You hear it then: a tapping, the patter of fleshless fingertips between the stalactites. Overhead, blackness, impenetrable except for that sound and something else, almost inaudible, a keening pitch. Scree scatters before your boots, the darkness a precipice over which you dangle, every step your last. One more. Up ahead, a glimmer of light. One more. The entrance is in sight. One more. They are waiting for you, outside, unpacking the camp by torchlight and the glare of the Silver Moons. One more —
Silence descends over you like a fresh darkness. What of the tapping? Nothing, just that whine, needling into your ears, growing higher, cutting sharper. The dead wolf’s bite didn’t wound so deep. Your bark echoes around you. The blackness swallows it utterly, then spits it back in a scrabble of scratches and the flutter of wing beats. I imagine a mainsail filling over and over with competing winds, impossibly vast in the shadows. Run run run —
My every footfall kicks pebbles and stones, glottal pops marking my flight. One more step.
A smell washes over me, a rotting tide. One more step.
The entrance looms before me, my exit now, and I make out the silhouettes of my comrades, moving about camp. Is that their laughter I hear, or have I gone mad?
One more step —