My Defender (Bewitched and Bewildered Book 8)(9)

By: Alanea Alder

Her grandmother chuckled. "Young man, this beautiful young woman is my granddaughter, Dr. Eleanor Kimball, and she is currently single."

"Gram!" Ellie hissed out the side of her mouth.

"And you..." The rogue wagged his eyebrows at her grandmother.

"Marjoram Johanson; I am unavailable and old enough to be your grandmother."

The man shrugged. "The older the berry, the sweeter the juice." He winked at them both.

Ellie felt her mouth drop open as her grandmother blushed furiously. "And what's your name?" Ellie asked curiously. She had never met a unit warrior before today; she didn't think they'd be so personable. She assumed they would all be like Etain, sensible and strong.

"Micah. Micah Sageson. I'll be helping you two ladies get settled. Now, if you will allow me the honor of escorting you down, we can get out of this blasted heat." Micah offered his arm to her grandmother, and Etain gave a half bow before lifting his forearm for her.

Together, the two warriors lowered them to the ledge. Once their feet left solid ground, Ellie closed her eyes, and she didn't open them again until she felt hard rock under her feet. A huge ornate door swung open, and the strange writing etched around the arch glowed. Once inside, Micah and Etain walked them through the open cavern to a huge hole in the floor.

"What's this?" Ellie asked.

Micah smiled. "This is a transport tunnel. It runs vertically through the city. Noctem Falls is made of many levels. They tend to get more prestigious as you work your way down. Level Six is a market level where vendors sell their wares and foods. It's also where we set up the refugees. Our witches carved out homes for them to make it easier for them to get acclimated. By residing on the market level, they don't have to rely on the transport tunnels for food. Below Level Six, there are the residential levels for the founding and noble families. About halfway down, the unit warriors live on the level between three and four. Level One is designated the royal level where Prince Magnus lives. We'll be taking you to Level Six, which is right below this one."

Ellie pointed to the side wall. "It's pretty well explained by the map."

Micah turned and frowned. "When did that go up?" He glanced up eyeing the small camera. "I bet Meryn did this."

Ellie suppressed a smile. "It was a very nice explanation though." She leaned over and looked down the dark seemingly bottomless tunnel. "How far does it go down?" she asked in a timorous voice.

Etain patted her hand gently. "Don't worry, we haven't dropped anyone yet." She gulped and closed her eyes again. Etain chuckled beside her as she felt him pull her forward, and then she was floating. When they reached the next level, she sighed in relief. "That's it? No more floating?" she asked.

"No more floating," Etain promised.

Her grandmother took her hand. Ellie looked over and smiled her thanks. She had never really been good with heights. The two men led them through the open marketplace toward the middle of the large cavern where a spacious seating area was filled with people eating their lunches.

Ellie barely had time to gawk at the vast array of vendor stalls set up in a bazaar-like fashion. She couldn't get enough of the brightly colored fabrics, the rich scents of spices and incense, the meandering aromas of cooked food, and the jovial remarks being shot across the cavern. Once the children were feeling better, she couldn't wait to explore.

They veered off toward the left, and she could see where a section had been carved out of the walls to create a long street. On either side of the lane, rows of stone houses stood side by side, looking every bit as homey as her own brownstone.

"This is remarkable," she said, looking around. Even though she'd believed Kari in her heart, she'd truly feared the city would be nothing but closed spaces, but this didn't seem so bad. At the third house, they walked up to the door and knocked.

It swung open almost instantly, and a haggard looking man greeted them. "Thank the gods!" he exclaimed. "This way."

Etain leaned down. "That's Tobias; his daughter Clara was one of the first to get sick. He and his mate are also foster parents to Benji. His parents were murdered in the city a couple weeks ago. Next door, the Hamiltons have two boys who are ill. Two more families from across the street also stepped forward this morning with their children: two boys and a girl."

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