Alice woke to a stream of sunlight that was shining through the entrance of the cave where she was imprisoned. She sat up, looking at her surroundings with a puzzled expression on her face. Suddenly, everything that had happened the day before came rushing back and she realized where she was.
Eliana was still slumbering peacefully on the floor across from where Alice had dozed, her head pillowed in one of her arms and a beautiful smile lighting up her face as if she was having a happy dream.
Alice sighed and left her new companion sleeping, hating to wake her from what seemed to be such a pleasant rest. Instead, she crawled to the opening of the cave to get a good look at her prison’s surroundings.
The cave opening was about six and a half feet high while being about seven feet wide; plenty of room for the glief to fly in and out of if they were careful. There was a ledge outside the cave that extended a little more than a foot out, then the rock ceased and the mountain side began. When Alice crept carefully to the edge of the ledge, the giddiness of the height down towards the rocky abyss made her temporarily paralyzed in fear and her head whirled dizzily.
Just as she thought she might fall over the edge, and small but strong hand seized her ankle and pulled her away from imminent death. Eliana had awoken and saw that Alice was gone. Guessing her intent, she rushed to the entrance of the cave in time to keep her from falling in a fit of dizziness.
Immediately upon being dragged from the edge, Alice came to herself and thanked Eliana for saving her life. “I honestly don’t know what go into me!” Alice admitted. “I’m not usually afraid of heights.”
Eliana smiled understandingly and patted Alice’s shoulder. “Everyone gets dizzy at a height like this,” she answered knowingly. “When I was first brought here I swooned on the very edge. It was a miracle that I didn’t fall, but somehow when I crumpled to the ground, I managed to not go over. In fact,” Eliana chuckled now at the memory, “I put myself in more danger of falling when I came to myself and realized how close I had been to the end of my life than when I had been in a faint.”
Alice managed a small smile. “Thanks anyways,” she said again.
“You’re very welcome of course,” Eliana replied graciously. “Soon the gliefs will bring us breakfast, and it won’t go well with us if they find us outside our cave, they will think we are attempting suicide. Come inside.”
Alice obeyed, still somewhat in shock from her near death experience.
Soon, as Eliana had predicted, two giant gliefs flew into the cave with some random fruits and vegetables. Where they were from, these foreign food substances, Alice could only guess, but she followed Eliana’s example and accepted them as graciously as the circumstance would permit.
Once their horrible captors left, the girl and woman ate what they could of the food given. Alice couldn’t help worrying over how on earth her sister and friends where going to find them, but when she told Eliana, the young woman laughed cheerfully.
“You needn’t worry Alice,” Eliana assured her softly. “Make your sign outside our cave and your sister will find you.”
Doubtfully, hardly daring to hope, Alice obeyed Eliana and took the precious candle. After lighting it, she crept to the opening of the cave, and with shaking hands held the burning flame next to the rock. Slowly, painstakingly, an A was formed outside the cave walls. Sweat dripped from Alice’s nose as she concentrated on making the A as dark as possible against the surrounding rock while also keeping as far from the terrible drop just beyond her supporting hand as possible.
Finally the task was completed and Alice returned to the inside of the cave, her face slightly ashy and her hands trembling.
Eliana met her with a smile. “We shall be found now,” She said confidently.
Alice sighed, regaining her natural pessimistic nature. “I hope so,” she replied.
Alyssa, leading the party towards the mountains using her instincts, saw them first and reined in Rebel suddenly. Her two companions came up behind her shortly and they too stopped on either side, awestruck at the sight in front of them.
They had found the mountains.
Towering into the sky, the almost black color of the stone in shadow contrasting with the sparkling whiteness of the snow as it caught the sun’s rays and surrounded by a cloud of flying gliefs they rose.
“They have hunted already and their hunger is satisfied,” Raynold whispered. “Otherwise we would have already been captured for food.”
Alyssa swallowed; a sudden lump of fear had risen in her throat. “Did…do you think that Alice…” She trailed off.
Raynold shook his head hurriedly. “They fatten their prisoners for weeks, even months before devouring them.”
Alyssa and Diana shuddered simultaneously.
“How awful!” Diana said in a horrified whisper.
“It is,” Raynold agreed grimly.
Alyssa frowned at the towering mountain sides and sighed in sudden frustration. “Even though we are here, after finding the mountains and that the gliefs are full and not liable to capture us right away, how on earth will we find the cave where Alice is being kept?” She gave a wide sweep with her arm that included the entire mountainside. “The whole thing is simply riddled with caves!”
Raynold gave her a searching look. “Is there any way that your sister could mark her cave?”
Alyssa narrowed her eyes in thought. “Well…” she shook her head, giving up the idea. “No, Alice would never try that.”
“What would she never try?” Raynold persisted gently, though his eyes suddenly gleamed in excitement.
“Well, when we were littler, she and I would play a sort of hide and seek where one of us would lead the other on a kind of scavenger hunt by carving or scratching our mutual initial into landmarks. At the end, the searcher was awarded by finding the other person.”
Raynold leaned towards her eagerly. “You think she might be able to scratch the initial A into the rock by the cave she’s being kept in?” He asked feverishly.
Alyssa shrugged. “She might if she’s desperate.”
“It’s our only hope right now. Is there any way you could scan the mountain side for her mark?”
Alyssa’s eyes lit up suddenly, and she reached into her backpack. “I brought some binoculars!” She exclaimed.
Raynold grinned, but was obviously curious. “Splendid! This tool will help you?”
Alyssa rifled around in her backpack excitedly, while nodding her answer to Raynold’s question. “I’ll explain how they work later,” She mumbled, already scanning the face of the mountain.
A few minutes of silence passed while Alyssa looked for the tell-tale A. First she had looked over the mountain quickly, but she repented of her first haste and now was slowly, methodically searching every inch of the rocky surface. Her efforts were soon rewarded and she voiced a triumphant cry that she quickly squelched, realizing that to save her sister now she would have to use utmost stealth.
Turning to Raynold and Diana, she quickly outlined her plan of ascension and the threesome tied their horses securely in a shaded glade where water and food would be accessible to them before walking quietly to the base of the mountain.