The Sacred Secret
Chapter 17 - The Depths of the Secret
As the group levitated up over the rim of the cliffs they found
Warragal standing near the BlackEagle observing Tommy, who was groggily
climbing to his feet. Of course he couldn't see or hear any of them.
All he could see was Shorty's pack and an empty cliff line stretching
both right and left. 'Shorty!' he cried out, stumbling forward. Then,
steadying himself he dropped to his knees and crawled cautiously to
where he could look down at the ledge below. Catching sight of the two
injured men he called out, 'Ay! Where's Shorty? What 'appened?'
'Your vicious thug of a mate tried his best to kill us, that's what
happened,' shouted Jean-Michael, glancing up. 'Too bad for him that the
eagles around here aren't very friendly, perhaps they have an eyrie
'I'm saying that he was attacked by a pair of them and went over the
edge, your nasty chum found out what "The bigger they are, the harder
they fall," actually means.'
'Shorty fell off here?' said Tommy incredulously. 'Eagles attacked
'That's what I'm telling you. Now are you going to try to kill us too,
or lend a hand to get us out of here?'
But Tommy wasn't listening, instead he was crawling backward, looking
anxiously up at the sky, and to his horror he suddenly caught sight of
two rapidly approaching birds; the smaller, with an affected wing beat,
the other larger one, its white underbelly shining in the morning sun,
its long, broad and powerful black wings beating slowly, deliberately
in his direction. Yet it was the massive, grey and black tipped beak,
that remained in Tommy's nightmares long after. Abandoning his pack, he
leapt up and took to his heels, heading back the way he and Shorty had
come, the larger eagle resolutely in pursuit.
With a flurry of loud, metallic honks, Adelle landed in one of those
somewhat clumsy, hopping and running dances made all the more awkward
by her damaged tail. 'I don't think he'll come back again Lovies,' she
said, 'Gavin will see to that.'
'G... G... G... Gavin?' said Priscilla, her teeth chattering, since she
was still soaked from her nearly fatal plunge into the sea.
'Mister Skewer, Lovey; best you get out of those wet things before you
catch your death. Gavin will be along presently.'
Monique and the others wasted no further time and hurried Priscilla
into the BlackEagle to dry off and change into warm clothing.
Meanwhile, Skewer had abandoned his pursuit and came winging and
honking back to land in that characteristic, unorthodox hop, run,
'Look at my poor rear-end Gavin,' said Adelle, waddling over to him.
'Still, I suppose I'm lucky to be here at all.'
Gavin Skewer cocked his head to one side as he studied Adelle's nether
regions. 'Never mind dear, it'll take a while to grow back
properly, but I think in time you'll be
able to shake your tail-feathers. Now I suppose you've been boring
these folks with lines like "the eagle has landed" and such?'
'On no Lovey,' said Adelle coyly, preening at her damaged feathers.
'Mister Skewer, it is a pleasure to meet you,' said Fon Jien, with a
slight bow, 'but for your intervention, things would have turned out
for the worse.'
'That young fellow had much to do with saving those below,' said Gavin,
indicating Warragal with a tilt of his beak, 'he risked his own life by
revealing himself. A dangerous thing to do at any time, and even more
perilous when faced with an armed human. It is also not permitted. Only
the death of the man who saw you has avoided the return of everybody
and a great deal of complicated business to set things right.'
'I saw you coming and had to give you time before he shot you like he
had Missus Skewer,' exclaimed John Wynd. 'I didn't know that she was
still alive, but I wasn't going to give him any chance of killing you.
I know what I did was something that's forbidden, and I'm prepared to
pay the penalty, because it led to the death of that man... '
'Do not feel any connection of guilt in that instance,' said Skewer, in
a somewhat lofty manner. 'You helped save two lives.'
'And yet you took a life,' said Fon Jien softly, nodding toward the
'I am a Sea-eagle,' returned Gavin. 'I do not have the morals of human
kind, which allow far too much leniency to those who transgress the
code of creature behaviour. Yes, as eagles we are predators, and that
we must practice if we are to survive, but still we would never kill
for pleasure or for gain.'
'You and Adelle are more than Sea-eagles,' came Harry's voice from Fon
Jien and Warragal's hand Activators. 'You're not just birds,
you're like me.'
'And as you do your dog thing, so we do our bird thing down here on the
Tasmanian coast; watching and observing, flying offshore and inland,
maintaining vigilance in this corner of the great southern continent.
We are like you, and we are not. You are cloaked as a domestic pet, we
as wild creatures, and as such we protect all things important to us.
Speaking of which, Adelle tells me that you weren't smart enough to
project a clear skyline on the underparts of the shield these people
were holding to hide the men on the ledge from those above. If you had
they wouldn't have communicated with them.'
'Nice speech,' said Harry, and after a moment's consideration he added,
''Well gee, I'm only Alien ya know! Better get on with it then.'
'Ah yes,' said Fon Jien, smiling his enigmatic smile, 'we still have
the matter of the two injured men below to deal with. How can we aid
'If it's not permitted for us to actually do anything like showing
ourselves and throwing them a rope or something, what can we do?' said
'It would seem to me that they require the means of communication to
attract attention,' offered Gavin, standing on one leg and stretching
out the other. 'I have just come back from the south-east and there is
now a search party heading into that region. Even after they discover
the vehicles it may take days or even weeks before they get here, and I
doubt that fellow I just drove away will volunteer any information.
More likely he will scuttle back to his friends at their timber
harvesting site and tell what he knows to them.'
'In that case, I think his fellow conspirators will choose to ignore
what has happened and leave the two below to their fate. Probably the
Piners will lie low until the search is over, and if their "Hidden
Valley" remains undiscovered they will return to continue their wanton
destruction,' said Fon Jien.
'What's in these carry-things over here,' said Adelle, pecking and
pulling at the straps of Shorty's back-pack.
'Worthy of a look, ' answered Fon Jien as the four girls spilled out of
the BlackEagle, Priscilla looking concerned, but comfortable again in
dry clothing and white coveralls.
'Monica and I have got to get back down to Dad and Jean-Michael. Harry,
'The levitation field is still operating,' came Harry's voice from
several Hand Activators. 'I can't keep it going for too much longer
without switching off to re-generate. You've got ten minutes safely.'
'C'mon Moni. Tsu, Terri, coming?'
'The other girls nodded and in moments the four of them went drifting
from the cliff-line and vanished from view.
In the meantime, Fon Jien and Warragal busied themselves opening the
abandoned packs of the two Piners, with the aid of Adelle's inquisitive
beak and talons.
'Tinned meat and fish, cigarettes, bullets, a can of beer, soft drink;
nothing much in Shorty's,' said Fon Jien, tipping out the contents.
'Their light tent, a fuel lamp, some more tins of meat, beans, cutlery,
coffee,' said Warragal.
'Perhaps,' came Harry's voice from an Activator, 'what might be of use
to Mathew and Jean-Michael could, sort of, be assembled and pushed off
by two inquisitive eagles?'
Below, the girls hovered around the two men trapped on the ledge. It
was a precarious situation with a sheer drop to the water far beneath.
'My friend, Mon Ami, can you hear me? Do you know where you are?
'I know where I'd like to be, home and in the garden playing ball with
Harry and the kids. Jean-Michael?'
'Yes, my friend?'
'A while back there, before our violent visitor dropped by, I had the
strangest sensation, thought I could hear a voice calling out...
Sounded like Priscilla's... '
'Must have been the wind, and you were delirious. I was worried through
the night that you might roll off this ledge.'
'Is that why you were cuddling me, and I started to think we might be a
number.' Mathew managed a chuckle that ended in a wince as the action
jarred his broken leg.
'Bon Ami, you are a dear friend, but I am a man with a wife and
daughter; I have no inclination for the, how do you say it, affair.
Besides it was very cold, and since your pack with our tent and bedding
went over when the cliff broke away and you fell, I had no choice.
Lucky for us my pack is still here, at least we have a little food and
water to keep us going until a search party finds us.'
'Better use it sparingly. That could be a long wait.'
'They will send up aeroplanes to look for us.'
'There's a lot of inland and coast line to cover, and we're just two
little dots on the end of it all. You sure you can't manage to climb
back to the top?'
Jean-Michael heaved a large sigh. 'No my friend, and even if I could,
what then? I could not walk from here back to the tourist track with
this infernal sprained ankle. I doubt that I could make it as far as
where we hid our cameras and long range photo equipment. Besides, you
would have no one to cuddle at night.'
'I'm sorry, Jean-Michael.'
'Whatever for, Bon Ami?'
'Landing you in this mess. I mean we'd done all the preliminary
research for the Doco; people to talk to, those who would talk: Big
Business, Politicians, Loggers and Anti-loggers, areas to try to gain
access, gear and provisions required, and then I get sucked into this
stuff about the Tiger.'
'But as you said, your man Kerrigan has some fairly reliable sources.
People who claimed to have seen creatures like the Tiger over a number
'Yeah, although a lot of that was probably just hype for hicks like us.
Anyway, Amigo, we're far off the mark as far as supposed sightings are
concerned; two men, one with a gun saw to that. When they caught up
with us we got herded into this Range, don't think I even managed to
tell Kerrigan actually where we were before my mobile died. Now that's
gone anyway. What about yours?'
'Battery is flat too, and even if it could be re-charged it is not very
likely to work over such a distance,' said Jean-Michael, as he drew the
phone from his jacket and optimistically switched it on. It gave a
"battery needs charging" display and he shook his head.
'In your pack at the bottom of the sea.'
'Wish we had some flares or a C.B. radio or something.'
'We have prayer, Mon Ami, that's about all.'
Mathew nodded slowly, 'Let's just hope God hasn't ducked out for a
coffee break. Now Jean-Michael, I have a very big favour to ask of you.'
'Anything within my power, my friend.'
'Could you help me to roll over so I can take a pee?'
'Errgh! That's it!' said Priscilla, her cheeks suddenly glowing, 'Let's
get out of here! Time must nearly be up anyway!'
She began to ascend, Monique tugging at her sleeve as they rose. 'Did
you see my Father's mobile phone?'
'Yeah, no!' said Priscilla, confused and embarrassed all at once.
'It is the same as your Father's, just like the ones he gave us!'
'Then the batteries are all the same!' shouted Terri, who was elevating
'Interchangeable!' said Tsuang Tsu, as they gained the heights and set
down. 'Do you have your mobile phone with you Priscilla?' she asked as
they joined the others.
'Oh, no! I left mine at your house,' Priscilla answered glumly,
'But I have mine with me, and its battery is fine,' announced Monique,
producing her phone triumphantly. 'Here! We can use this battery.'
'Well done! Now you're all thinking!' said Harry's voice from their
Hand Activators. 'Take it out and stow it with anything of use into
Shorty's backpack. Gavin, Adelle! You're going to have to make this
look real! Shove the whole thing to the cliff edge and roust it about
so that it
looks like two sea-eagles tearing the pack apart looking for food,
then, whoops! Let it fall!'
'It will look like two sea-eagles doing exactly that,' said Gavin,
'because that's exactly what we will be doing.' He flapped his wings
vigorously, almost as if in exasperation.
'Yere, right,' said Harry, sounding somewhat deflated.
'I understand what you're all thinking here,' said Warragal, 'but have
you thought it through? Drop them a battery to fire up their mobile and
what? This end of Tasmania is so far from any communication towers. How
could they ring anybody and get through?'
'They will get through, because the BlackEagle will act as the tower,'
Harry interrupted. 'How do you think we are able to hold all these
conversations? We Aliens have inscrutable ways, you know.'
In the end, Jean-Michael and Mathew, lying supine on the ledge below
the fractured cliff-line, were attracted to a sight few humans ever get
to see; high above where the sky met the fractured edge of the cliff,
two superb white-bellied sea-eagles were tussling over something. At
first the men thought it was another creature, until the birds,
fighting and worrying and fretting at it, tugged the object to the
brink and it suddenly slipped over the lip of the cliff and plunged
down, to crash in a flurry of dust and debris upon the ledge where the
two men cringed, protecting themselves from the shower of shale.
'Mathew! It's a backpack!' cried Jean-Michael, scrambling across to the
fallen gear on his hands and knees.
'Boy or a girl? You sound like you're announcing a newborn baby,' said
'I am, Bon Ami, it's our little baby! Look!' he said, his hands shaking
as he pulled open the half broken clasp that was all left to hold the
baggage together. 'There is food in here, and a tent, and some cans of
soft drink and... oh... the lamp is shattered... but wait! What is
this? Cigarettes, and no!'
'And no, what?' said Mathew, attempting to prop himself up without
hurting his leg too much.
'This is, is this what I think it is Mon Ami? This is a battery for a
mobile phone, Mon Dieu! One that I think fits my phone!'
'What would that pair have been doing with a mobile phone?' said
Mathew, a tinge of hope in his voice.
'Who knows? They were involved in some kind of bad business with those
big trees,' Jean-Michael answered as he fumbled out his phone and
removed the battery inside. 'Maybe we will get lucky, we must try
anyway... ah... go in! There! Now,' he panted, 'a dial tone?'
Mathew, his leg giving him a great deal of pain, clenched his teeth in
apprehension, as the few seconds ticked by before his close friend
nodded and began to hit buttons with fingers that seemed as big and
awkward as baseball bats.
'Looks like Jean-Michael has gotten in contact with somebody!' shouted
Priscilla, leaning over the edge of the cliff high above the two men.
'He seems very animated and is gesturing a lot with his free hand.'
'That is my Father,' said Monique, at her side, 'he talks a lot with
'Even on the phone?' Terri asked, keeping a firm hold on Monique's
waist so that she couldn't fall.
'Even in the shower, so my Mother tells me!' laughed Monique, much
relieved that her father was communicating with someone who would be
able to send aid directly to them.
'This is indeed a wonderful outcome to a desperate situation,' said
Tsu, hanging on to Priscilla in like manner to Terri. 'Hopefully, help
will come soon, perhaps before nightfall.'
'We shall have to wait and see what happens,' said Fon Jien, standing
behind the four girls with John Wynd at his side. 'But now I think you
need thank our friends Adelle and Gavin for their effort so far, and to
consider the next part of this adventure. It is time for John,
Warragal, to seek his destiny.'
'Yes,' said Harry's voice from their Hand Activators, 'but be advised,
it is now an hour before mid-day, and everybody must be home again
tonight for school tomorrow. You are all on borrowed time. Stay to
observe, but nothing else. Warragal, what is your choice here?'
John Wynd turned to look at the others gathered together on the
windswept cliffs, his hands open and empty. He bowed his head. 'I
want... to find... No. I cannot say anything. I must be silent. I am
'Yes Lovey, we know that,' said Adelle, waddling forward to touch her
beak to his fingertips. 'Perhaps if I just showed you where to go?'
'How could you know?' the boy asked, incredulously.
'How?' said Gavin, running Adelle's damaged rear flight feathers
through his strong beak, 'because we have dwelt here for a long time.
This is our domain. Here we observe as no other creatures can.'
'And you have the benefit of the BlackEagle,' said Harry. 'It will get
you wherever you wish to go, while the rest stay here to watch over the
'I will not,' said Gavin, 'for it is needful that I take to the air and
do what is my chosen task. I shall return when I sight humans on their
'Oh Lovey,' said Adelle, turning about and giving him a peck on his
broad beak, 'do take care and come back to our nest. I think that I
should go along with this young man to show the way. After all it's not
somewhere that anybody but us could find. And when you've got a dog to
wag its tail why bother flying?'
'You want to ride in the BlackEagle?' asked Harry.
'Can't hardly go far with these shot tailfeathers Lovey.'
'Very well, you'd better make haste John Wynd, time is important,' said
The door of the BlackEagle slid soundlessly open and Warragal stepped
into its cool interior, Adelle somewhat awkwardly following. 'Wait a
minute please,' said John, turning to look back at the others. 'I'd
like it if you came with us,' he said, pointing to Priscilla.
'Me?' she said. 'Why would you want me tagging along?'
'You said yesterday that we had something in common... and you were
right. Perhaps even more than you know,' he answered, holding out his
hand. 'Please come with me, I want you to.'
Priscilla turned to Monique and the others with an expression of
bewilderment on her face, 'But what about my dad and your father... '
she began, before Monique interrupted her. 'They will both be fine
Cilla, you know we will call you if anything should happen. Don't
worry, your sister is right here.' She gave Priscilla one of those
wide, toothy grins of hers and hugged her. 'Off you go!' She turned
Priscilla about and gave her a gentle push and before Priscilla new it
she had taken Warragal's hand and the door was sliding shut behind her.
'Take a seat folks, Adelle, you'd better hold onto what's left of your
tail-feathers, this will be pretty quick,' said Harry's voice.
'Now Harry Lovey,' replied Adelle, 'here are the directions,' and she
began a series of numbers that Priscilla thought might be map
'Umm... In that case we just might travel with all shutters up.
Warragal and Priscilla could find this very interesting. Oh,' he added,
'you both can sit up and watch, this won't be a fast ride after all,'
came Harry's reply.
Within seconds the BlackEagle began to lift off, though the
acceleration was gentle in comparison to those Priscilla had
experienced in the past. The sky loomed into view as all the windows
around the interior slid open and further portals, both overhead and
beneath, opened as well. They seemed to be flying inside a huge fish
bowl, and they were the fish, staring out at a bright blue void with
wisps of cloud tearing past. Below, the heights where the others stood
staring up at them receded swiftly and soon they were speeding west, as
Priscilla judged, along the cliff line, then over open sea, past green
spans of flattish plains and white beaches, further ocean, shoreline,
cliffs and then out across rolling combers that swept north.
Moments later, in a leisurely pace for the BlackEagle, they began to
descend; a cliff-line rearing up on the horizon, the ocean looming
closer below. In a few seconds, the craft dropped past the cliffs at a
alarming rate, the water seeming to rush up toward it. 'Adelle, Harry,
are you sure!' yelled Priscilla, looking over at
Warragal's staring face, his eyes fixed upon the rolling sea.
Before anyone could answer, the BlackEagle submerged. White water
surrounded them on all sides and cascaded over the roof windows. There
came a muffled sound of bubbles and swirling eddies, and then a swaying
motion as the BlackEagle began to halt its decent and move sideways.
They were surrounded by the ocean, rocking in its currents, but slowly
progressing underwater. Priscilla and John Wynd held their breath,
while Adelle taddled about,
honking out her guiding call to Harry.
Then the Black Eagle slowly began to rise.
After what seemed a long time, but was in fact only moments, they
surfaced, water pouring from the roof and sides, and the BlackEagle
glided free into a dark cavernous opening, dimly illuminated by
millions of tiny dots high above and covering the soaring walls. The
craft began to slowly skim across the water's surface then up over a
stony rise that sloped higher, until they came to rest on a roughly
level area somewhere along the walls. Priscilla and Warragal could
still see the water below, glimmering with
the reflections of all the tiny fairy lights.
'Glow worms,' said Harry, but I think you'd better each take a pair of
night-sight goggles with you, and don't forget to re-fill your
back-packs with food and water and anything else that you need. It's
going to be rather cold when you get out, about seven degrees, so you'd
better make sure your comfortable with what you're wearing under your
'We're going out there?' said Priscilla, slightly alarmed.
'Of course Lovey,' Adelle answered, 'that's what it's all about. Looks
interesting, never been in here before.'
'And are you coming with us?' asked John Wynd of the sea eagle.
'No Lovey, I can't fly properly and would only slow you down, but
that's fine, Harry and I won't be with you every step of the way.'
'That's what I thought you'd say,' muttered Priscilla, selecting a pair
'There are some coils of nylon ropes in the locker by the toilet
cubicles,' said Harry's voice. 'Better take them along too, and check
the toilet while you're at it.'
'Good thinking,' said Priscilla, stowing her Hand Activator into her
pack along with spare clothing and other supplies before vanishing into
one of them.
'Got it all sorted out in your mind,' said Harry while Priscilla was
'I think so,' said Warragal, calmly, transferring the contents of his
leather case into his back-pack. 'I should like to thank you both for
this miracle, I still can't believe it. I don't know what else to
'Nothing to say. It is pretty crazy I suppose, being in an alien ship
with a talking eagle and a dog on the other end of the line. Not quite
the human picture of being abducted by aliens. Usually you don't get to
choose where you're going,' said Harry, with something that sounded
like a chuckle.
'Wow!' said Priscilla, emerging from the cubicle, 'I just can't get
used to those toilets.'
'Speaking of ablutions,' said Harry, 'I'd like to run you both through
Sanitization before you get out. Just stand on the pad by the door.
This will only take a few seconds.'
'Gee, it feels kind of weird,' said Warragal, as wriggling sensations
seemed to swarm over and through him.
'Yeah, but not unpleasant,' said Priscilla, squirming. 'Bit tickly
As the two were about to step outside, Priscilla suddenly said, 'Look,
I don't want to sound stupid or anything, but will someone tell me
what's going on? I mean where are we going and what are we supposed to
'Harry and I can't tell you that Lovey,' said Adelle gently, her very
large beak stroking Priscilla's nylon-clad arm. 'It's not our secret.
Best you get along with John, er Warragal, and see for yourself.'
Outside the BlackEagle, with the door sliding closed at her back,
Priscilla turned to Warragal as she adjusted the night-sight goggles on
her eyes. 'Well?'
'I can't tell you either,' he answered, tugging his goggles into place.
'Why not!' she shot back at him, feeling like the only one not in on
'Because I don't know. I don't know what to expect. And even if I did
know, I am forbidden to speak. Come on, you can see for yourself.' He
turned away and began to climb up a shallow rise that led into the
Frustrated, Priscilla swept her gaze down toward the water below, and
by the aid of her night-sight goggles saw the scene there almost as
clearly as if it were day. Around the washing sea, which was probably
the high-tide mark, were piles of something she couldn't make out. At
first she thought they were rocks, but something told her that was not
so. They appeared to be hummocks, glittering in the soft glow-worm
light. She turned to Warragal but he had already begun to climb the
gradient and, still mystified, she followed.
After a time of scrabbling up the loose-shaled, sloping way, the pair
came to the summit and peered down through a narrow opening into a
glow-worm lit expanse, surrounded by cavernous walls reaching high
above their heads. ' Phew! Now I can see why the BlackEagle couldn't go
any further,' she
said, peering back at the distant outline of the tree-house still
perched below. 'What is this place?' whispered Priscilla, awed by the
cathedral-like vault before them.
'I think it's a place no outsiders have ever seen,' said Warragal in a
hushed voice. 'Come on, and be careful. Let me help you, it looks
fairly steep here. Maybe there are better places to climb down but we
haven't the time to search for them.' So saying, he slid himself
through the gap and went ahead on rump,
heels and hands, the weight of his pack holding him against the sharp
slope, his shoulders supporting Priscilla's carefully descending feet
as she followed.
By the time they reached a level surface, Priscilla was shivering.
'Are you cold?' said Warragal, feeling rather hot after the strenuous,
and at times, slippery descent.
'No not cold, just overawed, and a bit scared,' Priscilla whispered. 'I
mean take a look at this place, it's like being in a humongous church.
See how high the roof is, way up there somewhere in the shadows, and
the walls are... are... ' she stopped speaking, gazing with open mouth
at something that had caught her eye. 'Warragal!' she hissed, does that
look like a drawing to you?' She was
pointing to a patch of light colour on the surface of the rock-face a
few paces away.
Without speaking, Warragal quickly hastened closer to inspect the image.
'It's like a stencil of a hand!' said Priscilla, coming to his side.
'But it's got one of its fingers missing, see,' she indicated a stump
where the index finger should have been.
'It's not missing,' said Warragal, 'com'on, this way,' and he began to
follow the line of the wall.
Mystified, Priscilla hesitated for a moment then hurried after him,
stumbling once or twice in her effort to catch up. 'Don't you leave me
on my own in here!' she rasped, her words ragged with the effort and
something creepy that seemed to be running up and down her spine.
Exactly at that moment a faint voice spoke. Priscilla, startled
witless, grabbed hold of John's arm so that he stopped in alarm at the
pressure of her fingers digging into his flesh. 'Let go! It's only
Harry!' he muttered, prising himself free and reaching for his Hand
'Hi guys,' said Harry brightly. Better turn off the following buttons
on your Activators: sight, sound, smell, especially smell, and taste.
Leave touch on.'
'Why touch?' asked Priscilla, fumbling for her Activator.
'Because you need to feel your way, and turning off touch tends to do
funny things with your atomic, molecular physical structure over
periods greater than an hour or so, and I guess you'll be longer than
that. By the way, no word on a rescue party for your dad yet.'
'Thanks for the update,' said Priscilla , slightly louder than before,
having depressed the designated buttons and shown John which ones to
use. 'O.K. What now?'
'Shh! Listen!' said Warragal, holding up his hand. 'Did you hear that?'
'Hear what?' said Priscilla, nervously.
'That,' insisted Warragal.
From somewhere far ahead there came a faint, husky sound that was
clipped off at the end of its note like a door shutting on someone
coughing. It was repeated several times, then there was utter silence.
Except for Priscilla's withheld breath, which she expelled in one huge
rush. She imagined the sound of her heart pounding and knees knocking
might also be audible, then reminded herself that sound had been
switched off. 'What in the world was that ?' she managed.
'Don't know. Wind through the caves maybe,' said Warragal, setting off
in the direction of the sound, 'This way, stay close to me.'
'Wind in the willows just as likely! Stay close to you... ' said
Priscilla, practically wearing him like a second skin. 'What the heck
do you think I'm gonna do? Stop and have a picnic!'
They had only travelled a dozen paces when they saw a further splash of
white on the wall ahead. It was another hand painting, but this time it
was a solid image and the second finger was missing.
Without saying a word, John proceeded with Priscilla almost climbing
into his back-pack behind him. The wall they were following bent away
to the right and they came again
to a narrow opening in the rocks. Together, the pair took a look at
what lay within. Glow worms covered the walls, but the
night-sight goggles were more
than ample to penetrate the gloom, revealing a fantastic sight to the
onlookers. Below them lay a cavern through which water, at the lowest
flowed, and above that meandering stream, were galleries of rock
paintings: wonderful, wonderful vivid pictographs of animals and
unmistakable stick figures that were hunting men, in many and varied
stances. The enormity of the works made Priscilla gasp. 'Oh! My God!'
she uttered, hanging onto Warragal's arm, her other hand
to her mouth. 'Will you just look at this! It's incredible! I've never
seen anything like it! Now I know why you brought me here! This is the
most fabulous, magical, unreal place! Just think! Thousands of years
ago people were here making all this. Woo! No wonder it's been kept as
a secret! Of course I won't ever tell anyone, it's just too fantastic,
and if you want me to stay shtumm, that's fine by... ' she halted, cut
off by Warragal's uplifted hand.
Suddenly the air about them was filled with a cluttering of twisting,
whirling, gyrating black forms, clicking and vibrating as they
scattered about in clouds of massing and decreasing formations, to
swirl off into the depths beyond.
' Were... were they bats?' said Priscilla, shaking from head to toe and
hanging onto Warragal's arm like a leech.
'Yes, shut up!' came his instant reply. 'Look! Look down there!' he
pointed, his free arm extended.
Priscilla followed his line of vision and choked. Far off, on the
margins of their night-sight, she could see movement;
vague forms emerging from the darkness of the depths, and with them she
thought she heard a clipped, cut-off coughing sound that now resonated
faintly through the cavernous depths.
Chapter 18 [next]