Chapter 35

Calling Alya, the youngest of the five, to come down right after her into a dark scary pit may not have been the wisest idea, but the thought of having anyone else by her side in the darkness was just too much.  She did not have many friends, Athadius thought bitterly, but Alya was a new wonder.  

Alya landed beside her.  Athadius had sent a gust of wind to help break the fall and was glad to see that Alya landed with a gentle thump.  That was much better the the jarring fall she had experienced not… How long ago was that?  Counting back the days she came to a startling conclusion; today was… today was her birthday.  

She took a shaky step backwards and the wind voices she had so effectively silenced, suddenly burst forth.  

Home home hommmmee Known known knowwwww Home home home Slight crack Place of broken backs Death trap Home home hommmmeee Here is known known knownnn Brought back hommmeeee

It was during this bombarde by the wind that Gwen came tumbling down.  She landed with a loud “Oof!” and Athadius briefly felt bad about letting her land so hard.  Until Gwen opened her mouth and proved that even a fall of great height did not knock the words out of her chest.  

“So you lead us to the middle of nowhere, jump down a hole, call in our youngest friend to follow you, and then just leave us all up there standing in the blazing heat staring at a hole? If you want us to start trusting you, you might want to stop acting like a crazy person and expecting us to follow suite,” Gwen said in one breath.

Alya looked at Athadius cautiously, and then whispered to Gwen, “She seemed a little shocked.”

“I don’t care if she suddenly realized she was the crown princess!” Gwen said.  She cocked her head.  “Today is your birthday?”  There was a moment of silence.  Ath was really beginning to detest Gwen’s mind reading abilities.  For once Gwen said nothing.

“Ho down there!” Jade’s voice came from above.  “Can we join you in the deep dark hole, or do you want us to keep standing here in the under the inferno ball of fire?”

When all five girls stood in the dim room illuminated only by Jade’s fire staff, Ath suddenly did not know what to do next.  Ever since leaving the encounter with her father, she had pushed back all thoughts other than reaching this place.  This place was safe.

That last thought shocked her.  This place?  Safe?  Since when had she regarded the death trap, the place that had killed twenty-six of her brothers, as safe?  

Home home hommmeee Ocean blood yawns Home home homeeee

Down one of the corridors, past Gwen’s head, Ath thought she saw something.  But could it really be?  Thoughts of the day she got her powers and of that beautiful and powerful woman brushed past her.  She shook her head.  She was tired.  They all were.  

Before she could suggest it, Lynn spoke up.  “This looks as good a place as any to rest, how about we all just try and get some sleep.  We can decide what to do next in the morning.”

Not even Gwen opposed the idea, and soon all had drifted off into the land of sleep.  

 

The next morning, Ath awoke to Jade’s torch-staff burning brightly.  She was surprised to find that everyone else was up.  Jolting upright, she glanced around the room.  But all was well.  The phantoms of her dreams had stayed in her dreams.

“Don’t worry, none of us were dragged down into the scary hallways while we slept,” Jade said, recognizing the look on Ath’s face.

Ignoring the comment, Athadius sat down next to the others.  Alya offered her some bread and dates for breakfast, which she accepted them eagerly.  Glancing around the room, she found it much cheerier than she remembered.  With the tossing shadows cast by Jade’s torch, and the friendly figures Alya, Lynn, Jade, and Gwen, she could almost imagine away the nightmares that had flocked her sleep.  Almost.

“Perhaps now you can tell us what happened yesterday?” Lynn ventured.

“Yeah, I am dying to hear how your birthday went,” Gwen said insensitively. “I always thought that I had bad luck when it came to lousy birthdays, but some how I feel like yours was even worse than mine.”

Alya shot Gwen a sharp look, then smiled at Athadius.  “You don’t have to if you are not ready.”

But Athadius was not listening, she stared down the passage way she had traversed not a week ago.  Past the deadly traps and obstacles, there was the fleeting image of that woman.

“What?” Lynn asked, seeing Athadius’ gaze and turning her gaze, but by the time she looked the woman was gone.

Athadius was quiet.  The wind whispered in her ear.

Mother mother mother wind Sorrow sorrow sorrow begin Same same form Different different warm Mouse scurry Spider hurry Mother mother mother wind Sorrow sorrow sorry begin Tunnel here tunnel there Walk no fear Harm no hair

“I think I found a way out,” Athadius said abruptly, cocking her head while listening and feeling with the wind.

“You mean you did not have one before you lead us down a hole in the ground?” Jade asked, her eyes sharp.

Athadius raised a eyebrow in comical interest as she replied, “Oh no, I knew of one way out, but it involved walking through miles of of tunnels littered with death traps and relying on the powers of a woman…” Athadius did not know how to describe this woman, so simply finished, “who lives down here.”

“But you found a way to get out and not almost die?” Alya asked with sweet hope in her eyes.

Ath almost smiled at her, instead she dead stared and nodded.  

Standing, Athadius walked to the far wall and sent her wind friends scurrying to find the entrance.  She could feel the hallway behind the wall, but the bridge in-between was hard for her to find.  After a few minutes of searching, she found the smallest crack and sent the wind into it.  Soon the crack widened and before her stood a door.

Her four friends joined her side and stared in with a look of wonder on their faces.  Jade lit up the space so that all could see the horrid sight.  It was indeed a passage way, but it lacked an important aspect of an escape route: a floor.  Before them stood a large crevice stretching deep beneath their feet.

Gwen slapped her forehead.  “Really?  You throw us down a well whose best escape route is canyon of death?”

Uh oooooh Father father Brother brother Soldiers come from above

Ath let out a groan.

“What?” Alya asked, sensing the groan was of more than just the travesty that stood before them.

“My father is here,” Ath simply responded.

“Hey!  Maybe he can help us get out!” Alya said hopefully.

For once Gwen did not make a sarcastic remark.  “He is the one you went to see, isn’t he?”

Ath nodded ever so slightly.  Shouts came from above and the whole group tensed.

“Your dad tried to kill you?”  Lynn asked.

“Technically it was my brother who held the saber,” Athadius began, hoping to defend a bit of her father’s honor, only to realize there was none less to save, “But yeah.”

“Woah, now that is messed up!” Jade remarked.

More shouts came from above, and sand began to fall from the opening they had failed down.  

“I thought you said they would not find us here?” Alya asked.

“I didn’t think they would dare come to the most dangerous place in our country,” Ath replied simply.  When she saw the girls stares, she regretted her words.  That is what she got for talking so much.  

“Well, are we going to keep standing her like oak trees or are we going to try and escape?” Gwen asked, flailing her hands in the air to make her point.

“But how?” Lynn asked, staring at the deep cavern before her.

“In my eyes we have three options,” Jade said, matter-of -factly. “We can find a way to traverse the deep death pit, we can brave the long death tunnel, or we can stand our ground and fight…” she turned to Ath.

Ath listened to the wind, “About a hundred soldiers.”

“Yeah, that,” Jade finished.  “So what will it be?”

Gwen turned suddenly to Alya. “Well, now!” she exclaimed. “That plan might just be crazy enough to work!”


By R. Shinnick

We would love to hear your thoughts! Please let us know in the comments.

This blog post is part of a collaborative writing project (The Five Fledglings); if you’d like to read the story from the beginning, click here.

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