work to do, part 2 of 4

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“Where are we going?”

Dahlia’s question was little more than a whisper.  For its size, the snake-like creature had an unsettling soft voice, sometimes hissing, sometimes purring.  The creature never seemed to raise its voice.  At least, Sofia had never heard it if it had.

Walking next to Dahlia, as the creature slithered through the dark tunnels, Sofia patted it gently on its head, “We’re nearly there.”

“That didn’t answer my question,” Dahlia replied, with a hint of laughter.

She wasn’t sure if the laughter was a good sign or a bad, but Sofia let her hand rest on Dahlia’s head rather than respond.  It wasn’t that she couldn’t trust the creature.  It had proved its loyalty in the past couple months.  Their bond had strengthened quickly and Dahlia had never attempted to break free of her control.  By all accounts they had turned into quite the formidable team.  However, Sofia didn’t think it would be wise to let the creature know all her plans.  Knowledge is power and Dahlia was already far more powerful than Sofia.  If not for the spells it was under, the one that had brought it into this world and the one that held it captive to Sofia’s whims, Dahlia could easily destroy the witch.  They both knew this. 

In time, perhaps, their bond would grow strong enough that Sofia could trust Dahlia completely.  That would only happen if Dahlia saw Sofia as a true equal, and Sofia had a lot to learn before then.  She wasn’t a novice but it takes a special depth of learning to match the knowledge of a creature that lived outside the normal confines of time.  Sofia was very interested in reaching those depths, and some of their excursions had been in search of knowledge she needed to further that effort, raiding enchanted libraries, stealing secrets from more learned mages, and so on. 

The tunnel began to climb slightly and Sofia signaled for Dahlia to stop.  She drew a rune of divination in the dirt next and spoke the word that sparked it to life.  The rune glowed red and then spun slowly in one full circle before sliding in the dirt a pace forward and slightly to the left.  There it faded from red to orange to yellow to green, pulsed three times and disappeared.  Sofia stepped to that spotted and pointed upward.

“Our target is above our heads.”

“What would you have me do?”

“There is an artifact I need,” with that she touched the snake again and sent it a mental picture of what she wanted.  “If you can take it unseen, great.  If you are seen…”

Dahlia finished the thought, “Then none shall live to speak of what they saw.”

The creature pushed its head into the soil of the tunnel roof and slithered upwards, using its powerful magic to carve through the earth without disturbing the ground itself, until the tip of its tail disappeared and Sofia couldn’t tell that it had passed at all despite knowing exactly the spot it had gone.  She closed her eyes and used her link with Dahlia to see through the creatures eyes.  She wasn’t in charge, just a passenger watching Dahlia’s progress.

Sofia felt Dahlia’s whispering voice in her head, “You don’t trust me to run this errand on my own?”

“I do trust you, I just want to see if there’s anything else that catches my fancy while you are there.”

Again the sound of something like laughter came from Dahlia.  Again, Sofia wasn’t sure if the laughter was good or bad.

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