The plume of steam stole his sense of direction, but he knew which way was down when they hit the water. He tumbled back, landing in a pool of twiggy arms and legs. All that was heard was the panting of children and the thunder of the storm swirling over them like an inverted whirlpool. Their teeth chattered and, like him, they shivered madly in the frigid hours of the night.
Shortly after, they ran aground in the soft soil of the cave. Over the course of several long minutes, the tangled mass of kids discombobulated themselves and set to tending to their injuries, satisfying their immense hunger by way of edible mosses and flowers, and seeking shelter from the rain coming from the few cracks in the cavern’s roof. Raven heated small rocks for warmth with Emma’s staff.
Catching his breath and waiting for Raven to come to his end of the group, Tracer took in his surroundings. So we haven’t gone through one of the main waterfalls at all, he thought, just a minor outlet into this giant place. That’s fine and dandy not to be drowned, but it’s still absurdly cold.
It was a surprisingly large quarry, and a deep one at that. The entrance to it was almost straight up a steep slope, a lot like the one they’d tumbled down. He wondered if it led somewhere, maybe to a tributary of the river. If it did, it would plummet down the sharp twists and turns of the cliffs, run between the growing fields, and flow under the great Wall into the lifeless land beyond. That’s what they’d been told. But there was nothing he’d been told anymore that he could trust, except the knowledge that he had fiercely loyal friends, and they were in the same cave as he was. And Emma, wherever they’d locked her up, and if she was still…
Exhausted and shaken and unsure what to do next, if he could do anything, Tracer stared up through the entrance. Between the sweeping curtains of rain, he saw no stars, and horribly red moons, and…a strange, flickering glow on the clouds.
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