As soon as Musa heard Jide’s scream, he knew something was wrong and began to pull back. It was then he noticed that Nze had set a trap for him. Unfortunately, there was not enough time to fully retreat so he decided to sacrifice his left hand.
As Nze’s sword stabbed into his left shoulder, he used the force of the blow to aid his retreat and spun towards his right as he planned a counterattack. Luckily for Musa, Nze was not well balanced when he struck, so the wound was not as deep, but Musa knew that he had to retaliate or else Nze could finish him off, even in the dark.
He ignored the pain of the sword tearing free from his flesh and dashed back in under Nze’s outstretched hands, backstabbing his right dagger into the gap at Nze’s armpit with all the force of his rotation.
Nze could not imagine that his ploy would fail to finish up his assailant.
Nze was even more surprised when he felt a blade stab into his right armpit causing him to drop his sword.
However, he was still an experienced fighter and, although this wound was deeper, his defense still held and his opponent was equally injured. Nze threw a punch toward where he figured his attacker’s head was; however his assailant had abandoned the dagger and continued his rotation to circle behind Nze. Not letting Nze regain a firm footing, Musa kicked the back of Nze legs out and struck with his left dagger towards Nze’s throat in an attempt to finish him off.
However due to his injury, Musa’s attack was to slow, so Nze threw his upper body into the fall to roll away to the right, taking a shallow wound from Musa to the face. Nevertheless, without any weapon besides Musa’s dagger, which Nze couldn’t use very well, and his many injuries, Nze knew he was in a bad situation. On hearing the sound of his sword been picked up, Nze decided to retreat immediately and backed out of the cave through the entrance he remembered.
Just as Nze left the mining tunnel and return to the forest, he felt a confluence of energy and then a sharp black light pierced the quiet of the forest from the entrance of the mine.
“Crap!” was all Nze could say.
Nnenna found herself in a strange black tunnel that seem to crack and stabilize alternatively with the black and mercury patterned reptilian tiger in front of her. She could feel affection coming from the emotional bundle in her head that represented this creature. She got the impression from its eyes and its emotions that it was also looking to be praised as if it had done something good.
Nnenna scratched underneath its head like her horses liked and said to it, “Okay, you did something amazing. But where are we and how do we get back?” The creature looked at her with pleasure at her actions but curiosity about what she was saying.
“Guess we just have to follow this tunnel, huh”
Nnenna said as she slowly started making her way down the black tunnel in space.
Meanwhile, back in the town of Mushin, most of the inhabitants lay dead on the ground, scattered around the town, with the largest clusters around the inn and the Anizoba’s residence. Only a few townspeople who were fortunate enough to flee or remain hidden were still breathing.
On the thoroughfare leading out of town, three men on horse back could be seen following the trail of Nze. It seemed Nze had taking the time to slash at trees to point the direction.
Danjuma looked to the old man with reverence and jealousy and asked, “Master are you saying you are now an external mage.”
“Ha ha ha. Yes Danjuma.” replied the old man even though he could see the envy in Danjuma’s eyes. “I can feel my connection to the magepool. Thanks to this little guy.” As the old man said this, he turned to look at the horned serpent that floated beside him. Already the horned-serpent looked bigger than it did when it just hatched and seemed to be swimming through the air.
“I am still getting used to having it presence in my head and it is still young so we doesn’t know the full scope of its abilities. Hmm, I really should think of a good name for it. As for me, I can now feel the water elements in the environment and my internal energy is even increasing. I just need to experiment on casting spells but there is time enough for that. Ha ha ah”
“Master, may we speed up” Danjuma asked with impatience masked in his voice.
Musa moved towards Jide and their bags with his right hand stemming the flow of blood from his left shoulder. He was intending to get a bandage for his injuries from their supplies. However, he saw that Jide has scattered their bags in his terror and bid to help. Musa noticed a weird sphere roll out of Jide’s bags towards him that seemed to glow even in the dark and reached down with his bloody right hand to grab it.
As his fingers came in contact with the sphere, blood from his wound seeped into the sphere. A dark aura of energy transferred from Musa to the sphere and the sphere began to expand in size. Musa’s hands were frozen to the sphere and it seemed the darkness all around was sucked into the sphere as an energy vortex centered around Musa and it. The darkness seem to cloak Musa and the sphere and his presence vanished completely.
The sphere, which was only the size of a ball, exploded into tiny pieces and a creature that looked like a hawk but jet black like a raven and the size of a donkey appeared in the underground chamber. It seemed to be made of shadows not feathers and its talons and beak looked like blades of onyx. Right before Musa, the edges of the shadow hawk seemed to dissipate into the air as the creature reduced in size to that of an eagle and solidified. It seemed that the concentration of the darkness element around Musa had tried to speed up the growth of the shadow hawk but its body could only sustain up to this size. However, there was still an outline of shadow around it.
“What…what just happened?” Jide asked
“I don’t know but we don’t have time to find out now.” Musa could feel the thoughts and emotions of the shadow hawk that was grooming itself while quietly staring at him. However, Musa choose to ignore it as they needed to escape. Luckily his wounds were now healed as a result of the overflow of energy and despite his regret of losing one of his daggers it was better than losing his life.
Musa quickly packed the spilled content of their bags noticing he moved faster and had more strength. He also felt that he could feel the darkness more readily as if he could slip into it. Once he was finished repacking, Musa grabbed Jide and rushed to the tunnel that led to the other exit trying to be as quiet as possible. He did not know that his actions made the darkness elements around him corrode all the sound Jide made.
Nze had debated what to do when he saw the black light but ultimately decided to go back into the tunnel despite his apprehension on potentially facing an external mage in addition. However, he figured it would take a while for the boy to be able to use his powers. But on getting to the underground cave, he could perceive that the place was now empty and since he didn’t know which branch off they used, he could only return to wait for his colleagues.
By the time Nnenna realized there was no end of the black tunnel, she felt drained both mental and physically. It was only then that she realized that somehow she had been supporting whatever this tunnel was.
Feeling the tunnel becoming unstable and her energy almost spent, she hugged the neck of her reptilian tiger and closed her eyes trying to remember the training Jide was doing.
However, no matter how much she tried, she could not break free from the tunnel and she instinctively knew that if the tunnel collapsed she would be destroyed with it.
As she was fading away from consciousness and before the spatial cracks could destroy her, she felt her body move again and reappear in a familiar underground chamber but all she managed to do before passing out was confirm that her new partner, who had probably saved her, was still beside her.