Kifa held her head and groaned as she stood up from her daze. Her memory was hazy and vision was far too blurry to even get the smallest hint of where she was. She rubbed her eyes but it did no good. She concentrated hard trying to remember what was going on and why she was waking up in this moldy smelling place. Bits of memory came into her head. She could remember walking with her children and hearing beautiful music. Antigone had wanted to see where it was coming from. It was there in her thought process her heart gave a fearful leap and she screamed “Antigone! Alex! Where are you babies! What happened?!” No answer came and her heart gave a twist as she screamed at the top of her lungs both her daughters and sons name. She rubbed her eyes more violently, still not seeing very well.
Kifa created a large bowl of water to rinse her eyes, it helping only minorly so she summoned prescription grade glasses to help her eyes focus. That seemed to finish it off so she made both things vanish. She now saw she was in some kind of maze. It was like a labyrinth pulled straight out of the movies. The only reason she could see was because of the torches on the walls. There wasn’t any sun and as far as she could tell there wasn’t even sky. They seemed to be under the ground. It was the only logical place but she couldn’t for the life of her remember anything after deciding with the children to follow that beautiful music. She choked up and yelled in a sorrow filled voice her childrens names once again.
Kifa tried to fly up over the walls to try and see her children but soon had arrows coming at her from all directions. She quickly landed, heart still thumping that fearful rhythm. This was obviously made so she couldn’t just fly. She started walking along, straining as she tried to remember what happened and hopefully figure out where her children were.
Gregory paced worriedly back and forth as he waited for his mother, father, aunt and uncle as well as Kiminia and Rodrick. It had been a whole day and a night since he had last seen Kifa and their children. Kifa would never keep them out at night, especially when they had school and she would have called him if she made other plans. There was a knock on his front door and he rushed to open it. He hugged his parents then his aunt and uncle. He shook Rodrick’s hand and hugged Kiminia then closed the door.
“Where was she last?” Declan asked.
“She said she was taking Alex and Antigone on a walk. They left through the back door and walked in a straight line until they were out of sight. When she didn’t come home by the time the sun was down I went looking for her and the kids. I followed their scents and found nothing.”
“Can you take us there?” Kiminia asked. “Maybe we can smell something you didn’t.”
Antigone walked quickly as she carried her brother on her back. His warm blood trickled into her tattered clothing as they waited for him to heal. He hated having his sister carry him like this but he was too weak to walk and Antigone wouldn’t take no for an answer. Antigone stopped to set her brother down and take a breather “stop looking like that. We’ll figure out where we are and find mom. How’s your wounds?”
“closing, lets just stop until I’m fulyl better”
“You were freaking mauled by those lions. You need to let them all close before you hurt yourself worse or leave scars. None of that sweet sexist crap either. You don’t have to protect me because I’m your sister. I can protect you too and I’m older so suck it up and let me carry you until you’re better. I know you just love me but let me take care of you as I know you would me in the same situation. Feed on me a little to help you heal”
“Do it, I’m planning on giving myself a good break anyway” Alex moved closer to his sister, took her wrist and bit into it. Antigone just rested against the cold wall as her brother took what he needed. When he stopped she asked ‘sure you’ve had enough?”
“I don’t want you too weak incase anything happens. With that much I’m sure I can finish healing myself”
“Why don’t you sleep?”
“If either of us deserves sleep its you with how long you’ve been carrying me”
“I’m fine brother dearest, really. Go to sleep and I’ll keep watch.”
“Just for an hour then.” She nodded and he laid down, resting his head on her lap. He fell quickly asleep and she sat there, staying completely alert.
Kifa stood up from her rest and continued through the dimly lit maze. She didn’t like it here, didn’t like that her children had been taken from her. This place was a whole other kind of dark. She knew she was being watched. She could feel eyes burning into her and it made her feel nervous. She had to find her children, she needed more light. She cupped her hands and held them to her lips, whispering to the spirits of light and warmth and life until a brightness began to glow in her hands. She opened them and a round ball of light floated in front of her. “Guide me, help me find my children.” She said softly. The ball of light moved in front of her and she followed it. She put a little distance between herself and the orb so she could see an enemy coming before it actually had time to attack.
“There is something strange here.” Kiminia said as she circled the end of Kifa’s trail.
“Strange how?” Gregory asked.
“The ground has been disturbed in someway, like the earth caved in and then filled back up again. Something happened here.”
“And there’s this smell, like damp earth. It’s all dry up here, but it smells wet.” Rodrick added. “It almost smells like…” He became still.
Kiminia shook her head. “No, not the Auxo, not Kifa and the babies.”
“What are Auxo?” Rylan asked fearfully.
“They’re a race of underworld demons, they love their games and enjoy watching people fight for survival. They’re like the Romans were with their Colosseum.” Rodrick explained. “If you survive they’ll let you go, but if you die then that’s it. They won’t send someone in to pull you out, they’ll just watch you bleed to death.”
It was a three headed ogre carrying a club larger than they were that made Antigone violently wake her brother. They decided in their fear to run, not sure they could take it. Antigone gave a high pitched scream as it swung at them. The sound reached Kifas ears and sent her into a panic. She flew up, not giving a damn about the arrows. She glided, swerved and flipped through the air to dodge the arrows as she flew towards her daughters screams. Even when one pierced her leg Kifa didn’t land. Somthing was attacking her children and she would suffer whatever injuries she had to to reach them.
By the time she landed there was one in her shoulder, just above her hip and one in her left leg. Blood trickled from the wounds that Kifa was ignoring as she got between her children and the ogre. She couldn’t even feel them so much adrenaline was pumping at this point. Antigone and Alex noticed their mother and stopped running. Kifa summoned a sword almost as long as her own body length and began dueling with the creature.
Antigone and Alex were exhausted, may have even become this ogres meal in moments if their mother hadn’t flown to them. They collapsed on the ground trying to catch their breath and checked eachother for wounds. “Antigone! Look at mom” he said in an upset tone as he pointed out the arrows in their mother. Antigone held her hand to her mouth, feeling like crying form all the stress and now worry over her mother.
Kifa slayed the ogre with no added injuries from him though the fight and dodging arrows to get here took a large toll on her energy. Antigone and Alex ran to their mother and hugged her. When they broke apart Alex spoke “Mom, let me take the arrows out”
“I’m so weak, just one at a time and let it heal so I dont bleed out because my body is slow to healing. I know the one above my hip hit somthing so I’m afraid of that one. I think we should start with my shoulder” Kifa got down a little bit and Alex jerked out the arrow as fast as he could, hoping it would hurt less if he did it quickly. “Thank you” she said softly to her son.
“Do you think dad’s looking for us?” Antigone asked.
“Of course sweetie and he’ll find us.”
“I just want to go home.” Alex chimed in.
“I know baby.” They sat there, her arms wrapped around her children until she was sure her shoulder was healed enough to take another arrow out. Alex did the one in her leg next, breaking off the arrow head that was protruding from the other side of her leg before pulling the rest of it out.
“What about your hip mom?” Antigone asked. Kifa reached down and broke some of it off so it was shorter.
“We’ll wait until we see daddy to take that out, just in case.”
They huddled together, all three of them exhausted. Kifa sang softly until her children were both sleeping. She held them tightly to her and started crying when she saw how beat down her little ones looked. An hour later she heard what sounded like footsteps on the wall across from them. She called on the light orb and sent it up, jumping in surprise when she saw someone standing on the top of the wall. “What do you want?” She asked in a whisper.
The dark eyed, pale skin young man just looked at her for a moment. “The master has asked me to get you moving again. He and the others are growing quite bored watching you all sit here.”
“My children are sleeping, he can wait or let us go.”
“You have to earn your way out of here miss.”
“Then he’ll have to wait until my little ones wake.”
The demon sighed then pierced the hush with an almost eardrum bursting scream to wake the children. Kifa wanted to strangle the bastard but he retreated quickly. Antigone and Alex shot up fearfully. ‘It’s ok, it was just one of the jerks that put us here”
“Who put us here?’
“These must be Auxo”
“I’ll give you a lesson in them after this is over. For now we must find our way out of here and be alert.” they nodded then stood with their mother. She couldn’t believe these assholes couldn’t even let her children rest. It was cruel to push anyone like this but it was especially cruel to do this to a thirteen and eleven year old. Atleast now she had a better understanding of what was going on. Kiminia had taught her about these creatures so atleast she knew if they found the center they would be set free.
At the same time it was a scary thought because you never knew what they currently had in here. They were always finding new toys to make the game more interesting to them. Kifa did know for certain that she’d lay down her life for their little ones if she absolutely had to. She was determined not to die but if it did take her final breath to get her children to the center and with their father she would do it.
“How do we get to the Auxo?” Gregory asked as they walked back home.
“We have too summon the Auxo kings messenger.” Kiminia replied.
“And after that?”
“He will challenge you to find them and get to the center of the labyrinth. You have the right to take someone to help you.”
“How do we get a hold of this messenger?” They stepped int Gregory and Kifa’s home and Kiminia went straight to the kitchen, pulling a large bowl out of one of the cabinets.
“I need you to get me some dirt from outside.” She filled the bowl with water and sat it on the counter. Gregor ran outside and came back with a handful of dirt. “Put it in the water.” He dumped it in and Kiminia closed her eyes, whispering an enchantment and calling on the name of the messenger. The water vibrated and the dirt rose to the surface.
“Why have you called on me?” A voice whispered from the bowl.
“I am Kiminia and your lord has taken my daughter. We would have her back.”
“I must speak to the king first.”
“Make it quick demon.”
Everyone could plainly see how angry Kiminia was. Rodrick wasn’t surprised, she was always this way when he or Kifa were in trouble. When you messed with them you were messing with the wrong mother. The messenger came back “You may send a champion to go in and help her but we arent giving her or the children back. Who is coming?”
“let me help you retrieve my sister” Rodrick answered quickly and Gregory nodded ‘myself and Rodrick, the dragon male I’m sure you sense here” It seemed almost instant that they were out of Gregorys house and in the maze ‘find her” he heard a voice say and the two men took off running. Kiminia sighed “I hope they all return safely. I can’t lose both of my babies but how was i to deny him helping his sister”
Declan put a hand on her shoulder “Gregory is a tough man and very intelligent. I’ve also seen rodrick to be very skilled. Heck I wouldn’t be surprised if Kifa could have made it out on her own. Together they will all come back, don’t worry. We’ll see our children and grandbabies again soon”
Kifa grabbed her children and pushed them behind her when the ground beneath them shook. “Be quiet.” She whispered and moved to the next corner of the maze. She peeked around and jerked her head back when she saw the big dragon sitting in the large round room. She didn’t know how close they were to the center and would hate to turn back only to get further away. She had no choice, but to take her children forward. “Listen babies, there is a dragon ahead. We’re going to try and stay quiet, but when I say run, you run to the nearest exit and don’t stop.”
“What if we get separated from you?” Alex asked.
“Just keep going, move fast, and stay alert. Understood?” They both nodded. She grabbed Antigone’s hand and Antigone grabbed Alex’s. They walked slowly behind their mother, all of their eyes on the beast the could see curled up in the room ahead. Once they were closer Kifa could see that the poor beast was chained to the floor by a big metal collar. Its face had scars on it which meant it had taken quite a lot of damage and the weapon that had caused them had been incredibly strong. She pulled her children along the wall, her eyes never leaving the dragon. Antigone tripped as they were getting close to and opening on the left side of the room, the sound of her hitting the ground waking the amber scaled monster. “Run, now.” She ordered her children as she shoved them toward the opening and turned to see the dragon looking at her with it’s large green and gold eyes. “Please, don’t do this.”
It snarled at her and she held up her hands. She didn’t want to have to hurt it and didn’t even know if her magic would work against it. She was still in pain, especially her hip that felt like it was on fire. “Just let us go, we just want to go home. We didn’t come here to hurt you or anything and I can tell by the collar that you’re being held prisoner here.”
The dragon shifted shape and as he did so the collar around his neck shrank. He stood there looking at her. In his human form one eyes was green and the other a bright gold. He had scars on his face and chest and he looked sorrowful. “I don’t want to hurt you or your children.” He said softly. “I don’t want to hurt anyone, but they don’t give me a choice.”
“Everyone has a choice.”
“Not when they’re trapped.” He indicated the collar around his neck.
“Let me try and help you okay, let me see if I can get it off.”
“Mom?” Antigone poked her head out of the opening.
“I told you to run.”
“I know, but we couldn’t leave you. Is he safe?”
“I think so sweetie.”
“My name is Caicias.” He interjected.
“I’m Kifa, my girl is Antigone and my little boy is Alex. They are only thirteen and eleven” His frown deepened “I hate when they bring children into this” Kifa made an electric saw capable of cutting metal appear in her hands “you are a blessed fairy. You have real magic”
“Yes” she said before carefully using the small handsaw to cut at the collar. Caicias closed his eyes tightly and as relieved when she got it off. he hugged her, scaring Kifa a little “sorry, thank you so much”
“Help us get out, please”
“Well we’re going the same way now anyway and i need to thank you for my freedom. I’ve been stuck here for so long” As they joined the children he pointed out “You and your children seem to trust me readily. Alot of people fear dragons”
“My adoptive mother and brother are dragons. We know we have nothing to fear”
“Thank goodness for that and I’m sorry I growled at you. Being down here and being beat into submission has made me a bit temperamental.”
“All is forgiven.”
“Would you like me to take care of your hip?”
“I’m worried pulling it out might be a bad idea.”
“Please, let me help you. I can heal you very easily, though you may scar.”
“I’m not worried about scars.” She stopped walking and he squatted down to look at what was left of the arrow.
“Sorry if this hurts.” He gripped the piece of the arrow and tugged it out, making her scream in agony. He blew fire gently into the wound. It felt warm rather than hot and closed the wound right up. “Dragon fire won’t hurt you if you don’t over do it, it’s actually quite effective at disinfecting and closing wounds.”
“thank you so much” Kifa said. Her children chimed in “thank you” they were relieved no to see an arrow in their mother anylonger. He smiled then walked with them as they continued to maneuver the labyrinth. Kifa thought she might actually be hallucinating when she heard her name called loudly but who she could have sworn was her husband “Kifa! Antigone! Alex!” he said their names in a cycle. He had no idea if they were together or not. “Gregory!?” she returned wondering if this was real or trickery. “O my god! Kifa!” she now heard her brother yell. Gregory spoke again “keep yelling so we can find you baby!”
“Don’t fly, there’s arrows!”
“Fuck the goddamned arrows until I find you!” Before Gregory had a family most of his life was honing his skills and creating new ones for himself. He wasn’t worried in the slightest about catching an arrow with his body and even if he did he needed to be near his family, he needed to protect them. Gregory grabbed Rodrick since he couldn’t fly outside of dragon form and that was way too bulky to not be pelted with arrows. He hadn’t even asked Rodricks permission. The only thing on Gregorys mind in this moment was that his wife and children were in danger.
Rodrick was surprised at how fast Gregory could move, how easily his body listened to his minds every whim. They landed without an arrow on either of them, leaving Kifas mouth gaping. She hadn’t found any words yet when he pulled her crushingly against him. “I’ve found you..finally my love” he said in almost a heartbroken voice. Rodrick was sizeing up this dragon male with his sister. He didn’t trust him, had no reason to yet but figured since he wasn’t attacking Kifa could explain his presence.
Gregory broke away from his wife to hug his children while Rodrick hugged his sister. “who is this dragon male?” he asked quickly. Kifa heard the distrust in his voice but didn’t blame him “This is Caicias, he healed one of my wounds. He has been a prisoner here. I freed him and we’re taking him out with us.” Gregory let go of his children and eyed the man. Civility and manners were still far from Gregorys mind right now and he spoke in a near chilled tone, only leaving it warm atall for his familys sake. “My wife trusts more readily than I dragon. If you are deceiving her and plan her harm you only get this one chance to get away from me. Are you truly her friend? A toy as these asshole demons made my wife and kids?”
Caicias swallowed “I am, she saved me and I want nothing more than to thank her. Healing her wound is only the beginning of my gratitude” Kifa took her husbands hand “Gregory” she scolded lightly. He pulled Kifa against him again, taking in the scent he was so glad to have wrapping around his own once more.
“Do you know anything about this maze Caicias?” Kifa asked.
“Not really, I was unconscious when they brought me here and woke up after being chained. They told me I was to fight whoever made it to this room or they would punish me. I refused to attack those who could not readily defend themselves and was severely punished. Not even my scales could save me. If I knew the way out I would take you, I really would.” He looked so beat down and Kifa pulled away from Gregory to hug him.
“It’s not your fault, we’ll all get out of here, I promise.” She let him go and went back to Gregory. She looked up at him hopefully.
“Rodrick and I will get us out, no matter what it takes, even if we have to break down every wall to get out of here we will. Those demons won’t stop us.”
“You are fast enough to dodge the arrows, perhaps you could take out the archers while your dragon friend runs along the wall and directs our movements. All that matters is we make it to the center. I will use my scales to protect your family from harm, even if means gaining more scars.”
“Thank you, there are many so let me take out a few before I put Rodrick up there so it wont be so chaotic” They listened as arrows flew and screams filled the air. The children stood in aw of their father, though they barely needed another reason to idolize him. When Gregory returned to them Kifa tried to talk him into a small break but he assured her repeatedly he would be fine and would stop if he needed. Stamina wasn’t a problem, especially after going on jobs with his parents. Gregory lifted Rodrick who was surprised when no arrows came “this is a big place but i got rid of any that were close. I’ll quickly rid us of anyone else who tries to hit you, don’t worry”
“I’m not and neither should you. Lets just get out” Rodrick answered and they all began to move. Kifa had no concept of what time it was but hoped MariAnne was still at work and not worrying over Rodrick because he came to help. She still worked at her flower shop though she didn’t have to anymore. It was her passion and her pride. It was somthing that made her happy, nothing like work atall so she couldn’t leave. Rodrick either went to work with her or used the time she was working to train so he wouldn’t have to do it when she was home or simply lose his skills.
Kifa and their mother had been elated when he told her he was a dragon and she didn’t panic. They were even happier when a few months later they were together. It was only a year following that they were dating. He waited only months after dating to ask her to be his mate and she accepted. They had a small, beautiful wedding that their mother cried at. Not that Kifa could talk. She hadn’t full on cried but her eyes were wet through the ceremony.
Another volley of arrows flew at Rodrick and Gregory threw up a barrier around his brother in law before jumping over the wall and attacking the archers. In front of them a part of the wall opened, releasing a giant serpent. It wrapped itself around Antigone and Alex, making them scream. Caicias shifted into a dragon, attacking the enraged serpent while Kifa made an ax and started hacking at the tail end. Between the two of them the snake released Antigone and Alex and Kifa grabbed them, pulling them back as Caicias finished off the snake. Gregory was back over the wall and looking his family over for wounds. When he didn’t see any he hugged them tightly to him.
“Thank you Caicias.”
“It was no problem.”
“See baby, he’s a good guy.” Kifa said.
“Come on guys lets get out of here.” Rodrick said and they started running again.
With Rodrick guiding so they never hit dead ends or accidentally back tracked things were fairly easy, even opponents with two dragons, a fairy and a vampire fighting. The Auxo were honestly impressed but could feel Gregorys anger that him coming down here was needed. They could tell telling him how well he did would probably only be met with a punch to the face. “you’re free” They heard a loud, booming voice above them though they saw nobody. “do not come for my family again” Gregorys seethed. He heard laughter as the ground beneath them pushed them up as if it had turned into a geyser.
They were back where Kifa and the childrens trail ended which Kifa had expected once knowing what they were up against down there. Antigone and Alex were practically dancing with joy. “where will you go?” Kifa asked Caicius. “I don’t know, I’m sure my cave has been taken over or looted. I’ve been down there many years, so many long years”
“come home with us for now. I’ve taken a few opportunities to look inside your head and the least we could do after you helped my family is to let you come home with us. I’m sure my parents can figure somthing out for you”
Everyone came rushing out the door when they saw them walking up. They all hugged, glad to see that everyone was alive and safe. It took them a minute to see Caicias standing there. “Oh sorry, everyone this is Caicias. He helped us. He was being held captive by the Auxo.” Kifa said.
“Nice to meet you.” Caicias replied, feeling a bit awkward.
“We were hoping you and mom could help him.” Gregory said to Rylan and Declan. “He has no home.”
“You’re certainly welcome to stay with us for awhile, we have plenty of room.” Rylan said with a warm smile.
“It’s the least we can do for someone who helped our children and grandchildren.” Declan added.
“I don’t have any clothes or anything like that.”
“We’ll buy you some, it’s no problem.”
“You can shower here and borrow some of my sweats and a t-shirt.” Gregory offered.
“That would be nice, the only bathing I did was when they would bring me water.”
Kifa guided their new friend to the bathroom and explained their shower and where the towels were before leaving him alone. Gregory took some clothes in and set them on the toilet before they both rejoined their family. Kiminia took Kifa into her arms and then her granchildren before anybody else got a turn. Rodrick didn’t stay long so Marianne wouldn’t be worried. He hadn’t left her a note or anything so he knew she was probably curious as to where he was.
When Caicias was out of the shower he looked nervous but they could tell he felt a lot better to be clean. Rylan and Declan prepared dinner then sat down to eat there with everybody. Caicias opened up surprisingly fast as they ate. You could sense the lingering nervousness but he made an effort to talk and get to know everyone while they got to know him. When their family left that evening Gregory was glad to finally have them to himself. He offered to let his children stay up late but they were exhausted and actually wanted to go to school in the morning even though he told them they didn’t have to do that either.
“lets get some rest too” Kifa said as they left their childrens rooms. Gregory was more than happy to just relax in bed with his wife in his arms after all that fighting and stress. Neither of them realized just how tired they were until they hit their bed. They were only conscious enough for Gregory to pull Kifa close before they fell asleep.
The next morning he let Kifa rest while he helped their children get ready for school. When they were gone he returned to her and pulled her close. He wished he had gone on that walk with them in the first place. He knew that he couldn’t be with them every second of their lives but that thought crossed his mind. He sighed and kissed Kifas cheek. He knew he was lucky he had such a strong wife and resilient children. If they weren’t they wouldn’t have made it until he got there. He felt proud of all three of them but was happier more than anything that they were safely home.
~ The End ~