The pair came upon a wall made of four cinderblocks that blocked the rest of the path. After five minutes passed, the wall opened apart like an elevator. Bässäm signaled for Malaykah to move quickly before the border closed shut. A mile further, another wall was in place. This time, the wall pulled up into the cave ceiling. They immediately proceeded forward. The third wall pulled downward but also had spikes that shot through tiny holes in the ground. Bässäm and Malaykah carefully staggered past the obstacles.

Before long, they had caught up to the crowd of cherubs. Bässäm wanted to follow directly behind them, but Malaykah insisted they wait. The cherubs crossed a lake of fire covered by rectangular wedges of asphalt. It seemed like an easy task to successfully complete since enough wedges led to the other side of the cave. Just as Bässäm went to chase after the last cherub, its wedge disintegrated, and it melted in the lava.

Malaykah covered her eyes and clenched her jaw in horror as the cherub screamed in agony. Moments later, the wedge reappeared.

“We will need to exercise good judgment in timing how long to stay on each wedge,” Bässäm said in disgust.

Malaykah braced herself as they jumped from wedge to wedge. Finally, twelve wedges later, they made it to the other side. Fortune was on their side enough to allow a safe passage. Another group of cherubs attempted the same trek, but all fell to their deaths in the hot lave. Bässäm and Malaykah continued on their way without a look back.

The next barrier was a long hallway with silky black vines that extended and receded. The pair watch two cherubs get tangled in the vines. At first, it seemed like that was the worst of it. Then suddenly, the vine sprayed a poisonous liquid, which burned a hole through the cherubs. Bässäm and Malaykah had to wait for the opportunity to proceed when the vines receded again. They walked through gushes of innards and blood from the dead cherubs. Malaykah nearly vomited.

After a brief rest, the two continued on their way again. When they caught up to the remaining cherubs in a dark room, everyone waited in silence. Then, a loud rattle came from out of nowhere. Malaykah could hardly believe her eyes when she saw an enormous rattlesnake slither across the pathway. Near the snake’s nest was a long golden box.

“That must be where the key is,” Bässäm whispered.

Malaykah decided this time she would not hold Bässäm back if he wanted to go forward. Instead, one of the cherubs stood in front of the snake. They were both roughly the same size (15 ft. tall). That is until the snake perched back and upward. It gained at least 10 more feet in height. The cherub did not move nor acted the least intimidated. The snake opened its mouth and gobbled the cherub in one gulp.

Malaykah was petrified, but Bässäm insisted they try to reach the box while the snake was preoccupied. Once they retrieved the box, they found an exit opposite of the snake. The other cherub went to follow behind them but was also eaten by the snake. Bässäm and Malaykah ran as fast as they could until they found themselves outside the cave.

The dizzying effect of such gruesome incidents made Malaykah go numb. She mindlessly followed Bässäm into the next cave without even so much as a snivel. The second cave appeared to have no traps set in place. In fact, even more, cherubs roamed about without interference. There were tall stone slabs erected from the ground line across a maze.

Bässäm allowed Malaykah to take the lead, as she gave an impression that she knew the way to go. As soon as they walked out of the maze, they stepped inside a tunnel wide and tall enough to walk through. The cherubs were too big to fit through this space. Inside the cavern were thousands of lit candles and a bigger box resembling the key.

Bässäm opened the key box and pulled out a silver medallion in the shape of a star. He placed the medallion in the impression on the bigger box. When the bigger box expanded, what looked like an enchanted snow globe emerged. Malaykah knew that the contents were not made of snow but of the essence of The Moon’s children were inside.

“Fantastico!” Bässäm exclaimed as he gazed in awe.

He took a deep breath and went to retrieve the Őrb.

“Wait! Please don’t do this!” Malaykah pleaded.

Bässäm turned to look at her with such spite that she took a step back.

“In truth, you were of good use during this journey. However, that time has completely expired,” he replied.

Bässäm pulled out a small pocket knife from his belt buckle. Just as he was about to throw it at Malaykah, the cavern began to shake.

“The Moon still wants to protect her children. Even if you kill me now, you’ll have to contend with her,” Malaykah bawled.

Bässäm took heed to her words and returned his attention back to the Őrb. He placed both hands around to lift it high in the air. He snickered and relished in victory.

“This was no easy feat but well worth the perils,” he said.

Suddenly, the loudest wail ever heard within the realm penetrated through the cavern walls. All of the candles formed the body of a woman. A fiery hand reached out to choke Bässäm. Then, with his mouth gaped open, the other hand reached down his throat to rip out his heart. He screamed in torture as he watched the flames burn his heart to ashes. The fiery being then sent a mob of fire ants to devour his flesh. Bässäm remained alive throughout the ordeal but dropped the Őrb back into the box.

The fire ants opened a hole in the ground, where even more flames burst through. Bässäm sunk inside the hole just before it closed up. The fiery being smiled at Malaykah, then extinguished itself before her eyes. The cavern turned pitch-black. All that was left were Malaykah and the Őrb.

Malaykah collapsed on the ground and wept bitterly. She had never witnessed such horrific events in person. Not even in the human realm had she watch horror movies because she hated being afraid. As a child, she was terrified of being alone in the dark, heights, and the sight of blood. When her husband died, she had to force herself to go to his wake. The thought of seeing his dead body gave her the creeps.

However, within the realm and especially in Phëläniciä, she had witnessed more murders and deaths than she could keep count of. She wondered how Alëxios, Captain Mi’yämë, Trëgӧürnë, and all the dragons could participate in such a revolting exercise. In all her misery, she could not bring herself to cry for Bässäm for being the wretched creature that he was. In her opinion, Sӧlitha had to be just as awful to consort with him daily.

Malaykah was grateful to The Moon for sparing her life. She did not know why she was not engulfed like the eunuch. Perhaps it was because of the way she wept upon reading the hieroglyphic tale inscribed on the cave floors and walls. Malaykah was certain The Moon loved her children and was happy that The Ultimate Creator, Chrëst, granted her permission to birth them. It was no wonder she remained in continuous states of despair and wrath. The protective nature of a mother; the one thing The Moon and Malaykah shared in common.

~Ch. 25, The Realm Beyond the Stars and Sea~

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