Well aware that time was running out, we hurried as swiftly as we dared, along the eerie passage-way. The path was now sloping downwards at an alarming rate and I had to pop the Dormouse on my shoulder, to stop him rolling away in a little furry bundle of dreadlocks and rum.
It was darker here, only a couple of torches burned sullenly in their niches, shedding a thin, meagre light. Dark ! Dark, dank and dreadful; danger waited around every twist and turn of the path. Even Colin and Trevor, those brave, staunch pals, advanced very warily and the Grey Rabbit and Bomo, who were stationed at the rear of our party, persistently turned to check if anything was stalking us.
Then the torches flickered and the faint light they had provided was gone. The Knave was struggling to light our own, rather inadequate torch when ……..
CRAAAAK ….. WHHOOMMP …..
We felt ourselves dropping through the air and landing, unceremoniously in a tangled heap. The path must have had a large hole, sparsely covered with twigs and gravel and, in the sudden darkness, we had all stepped on it.
We lay for a second, confused and disorientated, rubbing the various parts of our anatomy that had suffered in our fall. We were in a deep hole, but not deep enough to cause severe injuries. However, certainly deep enough to distract us from the next attack. .
As I lay there, rubbing my head and still in a daze, I noticed another passageway. In fact it was the ONLY passageway and a dark mass was heading towards us.
” Ahhhhh ” I screamed “Rats !” … the one thing I was really terrified of.
The others looked at the tunnel,
“No …Its snakes ” cried Grey Rabbit, flapping his paws in terror.
“Yikes ” screamed Colin, ” Tarantulas ! Oh blimey, I hate ’em” and he stared at the tunnel, frozen in fear.
” Lawks,” yelled Trevor, ” Are you flipping blind ? Its scarab beetles ! Oh I’ve got a phobia about them ever since that incident with the belly dancer. I can’t go down that tunnel.”
Bomo and the Knave, clearly afraid of none of the creatures, stood resolutely by us, bemused by the way we were all scrambling up the sides of the hole, trying to retreat from the horrors. But we could find no way up, the walls were as smooth as glass. Fear rising in my throat, made me nauseous as the rats came nearer, baring their yellow teeth. I had no idea what the others were yelling about, all I knew was that I had been afraid of rats all my life. Ever since I had been cornered by one in a garden shed, when I was 5 years old. My trusty terrier, Patch, had swiftly come to my aid and dispatched the rodent with one snap of his jaws , but I was still terrified.
” The Trolls are reading your fears ” shouted the Knave, who, along with Bono, was not afraid of anything the Trolls could conjure up. ” These creatures you see are not there. They are illusions. Its not real !” But we all kept staring at the tunnel’s entrance, not prepared to believe him. We cowered in fear and refused to advance.
The Knave grabbed Bomo,
“Sing something, sing anything. And the rest of you damn well better join in,” he ordered
So Bomo stepped forward, his fat little body so reassuring and solid and broke into song …..
“Waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda …… ” he began. And in faltering voices, we all sung along, still keeping an eye on whatever dangers emerged from the tunnel.
“Louder, louder, !” shouted the Knave and soon we were all busy concentrating on singing and remembering the words and even smiling at the sheer ridiculousness of the whole situation. Slowly the rats faded away and I guess the rest of the group experienced the same fading visions, because Colin and Trevor were dancing in a circle, singing and, naturally, arguing about whether it was a ‘billabong’ or a ‘jolly jumbuck’.
” Erm, ahh , of course I wasn’t really afraid ” blustered Grey Rabbit, as he brushed soil from his waistcoat, “Deary, deary me. If the Grand Council ….” but we all laughed before he could finish his sentence and Trevor and Colin each slapped him, playfully, on the back.
“Nar, we know you weren’t ” guffawed Trevor while Colin nodded vigorously.
“Right !” the Knave began,
“we are nearing the Great Chamber, I can feel it. That was an attempt to frighten us with our greatest fears and make us turn back. We must go on, we must finish our mission. We have so little time. Peri and Erebus are depending on us …. and so is the rest of the World.”
We gathered our scattered weapons and I tightened the ties on my cloak. My bag hung by my side, the thick strap safely on my shoulder and my sword in my hand. The Dormouse in my pocket. Soon we were ready !
We entered the tunnel; brave resolve in our hearts. Far ahead, in the distance, a golden light glowed. It was the glow that emanated from Erebus. The Great Chamber was just ahead.