223 - dark stand
he rock face was growing increasingly harder to grab. Still, Harriet felt no choice but to keep moving down it. She could hear the clamoring of the native mob becoming ever-louder as they continued in hot pursuit.
For a moment, they might assume that she had leapt off the ledge, finding a well-deserved demise at the bottom of the gorge. They had already proven to be anything but easy to deceive, though. They would notice her dangling there. They would be better at scaling the cliff than she was. They would close in faster.
Harriet's foot slipped on a false outcropping. She observed the loosened rocks tumbling down under the influence of gravity. She had never feared death, but she didn't want her end to come like this. Just because she couldn't find her footing? Inconceivable! The fire inside her that had kept her alive through so many ordeals just like this one rekindled itself.
The mob had reached the precipice. They hesitated for hardly a breath before realizing where the robber had gone. They too began moving down the rock wall, swarming surefooted towards Harriet.
Her motivation increased at their presence. She took chances she would have been too reluctant to take before. Both parties had a primal belief beating inside them that Providence would carry them safely and swiftly.
But she felt her confidence waver as she glanced upward and saw how quickly the margin between her and the mob was shrinking. The ground held safety. It was closer now, not just the blurry haze as it had appeared from the cliff's edge. Yet Harriet felt in her gut that she would never reach the bottom before the natives overtook her. The fire burned on, though. This could not be the end.
Her eyes caught glimpse of something shimmering in her peripheral vision. Harriet was focused on moving downward, and diverting her attention for even a second just stacked the odds more heavily against her.
She couldn't help herself. She stole a glance. Something about an outcropping of rocks in the distance looked different. She knew traveling laterally now would only hasten their approach. But she wouldn't make it to the ground. A gamble was her only hope.
Harriet started climbing to the left. The glimmer that had caught her eye materialized into an entrance to a cave. There was a very good chance that she would be cornering herself into a dead end, but she had no alternative. She made for the opening.
She could have sworn that the foreign screams and yells of her pursuers grew even more frenzied as she breached the periphery of the cave. She noticed at once that the innards were illuminated, giving her hope. Perhaps she would find an escape yet.
The source of the light, however, was artificial. Harriet slowed her pace as she realized the glow emanated from a machine in the center of the cavern. The machine appeared sophisticated. Beyond anything she had seen back home. Certainly beyond what these primitive people should have been capable of operating, much less manufacturing.
She approached cautiously, feeling awestruck. The fastest of the natives had made it to the cave by now, but she no longer cared. She was entranced by the machine, and gazed upon its glowing surfaces.
There, she found an indentation that looked familiar. She pulled the amulet out from under her collar, tugging its chain over her head. This thing had caused all this commotion. And now Harriet realized the shape of the indentation on the machine was identical.
She felt their eyes watching with trepidation. Harriet placed the amulet into the indentation. It fit perfectly.