Archi went first with the torch held out before her like a saber, her feet making only a simple knocking sound on the wooden floor of the tunnel.
Mist followed directly afterward, his eyes glowing enough for his own sight. He felt the closeness of the tunnel with a shiver, and a draft began to pull him onwards.
Kev, Sly, and Redhat took up the rear: Kev was gazing directly ahead, Sly was barely paying attention as if lost in his memories of all that had taken place in this damn fly-away story, and Redhat was examining the walls closely.
But all three of them threw their attention to the two blue dots ahead in sudden interest as the Mist let out a cry. His shady form was being sucked away down the tunnel, caught in a torrent of air, his blue eyes wide and alarmed.
Archi paused, one hand holding the torch that jumped and danced in the wind, and her other hand clamping her Indiana Jones hat firmly to her head.
When the wind had died down, she turned to give her followers a careful gaze, measuring their courage.
"Perhaps he's gone ahead as a scout," she offered gently. "Anyone turning back?"
Her expectant gaze was enough to freeze them all in place, and the only one to reply was Sly.
"No, but I sure hope there's a good reason for all this."
Archi gave a glimmering little smile and then turned to face the unknown once more like the fearless leader she was.
A few more steps, and the party stopped again.
"Let me view the map," Archi commanded.
"Um...you mean the book?" asked Kev. "It's in your hand."
"Of course," Archi said, "But I have the torch so someone must hold it out for me."
"Wait a minute," said Sly. "How can there be a map in there? You can't map an imagination. Especially not a meld of fifteen imaginations. I bet whoever's writing this doesn't even know what's ahead!"
"Who is writing this?" asked Redhat.
The group went silent, as they realized that they really couldn't tell. There was nothing exceptional about the writing. It seemed like a rather plain style.
And then, they stared at each other one by one. "Hold it!" demanded Kev. "It must be the author of one of the characters in this chapter. Right?"
"Most likely," Sly said.
"Well I certainly don't think it was the author behind Mist," said Redhat. "Because he was just sucked down a tunnel."
They all eyed one another suspiciously as the torch continued to flicker dramatically.
"If we start disappearing one by one, that'll certainly narrow it down, don't you think?" asked Kev all of a sudden.
There was an all-round gulp and then Archi broke the silence with a sarcastic, "Now that's positive thinking...Let me check my book. Maybe it'll tell us something."
"If it did, then the message would be purely designed by the writer," commented Sly.
Archi stopped and bit her lip in frustration. "Well, I'm going to check all the same. Here we go...random page!"
The book fell open betwen her hands without a sound and the page rustled in the otherwise silent darkness.
Stop asking questions and get a move on down the damn tunnel!
They looked at each other with varying degrees of annoyance and a few sets of rolling eyes. And, from the darkness of the tunnel, one pair of eyes watched them with amusement. It was the forgotten Newcomer. Olius Brightwell.