She blew gently through her nostrils, as she had seen the stable horses do many times. It brought her relief from her very active conscience. She wondered what she had done for her mind to be so awake. She hadn’t been so awake in ages. Perhaps it was the darkness. Her eyes were useless now, so she used her brain instead.

She stood up. She could feel her leg muscles were weaker than they had been a while ago: the darkness and the evil were sapping her strength. She must get out quickly. She was proud of her huge biceps.

“Well,” she said to herself conversationally, “it isn’t as if there is anyone left in my class to compete with.” They must have been in the darkness for far longer than she had. And her mother. Anastasia shivered. Her mother had been down here for more than a week. What strength must she have left? Or she could be dead. Anastasia sighed and started to talk to herself again. It took her mind off what might come.

She blundered on through the tunnels in the blackness. The talking died down after a while, and Anastasia gave herself up to her thoughts. She needed to save her energy. She was used to being lonely. She could deal with that. She needed to save her energy.

She had been walking aimlessly for hours. She sat down to rest, and realised she must use her perception to find her sisters and mother. She wasn’t gaining much at the moment.

She took a breath. She had hardly ever used her perception to do anything before. Once when she was little she had looked into her mind and found her father’s seal ring under the sofa. But usually she just knew things without looking. Now she didn’t know. Maybe the rock walls were too dense for her to connect immediately.

Anastasia took several more deep breaths, filling her lungs with oxygen. She clenched her fists tightly and closed her eyes.

Two minutes later ringing footsteps were heard down a passage to the right.

She had instincts. She knew she had.

The End

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