Lisle felt tears tickle along her cheeks and drip from her chin as she stood up and eased her back. She had been staunching the flow of blood from Ell’s many wounds as best she knew how with only her small tunic as a cloth. She looked now at Ell as her Guardian lay stomach down on the ground. Her long neck stretched out before her and her jaw rested on the rocky earth beneath her, her wings were splayed unnaturally. Ell’s eyes were closed, and she seemed to be sleeping or unconscious. Lisle wasn’t sure which and it scared her.
Ell was covered with wounds, deep gouges on her sides, bite punctures along her spine, and scratches all over her neck. If not for her scaly hide Lisle was sure she would not have survived the attack. Lisle had managed to stop most of the bleeding, though the wounds looked raw and open, still weeping red on the deepest gouges along Ell’s abdomen.
“T…Terris, uh…uh…I st…st…stopped the bl…bleeding.” Lisle looked over at Terris to discover him slumped over sideways, his head tilted at an uncomfortable angle, eyes closed. She had been so focused on tending Ell that she hadn’t seen how badly injured he was.
What do I do? She thought frantically, Ell and Terris needed more tending than she knew how to give them. Maybe someone at Guardian Cavern can help? She was reluctant to leave her companions. They would be alone and injured, defenseless. What if that awful Guardian came back? But there was nothing for it, she had to go.
“I’ll guh…get h…help, Ell.” Ell’s eyelids flickered slightly. Lisle thought Ell had heard her; she hoped so.
Lisle made Terris as comfortable as she could by repositioning his head. She touched Ell’s jaw gently and leaned over to give her a feather-light kiss. Then she took off at a run up the path toward Guardian Cavern.
To her vast relief she soon met Gareth hobbling down the path towards her, using his bow as a crutch. She was so happy to see him alive and upright she ran at him and threw her arms around him, almost knocking him over.
“Easy there, Lisle.” Gareth grit his teeth as she jostled his leg, but he hugged her back with one arm. “I’m glad to see you too. Where‘re the others?”
Stumbling over her words, Lisle gave him a shortened version of all that had happened.
“I’ll get down there and stay with ‘em. If that big Guardian comes back, I’ll… well, I’ll keep it busy.”
Lisle shuddered at the thought of that enormous, dark Guardian, and an injured Gareth trying to hold it off. The sooner she got to the cavern and got help, the better.
Then she had an awful thought. What if Ell’s attacker had come from Guardian Cavern? Would she be running right into it’s jaws? It had flown off in another direction entirely. Maybe it hadn’t come from the Cavern at all. She desperately hoped that was true. All their lives depended on it, because she had no other way to get help but to continue on to Guardian Cavern.
Her stomach in knots she waved at Gareth limply, and was about to start up the mountain again when she realized that Moss wasn’t with him.
“Gareth, wh…where’s M…Moss?”
“Moss? She went with Terris up the cliff. She’s not with him?”
Lisle shook her head, no. Feeling more frantic than ever, she turned and continued her headlong rush up the mountain, pinning her hopes on finding help for her companions.
Her race up Guardian Mountain felt like it took hours, though in fact it was much less. Still, she was exhausted by the time she stood at the entrance of the tunnel which she thought might lead into Guardian Cavern. Having only seen the mountain from above in her vision with Ell, she had no way of knowing if this was the right entrance.
Lisle looked into the perfect oval of the opening. As she stepped inside, the rough stone of the tunnel stretched overhead in a ropy formation. The surface reminded her of the cheese Mina sometimes purchased on market day in town, though the color was considerably darker. She walked in, sunlight stretched into the tunnel for a short distance and then the light in the tunnel got dimmer the further she moved from the entrance. I wish Mina was here, she thought, as the dark surrounded her. Mina would know what to do right now. Even more Lisle wished she had brought a torch. She hadn’t thought, there was so much light in her vision. Yet, the tunnel just got darker and darker as she walked deeper into the mountain.
Soon it was so dark that she reached up with her fingers to feel if her eyes were actually open. She couldn’t see anything, not even her fingers right in front of her eyes. Her imagination went wild, picturing that huge, dark Guardian looming before her, many toothed jaws waiting to grab her. Still, she forced herself to put one foot in front of the other and kept moving. With one hand on the wall of the tunnel she had some measure of the space around her. The tunnel wall proceeded straight ahead, inclining slightly. She didn’t know what else to do but follow it, wrestling with the vivid scenes of terror in her mind and hoping it would lead her to the cavern she had seen so clearly in her vision.
Gradually, she realized that up ahead she was able to see the oval of the tunnel outlined in the faintest sparkling of light. With intense relief she moved along faster, though she still kept one hand on the guiding wall of the tunnel. Faster and faster still, as the shimmering light guided her, she began to trot. The light grew brighter until looking down the tunnel she could see a complete circle of light. It shone out reflecting bright sparkles from the walls and ceiling of the passageway. She ran faster, letting go of the wall and making for the bright circle ahead with a feeling of desperation as if the dark behind might grab her and pull her back.
She burst out into a large opening. The intensity of the light was too bright for her dark-adjusted eyes and she squinted her lids almost shut against the glare. As her eyes slowly adjusted, she opened them wider and was able to make out a huge cavern, with walls covered in twinkling light. It curved up to a domed ceiling ending in a bright, circular opening at the top. She could see a veil of sunlit green leaves partially covering the opening. The total effect of the cavern was stunning. This was the cavern of her vision, the one that Ell had shown her.
As her eyes traveled back down, she was startled to realize that there was an enormous Guardian, lying prone on a shelf of rock at the far side of the cavern. Lisle breathed out a sigh of relief to see that it was not the dark Guardian. This Guardian was colored like Ell, with slight variations in the shadings of olive, yellow and red. It held it’s runner-like head high on a long, sinuous neck and stared at her fixedly. As Lisle took in this startling sight, she was aware of movement from all around the cavern. Other, smaller Guardians were lifting their heads, turning graceful necks towards her. Ten pairs of golden eyes looked at her, unblinking.
One help me, thought Lisle. She had to trust they would help her. Her knees felt wobbly. Gasping in a halting breath she took a tentative step into the cavern. Then, without allowing herself to think about what she was doing, she sprinted forward, right up to the biggest Guardian.
“Y…You’ve got to help us. Ell and Terris are hurt, so’s Gareth. I d…d…don’t know where Moss is.”
Lisle was young and frantic enough not to realize that this Guardian might have no idea who she and her companions were. Tears rolled down Lisle’s cheeks as she looked up into the huge Guardian’s eyes. “We n…need…” Lisle knuckled her eyes to stop the betraying flow. “We need help!”
Lisle stared upwards. She had the strange sensation of falling up and into the Guardian’s golden orbs. The Guardian seemed to understand. Lisle knew suddenly and without doubt that everything was going to be alright and felt her knees go weak again, this time with relief.
As she started to sag, she felt strong, sure hands supporting her at the elbows. A woman had arrived and now stood at her side.
“You’ll be alright now, young one,” the woman said, quietly.
Lisle could feel her nurturing energy, so much like Mina’s. She allowed herself to lean toward her, resting in her strong hands.
A cloud of flyer folk lifted off from every corner of the cavern and swirled in an enormous, colorful tornado of clattering wings over Lisle’s head.
“Can you lead us to your companions?” Asked the woman.
Lisle’s lips curved upward. “Y…yes, b...bless the One,” she said, eyes closing as she sagged against the woman.
In case you missed a post, or if you've just tuned in to Lisle's story,
here are links to previously posted chapters to save you scrolling all the way through.
Introduction Prologue Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5
Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13
Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Chapter 19 Chapter 20
Chapter 21 Chapter 22 Chapter 23 Chapter 24 Chapter 25 Chapter 26 Chapter 27 Chapter 28
Chapter 29 Chapter 30 Chapter 31 Chapter 32 Chapter 33 Chapter 34 Chapter 35 Chapter 36 Chapter 37
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