Little time had passed since the sun rose into the sky, but already Marie was stopping for a quick rest.
"I want to travel this night, so we will be resting later this evening. There shouldn't be much more rests than this until then; maybe two others. There is something I think you might like to see," Marie whispered, her eyes glowing with a secret we knew nothing of.
Before we had a chance to press her for questions, Marie glanced up in the sky; my sisters and I followed her example and saw that Kimberly was circling lower. Moments later, Kimberly landed on Sabrina's shoulder to say, "All is clear," and fly back into the skies, joining Jaen and Malice.
Marie unpacked more fruit, some meat for Farah, Simbar, and Rayden, and the water pack. After tossing us each an apple, and giving the meat to our cohorts, she took a drink of water and passed it around. Finally, when it came to me, I poured some into my hands to let Farah, Simbar, and Rayden have a drink.
We sat for a while longer, glancing around occasionally to make sure nothing was around us other than the same monotonous and lifeless rock that lay everywhere here.
"We are almost to the river," Marie observed, talking as casually as if we weren't on a very dangerous quest.
"You're right," I agreed after straining my ears and hearing the faint rumbling of the Eternal River rushing over the rocks of the river bed.
"I don't mean to sound cocky, but of course I am," she laughed, lightening the tense mood. Soon enough, all of us were laughing.
"Shh," Sara sobered up immediately, looking around.
We all quieted and moments later, we all heard what Sara had first heard. Nearby, rocks tumbled, falling with a clatter to the floor of the mountains. A low growl rumbled in Rayden's, Simbar's, and Farah's throats.
Tensed again with apprehension, we all waited silently, staring at each other, internally pleading that this was not some more bothersome mountain lions.
Seconds later, a boy of about eighteen emerged from behind a large boulder. The great animals stood with their hair on end.
"Marie!" the boy exclaimed. "I thought I heard your voice ringing around here." He flashed a genuine smile at her. "And who are these young ladies," he asked, an excited glint shining in his dark brown eyes.
"You know this stranger?" My sisters and I screeched, exasperated.
"I'm no stranger," the boy corrected, a patronizing smile on his face.
"Maybe not to me, but you are to them," Marie chided him. "Gabe, what are you doing here? I thought you weren't straying too far from home anymore." Marie's gaze was cold.
Sara, Sabrina and I stared at her incredulously. "Okay, could somebody please tell us what's going on?" We asked, in sync once again.
Gabe laughed. "I'm her older brother," he explained.
"Yeah, we got that much..." I said, still very confused.
"No need to say look when one is already looking," Marie said dryly.
"Oh please. Stop with your nonsense," Gabe pleaded.
"It's not nonsense!" Sara contradicted, staring untrustingly at this known stranger.
Gabe laughed again.
"What do you want?" Marie asked.
"What? A brother can't say hello to his sister every now and then?"
"Not right now he can't," Marie answered.
"Fine. I was going to offer a place to stay tonight, but I guess you don't want it..." his words trailed off.
"One: you never answered my question; and two: we shan't need a place to stay in the night, we are travelling through it. Besides, we'll have reached Anthony by sun high tomorrow," she turned down his offer.
"Okay, you know how dangerous it is to travel through these mountains at night. And I'm here because mom wanted to know where you've been for the past three weeks," Gabe explained to Marie as if we weren't there.
"Yes, I know how dangerous it is. But I can fully guarantee that we will not run into any trouble. And mom knows where I've been. I told her. Now, you must go!"
"Oh, what? Have you told every dangerous creature in the area to stay away because you're traveling through here at night? It doesn't work that way!" Gabe shouted, not mentioning their mother.
Uh oh... Sara's thought rang throughout my mind.
What is it? Sabrina and I asked at the same time.
Too loud... her reply trailed off as we all heard a rumbling far off in the distance.
"Everybody quiet," Marie commanded as three loud screeches rang through the sky.
The rumbling steadily grew louder and louder until I could barely hear anything else.
"We need to get out of here!" At the incredulous look I gave her, she shouted once more, "It doesn't matter if we shout now; the damage is already done!"
We wasted no time in dropping what we held and started running. Looking back, I remember seeing rocks tumbling down the mountain sides, racing towards us. That sight gave me all I need to propel myself forward, running past the stitch in my side and my light-headedness from moving so fast.
Simbar was running beside Sabrina; Rayden doing the same with Sara; and Farah was just two paw steps behind me. As my sisters and I raced for our lives, Gabe and Marie raced for theirs' right along with us.
Without warning, I could feel myself falling and landing flat on my chest. With the wind knocked out of me and stars literally circling my vision, I couldn't move at all. I tried getting up, but with stinging palms and a very twisted ankle, I wasn't going anywhere.
I looked up to see Sara staring at me, horror showing up brightly in her eyes. A yipe sounded beside me, and until then I hadn't noticed that Farah had been beside me the whole time. I looked at her, sorrow filling my mind as rocks and boulders crashed down on us. The roaring of the avalanche still pounded through my head.
The last thing I remember before blacking out was the sound softening, until it had stopped completely.