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Model scraped on rock as well as the moonlight was cut off previously mentioned them. Audrey was lying in a ball beside Jenny near the lower part of the incline. Dee have been shoved in backward and was sprawled at the very bottom, thighs higher than her head.

In those 1st moments Jenny didn’t stop to ponder how the girl could continue to see either of them. She said, “Are you fine? ” to Dee and after that wrapped her arms around Audrey gently, restfully.

Audrey was shaking. Producing little grunting sounds.

“I’m sorry, Now i am so sorry____” Jenny explained, hugging

her.

“It’s not your fault. ” Dee was choosing herself up, her fine-boned face contemptuous. “What’s her problem, in any case? “

Jenny twisted her head to snap at Dee, but the phrases never received out. She could right now see the explanation they were not in presentation darkness. There was clearly a partially

group of lanterns around the lower part of the incline, and having the lanterns were persons.

Dee experienced fallen muted. The lantern light mirrored off confronts that were unsettling to say the least.

The elves were very soft, very beautiful, but very strange. All their eyes were slanted in a way that reminded Jenny of the Visitors’. Their cheekbones were nearly too high and sharp. And in addition they stood oddly.

They failed to look as if they had virtually any sympathy to appeal to.

One of them said something. Jenny thought it was the same language that the young men outdoors had employed, but the elf’s voice was more liquid-and more cold. It was clear that having been ordering the girls up.

Jenny didn’t need to obey. She was irrationally anxious by these kinds of pale amazing people. Then she found that might be her dread wasn’t so irrational.

These were like animals-or parts of these people were. They were deformed.

The elf who spoken got one regular hand and one hand such as a cow’s divide hoof. It absolutely was black and sparkly like patent leather. Jenny was scared she was going to be sick.

Another of which had a butt hanging out of his breeches-a long, lilac naked end like a rat’s. It swished. A third experienced two little horn-buds inflammation on his your forehead. A last had smooth dark hair growing in the neck.

Each one of them had some problems. And they had been real. Nothing like the pasted-together monstrosities Jenny had seen in the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! show.

“Audrey, you have to get up, inch she whispered, swallowing the bile that had gone up in her throat. “Audrey, if you don’t I think they’ll cause you to be. ” After that, with desperate inspiration: “Do you wish them to help you lying below like this? I bet the mascara’s smeared halfway down your face. inch

The charm to Audrey’s pride performed where not more than that might have. She slowly sitting up, cleaning at her cheeks.

“It’s waterproof, inches she said defiantly. Her fingers proceeded to go automatically to modify the spines in her French twist, and then the girl saw the elves.

Her chestnut sight widened until they showed white all-around. She was staring at the cow’s-hoof side. Jenny held her equip tightly.

“Are they everything you thought they were? “

Audrey pressed her lips collectively and nodded.

The elf spoke once again, sharply, stepping forward. Audrey cringed backside. Slowly and carefully Jenny urged her to stand.

“Audrey, we have now to go with these people, ” your woman whispered. She was worried that in the event that Audrey balked, the elves were going to touch all of them. The thought of that-of being carressed by that shiny hoof or by the flipper your woman saw one of the others had-was more than Jenny could endure. “Please, Audrey, ” she whispered.

It had been easy for the elves to lead them. Most they had to complete was close in in one direction, and the girls could move in the other.

They walked like this, surrounded by a circle of lanterns, straight down a passage that sloped on and upon. Other pathways branched away. Clearly the area was big-and they were going deeper and deeper into it.

Walking calmed Jenny a little. The stones around

them took every imaginable shape-some like turning antlers, others like windblown grass. There have been lacy is catagorized of angel hair, and huge columns covered with formations like delightful flowers or the gills of mushrooms.

The environment smelled like rain-damp earth. It was astonishingly warm.

Jenny tightened her supporting proper grip on Audrey’s arm.

“Say something to them, ” she advised. “Ask all of them where we are going to going. inch

In her own way Audrey was as daring as Dee. Her spiky eyelashes had been starred collectively from crying and moping, and your woman didn’t glance at the elf close to her. Yet she talked to him in level tones.

“He says they’re taking us to the Erlking, ” she said after having a moment. Today Jenny may hear taut, shaking control in her voice. “That means-elf california king, I think. I recall the story about the Erlking now. He is a kind of demon who haunts the Dark Forest. He’s supposed to-take people. Especially young girls and children. inch

Dee pounced. “Why young ladies? “

Audrey spoke among clenched pearly whites. “You guess. But each of the dark elves are because of this. Well, take a look at them. They’re all guys. It’s a guy race. “

With a shock, Jenny noticed that it was accurate. The delicacy of their features had fooled her. Each one of their captors was beautiful-and male.

Dee’s grin was bloodthirsty. “Time to battle. “

“No, ” Jenny said tensely. Her center was pounding, but the lady tried to quiet it. “There are too most of them, we more than likely have an opportunity. And in any case, we’re supposed to face our nightmares, bear in mind? If the

Erlking is what Audrey’s most scared of, he must end up being what we have to face. inches

“It’s a stupid problem anyway, inches Dee hissed, her has additionally been shoulders hunching as if an ice cube were going down her again.

“Believe me, ” Audrey said bitingly, “I wish you weren’t in it with me. inches

The two young ladies ignored one another as they wandered on through subterranean caverns of cathedral spaciousness. Glittering white gypsum crystals powdered everything, capturing the lantern light. Coarse rock dust crunched beneath Jenny’s feet.

“I miss, ” Audrey whispered. “This can’t have come out of my mind. I have never found anything like it. “

“I have, inches Dee stated, and even her voice was subdued. “Spelunking in New Mexico. But it really wasn’t so-much. “

Now they come to the biggest cavern of all.

That they passed giant red pillars like coral formations reefs which will gave Jenny the disturbing feeling of staying underwater.

These people were heading directly for a significant wall of flame-colored rock and roll. It was not flat. This went rippling up or more like an inverted Niagara Is catagorized. At ground level there were an irregularly shaped difference in the wall-like an entry.

“The castle, ” Audrey translated silently.

They passed through the distance in the red surfaces.

Inside, the elves relocated to separate the ladies into two groups. Industry so quickly that Jenny didn’t possess time to behave. All in an instant she was being herded apart, and when she twisted her head frantically she noticed Dee and Audrey staying borne inside the opposite path. She saw Audrey’s water piping head bobbing and noticed Dee’s tone raised in fury. In that case Dee’s tone of voice faded, and Jenny was led through a gap right into a large place.

One of her captors explained something ending with “Erlkodnig, ” and they all strolled out. When Jenny appeared through the space, she found they were position sentry upon either side.

Now what?

She looked about. The rock formations right here were just like huge crushed stone castles, half melted by simply water, in white and gold. Jenny realized your woman was discovering by moonlight and looked up. The roof had availabilities in this like dfgdtrhfgh or chimneys in the rock and roll. She studied them for some time.

Finally there is nothing to carry out but wait-and worry. The fact that was happening to Tom at this time? she considered.

Think about the riddle, she told herself strongly. It’ll go the time, and it might be useful.

I are just two and two. I was hot. We am cool. I’m the parent of numbers that cannot be advised. I’m a great gift beyond measure, a matter of course , And I am just yielded with pleasure-when taken by force.

Suddenly she experienced it. Yes! Something that could possibly be hot and passionate or perhaps cold and impersonal. Something that could be the “parent” of untold numbers of people-because there was not any counting how many babies had gotten started out with this. Something

that was only two and two-two lip area touching two lips.

A kiss.

Jenny smiled in triumph. She’d solved the riddle. She could get among the others free of charge.

There was no question, of course , regarding who it will be. Much because she cherished her close friends, Tom will always come first.

The only issue with having fixed the question was that she now got nothing to believe about-except no matter what was going to eventually her. The elf who’d left experienced said “Erlkodnig. ” The Erlking? Is that who she was awaiting?

What kind of deformity could the Erlking have? the lady wondered. Feet? Horns?

In the event that he’s full, he most likely has a thing worse than all the others, she believed, and her heart perfectly chilled.

Someone fundamental the distance in the stone, and Jenny braced herself. The next tiny she noticed how heavy she’d recently been.

He was wearing a white tunic and breeches and soft white shoes. They displayed how lithe and efficiently muscled he was. In the moonlight his curly hair was metallic as a looking glass, and having been smiling.

“Julian. “

“Welcome, ” he said, “to the Erlking’s castle. inches

The last period they had voiced, Jenny have been furious with him. It absolutely was hard to hold that at heart now. The white leather was thus soft seeking, and this clung to him, hip and upper leg. And there was clearly something about some guy who looked over you with eyes like a starving tiger’s. All at once Jenny felt disconcerted. Tom often looked so excellent in normal clothes-but he was very conventional, never would dress up possibly at Halloween. Julian, by comparison, obviously received off on outrageous.

His broad leather-based belt showed how smooth his belly was, highlighted his slim hips. It absolutely was modestly encrusted with sapphires. Jenny wanted she experienced one like it.

“The Erlking, huh? Enjoying the part? inch

“Immensely, ” Julian confident her gravely.

“At least you’re conversing with me in this nightmare. Not like the UFO one, I mean. “

“Jenny. I will gladly talk to you all night. inch

“Thank you, but in which time limit, and I’d go for my friends backside. “

“Say the word. “

Jenny checked out him, startled, and then recognized what expression he meant. “No, inch she explained. “I’ll get it done the hard way. We’re going to complete all the disturbing dreams, you know. We will win the overall game. “

“I admire your confidence. “

“You can easily admire my personal success-starting at this point. I’ve solved your riddle, and you’re a man chauvinist pig. It is not offered with pleasure when taken by force. “

“What isn’t very? “

“A kiss. inches She considered face him fully. “That’s the answer, basically it? And you simply told me basically solved the riddle, a person would let among my friends proceed. “

“Wrong. ” He waited on her reaction, eyes glinting within a wicked laugh. “I alerted you if you offered me the answer, I’d let one of your friends go. But you haven’t given it to my opinion yet. inches His eye lingered onto her lips. “Would you like to now? “

Fury sparked in Jenny. “You-! ” Your woman turned aside

so he wouldn’t have the satisfaction of seeing her angry.

“I’ve upset you. You’re upset, ” he said. He sounded genuinely penitent. Jenny couldn’t keep up with these mercurial changes of mood. “Here, I’ll offer you something for making it up to you personally. “

Reluctantly Jenny turned once again. He was possessing a rose-a white went up. Or maybe it was silver-in this light it had been hard to tell. It was the most wonderful thing she would ever found.

As the girl took it, Jenny realized it wasn’t real but was exquisitely made, perfect to the tiniest detail. Half opened, the blossom shimmered in her hands. The padding were great but very soft.

“Made from silver dug out simply by black elves in the greatest mines of the earth, inch Julian said. Jenny shook her mind at him.

“That’s all folklore. Will you be saying if you’re really the Erlking? Do you want me to believe in Hansel and Gretel, as well? “

“I’ve been more things than you can imagine. And the things i want one to believe is the fact children go into dark places and disappear. And people may possibly tell tales to explain it-sometimes true testimonies, sometimes not really. “

Jenny felt disconcerted again. “Anyway-it’s a beautiful flower, ” the lady said and stroked this against her cheek.

Julian’s eyes gleamed.

“Let’s going for walks in the courtyard, ” this individual said. “You can really view the moonlight generally there. “

The courtyard had a number of all-natural chimneys, and moonlight inundated down. Jenny felt practically awestruck on the beauty of the landscape. The moonlight plonked a sort of magic sheen more than everything, as well as the cavern was weirdly beautiful with its dark shadows and bright areas of silver precious metal.

Julian looked the same. Every single shadow in the face was dead dark-colored, and there were silver points in his eye.

“Have you ever pondered why you can go into hazardous places without having hurt? inches he said abruptly. “Why the run away animals you pick up never bite you, why an individual get mugged-or worse-when you wander around bad parts of town at nighttime? “

“I, ” People were always yelling at Jenny for precisely the things he was talking about. The lady herself had never given it much thought, but now a wild suspicion was rising in her head. “No, inches she stated. “No, My spouse and i haven’t. “

His sight remained on hers. “I’ve been looking after you, Jenny. Observing over you. No one can touch you , no one nevertheless me. inch

“That’s extremely hard. ” This came out within a whisper. “You , I have done those activities all my life,. ” Her sentences were coming untangled.

“And We couldn’t had been watching you that long? Nevertheless I have. We’ve always cherished you, Jenny. “

The potency of his gaze was distressing. Jenny was confused by simply her individual emotions. The girl knew she should truly feel only hate, only anger toward him, but chances are she were required to admit that part of her was fascinated by him. Having been a knight in shining armor of darkness-

-who acquired chosen her.

She converted and strolled away from him, trying to gather herself.

“l nave under no circumstances been in like before, Julian said. “You’re my first-and you’ll be my personal only. “

There was music in his tone, and the phrases settled like filigreed snowflakes around her, wrapping her in otherworldliness.

Jenny turned around and he touched her.

His touch was while tenuous while gauze on her behalf cheek. Jenny was therefore surprised the girl didn’t push. Then the lady looked down stupidly. He had taken her hand.

But I thought you couldn’t

His fingertips had been as cool as jade against her skin. Tingles followed in their wake. She had an desire to press her cheek to his open hand.

Don’t, the girl thought. Avoid, don’t, don’t

“Don’t, ” she whispered.

He continued stroking her hand, thumb gently circling in her palm. A sensuous and dangerous sense. Jenny felt herself learn to come undone.

His contact was thus delicate-he’d lumpen her side so lightly from the increased.

From the rose, Jenny thought.

His gift. She’d held this in her hand. She would stroked that against her right cheek-the cheek he was touching now.

She stepped back. “You , tricked me. inch

He even now held her hand. “Does it matter? “

“Yes, it issues, ” Jenny said furiously, trying to get of his grasp. How could she have been so silly? It was a game he was playing with her, to get permission to touch more and more of her. “I understand now-I’ll never feel you or perhaps anything you produce. That trick won’t operate again. inch

His lip area were smiling, but there were something hot and fatal serious in his eyes. “Maybe not-but one more will. Imagine me, Jenny: I’m going to cause you to be mine-entirely-before you finish the sport. “

Jenny wished your woman could think of something older to say than, “In your dreams! inches

“No-in yours, ” this individual said. “And remember, you’re not alone in this article. “

Jenny heard a scream.

“That’s Audrey, inches she explained. “That’s Audrey! Something’s happening to her! inch When he would not release her hand, the girl jerked it of his.

Then she saw his eyes-and what she found there stopped her.

“You know, inch she whispered. “You’re performing it-to settle at me personally. “

“I warned you, ” this individual said. The screaming was still going on. “Do you want it to stop? inches

Evil, she thought. Total evil. Vicious, capricious, and dangerous being a cobra. I will not forget that again.

“I’ll stop it myself, inch she explained, her voice soft yet fierce. “I told you I used to be going to earn this Video game. And I am. And I will never give in to you personally. “

She threw the silver rose at his feet.

Then simply she was running intended for the sound of Audrey’s screams.

Elves hurried at her as the girl plunged out from the sandcastle place, but she veered dramatically and got by them. Audrey’s screams were getting better and sharper. Jenny did find a gap in the nearest red wall and ducked with it, and abruptly the shouts echoed all over her.

She saw Audrey sitting and Dee browsing front of her. She stumbled the last few feet to break down beside them.

“What’s wrong? “

Audrey was 50 percent sitting, 50 percent lying resistant to the gypsum-encrusted wall of a small cavern. Her features had been contorted with horror-and the moment Jenny switched she noticed why.

She’d have thought that all after all she’d been through, she’d be inured to weird creatures. But these things-these items were-

“Oh, God, Audrey, what are they will? ” she choked out.

Audrey’s fingernails bit into Jenny’s provide. “They’re draugar. Living dépouille. They’ve come for us. I-” She turned away, retching.

They smelted like corpses-the sickly-sweet stench of rot. Some of them experienced bloated bodies. Some experienced leathery pores and skin, fallen in and wrinkled. Some, to Jenny’s fear, had epidermis that was sloughing away.

One had thick finger nails turned darkish by as well as grown in long, dangling spirals. The nails clattered together, making a sound that increased gooseflesh around Jenny’s human body.

They were entirely blocking the exit. Jenny didn’t learn how she’d got around them to get to Audrey, although there was zero getting out once again. They were final in via all sides.

“When I let you know, run pertaining to the door! inches Dee stated.

“What door? “

Dee pointed and Jenny flipped. Beyond the nearest draugr around the right was a wall-and there were a

door in this. A Gothic door with an curved top, colored blue.

“Okay? ” Dee shouted. “Get ready for that! “

The lady had been standing up with her left lower-leg back, leg bent, all her weight on it. Her right calf was and so bent that only the feet touched the ground. It manufactured her look like a ballerina, but it really was called the kitten stance-Dee was always trying to teach Jenny kung fu stances.

Instantly she kicked, her correct foot nipping up toned to strike the draugr under the mouth with her heel.

Having a dry split the draugr’s head chop down backward -all the way backwards. Its throat was clicked.

The awful thing is that it held walking. Brain resting itself shoulder blades, blundering the wrong way, it kept going for walks.

Jenny let go and screamed.

“Get up! ” Dee shouted to them. “Now, while We’ve got these people distracted. Step out of here! inch

Audrey remained frozen. “We can’t keep you-“

“Don’t worry about myself! Just go! Jenny, take her! “

Jenny obeyed the tone of command intuitively. She hauled Audrey up by her houndstooth coat and pulled her towards the door. Your woman wrenched it open, and so they both chop down through.

This slammed behind them before Jenny could quit it. The lady and Audrey looked at each other in lament.

And then they continued to wait.

They continued to wait until a sick feeling in Jenny’s stomach told her Dee had not been going to arrive. Audrey was crying. Jenny tried the door handle. That wouldn’t move.

“It’s my own fault, ” Audrey whispered.

One of you most likely won’t produce it,.

The door flew open up. Dee incurred through, reprehended it at the rear of her, leaned on it. Your woman expelled a great gust of air.

“That was close, ” your woman said. “But I’ve been dying for a deal with, and it had been a good one. inch

She was glowing with exertion as well as the joy of battle. She looked at Audrey.

“Well, aren’t you chaos, ” your woman said.

Audrey’s glossy red hair was hanging around her face, her spiky bangs were plastered damply to her forehead. Her cheeks were flushed and wet, her hands and legs scraped and scraped. Her cherry wood lipstick was gone.

Deal with inscrutable, Audrey held out one hand and slowly unclenched the fingertips. On her hands were the combs by her People from france twist. “At least I still have these types of, ” your woman said smoothly.

All three of those burst in hysterical frivolity. They chuckled and jeered in a violent release of emotion.

“I guess that matters as successful: getting out of the nightmare surviving with your spines intact, inch Dee gasped finally.

Audrey raised her eyebrows, and then her lips curled once again in a laugh. She and Dee were smiling at each other.

An unseen clock struck a dozen.

“Midnight, inches Jenny explained. It arrived softly, practically a whisper. Every time that they won, that clock chimed to remind them that time was passing-passing quickly. Where was it, anyway? The sound seemed to pervade the entire house.

“Six hours till dawn, inch Dee was saying to Audrey. “And simply five nightmares to go. We’re fine. We will make that, easy. “

“Easy? We don’t think therefore , ” Audrey said.

“Look, ” Jenny said gently, bending to grab a scrap of paper.

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