Sorry for the slight delay in posting folks. Signal issues strike once again. Without further ado…
Kelana’s face flashed into mind again and I steeled myself for whatever was to come. I stepped forward and the inky darkness enveloped me.
The Goddess would need a genuine, rock-solid miracle at this point, I thought grimly. Nothing less would melt the bitter ice protecting my wounded heart.
For several long moments nothing happened. I felt the skin on the back of my neck begin to crawl as the silence pressed in on me. No one spoke, nothing moved. The only sound I could hear was my increasingly stressed breathing and the thumping of my heart.
I cleared my throat nervously, flinching at how loud it sounded as it echoed off the high ceiling somewhere above me. Nothing stirred.
What on earth was the goddess playing at? If she even was who she said she was. What if she wasn’t Ziuni at all? What if she was something ancient and evil and she’d led me in here to… to what? I dreaded to think.
I turned to where I thought the entrance had been but with a wave of panic, realized I could no longer see any sign of where it had once been. Not even a slight telltale lessening of the all encompassing darkness to show me the way back out.
Oh gods. It had to be a trap…and I’d just walked straight on into it. Smart move, Chieftain’s Daughter, very smart!
I stumbled over to the rock wall and gingerly felt my way along it. My mind conjured up ghastly images of huge spiders, deadly scorpions and cave vipers, waiting patiently for my vulnerable fingers to come close enough to strike.
I didn’t hear any scuttling or scrabbling but the stone beneath my fingers was damp and covered in a thick layer of slimy cave mold. The ideal hunting ground for all manner of nasty little creatures.
Still nothing. My fingers followed the contour of the rock but encountered no seams or openings of any kind. I sobbed out a frightened breath, and tried to force air into my suddenly oxygen starved lungs, past the tight blockage in my throat. It felt as if the thick black void was slowly seeping into my pores. Invading my nose and mouth with its musty choking staleness.
I leaned on my hands against the stone, half scared that, if I took my hands away from the only solid thing I knew, I’d drift off into the blackness and be lost.
At last a drum beat started up in the distance, growing louder with each rhythmic beat. I’d thought the silence was terrible. I was wrong.
Standing all alone in the dark with the menacing sound of a hundred drums getting louder and louder, faster and faster, pushed me over from panic into blind fear.
Turning, I crouched against the cave wall, trying to draw what little strength I could from it’s clammy cold presence at my back. Ignoring the icy damp that soaked through my tunic and shirt.
The drumming continued it’s tempo, manic and out of control. I couldn’t take it any more and pressed my shaking hands over my ears to try and drown the sound out. It didn’t help. It was as if the drums were playing inside of my head, driving me to insanity with their relentless march.
Light flooded the cave, blinding me. I closed my eyes against the onslaught and moved my hands to protect them from the burning pain. This was nothing like the gentle warm light from the emerald chamber. It was harsh and biting.
Even through the protection of my desperate hands, it felt as if it was somehow burning through my eye sockets, deep into my brain.