When he’d raised his light, a bat had swooped down and startled him, causing him to back up right into a statue. Yuri would swear he’d felt stone fingers squeeze his ass. He’d reflexively obliterated the offending statue, blowing it up and showering himself with little slivers of stone. Just because he couldn’t prove the statue had moved didn’t mean it hadn’t. Sure, this cave had been sealed for hundreds of years and any enchantments had probably long worn off, but if the treasure was as valuable as Lilia’s research indicated, a couple of cursed statues with extra powerful enchantments would totally make sense.
“Of course it did,” Otabek agreed calmly. He pulled another small chip of stone from Yuri’s braided hair and flicked it onto the ground. “I think that’s all.”
Yuri huffed. How was he supposed to argue if he just agreed like that? “Thanks. Come on, we’ve got to find this trap door.”
Snapping his fingers, he created another ball of light, raising it high. No sudden bats appeared. With Otabek close behind him, Yuri set off down the tunnel, following the faded markings on the cracked walls. The caves under this mountain were natural, but most of the tunnels connecting them had been widened by hand and magic, though the signs had faded over time, smoothed down by the passage of thousands of creatures.
At a crossing he stopped. “What does the map say?” he asked his partner.
A rustle of paper. “Left, then two more caves before the way down,” Otabek replied. A pause. “According to this, there’s a basilisk layer in the next cave.”
“That explains the statues.” Yuri bit his lip, considering. “It’s likely dead, but lets not take unnecessary risks.”
Yuri clipped his whip back on his belt, drawing his spelling dagger instead. Murmuring under his breath, he moved the dagger in quick, elegant motions, cutting patterns into the air, creating softly glowing runes to spell his familiar’s name. With a hiss, his cat familiar rent the fabric of time and space, dropping through the rift between the worlds to do his bidding. Today she was in the shape of a tiger, her coat soft as silk, her body long and sleek, her claws like deadly razor blades. Purring, she rubbed her great head against his hip.
“Hey, kitty,” Yuri said, rubbing his familiar’s ears. He never said her name out loud - if somebody else learned her name, they could steal her, binding her to do their bidding. He trusted Otabek, but there was no telling who else might be listening in, even if he couldn’t detect anything. With so much residual magic floating around under this mountain, an eavesdropping spell would be easy to hide.
Tail twitching, the tiger padded down the tunnel to sniff out danger. Yuri leaned against the wall, waiting. Their mental link was strong enough that he could look through his cat’s eyes if he really concentrated, but since she was hunting a creature that could kill with a glance, he refrained from doing so today. Otabek leaned against the wall opposite Yuri, keeping an eye on the way they’d come, since an ambush was always a possibility. They’d encountered pirates, smugglers and other less than ethical treasure hunters often enough not to take unnecessary risks. One time they’d even encountered a necromancer, deep in an ancient crypt. The dark magician had been stealing ancient skulls to raise an army of untraceable undead, and if it hadn’t been for Viktor’s interference, Yuri wasn’t sure they’d have gotten out of that encounter intact.
The cat followed her nose, trailing scents that were several centuries old with an ease born of magic. She soon found what was left of the basilisk, a heap of skin and bones that had long turned to stone. She whacked the ancient skull with her paw, turning it safely into dust. With a flick of her ears, she returned back to her own plane of existence, sure now that her human was safe down here.
Yuri straightened up. “It’s safe,” he told Otabek, moving on down the tunnel. He kept an eye out for traps, but since his familiar had already traveled this way, he didn’t need to go slow and examine every stone and dark corner. Otabek followed two steps behind, guarding his back. Behind the basilisk’s cave, a chasm opened up, and Yuri carefully skirted the edge of it. He couldn’t see the bottom, even when he sent his light down as far as it would go. “Does this look like earthquake damage to you?” he asked.
Otabek shook his head. “It feels angry,” he replied, trailing his fingertips over the ragged edge to use his inborn earth magic. “Like a deadly fight or a trap gone wrong. These stones have been used to kill people. Stay away from the edge as much as possible.”
Nodding, Yuri moved closer to the tunnel wall, his light bouncing ahead, illuminating the way. This tunnel seemed endless winding through the mountain in long loops, the chasm following the same twisted pattern. There were ancient, crumbling stone plinth at irregular intervals on the walls, but only dust remained of whatever used to rest on these.
The snarling gargoyle flew right at his face, but Otabek grabbed a handful of Yuri’s coat and yanked him back. The stone guardian passed close enough that Yuri could feel the wind of its wings, and later he’d discover that the burning on his cheek was a shallow cut caused by the tip of the gargoyle’s tail. Snapping his whip, Yuri smashed the creature into the wall. With the gargoyle safely turned to dust, Yuri whirled around to high-five Otabek, only to find himself alone. “Beka?”
“Down here. I overstepped.” Otabek sounded just a little bit sheepish.
Kneeling, Yuri leaned forwards cautiously to peek into the chasm they’d been following. Several meters down, Otabek was clinging to a protruding bit of rock. Below his partner, there was nothing but darkness. “Shit!” Yuri cursed. “Beka, can you hold on? I’m going to get that rope we saw a while back.”
“Don’t take too long.”
Cursing the whole way, Yuri ran back the way they’d come, jumping over the traps they’d disabled. Ducking into a small side cavern, Yuri picked up several coils of rope, slinging them over his shoulder. Feet flying across ancient stone, he soon reached the light he’d left bobbing over the place Otabek hung suspended over the bottomless chasm. Since he wasn’t strong enough to pull Otabek up, Yuri wrapped one end of the rope around two sturdy looking stalagmites, then threw the other end down to Otabek. He waited until Otabek had wrapped one end around his arm, then stepped back and braced himself, holding the rope whole Otabek climbed up.
As soon as Otabek was safely on firm ground again, Yuri wrapped his arm around him and yanked him close, needing to feel the warmth of his partner’s body. He shoved Otabek against the wall, hoping the solidity of the stone would hide the way he trembled now that the danger was over. That had been entirely too close. Rising up on his toes, he pressed his lips against Otabek’s. Otabek kissed back just as desperately, arms holding Yuri tight.
“Wait,” Otabek gasped, turning his head. “Yuri, wait. We can’t, not here.”
“Why not?” Yuri demanded. “We’ve done it in weirder places.”
“That’s exactly why. Or do you want to get cursed again?”
Yuri grinned. “Admit it, you think the cat tail looked cute on me.”
Dropping his hand, Otabek gave Yuri’s firm little ass a good squeeze. “It was cute,” he conceded, “but who knows if the next curse will be equally mild?”
“Spoilsport,” Yuri sighed, backing up. Otabek was right, damn him. “Okay, just-”
Before he could finish his sentence, Otabek grabbed him by the back of his head and yanked him back into a kiss, just as heated as the previous one. When the kiss broke this time, Otabek grinned at Yuri. “Stay out of trouble, please. I have plans for tonight.”
“Yeah?” Yuri asked, licking his lips. “What kind of plans?”
“A pile of gold the same colour as your hair. You spread out on it, your skin pale against the glittering jewels. Me, riding your dick until you scream my name.”
Next up is mousapelli !