Mettel heard the sound of drums on the walls of the castle behind him– the Truth Seeker’s stronghold was under assault. He skittered forward, along the thin, cramped winding corridor. The secret passage would be a tight fit for a larger person, but Mettel was slight even for a Parua, agile and lithe. He glanced behind him at the Truth Seeker who loped along, clutching the Truth Stone. “This passage leads out? To where exactly?”
The Dokkaebi Judge ran his clawed fingers through his grayed mustache, “A place wherein we can assuredly exit from this place with the safety of our personages intact.”
“Who, or what do you think is following us?” Mettel asked, hopping forward as Asala bin Qalam stayed a half step behind, his tall shoulders hunched to allow his much taller frame through the corridor.
“I dare not hypothesize as to the identities of our assailants.”
“Heh,” Mettel snorted, “Seems to me that it must be the Rezgari, who else would it be?”
“By your own tale, verified by the Stone the Rezgari are assaulting your tribe at the present.”
“Then we must assume that the Rezgari are not currently available to threaten violence upon my vestibule.” The Dokkaebi stroked his long white mustache a moment, then nudged Mettel with his toe, “Perambulate rodent.”
Mettel hopped forward, apprehensive, scared more now than before of what might be coming for them. Light streamed into the subterranean corridor through barred windows, solid, safe– no man nor even the smallest Parua could slip through those cracks.
They continued forward in silence for a few dozen steps, then the Judge paused, cocking his head, setting a hand on Mettel’s shoulder, “My auditory senses detect an intruder.”
Mettel turned, looking back– a raven standing in the filtering light, shaking its wings. “Caw!”
Asala bin Qalam pressed the Truth Stone into Mettel’s claws, “Continue to the conclusion of the passageway– I shall follow presently, once this flea ridden creature is dispatched.”
Mettel watched in disbelief as the raven shifted forms, twisting, standing up into a human form. An ebony skinned man dressed in a tattered, moss covered robe, a gnarled staff, gourds hanging from the end.
The Judge unlatched the great scimitar which hung at his waist, turning to face their attacker. Mettel ran, hopping in the four legged lope of his people. He heard talking behind him in a tongue unfamiliar, recognized the Truth Bringer’s voice and that of what must have been the unknown dark skinned man.
Mettel saw light ahead, the end of the tunnel at last, sprinting forward as the sounds behind him changed from speech to the clash of sword and staff. When Mettel burst forth into the light, he stopped, skidding into the ground, pressing his fingers into the sand, tears of relief welling in his eyes, the Truth Stone clutched to his chest.
“Ahem.” Mettel looked up from the dirt to see a smiling human figure looking down at him, olive skinned like the people of the Five Tribes. Beside him a Dokkebi female crouched, snarling, her sharpened teeth glinting in the twilight Sun.
“He has the stone,” the human said, looking back over his shoulder to talk to an unseen figure.
“Excellent,” the voice responded with a sibilant softness, its bearer seeming to glide forward over the sand, “Well, little mouse– you seem to have the most interesting of timing.”
The Ghul Queen smiled down at him, and Mettel gulped.