The creators eye mover o.., p.17

The Creator's Eye: Mover of Fate, Part I, page 17

 

The Creator's Eye: Mover of Fate, Part I
 


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  •••

  When Grant emerged, much relieved, the girl and old man were standing on the bridge. They were joined by a slender, dark-haired man who seemed to be about the same age as the girl. He stared quizzically at Grant as he brushed bits of leaves off his shirt.

  “Sorry,” Maya apologized sheepishly to Grant.

  “My apologies as well for detaining you from your, um, business,” said the old man, “but things have become very dangerous and we cannot be too careful.”

  “No harm done,” Grant smiled agreeably, “although another moment longer and you would’ve owed me a new pair of trousers.”

  Maya laughed embarrassedly. “I’m really sorry,” she said again.

  “I know we probably owe you for your trouble,” said the old man, “but if you wouldn’t mind doing us a favor, please do not tell anyone that you saw us. It would be for your own good and theirs.”

  “Happy to oblige,” replied Grant, “but only if you promise not to tell anyone what I did to that shrubbery. That bush’s family might seek revenge.”

  “We promise to speak to no trees along the way,” said the old man, giving a wry smirk and bowing his head. He tapped his staff against the wood planks of the bridge and began to stride away. “We must be off, but good luck to you.”

  Before they got very far, Grant warned, “You probably don’t want to go that way, especially if staying unseen is high among your priorities.”

  “Oh?” asked the old man.

  “The devils have been passing this way by the hundreds.”

  They looked dispirited.

  Grant cocked his head. “There is another way. Just look below the bridge.”

  The girl leaned over the rail. “A boat!” she exclaimed, discovering the small wooden skiff tied up below.

  “I know this river well,” Grant said. “If you help me paddle, I’ll show you the way.”

  •••

  After exchanging names, they decided that it would be best to leave the bridge immediately since it was such a major thoroughfare. Grant considered that they may still be spotted on the water, but it would be much harder to catch them, especially once the Hattusa and Zion Rivers join to form the Magna. Still, it would be at least a two day journey to the southern cities.

  The current swiftly carried them downstream. They did not need to paddle much except to nudge away from rocks or stay out of the shallows. Grant could not relax, though, until they were finally shrouded by pine trees. The sun was low in the sky so the trees cast long shadows across the water. There were no roads along the river here, so there was little chance of being spotted.

  “We should find a place to make camp for the night,” Grant proposed.

  Pulling onto a small sandy shore, Grant realized that their boat was painted a bright, sky blue. “That’s going to stick out like a sore thumb, even at night,” he remarked.

  They found some leafy boughs that had fallen to the ground and dragged them on top of the vessel. It was certainly not enough to cover it, but it made it less conspicuous at a quick glance.

  They walked a distance into the forest until they came to a small clearing where they would be out of sight from anyone navigating the river. While the other three plunked down on the ground, exhausted, Grant’s belly burbled emptily, urging him to find something to eat. He used the waning light to search the vegetation at the edge of the clearing. He pulled some leaves from a low lying plant and brought it over to the other three.

  “Here,” he offered, “it’s perfume lettuce. Its not going to fill us up, but it smells kind of like peaches and lavender.”

  “Mmm,” said Maya, “that will go good with our sandwiches.”

  Grant blinked in surprise and felt a bit of saliva bubble at the corner of his mouth. “You have sandwiches?”

  “Well, they’re not sandwiches yet, but we have bread, and meat, and―”

  “I knew there was a reason we met up!” Grant clapped his hands. “It was destiny! I love sandwiches. Especially ones made out of meat!”

  They sat in a circle while Maya produced the ingredients for their dinner from her pack. The ground was hard and dusty, but Grant was thrilled to be sitting on terra firma― no more nightmares about falling out of a tree and being impaled on the devil horns below.

  The pleasure of eating began to lighten everyone’s mood. Even the boy, who had been dour and mostly silent throughout the day, began to speak jovially. “Where are you from?” he asked.

  “The U.S.,” Grant said. “Michigan actually, just outside of Detroit, but I spent a lot of time in New York.”

  “And where do you live now?”

  “Anywhere I can,” replied Grant through a heaping mouthful of sandwich.

  Michael looked at him with concern. “Don’t you have a home?”

  “Kind of, but I spend most of my time on the road.”

  “Sounds like my dad,” he said. “Do you have a job?”

  “In a way, although I don’t get paid for it.” Grant rummaged through his rucksack and produced several weathered books. Tattered string and sticky notes feathered out of their tops, marking the pages. “I catalog every strange thing that I encounter. Each book covers a different topic: flora, fauna, and Folds.” He passed them to his three new companions.

  “These are amazing!” said Maya looking through the book on Folds. They were full of drawings and writings.

  “At first I intended them to be like Audobon field guides, but so many things defied simple scientific description. Each encounter required a story.” Over time, his books had become more journal-like― more personal.

  “Like this one here,” said Michael as he displayed a page in the fauna book. It showed a drawing of Grant holding a knife while bellowing and confronting a burly hoofed and horned mammal. “Did you really try to fight off a mountain ox with a knife?”

  “No, that was just to make the drawing look cool. I found from watching the male oxen butting heads during mating season, it isn’t the one who is the strongest or hits the hardest that’s the victor, but the one who bellows the loudest. The louder ox holds its ground and the other lowers its head and backs away, so when I accidentally startled one when I was hiking in the Morningstars, I figured I could just yell at it until it backed off.”

  “Interesting,” Sefu speculated, “but quite dangerous if it didn’t work. Why didn’t you just Move at it?”

  “I don’t Move,” said Grant.

  “What do you mean?” asked Michael, surprised. “You never tried?”

  “That’s right,” said Grant offhandedly.

  Michael looked puzzled. “Why not?” He asked. “I’ve never met anyone who didn’t want to be a Mover.”

  “I’m not into religion,” Grant responded, trying not to sound irked.

  Michael looked even more confused, “What do you mean?”

  “I grew up in a Catholic orphanage. If you’re forced to be religious as a kid, you may dislike it as an adult. I ran away from the orphanage when I was fifteen and never looked back.”

  “I still don’t see what Moving has to do with religion,” observed Michael, cocking his head.

  Grant was not particularly looking forward to this conversation after such a long day, but he decided to oblige. “In order to Move, you’re supposed to believe in an invisible energy that bonds everything together. That is just another name for God, if you ask me.”

  Sefu interjected now, “But it’s not like some Biblical miracle that happened thousands of years ago―”

  Grant interrupted, “And reinterpreted by people who didn’t see it and then again by popes and kings based on their whims.” If Grant sounded exasperated, it was because he had explained this a thousand times before. “I know that Moving works, and I know that religion makes many people happy, but they’re also both used to hold power over people.”

  Sefu frowned a little. “That depends on the user. Moving is an extension of the will, like a hammer is to an arm. You can choose not to
hit people over the head with it.”

  Grant was unmoved. “Power corrupts good judgment. I’ve seen too many people in positions of authority who thought they were doing good, but their good intentions hurt a lot of people. I have no interest in that kind of power.”

  “So, if you don’t want to Move, why did you come to the islands?” Sefu asked.

  “The same reason anybody does― because I was invited.”

  “There has to be more to it than that!” prodded Sefu.

  “Well,” Grant leaned back and crossed his arms, “it sounded new and exciting, and I didn’t have any attachments to hold me back. I was open for adventure.”

  “No friends or family?” asked Michael.

  “Like I said, I grew up in an orphanage, but I got out of there as fast as I could and made my way to New York. I got by for a while selling newspapers, doing a little begging, even a little stealing. Those weren’t my proudest days, but I had to survive. While most homeless people hunkered down in the subways at night, I climbed up buildings and slept in empty apartments in the winter and penthouse gardens in the summer. I never got caught for any of this until I tried to pickpocket some hippies. They busted me, but instead of turning me over to the cops, they took me in. So, for a while I kind of bummed around with a bunch of hippies and artists in Greenwich Village. They were really nice and gave me odd jobs, but they never felt like family. Plus they were all vegans.” He feigned gagging. “I would go off by myself whenever I could to buy a hot dog or explore the city.”

  “Was it hard being alone like that?” Michael asked.

  “Sometimes,” Grant mused, “but I always had a lot of freedom. I think that’s partly what inspired me to come here. It was a new land, lots to see, and all of my needs could be met. I was pretty keen on the utopic, barter-friendly, minimal technology aspects, too. That was something I liked about the hippies. They were very giving in a very uncharitable place. But this land, Arimbol, is generous. It will give you everything you need if you’re just willing to look for it.”

  Everyone was getting sleepy and Grant was happy for it. He was open with his convictions, but was rather bored of being scrutinized for them. It reminded him of his hippie friends in New York. Every time one of them stated they were vegan, they would be barraged with questions. People seemed to take personal offense in the way others lived, even when it had no impact on anyone else’s life. Grant had no interest in forcing his beliefs on anyone. He was more interested in living well than living for a cause.

  “We should get some sleep,” suggested Sefu. “I’ll take first watch.”

  “I’ll go next,” offered Grant.

  Sefu told Michael and Maya to take the morning watch together since they were not yet proficient in Moving. “Obviously,” he emphasized, “there will be no fires tonight.”

  They passed the journals back to Grant.

  “These are amazing,” complimented Michael. “I want to look at them more tomorrow.”

  Grant was content not to take first watch. He was worn out from his three nights in the tree. With a belly emptied of olumbers and full of delicious sandwich, it only took a few blinks before he was sound asleep.

  •••

  Grant was roused from slumber by a firm hand on his shoulder.

  “Are you awake?” whispered the old man.

  Grant grumbled something akin to “Yeah.” His eyelids were stuck together and burned with night glue. He pulled himself up and tried to rub awakeness back into them.

  “If there’s any trouble, please don’t try bellowing at it like a mountain ox,” Sefu joked. “Just wake me up,”

  “Okay,” Grant laughed.

  Sefu pulled a backpack under his head as a pillow and curled up near Michael and Maya. The old man stirred a little, but in a few moments was asleep.

  It was the middle of the night and the grove was very dark. Only a few stars were visible through the tree tops. If Grant was not so used to sleeping in nature, he might have found this very foreboding. He spent a few hours in silence. To pass the time he whittled a piece of wood with his knife. He didn’t make anything in particular, but just wanted to keep his hands busy. The only sounds besides peeling wood were the distant rush and burble of the river and All Along the Watchtower still stuck on repeat in his noggin.

  Bored, Grant put the knife down and stared out into the forest. Beyond the first row of bushes, darkness engulfed everything. Then the hairs on Grant’s neck rose. Something shimmered amidst the trees. He stared hard into the woods, doubtful if he had seen anything at all, yet nothing else stirred.

  He had an eerie feeling that he was being watched, yet there was nothing. No more flickers. No strange sounds. More time passed in tense silence save for the rustle of mice in the undergrowth or the silvery slide of a shout owl gliding through the night. It was just black and quiet.

  Grant was always cautious in the woods, but rarely nervous. The thought of the green devils looking for them had put him on edge. He resumed his whittling to ward off the haunting silence. After a while, his hackles lowered. About the time that his stick was worn down to a nub, Michael and Maya awoke to take over the watch.

  •••

  In the morning, Grant foraged for some more things to eat so they wouldn’t have to ration their food so sparingly. Unfortunately, all he came across were some roots that required a roasting before they could be eaten. Even though no one would see the fire easily in the daytime, they might investigate the smoke rising above the trees. So, Grant packed them away for later in case they found a more secure campground that night.

  When he returned to camp, Sefu was running Michael and Maya through an attack routine. They stood with swords in hand facing the trees on the far side of the glade. He told them to always keep an eye on their opponents’ feet. “They can indicate what they are about to do with their hands. A well-timed counter-attack can often outmatch strength or experience.”

  Sefu demonstrated by stepping forward quickly. At each step he slashed his blade― left, right, then stabbed it forward, ending with a blast of red light. The bolt shot across the glade, smacking squarely against a pine trunk.

  Michael and Maya emulated Sefu, but clumsily swung their swords as they went. When they fired, their shots crisscrossed, missing the tree.

  “There is no need to move so quickly,” Sefu instructed with an austere countenance. “Move deliberately. Speed will come later. You don’t need to slash your opponent to pieces. A small wound can disarm them or knock them off their guard, then use your Moving to finish them.”

  Sefu demonstrated again, hitting the tree in the exact same spot he had before. Grant was impressed. He was no fan of Moving, but could tell that Sefu was a master. “Try it again,” Sefu ordered his students.

  Michael and Maya went through the maneuver again, but with greater care. This time they both struck the tree, making two holes not terribly far away from Sefu’s.

  “Yeah!” Michael and Maya erupted.

  “Well done!” Sefu praised them. “Now go back to your positions and try it again. When you hit the mark we can have breakfast.”

  •••

  After an hour of improvement, but no direct hit, Sefu gave in and let his students eat. They needed to take advantage of the light and continue downstream.

  After breakfast, Sefu and Maya eliminated any trace of their camp site, while Grant helped Michael load the gear into the boat. When the other two returned, they pushed the skiff into the cool waters at the river’s edge. The water felt good on Grant’s skin, so he took a much needed dunk. He was used to being somewhat grimy during his long adventures, but after several days in the tree he was due for a bath. It also helped wake him up completely. The rest of the group thought it was a good idea too, so they took a quick dip as well before loading up their gear and clambering aboard.

  It was another warm day, so the sun quickly dried their clothes. Grant sat in the back of the boat with a paddle in hand and watched the st
eam rise off his travel mates as they floated down stream. The steam curled surreally against the backdrop of sandy shoals and black pine forest. It might have been relaxing if they were not on the lookout for enemies.

  The river kept a steady pace so they made good time. They didn’t break the whole morning, opting to eat aboard their small vessel. “But where will we go to the bathroom?” Maya worried.

  “Take a swim!” Grant smiled.

  “Are you kidding?” she asked, wrinkling her nose.

  “You’ve been in the city for too long!” quipped Grant. “You’re getting to dive right into nature.”

  “What about, um, other needs?” asked Maya.

  “You mean dropping a deuce?” Grant said bluntly.

  “Um, yes,” said Maya disdainfully.

  “Normally I wouldn’t suggest soiling a clean water source, but we can’t risk going ashore.”

  “You’re really serious, aren’t you?”

  “Consider yourself lucky,” Grant smirked. “We have water to wash ourselves with. Several days of trekking over land can get pretty gamey, but I bet the demons would give us a wide berth.”

  “I’d rather not think about it,” Maya grimaced. “I’ll just wait until we stop.”

  “Suit yourself,” shrugged Grant, “but I’m going to take another dip.” He took off his clothes and dove into the water. He surfaced and clung onto the side of the boat as they floated on. “Come on in! The water’s warm and getting warmer!”

  Michael and Sefu snickered.

  “Gross,” said Maya, but Grant noticed she was laughing a little, too. “Are you always this open with strangers?”

  “Life’s too short not to have fun!” said Grant. “Plus making people laugh is some of the best magic there is. I’d wager that it can get you just as far as any of your fancy Moving.”

  “That’s a nice theory,” said Sefu turning serious again, “but a joke won’t protect you from a sharp sword.”

  “Maybe not directly,” said Grant, still clinging to the side of the boat like a crab, “but it has made me some very good friends who’ve helped me through some tough times.”

  Sefu raised a finger about to emphasize some contrary words when Michael told them to hush. “There’s a road over there!” he pointed.

  Grant looked over his shoulder. Indeed a road was weaving through the trees alongside the river. He pulled himself back into the boat and quickly put on his clothes. They were approaching civilization and would have to be careful.

  “We need to paddle,” Grant urged. “There’s a town coming up. Go as fast and as quietly as you can.”

  Michael and Grant each took an oar. They picked up the pace and tried to keep away from the road. A few buildings became visible ahead.

  “Carthage,” said Grant. “It’s a small town― just a few hundred people. It’s really just a way station to transport goods up and down stream.”

  “Maybe the demons haven’t found it,” posed Michael.

  It was eerily silent though, and as they neared the village it was immediately apparent to Grant that something was awry. Several docks lined the edge of the river and not a single boat was moored to them. At second glance, Grant realized that there were ropes tied up to the docks, but their other ends vanished into the deeper part of the river. All of the boats had been sunk.

  “It’s just like Canaan,” said Michael.

  “Hush,” warned Sefu.

  As they floated further past the town, all of the windows were dark. Not a single person was in sight, but then Grant heard a shout. Adrenaline pumped through his veins as he saw someone run down a street. It was one of the so-called demons, but fortunately he was running away from them. Another devil man burst out of a house and sprinted after the first. The first demon pointed down the street and then they both took off in that direction.

  Grant paddled faster. The boat began to spin with the misbalanced effort, but then Michael noticed the demons running away from them and he began paddling faster, too. Despite still being wet from the cool river water, Grant began to sweat and his shoulders ached with the effort.

  Even when they passed the demons, Grant and Michael did not let up. They paddled vigorously until they were well past the docks and the very last house.

  Beyond Carthage, the Zion River joined from the north, pouring its silty runoff into the black waters of the Hattusah. The river widened and increased speed. Meanwhile, the road disappeared into the thickening forest. They eased up on the rowing and allowed the river to carry them. Soon the shore became rocky again. The rocks became boulders, and the boulders grew into tall, grey cliffs.

  As the afternoon wore on, the setting sun pushed the shadows off the cliffs and across the river. It was then, against the waning day, that Grant saw something flash above the boat. It floated in the air for a moment and then was gone.

  “Did you see that?” asked Grant.

  “See what?” replied Michael.

  “A light,” said Grant, poking at the air with the handle of his oar. “It looked like something I saw last night,” he said, recalling the strange glimmer in the forest. “I felt like I was being watched, but there wasn’t anybody there. I thought it was just my imagination.”

  “Could it have been a wisp?” asked Maya.

  “Wisps don’t just appear and disappear,” noted Sefu. “Whatever it was, I don’t like that you have seen it twice. Something may be following us.”

  •••

  They found a sandy shore nestled among the high cliffs. There were a few shrubs, but no trees or branches to camouflage the boat with. It did not matter much though anyway. Pinned against the bluffs, there was nowhere to hide. Their only solace was that they wouldn’t have to worry about anyone sneaking up on them from behind. The cliff was both prison and protection.

  They ate dinner uneasily. They tried to act normal, but bristled at each strange sound. A frog hopping into the reeds at the rivers edge made Maya fidget. A bird darting from its leafy cover gave them all a start. Even the sound of the running water began to play tricks on Grant’s ears.

  But just as they finished dinner and began to relax, Grant saw it again. He jumped and the others immediately saw what he was looking at. Floating in front of the cliff, pale against the darkening night, a featureless face hung in the air like a ghost.

  Sefu rose to his feet and pointed his staff at the apparition. “Who are you?” he barked.

  The head showed no expression, but moved backwards a few paces.

  “What do you want?” he snarled again, threatening with his staff.

  Without a word, the ghostly head vanished.

  “What was that?” Michael asked, shaken.

  “I don’t know,” said Sefu, keeping his weapon ready, “but it was no wisp.”

  “Is it gone?” asked Maya, worriedly.

  “I don’t think so,” said Sefu as he surveyed their tiny beachhead.

  Grant knew it was still there. He could feel its watchful eyes scratching at the back of his neck. He looked around at the cliffs, the river, and the other shore beyond. “It’s still watching us.”

  Sefu nodded.

  “We could find another place to camp,” suggested Maya.

  “It’ll follow us,” Grant said.

  “I think it has been after us for some time,” said Sefu. “Perhaps since Canaan,”

  “Since Canaan?” asked Michael, his eyes still darting from side to side, looking for anything out of the ordinary. “Did the demons send it?”

  “I don’t know, but they knew you would return home. They could have sent something to track you.”

  “But why not just have it kill me and get it over with?” asked Michael.

  “Because they might be hoping that you will lead them to more family― to find out if you have brothers and sisters who could be heirs.”

  Grant listened curiously to this exchange. He wondered why the devil men were looking for this boy.

  Sefu lowered his staff. “W
e’ll sleep with our backs to the cliff tonight, and keep watch two at a time.”

  •••

  There were no more incidents that night, but Grant had a fitful sleep. He dreamt of luminous horned men rising from the river and pinning him to the cliff with their swords. He was happy to arise at first light. The others appeared to have slept just as poorly. They decided to leave as swiftly as possible, hopefully leaving the ominous spirit behind.

  They ate a cold breakfast on the boat. Afterward, Grant rowed while Sefu did his best to run the youths through their Moving lessons. There was not much he could teach them on the small, rocking vessel, but he explained how to do feints and blocks with a sword, plus Move flashes of light to distract or blind an opponent.

  Sefu explained, “There are other things you can do besides create light and flames. You can take heat away, too.” He stood up and aimed his staff at the water alongside the boat. The water froze where he pointed, leaving a crackling white surface that broke up in the current and trailed behind the boat like miniature icebergs.

  “With enough focus, I could freeze this boat in place,” he continued. “Remember that only Creators can Create Ki. We are part of that Ki so can Move it, but no one can destroy it. By freezing, you are only Moving the Ki from one place to another.”

  While Michael and Maya practiced freezing the water into different shapes― blocks, balls, zig-zags, and snowy foam, a great silhouette appeared in the sky high above the eastern treetops. They lowered their weapons in awe as the giant raptor glided through the air, passing over the river above them.

  “Is that a roak?” asked Maya, covering her eyes against the intense sunlight to catch a glimpse of the behemoth bird.

  “It is indeed,” said Grant, still rowing.

  “Shouldn’t we find cover?”

  “Not particularly,” Grant said casually. “They’re mostly scavengers, and when they do hunt they’re usually interested in bigger game than us.” He was not particularly worried, but didn’t want to take any chances. With one eye on the bird and the other on the river, he rowed a little faster. He hoped to preserve some level of nonchalance. If he splashed about like some panicked river walrus he might give it incentive to investigate.

  The roak rocked its great plumed wings slightly from side to side taking advantage of the warm air currents so it could circle over them. It cocked its head as it flew.

  “It sees us,” observed Michael.

  “So long as we don’t bother it, it should leave us alone,” he pontificated with a tone of moderate certainty.

  “Should,” Maya emphasized, noting Grant’s unease.

  Sefu tightened his grip on his staff. He aimed it warily at the great bird, but with a blood-curdling screech and a beat of its colossal wings, it banked north and disappeared into a pillar of white clouds.

  They breathed a sigh of relief.

  “Let’s hurry out of here in case it comes back,” Maya suggested, still not taking her eyes off the sky.

  “Doesn’t matter much anyway,” said Grant. “We’re approaching the Scissors.”

  “What’s that?” she asked as the boat floated around a bend and began to speed up.

  Grant tucked the oars in a bit and let the current take over. “It’s a split in the river. If we go down the wrong side, we’ll be cut to pieces.” It was probably also the reason the roak was scouting out area. It likely knew that goodies sometimes washed up beside the rapids with their necks snapped. There was no need to waste energy attacking if it just waited for the river to do all the work.

  Grant asked Michael to grab an oar to help keep them on course, but as soon as Michael reached over to grab one, a beam of light tore through the air striking him in the shoulder. He tumbled out of the boat with a great splash.

  “Michael!” yelled Maya as she reached after him.

  Grant tried to see where the beam came from. Several demons stood atop the high cliffs where they released a barrage of red bolts.

  Sefu waved his staff in the air, wrapping the boat and its passengers in a sheet of pink light. The bolts struck and fizzled out against this translucent field. Sefu fired back a huge thunderball. It exploded just below the demons’ feet, crumbling the cliff and sending two of the creatures toppling into the rocks below.

  “Maya, take the other paddle!” yelled Grant.

  “Where’s Michael?” she shouted as she clung to the side, looking for her friend.

  But Michael had not surfaced yet. “We have to move!” Grant urged her.

  Maya took the paddle and they rowed as fast as they could, trying to get beyond the reach of the remaining demons. The river was rushing now and in a moment they were out of striking distance, leaving the demon bolts to fizzle in mid-air. Unable to reach their quarry, the soldiers turned and ran into the forest, probably to find a way to cut them off.

  “The Scissors are up ahead!” Grant pointed.

  A sharp cliff protruded from the middle of the rapids dividing the stream in two. The left branch descended quickly out of sight.

  “We need to stay to the right!” he shouted, but as he did, Michael bobbed to the surface. He was far across the river, thrashing the water with one uninjured arm.

  “We have to get to him!” said Maya, yelling over the roar of the rapids.

  They rowed as hard as they could, but as they moved near enough to grab him, Michael was sucked under. All of a sudden, the boat crashed against a hidden rock and Grant was thrown against the side of the boat. Pain tore through his ribs, but somehow he held onto the oar. Sefu hunkered down in front, completely soaked. Maya’s eyes were wide but she appeared to be okay.

  They were jarred off course and found themselves staring down a deep and deadly ravine. The boat thudded from boulder to boulder as they tore through the whitewater.

  Grant caught sight of Michael’s head heaving to the surface again. Incredibly, he still seemed to be paddling against the thunderous torrent.

  Straight ahead rose another cliff face. It appeared at first that the river dead-ended at it and that they would be smashed against a wall, but as they approached, Grant could see the river dove steeply into a large cave at its base. He watched as Michael was swallowed by the darkness. In another moment they were tossed into the cave as well.

  Maya called out for Michael again. Her voice echoed against the cave walls, but there was no response over the roar of water.

  The river slowed, and in the last rays of light penetrating from the cave mouth, Grant saw a sandy shore. They pulled their boat onto it. It was full of water, not just from the splashing river, but from holes that had been smashed into the hull by the pounding rocks.

  Maya called into the darkness again, but still they heard nothing.

  “We have to find him,” said Sefu.

  “How?” asked Grant, wringing water from his shirt. “I’ve been here before, but with a map. It goes on for miles and splits in a hundred directions. It’s a maze!”

  Sefu looked Grant sternly in the eye, “Michael may be our only hope to save Arimbol. Without him we are doomed.”

  “Well then,” said Grant with sudden determination, “We’ll need a torch!”

  Sefu tapped his staff on the ground, and the head burst alight.

  “Let’s go find him,” said Grant, “but meanwhile you can fill me in on why those long-horned devils think he’s so important.”

  Chapter XIII

  LIGHT AND SHADOW

 
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