The Forbidden Spark - Chapter 1

May 3 2020

Selenia gripped the cliff tightly with her right hand, feet parallel against a narrow hold in the rock. The entrance to the Great Gap lay a dozen feet below her, a long, narrow corridor separating the orc lands from her native Saphrin. She scanned the area, taking mental notes of any feature that might help establish tracking patterns, working to tell apart the natural state of her surroundings and the signs of someone's passage.

On the south wall, she noticed a recess in the stone, a narrow fissure perhaps just wide enough for her to fit through. She couldn't recall seeing it during the only other time she'd ventured here, a few days before. Though she'd spent plenty of time studying the Gap on a map, she was only now starting to physically venture close to its entrance. It was as dangerous as it was strategically important, a choke point through which any invading party was forced to travel, and very difficult to retreat from. But as perilous as the task at hand was, it was also a rite of passage. Any scout hoping to progress past Sergeant was expected to learn it inside and out, and she'd just been promoted to that rank.

Reluctantly, Selenia gave up the safety of the high ground and climbed down from the narrow ledge, careful not to pry any rock loose from the wall.

Her back against the north bluff, she looked over her shoulder down the corridor stretching westward. Only wide enough to fit two or perhaps three people abreast, the Gap was disconcertingly straight. It ran between sheer bluffs, offering no cover of any kind, no shelter or recess to conceal the presence of someone traveling through. Though she did not see any hostiles, she continued peering down the path. A long, straight lane like this concentrated all of its relevant information into a tiny viewport, making spotting as small a detail as a faraway orc near impossible. So she focused on discerning motion instead, making sure that no unusual shift registered in her vision. Satisfied, she made her move.

In a swift, quiet motion, Selenia crossed the short distance to the south bluff and pressed her back flat against it, near the fissure. She closed her eyes and steadied her breathing, listening for any sign of motion. Hearing nothing, she slipped into the opening, light on her feet.

She stayed just inside the entrance for a few moments, letting her eyes adjust to the darkness. The hollow continued deeper into the rock, widening into a chamber whose dimensions she could not yet gauge. She slowly ventured further inside, stepping carefully, keeping her back to the outside so as not to let the daylight reset her adjusting vision. After taking half a dozen steps, her foot bumped into a soft object, its contents jingling softly upon impact. Startled, she crouched down to prod it, her fingers quickly identifying a leathery texture with folds and strings. Some kind of bag, or satchel.

Selenia could feel her pulse thumping at her temples as she slowly slid her hand under the container's outer fold, finding a small opening tied closed by a string. A sharp point pricked her fingers as they wiggled inside, and she let out a muffled gasp. Deciding to submit the contents of the bag to further examination under proper daylight, she went to pick it up.

A wave of deep fear washed over her as she felt a force tugging back on it, and suddenly yanking it out of her hands. A deep growl spread through the cave.

She turned around to face the exit and froze with the realization that a head mounted on broad shoulders now blocked most of the daylight. She took a sharp breath and held it, a surge of panic tensing every muscle in her body. As she stepped backwards, her back bumped against something, or as she realized when a strong grip began crushing her upper arm, someone. Attempting to jerk herself free only tightened her assailant's grasp, and a backwards kick of the heel accomplished as little as the thrusts of her flailing elbows. The form by the entrance grew larger, quickly closing in on her.