Chapter 3: Discerning The Truth
Before long, we arrived at the entrance of the supposed bear den, according to Valtan. On the surface, it looked no different from any of the other caves we had came across, just a hole that’s inlaid within the side of the mountain. In fact, the only difference was that Valtan was adamant on it being the correct cave, because he can ‘feel it’.
Well who am I to argue? With his skills he probably could do that, right?
Outside the cave was a tiny stream that carried water from the snowy mountaintops above into a tiny, pristine puddle. The surface of the puddle was like a mirror, still and clear, reflecting its immediate surroundings unto its surface.
Instinctively, I walked towards the puddle, in an attempt to freshen up my face before bracing myself for the fight that would ensue later. Bloodshot eyes and peeling skin greeted me through my reflection on the surface of the lake. To be honest, even I had a hard time figuring out if it was truly me being reflected on the water and not some poor hiker or adventurer that died here.
Wow. I knew I was tired but I didn’t know I was this tired. Moreover, all the forced marching under the sun has resulted in my skin peeling. Well, at least it doesn’t hurt so I have that as some form of consolation.
I spent the next few minutes blankly staring at my reflection, watching silently as my sweat droplets roll off the edges of my face and into the calm, still water. Ripples churned outwards as they expressed disgruntlement at the sudden intruders.
Although all this was partly due to my weariness from the everything that happened on the way here, at the same time, it was also partly because deep down inside of me, I felt… scared for some reason. It was like as if something felt… off, but I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what that was.
Mentally preparing myself for yet another gruesome trail, I splashed the ice-cool water unto my war-ravaged face and tilted my head towards Valtan, unwillingly trusting everything to him.
“I’m ready, let’s get this done and over with.”
Valtan then headed into the bear den fearlessly, with his hand gesturing for me to trail behind quietly. Following his lead, I then entered the cave. Inside the cave, it was dark and damp. In fact, it was actually pretty dank from the bone-chilling winds that blew through the various gaps and openings inside the cave. Stalactites hung eerily from the ceilings, threatening to come crashing down at any moment while sporadic sounds of wings fluttering and the falling of water droplets echoed softly, adding to the creepy and mysterious ambience.
At the same time, a large crevice ran from the far left of the cavern, slowly becoming parallel to the entrance of the cave as we delved deeper.
And it’s exactly because of this crevice that effectively splits the cave into two, leaving us with only just a tiny ledge to navigate around. Couldn’t the gods of nature be more car-
As I complained in my head, my consciousness sidetracked. Before I knew, I had lost my footing and almost slipped down the jagged rock face into the dark depths below.
Luckily for me, Valtan had noticed the slip just in time, immediately hooking his left arm around my right. With a sudden jerk, Valtan then towed my body up from the crevice and back onto the precarious ledge that he was on with his sheer strength.
“Yo, kid. Be careful alright? We haven’t even seen the bear yet.”
Being put through such a traumatising experience, I was still stuck in a state of shock and was rendered unable to formulate a response. As a result, I could only nod my head towards Valtan in agreement.
Yeah, I’ll try my best to not die next time.
Venturing deeper into the cave, an assorted mix of animal and human bones appeared on the floor and rock shelves in the cave. Skulls, femurs and even fingers, became more and more common the deeper we went into the cave. A sour stench of death had also started to infiltrate our noses as the cold winds that blew through the cave decreased in strength and frequency.
“We’re getting close. Prepare yourself Aegeus cause I won’t be able to guarantee your safety if it’s more than a bear we’re facing.”
Immediately as Valtan said that, we stepped into an enormous circular chamber, dwarfing the previous chambers we had went through in size and magnificence. Within the centre of it was a tiny opening that allowed minuscule amounts of natural light to penetrate the almost pitch-black darkness within the chamber. However, the darkness was to thick, laughing condescendingly at the weak beam of light as it skirted around it.
However, the heavy stench of death and decay had also strengthened multiple fold within the chamber. With a quick scan of my eyes, it wasn’t hard to figure out what was the source of it.
Human bones and animal bones are everywhere, littering the entire floor of the chamber. And what’s that? Brown fur, thick pelt and huge paws… is that a bear corpse… directly below the hole that is illuminating the chamber? Wait, isn’t that the bear that we’re supposed to be hunting?
As if coming to the same conclusion as me, Valtan readied up his trusty axe with whatever strength he could muster into his quaking arms and legs. He furrowed his eyebrows as a look of annoyance and also fear made its way past the typically calm facade of Valtan.
Coincidentally, sounds of rustling came from what appeared to be behind the carcass of the dead bear. It was first faint and barely audible, but slowly grew in intensity and loudness, gradually overwhelming our eardrums.
However, just as the rustling reached its climax, it stopped abruptly. Instead, an even grimmer sound had took its place, breaking the dead silence that was within the cavity.
The dreadful sound of bones cracking amplified itself as it reverberated within the vast chamber.
Written by: Emelia-Tan
Edited by: Schwarz13 and Mega14343
Proofread by: Yakult