The soft snick of turning ivory cylinders rang loud in the silence of the cathedral.
“Would you mind not staring so hard?” Tebryn asked, the tip of his tongue sticking out the side of his mouth as he delicately turned the tumblers. “You’ll bore holes in me with your eyes soon enough.”
“Get on with it,” Keith growled. “I’d like to get this over with and have a good night’s sleep for once.”
Tebryn stilled. “What do you mean by that?”
Keith shifted uncomfortably, shrugging his pauldrons into a more comfortable position on his shoulders. “Bad sleep, bad dreams, sluggish feeling after waking.”
Tebryn blinked and flicked the last tumbler into place. “Right, yes. Let’s go shall we?”
There was a sharp crack and Tebryn jumped back from the pillar as it shook, sending clouds of dust and grit raining down upon them. There was the grinding of ancient gears and the large pillar slowly descended, sinking into the ground and revealing the still intact stone dome of the cathedral itself. The pillar was topped with mosaics that matched the floor, as though it would have normally been level with the floor when the cathedral was in use.
Shrugging, Keith stepped onto the platform and raised an eyebrow at the others.
Tebryn sighed. “All right.”
Even later Max could never say what made the pillar rise when it did, but when they were all standing on top of it, the structure shuddered. Somewhere beneath them, gears began to grind again and it rose towards the ceiling. When the pillar locked into place beneath the dome, the last of the sunlight winked out as the gap between the floor and the dome crunched together, and for a brief moment the only light in the small room came from Tebryn’s lantern. As the sound of stone moving against stone died away, pale runes flickered across the wooden surface of a door hidden in a recess in the dome, and two lanterns began to glow with a pale, unwavering blue light.
“Magic,” Catherine breathed as she stared at the glow.
“Yes,” Max agreed, and stepped forward, the door swinging open before him without him even touching it. “I know this place.”
The room beyond was long rather than wide, stretching all the way along the length of the chapel if Max’s sense of direction was anything to go by. Banks of red candles lined the corridor, merging into mounds of red wax and the resulting heat was almost as strong as an open fire. At the far end a girl was sitting on a pile of cushions by the windows, her long black hair matching her eyes, which were completely black.
“You came!” she said, jumping to her feet and clapping her hands together enthusiastically.
Max could feel Tebryn’s gaze on the back of his head. “You two know each other?”
“She told me to find her, in my dreams,” Max said. “I told you about that yesterday over breakfast, remember?”
“Oh right, sorry.”
“You come to defeat Caval Canti and free the village,” Selene said.
“Actually, I just want to get off this island,” Tebryn said. “Defeating Caval Canti just seems to be the only way to do it.”
“Yes,” she said simply. “You might escape in time, but he has turned his mind towards you, and time is now a luxury you do not possess.”
“Who are you anyway?” Max asked. “And why are you helping us?”
“You can call me Selene,” the girl said calmly. “And Galeal holds me here. Until he is defeated, I cannot leave.”
“Galeal,” Max said. “There was a cage for Galeal on the Tol Rauko shipwreck we found here.”
“I thought you wanted us to defeat the Marque, not Galeal—what exactly is Galeal anyway?”
“Caval Canti is just a shell for Galeal. It does not have the shape of a man. So he gives it that. You must force him to show you its true shape if you hope to win free of this place.”
“And what about the Flauros? Is that actually important?”
Turning, Selene looked sadly out the window. “Galeal uses it to steal my power and keep me confined here. He has made himself nearly invulnerable to weapons and keeps itself alive by feeding on the horrors of his victims.”
“Well, if he’s invulnerable we’ll just ask him for it nicely then, shall we?” Tebryn griped.
“Can you help us?” Max asked. “You must have some way to hurt him, or he wouldn’t lock you away.”
Selene smiled. “I can. You will need a weapon coated in my blood. It will lend a portion of my power to your arms—enough to break through the wards surrounding Caval Canti that protect him—and it.”
Max hesitated. “We have to…”
The girl held out her hand. “Give me your blade.”
Shrugging, Max handed over his short sword, placing it flat across Selene’s palms. Gripping the hilt, she drew it through her body, the blade passing effortlessly through the folds of both her cream silk kimono and her body, emerging blood red from pommel to tip without cutting her or the fabric of her clothing. Her hands were clean and after a moment, the crimson faded away, as if it had never been there. With a half bow, the girl held the blade out to Max, who accepted it with a bow of his own that he couldn’t help thinking was slightly awkward. He was a city guard, not a poncy palace breastplate buffer and he was more at home with a crisp salute than bowing or genuflecting. Ducking awkwardly out of the way, he watched as Selene blooded both of Keith’s short swords, and then all of Allette’s daggers, which turned out to be five in all. Then Tebryn grimaced and handed over one of his fans. It was only then that Max really looked at the weight of it, noting the iron tipped ribs with sharp, triangular points at the fans top, and way the closed based of the fan’s head created a heavy club of metal. As Selene drew it through her body, he stared at the other fan Tebryn was carrying, and saw it was made of a lighter wood and only painted to match the other fan in style.
Then Catherine turned towards Catherine, and the woman gasped, clutched at the holy pendant around her neck and held it out towards Selene, backing up along the corridor.
“Stay away from me, demon!” she said, and even Keith’s assurances were not enough to calm her.
“And on that note, we should probably be going,” Tebryn said brightly. “Thank you for your help.”
“He will know you’re coming now,” Selene said calmly. “You must move against him before he has a chance to prepare.”
“He’ll feel what you just did?” Max asked.
Selene nodded. “And he is not the only evil here.”
“There’s more?” Tebryn asked.
“You need to get the Flauros,” Selene said. “If the other shows himself, bring it to me and I can…deal with him.”
Max stared at her for a moment. “You’re not a little girl, are you?”
Selene smiled winsomely at him. “Only when I want to be.”