Day 75 of 100 Word Prompts: Ancient
“Check it out!” Riew said, flying over the others as he pointed to the west.
Judah flew up with Casia and Erro close behind as they all looked in the direction Riew had pointed. A copse of trees that marked where they were on the map stood ravaged and destroyed. Trees splintered through the thickest parts of the trunks told them everything they needed to know.
“The roc did that,” Judah said, waving it off. “We’ve seen loads of trees like that since we left the roc behind.”
“No, not the trees,” Riew said. “Look further. Inside them. There’s ruins or something there.”
Judah looked again and saw what Riew had told him about. In the middle of the dark brown bark and green foliage, he could make out a broken stone wall, weather-worn, and cracked.
“Should we check it out?” Riew asked, looking to Erro. “You think it’s safe?”
“Hard to say,” Erro replied, “It should be safe as long as we stay above it. Just don’t land on anything, okay?”
“I won’t,” Riew replied, “And I know Judah won’t, but Casia-”
“Race you there!” Casia chirped as she streamed past them all in a straight line toward the ruins.
“Careful!” Erro called after her.
Casia turned over to her back in mid-air and stuck her tongue out at him in reply before righting herself and disappearing into the trees.
“Wait!” Riew yelled as she vanished.
“Oh, no,” Judah muttered.
“Casia?” Erro called.”Hey, come out here, so we know if you’re okay.”
“Guys, you have to see this!” Casia replied, ignoring Erro’s request. “It’s safe enough to get under the canopy and still have room not to touch anything.”
Riew, Judah, and Erro all looked at each other, and one-by-one shrugged and dropped into the trees.
“Do you see it?” Casia asked, shoving Riew. “What about you two?”
“Hold on a second,” Erro replied, rubbing his eyes as Judah blinked a few times, bringing the darkened interior of the trees into sharp focus with his owl eyes.
Directly below the group, a large fissure ran a hundred feet long and fifty feet wide. It swallowed nearly everything around it, save a handful of trees that had grown at enough of an angle to stretch to the center from almost every side.
“Where do you think it goes?” Riew said once he could see it.
“I don’t know, but I think we should explore it,” Casia said.
“I don’t think that’s a great idea,” Judah said, subconsciously flying a little further from the black mass below him. “I can’t see the bottom.”
“That only means it’s even more exciting!” Casia said, flying in a small loop. “This is so awesome, Riew!”
“I think Judah might be right,” Erro interrupted. “It likely isn’t safe down there.”
“Why do you say that?” Casia asked, “Because it looks like a hole to me.”
“I’m assuming that these structures around here were once inhabited,” Erro replied. “I would also assume that the hole you’re referring to likely swallowed a bunch of the buildings.”
“Well, now we have to go down there!” Casia said. “You’re talking about history.”
“I concur with my colleague,” Riew added, pretending to push glasses up his beak. “Entirely invaluable-”
“There could be survivors-”
“An entire race of subterranean bird folk that has gone undiscovered for decades-”
“Millenia, even!” Riew finished.
“Alright, guys. Enough silliness,” Erro said, putting his hands up as he looked at the abyss beneath him. “It has to be unanimous for us to go in. If even one of us-”
“No,” Judah said, shaking his head.
“Come on!” Casia and Riew replied in unison.
“It’s too dangerous,” Judah replied, putting his own hands in the air. “I’m just not sure that it’s a great idea for us to go in there. What if there are traps, or worse, something monstrous down there?”
“You’re doing a poor job talking me out of it,” Riew replied, looking to Casia.
“Me as well,” she said with a quick nod.
“It’s dark, and we didn’t bring any torches with us-” Judah tried as Casia pointed to Riew, who’s hand subsequently turned a blazing white color.
“Alright,” Judah said, “I’ll be frank, deep dark holes with no access to air freak me out.”
“That’s why you don’t want to go to?” Riew asked, “You’re afraid of the roof?”
“You can’t run effectively if you can’t fly,” Judah said, feigning slowly hopping through the air. “Flight is our biggest advantage.”
“Flight is also likely to attract another roc,” Riew shot back as he lowered himself closer to the ravine.
“I don’t think we’re going to find a roc down there,” Erro said.
“You know what I mean,” Riew said, letting his eyes adjust to the lower light source that was his hand. “I’m just saying that there can only be so many powerful creatures like that around one place. Otherwise, one of them feels threatened by the other, and in the end, they either become friends, or they kill each other.”
“Do you want to keep watch?” Erro asked. “No judgment here. I’ll admit, I am a little curious about this.”
“Not you too,” Judah said, “I just don’t like the feel of this place, guys.”
“Then keep watch,” Riew said, lowering himself a little further into the hole.
“Watch what?” Judah asked. “A bunch of destroyed trees and a hole in the ground? The nearest two is a full three days away now. What am I supposed to do if something happens to you guys?”
“Stop with the worst-case scenarios, Judah,” Casia said, flying over to grab Judah’s face. “You and I both know that the worst-case scenario seldom happens, so you may as well keep yourself calm and think about something positive. We’ll be back before you know it, okay?”
“I don’t like this,” Judah said, flying over to land on the limb of an intact tree. “I don’t like this at all.”
“Five minutes,” Riew said, holding up his hand as though that made it seem like less time to Judah. “We’ll be back in five minutes, I promise.”
“Erro,” Judah said, waving him over. “Keep them safe, please.”
“Of course,” Erro replied, patting Judah’s shoulder before descending into the black expanse of the fissure.
Judah watched his friends vanish one by one, and with each, his heart rate increased to the point that he felt like he would pass out on the branch. He all but counted the seconds as they ticked by, feeling a weight drop in his stomach as he passed the five-minute mark and still had no sign of them.