The tunnels of Dunkel winded, sloped, and forked without any signs of where each turn led. Yet, Spion knew. Left, left, down, right, left— he appeared to have memorised the map of the universe. But that notion itself was quite a stretch. You would have to visit Dunkel more than once to understand how the realm was built. There was a higher probability Spion moved by instinct.
“Are we going in the right direction?” Robb asked, as they ascended a tunnel.
It had been a good hour since they bought the hooded cloak for Robb’s disguise. His calves now ached from the underground hiking as sweat trailed down his back in the stale and humid air.
“It seems we’re going further away from the ground,” Robb added.
“There’s no grid with these tunnels. I have to go by gut,” Spion confirmed.
“I thought so.” Robb hesitated on offering to take the lead, but it seemed silly since he was generally bad with direction. So he asked, “You have no idea where we are then?”
“I’ve been here before. You don’t have to worry. We’re not lost,” Spion assured.
“Right, I trust you. I always trust you.”
After three descents and six corners—close to another hour later— they reached the bottom. With a maze-like route, Robb had no idea how they arrived to the right of the city square. In fact, it was a miracle they made it altogether.
“There should be an inn nearby,” Spion confidently stated.
Stepping into a crowded street, Spion gestured forward and Robb tailed along. Just like the tunnels, getting lost was plausible. The buildings around the city square were unorganised. Some alleys tapered, some pathways widened, some structures tilted, and many walkways led to dead ends. It was as though a giant hand scattered the mud-made buildings and let them take root. There was no city planning involved, and the only landmark for Robb to gain his bearings was the city square.
Keeping Spion in sight, Robb stole quick glances at his surroundings. And in that collection of people, he discovered Dunkel’s unique trait. No, it wasn’t the brown, blockish architecture—to his surprise, it was the people. The citizens of the realm were the ideal definition of diversity. And their differences were impossible to disregard when they came together.
Most of the realms Robb had travelled to homed citizens with similar genetic traits. But Dunkel was the first he’d traversed with a thorough mix, spurring a great many tongues. Despite having learned the universal language, a multitude of dialects filled the air. It only reinforced his theory that the ancestors of the current generation originated from other realms. They might’ve migrated from neighbouring worlds, or they could’ve lost their way during the Sorxcistos’ reign. Robb didn’t see the allure of Dunkel and how it could’ve drawn diverse populations. So the latter sounded more rational in explaining the heterogeneity.
“Interesting,” Robb muttered to himself.
“Nothing. Where’s the inn?” Robb asked, as they turned into the main street.
The street was the widest space by far, with the exception of the city square. But ‘widest’ was an overstatement, as it could only fit five people shoulder-to-shoulder.
“Up ahead,” Spion replied.
With no distinction between the buildings, and not a single one sporting a sign, Robb was about to ask Spion to be specific. But before he could, he heard a voice. It interrupted his train of thought. And aside from what it said, it sounded close—too close for that matter.
“You don’t want to go there,” the voice whispered.
Turning around, Robb expected to see a grimy face. But in the absence of the source was the common crowd shuffling about their businesses. Did he imagine the voice? No, why would he? Unfortunately, with a street packed like a can of sardine, there was no guessing who had spoken.
Tugging Spion to a halt, Robb asked, “Did you hear that?”
“Hear what?” Spion replied. His eyes instantly narrowed.
Then, to prove Robb wasn’t crazy, the voice returned. In its coarse whisper, it added, “They know. They know you’re here, Your Majesty.”
I know, I know, I’ve left yet another seemingly half-baked tale for you. But just like The Realm Of Plum Blossom, this is an excerpt from my newest young adult fantasy series, Whispers Of The Wind!
If this snippet has intrigued you, I have good news. The full manuscript of Whispers Of The Wind can be read on Swoon Reads for FREE! You don’t have to pay a single cent to travel through the magical realms with Robb! But why Swoon Reads?
Swoon Reads is a platform where readers decide which book gets published by Feiwel & Friends. By putting Whispers Of The Wind on Swoon Reads, I stand a chance at receiving a publishing deal. And, because it’s May, Swoon Reads will be making their next selection of books within this month itself! So if you’ve yet to check the book out, please, please, please do so. If you’re still reading it, please do leave a comment and a rating at your earliest convenience. Your assistance will increase my chances of being noticed by the editors—increasing the odds of not just publishing deal but perhaps a life-changing deal.