Selena held her breath. She heard the blood rushing through her ears in time with her heartbeat. The giggle came again, and Selena jolted up and jumped out of bed. She knelt on the floor and peered underneath her wooden bedframe. It was too dark to see anything, so she took the orange crystal off the bedside table and slid it underneath into the darkness. There was nothing there. Her brow furrowed as she pressed her ear against the cold floor tiles. She heard the giggling sound again, clearer this time.
Selena pursed her lips and sat up. Her lodgings were literally inside of the checkpoint wall. It was impossible for her to manipulate the earth to look inside the ground. The architects had used the dwarves’ designs to construct the wall and planted its base firmly in the ground. The sound shouldn’t have been coming from directly below her. Perhaps it was a really loud giggle from the other room that passed through the tiles. She thought of the tunnels she was ordered to find, but dismissed it. The tunnel she found was way further to the north. The ground near the wall’s gate was clear.
“It’s not a ghost,” Selena said and stood up, walking over to the wardrobe. “But it’s not just me being stressed out either. There is a definite cause to this, and I’m going to find it.” She frowned. Someone giggling didn’t explain the blood in her slippers or the blood on the robe from a week ago. It also didn’t explain why her floor kept changing temperatures. She sighed as she put on a robe and removed the chair from in front of the door. She grabbed the doorknob and instantly recoiled. It was wet and sticky.
“Calm down, Selena,” she said to herself and looked at her palm. It was bloody. Her head throbbed, but she used her powers of knowledge to examine the liquid in her hand. She confirmed that it was the blood of an angel. Her lip trembled. “It’s not a ghost. Think. Okay, the captain closed the door. And his hand was bloody because you hit him in the eye with a sharp object. Okay. Reasonable explanations, Selena.” She opened the door and walked out into the hall while wiping the captain’s blood off onto her robe. She mentally reminded herself to apologize to him the next time she saw him.
Something tapped her thigh, eliciting a scream from her mouth. Her scream triggered another scream from the creature who tapped her, causing her to scream even louder. She looked down and saw a goblin child with a pair of slippers on the floor beside it. “T-the captain said to g-give you these,” the goblin said and shoved the slippers in her direction before running away. Selena stared blankly at the slippers and then looked up to see the goblin child running into a room.
“I really should’ve went back to sleep,” Selena said and sighed. She walked over to the nearest window and stared at the forest outside. The windows were tinted red, and could only be seen through from inside like a one-way mirror. Although it didn’t provide much lighting, it was a useful defensive design. She wondered how the dwarves came up with it. It was a shame they were rounded up and executed. Their skills in engineering and invention far surpassed the angels’. “But not all of them,” she mumbled to herself. That’s why she was sent here. The capital was very vague with its request, but it was obvious something was strange. Tunnels don’t just appear in the ground. She suspected the council members were withholding information to prevent a widespread panic; it wouldn’t be the first time they did that.
Selena frowned as a giant figured loomed into view, towering over the treetops. It looked like a brown spider with lumps on its back. Was that Elrith? He was always a fan of spiders. Even the way he used his patience chains to fight were reminiscent of a spider trapping its prey with a silken net. Footsteps echoed through the halls as soldiers ran out of their rooms and up the stairs to get on top of the wall to man the crossbows and ballistae. How had they known something was approaching? She hadn’t heard any cries of alarm. She stopped a nearby soldier. “How did you know that thing was coming?” she asked and pointed outside the window. The spider was getting closer.
The soldier’s brow furrowed. “The alarm system,” he said. “I received orders to man the ballistae because of an approaching threat.”
“How come I didn’t hear it?” Selena asked.
The soldier shrugged. “It’s room specific. Some kind of dwarven voodoo,” he said and lowered his head slightly. “If that’s all….” He glanced at the stairs. Selena nodded and watched him run after his comrades.
“Dwarven voodoo, huh?” Selena asked herself as she walked up the stairs. She wondered if the alarms could make giggling noises. The second sun was just beginning to rise over the treetops. Selena squinted and shielded her eyes with her hands. The soldiers looked tense even though the earthen spider had stopped moving. From where its eyes would’ve been if it were alive, a hole appeared and a bald angel walked out of the spider. Selena recognized him as the Stormbringer. She had seen him a few times when he visited Hailing Academy. Her superiors always got extra stuffy when he showed up.
“General Michael requests permission to enter the checkpoint,” Michael said. His words weren’t loud, but everyone heard them as if he were standing next beside them.
The soldiers visibly relaxed, and someone shouted, “Permission granted.”
The spider started to shake and crumble as it crouched down, resting its belly on the ground. Selena peered over the edge of the wall and watched the spider dissolve, revealing angels and demons standing in formation. There were elephants and storage chests in the back of the ranks too. She wondered how much energy Elrith had to expend to carry everyone. Where was he anyway? It would make sense to have him at the head of the army, but she couldn’t see him or his favorite towershield anywhere. And where was Raea? Granted, there were a lot of people, but she felt apprehension at not spotting her family right away. She wet her lips with her tongue and turned around as the army started to march. She ran down the stairs and headed towards the gate leading into the wall. Until she saw Elrith and Raea for herself, she wouldn’t feel at ease. The thoughts of ghosts and giggling were completely gone from her mind.