"Hey, that's odd."
"Not now, Kieran." Halana shook her head in annoyance as the three scavengers jogged back to the main room. "We're on a schedule." The tendrils had retreated according to plan when Sarn had hit the switch, but she was still feeling jumpy from the sheer number of them that had been facing her.
"The defense orbs don't actually link to each other, though." Kieran smiled faintly. "They must be distance-based, and just set for convienience. I bet we could carry them if we needed to."
"Why in the hells would we need that?" Halana shook her head as the three turned a corner, where Jarik and Havek were waiting. She frowned, looking them over. "Where's Ollir?"
Jarik shook his head slowly. "Elie got too close to the edge, driving tendrils back while we dashed for the switch. They dragged her over, quick as a wink." He sighed. "We've got to keep moving. We've got maybe half an hour, and I'd like to be out of there by then."
"Right." Halana started across the bridge, with Jarik falling in beside her. About halfway across, she noticed that there only seemed to be four people crossing. She stopped dead, enough so that Havek almost ran straight into her, and turned around. "Hey, Kieran! What the hells are you doing?"
Kieran was standing near the front of the bridge. One of the support structures there had been weakened by the passage of time, and he had pulled the glowing blue orb off the top of the spine, tying it to his pack with a length of rope. He turned to Halana. "The orb stops the tendrils. So if I go down with one, I can get Elena back."
"Kid, take a look at this." Elena waved Kieran over, with a smile, her eyes reflecting the sunlight as he walked over to her. She was leaning on a rock, looking out over the cliff and down at the valley. "You ever see a sight like that before?"
"No, ma'am." Kieran glanced away, looking down the valley, and then sat down. After a moment, Elena stepped forwards, putting a hand on the gangly teenager's shoulders.
"It's hard, I know. But we're going to be fine, Kid. I'm going to keep an eye on you, leastwise until you find your footing. Least I can do for your dad." She stopped, tears in the corners of her eyes, and sighed.
"You don't have to, ma'am..." Kieran trailed off, feeling the familiar empty pit in his stomach.
"Yeah? Maybe I want to. You're a good kid, Kieran. Practically old enough to stand on your own, but having an older hand around can't hurt ya. I'm not going to let you go."
"Promise?" Kieran looked up slowly, with a shadow of a smile.
There was a short pause, during which Kieran continued to work. After a moment, Jarik yelled. "Are you serious? Boy, she is gone. She is dead. You go down there, you'll be dead, too. You want that?"
"I can do this!" Kieran looked up, his jaw clenched. "The pit wall is very rough; I can climb it, no problem. If it takes more than ten minutes to reach the bottom, I'll climb back up, but I can do it."
"You're going to die!" Halana was yelling too, now. "This is completely insane!" She shook her fist, taking a step towards Kieran. "Do you think this is what she would want you to do? Follow her into death?" She cursed under her breath.
"Kid, I want you to promise me something." Elena ran her sword over a whetstone, and paused, looking up at Kieran.
"I'm not a kid anymore, Elena." Kieran smiled. No longer a teenager, he was now twenty, grown into a slim young man, his shaggy brown hair hanging just above his eyes and his garb patched over and again. He looked at his mentor with a grin. "What is it?"
"This run isn't like the stuff we've been training on." Elena looked up solemnly, and Kieran felt a chill in his gut. "There's a chance something could happen to one or both of us. If I go down, don't get yourself killed trying to save me." She chuckled at the expression on his face. "I'm not saying just leave me to die, but if I'm gone, don't die just because of that." She stood, slowly, and sheathed her sword. "You've grown into a hell of a man, Kieran. Your father would be proud."
"Thank you, Elena." Kieran grinned. "You've been a hell of a teacher. We'll be fine down there."
"Hope so." Elena's smile was touched with sadness. "I do hope so."
"Maybe it's crazy, but I have to try." Finishing the ties, Kieran straightened, hefting the pack experimentally, and then carefully putting it back on. "If I'm not back by the time you finish the run, leave, but I will be. Promise." As the other four looked at each other in shock, he ran towards the right side of the cave. Havek moved to follow, but Jarik shook his head.
"Let the kid go. He wants to throw his life away, fine. More for us." He kept a slim smile off of his face. The light wouldn't do jack, of course. The kid was just going to get eaten. But that wasn't his problem.
Halana looked faintly sick, but she nodded. Sarn sighed and shook his head solemnly. Then the four remaining adventurers turned, pushing on towards the nearest undisturbed crypt.