The First Sdhlain: Sdhlai 1
Rocks clattered down, down,
down as she skidded to a stop at the edge of the Cliff.
Damn, she muttered. If I had a coin, I think it'd make
better decisions than me. I'm going to die either
The snap of a not-so-distant twig made her wince. Only one way
back, and it had just been blocked. Surprise, surprise. Mouth open
to shed some heat, she dropped to her belly and peered over the
edge. The last moon was close to setting and the depths were a
uniform midnight blue but the weathered finger of rock she clung to
still shone like old bone. Only a snaggle of iron bush roots broke
the smooth service, and they led nowhere. Undercut on all sides the
rock face offered no sanctuary. If there was a ledge down there
then only a spider could reach it.
For a moment she toyed with the idea of climbing over the edge and
hiding but she knew that that would only postpone the end. They
were big and slow and awkward, but they weren't stupid. The thought
of hanging like a fruit waiting to be plucked made her gag. If only
she hadn't chosen this path, this stupid, stupid path. There were
only three of them. If she'd just left herself room to manoeuvre
she could have run rings around them all . . .
A heavy step vibrated up through the rock and into her belly.
Almost here. Weakness rooted her to the rock. She didn't want to
die, especially like that . . . falling . . . yet the alternative .
. . Digging her fingers into the cracks she shuddered. Caught like
a snarhg, a filthy, sneaking snarhg. No, worse than a snarhg
because they were dangerous when cornered . . . she was quick and
agile but no match for what chased her.
Another step rippled through the rock but this time she didn't even
feel it. I'm smart . . . Weariness forgotten she scrambled to her
feet, teeth bared in a feral grin. Only moments remained now but
her movements were sure and unhurried, as if time no longer
mattered. There was time to slide behind the remains of the iron
bush; time to grasp its scaly stem; time to lower herself over the
edge. More than enough time for her left foot to find that V-shaped
tangle in the roots, to become rock.
Clinging by one hand and one foot, the top of her head level with
the cliff edge, she couldn't see anything, but then she didn't need
to. Each step was a vibration through her skin, a crunch in her
ears, a sour waft in her nostrils. Closer, closer . . . then a
'huh' of surprise. Above her, a shadow detached itself from the
gloom, hunkering down to peer cautiously over the edge . . .
Like a snake her right hand whipped out, grasped and then she was
launching herself backwards into the void. For one gut-wrenching
moment they both hung there and she thought she'd failed, thought
her momentum had not been enough and then, slowly, like a tree, he
toppled and was gone.
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Last Updated: 2002.11.17.2217