35. Peter And The Big Reveal

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"Ashley?" The dirty guy says in surprise, eyes widening.

"Peter?!?" I exclaim, stepping out from behind Lager, who let's out some kind of growl I could barely hear.

"It is you, Thank God." He says, taking a shaky step forward. "I can't believe you're here. I'm so glad to see you-"

"Peter!" I cut him off, my anxiety starting to grow as I think about what Peter being here and in such a state probably means."What are you doing here?"

Peter opens his mouth to answer, but that's the moment when he finally realizes Lager standing not two feet away, looking ready to pummel him. He straightens, his hand drifting to his gun holster which I notice is empty. What happened to his gun? And more importantly, what happened to him?

"Lager," I say, gesturing with my hand. "This is Peter. Peter, Lager."

"You're a Darkling." Peter breathes in awe.

Lager lets a wicked smirk settle on his face.

"Not just a Darkling. I'm the Darkling High Commander," he says in a very threatening voice. I roll my eyes and sigh.

"Peter you need to tell us what's wrong now. Is my father okay?" I get back on topic.

Peter focuses back on me, a Shadow crossing his eyes.

"I don't know." He admits, hands starting to tremble a little. "We were so close to reaching the Core, when we were attacked by these huge, terrifying creatures. They mostly stuck to the shadows, so I didn't catch a glimpse, but one of my comrades did. He-he froze up, not moving an inch, and was instantly dragged away by one of those things." He shudders, recalling the memory that makes me want to barf.

"Lynchers." Lager says, seeming a little spooked himself. "Those idiots. They should have known we would have protection around the Core."

"What happened next?" I ask, desperate for every detail, to see if he knows anything at all about my father.

"I was separated from the rest of the group and took that chance to run. Stumbling upon you was a miracle."

My mind is whirling, my skin clammy and pale. No, no no. Dad has to be alright. He has to be.

Lager notices my distress and speaks up. "I'll let you stay here for the night Peter, but that is it. Follow me."

Lager turns to leave, but pauses as if forgetting something. Slightly hesitant, he raises his hand, then with determination he takes a hold on my other one, tugging me ahead with him. I might have let him, or tugged free, but I was too anxious to even consider doing either, so I let him drag me behind, Peter walking quickly to keep up.

Soon the what seemed like an endless orchard melts away to reveal Highclere, The volcano just up ahead. There's a huge set of metallic double doors carved into the side of the volcano, and two Darklings stand guard there. When they see Lager coming, one of them immediately moves to a lock pad at the side of the doors. He enters in a very long code, which is so long we stand there for a few moments as beeps fill the air with each number he presses.

"Why is the code so long?" I ask, thankful for the distraction that keeps me away from my worry.

Lager looks down at me, his lip twitching up. "Extra security measure of course.....and I might have wanted to punish the Darkling guards for their recent slack on their job. They had to memorize this code in one night or else they had to spend an entire day locked in our prison, which is located around the very core of the volcano way down under."

I grow pale thinking about how unbearably hot it must be in that prison.

A last beep sounds and the heavy doors slide open. The guard gets back into his position and in unison they both salute as Lager strides past. He tugs me along and as I'm passing the guard who entered the code I mouth "I'm sorry".  The guard doesn't see though and continues to stare straight ahead.

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