I remembered hearing about a book where this guy went hunting for a lost tribe He had no idea what he was really doing, I don't think. Oh, he knew basics, but when it came to culture beliefs, he didn't have a clue. Didn't seem to take it seriously.
It didn't end well.
Oh, he got out -- and that gave me some hope for my own current troubles -- but he stumbled around and got into a lot of trouble because he just didn't know what to look for or what to ask. The people he lived with didn't know what to tell him, either. Assumptions on all sides are very dangerous.
May your sacrifice be worth the gift.
I should be asking questions, I thought. Should really be asking things . . . But I hadn't a clue what those questions should be. Was it too late to turn back? I stopped and turned to see where we had already passed. The odd mist wasn't as thick that way. I could see the little guys still lined up and the rest of those following me trudging along the path.
"I fear I may have done something stupid," I said to Edmond and Lord Snow.
"I can't decide," Lord Snow said. He lifted his head and sniffed at the air ahead of us. "I can't sense anything at all that way, so whatever is out there, it's a long ways off, Mark."
"And what do we do when we get there?"
"Whatever we have to," Edmond replied. He jumped out of my arms and trotted ahead a few steps. "I don't much like what they said about sacrifice either, but I got the feeling that maybe they're a little insular. They don't leave their little place in the world. I've known cats like that. They guard their turf as though it was the most important place in the world, and have no idea that there's a better place just a couple blocks away. They're totally disconnected with anything but where they stand."
"I suppose I've known people like that too," I admitted. "But it's not like anything has gone really good since I arrived, you know. From the moment you started talking to me, Edmond, it's been one form of insanity after another."
"It has been exciting," he admitted with a flick of his tail. "More exciting than I've liked at times. But we can't go back, Mark. We can't even go back along this bridge, at least not until we find out there really is a danger up ahead that we can't deal with because we know what kind of trouble we face behind us."
That sounded reasonable.
"I don't like this mist," Lord Snow admitted. He swatted at one patch and it glided out of his way rather than let him hit. "I would almost rather be walking down in that jungle than up here."
Mark looked over the edge of the bridge to the bright green world below. Birds flew and animals gave distant shouts. Trees rose up and tangled with ivy. Bright flowers dotted the canopy and though he couldn't see much below it, I still expected to see dinosaurs.
And while I looked over, one of the misty shapes drifted closer to me. When I swatted at it, the thing didn't retreat in haste like it had from Lord Snow. Maybe I simply wasn't scary enough.
"You know, I can understand the little guys living in the middle of the bridge and never going any farther." I patted a vine that grew up on the edge of the bridge, laden with fruit. "Safe here, really, compared to what we went through and what's below. I don't know what's ahead. Above --"
I looked up for the first time in a while and could see distant sky through openings in the rock and dark sky above. No way to get there, though.
"Above is a long ways off," Edmond said. "And probably less safe than down below. Haven't seen any griffins down here."
"I'd rather know what enemies we do fight," Lord Snow snarled and took another swat at one of the creatures. It did retreat again. "And I am getting annoyed with these filmy things. I hope we don't have to deal with them the entire rest of the way."
Another came at me. I swatted at it with a little snarl of my own, and felt a rubbery surface where my finger's touched. That seemed odd for a mist. I batted when it came closer again. Maybe they were balloon-like, and I could simply shove the thing --
It caught hold of my arm.
"Let go!" I ordered and jerked away again.
It didn't let go. The creature elongated, grabbed more of my arm, grew more limbs and grabbed my legs. Or maybe more of them came. Lord Snow let out a roar and leapt in, using claws this time. It worked. Once the creature had been punctured, it disappeared in a flash of mist.
"Claws," I said. "Good. We need to warn the others to keep something sharp and ready."
I rubbed at my arm and turned to look back at the others. I could see Maggie in the lead, still holding the symbol of her status in Elsewhere so that the staff rose above the others and the emblem glowed. It probably helped them to know she was there --
Something caught my leg. I snarled and kicked. Lord Snow had moved a head, swiping at more of the creatures. Edmond, though, had turned back and came at a leaping bound, biting at the creature.
But another came behind me and grabbed so fast that I hadn't even a chance to yell as it pulled me off the side of the bridge.
"No!" Edmond yelled and leapt, latching onto my leg.
I would have ordered him back if there had been time.
The thing let go.
We were falling.
To Be Continued. . . .