

'Hold George!' Malin cried out. 'Do not move.'

'But the Daemon speaks to me. Shows me terrible things. It wants the Key and it promised to return Meriol if I get it.'

Malin moved closer. 'You know that is a lie, George. The Daemon as no intention of giving the Princess back.'

George's heart sank. 'I know,' he shrugged. 'But I have to try.'

The Elf speaks the truth boy; they will not leave this place. But of course, you already know that. You, on the other hand, intrigue me. I would learn more about you and your race. Bring me that stone and we can leave this place together.

George felt his anger rising again. He would get the stone, hoping for a chance, no matter how slim, to save the Princess. He started to move forward again, but Malin slammed into him knocking him to the ground. George struggled against the Elf's wiry strength, trying to regain his feet. Malin leant in close. 'No,' he whispered. 'I cannot say more; the creature reads our minds. Trust me when I say it is too dangerous.'

You seek to defy me Elf. I shall enjoy tearing your frail body apart.

Malin stiffened as the sibilant whisperings invaded his mind for the first time. He turned and glared at the Daemon. 'Why do you not just take the stone yourself? It is there. Why do you need the boy?'

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