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~ Previous Chapter ~
Ah, the moment we’ve all been waiting for (although probably not like this).
Happy New Year!
DERRAIN WAS FALLING behind. It was one thing to be told to run and to know that running would save his life, but it was difficult to do so when his body had barely learnt how to walk again, let alone run. He tried, gods knew he tried, but his stiff muscles, weak legs and aching back betrayed him, widening the gap between him and the others, further and further, until the crumbling ceiling began pummelling his shoulders with pebbles. A fist-sized rock struck his heel, sending him sprawling on hands and knees into a fizzing pool of water. Cracks spread beneath his shuddering hands, draining the water away as swiftly as his hope.
He couldn’t get up. He couldn’t stand, let alone walk. He couldn’t run. He was done.
Another rock struck his shoulder and Derrain cried out, rolling against a massive boulder poking out of the ground at an angle. Seeing the shadow of an opening beneath, Derrain kicked, shoved and wriggled his way inside, gasping and hissing as more rocks struck his exposed legs.
Until, suddenly, they stopped.
The roaring and shuddering continued, but under Derrain’s boulder things were still. He gasped desperate, panting breaths, pressing his cheek against the sodden ground, and slowly, surely, the chaos stopped.
He sighed with relief, breathing in deep of the damp air – and felt his back brush the boulder above him. So close. Too close. He dragged his protesting, aching, pain-filled body around in a circle, so that he was no longer lying face down on the slight slope. It was difficult, the fit being tight and space limited, but he scratched, clawed and squeezed himself to face the other direction – and found the entrance blocked.
“No,” he whispered, scrabbling with his hands and finding only sharp rocks and immovable debris.
“No.” He tried to push up, fingers sliding in the cold mud, back pressing hard against solid rock.
He was trapped – and unlike last time, there was barely space for him to breathe.
“Oh, gods,” he sobbed, trying to hold it together in the darkness, knowing it wouldn’t last.
The cavern had fallen in on top of him. He was trapped and he didn’t even know if anyone had survived to rescue him.
“Oh, gods.” Closing his eyes, Derrain pressed his forehead to the slick mud and began to pray.
* * *
“HURRY. HURRY. QUICK!” Mhysra could do nothing but watch in horror as the cavern cracked and collapsed on top of her friends. Clinging to her ledge, she urged them to go faster and faster, until the cloud of dust forced her to turn aside and pull her thin sleep shirt up to cover her face.
Desperate shrieks made her look again, and she barely move aside in time before a miryhl bounded over her, sliding to the back of the ledge before turning, panting and ready to fight. Another miryhl, another, then a fourth. Though shallow, the ledge was long enough to accommodate each of them, and Mhysra drank in the sight of them. Then a boot slapped against stone and Dhori was beside her, turning to reach back for the pale hand stretching out of the dust.
Mhysra grabbed it too, and together they pulled Jaymes out of the collapsing cavern, Emberbright clinging to his back.
They waited, poised on the edge of safety, squinting against the dust, flinching from shrapnel and shards of debris. Nothing. The ground stopped shaking, the ceiling stopped falling and eventually even the dust settled.
Mhysra looked at the four miryhls, the two men and dragonet beside her, then at the hefty pile of rock in front of them, eyes wide, heart racing.
“Stirla?” Atyrn limped to the front of the ledge, scraping her talons across the ruins. “Stirla!” She began to dig frantically, screaming her Rider’s name. Zephyr soon joined her, crying out for Derrain. Jaymes crouched between them, pulling away smaller rocks with silent determination.
Mhysra could only sit back, trembling as all four miryhls dug, and even Emberbright took part, trying to burn a way through the wreckage.
“Lyrai?” she whispered, drawing the attention of Dhori, who stood watching the activity with burning silver eyes. “Hurricane?”
He shook his head. “They fell behind.”
Along with Stirla and Derrain.
She’d heard them, Lyrai and Derrain, calling her name before the cracks appeared and the world caved in. After all this time, having travelled all this way, and now, right at the last, she’d lost them all over again.
“No,” she whispered, dragging herself to where Zephyr dug with fierce determination. “No.” She would not give them up. Not now. Not when they’d come so close.
Grabbing the nearest rock, Mhysra gripped it with shaking hands and lifted it aside with a grunt of effort and pain. She would not give them up, none of them, not a single one. She dug. Even as her back seized up, her pelvis burned with fresh pain and her nails cracked and tore, she refused to give up or in. Not now. Throughout it all, the others dug alongside her, bringing the only hope into this darkest of places.
Because as awful as it was, as painful as their arrival had been, at least she wasn’t alone anymore. Catching Jaymes’ eye, she shared a determined nod as they worked alongside each other again. It was good to be back.
~ Next Chapter ~
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