I felt Oswin’s arm grip my waist as we fell into the darkness. The ground started to close above us, but the creature’s dark laughter echoed around us. The corner of the box was digging into my side and bruised my ribs as we collided onto a hard surface.
Oswin pulled a lighter from his pocket and brought it to life to illuminate the damp cavern surrounding us. I stood up and wiped my slick hands on my jeans. My right side was wet from landing the cave floor.
“I think I know where we can get some help,” he sighed and looked up at me. “We’ll have time to talk about this, but not right now. I have questions for you too – like what’s wrong with you.”
“I know. I shouldn’t have taken it, but…” the look of disbelief on his face stopped me mid-sentence. “But, we can talk about it later.”
We quickly moved toward the absolute darkness and I was glad that the lighter kept it at bay. Shadows flickered in the corners of the cave chambers and occasionally I heard feet scuttling across the cave floors and stalagmites. When I thought I heard humming behind us, I convinced myself that it was my fear of the darkness that felt like it was going to swallow us.
As we moved into the next chamber and turned the corner, I heard a much heavier set of feet land in the room we had just left and my eyes widened. The lighter flicked off and a hand clamped tightly over my mouth as I was dragged behind a pile of rocks. The heavy footsteps moved into the chamber and the erratic scuttling of the little feet I had heard following us followed.
A peal of high-pitched laughter rebounded through the cave and the humming started up again a few feet in front of where we hid. Oswin’s hand pressed harder against my mouth and he held his breath. The small footsteps stopped and I heard it take in a slow deep breath before beginning to hum again.
A sharp talon scraped across the rock in front of us making me cringe with the abrasive noise. A deep Scandinavian voice spoke in the darkness.
“The tree sings to us, Oswin. We will have it.”
The heavy footsteps began to move farther into the cave and then stopped before slowly moving back in our direction.