Before you read the ending, check out the first six parts of Safia’s Story. This story will remain available under the writing tab, or you can always search for “Friday Fiction”. Enjoy.
Cloying mist hung in the valley below, obscuring any hint of depth or distance. I stood with my toes at the edge of the precipice, squinting into the gray world before me.
We had arrived.
“Now you must do as I told you.” Bryony said.
Looking down at the length of woven roots and the long pointed horn, fear wormed its way into my belly and spread. I tried to swallow my panic down, but no moisture remained in my mouth.
“Alright,” I said. “For Caren.”
With my right hand I gripped the horn and turned it point down. I knelt to the ground and drove the tip into the earth. Next I took one end of my rope and tied it around the piece of horn that protruded.
I glanced back at Bryony.
The old woman nodded.
With my heart hammering in my chest, I gripped the rope with both hands, then turned and began to lower myself over the edge of the cliff.
The first few steps were the worst. Once oriented with my back to the invisible abyss I breathed more evenly. My feet disappeared into the mist, followed by my legs. I had one last look at Bryony’s face before the world closed around me.
Then I began to hear voices.
They were soft, fleeting sounds. A snatch of laughter here, a whispered word or two there. The pounding cadence of my heart increased, but I continued, as Bryony had instructed.
The descent seemed eternal. My rope should have run out long ago, I thought, but time and distance were difficult to judge. Finally, I reached a narrow ledge. With a sigh of relief I placed my feet on a horizontal plane and then turned away from the rock wall, toward the valley of souls.
The mist seemed to shift before me. A small brown hand reached out.
I backed away, gasping in shock, but did not have far to go. My back met rock and I had no where else to go.
The hand was followed by and arm, and then a pair of wide green eyes.
“Caren?” I breathed.
It had to be.
Tentatively I stretched my own hand out. My fingers wrapped around her wrist and a sob of joy escaped my lips when I felt her solid flesh against mine.
“Safia?” She asked in a small voice.
I pulled her small form forward and wrapped her in a tight embrace. Her green hair tickled my chin, I could smell the scent of moss on her skin. She was real.
“Am I dreaming?” Caren asked as she looked up at me.
I laughed and hugged her again.
“I’m not sure.” I replied.
“Can we leave? I don’t like it here.”
“Yes! Here Caren, take this rope.” I placed the length of woven roots in her hand. “You have to climb. I’ll be right behind you.”
The trip out of the valley seemed much faster than my journey into mist. Moments passed and then we stood again at the top.
“Who is this?” Caren asked as she backed a step away from the bent old woman who waited there.
“This is Bryony. She helped me find you.” I replied, and then turned to Bryony. “Bryony, this is my sister, Caren.”
Bryony nodded slowly.
A giggle welled up within me but I managed to suppress it. This all seemed so surreal. I felt certain I would wake up any moment.
“Can we go home?” Caren asked.
I took my sister’s hand in mine and nodded.
“Yes. Let’s go home.”
Trees towered above me, majestic and welcoming. Caren and I ran forward, laughing in delight. After a few steps I stopped, remembering Bryony, and turned to find her reaching out with one had. She felt the air, like a blind person groping for an object they know must be there somewhere.
Returning to her side I noticed there were tears in her eyes.
“Bryony? Are you alright?” I asked.
She nodded, but seemed unable to speak.
“What is it?” I asked.
“It’s been so long.” She whispered.
I frowned as I looked from her to the forest.
“You belong here? Are you one of us?”
Bryony finally looked at me.
“I used to be child. Long ago.”
“What happened to you Bryony?”
“I left, just as you did. Made it all the way to the place of the spirits, but when I returned I could not enter. It was as if an invisible wall had been built in my absence. I was trapped on the wrong side.”
She reached a hand out again.
“Is it still there?” I asked, getting nervous as I watched Caren waiting beneath the trees.
Bryony shook her head and smiled.
“Then let’s go Bryony. We’ll take you home.”
We walked arm in arm into the shade of the trees. Tears flowed freely down Bryony’s face.
“Bryony,” I asked as we continued through the forest, “what were your tests?”
“I had one test Safia, and it was patience. I was waiting for you.”