After what felt like an eternity, I broke through the surface of the water. Desperately grasping for a lungful of air, only to be forced under again by the current like washing being thrust into a pail by the strong arms of a wash maid.
My bones ached and my flesh bruised as I was repeatedly thrown against the jagged boulders in the river. Each brief icy breath stinging my desperate lungs, bringing little relief before being pushed under again for another round of being shoved around by the forces of nature.
The thunderous sound of the water was deafening. The pull of the current became even more desperate, pulling me downriver with a sense of urgency. The revelation of the waterfall not twenty paces away hit me harder than the boulders could.
“This is my end,” I thought. Surprised at my sudden calm and acceptance of my fate. I stopped fighting the current and thoughts of the afterlife flashed through my mind. After the life I have lived, would the Gates of Hemithia welcome me? Or is my soul destined for the Fire Rivers of Gaunray?
The river gave one final thrust and then I was soaring. Briefly suspended in the air, feeling as free and careless as the sparrow eagle. Then the pull of the earth and the force of the cold river was forcing me down. Falling for what felt like hours and brief moments all at once, I hit the water below with such force that everything went dark before I could feel any pain. I drifted off into the darkness, ready to accept whichever afterlife was meant for me.
The twittering sound of a garrow was the first sign to tell my aching head that I had not left this realm for the afterlife just yet. Soon followed by a burn in my lungs that felt like I had actually breathed in the fire water of Gaunray before returning. Spluttering out the remnants of water in my lungs, I rolled over onto the bruised muscles of my side.
I could feel the darkness of unconsciousness creeping in again. My eyes frantically searching for something to focus on and hold on to. My eyes finally fixed on something strangely familiar. At first I thought the grey fur was that of the wolf, but just before the darkness of sleep took over I saw the eyes of the figure staring back at me. It was no wolf, it was the stranger from the camp.