We got a quick start after breakfast. We gathered our supplies and set out toward the old hill. It was more akin to a large hill that was sunken in the middle. At the bottom lay an inland beach with cliffs jutting around it. This was where Hunter came in. When we made our way down the earthen steps to the bottom, we trudged across the beach and I forced a bush out of the way.
"Leave it to the children they said," Hunter grumbled.
"Just work your magic," I huffed.
Hunter stuck his tongue out but complied. He moved the hair that usually covered his left eye to sit comfortably behind his ear and took a breath. The crimson red iris of his left eye shone bright in comparison with his dull right eye that was a chocolate brown color. The fire emblem that was crested upon the iron door behind the bush I moved seemed to waver in its own kind of heat. Hunter tested out his ability by summoning a small flame in his hand. When he was sure he could summon the flame, he forced the fire toward the door that was embedded into the cliff.
The ancient iron door roared to the side. Kaede and I took one last look around the trees and the sky before the four of us darted inside. When the iron door was firmly in place, we all gave a sigh of relief.
"I haven't seen this place in ages," I breathed out.
"How many ages?" Kaede questioned.
"Since I became chief," I frowned.
"That's a lot of ages," Hunter replied.
"I was 16 when I was chosen. The last born of the last born," I sighed.
"That should have been Samuel," Kaede smirked.
"I'm sorry I was apparently dead at the time," Sam snapped.
"My Sammie is all grown up," I shed a fake tear and sniffled.
"Don't get weak on me," Sam pouted.
"Why would I be weak? I'm a chief," I puffed out my chest and grinned.
"Whatever. Can we get on with why we're here?" Hunter complained.
"Fine," I huffed.
I led the way to the inner chamber and walked silently up to the altar. After lighting my two candles, I stepped back and allowed the others to do the same. When eight candles were lit, we walked into a deeper chamber. It grew colder and colder as we walked, but hunter didn't seem bothered by it. I stopped at a second altar and frowned.
"The oracle changed the task," Kaede pointed out.
"Thank you captain obvious," Hunter growled.
"Oh yay! I'm the same rank as Emily!" Kaede said half-sarcastically.
"Let's see what the riddle says," Sam stepped up beside me and read the Latin inscription aloud in English. "These keys are fair, but weight is not. Three tries you have 'til the scale will not."
"There are eight keys," I mumbled in thought.
"I can assume we can only use the scale three times before it won't work," Kaede offered.
"Weight is not fair. Does it mean heavy?" Hunter asked. Kaede slapped him.
"No, I think he's right. We need to find the heaviest key," I looked at the row of hanging keys.
"How will we do that when there are eight keys and three tries?" Sam asked.
"Group them. The heaviest key will weigh the group down," I smiled.
"How?" Sam asked again. I huffed in frustration and set to work.
I took four keys in each hand and set each group on either side of the scale. The group that was lighter was removed and set aside. The heavier group was split and two keys were placed on each side. The two that were heavier were split again and, after the lighter two were removed, one key was placed on each side. The scale was mostly balanced and seemed unable to decide which was heavier. When it stopped, I looked carefully at the balance and quickly snatched the key that was but a hair heavier.
The four of us walked to the stone door and I pushed in the key, turning it until a click was heard. We breathed a sigh of relief and continued down the passageway behind the now-open door. After completing a circle on the downward spiral path, we reached a third altar. There were four amulets resting on it. I carefully picked up the amulet with a wind symbol. Sam picked up the earth symbol while Kaede and Hunter picked up water and fire respectively.
"Are you nuts ready?" I asked. The others nodded and we put the amulets around our necks at the same time. "Let's go." I said and morphed to my fairy form. The others changed into their wolf forms, even Sam. It made me happy that he could still transform.
"I'll meet you there," I said to the others as we set off.
The large stone wall ahead of us had two holes. One was a perfect size for a small wolf, the other barely larger than a keyhole. I took the smaller path, using my magic to faintly light the way. Since my element was wind, my other abilities were lessened until I took the amulet off.
The further I pressed into the cave, the more resistance I felt in airflow. I forced the wind to move with me, but the currents grew stronger. The amulet began to emit a faint humming sound at my efforts and I willed the wind to obey me. After several tries, and once even being blown back to the third altar room, I managed to make it to the fourth altar.
I rested on the altar in my fairy form, too tired to change back. I stayed like this for a while more before the others finally darted from their hole and collapsed.
"Welcome to hell." I smiled.
I wagged my tail in happiness at being able to transform. It was a terrible curse, but the bone-crunching feeling soon left. I followed slowly after my cousins. Introductions had been formally made on the hike to the hill.
Kaede led Hunter and I through the hole after Emily had left. About three pawsteps later I heard her shout and the faint sound of water. As we walked forward, the small space opened up to a cavern with flowing water spewing in from a waterfall.
"You can handle this, right?" I asked as I padded up next to Kaede. Hunter stood on her other side.
"I haven't practiced in a while." Well that was reassuring.
"I told you to practice," Hunter rolled his eyes.
"Practice what you preach," Kaede barked. I gave a toothy grin at their antics.
"I'll place a bet that Emy gets there before us," I wagered.
The other two accepted a counter bet and Kaede dashed off into the midst of the water, forcing the flow to stop with each step. About halfway through, her concentration slipped and she was washed away with the current. Hunter and I jumped in after her and nearly drowned when we reached her. We kept her above the surface of the water, shouting advice on what to do and how to react.
With a loud howling, Kaede forced the top of the waterfall to stop flowing. When the water receded, we slunk to the opposing shore from the entrance and laid down for a quick rest. When the unknown ocean-like sound of Kaede's amulet stopped, the water continued flowing, but it didn't raise high enough to bother us. When memory of the bet came back, Kaede jumped up and ran through the hole in the wall. Hunter and I raced after her and into the second cavern.
The walls and ceiling immediately began to fall around us, throwing us off course and pushing our group apart. It was my turn for action. I pushed back on my haunches and launched myself into the air, headbutting the rocks away from my cousins as we slowly proceeded through the cavern. I continued this stunt, feeling a strain in the area where my human form was shot. Hunter barely missed a sizable stone while I was busy deflecting one from hitting Kaede. I quickly shook the dizziness away from my head and launched at another falling stone. Kaede and Hunter made it through the small stone hole just as two rocks slammed together and pinned me down. A third rock covered the entrance as I scrambled and struggled to breathe. I felt a vibration from my chest area and looked down to realize it was my amulet.
A newfound surge of power forced me to swallow my growing panic and focus on moving the rocks that viced me against the floor. With a harsh upward push, the rocks split apart and I was freed. I bounded to the side of the rock guarding the entrance and turned away from it. With the last of my energy, I used my hind legs to force the rock away from the entrance. I scrambled through as the last of the rocks fell.
Kaede and Hunter nosed me to my feet and I felt the intense heat. I looked around and saw the slow-moving glow of magma.
"It's hardly fire," I heard Hunter complain. As I took a second glance, a few superheated patches of the melted rock occasionally caught a flame.
"There are flammable gasses in this cavern. Not much, but enough to light the occasional flame," I offered.
"How do we cross?" Hunter asked.
"Maybe it's not a flame, but the absence of. Try absorbing the heat from the lava," Kaede suggested. Hunter begrudgingly agreed and set a careful paw on the first bit of magma. His amulet gave off a faint glow as he focused. The magma turned solid and stopped where his paw was placed.
"We'll have to move fast before it heats up again," Hunter called back. Kaede and I stayed close to his flanks as he continued to create a cool stone path. After only a few steps, a rumbling like that of the previous cavern began and ash soon filled the cavern.
"Move!" Kaede shouted between coughing fits, pushing Hunter forward. He pressed onward and made Kaede and I jump to safety first. I could be wrong, but I sensed a pattern in the caverns. I was proven correct when a new surge of magma rolled down the cavern.
Against my better judgment, I jumped forward and forced the cooled magma to rise like a wall. Hunter and I jumped through the hole in the wall right behind Kaede. I felt a singeing of the fur on my tail as I darted through the long narrow passage. The magma had overflowed the rock bed and was flowing down the passageway after us. I forced my way faster and burst into the altar room just behind my cousins. Hunter spun around and forced the magma to cool down instantly, cracking the rock. We collapsed in a three-wolf heap on the floor, redefining the term 'dogpile'.
"Welcome to hell," I heard. I could only growl in pain as exhaustion took over.
AN: Please review! I tried to make this chapter extra long~ Thank you and bye!