Nicoli glanced down at the rushing water below the cliff, his hands tightly gripping the old worn rope. His whole body froze, and his brain screamed in panic, telling Nicoli to back away from the ledge and walk away. Despite the desperate pleading of his own mind, Nicoli continued to stand at the edge, at war with himself.
“I told you he was too chicken to do it.” A voice snickered behind Nicoli, “Little baby Nicoli, always needing someone to hold his hand and…” The voice was interrupted by Nicoli finally finding his voice.
“I am not a baby or a chicken.” He gasped out, eyes still locked on the water far below him.
More snickering came from behind Nicoli, “Sure – I bet that’s what your brother said too, right before…”
“You leave my brother out of this!” Nicoli grit his teeth in anger. He knew what he was about to do was foolish and dumb, but Lyle and his gang promised that if he jumped, Nicoli could be a part of their group. And Nicoli desperately wanted to be included, he was tired of being picked on, beat up, and teased. If jumping into the river meant stopping all of the abuse, Nicoli was willing to try.
He white-knuckle gripped the rope, which in the summer, allowed the children of Nicoli’s village to swing out into the deepest part of the lazy moving river. But it was neither summer nor was the river lazy; rather, the river was swiftly moving along with ice chunks mixing with the choppy fast-moving water.
Watching the water and a particularly large ice chunk pass by, Nicoli lost his nerve and began to turn around, “Lyle, if I jump from a lower spot…”
Nicoli never got a chance to finish his sentence. He screamed; his arms backpedaling as Lyle awkwardly, half-shoved Nicoli over the cliff.
Nicoli plunged into the freezing water, narrowly missing a large boulder. He gasped at the sudden shock of the cold water, causing him to inhale as he was dragged deeper into the river. His vision swam as his lungs burned from the sudden intake of cold water.
Deeper and deeper, faster and faster, Nicoli was being dragged downstream by the raging river.
Nicoli struggled to swim against the river’s current, his arms and legs crashing into rocks and ice, but the river’s pull was too strong. Slowly his body began to grow numb, and Nicoli stopped shivering, his lungs slowly shutting down due to shock and the start of hypothermia. Nicoli closed his eyes as his consciousness faded away.
Nicoli sank. The river ruthlessly pulled and pushed Nicoli’s small frame as it roughly dragged him into an underground cavern, depositing him against a large stone. As Nicoli’s nearly frozen hand brushed the stone, the stone suddenly pulsed.
Nicoli awoke, pressed up against the large warm stone which slowly and rhythmically pulsed with a ruby-red light.
The Heartstone had been found once again.