The next morning, I prepared for a fight. The bow I carried had been a gift from Master Sandar. Made of rich yew wood and sized perfectly, the weapon stood as a testament to his skill as a Wizardsmith. I had already unlocked a half dozen spells out of it, all of them powerful yet versatile. Instead of the silk tunic, breeches, robes and other bits and bobs required by the stupid wizard rules, I put on the leather vest and pants allowed for battle. I preferred the snug leathers. They made me feel more secure and the enchanted breast band that kept me appearing flat didn’t have to be so tight. This would be a good thing if I had to perform a healing, because I could breathe properly to sing. A soft knock at my door interrupted me as I packed my tool satchel and pouches.
“Dorian?” Caterina’s soft, tentative voice said as she opened the door.
“Yes?” I asked absentmindedly, storing dowsing equipment and healing potions into the last of my pouches.
“I wanted to give you this.” She said. I turned and saw Caterina holding out a violet scarf, one of her favorites. Her face appeared distressed and worried. “The rainbow caves are going to be dangerous. I know you don’t want me to go with but… but…” Her eyes welled up with tears. She really was worried about me. My heart went out to her. She did care, just not in the way I wanted her to. I felt bad that she didn’t know what I really was.
“Don’t worry.” I stepped forward, took the scarf, and put my arm around her shoulder. She leaned against me, distraught. “Peregrine’s with me, I have my magic. Nothing is going to happen.”
“Promise?” she sobbed.
“I promise.” I replied. We left with Caterina and the Innkeepers waving at us from the door. I tied Caterina’s scarf around my arm, where she could see it clearly.
“Ah, ha.” Peregrine said, eyeing the scarf. “So you do have a soft spot for the beauty of Westeria.”
“Sort of.” I said. “But, not in the way you mean.” My feelings toward Caterina were, and always would be sisterly, if anything. I could tell by Peregrine’s look that he didn’t believe me. Tired of his suggestions, innuendos and accusations, I decided to set the record straight. Well, kinda straight.
“Look,” I told him firmly, and truthfully. “I’m not interested in Caterina because… there’s… somebody else.”
Peregrine’s eyes almost popped out of his head. “REALLY? I was beginning to have doubts about you. Who is she?”
“Not telling.” I informed him smugly. Then, before he could start to badger me, “You’ll have to guess.” This could be fun, having something to hang over his head.
“Does this person know?” he asked, warming up to the game.
“Nope.” I replied. “And neither does Caterina. So, don’t tell her. I don’t want to hurt her feelings.”
“You got it.” He said.
I felt safe then. Peregrine always kept his word. From there on, the ride to the caves was occupied by a game of 20 questions revolving around my mystery love. By the time we reached the ridge above the Rainbow Caves, he had come no closer to guessing than when we started. Too bad he restricted himself to those of the female persuasion. We dismounted and made our way down the ridge on foot. I strung my bow and Peregrine drew his sword as we slid down the far side. At the bottom we were greeted by an odd chittering noise.
“What is that?” Peregrine asked, looking around.
“Almost sounds like… bats. But not quite.”
“Could it be the monsters?”
“Maybe.” I answered. We approached carefully. The noise grew louder and more urgent. When we reached the mouth of the cave, the noise suddenly stopped. Peregrine and I froze and glanced at each other. He raised his eyebrows expressively. I redirected my gaze to the mouth of the cave.
A flurry of color and noise hit us. We ducked as a million tiny, colorful, winged creatures poured from the mouth of the cave. They fluttered all around us, screeching and clucking loudly.
Peregrine came up next to me, sword ready as I notched an arrow. I let fly into the swarm. The rainbow cloud split, giving us room to rise and move.
“So that’s why they call it Rainbow Caves, huh?” Peregrine had just enough time to comment before the onslaught began again. He swung his sword, skewering several of the creatures. I looked down to see three dead, brightly colored, bat like creatures fall to the ground. A loud, deep screech ripped the air. We turned to face the noise.
One of the “bats” had grown to an amazing size, at least six feet tall. It loomed over us, wings spread, hissing in fury. Peregrine readied his sword, and I started a fireball spell. We hit the ground as it flew towards us. It soared past overhead.
“This has to be what kidnapped Luella.” I shouted over the noise of the creatures, watching the large blue creature bank and turn back.
“I’ll stay here and fight!” Peregrine shouted back. “You go into the caves and look for her!” Nodding, I redid the spell and threw the fireball. It exploded in the air and the small creatures scattered. Smoke filled the air. Peregrine shouted and rushed the large one. Using the smoke as cover, I ran into the cave and hid just inside the door. I held my breath and waited as more colorful assailants rushed in and out. Soon they had all left to help in the fight against Peregrine. I cast a small light spell and looked around being careful not to let the light project to far.
The caves appeared ordinary, with a great tunnel leading away toward the back and large boulders and stalagmites littering the floor at intervals. I marched down the tunnel, occasionally stopping to hide from the rainbow bats flying in and out of the caves. Suddenly a loud roar stopped me in my tracks. I held up the light.
Another gigantic bat loomed before me. It stood more than 6 feet and was bright purple with blazing red eyes. It licked its gnashing teeth with a forked tongue. The creature took a deep breath. Fire shot from its mouth at me. I ducked behind a boulder just in time. The flame winked out.