The stairway is carved by nature and therefore twists where one least expects it to. Willing hands have made adjustments to ease the way, but it remains dangerous. Especially when this wet and particularly in the dead of night.
My cloak does not help either. After it has snagged three times on exposed roots as we go down, I finally tuck the flapping ends into my belt. My feet are my eyes. Never has my heart thudded this fast. With every step I expect to plunge into the abyss.
Then we hear it. I am not the only one who comes to a halt on the twisting decline.
Water. Rushing, churning, gurgling. Insane water.
Ahead, Mirlin reignites the lantern. The resultant glow reveals three men poised in various stages of descent before me, my own precarious position, and Damin looking down into the darkness behind me. It also touches on a swirling mass of black water.
My gut hollows. That is a torrent. It may kill all of us.
Mirlin looks back … at Damin. In his eyes there is doubt. Perhaps even fear.
“We have no choice,” Damin mutters, and I feel his warmth as he steps carefully onto the level I occupy in this moment. Raising his voice, he says, “Go on.”
Nodding, Mirlin continues. Soon he vanishes as a curve in the way hides him. When we reach the same place, I see two boats on a shelf of rock. In the dry the shelf would be high off the marsh; now the floodwaters have risen to mere inches from the filthy hulls.
The two others are already tossing camouflage aside. The dead branches are swallowed so swiftly into the current, my breath shortens. Many have already died in that insane current. We may soon join them.