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version eight: plot sneakpreview.

Aura held her breath, listening furiously for a tell-tale creak or groan. For a few agonising minutes the only sound which could be heard was the steady drip of water from the stalactites overhead; she felt a droplet of icy liquid fall down the back of her neck and shivered as it slipped down her spine.

Nothing. Then –


Aura wasn’t sure if she’d shouted it or Mallos; she’d already started backing up with as much speed as possible when his body hit hers, forcing her into an alcove in the wall. The crashing rocks were like thunder in her ears; she couldn’t remember ever hearing a sound so loud in all her life. Briefly, she wondered what would happen if they died down here, deep in the underground tunnels below the Silver Cove, where nobody would ever find them – assuming there was anything left of them to find after several tons of rock crushed them to pieces. Even magic couldn’t cure that. The sound was deafening, but at least she was blind to the destruction – her face was buried in Mallos’ chest. He’d pushed her up against the wall in a hug so tight she could hardly breathe, sheltering her from the tumbling rocks with the only shield available: his own body. The sharp rocks behind her were cutting in to Aura’s back, but she wouldn’t have complained even if she could speak. The roaring noise seemed to go on forever.

Eventually it eased off to a gentle patter and finally gave way to clean, undisturbed silence. Slowly, Mallos prised himself away. The air was so thick with dust that he was barely visible, despite the fact that her light had remained intact. Aura coughed a few times. Mallos, apparently unaffected, turned to carefully examine the wall of rock now blocking their path ahead.

“We couldn’t have set this off by just walking,” he muttered, gingerly touching the rocks. “Perhaps it’s designed to prevent anyone from finding the Crystal Hall. We must be getting close.”

The performance was so perfect that under normal circumstances she may have allowed it to carry on for a little while, but today Aura was in no mood for theatrics. She crossed the distance between them in a heartbeat and slapped him soundly across the face.

“You arsehole, Mallos!”

He blinked at her for a moment, rubbing his cheek, then smiled and shrugged. “It was worth a shot.”

“Next time you want to distract me from an awkward conversation, kindly do so in a way which doesn’t put our lives in jeopardy.” She paused for a moment, breathing hard. “I know that there’s someone else here in Shaman, Mallos. Someone else Gwythr is after. Who is it? Don’t play any of your little games on me, I know you know.”

“I don’t know,” he shifted reluctantly. “It’s only a possibility. And a remote one at that. In fact, I’m prepared to bet that the likelihood of her being here is less than – ”


Through the dim passage, Aura thought she saw Mallos’ face take on an expression uncharacteristically close to guilt. “My little sister.”

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