This is the next installment of the story we have been going through recently. I originally thought we might find the end here, but there is just a bit more to go. In the meantime we have a touch more exploration and you can always catch up on the preceding installments. (It appears the trilogy of parts will expand to a fourth. Oddly I think this happened with the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy too.)
In the Cavern
The slow drip of water into a standing pool echoed within the cavern. Bio-luminous light refracted and bounced through the various sections of tunnels she had wandered into. Jardan hadn’t expected the cave. She simply followed the pull that guided her forward through the forest. Before she had realized just how lost she had become she could no longer remember the way back. Time had recessed into memory. The light in the caverns, if it came from the sun, was no indication of how long she had traveled through.
At one point she had slipped the ring, her mother’s ring onto her finger. It lodged itself on the ring finger of her left hand. The first time she had noticed the green and gold of it she had attempted to pull it off. Her finger had swollen and the ring held fast. That was the last bit of attention she gave it till she felt the pulse.
Maybe it was more like a pull, a gentle tug. The ring had a life to it that asserted itself as she stumbled blind through rough stone passages. Twisting and turning, the paths must have crossed over and through ones she had traveled on before. And the pull intensified. At first she fought it, fought against the insistence. But the more she fought the stronger it became, so strong that she began to run. She ran to chase into the destination or to escape from the power of the ring, she couldn’t tell which made more sense.
Her pumping blood screamed in her ears as she gasped for breath. She had stopped just through an opening in a large chamber. Light radiated up at the far end as it traveled along the wall and across the ceiling. Jardan had once heard legends of this chamber, the cathedral. Like many bush stories and tall tales few if any of them ever could be believed. But here she was, standing at the far end of the cathedral, a single element in all the old tales held true.
A place of worship carved from stone, lay before her. Pews had been shaped and polished from the stone of the floor, two sections that stretched twelve rows ahead of her. At the far end, just before the light that filled the chamber, a stone altar had been carved on a raised platform. A church had been built into the nether regions of the dark forest and she was possibly the first to have entered the sanctuary in ages.
Jardan’s mind raced as her view flittered back and forth and then back again across the room. She couldn’t focus on any one thing. It was too large, too much for her to take in. Until she stood next to the very last pew. Her eyes had become accustomed to the light and she saw for the first time the congregation. Skeletons still sat in the pews. All twelve rows in each section had become the final home of doomed parishioners. The sight of the long dead unsettled her at first. As she walked the line down the center of the pews she approached the altar. And there she found two more skeletons, there limbs entwined as they held each other in death.
Thump, scrape. Thump, scrape. The sounds bounced off the walls of the cathedral and broke Jardan from her inner thoughts. She searched back, toward the entrance, and had to swallow her fiercely beating heart. Lady Shelton had followed her. The old woman approached through the pews as she tapped her cane hard into the stone and drug her foot across it. Though the sound of her approach caused dread to flood through Jardan, it was the soft cackle that built into a filling echo that froze her blood.
“Your mother,” Lady Shelton said. “Once came her unbidden as well.” Thump, scrape. “You never knew that did you? She never told you of her trespassing, her theft.”
Her mind raced as she thought of escape. There was no where left to run. She couldn’t fathom the way out of the cavern even before now. This would be a blind run that would only bring her back to this woman, this wraith that had plagued her family for far too long.
As I mentioned, there is more to come from this. Stick around and maybe consider giving a bit of support to the continued efforts here.
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