Brashani rested for ten minutes before standing up and stretching. “My bones ache,” he said.
“I know the feeling,” said Evan.
“Any chance of sleeping for a few hours?” Brashani asked.
“I’d love to oblige you, but we really need to keep going.”
The wizard sighed. “More’s the pity. But I figured you’d say something like that.” He paused and stretched again. “Okay, I’m ready.”
“Good. Do you have enough strength to resume detecting traps?”
“Yes, I think so.”
“Then do it and let’s move out.”
They continued along the tunnel, which turned and twisted, first one way and then the other. A few times, Evan thought he was walking up an incline but he wasn’t sure.
The passageway opened into a large cave. The cavern’s floor was finished and smooth, made from the same stone as the cave walls. The ceiling was unfinished; stalactites hung down like round, blunt fangs. Directly opposite the entrance, on the far wall was an exit.
As they stepped into the cave, Brashani held up a hand and said, “Something’s wrong here.”
Evan stopped and put his arms out to either side to block the others behind him. “A trap?” he asked.
“Yes, I think so. Just up ahead. The floor is trapped somehow.”
“Can you be more specific?”
“Hmmm. I wouldn’t put weight on it.”
“So we have to get across without walking on the floor.”
“That seems to be the case.”
James’s face brightened. “I could swing across on a rope and see if there’s a way to disarm the trap on the other side.”
“And what will you attach the rope to?” asked Evan.
“One of those things.” He pointed at the stalactites.
“Are you any good at throwing a grappling hook?”
“Actually, I am. As I told Iriel, I spent summers climbing the caves outside of Rockborough while I was training as a bard. That’s how I got to be a good climber.”
“How’s the burn on your arm?”
“Fine. It still hurts, but it shouldn’t be too much of a bother climbing rope.”
“All right,” agreed Evan. “Who has grappling hooks we can use?”
James raised his hand. “I do.”
“I do, too,” said Iriel.
“That’s enough,” said the priest. “But instead of swinging across, use the grappling hooks to climb across. We’ll tie rope to each one. You’ll have to throw one from here and then climb up, then throw the other one and swing over. The hard part will be pulling the first hook out of the rock so you can reuse it to repeat the process.”
“It shouldn’t be too hard,” said James. “I’ve done this sort of thing before.”
“Okay, the rest of us will wait in the tunnel. Once you are over the middle part of the floor, drop something on it. That should trigger the trap and make it safe for the rest of us.”
James swung the grappling hook around a few times and let it go. It sailed through the air and lodged into the side of a thick stalactite. Testing the rope to see if it would hold him, James started climbing the rope. He went up twenty feet then took the other grappling hook and threw it at another stalactite deeper into the cave. It landed squarely at the base of the stone fang. James swung out on the second rope and pulled on the first rope. It wouldn’t come free; James tried again as he swung back, pulling harder this time.
The hook came away and flew out of James’s hands. It landed on the floor with a clank and, in the same instant, a volley of spears soared out from the walls along the sides of the cave, grazing James’s legs in several places and tearing his trousers.
The bard broke out in a cold sweat as panic gripped him. He screamed.
Evan heard the grappling hook hit the floor, saw the spears crisscrossing the cave, and heard James’s cry. Iriel rushed to stand beside Evan. Looking up, they both saw James holding on to the second rope. Concern played in the elf’s eyes and her brow furrowed.
“Are you all right?” called Evan.
“I’m not sure, but I think so. Those spears startled me.”
“Well, you can come down now,” said Evan. “I think you’ve disarmed the trap.”