“Won’t… they… hear… us?” Alice gasped out as she ran to keep up with the others.
Eliana shook her head. “Don’t… talk… yet,” she said between gulps of air. “Not… safe.”
Well that’s an understatement, Alice thought grimly to herself. I sure hope Alyssa knew what she was doing when she wrote… But here her thoughts were cut off by Eliana dragging them into a different tunnel and stopping suddenly. Everyone doubled over, holding their stomachs and waited until the pain receded. It wasn’t long before their wild, frightened breathing slowed into almost inaudible regularity.
Eliana sighed and sat down. “We’re safe. They will come here eventually, but by then we’ll be safely out side of this cave.”
“Didn’t they hear us running?” Alice repeated her question.
“Yes, but we got enough rock wall in between us that they can hear us no longer, so we are safe.” Eliana smiled. “Of course, eventually they will find this cave, but it will take them time--they are not organized--and by then we will have already left.”
“Left?” Alyssa asked. “You mean we’re almost free?”
Eliana nodded, her eyes shining. “And with this stone, the gliefs will no longer bother us.”
“Why won’t they bother us?” Raynold asked, dumbfounded that something that seemed impossible could be true.
“We hold the power to destroy them. This stone, the Fire Stone, is the only thing that has the ability to easily annihilate their home, thereby destroying their babies and their species. Besides which, once we return to your village we will destroy the belief that this stone is the only thing which can kill these creatures and instead tell the accurate fact: anything that you can kill everyday animals with you can kill gliefs with as well.” Eliana smiled and stood up. “Believe me; they won’t give us any trouble. Now they will do everything they can to keep us away from their home, and they will stay as far from us as possible.”
Raynold shook his head and began to speak, then instead changed his mind and remained silent.
While Raynold and Eliana talked, Alyssa and Alice furiously scribbled down more in their book. Diana simply listened, but she kept a wary eye on the twins when they continued working on the book.
“How close are you to being done?” She asked finally, unable to keep her curiosity unsatisfied any longer.
Alice looked up at her sister. “About two chapters away, more or less,” she answered.
Alyssa nodded her agreement. “Right now we’re in middle of chapter eighteen, and we’re hoping to finish it in chapter twenty, but it might stretch out a little longer.”
Eliana pressed an ear to the wall. “We need to leave now,” she said suddenly. “I can hear them beginning their search.”
They all stood and looked to Eliana for further instructions. She smiled. “The passage out is right past this turn. We’ll half to climb down a little, but it’s not impossible.”
Diana groaned. “More climbing?” She asked.
Alyssa gave her a sympathetic look. “At least we’ll be climbing down,” she said in an effort to keep on the cheerful side.
“Yeah,” Alice put in darkly, “that way when we fall we’ll at least land on our feet and only break a leg or two instead of our necks.”
Alyssa glared at her twin. “I was trying to reassure her.”
“I was trying to be realistic,” Alice shot back. “Honestly Alyssa, we won’t be able to even see where we’re putting our feet while climbing backwards.”
Alyssa opened her mouth to give her sister a scathing reply when Raynold intervened. “Let’s not argue when every moment is fraught with danger.”
Reluctantly, the sister’s shut their mouths and followed Eliana into the daylight. The climb was steep, but not nearly as perilous as the ascent had been, and soon all of the adventures were safely at the bottom.
“I can’t believe we made it,” Diana said, looking up at the sides of the mountain in awe.
“We’re not back yet,” Raynold answered, taking charge once again. “We need to find our horses and get out of here while we still can.”
They crept to the hollow where the three had left the horses during the rescue and found the horses very refreshed. Eliana rode double-saddle with Diana and soon they were on their way across what had seemed before a limitless prairie.
That night they camped under the stars. No gliefs had bothered them yet, and Eliana said that they were probably still searching the mountain for them. She guessed that it would take them at least a few days to find that they were gone, and by then they would be back in the village and therefore safe from the horrible creatures.
Alice and Alyssa again worked on their story until they both found themselves nodding off to sleep over it. Then, yawning, they put it away and then lay down next to the dying fire under a canopy of stars.
Alice awoke to her sister shaking her from her blanket. “G’way,” she mumbled in a sleep-fogged voice, holding the blanket tighter around her shivering body.
“Come on,” Alyssa said impatiently, rolling her eyes. “Wake up already. We might make it to the village today if we hurry.”
“G’way!” Alice grumbled louder. “I dowanna wake up.”
Diana sat up and squinted her eyes in the bright morning sunrise. “Time to go already?” She asked.
Alyssa sat on her heals and looked at her sister with her arms on her hips. “Yeah, if I can wake up my sister.”
“Maybe we could stick her on the horse without her having to wake up,” Raynold suggested mischievously.
Alyssa saw what he was doing and grinned. “Hey, maybe you have a point! We could tie her onto the saddle and then…”
Alice shot out of her blanket with a shriek. “Don’t you dare!” She yelled. Then she caught sight of the looks on her sister and Raynold’s faces. “It wasn’t funny,” she said sullenly, folding her arms.
“Just come on,” Alyssa answered, her eyes still twinkling.
Eliana laughed. “She must not like waking up in the morning,” she stated.
Alice glowered. “It’s not fair. All of you teaming up against me to get me to wake up.”
“Well,” Diana replied, “we want to get back soon.”
“Oh, I do too,” Alice answered, “but I don’t want to have to get up at all hours of the morning to do so.”
“Breakfast is ready,” Eliana said, wisely changing the subject.
With that, the quarrel of the morning was forgotten and the adventurers exclaimed their delight over Eliana’s good cooking.
“Are all women good cooks in your story?” Diana asked Alice and Alyssa.
“You aren’t,” Alyssa replied with a teasing smile.
Diana sighed. “I’m not?”
“Nope,” Alice said. “But, you do get better after a few lessons from Bettina.”
“Oh good.” Diana was relieved.
“I could teach you too,” Eliana said sweetly. “After all, once the Fire Stone is safely in the hands of the council, my job is over.”
“But will you stay in our village?” Raynold asked with a hint of eagerness apparent in his voice.
Eliana smiled. “I might. It all depends on how soon I can find a home.”
“You could stay with my family until you do,” Raynold offered. “Bettina has always wanted a sister, and you’re about her age. I think you two would become good friends.”
“I would love to meet your family Raynold,” Eliana answered. “Many thanks for the offer.”
Raynold ducked his head as if he was suddenly embarrassed. “You’re very welcome Eliana.”
Diana scooted closer to the twins. “Do they love each other?” She whispered suspiciously.
Alyssa put on her best innocent look and widened her eyes. “What on earth would make you suspect that?” She asked.
“That’s what I thought.” Diana gave her a look before continuing. “Do they marry in your book?”
The twins looked at each other and shrugged. “That, you will have to find out on your own,” Alice answered with a grin.