Chapter 10

Difficulties are met at the flowery cliff.

      It wasn't long before Shepry, Koen, and Kai caught the first glimpse of their destination. There seemed to be a significant dropoff through the trees ahead of them, and it became more and more noticeable as they approached. At last they reached a large clearing with the cliff directly in front of them. Looking left and right, they found that the cliff continued as far as they could see, and never seemed to get any lower. Shepry approached the edge and found that it wasn't quite as steep as she'd first imagined. It was higher than the trees growing below, but it probably wouldn't be a fatal fall, especially with the trees to break it.
      "I can't tell if there are any flowers down below or not," She said to the others.
      Koen eased up to the edge and dropped to his belly to look over the edge. "They're probably around somewhere... Oh look! Way down that way!" He pointed to the left. There was a small alcove halfway down the cliff with a grassy patch on it far in the distance.
      "Let me take a look at it," Kai said. He placed his goggles over his eyes and twisted the right lens, causing it to extend.
      "Hey, what does that do?" Koen asked him, "Does that actually make you see farther?"
      "A little," Kai told him, "It's helpful enough to let me see... Something red and blue down that way! I think we've found it!"
      Koen let out a single laugh, and was the first to head off toward that part of the cliff. He started to sprint toward it, but the first step on his wounded foot caused him to limp heavily. He didn't look at the others, and strongly hoped they hadn't just noticed as he eased into a slight jog right before them. They stayed close, but nobody had any more urge to laugh after this reminder of their serious situation.
      Koen removed the rope from his shoulder and lay down at the edge of the cliff again once they traveled far enough.
      "Wow, there they are!" The cliff obscured his view partly, but red and blue flowers could certainly be seen down below.
      Shepry was already tying Koen's rope around her waist.
      "Hey, what're you doing? I wanted to go first!" Koen protested.
      "I didn't particularly want to bring it up, but I'm the more able-bodied of the two of us right now. I should be the one to climb down there to grab some flowers."
      "You sure as hell aren't going to just leave me up here! I'm still fully able to save my own life!"
      "It's pointless for both of us to go down there. This is just a simple little task. I just have to make a quick hop down the side of the cliff, grab a handful of flowers, and climb back up again. It won't take but two minutes."
      "Well if it's so simple, then it's nothing I can't handle!"
      "You know," Kai suggested, "I could go down the cliff and get them for you..."

      Kai had the rope clutched in his hands as Shepry and Koen finished securely wrapping and tying it around themselves. The rope was far too short to be able to reach any of the trees near the cliff, so he had to be all set to ease them down by hand, bracing himself on a large rock near the edge. Shepry was still at the end of the rope, and Koen was actually tied near the middle. She wanted to suggest that he tie himself on closer to her, to make the trip shorter, but decided that it would take less effort to just allow everyone to get on with the plan, flawed as it was.
      "All right, Kai," she said, "There isn't enough rope between the two of us for me to land on the cliff before Koen sets off from the top here. Koen will be supporting my weight until I climb as far down as I can, but when he climbs over the edge, you'll be holding up both of us, so I'll try to set my feet down on the ledge as soon as I'm able to. That will ease off some of the weight. Once I'm down there, it should be easy enough to lower Koen down the rest of the way. We'll have to be sure to put most of our weight into the cliff so we aren't just hanging dead weight."
      She began her descent over the edge of the cliff with Koen standing close by, ready to follow as soon as she pulled the rope tight. Kai ensured that his feet were well-placed and that he had a strong grip on the rope as she eased down. Shepry kept close to the cliff side as she was lowered down, trying her best to make herself as light as possible. Koen followed after a moment, trying to do the same, but with a bit more difficulty as he tried to keep his foot free from pain. He tried climbing with only one foot, but the cliff was steeply angled and mostly smooth with few footholds. Kai held fast at the top, holding the rope low to the ground, so that the cliff and the rock in front of him bore some of the weight. As Shepry continued the jerky descent, she securely planted her feet on the side of the cliff just below the ledge, so she could easily reach forward for the flowers.
      "Kai, hold it still for a second there," she called up to the top.
      Since Shepry hadn't stepped onto the ledge itself, she would have descended right past it if the rope had been let go any further. Already she could not easily lift her legs up there, so she planned to simply grab a few flowers while hanging there and be pulled back up.
      Koen was caught by surprise by this.
      "Hey, keep on lowering, I'm not down there yet!" Koen called, dangling midway between the two ledges.
      "Just a second!" Shepry yelled, trying to uproot one last flower.
      "Go!" Koen yelled, now trying to move about and cause Kai to relent. He tugged at the rope a couple times, then tried to put more weight on the rope.
      "Koen! Stop!" Shepry and Kai both shouted.
      "I can't hold on if you keep doing that!" Kai called down, "Just... Keep as still as possible! I can try to pull back in a second, but right now we all just need to keep still."
      Koen tried to heed this advice and rested his feet agains the cliff. He could feel the rope shaking slightly, followed by a sudden drop of a few inches. Just then, his wounded foot collided with a piece of rock jutting from the cliff. A shock of pain suddenly struck him. He yelled out, and simultaneously heard Shepry shout below him. She was startled both by the sudden short drop and by Koen's scream.
      "Lower me to the ledge, Kai!" Koen once again shouted up, near hysterical from the pain and tension of the situation.
      "No!" Shepry screamed, just as earnestly. Koen could see her down below, now just barely able to keep her arms on the ledge, legs kicking wildly below her. He then saw the flowers in her hand and suddenly realized that to lower the rope any further would be endangering both of them equally.
      "Pull us up, Kai, pull us up!" Koen called. He then had to swing on the rope to reach the cliff as soon as possible, but was instantly reminded of the pain in his foot. To go any lower would be dangerous, but to climb any higher would be painful. He felt truly stuck. During this struggle, Koen lost his footing and dropped straight down. The sudden jolt of weight caused Kai to be yanked forward by the force. Thanks to his firmly gripped gloves, he didn't drop the rope, but he did lose balance and lunge forward past the rock he'd been using to brace himself.
      With much screaming, everybody was beginning to fall. Shepry dropped straight down below the flowers' ledge, and Kai was moments from being pulled from the top by the weight of the other two. Everyone's fall came to an abrupt halt though, as Koen thudded onto the lower ledge on his belly. However, he was immediately being dragged off of that ledge as Shepry fell to the end of her rope. He clawed at the earth and did everything possible to keep himself from getting pulled over. Just as his feet came to the edge of the ledge, Kai was able to stand up at the top once more and give the rope a strong full-bodied tug. If not for Koen's brief landing on the lower ledge, he would have assuredly been dragged forcefully over the edge, or be forced to let go of the rope and let the two of them fall the whole way down. Now he stood at the top, leaning into the rope as powerfully as he could. It was time to attempt taking a step away from the cliff and get Koen to his feet so he could help Shepry up to the same level.
      When Shepry was jolted to the end of the rope, she had dropped her handful of flowers far below. It took a great strain, but Koen was at last able to help her up to the same ledge as him. She hardly made any effort to climb up, and once she actually did land up there, she didn't have the power to do anything but sit gasping in the grass, her heart still pouding from the shock of the fall. The two of them sat there waiting until they'd caught their breath. Kai had peered from the top to check on them, but shared their current sentiment of exhaustion. Shepry and Koen soon prepared to return to the top of the cliff and saw that only one small, mostly-wilted flower was left to pick. They would have to hope that it would be strong enough to help.

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