Achara pulled the hood of her cloak over her head to block the wind that was still coming out of the west. It was not as strong as it had been the night before. It was chilly, but not cold, and the skies were mostly clear. The moons gave the empty mesa an otherworldly glow that looked like one could walk off the edge and fall into an abyss.
Achara closed her eyes and reached out, specifically focusing on the feelings that she had felt with the passing of her vision. Nothing. She regrouped and instead focused on trying to find any presence at all. She immediately found those in the library, and she ruled them out immediately. She extended her projection well beyond the perimeter that she was accustom to, going further still. Still nothing. She reined her projection back in and then extended it out again, this time focusing more on thoughts of Camon. Her presence was soaring now. She felt like she had extended herself well beyond what she was capable of doing, but she kept pushing further and further.
When she thought that she had gone far enough, she reined it back in, double checking for anything she might have missed. Then she noticed something that caused the hair on her arm to rise. The tingling sensation then resonated down her spine, and she paused to redouble her efforts going back and forth over the presence, and with each pass, the feeling returned. “Camon,” she whispered. She focused her efforts on the location. She wasn’t quite sure exactly what direction to go in, but she generally knew it was east. She deduced that based on her vision that Camon would be somewhere on the Red Wall east of the library.
She kicked Soam lightly in the flank, and the horse took off across the mesa to the north along with Appon that she was leading under in the moonlit night. The horses moved swiftly and steadily until she came to the edge of the mesa overlooking the salt flat when she turned east and rode steadily along the edge of the mesa. She rode for several miles before she stopped. She reached out again, focusing on Camon. The sensation returned this time only stronger. “I’m getting closer,” she whispered. She picked up the pace along the edge riding steadily for several more miles, and she checked again. The sensation now felt like it could burn her. She then started shouting, “Camon! Camon, where are you?” She rode more slowly, now checking more often and still shouting. This process kept up for about half an hour until the sensation felt like fire on her skin. She was sure she was right on top of him by now.
She dismounted and went over to the edge of the cliff and looked down. Several hundred feet below, she saw a ledge. She could make out the remains of the beast coiled up on one end of the ledge, but she could not see Camon. She shouted out even louder than before, “Camon! Are you down there?” She waited, but there was no answer. She was confident that this had to be the place. She went back to the horses and unloaded everything that she had taken from the stables. She emptied the contents of the bag onto the ground and sorted it out. She then connected several lengths of rope and formed one long piece. She tied it off to a large boulder near the edge, looping it several times to ensure that it didn’t come loose. She then took the loose end along with the bulk of the rope and threw it over the edge of the cliff towards the ledge. It landed on the ledge with rope to spare.
Achara went back to the tack and examined it. She had a few bits from a bridle and rings that connected the leather that she thought might be useful. She removed her dagger from her waist and cut the leather from the bridles, then worked on improvising a descending device and ascending device with a short piece of rope that she had left. When she was satisfied, she fashioned a second one of each from other bridles she had found in her bag. She then took the pieces of leather from the bridle and made a harness about her waist with two loops. The first one went under her seat and the other for the small of her back. She put all the parts together and, along with the short piece of rope, tested the full set of improvised gear. It was crude but functional, but most importantly, it held her weight.
Once she was satisfied with the harness, she put everything else back in one of the saddlebags and used the short piece of rope to serve as a strap. She slung it around her shoulder and took her ascending and descending devices along with her harness and went to the rope. She put on her harness, then attached both descending devices to the harness, then attached the descending devices to the rope she had thrown over the edge. She leaned back against the boulder to test her weight against the harness and the descenders again. Everything held according to design. She then went to the edge, breathed deeply, and lowered herself over the edge of the cliff.
She tried not to look down as she descended, focusing only on the rock face in front of her. She took her time, one step at a time over the edge of the cliff, making sure that each step had a sure footing before taking the next. The descent was as clean and perpendicular as an artificial wall, so it made the descent much easier than she had expected. After nearly twenty minutes of lowering herself down, she finally felt herself touch the ledge, then she looked down at her feet and sighed with relief. She glanced around the ledge and noticed the bones strewn about and the massive beast she had seen from above. She grimaced at the sight of the serpent even though she could not see its face. She had no idea if the beast was sleeping or dead, but it had not moved since she first noticed it.
She then spotted Camon slumped forward with his left arm out. His right arm was bound in a sling, and the immediate area around was clear of bones and debris. Given that Camon was there and the beast hadn’t moved, she assumed that Camon had somehow managed to slay it, so any caution she had concerning the creature was lifted. She unhitched herself and threw off the bag of tack as quickly as she could and ran to his side and put her arms around him, “Camon, I’m here! It’s me!” There was no response. She then pulled him back to lay him down in the ground. As she did, he let out a moan and noticed he was breathing. Joy overcame her, knowing that he wasn’t dead. She sat there holding him for a moment, as tears of joy flooded her face. “I knew it,” she whispered. “I just knew it!”
After her moment of elation, she went back to work. She looked around on the ground beside him, and she found his sword, five small colored stones, and a book. She knew the sword and stones but had never seen the book. She opened it and flipped through it, not knowing what she was looking at. She guessed it was something personal, so she put it with his other things in the saddlebag. She then contemplated how she was going to get Camon in his state back up the cliff. She surmised that she could rig up a harness for him, then use his body weight as an anchor while she ascended. She would then use the horses up top to help hoist him up. It all sounded good to her, at least in theory. She went back to the rope she had descended on and cut off the excess and rigged up a harness made of loops like she had made from the bridles for herself. For Camon, she fashioned a loop for under his thighs, for the small of his back, for the middle of his back, then for his shoulders.
She then sat him up, wrapped her arms around his chest from the back, and dragged him over to the rope. She fashioned the harness to the rope, then one loop at a time put Camon into place so that his body was resting on the loops in the harness about a foot above the ground. She retrieved the remnant of the cloth that Camon had used to fashion his sling with, and she wrapped it around his head and made a support for it. The only thing touching the ground was his feet. With Camon hanging on the rope, Achara then slung her saddlebag, got back in her harness, but this time attached her ascending devices to the harness, then to the rope.
She then started the ascent back up the cliff. She took one step up, then repositioned her ascender higher up the rope, then took the next, repeating this process over and over. Surprisingly to herself, she made good time ascending and reached the top in almost as much time as it had taken her to go down. Once she was at the top, she took some time to rest. She then got the horses and repurposed her harness to team the two horses together between the saddles. She then took one of the saddlebags over to the ledge and worked it between the ledge and the rope so the rope would slide more easily across the leather than the ground. She worked on untying the rope from the boulder, and as the end came loose, she attached it to the harness between the two horses. Then just as she was about to finish untying it, she gave a command to the horses who put tension on the rope. She removed it from the boulder, and the weight shifted from the boulder to the horses without any sudden drop.
Achara then went to the edge and then gave another signal, and the horses started to pull gently. She guided the rope as the horses pulled it further across the mesa. She tried to keep Camon from twisting, turning, or swinging wildly. Inch by inch, he came up. It was painstakingly slow, but Achara did not care. She wanted him back safely rather than quickly. It took nearly an hour, but finally, Camon reached the top of the mesa. Just as he got near the ledge, Achara carefully reached over and brought him over the edge of the cliff head and shoulders first as the horses drug him on top. Achara gave a signal, and the horses stopped. She then checked him for any injuries. None. She then squealed with joy and clapped.
At that, she removed the makeshift harness from Camon as well as the head wrapping. She then summoned the horses, who then came back to her. She coaxed Appon to a lying position. With a great effort, she dragged Camon over to the horse and placed him in the saddle. She then laid him forward over the horse’s neck and got the horse to stand. She then took a piece of rope and tied Camon’s wrists together around the horse’s neck and secured his feet in the stirrups. After she secured Camon, she retrieved the saddlebag and then mounted her own horse. She looked back at Camon and stood tall in her saddle, then started back for the library.
She went back to the middle of the mesa, where she had discovered the waymarkers, and she quickly spotted them in the moonlight. She then turned west back towards the library at full gallop. Camon let out a moan as they rode back towards the library, and Achara turned and looked at him. He was still passed out on the horse, but he seemed to be reacting to the pain of the cantering horse as they traveled across the mesa. She slowed her pace some to minimize the jostling but then reckoned that he wasn’t conscious, so she resumed a brisker pace. The ride back seemed to take forever, but when she saw the opening to the library, she let out a sigh of relief and dismounted her horse, leading her and Camon back down the tunnel into the darkness.