“The Goddess is Ziuni…or at least that’s who she told me she was before she vanished into thin air and left me trapped inside the cave of doom.”
The sarcasm in my tone didn’t help to lighten the mood any. Solen still looked just as worried and confused as I felt. He held his hand out to me.
“We’d better return to the Priestess. I don’t know how…or even where…? He shook his head and pulled me to my feet.
“The only thing I’m sure of right now is we need some answers before we let her, or whoever, send us any further down this rabbit hole.”
I nodded and Solen led me from the cave. He kept hold of my hand as we passed behind the crashing wall of water and stepped back up onto the slick rock ledge. It was a good job too, as the moment the clearing came back into view, what I saw there caused me to stumble and nearly fall head-first into the foaming torrent.
Solen grabbed me back from the edge. Normally I’d have flushed right to the roots of my hair with embarrassment at the incurable clumsiness which had plagued me my entire life. Instead, all I could do was stare in open-mouthed amazement at the bizarre and terrifying scene that greeted me in the bright afternoon sunlight.
The beautiful, peaceful meadow which I’d left had been replaced with a dirt covered scrub-land. The thick lush forest of pines had been hacked to the ground and the stumps burned out to make room for the vast army of men which now gathered around smouldering camp fires as far as the eye could see.
I felt Solen’s grip on my hand tighten as he readied himself for the first sign of danger. I didn’t know if he planned to fight or flee, but I could tell from the tension in his frame that, given the choice, he would have rather turned back towards the relative safety of the cave, creepy blood-mould or not.
From what I’d seen in the flickering torch-light, the cave was a dead end though, a fact which I’m sure Solen’s observant gaze wouldn’t have missed.
We had no choice but to continue edging back across the slick ledge in the hopes that we could slip away before any of the men, milling around on the other side of the water, could notice us and sound out an alarm.
My breath froze in my lungs as I followed Solen silently towards the patch of blackened soil at the edge of the water.
I concentrated only on keeping my balance and trying not to disturb any of the loose crumbling rock which lined the cliff-face.
Thankfully the hum of all those voices and the drumming of the waterfall easily covered the sound of our boots on the stone. No, The main fear in this situation would be of sudden movement attracting the attention of the gathered force. An avalanche of stone tumbling with a splash into the water below would definitely count as sudden movement.
We had almost made it to the edge of the water when the unthinkable happened. The ledge below our feet gave a loud, resounding crack. I felt myself falling as the floor give way, and the turbulent icy water closed in over my head.