The entrance to the cave was a gaping hole, spiraling down into the dark unknown. I noticed Dak shiver and Aiden pull his cloak tighter about him as we made our way into the cavern and for once, I was glad that my armor protected me from the temperature drop. Dak lit a glowlamp and Aiden ignited his lightsaber to light the pathway. Shorcuk took the rear, bowcaster at the ready for whatever danger was waiting around the next corner.
We walked slowly, observing our surroundings. The cavern walls were jagged and the light from the glowlamp bounced off of the rocks, casting shadows around the cave and pushing back the darkness. I pulled off a glove and ran a hand over the left wall, feeling the slight dampness of the stone. The coolness of the air hit my fingers, causing me to be swift in returning the glove to its rightful place.
We kept silent, hoping not to attract the attention of the kinrath. The path was long and eerily quiet; the only sound was the scuffle of our boots along the stony floor. I kept close to Aiden as we walked; the hum of his blade a familiar comfort in the darkness.
Aiden put up his hand for us to stop. I could hear the distant sound of many feet, scurrying along the pathway. We inched forward, taking care as we rounded the next corner. A few feet ahead, I could make out the insect-like shapes of the kinrath; I could see the tall, golden brown bodies and long spindly legs. The clicking sound of their feet along the rocks, made me shiver. I loved all kinds of creatures, but the insectoids species group was not my favorite.
They seemed to notice our presence almost immediately and started to move in our direction. Aiden plowed ahead, saber raised high, as the kinrath approached. I pulled out my blasters and took aim, shooting into the midst of the group.
“Look out!” Dak yelled as he blasted a kinrath that had sneaked in beside me.
I quickly turned and added my blaster fire to his, making quick work of the creature. Aiden sliced through the remaining three in a matter of seconds and walked toward us.
“Is everyone alright?”
“Yes.” Dak answered. “It didn’t take long for them to spot us.”
I nodded. “They are blind but they sense things through heat signatures. It would be hard to hide from them.”
Aiden lowered his lightsaber. “I had forgotten how quickly they can move. We have to be careful. On top of that, they have a poisonous gland in their faces that they use to kill their prey. We were lucky that the Force was with us and we saw them first.”
“They are a hive animal.” I said. “They live in groups and each group has a matriarchal female. The closer we get to the crystals the more there will be of them. They like to nest in the clusters of crystal formations.”
Dak looked at me, a stunned expression on his face. “How do you know all of this stuff about them?”
“I like creatures and I guess when you like things you tend to remember what you are told about them.”
“You never cease to amaze me, Na’sha.”
“Well, I am more than just armor and blasters.” I teased. “Let’s get moving before some more of those things sneak up on us.”
We had only walked a few more feet, when Shorcuk made a low growl, deep in his throat. I motioned Aiden to stop.
“Shorcuk hears something behind us.”
“Yes. I have sensed someone following us for quite a while now.”
“Why didn’t you say anything?”
“It isn’t threatening.” Aiden looked at me. “Don’t you sense it?”
“Try. Close your eyes for a moment and open yourself to the Force.”
The others kept watch as I did what Aiden asked. I thought that I sensed something for a fraction of a second, but then it was gone.
“I can’t get a grasp on it, but there was definitely something.”
“Good. At least you are trying.” Aiden thought for a moment. “Why don’t you take the glowlamp and head back around the corner? We will wait for you here. I don’t sense any danger from that direction, so you will be fine.”
I looked at him curiously, reaching for the glowlamp that Dak held out to me. I wondered what was back there. I moved quickly, but as quietly as possible around the corner and back down the path that we had previously walked. I caught a glimpse of a shadow, in the lamp’s glow as something darted behind a rock. I stopped and tried once again to feel out the source of the shadow through the Force. The presence felt slightly familiar to me and I gasped as I realized I knew it.
There was silence from behind the rock. I took a few steps closer; hand on my blaster just in case I was wrong.
“You can come out, cyar’ika. No one is mad at you, I promise.”
A small figure slowly emerged from the shadows and walked slowly toward the light. Scrapper held his head down, as if afraid of being scolded.
“What are you doing here?”
“I wanted to come with you. Please don’t be mad, Na’sha.”
I bent down and motioned for him to come closer. He stepped up to me and continued to hang his head.
“Look at me.”
He slowly raised his eyes to mine. “Please don’t make me go back. I can help.”
I sighed. “It is dangerous here. I thought you and I had a deal.”
“I am sorry, Na’sha. I just wanted to come along.”
I shook my head. I really didn’t think he should be allowed to stay with us, especially after the kinrath that we had just encountered, but I also knew that I would worry for his safety if I allowed him to venture back toward the camp alone. Scrapper smiled at me. I think he must have known that this time, he had won out.
“Ok, let’s catch up to the others, but you have to promise to stay close to me and do exactly what I tell you to.”
I stood up and Scrapper stepped forward, wrapping his arms around my waist. “I promise.”
Somehow, I should have seen that one coming.