The soil grew rockier the further in she went.
Treacherous, her cousin Elyssia would have said. I’d rather build on carrot custard.
Amber was loath to agree with her, but she had almost turned her ankle twice in twenty minutes.
And a lame rabbit is a dead rabbit.
She put on her gloves and went to all fours. She bobbed ahead slowly. The rocking motion of her gait turned into a trance. Her mind wandered as she continued forward. Then the scent hit her: a fully-formed spirit stone.
That’s it! She broke into a wild run, zig-zagging towards it.
The treacherous soil turned sandy beneath her feet.
She scrabbled, but it was too late. The bad ground pulled her down a steep slope, then she was falling through the air. She landed with a thud.
She groaned. Then:
Toes? She wiggled them. Okay. Ankles? She circled them. No pain. That’s good. Legs?
After a full tail-to-ears check, she pushed herself upright.
She stood in a steep pit with walls too sheer to climb. The spirit stone scent floated tantalizingly above her, but down here, the rotting smell was overpowering.
She froze at the sound, eyes searching the dark. She could only make out a silhouette—but she could tell it was close.
Amber pulled her sword out of its scabbard and held her steel parasol-shield before her.
“You’ll find no easy prey with me!” she shouted into the darkness.
The shadow froze. Then, the first voice she’d heard in a week:
“You wouldn’t hurt an old rat, would you?”