In this excerpt, The Six are just entering the caverns and tunnels through the mountains. They are accompanied by the elf princess named Anusha, the young dragons named Ardopla and Parmaka who are the size of horses, and Griff, a young griffin. Again, a disclaimer – this is an unedited draft and may not be exactly the same in the published version.
The kids and the animals fell in line with Anusha at the lead. With all the twists and turns around blue stalagmites and stalactites and various blue knobs and stones, the kids were already worried about losing their way, but Anusha assured them they were headed in the general direction of east.
Soon they arrived at a huge arch that Anusha said they would pass through. Standing beneath it, Grayson looked up and estimated the thing rose at least two hundred feet.
He turned to look at Grant. “Arches are inherently unstable. Architects have special forms, special patterns to construct arches to make them steady and secure. You think nature knows the rules?”
Grant raised his eyebrows, “You worried it will collapse on us? It looks like it’s been here for a few years, like thousands. Chances are it won’t decide to collapse just as we pass under it. Just don’t cough, anyone!”
With a warning like that, of course, every one of them got a tickle, even the animals. Trying to speed along and ignore their tickles, they became more and more tense. Suddenly, Griff coughed long and loud. The whole group came to a standstill and peered upwards.
Grant laughed, “I was only joking about the coughing.”
The others just stared at him. Finally, Mady threatened, “You wanna get kicked off this team? You wanna find your way through this maze on your own?”
Grant merely grinned. He knew they wouldn’t kick him out of the group. Would they? His smile faded, and he mumbled, “Sorry,” just in case.
Passing through the arch brought them into a massive hallway or tunnel. Suddenly the blues were gone and the light was dimmer. Everything looked a gray-green
“Kinda dark,” Grant mumbled, still a little worried about being kicked out of the group.
“We’re now past the light from the cavern mouth, and this dim light is the lichen I told you about. Like I said, not bright but you can see where to put your feet – and no jokes, Grant,” said Anusha.
She looked at Grant as though expecting him to make a joke, anyway. He looked back with big, innocent eyes.
“We need to be alert. You never know what may be lurking behind the big rocks or in the crevasses in the walls,” said Anusha. “Will, maybe you can tell the animals to be alert, too.”
Now that was scary. Put on alert already! They were barely into the cave. And the dim light was hardly brighter than moonlight in the woods. Will glowed and went unfocused. He was mindspeaking to Parmaka, Ardopla, and Griff. He nodded to Anusha, and she led them forward.
Tense and worried after Anusha’s warning, they continued on their way, looking all around for monsters. It was hard to continue to concentrate on being alert, though. They were not yet accustomed to the dark and the floor of the tunnel was not smooth. Not at all. Stones, large and small, littered the path they were walking on. So although trying to be alert, watching their steps took part of their concentration. Walking through that rubble was noisy, too, so they were straining to listen for anything that might be sneaking around in there.
Suddenly, a loud screech echoed through the cavern! As tense as they were, the kids jumped, spun around, and shrieked. The dragons and Griff made weird noises and plastered themselves against the kids. Being bigger than horses, the dragons knocked the kids down. Seven kids on the ground yelled at the animals.
“Don’t step on me!”
“Move off me!”
After a few minutes, it was hard to know if they were yelling at the animals or at the each other. And the animals were still making frightened noises. The cavern echoed with all the yelling and stumbling around. Finally everyone was sorted out and back on their feet.
“What was that noise?” asked Leyton. “It was horrible.”
“Screechers,” Anusha said. “They can be mean and dangerous, but they may not be so near. Their screeches travel a long way.”
“Well, we made so much noise anyone within a mile now knows we’re here,” said Grant. “It was sort of like ringing the dinner bell. Dinner’s here. Come and get it.”
“Not funny, Grant,” said Mady. “I’m warning you. I’ll throw you out of the group with my ring.”
“So I’ll go invisible. You won’t be able to find me to throw me anywhere.”
“Come on, you guys,” said Will. “We’re all tired and tense. Ragging on each other isn’t going to make this trek any easier.”
Grant and Mady looked at each other sheepishly. They hung their heads. At the same time, like a duet, they said, “Sorry.”
Their heads shot up, and they grinned. Then they started laughing. Soon the whole group was laughing. Except the animals.
Garrett thought they were grinning. But it’s hard to tell when an eagle beak and two dragon snouts are grinning.