The important things in this dream world never seemed to be easy, which was fine with Nadine. But still she hadn’t expected to have to navigate an underground labyrinth of glowing mushrooms, half-cobbled paths and deadly traps just to find the key to unlock the portals they’d already fought stone daemons to gain access to. She wasn’t even sure whose idea, or what combination of ideas, led to their current challenge. Audrey of course thought finding a way between the worlds was next to impossible, that complicated things. Horera… Probably wasn’t part of the problem. But Nadine couldn’t rule out her own subconscious sabotaging them a little in terms of obstacles.

Traveling between worlds still seemed hard to imagine, even though Nadine believed with all her heart it was possible—hadn’t Audrey traveled from her home world to Fantasia to get to her current predicament?

“Land Sharks!” Horera barked, noticing their enemies a little before Nadine this time.

Yeah, ugly burrowing daemons infested this maze too. Nadine had finally given up on trying to get off enough good shots with her bow down here and switched to a pair of long knives she hated fighting with. She was good, almost keeping up with Horera in kills through precision rather than power, but just didn’t like being that close to her enemies. Even daemons were hard to kill when you were close enough to hear them breathe and feel the heat from their bodies.

Audrey’s spells remained as devastatingly effective underground as they were everywhere else—perhaps more so since the last time they’d fought together. Once Audrey’s magic took hold of one of the burrowing daemons, regardless of the form the magic took, it didn’t let go. Also the magic arced off to additional targets even around corners or in one case Nadine was pretty sure she saw the energy of Audrey’s spell go into the wall and pull out another daemon.

Being like her father was turning out to be a lot harder than Nadine had ever expected. Navigating underground environments totally alien to her was easy. She’d spent the whole day doing just that and finally made it to the sea. But fighting was getting harder. Killing. Thoughts of JC and Phillipa kept distracting her, realizing what it would mean to her personally if either of them were killed. Like Ms. Ashley had been.

Could they die in this dream? Would they wake up, or really die? It probably didn’t matter, the creatures that attacked them were a good work out—but there didn’t seem to be any real risk of any of them dying. Audrey hadn’t even been hurt; thanks to another of Horera’s potions Nadine’s arm was working again; and Horera herself seemed indestructible. Horera’s bites seemed to hurt the daemons more than theirs did her.

“Whew,” Nadine wiped her brow before wiping her blades, “Another ambush down. We’ve got to be getting close!”

“Looks that way,” Audrey snapped her book shut, pointing ahead and lighting the way with the 4th light, “I imagine that’s what we came down for.”

The next chamber was inlaid with gold in the floor, walls and ceiling. Ostentatious pillars supported the ceiling and a jewel encrusted golden altar dominated the far wall. Looking more than a little out of place on the gaudy altar was a heavy looking black iron key.

Nadine made her way toward the altar, Horera and Audrey hanging back a bit. With no archaeologists in the group Nadine was the best equipped to find and disable traps. This room had pressure plates, tied to vents with acid reserves in the ceiling. Easy enough to jam though.

“And we got it!” Nadine picked up the key. It took both hands to pass it back to Horera.

Horera accepted the key and sniffed it curiously, “What do now?”

“I guess we figure out which of our worlds we want to go to first,” Nadine looked at Audrey.

Audrey shook her head, “I, my friends in Fantasia are all ready to face the death giant again. What’s going on with you two?”

“Horera Daddy back,” Horera seemed to crouch down behind the key, “Pretty Fairy make okay, but no beat Bad Man. Horera… Horera probably fight Bad Man.”

Nadine nodded seriously, “You want our help, Horera?”

Horera shook her head, “No fight soon. Daddy lose Bad Man lots.”

“And you, Nadine?” Audrey looked to Nadine.

“Not really anything to help with right now. I made it to the seaside, I’m not dead, but I don’t know exactly where I am. My next goal’s to find my friends again, or the man who helped us… I think, hope, that it’s my dad.”






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