NaNoWriMo Day 16 Part 2
posted at: 11/17/2014

Mrs. Weisgarber was shocked that the hunting party would be leaving so early. "I thought they'd give us half a day at least!"

But Amaranth just nodded sagely and said, "Oh yes, the prince will want to make sure the trail doesn't go cold."

"But there is no trail! I hadn't thought of that." Herford said.

Jack patted him on the head, but Herford wiggled away and looked at the man with as much fury as he could muster--he bared his teeth. "Don't start worryin' about the trail, little Rabbit. I might have created a little bit of a false trail for them to follow before I came back home."

Cindy sent Amaranth to the stable to get Sugar Bell and the donkey cart. "How far away is the cave, Pete? Do you know about how long it'll take us to get there?"

"About 30 minutes if you're going pretty fast. Maybe an hour." Pete was looking at his feet as he spoke, which made it more difficult to hear him.

"We aren't leaving tonight, are we?" Matilda asked.

Mrs. Weisgarber was adamant. "Of course we are. We have to be out at that cave when the hunting party comes by tomorrow morning."

The Queen Mother thought about her creaky old bones. "Where are we going to sleep?"

"You can sleep in the cart Your Majesty." Cindy snapped, annoyed.

Matilda raised both eyebrows in surprise, folded her arms, and looked away.

Amaranth returned with the cart and the supplies were loaded into it in cranky silence. Amaranth seemed to be the only one immune to the gloomy mood. He chattered away as happily as ever about how exciting it was to be going on a secret mission. Pete may have been just as uneffected by the mood but it was hard to tell. It was a relatively short trip, but in the dark, with Pete sitting up front leading the donkey and the rest of the company sitting in the back in silence (Amaranth fell asleep shortly after the trip began), it seemed to take days. Everyone was alone with their own thoughts--which ranged from nervous fear to glum introspection to offended frustration. And Sugar Bell trudged on into the night.

When the cart trundled off of the main road and into the woods, Pete began to have some trouble navigating. It was difficult to find the entrance to the cave during the day, even for someone who knew where it was. It would be almost impossible to find in the darkness. Everyone began piling out of the cart, preparing for a long nighttime search for a hidden cave, but Herford lit the area with his staff and Pete was able to find his way. He asked everyone to stay out of the cart so that he could lead Sugar Bell through first. He walked into what appeared to be a solid wall, covered in moss and overgrown with long grasses, and diappeared with the donkey. Amaranth was still asleep in the cart and Herford had ridden along as well. A few minutes later, Pete and a groggy Amaranth reappeared with the cart's lantern and led the remainder of the party into the cave. The rocks near the mouth were rough and uneven. Which explained the waking of Amaranth and Pete's reluctance to allow the donkey to carry them all in in the cart. Matilda nearly slipped many times, but was caught by either Jack, who was walking behind her, or Amaranth, who was walking beside her

The cave, near the front, was wet and the walls were covered in slimy, green moss. The ceiling dripped continually on the travellers and even Mrs. Weisgarber was rethinking spending the night in such a place. The roof was low and it looked like the cave wasn't that deep. But, as Pete led them on towards the back of the cavern, they could see the light of the Herford's staff glowing through a crack of rock in the side of the wall. When they had walked through this crevice, they stopped and stared in awe. Before them, a dry dirt floor spread out in all directions until it reached the darkness. Above them was a vast unseen dome that their lantern light couldn't reach.