Day 68 of 100 Word Prompts: Camouflage
The gentle rumble beneath Kilas’ feet gave them pause in their journey. Their gold-colored eyes traced the path before them, following it up to the steep mountainside looming in the distance. A lazy cloud drifted by the smokeless volcano, giving the island a serene appearance. The moonlight was more than enough for the dark-skinned elf to see clearly. Trailing behind him, the human girl he had found traveling blindly through the jungle two pays prior followed, neither subtle nor stealthily.
“What is it?” Lidia asked, grabbing their shoulder. “You’re distant.”
“I think we need to move faster,” Kilas replied, looking behind them. “Something’s coming.”
“O-okay,” Lidia said, nodding. “Lead the way. This isn’t my island.”
Kilas nodded, their expression growing stoic as they grabbed Lidia’s hand and darted off the path through the vines and bushes surrounding them.
Leaves and bugs bounced off Lidia’s face as Kilas pulled her ever forward. Though she tried, anticipating the random attacks from traveling so fast through the trees seemed hopeless to the point that she put her hand up in front of her face to avoid most of what came at her in rapid succession. Behind them, she heard something crashing.
“It’s picked up our scent,” Kilas said, glancing over their shoulder.
“Can we do something to camouflage ourselves?” Lidia asked as they pushed out into a clearing. “I assume not here.”
“Actually,” Kilas replied, holding up a finger. “There may be something I can do.”
Lidia watched as Kilas walked in a quick circle, tracing runes into the wet soil. As they reached their starting point, the ring and runes flared to life as a perfectly smooth dome with a dark green color appeared around them.
“Kilas?” Lidia whispered, “This isn’t what I was talking about. Please don’t abandon me. I wasn’t trying to-”
“Will you shut up and get in here?” Kilas whispered back.
“How do I get inside? It looks solid,” Lidia asked, stepping up to the side of the dome with her hands out. “Is there a door or something?”
“Just walk through it,” Kilas’ voice said.
Lidia closed her eyes and took a step forward. With her eyes closed, she couldn’t see it, but she felt the temperature of the air change rapidly up her arm as she stepped forward until it covered all of her entirely. She opened her eyes and looked around in disbelief. The inside of the dome was colder than the jungle outside, but not uncomfortable, and little lights scattered along the top of the dome provided as much light as she could need.
“How is this-” she began, but Kilas silenced her with a finger to their lips.
Kilas nodded to one side of the dome as a massive creature pushed its way through the thicket. The creature’s skin resembled dark plate mail, but in sections that cascaded from its head down to its legs. It walked on its rear legs and had a tail that whipped from side to side as its hands greedily rolled over themselves. The creature’s face was just as hideous with the same black armor covering every inch of it that wasn’t its four glowing yellow eyes, or its mouth with several rows of pointed teeth. It lifted its head and sniffed loudly at the air before approaching the dome in which they hid.
Lidia thought it would walk straight into them as it followed their scent, but when it reached the dome, it hit it like a wall. The creature reached out its hands and followed along the barrier, lowering its head as it smelled for them over and over. Lidia’s heart raced in her chest as the creature’s face got within two feet of hers. Kilas’ grip was the only thing that stopped her from running at that moment.
Kilas sat in the center of the small haven, pulling their bag from their back as they rifled through their things. Lidia continued to watch the creature stalk around the small clearing, confusedly looking for the source of the scent it couldn’t locate. With a slight tap on the ground, her attention shifted to focus on Kilas.
Kilas motioned for Lidia to sit with them as they produced some fresh fruit and water.
“We can speak, but very quietly,” Kilas whispered as their eyes traced the movements of the monster outside. “If we remain quiet enough for long enough, the Shadowmaw will grow tired and move on.”
“That’s what that thing is supposed to be?” Lidia asked as she took the offerings from them. “I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
“They are unique to this area,” Kilas replied with a knowing nod. “Legends speak of them as once being monks who lost their path. They worshiped a dark deity whose name has long been forgotten, and when they asked for more power, the chaotic nature of the god gave them what they asked for, but not in the way they wanted. Within a span, half of them had become these creatures, slaves to the deity’s chaotic nature. They were forever hunting the monks that weren’t afflicted by the same curse.
“Those things are immortal?” Lidia asked.
“I’ve never found a corpse,” Kilas replied with a shrug before taking a drink of water, “but they are just legends. They could be denizens of the Underdark who have wandered too far from their home.”
“I’ve studied the Underdark,” Lidia replied, shaking her head. “There are some grotesque things down there, but nothing matching that description.”
“Have you explored all of the Underdark?” Kilas asked, suddenly intrigued by the idea. “Do you know of a place called E’Manora?”
“It’s a fallen dark elf city,” Lidia replied, seeing the twitch in Kilas’ bottom lip. “Are you from there? Down in the Underdark?”
“A long time ago, I was born there, yes,” Kilas replied. “Though, I would argue that no drow ever lived there.”
“Why do you say that? It’s an elven city in the Underdark. Aren’t all of them down there drow cities?” Lidia asked as a crash came from the north, startling her.
“Don’t worry about that now, it’s growing tired of our scents and will move on sooner rather than later now,” Kilas replied, “but about E’Manora, it was not a drow city, though perhaps, you might consider us a cousin. We are not dark elves, but rather shadow elves, or perhaps you’ve heard of the Touched.”
“Touched?” Lidia repeated.
“The Touched are a close cousin to dark elves that were freed from the drow’s evil queen deity. We bear golden eyes, rather than red. We considered ourselves fortunate to be free to spread goodness in such a cruel place as the Underdark,” Kilas said, their eyes growing distant again. They shook their head slowly. “Not fortunate, blessed is a better word. However, the drow had other plans for our city.”
“What happened?” Lidia asked after Kilas had fallen silent.
“Another time,” Kilas said, giving her a forced smile that didn’t reach their eyes. “For now, you need to rest. I’ll keep watch, though we nothing can get through the dome.”