It took the rest of the day before the mortals could find and agree on a place to make camp for the night. They avoided the open flatlands, turning and going along the edge of the hilly terrain. Fear of what night would bring played upon them, making them tense and irritable. They argued with each other over what location would provide the most security from the hunting beasts.

At last they found another place that would offer some protection. It was up on a hill, with a short, curving cliff on one side. They nestled into a hollow below the base of the cliff and posted guards opposite the rocky wall. No sooner had they gotten settled than the sun sank below the horizon.

Once darkness had fallen howls began to break out around them. The guards stood tense and alert. Suddenly a small group of black beasts charged out of the darkness to assault the camp on one side. They were halted and beaten off, but soon the other side of the camp was attacked. The defenders were hard pressed but they fought determinedly, working together without arguing now that their lives were at stake. At first the cliff to their backs acted as a shield and they kept the fighters in front of them, with the rest of the people in between. Then suddenly a commotion broke out and cries were heard near the cliff face. Some of the beasts had found a way down from the top of the cliff, and had leaped down among the unsuspecting people. One lunged at Archean, but he darted away so fast it had no chance of catching him. Lord Andor found himself fighting frantically with one of the huge beasts, swinging and jabbing with a knife and an old short-handled axe. As the beast lunged at him he stuck the knife into the creature’s eye, and with an anguished cry it stepped back. He swung the axe with such force that the handle broke and the head buried itself deep into the beast’s neck, killing it. The onslaught was stopped, and several beasts lay dead. However, several of the mortals had also been killed in the skirmish, and their companions laid them side-by-side grimly.

The night continued on like this, and the survivors had no time to grieve for their fallen comrades. They fought with all they were worth, and more and more of them joined the battle. The beasts attacked from all sides, but the defenders managed to keep them at bay. At last a pale light began to grow in the sky, and the black beasts withdrew and vanished into the fading night.

Anson sat and took a short rest, exhausted. He had fought bravely throughout the night, and had acquired a few minor wounds. Ethina stood nearby, gazing around at all the injured and dead. “We should have listened to your advice, Anson,” she admitted sadly. “If we have to face another night like this, I’m sure we will all perish. We should return to that cliff before night falls and the beasts attack again. I will willingly climb the cliff if that cave will help protect us.”

The others were in agreement. Even Elma did not argue. After they had rested a little and buried their dead, they set off again in the direction they had come from.


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