The darkness of the room put Maria at attention. The smell of wood and leather pierced her nose. With the natural light from the opened window, she noticed the large wooden door to her left. There were intricate carvings engraved throughout it. Most of them depicted ancient Greek heroes. It was quite curious to Maria that these would be the things sculpted on the door of a mad man. That being said, from all she knew of the first heroes, they were a bit mad themselves.
From everything she learned, or managed to put together over the past few weeks, Mr. Price had been hired as a lead advisor and scientist for an undisclosed third party. The mortal had no real connection to her world, yet he had two brutal monsters guarding his estate. There was no denying that this man knew the hidden world he was a part of.
A large snarl erupted from behind her. She could now smell atrocious breath filling the air. With a sharp turn, she now faced a two-headed dog that was nearly the same size as her. Make that three monsters, she thought. Before she could move the creature lunged. Rolling to her side, Maria dodged the freakish dog. It turned towards her baring both sets of teeth readying to attack. Ascending towards the canines in the air was the small coffee table that stood before her only moments before. Jumping over the broken pieces, she brought her bamboo sticks down hard and fast over one of the heads. A yelp escaped from it.
Now on its feet the creature was pushing forward. Gathering all her thoughts, she imagined the ice spilling through her fingertips. The low growls were now getting closer. Focus she told herself. Clearing her mind of the current situation she allowed her frost to overcome her body. Opening her eyes slowly, three inches from her face was a frozen solid statue of a dog that resembled Orthrus, the two headed beast that Heracles defeated many years ago. Through it was frozen on the exterior; Maria could still hear the low grumble. Swinging her sticks with all her might, she watched as several pieces of dog-cycles now lay on the floor.
Inspecting the room she was now alone in, she realized this had to be an in between room. Scanning her memory, she remembered there being mention of entryway through a bookshelf. Along the wall sat a shelf made entirely of stone. Tossing mounds of books off the shelf she exhaled with frustration. The rate she was going this would take hours. Using what little guesses she had left, she started wiggling the books. After she pulled down a small book in the bottom right-hand corner of the shelves, it flung back to its rightful position. A smile spread across her lips. Bingo she thought.
There was a sound of stones cracking. It swung open eventually revealing stone steps that led into blackness. Keeping her back pressed against the rough stone wall she descended downward. The small flashlight she kept in her boot now let forth a tiny bit of light. Choking on a foul odor that hit the air, she moved a hand in front of her nose. The ridged stones were now starting to brush against the opened wound from the fury’s talon. Fighting back tears from the pain, she sent a cool burst of frost on her opened laceration, numbing it temporarily.
As she neared the end of the long stone steps, faint movements in the background caused her to stop in her tracks. Placing her hand in front of her light, she focused on using her senses to assess her situation. There was a low sound, what she thought to be a growl until she listened in. Goblins she thought. He had a team of Goblins working in his lair. A large nasty looking one stood not even three feet from her. The long shadow of its ugly nose was still visible, even though there was utter blackness surrounding them. As he moved closer towards her, she was very careful not to even let out a hint of breath. Any closer and no doubt the vicious creature would catch her. She needed a distraction. The small mechanical frog that Hobbs gave her as a camera for surveillance to blend into surroundings would have to work. She silently thanked Hobbs for his strange inventions as she turned it on, and let it loose. It worked perfectly, the brainless goblins occupying the room before her ran after the tiny critter.
Once they were out of sight, Maria uncovered her light, and scanned the area. A shelf of small goggles lined the wall. Slipping a pair on, she glanced around showing her what the darkness had hidden. Night vision goggles, perfect! She thought. Several doors lined either side of the hallway. Walking silently she continued forward. From the reports she read, these doors held the experiments Mr. Price kept.
Next to one of the doors was a tall plastic bucket. Carefully stepping on top of it, she peered in a small window at the top of the door. Rubbing the window with her sleeve, she cleared away some of the dust. Through the window sat a pasty woman with pale blond hair. As if sensing Maria, the woman slowly lifted her head. Large fangs erupted from the woman’s mouth. The glossy feral eyes sent a shudder through Maria. With how translucent her skin was, the dark green veins lining her body could be seen. Maria was about to try to free the woman from the room when she watched the slow smile appear from her lips. There was a hunger lurking in those feral eyes. In a flash the woman charged the door. When she couldn’t break it open she climbed up out of sight. Maria blinked and the woman was now hanging upside down staring at her licking her lips. Stepping back from the bucket, she scurried as far away from that door as she could. Unfortunately, that girl was no longer human. Maria had a feeling none of Mr. Price’s old dates were.
Gliding down the rest of the corridor she tried hard not to look into the windows where she could feel the eyes on her. Filling her thoughts were the loud grunts and cries of things that once were human. The hairs on the back of her arms stood up as she thought about what he was doing. Why was he turning the women into these foul creatures?
Coming upon a section of the corridor where the floor was no longer the cooled cement, but natural earth, Maria noticed small caves dug into the walls. Thick silver bars prevented any occupants from leaving the damp cells. A faint sound of a woman in pure agony came from a cell near the back.
Rushing towards the wails, Maria had a dagger at the ready. The tall blond who had left the bar with Mr. Price two days ago lay rolling around in spasms behind the thick sliver bars. Her clothes had been ripped; with stains all over from soiling herself. Tears flew rapidly from the woman’s eyes. Maria’s heart ached as she watched the woman experiencing pure trauma. She quickly tried pulling at the bars. When that didn’t work she took a running jump at the gate. Letting out a sigh of frustration she banged her sticks against the metal.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” Spoke a weakened voice in the cell across from the blonds.
Turning around to see who spoke, Maria peered into the presumably empty cave. The voice was that of a man’s. Everyone thus far was a woman. How did a man end up down here? Maria wondered.
“Who are you?” Maria asked.
“Ezra, who may I ask are you?” Though he was in rough shape there was a stirring confidence in the way he spoke.
“That depends entirely on why you’re in here. I’m either your best friend, or your worst enemy,” She whispered hastily back to him.
“Then let’s hope for the former of the two.” He sighed quietly. His raspy voice made it difficult to hear everything. “I was placed in here about a month ago after I’d heard some rumors of a guy dealing with unique beasts. When I came to the house disguised as a salesman, I was whacked over the head and thrown down here.”
This man must be a fool to come here look for these creatures. For all she knew, he could ruin her plans, or could be working with Mr. Price. Still, this Ezra character could possibly fill in the gaps she needed to secure her plan on eliminating Mr. Price from this cruel life he was living. After heavy thought, Maria decided it was worth the risk to ask Ezra what he knew.
“What is this place?”
“I’ve heard it called the lab. They’ve been bringing mortals down here to test their DNA. At first it was men and women, but then once the men’s bodies couldn’t handle the change they focused on the women,” he explained hoarsely.
He said mortals. What was he? Maria now needed to know. He must be of value to leave down here for such a long time.
“Why is it that you haven’t been tested?” She asked.
“Oh, I have been. Their strands of DNA won’t mix with mine,” he confirmed.
At this point she could no longer hold back, her curiosity was getting the best of her. Ezra was a wild card. Perhaps, he would be of use with his answers. She would free the crippled being, and get him to safety. Or, eliminate him depending on how she liked his answers.
“What are you?” She demanded to know.
“I’ve been waiting for you to ask that. I can feel your curiosity,” he spoke it a slightly amused tone.
“A sorcerer?” She replied to his sass.
“No, I imagine, I’m exactly what you are.” He dragged himself close to the bars in the cell. One eye was swollen shut and housed a freshly formed black eye. There were bruises lining his entire face. Wounds the size of quarters lined his arms leaving infection, and red raw marks. Dirt covered every inch of his once blond hair. That wasn’t what held Maria’s attention. No, it was his light green eye with a thin pink circle surrounding his outer iris that held her attention. She saw that pink ring numerous times in the goddess of loves children. He was a child of Aphrodite.