The people soon found out that the black beast was not alone. That night they heard howls from all around their camp, and saw dark shapes stalking on the edge of the firelight. Anson posted some guards, and they waited as they kept watch uneasily. Just before sunrise a great howl went up all around the camp, and they could see many eyes peering at them out of black silhouettes. It seemed like they would charge and try to overrun the mortals. But then the sky grew lighter, and the sun suddenly broke from behind the hills. The black beasts vanished with the darkness, and the people could see no sign of them in the light of day.

They hoped that they were gone for good, but as they continued on their way they noticed glimpses of them, watching from inside dark dens or the shadows beneath cliffs or boulders. They seemed always to be following, watching, as if only waiting for the darkness of night to return.

As the day wore on, Anson began to think they needed to find some shelter before night fell. He saw a tall cliff with a cave near the top, and beyond it the ground seemed to flatten out for a while. He decided the cave would be a perfect place to hide from the beasts. Assuming there was no other way into it, the only way to reach it would be to climb up the extremely steep cliff face. It would be a hard climb, but it would also be difficult for the beasts to reach it. He noticed that they seemed to usually stay in lower places. If the people could make it to the cave they would have a better chance of protecting themselves.

When Anson told his plan to the others, there was much arguing and division. “I hope you don’t expect me to climb that,” Elma said. “Even if my hands were not tied, I wouldn’t make it halfway.”

“I know it won’t be easy,” Anson replied, “but it may be our only chance of survival. We cannot fight off all of those beasts if they choose to attack us together. If we continue on out into that flat country, where there’s nothing to help protect us, I fear we might not live to see the dawn.”

“I would sooner face the beasts than break my neck falling from that cliff,” Ethina cried. “If you want to climb it, go ahead, but I won’t do something so reckless.”

The conflict intensified, and some of the people talked about splitting up, letting Anson lead some up the cliff while the others stayed behind. But Arnol would not go along with that idea. “Whatever happens, we must stay together,” he said. “We split up when we encountered the tree-elves, and if we had stayed together things might have gone better. I shouldn’t have left like I did. We are stronger when we are all together. If we split up now, the beasts could pick us off, but if we work together I’m sure we can manage to survive. If everyone is not able to climb the cliff, then we should find another way.”

Anson was not convinced that Arnol was right, but he listened to his friend’s advice and reluctantly followed the others as they left the cliff behind.


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