“All is well! Come!” I shout, hoping the others will hear me through the barrier. I have taken my courage in hand and trust Lyra and Horin know what they are doing. I am alone outside of Arc.
Around me the night is still and cool, and wholesome. Until this moment I had not realised that sense of peace was in fact missing inside the bowl of mountains.
My relief is almost overwhelming when one of the women steps through with a child holding onto each hand. Swiftly all the children are gathered, and then Kay exits. He looks for me first, and my heart skips a beat.
“Let us move to that outcrop,” he says as he approaches. “It will be warmer for them.”
Together we herd the young to a jumble of large boulders, and then watch as men and women leave the confines of Arc. These are the Ilfin, and they are now free. Again my relief threatens to overwhelm me.
As I bend to listen to a girl asking about her mother, Kay grips my upper arm.
“It’s closing,” he whispers.
I see it too. The oval of darkness is shrinking. “Hurry!” I shout to those still to come through, but it is doubtful they are able to hear me.
The doorway between us and them snuffs out then.
We stare into a beautiful valley, such as it was when we first arrived, and see no people. Kay mutters about even the view being a damn mask, and he is right. What we see is not real.
I gaze up at the westerner at my side. It is up to us now. We are the leaders of this much reduced host.
He lowers his head to look at me. “We go east. Horin tells of a cave system.”
I know of it, yes. “Let us go.”