“What is that, Lady Aeden?” Thomas whispered his question.
“I'm not sure, Lord. It sounds like a seleigh soren. They are bound to a place and then feed on the souls of those unfortunate enough to wander or be sent within their influence. Whoever prisoned it here has also erased evidence of disappearance and death from the minds of everyone.”
“How do we stop it?”
“With fire and a draiochta sword.”
“Do we have one of those among us?” he asked.
“We'll see. It often takes a threat from some form of magic to awaken the blade,” she said.
Great. We're all dead, he thought.
As each guard moved off of the stairs, the line snaked down. Thomas put his foot on the floor and a shriek exploded from the left. Everyone crouched and spun toward the sound, swords ready. Torchlight wavered in a cold draft.
“Move out of the way and let everyone else off the stairs,” Lady Aeden commanded. A low moan shivered through the undercroft again.
Thomas felt a tightening in his brain. He stumbled forward into Lady Aeden, clutching at her tunic as he fell. “Lady”, he gasped. “I feel something in my mind!”
His knees hit the floor as he dropped his knife and grabbed his head with his hands. He gasped in pain as he curled into a ball.
Aeden, face grim, slammed to the floor on her knees next to him, her left hand clamping to the top of his head. She held her right hand aloft. Suddenly a fiery sword gleamed brightly in her hand, lighting the undercroft corridor. The children screamed. Soldiers gasped and reflexively stepped back.
Thomas relaxed with a sigh as she projected a shield over his mind.
“Thank you, Lady. What was that?” he exclaimed.
“As I thought, Lord Thomas. It is a seleigh soren. The practice you've done shielding your mind kept it from taking you as you came down the stairs. Whoever bound it here probably gave it your mental scent to take you first,” she murmured to him. “That takes a fair amount of power. We must find who set this trap.”
The soldiers were backing slowly away from where Thomas lay and Lady Aeden still held her gleaming sword aloft. The children were huddled together in a tight group at the bottom of the stairs, Breanna openly weeping.
Lady Aeden slowly lowered her sword as she stood. Angry shrieks echoed through the corridors of the undercroft. The soldiers in the hallway whirled to face outwards and crouched, prepared for any attack.
Those still bunched on the stairs hurriedly descended and joined the group at the bottom. Lady Aeden extended a hand to Thomas, who grasped it and let her pull him to his feet.
“Do you feel anything now?” she asked.
“No. It just feels like there's an iron band around my head.” He shuddered. He felt sick and very tired.
“That's your shield,” she responded. “Try to loosen it a bit.”
Thomas put his shaking hand on the side of his head, stilled his mind and grounded his ki, sending mental roots deep into the earth. As he did, the pressure eased until he was able to think again. “Ah,” he sighed.
He was finally able to take note of what was happening around them. He picked up his knife from where he had dropped it.
The soldiers who had first descended the stairs formed a circle around them. They looked at Lady Aeden and her sword warily. Thomas snorted and shook his head. He thrust his knife into the sheath on his belt. He'd thought that it would be a better weapon to use in the tight confines of the undercroft corridors.
He pulled his sword from its scabbard. As it cleared the hardened leather, light burst from the blade.
Lady Aeden grinned. “Yes!” she hissed.
The soldiers moved farther away from both of them.
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