(I missed a day but shh)
Jason called from ahead. “Uh, guys. I think you need to see this.”
The party hurried forward, pushing through the thick vines and branches to join Jason. He was standing at the edge of a steep cliff that was so high, no one, not even Artemis with her sharp eyes, could see the ground at the bottom.
Jason pointed ahead. “Don’t look down, look up.”
Arion could hear a gasp; he wasn’t sure whether it was himself or someone else. A long, winding river stretched out through the rolling hills in front of them, cutting through the green expanse dotted here and there with patches of white flowers.
“It’s beautiful,” Amarantha whispered, voicing everyone’s thoughts.
“I don’t think such a place can exist in this part of the country,” Dee said with a frown.
“That’s because we’re no longer in the country,” Jason pointed out grimly. “I don’t think we’re even on Earth anymore.”
“That’s possible.” Roran drew up beside Nephthys, who didn’t seem very interested, and nudged her. “Remember this?”
“Rivers of Peace and Harmony,” she sighed, with a small smile. “I recall when I taught Nara to lift the water over our heads. She was delighted, until she dropped it out of amazement and soaked both of us.”
Roran chuckled softly, and Arion found himself trying to keep from glaring at him. Instead he focused on the beautiful landscape ahead.
“How are we going to get down?” Winter asked.
“There should be some rappelling lines around here,” Roran muttered, rustling through the bushes.
“It’s over here, genius,” Nephthys laughed, pointing to the rope on the opposite side of the clearing, hanging from a tree and coiling on the ground. “Remember, we tied it to a branch so no one would steal it.”
“Oh. Yeah.” Roran scaled the tree and untied the rope.
Nephthys took it from him as he approached, then hauled herself over the edge of the cliff. While balancing precariously on the bluff, she tied the rope around a spur of rock that jutted out of the smooth cliffside. “We can only go one at a time,” she called up, moving to the side, “so someone come down first.”
They all argued about it, and eventually Dee was voted first. He scrambled down the cliffside with Nephthys’s help, clutching the rope tightly. After some time, Nephthys returned, scampering up like a spider.
One after another, everyone went down, until Arion was the only one left, as even Winter had flown down already. He hesitated as he stared down, but Nephthys grabbed his hand and squeezed it reassuringly. “It’s not as hard as it seems.”
He tried to calm down as he clung to the rope; it was now his lifeline. Little by little, Nephthys guided him down, pointing out the best places to put his hands and feet as he slid closer to the ground. It wasn’t long before he felt the tall grass brush his ankles, and he dropped into the flowers eagerly, ready to be on solid ground again.
Nephthys knelt beside the river, letting the crystal clear water flow around her hands as she plunged them in. “It’s just as beautiful as I remember,” she murmured softly. Arion wasn’t sure anyone was meant to hear, and he realized he was the only one close enough to hear it anyway.
“I think it’s time we got moving.” Cara-delle rose out of the grass.
“You didn’t climb down.” Artemis frowned at her. “How’d you get down here?”
The russet fox shrugged. “I flew,” she muttered, and Arion couldn’t tell if she was being sarcastic or not. Obviously, Artemis could not either.
“Cara-delle’s right,” Jason grumbled. “As much as I’d love to stay here, we have to keep moving.”
Arion looked around for the strange fox again. She was gone.