They had been traipsing up the cliff side for an hour now, and they’d just reached the summit. It was fine for everyone else who had wings, but Arkay had to travel by foot and none of the N-Class Ksa were amused, having to wait so long for him. Teekay had done his best to explain to them that telepathic flight without wings was incredibly hard, but none of them were having it.
Ahead of the group of Rethans was a cave. The tracker Thitavee-En was carrying beeped loudly. Their target was close.
“Elvee-En, check the perimeter for threats. Kaytee-En, make sure no one has followed us. Everyone else, we will be following the K-Class’s lead.”
The two Ksa flew off, while Arkay and Teekay both stepped forward, into the cave’s entrance. Despite having only taken a few steps, the temperature dropped around them. The pair took another few steps, deeper into the cave.
“Seems clear so far…” Teekay shouted back behind them, only to find that the N-Class were still at the entrance. “Are you not following?”
Arkay, already in an uneasy mood, pulled Teekay back to the entrance. Immediately, the air warmed up around them, and they noticed something was amiss. Psiel-En had passed out. “I thought, with all your N-Class superiority remarks, you’d have the courage to follow us into a cave!”
“Y-you weren’t affected by that?” Thitavee-En shivered. “That sudden lack of warmth, the screaming voices, the images of our own deaths?”
Teekay blinked. “No, Thita, we did not feel anything apart from the drop in temperature.” He turned on his communicator. “Since Arkay and myself seem less affected by whatever that was, we will go in alone, with open communicators.”
Arkay turned on his communicator as well, then followed Teekay back into the cave.
“Can you hear us?” Teekay checked the communicator.
“Just. Can hear a lot of background noise too…”
“We’ll be careful.”
The cave quickly got quite dark, but Arkay’s eyes had adjusted, and Teekay started using his telepathy to feel the world around them. There only seemed to be one path, but it twisted and turned. The signal from the communicators both bottomed out, and when Teekay tried reaching the N-Class waiting outside with his telepathy, all he got was a nasty static shock through his head.
“This place makes no sense…” Arkay muttered. Ahead, the cave turned into a perfect cylindrical shape, with small dots of light, like stars in the night sky, littering the ceiling above them. At the end of it was the High General, curled up in a ball, his huge, pure white wings folded around him. Teekay took no heed of Arkay’s words and quickened his pace.
“High General! General Photeianos! Are you well?”
But as Teekay approached the High General, he could feel things changing. His body felt larger. His breathing got deeper. Teekay stopped and looked at his hands. Gone were his nimble fingers, they’d been replaced with horrible, heavy orange claws. He spun around, looking at Arkay, who had backed off slightly.
“You’re… a Veth…” Arkay stuttered.
Teekay ignored him and continued walking towards the High General. But as he approached the fallen Rethan, it disappeared in a cloud of dust, which Teekay couldn’t help but inhale.
Suddenly, a terrifying vision flooded his mind, before disappearing as quickly as it came. Teekay’s feet turned to jelly, and he panicked as he felt himself falling. Something though caught him at the last second.
“Are you okay, brother?”
It was Arkay. But he too was a Veth now, black teeth sticking out from his lower jaws. Teekay glanced back to where the High General had been, only to find that he was still there. Teekay’s cries had woken him up.
“Thank the Light that someone has come to rescue me…” Photeianos tried to get up, but his leg was chained to the ground. “Even if you are Veth like myself.”
Teekay wriggled out of Arkay’s arms and ripped the chain out of the ground. As he did so, both he and Arkay seemed to change back to normal. Photeianos seemed surprised as to whom his rescuers were.
“Where are my N-Class Ksa?”
“At the entrance…” Arkay sighed as he rubbed his eyes. “They couldn’t come in here. We only could because we were affected by the Veth.”
The High General nodded in understanding. “Very well… Do either of you two hear singing?”
Now that Photeianos had mentioned it, both Arkay and Teekay could hear singing. It was relaxing. Peaceful. Hypnotic.
“Ksa, where are you both going?!” Photeianos shouted. But the two little Retha weren’t listening, and were blindly walking further down the cave. Just as Photeianos was about to get up and try abd stop them, a ball of energy flew by, filling the cave with a bright, blue light. As the energy fizzled away, the two Ksa were unconscious on the ground.
“Apologies, High General, I should have been here sooner.”
Photeianos clambered to his feet with the help of the gangly Ethran-type.
“You’re Tenuk, of the Dessaron.”
“Yes. The N-Class should have informed us of this. They have no idea what this place is.”
“Neither did your own…” Photeianos sighed, as he watched Tenuk pick up both the Ksa and throw them, one over each shoulder.
“Arkay recognises traps laid by Deitics. This was a trap laid by A’Vatas, made to look like a Deitic trap. It was a trap for more than just you, High General. Come now.”
Tenuk turned around and headed towards the exit. Photeianos hesitated, the singing still looming faintly in the background, before quickly following.
“What do you mean?”
“I believe this was a trap set by A’Vatas, to ensnare extra Veth and take them to Kinigi before their proper time. They must be worried after the Soul Rupture, they probably lost some of their existing Vethic population and wanted to make up for their loss before Death properly reinstated herself. Had I not arrived in time, they would have both become Veth and sent to Kinigi, while you would be used as bait to lure more Veth-afflicted beings, the majority of which are not destined to become Veth when they die.”
They finally reached the end of the cave. Photeianos blinked from the sunlight, not realising how badly he’d become used to the darkness of that horrible cave.
“Thank you, Tenuk,” Photeianos smiled wearily as his N-Class Ksa rushed to him, checking him up and down to make sure he was healthy and safe. “How can I repay you?”
“There is no need to repay me, High General!” Tenuk gleamed. “I must take these two to a hospital to make sure that the effects of the trap have passed. I assume your Ksa will take you home?”
“Of course!” Thitavee-En interrupted.
“Was a pleasure meeting you, General Photeianos,” Tenuk continued. “Perhaps our third meeting will be under better circumstances…”
“I hope so…” Photeianos sighed, as Tenuk and the two Ksa disappeared in a puff of blue smoke. “I hope so…”