“Do you want me to go up first?” Raynold asked when Alyssa seemed daunted by the height she had to climb.
But Alyssa shook her head. “You may need to catch me if I fall,” She explained with a crooked grin.
“I’m afraid I wouldn’t do much more than pad your fall,” Raynold laughed softly, aware that the quickly kindled tempers of the gliefs would be what fell on them if they saw the three humans trying to wrest a prisoner from their clutches.
“No, you go last Raynold,” Alyssa said. “I’ll go first.”
“Which leaves me stuck in the middle while you’re busy dropping loose rocks on me,” Diana said a faint teasing smile lingering on her features.
Alyssa grinned. “I’ll try not to.”
“But you will,” Diana answered. “You know you will. You can’t really help it.”
“Whatever,” Alyssa shrugged and began climbing.
It was difficult to say the least. The slippery rock provided few handholds and even fewer footholds. Alyssa lost count of the times that it had seemed only a breath of wind would be needed to send her plummeting to the bottom. Sweat beaded her forehead and dripped off the end of her nose. It itched horribly, but she didn’t dare bring a hand away from her already precarious hold to scratch it. Inch by inch she wormed her way up the rock.
So far, the gliefs hadn’t seen them. Their dark clothing helped camouflage them, but it didn’t help keep them cool. Alyssa’s hands were slippery from the sweat and she closed her mind from her surroundings so that she could concentrate on the difficult task of climbing. Once in a while she looked up to see how close she was getting to the marked cave, but their progress was disappointingly slow and soon she gave up and simply kept steadily climbing.
Because of this, she was so astonished to find herself automatically grasping the edge of the rock and pulling herself over onto a level floor that she almost fell off the temporary safety. She had found and climbed onto the ledge outside the marked cave.
Alyssa gasped, momentarily stunned that their climb had actually succeeded. Then she remembered her friends and quickly turned to help them get up as well.
First Diana arrived, gasping for breath and her face ashen. When Alyssa practically pulled her up onto the ledge she sat next to the opening of the cave, trembling and panting from the exercise and tension she had just been through.
Raynold pulled himself up, with only a little help from Alyssa, but even he looked a bit shaken.
They sat for a moment, composing themselves after their short period of being so close to death. Alyssa glanced down the face of the mountain they had just climbed and shuddered, drawing herself away from it.
“I can’t believe we actually climbed up that,” She said.
Diana moaned. “I don’t even want to look down.”
Alyssa gave her a shaky smile. “If I had known what I was getting myself into when I started climbing, I don’t think I would have had the nerve to try,” She admitted honestly.
“Well,” Raynold agreed, “I’m certainly glad it’s over and we’re all still alive and safe.”
“Amen to that!” Diana muttered fervently.
Just then, someone walked from the cave and into the sunlight outside.
Alice had dozed off, exhausted with worry and fear. She awoke sometime later to the sound of something, or someone climbing onto the ledge outside her cave. Now wide awake, she sat up and glanced around for Eliana. She was nowhere to be seen.
“Eliana!” Alice hissed towards the darker corners of the cave. Still, no answer. “Of course she has to disappear right when I actually want her near me,” Alice muttered in frustration. “I can’t believe this.”
She looked around her again, this time in search for some sort of weapon. A loose rock appeared to be the only thing that would work effectively and so armed with this, she made her way to the opening of the cave feeling only a fraction safer with the rock in her hands.
Walking outside, she suddenly saw who it was and dropped her weapon in her astonishment before immediately swooning at her sister’s feet.
“Alice!” Alyssa cried, dashing forward and catching her sister before she fell to her death on the rocks below. She patted her twin’s cheeks in consternation. “Alice, are you ok?”
Raynold crawled over and looked Alice over. “She’s only fainted,” He explained in a matter-of-fact tone. “She’ll be herself in a few minutes. The reason she fainted was probably because she was so shocked to see you again.”
Alyssa felt tears of relief streaming down her face, but she didn’t care. Her sister was safe and with her again! She watched anxiously as her sister began showing signs of recovery.
“Alyssa?” The question was faint, but everyone heard it and Alyssa leaned over Alice eagerly.
“Yes? I’m right here Alice!” She said.
Alice opened her eyes wide in astonishment. “I must be dead!” She said in a surprised tone.
This statement was so like something Alice would say, that Alyssa burst out laughing. “No, you’re not dead. I’m really here and it’s good to hear you being Alice again.”
Alice sat up, fully conscious now and demanded to hear what had happened to them. Alyssa began to tell her, but Raynold stopped her.
“We should get inside the cave,” He admonished seriously. “The gliefs will see us soon if we keep out in the open like this.”
The girls knew he was right and they quickly obeyed his suggestion by entering the cave. Alice again voiced her desire to hear what had been happening to them after she had been carried away, and Alyssa filled her in on their adventures up to seeing Alice come out of the cave and having her faint in surprise.
“Now tell me what has happened to you!” Alyssa exclaimed once she had finished their tale.
“There’s not much to tell,” Alice answered with a shrug. “I was carried away by the glief, put in this cave and then I met Eliana and she told me too…”
Alyssa held up a hand. “Wait a minute. Who’s Eliana?”
Alice gasped. “Oh my goodness! I completely forgot to tell them about her!”
“Yes, you did,” Alyssa answered. “Diana and Raynold still have no idea who you’re talking about.”
“I am so sorry!” Alice said, giving an apologetic look towards her two friends. “Let me explain who Eliana is.”
But thankfully, Eliana saved her the trouble by appearing suddenly inside the cave.
“Who are you talking to Alice?” She asked, becoming visible suddenly in the soft light of the candle that Alyssa had just finished lighting.
Alice quickly rattled off introductions. “Eliana, this is my twin sister Alyssa and my two friends Diana and Raynold. Everybody, this is Eliana, the person I was supposed to tell you about.”
Polite exchanges of greetings took place before Alice finally tried to satisfy her curiosity. “Where were you Eliana? I looked everywhere for you!”
Eliana’s eyes sparkled in silent amusement, but she didn’t really answer Alice’s question. Instead she said, “I should be allowed to keep some secrets Alice.”
“Oh, I suppose,” Alice replied with an aggravated shrug. “I thought I would ask anyways.”
“So…” Diana studied Eliana critically, “who are you?”
Eliana drew herself up and answered, “I am Eliana, Guardian and Keeper of the Fire Stone.”
Diana’s eyes widened and she glanced over at the twins.
Raynold leaned towards the young woman, eagerness shining from his eyes. “You are the guardian?” He asked.
Eliana nodded with a smile.
“You know where the Fire Stone is then?”
Again, Eliana nodded.
“Can you bring us to it?”
Eliana hesitated. She glanced around the small circle of humans. Slowly, she nodded again.
Raynold’s eyebrows shot up in surprise. “It’s near here then?”
Slowly, Eliana nodded.
“About ten feet.”
“What!?!” Alice gasped out.
“Straight down,” Eliana explained, smiling at the look of astonishment on the girls’ faces.
“But you could bring us to it?” Raynold persisted.
“Yes…” Eliana answered slowly. “But it will be difficult.”
“When has that ever stopped us?” Alice asked ruefully.
“What are we waiting for? Let’s go!” Alyssa exclaimed.