Tobal stood on flat rock at the cliff's edge looking down into the valley. He could see the main camp being set up. He also saw some log cabins surrounded by teepee like structures and a smoking fire pit in the center of the camp itself. The people looked like ants from this distance.
He wondered how they were going to make it down into that guarded valley? He couldn't see any possible way down from where he was standing.
Rafe said, "Don't worry about it. I told you I know the way down. Just follow me."
Tobal reshouldered his pack and took a last drink from his canteen. It was nearly empty. He turned and limpingly followed Rafe. He had not tied his boots tightly enough and his left heal was raw and blistered. Rafe had really chewed him out and treated him from the first aid kit. He had been reminded any open wound in the wilderness was very serious and could get infected easily if it wasn't taken care of immediately. There was limited help available and he had to take better care of himself.
There was a faint two foot wide trail Rafe was leading him on. It sloped steeply downward and Tobal clung nervously to the rock face trying to keep his balance as Rafe scampered on ahead of him. The heat of the sun warmed the cliff face and had melted most of the snow off the trail. They didn't need the snow shoes anymore and carried everything in backpacks. Rafe sprinkled sand on some of the slippery spots and Tobal used his walking stick to pound away the ice from stubborn areas.
The ledge widened into a real trail with boulders to climb over, hairpin turns, and stomach lurching drops before narrowing down again and hugging the cliff face so tightly that Tobal needed to move sideways along it. There were no handholds or supports and it was slow going made even slower by his extreme nervousness. He had never liked heights.
He half slid, half fell, but managed to stay on his feet. More than once the sturdy support of his walking stick helped him keep his balance. Rafe had long since disappeared down the trail and Tobal felt alone and abandoned. He went around a large boulder where the trail widened into a road and leveled out. He heard a scraping sound on the rock above him and looked up to see a large gray blanket being thrown over his head as he was roughly grabbed and thrown to the ground.
Tobal was bound and hoodwinked with his hands tied securely behind his back and then roughly shoved by at least two people that led him further down the path for almost thirty minutes. His foot hurt badly and he almost tripped and fell several times but rough hands caught and held him steady as he blindly staggered along.
He was abruptly pulled to a stop and heard a loud knocking three times that echoed and hurt his ears.
"Who is there?", a voice challenged.
"A prisoner, Master."
"Where is he from?"
"Master, he is from Neo-Rome and comes by way of Old Seattle."
"What is he doing here?"
"He is claiming sanctuary at Heliopolis, city of the sun."
"What does he want from us?"
"He can not survive in the wilderness without our aid, he wishes for peace and seeks wisdom."
"Let him confirm his intentions with an oath".