Esther wondered what the well looked like before the fight. The wreckage she was looking at now couldn’t have been the result of Nicyes’s battle with the creature and she refused to believe he, or the creature for that matter, was capable of causing so much destruction.

She was examining a fissure, like an open wound in the earth, with only the smashed ruin of the well in the center to indicate that anything might have existed at all. She was at a loss for any other way to describe what she saw. An upended tree hung over the pit, like a sacrifice being drained of blood.

All around the fissure, the ground was scorched from whatever Nicyes, or the creature, had done. Maybe it was the results of the creature’s death, Nicyes had been sparse with details about the encounter, and Mercer had been unhelpful in that regard as well. They’d only insisted that the creature was gone. Dead and gone.

Far below, Esther could see what looked like the entrance to a cave. There were plenty of things for her to cling to if she wanted to climb down and get a closer look, and her curiosity impelled her. She searched the area, but could find no materials suitable for a torch. Instead, she retrieved a fuel-lamp from her satchel, lit it, and left the bag on the ground near the fissure so she wouldn’t be encumbered by it.

She carefully lowered herself down into the fissure, bracing against the walls and holding the lit lamp as far away as she could to avoid burning herself. When she reached the bottom, she had to squeeze past some rocks, but she was able to fit into the opening of the cave she saw, which turned out to be a tunnel.

The rocks and debris from the cave-in made for slow going in the beginning, but Esther moved over them without much difficulty, and without fear of becoming stuck or trapped. After crouching in the dark with naught but her flickering lamp, and sliding along for a dozen feet or more, she found herself in a larger cave. In the dim light, she saw markings on the walls which she didn’t understand.

She wondered if Alquis had been correct in assuming what he found was a well, and not an entrance to a series of underground chambers, as it now seemed to be. Peering into the gloom, it looked like there were branching tunnels off of the main chamber she was in, and she was a loss for what to do now.

Her heart raced when she realized the beast Nicyes fought might not have been dead, as he claimed, and it could well have escaped into these chambers.

What if he’d only managed to drive it off temporarily? There was an eeriness to the place, and Esther decided she had sated her curiosity for the time being. Terror began to overwhelm her, and she quickly clambered back over the rocks and out of the cave.