I couldn’t tell how much time had passed and the forest never changed around me. I stopped a few times and looked through the Hagstone, but I saw nothing. At a large triangle boulder, which sat next to the river bank, I stopped and sat down. Sighing, I rested for a few minutes then dug through the satchel. There was nothing but The Arcana, prayer book and white feather inside. I didn’t feel hungry, thirsty or tried, just bored.
I pulled out The Arcana and flipped through it.
‘Who are you?’ a loud, thick voice echoed from underneath me.
I froze and looked around, not seeing anyone, ‘I’m Abigail,’ I replied quietly.
‘Where you are going?’ the voice asked.
‘I’m not sure. The fox just told me to follow the river.’
‘Foxes can be sly. Not really trustworthy,’ the voice spoke, ‘what is your purpose here?’
‘I’ve come to fix the Dream Web. Though I’m not sure what that really is or where it is. Do you know?’ I questioned whilst still looking carefully around.
‘No and no. Why does it need fixing?’
‘Garson said it was broken and they needed me – a human to repair it. Where are you?’
‘Right here. Who else is with you?’ the voice rumbled underneath me.
I dug out the Hagstone and pressed it to my eye. I looked down and saw nothing. Closing and tucking The Arcana under my arm, I got up and turned. I focused on the ground and walked all the way around the boulder.
‘I don’t see you. What are you?’ I spoke.
‘Where are you looking, girl? I’m right in front of you!’ the voice growled.
I turned and stood at the back of the rock. I removed the Hagstone and looked, but saw nothing. I put the stone to my left eye and a large face formed across the boulder. The eyes were triangle, large and dark grey in colour, the nose was an upside down triangle with long sides and the mouth was two triangles put together. The face gave a toothless grin and the eyes flickered.
‘Oh! You…are alive?’ I questioned.
‘If you can call it that, I don’t really. I can’t go anywhere. Now, what is the matter?’ the boulder asked.
‘Well, I’m not really sure what to do. This forest seems to go on forever…’
‘Why don’t you ask for directions?’
I frowned, ‘I did and the fox said…it wouldn’t have lied to me would it?’
The boulder frowned and looked thoughtful for a few seconds, ‘who was it?’
‘It never said its name, but it had two tails!’
‘Two tails? That’s a good fox then and where did it say to go afterwards?’
‘Just to follow the river,’ I stated, ‘what’s with all these questions? Can you help me or not?’
‘Probably not, for you see I’m stuck here. Now, what else can I do for you?’
‘Nothing,’ I sighed, ‘thanks.’
I dropped the Hagstone and started to walk away.
‘Why don’t you try taking a left at the waterfall? I heard from a rolling pebble there’s a short cut to the beach that way,’ the boulder suggested from behind me.
Bearing that in mind, I walked on and minutes later heard the sound of a large waterfall. I picked up the pace and jogged over to it. The river disappeared ahead of me and as I got close, I saw the water falling over the edge of two massive rocks. The riverbank slopped down and I followed it whilst trying to stay away from the waterfalls crumbling side. At the bottom as the water hit rocks and roared loudly the path did split into two.
I glanced back, but couldn’t see the boulder, deciding to take it’s advice, I choice the path that forked off into the forest. Raising the Hagstone to my left eye I had a quick glance through then set off. Just like I had noticed before, the triangle pine trees were neatly arranged and it was easy to walk through them. I saw and heard nothing, though I did stop often to check through the Hagstone.
The trees started to thin out and hurriedly, I went on and passed the last few. I stepped off the grass and on to sand. My boots sank a little and I almost stepped back again. Only, there was nothing to step back into. I turned and looked at the sand stretching out behind me. The forest had gone. Turning back, I looked out over a desert landscape.
‘The Arcana,’ I muttered and was about to pull it out when I saw something coming towards me. Grabbing the Hagstone, I looked and saw a black and red five headed horse coming my way. I looked over the stone and saw the same thing. The horse was huge and fear stabbed into my chest. I stood still and it came right up to me. All of its’ heads went down and it neighed softly, then knelt before me.
‘You want me to get on…?’ I asked slowly.
Five mouths neighed again and nervously, I climbed on to its bare back. The horse stood and walked off across the sand. I grasped at the black and red mane, noticing how the colours came together in a fire flame like pattern.
‘Where are we going?’
The horse snorted and broke into a canter. Dry, hot wind hit my face. I held my breath and went to shut my eyes when I saw a blue hazy cloud coming up before us. I tried to see inside of it, but it wasn’t till we had gotten closer that I saw a disc of blackness in the centre. The horse broke into run, a small scream tore through me and I grasped the long mane tighter. The blue haze grew larger. The five headed horse jumped and we were sucked inside.
My screams echoed in my ears as I fell to the hard ground. I curled up, unable to see anything through the darkness. Something hard was digging into my side and tears were pricking my eyes. A yellow candle light bobbed out of the blackness and I put my hands over my mouth to stop the screams. I listened, hearing my own breathing and heartbeat then dripping water and footsteps. Voices and the sounds of hammering reached me a few seconds later.
I sat up, my hands scraping against stones and dust. I moaned softly and felt for the satchel. I had landed on it and the corner of The Arcana had gone into my lower ribs. I coughed and breathed in stale, dusty air.
‘There you are!’
I turned to the accented male voice then wished I hadn’t as candle light pierced my eyes. I brought a hand up and felt fingers brush against my own. I almost pulled back but it was too late as the hand closed around mine and pulled me up.
‘I’ve been looking for you everywhere.’
I rubbed my eyes and tried to focus on him. He lowered the lantern, but it still gave enough light for me to see. He was tall and muscular, with a flushed red face that was smeared with black, just like his hands. He was wearing a bright yellow, though black dust covered, miner’s helmet and an undone loose dark grey shirt which was also covered in black dust. He smiled at me, his brilliant electric blue eyes lighting up as his large lips curled up.
‘You’ve been looking for me? Who are you?’ I asked.
He laughed, ‘did you hit your head again? It’s me, Dean.’
‘I don’t know any Deans and you sound American, I don’t know any of them either.’
‘Whoo, you did get hurt. Are you bleeding?’ he asked.
I patted myself down, ‘nope.’
‘Good, come on then,’ he stated and turned, ‘don’t forget your stuff!’
‘Stuff?’ I muttered and looked back.
In the dimming candle light, I saw a yellow helmet, a lantern, a small pickaxe and a hessian sack. I picked everything up, putting the helmet on my hand, the lantern in my right hand whilst the pickaxe and sack went in my left. I hurried after Dean, half stumbling over stones.
‘Can I light my candle?’ I called to him.
He turned and I almost slammed into his back.
‘It’s a good job I found you before the foreman did. Here,’ he said and opening the glass door of his lantern took out his candle. I quickly opened the door to mine and let him light the candle inside.
He growled a little before turning around and walking on. I followed, keeping my lantern low to see what I was walking on. Though I was desperate for him to confirm it, we seemed to be inside a coal mine. The floor was black with dust and small pieces of coal. The walls were the same, though there came a shimmer of silver in some areas of the narrow tunnel we were in.
We can to a cross roads and Dean carried straight on. I peered to the left then right, hearing people hamming away and disembodied voices drifting.
‘Where are we?’ I blurted, unable to stop the words.
The look Dean gave me over his shoulder made me stop. It was a mixture of concern, seriousness and anger. My bottom lip trembled and the lantern wobbled slightly in my hand.
‘You really did do it this time,’ Dean muttered with a shake of his head.
‘Please, just tell me!’ I demanded.
‘We need to get back up top. Don’t you know what to night is?’ Dean shot over his shoulder. When he saw my shaking head he continued, ‘our escape?’ he whispered.
‘Escape?’ I uttered.
‘Yeah. We’re getting out of here tonight, Abs. We’ve been planning this for ages. I’ll take you to AID first then you can have nap. You’ll feel better,’ Dean said softly.
I bit my lip, wanting to talk more but deciding against it as we turned a corner and found ourselves walking along a cart track. My boots scuffed across worn wooden planks and old iron nails. From up ahead, came the rumbling of a cart and Dean hurried into a nook in the wall. I followed and just squeezed in as lights bobbed up and a pony walked past hauling an empty wooden cart.
‘Hey!’ Dean called out and stepped out as the two people behind the cart went passed.
‘Hello,’ they replied together.
‘Ain’t you from day shift?’ one of them asked.
‘Yeah, just coming back. We’ve been down pretty deep,’ Dean responded casually.
I stepped out and eyed up the men. They were both tall, clean shaven and looked like brothers. They were wearing yellow helmets and loose shirts like Dean. They had stopped to talk, but the pony was trundling on.
‘Have you seen the day foreman?’ Dean continued.
‘They’ve all ready switched over,’ the first man replied, ‘you should get out of here man, we’ve blowing through some walls tonight.’
‘All right, thanks,’ Dean said and signalled for me to follow as he walked off.
We went through more tunnels which grew wider and had more branches leading off. Some had cart tracks or wooden walk ways. We passed people going in the opposite directions, but they and we didn’t exchange any words. Candle light shone off everything, yet was quickly swallowed by the black walls.
Dean led me through some large, hollowed out spaces were we saw small groups of people talking. Though I couldn’t hear what anyone was saying. We passed a few pony stations, which was made up of simple rickety wooden shelters and pens. There were some ponies resting and others eating. I resisted going over and stroking them.
Stepping out a large tunnel, I found myself in a massive cavern. In the rock wall opposite us, three cage lifts were fitted to the wall. A few people were queuing to get in and Dean walked over to the end of the line. I joined him and looked around. There were a number of small huts with signs declaring them as hot food, water, supplies and AID stands dotted around.
‘Didn’t you say something about that?’ I asked, looking over at the red cross painted sign.
‘We’ll go to the one up top,’ Dean said.
The queue moved as two lifts arrived at the same time. We got in the second one, the grill gate slamming shut behind us and rode up to the top.
To Be Continued…