Jonathan’s Dream (An Adventure Novel)
(Copyright 1984, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)
Chapter Eight, Part Eleven
The work of building a raft started right away, as logs were moved to the river’s edge to begin construction. There were three lengths of rope between them, in addition to the guide rope that was connecting the company together. It was decided to create a simple, flat raft of eight logs, secured together by lashing ropes at each end and in the middle.
Their gear was cinched down tightly in their bags to prevent it from floating away if immersed in the river, and a decision was made to remain roped together while aboard the raft. Everything they were about to do carried great risk: floating the river in pitch darkness into a tunnel with no guarantee of exit, remaining roped together and getting pulled underwater if the rope snags, unroping and risking individual members of the group getting washed overboard, or having the raft flip or jam up against unseen obstacles in the darkness.
Siyall reminded everyone of the course of action they had agreed to, “The plan is to stay low on the raft, lying down and holding on as tightly as we can to the lashing ropes. We can’t know if there’s much headroom in the tunnel above the water level, and can’t risk hitting the rock above us in the dark. There will be no light while on the water, as our Talspars and Jonathan’s Talspin must be secured within our clothing where it can’t become lost in the water. If we fall into the water, or if the raft flips, hold on to the raft at all cost, grabbing hold of the lashing ropes. I can only wish us good fortune, for our quest is to return Light to Myllanthar, and may the Light shine upon us here in this hour of our darkness…”
Once the raft was ready, and their Talspar stones securely stowed away, there was only darkness in the cavern – along with the silence of their individual thoughts concerning what they were about to do. As discussed, Siyall, Sammy, Jonathan and Dija were first on the raft once it was pushed partially into the river, leaving Siyth and Rulyan to provide the final push and climb aboard. They each lay as flat as possible while holding tightly onto one of the lashing ropes, praying this wild ride on the river would be successful.
The river’s current quickly pulled the raft away from the shore and into the flow, initially banging into the side wall of the tunnel as the raft was carried along. They soon encountered unsettling rapids in the pitch black environment, striking against unseen rocks and being turned in circles while pitching out of control. Siyth was knocked overboard in one collision with an obstacle the raft hit, yet he was able to cling to the lashing line as Ruylan hauled him back aboard.
The water was icy cold, and they were immediately as drenched as if they had all been thrown overboard. Every minute or two they called out their names in the dark to ensure no one was lost, with Jonathan answering for Sammy as they were secured together at the chest.
Just when they seemed to reach a stretch of smoother water, the raft went over what must have been a series of steep rapids or waterfalls, with everyone spilling off the raft into the turbulent current. Luckily, Ruylan and Siyall were able to retain their grips on the lashing ropes, and quickly began helping the others regain theirs, too.
One of the outside lashing ropes had broken in the spill over the falls, and the logs were beginning to separate, trapping Siyall’s arm between them. Dijia helped free her arm, allowing her to re-position her grip on another portion of rope at the end of the raft away from the loose logs. As the water became smooth and calm again, Ruylan was able to pull himself up onto the raft and assist the others aboard, too. A reassuring roll-call confirmed that everyone was once again safely aboard.
The smooth water seemed to last for hours without incident, however, the frigid water was beginning to take its toll on the entire company. Everyone was chilled to the bone, and it was hard to maintain their grips on the lashing ropes with frozen fingers. The constant darkness and cold water were numbing their will to endure this odyssey, as not knowing their surroundings or what perils lay ahead was paralyzing them with a primal fear.
The raft seemed to hang up in shallow waters, or perhaps on a sandbar, yet there was no way of knowing for sure. All they knew was they weren’t floating anymore, and seemed to be stuck. As they discussed the possibility of getting off the raft and attempting to push it back into deeper water, Sammy barked once, and then continuously.
At first Jonathan tried to quiet Sammy’s barking, and then decided to look around in the darkness to figure out what the source of his concerns were. When he turned his head and looked behind him, he saw it – a single thin, faint shaft of light off in the distance. “I see light!” cried Jonathan to the others. “Look, a faint shaft of light in the distance. That’s what Sammy’s barking about – he wants us to see it!”
Jonathan then carefully took out his Talspin pendant and after allowing his eyes to grow accustomed to its soft blue glow, he realized they had washed up on a riverbank. Soon they all began to become aware of their surroundings after having been immersed for so long in total darkness, and carefully made their way onto the sandy shore where they completed a headcount, and an inventory of their gear.
Amazingly, they seemed to still have everything with them – even their swords and weapons. Luckily, no one was badly hurt, suffering only an assortment of bumps and bruises, along with being chilled to the bone.
Siyall and Ruylan took out their Talspar stones, and it soon became clear that they were once again in a large, underground cavern, yet there was a single crack on the cavern’s side that let in a sliver of light. After proceeding towards the light, they determined that the roof and side of the cavern had caved in, and by climbing up through the pile of debris they were able to reach the immediate opening to the world outside, yet there was not enough room for a man to wedge himself through the opening.
It was decided that Jonathan, Dijia and Sammy would be sent up through the crack to see if there was a way to reach the outside, while Ruylan, Siyall and Siyth awaited their report. As soon as Jonathan crawled through the crack into the sunshine above, he could see there was yet another opening a short distance away, and directed the others below ground to find it. This opening was larger than the first crack, and before long the entire company was standing in the sunshine!
(End of Chapter Eight)