51 - Where They Arrive at the Sanctuary

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         I’d read about these places in fiction, but I never thought I would ever be able to see it myself. We were in a giant, giant cave within the cliff.

         We stood overlooking a sloping valley, and stretching out in front of us was a spider web of green trails, grass, I assumed. There were several sandy bumps in the terrain, and in the centre of it all, where the grass was planted in a circle, was a giant clearing paved over with wide, flat rocks. Cliff faces loomed overhead, but the air still smelled fresh, and there was even a little light.

         I walked a few steps and saw holes in the cliff walls that allowed sunshine to filter in, and there were lights, the same ones from the tunnel, that airbrushed the valley with muted amber.

         “Come. We’ll take you to see Tweed first, and then you can find your rooms.” Leo waved his hand and we followed him down the grassy slope. He whistled, and his wolves took off, not bothering to stay with us any longer. They charged down and skidded to a stop after veering sharply to the left. They romped about in a large patch of grass.

         Jacoby offered me his arm, and I took it. He’d noticed my shallow breathing, and he gave my arm a gentle rub. I was glad to feel his warmth and steadiness beside me. Beatrice walked on my other side, her head turning every which way, taking in the glorious sight before us.

      I looked around. There were Others of every kind walking about, greeting neighbours, talking. This was a society just like any other, except…

      “Where are the houses?” I wheezed, my hand coming up to press lightly against my side. I winced.

      Leo caught my question, and after studying my posture with a crease between his eyebrows, smiled a little. “They’re mostly underground.”

      I made note of the grass we were walking on, followed it with my eyes. Just like a neighbourhood with sidewalks and driveways, the grass branched off from the main path we were walking on and ended at front doors.

      I met Jacoby’s worried eyes and smiled as best as I could. It hurt, definitely, and I hoped they would have medical treatment here, but it was still too good to be true. It was the very definition of “sanctuary”. Jacoby’s flowers thought so, too, a whole party of dandelions, daffodils, and sunflowers that clung to his legs, but at the same time, strained towards the city. They gave off a faint, but noticeably crisp smell. Inhaling it was intoxicating.

      We cut through the large clearing in the centre of the Bolt Hole, and came to an abrupt stop at the very end of the trail. Leo was knocking on a door with the name “Campbell” painted on it in black. He raised his fist to knock again, but the door swung open before he needed to.

      A woman who looked to be in her sixties or seventies, smiled at Leo, then at us. She had short, salt-and-pepper hair tied back in a loose ponytail, and she wore a simple sweater, hand-knitted, by the looks of it, and faded jeans.

      “Newcomers?” she asked, opening the door a little wider to reveal a sliver of stairs.

      Leo nodded and stepped aside for her to see.

      “Kids, this is Mrs. Campbell, the only lady here that doesn’t care for nicknames.”

      Mrs. Campbell smiled at us and moved to let us in. “I’ll be seeing you at dinner, then, Leo?”

      Leo nodded and hooked his thumbs into his pockets, rocking backwards and forwards. “You bet, Mrs. Campbell.” He smiled at us, and started when his eyes fell on me. “This one’s hurt,” he said with a hand on my shoulder. “Got kicked in the ribs.”

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