Chapter Nine

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Hunter left Edison as her faithful guardsman. He came down with water and food and a change of clothes, men's britches, shirt and a work coat. She hid her hair under an old engineer's hat and kept her head down low when they passed others in the tunnels. Edison, although good for guarding her, made her more conspicuous so Hunter took the dog back to his home to safe keeping.

While she hid in the engineering underbelly of Skylands, sounds of engineering work gangs and groups of coalies passed her by, clanging boots on metal floors, tools clattering, voices laughing, loud and rowdy noises echoing through the metal tunnels, often times giving her cause for moving about to find more suitable hiding places.

On one such move, she rounded a corner and came face to face with a group of rather small men, all covered in black from the top of the head to the shoes on their feet. All she could make out in the dimness of the tunnel lighting were the whites of their eyes and bright white teeth when they smiled at her, bobbing their heads and moving past her as she pressed her back up against the tunnel wall. She held her breath until the last little man passed with a nod of his head, then let it out in a whoosh, turning quickly to lose herself in the blackness again.

It was two days before Snow saw Hunter again. She started to worry that he would get caught or that she get lost again and he wouldn't be able to find her again.

'I'll always find you, Snow, don't fret so much.' he told her. 'I've sent word to your father, but with Raena's spies everywhere, I'm not sure the message will make it land-side.'

He watched her eat, a sad expression on his face. He threw a bright red apple up and caught it. Over and over again as if trying to make a decision. 'Raena called me into her drawing room last night, Snow.' She paused her eating to look at him. 'She asked me to find you, and to poison you.' He threw the apple up and caught it again. It was exactly like the apple she had just taken a bite from, bright and shiny and red. It looked and tasted absolutely delicious. She stopped taking a second bite, trying to spit out what she'd already eaten.

She was betrayed. Tears threatened. She trusted him, he wouldn't hurt her. He couldn't hurt her. She couldn't say a thing.

He looked over his shoulder and looked back, his eyes changed, a pained look entered them. 'She knows you are down here.' He quickly gathered all the supplies she had, shoving them into a rack sack. He hit the apple out of her hand as she stood there stunned, not quite believing what he'd done.

'You have to run Snow. Find some lost corner down here and don't come out.' He pushed her towards another service tunnel that became blurry and shifted into two tunnels.

'Hunter?' she tried to figured out what had just happened.

'Keep running, Snow. Don't look back,' his words surrounded by other men yelling. She turned and ran as fast as she could, dropping the ruck sack somewhere along her way, stumbling over her own feet. She heard the echo of shouting men, turned to find Hunter running towards her as her vision doubled.

She was in trouble, so very tired and didn't know where she was going. She found a water pipe opening that dropped meters into swirling water below, making her pause. Terrified, she felt she had no choice and climbed up into the mouth of darkness. Someone caught her coat, yelling echoed through her head and as she fell down she heard her own voice involuntarily screaming.

Water rushing into her mouth, skin stinging with a thousand freezing cold knives, hands grabbing her and holding her tight, then darkness.

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