“Here,” her tiny voice responded.
Scanning the area didn’t help, so he quickly ran to the top of the mound of earth. It was much higher than he thought when they stopped. And at the peak he saw his daughter looking at her feet.
Moving fast, but not too fast so her didn’t startle her, Stanton was about twenty feet from her when she screamed and disappeared. The ground beneath her erupted slightly, and opened where she stood.
Reaching the spot where she fell, Stanton peered into a hole. What he saw his child sinking in water. He kicked off his boots and jacket, dove in after her sinking rapidly.
As he reached her, and captured her arm pulling her closer, he realized she was not in trouble. There appeared to be a bubble around her that kept her dry. His hand had pierced the bubble, but that did not cause it to leak.
Minerva looked at him with a smile and said in her little voice, “Hi daddy.” Then she pointed downward. “Get sword.”
He tried to shake his head but couldn’t, glanced down and nearly gasped in a lungful of water. Below him at least a hundred feet down was a woman standing on a carved stone with one arm raised overhead. She wore a white robe, and diamond encrusted tiara. In the hand raised above her head, she held a sword blade tip pointing at him. Her eyes were open and when she blinked, he thought he was seriously hallucinating. He looked around them and saw they were inside a dome with the upper ribs exposed allowing light from above to penetrate. A third of the way down the side of the dome was a stone walkway with built in ornate stone handrails and arched doorways every twenty feet. This was repeated another third down and lastly on the ground floor. At the bottom where the side of the dome opened, he saw a wide stone stairway leading into darkness below.
He reached beneath Minerva with both hands and using his feet, gave her a gentle shove up. He followed until she was at the surface where Taisie grabbed her and pulled her out. Then Stanton surfaced long enough to take several deep breaths. He held the last and dove straight down.
He reached for the sword as he neared the woman, but she lowered the blade, and when he floated next to her, she took his hand and dove into a crevice he’d not seen. Moments later they stood on dry ground alongside an underground lake.
Stanton slowly tested the air, and when he felt it was safe, breathed normally.
“Where is this place?” he asked as he examined her boldly. She had bare feet, wore a thin white robe with a hood that lay across her shoulders and upper back. Her eyes were emerald green, hair copper red. Her face was pleasant with a small nose over full lips. Her eyebrows were pale ginger.
He suddenly realized she watched him and shrugged. “Thank you for saving my daughter Minerva with the bubble.”
She smiled and shook her head and said in a quiet soprano, “I did nothing. Minerva is gifted she felt the need and created the bubble herself.”
He frowned but decided the woman had no reason to lie. “Why am I here? Do I need your sword?”
“The sword belongs to you. You left it with me for safekeeping when you departed last time.”Thinking his brain might explode as an eerie sense of fear and then joy washed through him. “What do you mean?”