Comet stopped short of exiting the forest. The rain was beginning to pick up, dark clouds hanging over the cliffs like a bad omen. I tried to spur him onward but he wouldn’t budge.
Hopping down, “I think we are on our own Miss Ella.”
I reached up and gave her my hand. She jumped off the horse and landed very neatly in the muddy conditions. “It is probably for the best. The terrain from this point on will not do well for our friend.”
I brought my head close to his. “Do you know the way back to our camp boy?”
His large brown eyes gave off such intelligence. He gave a short headshake and a long neigh. I think he was telling us to be careful. He turned around and stampeded off, back into the relative safety of the forest. Now it was just the two of us, with the ominous cliffs casting their impressive shadow.
We quietly walked into the narrow valley that separated the two large sections of rock. In the background, I heard the sounds of water crashing, a rather curious sound. “Miss Ella, what is that noise I hear?”
She lifted her ear to give a good listen. “I believe you are hearing waves hitting rock John. Have you never seen the sea before?”
I didn’t even know what a ‘sea’ was. “I can’t say I have my lady. Is it something I need to worry about?”
Her laugh was very light and melodic. “Oh no, it is just a large body of water that separates our land from others. The sea is a beautiful, yet mysterious place.”
“The world needs more beauty in it.”
“I could not agree more my friend.”
There was no need to continue the conversation, as we had work to do. Ella seemed to know where she was going and in the conditions, it was best to let her lead. I was well aware that soon we’d need to start climbing the steep cliffs, but that didn’t mean I was looking forward to it.
She suddenly stopped. Feeling the rock with her hand, “This is our spot.”
I looked up, just in time for a flash of lightning to illuminate the sky. “Not that I question your judgment, but you are sure about this?”
She closed her eyes and placed the side of her heard against the hard surface of the cliff. “I can hear the cache, calling my name. Strange magic is in the air John.”
Magic – something that was neither provable nor easily seen. Some believed in it whole heartedly. Others chalked it up to a higher power guiding us. I was of the mind that there were many things in this world that were unexplainable. If she felt this was the spot, who was I to argue?
The cliff wouldn’t be an easy climb. “I hardly see any places to put your feet or hands.”
“Follow my lead John. We can do this, but it will be tough.”
I saw how sure she was; she placed her foot on the rock and lifted herself up. The falling rain didn’t seem at all to stop her. As she pulled herself higher on the wall, I had no choice but to follow. I kept my head facing up and started praying to the higher power I knew was watching over me.
It felt like we were climbing forever. My shoulders were burning and I could barely keep my eyes open – sweat and water continuously found their way into them. I was sure I was just moments from falling. “I’m sorry Miss Ella.”
A hand grabbed my arm. “One more pull John, I know you can do it!”
She was on her knees, holding on. We’d made it! I put my hand on the ledge and pushed up hard with my legs. I slipped once against the wet rock, yet Ella never let go. Straining, not knowing if I had anymore to give, I tried once again. This time my foot kept hold and I was able to overcome my pain to make it. I collapsed on the ledge, not having any more effort to give.
Ella leaned down beside me. How did she still have any energy? “Take a moment to compose yourself.” A cold wind rushed over us. “We have made it to the cave holding the weapons. Our task grows exponentially harder from here.”
I remembered a word her father told us. “Ella, what’s a Gryndel?”
She shuttered at the mention. “It is not a what, but a whom. He is foul creature my father and his father before banished to these cliffs. I have only heard stories, yet I do not wish to tell them to you. If you have no fear before battle, the warrior inside will come out. ”
We were welcomed by a vicious howl from the interior of the cave. “I think he knows we’re here.”
*Come back next week as the story continues in The Gryndel Rises!
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