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The Horse chose a narrow dirt path covered with sliding stones for his descent from Alarin. It was not the safest way to the river but it was the fastest. He had two reasons to move quickly: his fear that Tom and Sabrina might be in danger and his certainty that the Cow was because he had put him there.
It was the only way out, thought the Horse. One of us had to get out of the city to rescue Tom and Sabrina. After theyíre safe we can come back for the Cow. Nevertheless, the Horse felt an unusual heaviness weighing him down as he descended the treacherous mountain path, as if someone had secretly filled his saddlebag with rocks or something worse.
* * *
Sabrina and Tom emerged from the mouth of the damp cave to find themselves on a grassy plain just east of the River Ginz, about a mile below the rock bridge that led to Alarinís main gates. They moved slowly, their bodies dripping wet and their limbs shivering from the cold cave air, and they fell down onto the warm grass next to the river.
As the sun warmed their bodies, Tom wanted desperately to fall asleep, but he knew it would be dangerous to rest in an open field during the day. What they needed was food, shelter and a plan.
How will I find my friends in Alarin? thought Tom. Will it be safe to go back into the city?
It was early morning and the field they laid on was quiet except for the sounds of the gurgling river. The river Ginz was often called "the lifeblood of Alarin." Its waters were a pleasant teal color and the river was clear, clean and flowing quickly over smooth round rocks. Tom and Sabrina pulled themselves up to sitting positions and then crawled over to the riverís edge. They reached into its cool waters with cupped hands and pulled back mouthfuls of icy liquid. The river smelled like a bouquet of fresh flowers and their bodies welcomed the soothing relief that filled them as they drank.
After drinking their fill, they stood up and were in the middle of discussing what they should do next when they heard the sound of hoof steps approaching to their left. Something was moving quickly and it would soon be upon them.
Tom scanned the field and noticed that the only cover was a couple of large boulders near the caveís entrance. He tapped Sabrina on the shoulder, pointed toward the boulders and then took off running as fast as his weary feet would move. Sabrina was right behind him. They ran behind the boulders and crouched down, hoping to get the drop on the intruder before they were seen. They still had several mushrooms between them and Tom broke apart a few caps and stems in case they needed to defend themselves.
They waited anxiously for several minutes as the hoof steps become louder and closer. It was clearly the sound of a single horse approaching and Tom was prepared to attack as soon as it came into view.
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