It would have been 5 am on the surface. The timid sunshine surely crawled gently on the humid carpet of moss while the trees emerged from the nocturnal chill. Despite the temptation of a peaceful walk in the woods turning back had never even been considered. Our journey was now approaching its culmination and my hands were firmly tied in my back. Flame followed a few steps behind with a firm grip on the rope as per my instructions. As we hiked tediously through lower Agowl I could only distract myself by reminiscing the strict protocol we had established prior to the descent. The last accident in Agowl had made it clear that any negligence would mean death. Hence I was not to be untied under any circumstances. None of what I said or did would change the pre-established plan as my weakened mind couldn’t be trusted in these places.
Flame did her best but I could feel her nervousness even when she walked behind. I was trusting her in a place where I did not trust myself. The equipment was heavy, the breaks were miserable and the hikes were interminable.
Finally we passed the arch and shortly after we were on the last slope to Vraenk. The journey had been eerie but calm up to this point when we turned in the direction of the pit. I held in a gasp as I felt them coming. I did not hear them yet I just expected them and soon, like a blood chilling war cry in the distant cliffs I felt them. They hurt this time. An agonizing rush of burning pain was running up and down my spine as the monstrous rhythm intensified. Breathless I could not scream but I collapsed to my knees exhaling violently.
I believe I was wrong about the drums, they are not inflicted but rather produced by the victim. They are not hallucinogenic but rather the spasms of a dysfunctionning mind faced with miscomprehension.
Everything stopped very suddenly. The light level had dimmed significantly and I could feel the rope was loose. As I turned around still quite shaken I saw her on her knees, her hands on her ears and laughing? Surely she wasn’t. No, she was probably crying. I must have been very confused. It pained me to watch but, nevertheless, I kept looking. The reaction was incomprehensible. Ranging from agony to joy it crippled her half lit face with overwhelming expressions.
Thankfully it only lasted seconds and after some rest she grabbed the torch from the ground and signified she was ok. We did not talk much about it in the following hours but there was a noticeable change of pace as we both realized the urgency of the situation.