Treoir Dragon Chronicles Book 8
Daegan had seen a lot of things in two thousand years, at least when not imprisoned, but nothing like these strange carvings and marks. Light slowly glowed brighter from two long glass tubes in the lower corners of the pink stone wall.
Luigsech had yet to find her voice. She just stood there like a statue.
Had she hit her head when they landed? “Are ya hurt? Can ya hear me?”
She still did not answer him. Her body started trembling.
He fought the urge to grab her to him and hold her safe. To do so would be to mislead her. He had to keep his head on straight, but watching her in distress was killing him.
Stepping in front of her, he put his hands on her shoulders and immediately regretted the feel of her energy humming at his hands. Damn everything, he missed her. What kind of fool did that make him?
He’d worry about that later. For now, he feared her reaching a point she could not breathe at all. “Take deep breaths and calm down. ’Tis not the time to panic.”
She blinked and looked up at him as if she just realized he stood there. “Do you know where we are?”
How could he? That blasted oracle had said nothing more than search for Mulatko, whatever that was. Beyond the pink wall with carvings and smooth square-cut gray stones covering the floor, he had no idea. “Feels as if we are inside a buildin’.”
Tears glistened in her eyes. Her voice shook when she whispered, “Uhm, yes, sort of, but there’s no door out of here.”
This time, he took in the entire room all the way back to where it was dark behind her. Only solid walls and no air movement.
Ruadh rose up inside him, alert.
Daegan had only one way to escape, but how could he teleport out without knowing what lay beyond these walls? He was done with the oracle after this.
If they survived.
Luigsech’s labored breathing continued. She gasped for air.
Bad place, Ruadh warned.
It wasn’t as if Daegan could do anything yet. He gave her shoulders a little shake. “We shall get out of here.” He had hoped to sound more convincing than he had to his ears, but she sounded worse. Then he came up with an idea he hoped would not end with him headless.
“Listen to me,” he ordered. When her gaze lifted to his, he said, “Ya are behavin’ like a child for someone who spent much time in tunnels.”
Her mouth rounded.
Had he injured her feelings? That had not been his intent. Only to find a way to calm her before she suffocated.
She glanced at his hands on her shoulders and jerked backward. “Oh, really?” Anger spread from her face to her fisted hands. She shouted, “We. Are. Trapped! Do you not get that!”
To be honest, Daegan fought his own battle with a sick feeling in his gut at being locked inside anywhere. He’d sworn to Ruadh they would fight to the death before being imprisoned again. Now that she trembled with fury instead of fear and had begun breathing again, he would not admit his reservations when it would undermine her calming down.
“Aye, we are in a sealed room, but we shall find a way out,” he said with confidence, in spite of his own trepidation.
“How? Wait. Where’s my backpack?”
Daegan stepped past her to retrieve the bag from where it had landed. He handed it to her.
“Thanks,” she muttered, showing her manners even when irritated with him.
Daegan sniffed at the stale air. This place had been closed up a long time. “Ya never answered me. Are ya hurt?”
That brought her around to him. Her eyes shined briefly with surprise, then a fleeting hopeful expression appeared before she shook herself free. “No. I’m fine. I was just unable to get over bein’ in a room with no exits.”
Why would she be surprised at him caring if she had been injured? He was not a monster.
Betrayed you! Ruadh reminded him.
True and he had to continue thinking of her as Luigsech and keep his hands to himself or he’d slip up and make another big mistake. Had his father not drilled it into him one betrayal always leads to another? Never lower his guard once someone had broken his trust.
Daegan could adhere to that rule, but he would not mistreat her. He noticed Ruadh seemed off and asked, Did ya have trouble from the teleportin’?
Dark energy, was his dragon’s answer. Leave now.
Between the stale air and the sensation of pressure from being locked in a room with no doors, Daegan agreed but still had no way out. He asked Luigsech, “Where do ya think we are? Ya spoke as if ya know.”
“Based on those images, I, uh ... ” Luigsech paused. Why did she hesitate? “I think we could be somewhere in Egypt.”
That word stirred a memory, but Daegan could not bring it forward. “What world is Egypt?”
“It’s a country in the human world. If you look at a map and start with Ireland up north, this land would be way down southeast of Ireland.”
Not a country that Daegan could place in his mind. They wasted their time even coming here. The other two grimoire volumes had to be in Atlanta. Zeelindar had been accurate about finding the first one, but anyone, even an oracle, is not infallible.
He couldn’t stop himself from declaring, “This was a mistake.”
“Are you serious? We haven’t even tried to search yet. How can you dismiss bein’ here so easily?”
He sounded angry and had every reason to be. “’Tis simple. One grimoire volume is in the Treoir realm. The other two are in Atlanta. There are only three. How do ya explain Zeelindar sendin’ us here?”
Luigsech shifted all the way around to face him with one hand on her cocked hip. “I can’t explain any action Zeelindar takes, but how can you be positive the other two are in Atlanta?”
He was in no mood to be taken to task. “The first one brought to the city opened a rift. Days later, VIPER headquarters was attacked and the second one stolen from their vault. That one was locked away in VIPER when the rift opened again for a short time twelve hundred years ago. ’Tis why I asked the oracle about huntin’ in Atlanta.”
“Well, she must know somethin’ you don’t. It is possible.” Luigsech ignored him to inspect the wall again.
Daegan wanted to argue, but not as much as he wanted to find a way out of here. “’Tis possible I know more than the oracle this time. Has that possibility not crossed your mind?”
“Of course you do,” Luigsech said, sarcasm dripping. “You’re the dragon king. How can anyone know more than you?”
“’Tis not what I am sayin’.”
“Really?” She opened her arms wide. “Please tell me because I’m standin’ in an unknown place in an unknown location lookin’ for somethin’ to help stop Imortiks from takin’ over the world. From where I’m standin’, looks to me like she knows somethin’. Are you truly willin’ to abandon this before searchin’?”
“Never mind. We do not see any of this the same way.” He was not thinking clearly and paying attention to potential threats as he should be when in an unknown place.
Ruadh pressed hard against his insides, pushing to get out.
Daegan grunted, but held his human form. Be calm, Ruadh. I need time to find a way out of this place.
His dragon calmed and withdrew.
Two-foot-thick round columns of the same pink stone supported the ceiling. Similar images were sculpted there, too.
What the devil did all these carvings mean?
Daegan tested reaching out to the most powerful Belador telepath. Trey, this is Daegan. Can ya hear me?
No one answered.
He tried teleporting from one side of the room to the other. Energy ground inside him, but his body never moved.
Luigsech lowered her hands, her gaze focused on a lower corner of the wall. “Where did those lights come from? They turned on after we appeared.” Walking forward, she squatted for a closer look.
Daegan followed her and dropped to a knee to figure out what had her curiosity.
The two bright lights were the length of his hand and oblong with one end fatter than the other. The larger round end was as thick as his fist. “Why does that surprise ya? I have seen similar lights in Atlanta.”
“No.” She shook her head vehemently and waved her hands as she spoke. “There are no cords to the wall and it looks as if the entire globe is the entire fixture with no obvious electrical mechanism for makin’ the light function. I don’t even see a place for a battery. That long squiggly thing in the middle might be a filament, but ... this still makes no sense.”
Confused at what she was talking about, Daegan stood. “Ya make no sense.”
Her lips parted, drawing his attention to the one place it shouldn’t be. “You don’t realize where we might be, do you, Daegan?”
“’Tis a buildin’ of some sort,” he replied, annoyed at how he allowed himself to be distracted. She also tested his patience with talking in circles. “Just say what ya have figured out. I tire of havin’ to guess.”
She glared at him, then returned to studying the wall. “It does feel like a buildin’, but not the way you think. I believe we might be beneath a pyramid or some other ancient structure in Egypt.”
The word pyramid shook loose thoughts Daegan hadn’t encountered since he and Fadil were young men. He now recalled how he’d heard of Egypt from Fadil, whose family of earth dragon shifters originated there. Fadil’s father went against his family to mate with Queen Anasch, a woman from an unacceptable dragon-shifter bloodline. Fadil never shared details, because young men fighting battles and having fun rarely discussed anything personal.
One thing Fadil had shared with Daegan had been his father’s warning to never return to Egypt or he might not survive.
Fadil’s mother could not shift into another form, but her blood allowed Fadil’s father to sire dragon-shifter children.
Thinking back on what Skarde had shared about Queen Anasch’s infidelity had Daegan wishing he’d known more of her ancestors as well as the paternal side of Fadil’s family. That might have helped in this moment.
The oracle had said to look for Mulatko. With recalling Fadil, Daegan half remembered his friend mentioning that word, or maybe a name.
Now he understood why he stood in a place called Egypt.
Zeelindar had sent him and Luigsech here to hunt for the grimoire volume hidden by the earth dragon shifters. If that volume was truly down here, how could there be two in Atlanta?
Ruadh had the right of it. They should leave this place, but now Daegan had to see this through.
He felt a glimmer of satisfaction from his dragon.
“Are ya sure we are beneath the ground?” Daegan managed to sound calm at the disquieting possibility of being trapped.
Luigsech took several steps back, her eyes moving as she followed the carvings across one row. “I can’t think where else we might be with hieroglyphics all over the walls and no windows.”
“High row what?”
Luigsech drew in a deep breath as if he tested her patience. She explained, “Hieroglyphics are considered an ancient language of the Egyptians, though I’ve heard of it found in other places. Designs carved into the wall are called reliefs, which are sometimes painted and sometimes not. This place could be a thousand or more years older than you.” Her eyebrows drew together in thought. “Lot of debate on pyramid datin’, construction, and such so who knows how old this place is? Now you understand why I question the lights? I’ve heard of these tubes, but not enough to believe they existed.”
Daegan stepped back, his gaze skimming over the odd shapes and images ... none of which he understood. He asked the most important question first. “Do ya have any idea how we escape from here?”
She propped an elbow on the arm around her stomach and propped her chin on her hand. She wore a troubled expression, which offered little confidence. “I’m not a buff on pyramids, but if we are beneath the Great Pyramid, which is the largest one in Egypt and above ground, I recall somethin’ about a narrow passage into the king’s tomb. Maybe the queen’s tomb, too, but again, that’s not my area of study. We might even be beneath another structure and I have no idea how far down we are. I’m guessin’ we may have to teleport out.”
Ruadh snarled inside Daegan. Trapped.
Daegan agreed, but he could not get them out yet. Interestingly, the venom did not bother him in this place. Instead of admitting to her he could not teleport at all, he said, “I am not sure how far I am able to teleport. I shall need to know how far beneath ground we are and in which direction to go before tryin’. To teleport blindly could end with death.”
Her face lost a shade of healthy color.
She hadn’t panicked yet, which he now realized had been due to thinking he would teleport them out. He struggled with his anger over seeing her with Herrick who had captured his sister, but he had to put that aside and give Luigsech encouragement. “We shall figure the way to escape when the time arrives.”
“I keep tellin’ myself that,” she grumbled in a quivering voice. “Freakin’ Zeelindar could have given us a little more information.” Luigsech stepped toward the wall again, stopping an arm’s length away.
Ruadh banged Daegan’s insides. Free me. Escape.
He told his dragon, I shall not risk ya and this woman without first searchin’ for the safest way to escape. If we find none, I shall free ya to do your best to break out of here. We must be careful, Ruadh.
I agree, but if we shift, we might bring down the entire structure on our heads. I do not wish for any of us to be buried here.
His dragon was not pleased, but the banging around ceased.
Luigsech rubbed her arms where goose bumps had risen.
Daegan had an unexpected desire to rub her arms and comfort her. He shook his head at his weakness.
When would his body understand this woman could not be trusted? He had to remind himself over and over to heed his father’s teachings. To be betrayed once was dangerous. To allow a second chance was to welcome death.
Daegan would behave honorably just as he would around anyone in this situation, nothing more. He sensed her anxiety building and decided to distract her. “Have ya figured out what any of those pictures mean?”
“Not yet.” She frowned, lowering her arms and squinting at the wall. “From what I understand, only a tiny number of people can actually decipher hieroglyphics.”
“Ya mean the shapes are words and ya can read them?” Would she finally admit her gift?
She tossed him a pointed look full of accusation. “I have no idea if I can read these shapes until I try, but you already know it’s possible. You snuck up behind me readin’ one of my books on that mountain in Spain and saw me use my gift, didn’t you?”
He had not intended to ruffle her feathers and might as well admit he’d caught her trying to read in secret. “Aye. How did ya make the letters change into gold and lift off the page? ’Tis one of the most unusual abilities I have ever witnessed.”
She fidgeted with her hands. “To be honest, I can’t explain how I do it. I never realized I possessed this ability to translate any text with my fingers until I went to college and started researchin’ very old books with languages I was told could not be read. I have never found another person similar to me, which is strange enough. I wish I knew just who and what I am, anythin’ that would give me a sense of wholeness and peace.” She shrugged. “Everyone has issues to deal with. One day, I’ll find answers.”
Daegan admired how once again she stood up and accepted her circumstances, not whining or carrying on even when thrown into an underground prison.
He should feel guilty for poking at her. His anger chewed at him and he could not shake it.
Starting now, he would avoid asking questions that were not important at the moment and allow her to concentrate on using her gift. That should keep her fears at bay.
Stepping over close to the interesting designs, he asked, “Are ya ready to try?”
She nodded. “Yep, here goes nothin’.”
What the devil did she mean by that?
Standing with one hand propped on her hip, she studied the wall before stepping even closer. Lifting her right hand, she pressed two fingers together and positioned the pads an inch away from the carved shape. She swiped her fingers as far as she could without moving.
She moved three steps to her left and repeated the same motion.
He kept his deep disappointment at their first failure to himself.
Luigsech made a grumbling sound, scrubbed her left hand on her jeans, and placed that hand on the wall. She then moved her right fingers above the drawings again.
Gold symbols began to lift and twist into new shapes.
He stood back, arms crossed, and tried to figure out how her gift worked. “What does it say?”
“I don’t know yet. I can’t make sense of ... wait a minute.” She kept her left hand in place but pulled her right hand down. “Some languages are read right to left, which is what I tried, but I thought I once read that some hieroglyphics were translated accordin’ to the direction a human or animal image was facin’.”
He took note of the flat birds staring left. “What are ya sayin’?”
“I think if the head of a bird or a person points to the left or right, that’s where the person who made this began creatin’ their story. Like these birds are pointed to the left so I’m goin’ to start on that end.” She moved all the way across and started once more, this time moving her translating hand from left to right. Her voice brightened. “Okay! I’m gettin’ some words but not like sentences. This is all still weird. Give me a minute to translate more to see if I can make sense of what I’m seein’.”
While she worked across the wall from end to end muttering to herself, he turned his attention to the rest of the space. The room had no hallway or door. How was someone supposed to enter or leave if they did not teleport?
In his mind, if this had been intended as a tomb, there should be a coffin.
He found another set of shapes running on a wall that met the one where she continued reading, but these shapes covered less area. He could stretch his arms wide and touch both ends of one row. The tallest section of carvings was eye level to him.
Using a finger and no pressure, he traced the odd shapes. Nothing came to him, but he had no gift or expectation of reading these odd shapes. He started to turn away when a flying creature on the far left caught his eye.
Before he could touch that one, Luigsech said, “Ah ha!”
“What did ya find?” Daegan walked over to her.
She wheeled around with a grin. “I think this is a story of how this spot was created as a secret room.”
“I commend ya on translatin’ any of this, but how does that story help us? Did it mention anythin’ about Mulatko?”
“No, it doesn’t.” She muttered something unintelligible and turned back to the wall.
“I did not mean to insult ya.”
Flapping a hand at him, she said, “You didn’t. I would love a chance to read all of this, but that’s not why we’re here. Give me a minute to see if I can find anythin’ useful.”
She went to the left end and stood on her tiptoes.
He rolled his eyes. Stepping close, he grasped her at the waist and lifted. Now she could reach the top row.
She sucked in a breath. “What are you doin’?”
“Do I need to explain?” he asked, but in truth he asked himself the same question. Just touching her brought up the last time he’d had her in his arms. His hands were the only happy part of his body right now. Much as he wanted to pull her to him and feel her warm body against his, he had to remind himself one touch would lead to another.
He had to hold his defenses strong or he’d pay a price for letting her back in. He would also be misleading her, which would be dishonorable.
After another grumble, she put her left hand against the wall and began translating with her right fingers.
He kept an eye on her progress and sidestepped to his right slowly.
Luigsech claimed to have not been a part of Jennyver’s imprisonment, but she’d spent her life with the ice dragons. How was he supposed to just overlook the fact she’d never said a word about them the whole time they’d spent together? How could she not tell him when she’d awakened in his arms in Tristan’s hotel room?
His conscience reminded him she had agreed to come here to help stop the Imortiks, but he countered that any family fought from time to time then made up and kept going. He had no way to know for sure if she was here on someone else’s behalf or to convince Daegan to hand over Skarde.
Herrick wanted Skarde and knew Daegan held his brother captive. Thinking so hard with too many unanswered questions made him want to slam a fist into a wall.
Why did she have to smell so good? He wanted to bury his nose in the small of her back.
She stopped reaching for letters. “I’m, uh, done. You can put me down.”
He lowered her quickly to her feet and released her, backing away. His hands couldn’t be trusted. They had no more sense than the lower half of his body.
She spun around and stared for a long stretch, opened her mouth as if to speak then snapped it shut. “Whatever.” She shrugged and turned to read the last line of figures at her knees.
Why had she taken offense after he’d made it easy to read the wall? Or had it been due to his releasing her so quickly after him picking her up? He had said nothing.
Women had never confused him so much many years ago.
Long ago, they smiled or yelled, spoke their minds.
He thought about freeing Brynhild of a forced mating. She had taken exception to what he’d thought an honorable action on his part.
Perhaps women had not changed so much after all.
Not meeting his eyes, Luigsech flipped a hand in the general direction of the entire wall. “My best guess is this sounds like the carver was involved in plannin’ this area. I get the feelin’ if this underground structure had an entrance, we would be standin’ in it.”
“’Tis not much of an entrance when it goes nowhere.”
“Exactly.” She looked past him. “I’ll take a look at the columns.”
“I found more carvings on the far end of this other wall.” He pointed toward the less-bright area he’d been inspecting.
Rubbing her eyes, which made them even more red, she said, “Show me.”
At the short block of rows, Daegan stepped past and waited to see what she might figure out.
She leaned in, squinting.
He decided to bring one of the lights over. When he pointed at the nearest bulb and tried to lift it using kinetics, the light didn’t budge.
No kinetics. What other powers would not work here?
His father had taught him worry devoured energy. Better to focus on what he could to solve a problem. In this case, he would focus on hunting a way out of this room. One of these rows of sculptures might hold the key.
To offer her some light in this dark area, he opened his palm and called up a small flame. That should put a smile on her face.
She swung around to him. “Fire will burn up oxygen we need to breathe. We’ll suffocate.”
Closing his hand into a fist, he lowered it to his side. When they last hunted a grimoire, he was busy the entire time. Not standing around waiting.
She seemed unable to decide where to start this time.
Reaching to the side of her, he said, “I found this shape with wings. Could be a dragon or gryphon type of creature.” He touched the shape with two fingers this time, moving it across the image.
“So you’re readin’ text now?” she smarted off.
“I do not claim to do such a thing. I only wish to give aid in this search.”
She stood away from the wall and crossed her arms. “Maybe if you’d find somewhere to sit down and give me time, I might get lucky.”
Unable to hold back his irritation, Daegan opened his hand and leaned on the wall. “’Tis not a good use of—”
A squealing sound cut him off.
The room shook and the wall beneath his hand turned into a large block that flipped open as a door would. With his weight leaning on it, he fell into the opening and banged his shoulder before landing on the ground.
He cursed and stood up.
“What did you do?” Luigsech exclaimed.
She accused him of that happening? “I did not tell the wall to open.” He turned to search the area, but this space had no light.
“Come back out here.”
He listened to her with half an ear. “Not yet. I wish to see what this room might be.”
He jerked around.
She had both hands pushing against the block of stone that had opened and was now slowly closing.
He rushed forward and gripped the stone to hold it open. “Grab your backpack!”
“No. We don’t know which room we need.”
Leaning back with all his weight, his booted feet slid an inch, then another. “This may be our only way out. Hurry!”
Lights in the room behind Luigsech went dark. She made a high-pitched noise then ran across the room, yelping when she ran into something. Probably a column.
“Get over here!” he shouted.
She pushed through the wall, dragging her backpack. “Don’t yell at me! I’m not the one who did this.”
His fingers slipped off as the door closed and the wall turned whole again. “We may need to be here.”
“I don’t trust blind logic,” she snapped so close to him her warm breath brushed his chest.
“Ya trust little,” he complained more to distract himself from how her warm breath reminded him of how soft and willing she’d been in Tristan’s hotel room.
“And you’re at the top of that list.”
Why should it pain him for her not to trust him when he had the same lack of trust for her? He hated this internal arguing. He’d always been decisive and had no patience for this conflict of heart.
And now was not the time.
He started to ask if she had her small LED light in the pack when she sucked in a deep breath. Daegan could not see her face. “What is wrong?”
She whispered, “You don’t hear that?”
He dragged his focus off her and opened his senses. A shirring sound of something moving reached him.
“Don’t make a sound,” he whispered, reaching out until he bumped her arm, grasped it, and eased her behind him.