Chapter 27: A Monster in the Dark

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The descent into the Deadways was made in awe and silence. Nox kept the pace at a steady march, crossbow at the ready, while the other officers followed behind with the Greenhorns keeping close. Dux kept a thoughtful eye. Civis was sweating despite the chilly, still air. Culter however looked almost bored. He flipped his stiletto absentmindedly in his free hand, looking around as if searching for something to kill.

The stairway terminated into a small room where the priests of the Acropolis kept supplies. A cache of torches were lit and passed around, filling the small room with greasy smoke and ruddy light.

After passing the initial mausoleum where the noble dead were ceremoniously buried the band had found only hallway after stone bricked hallway to greet them.

Every now and then they would pass a mass grave or the mausoleum to an old noble house, the sigils carved in the stone so old that no one had any business understanding. There only goal was keeping up on Nox's tale as he lead the Vangen to the Palace.

Stone hallways turned down more stone hallways, twisting and turning with no rhyme or reason, with the only constant being a continuous descent deeper into the bowls of the earth. The air grew colder then, until every breath became a labored puff of smoke.

"Nido's tits it's freezing in here." Civis was the first to complain. He pulled his cloak tightly against him, his teeth chattering away in his skull. "I thought the closer you were to Gehenna the hotter it got. Not the other way around."

That earned a chuckle from Culter, amused by something only he understood. Civis shot him a glare but said nothing. Even he knew not to question the minds of men like him. In there lay only madness.

"Heat rises and the chill descends," Dux mused. "Simple science."

"Never took you for a learned man." Civis said, a jab that any other man would have taken for an insult. Dux knew better. He merely nodded, his face set into the iron mask. A face he made whenever he felt trouble brewing. There wasn't anything inherently dangerous about the Deadways. The dead do not come back. A simple science, but he was more worried about what may linger with the dead. An ambush maybe or worse, Tyrannus himself. Dux prayed to every God he thought was listening that this would never come to pass. He still couldn't shake the pale green eyes that burned out of Vizith back at the warehouse. An invasion of the mind like that, it reminded him too greatly of what the Empress was capable off.

She hadn't appeared to Dux since the defeat of the Dargon, but the only reason was his avoidance of sleep as much as possible. Even then once his body had reached its limit, Magus would use his glamour to send him into a dreamless sleep. A service that the old magician had gracefully kept to himself.

But now with an entire days offensive under his belt, Dux was starting to feel the candle burning at both ends. His eyes were heavy. Limbs stiff with fatigue. Every step felt like his last. And yet the fear of dreaming back into the palace kept him alert and focused. He had no desire to return to that awful place anytime soon. Say what you will, fear makes for an excellent motivator.

"Captain?" Civis pulled Dux back from his thoughts. He snapped his gaze back, blinking away the last of his tired memories.

"Ugh? Oh, right," Dux said, remembering what Civis had said before. "I wasn't traditionally learned. Too poor for something like that."

Civis gave him an odd look but continued. "Always thought you were noble born honestly."

Dux gave a weary smile. At last it felt like Civis was returning to his old self. Perhaps he'd finally forgiven him, not that he was about to ask. Sometimes it was better to keep your feelings to yourself. Helps to keep the mind level.

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