The Great Book of Amber. Chapter 5, 6
We spent two evenings making our way to the pink and sable sands of the great sea. It was on the morning of the third day that we arrived at the beach, having successfully avoided a small party the sundown before. We were loath to step out into the open until we had located the precise spot, Faiella-bionin, the Stairway to Rebma, and could cross quickly to it.
The rising sun cast billions of bright shards into the foaming swell of the waters, and our eyes were dazzled by their dance so that we could not see beneath the surface. We had lived on fruit and water for two days and I was ravenously hungry, but I forgot this as I regarded the wide, sloping tiger beach with its sudden twists and rises of coral, orange, pink, and red, and its abrupt caches of shells, driftwood, and small polished stones; and the sea beyond: rising and falling, splashing softly, all gold and blue and royal purple, and casting forth its life-song breezes like benedictions beneath dawn’s violet skies.
The mountain that faces the dawn, Kolvir, which has held Amber like a mother her child for all of time, stood perhaps twenty miles to our left, the north, and the sun covered her with gold and made rainbow the veil above the city. Random looked upon it and gnashed his teeth, then looked away. Maybe I did, too.
Deirdre touched my hand, gestured
with her head, and began to walk toward the north, parallel to the shore. Random and I followed. She had apparently spotted some landmark.
We’d advanced perhaps a quarter of a mile, when it seemed that the earth shook lightly.
“Hoofbeats!” hissed Random.
“Look!” said Deirdre, and her head was tilted back and she was pointing upward.
My eyes followed the gesture.
Overhead a hawk circled.
“How much farther is it?” I asked.
“That cairn of stones,” she said, and I saw it perhaps a hundred yards away, about eight feet in height, builded of head-sized, gray stones, worn by the wind, the sand, the water, standing in the shape of a truncated pyramid.
The hoofbeats came louder, and then there were the notes of a horn, not Julian’s call, though.
“Run!” said Random, and we did.
After perhaps twenty-five paces, the hawk descended. It swooped at Random, but he had his blade out and took a cut at it. Then it turned its attention to Deirdre.
I snatched my own blade from its sheath and tried a cut. Feathers flew. It rose and dropped again, and this time my blade bit something hard—and I think it fell. but I couldn’t tell for sure, because I wasn’t about to stop and look back. The sound of hoofbeats was quite steady now, and loud, and the horn notes were near at hand.
We reached the cairn and Deirdre turned at right angles to it and headed straight toward the sea.
I was not about to argue with someone who seemed to know what she was doing. I followed, and from the corner of my eye I saw the horsemen.
They were still off in the distance, but they were thundering along the beach, dogs barking and horns blowing, and Random and I ran like hell and waded out into the surf after our sister.
We were up to our waists when Random said, “It’s death if I stay and death if I go on.”
“One is imminent.” I said, “and the other may be open to negotiation. Let’s move!”
We did. We were on some sort of rocky surface which descended into the sea. I didn’t know how we would breathe while we walked it, but Deirdre didn’t seem worried about it, so I tried not to be.
But I was.
When the water swirled and swished about our heads, I was very worried. Deirdre walked straight ahead, though, descending, and I followed, and Random followed. Each few feet there was a drop. We were descending an enormous staircase, and it was named Faiella-bionin, I knew.
One more step would bring the water above my head, but Deirdre had already dropped below the water line.