It sounded like a thunderstorm.
Valla stood at the lip of the cavity into which the Bohsum flowed, her eyes lost in the swirling waters of the sinkhole. The river entered the depression here and spiraled slowly at the edges, more vigorously inward, before finally disappearing into the darkness at its center, down into the unknown below.
The spray of it felt cool on her face as the twisting vortex and the sound like a gale took Valla's mind back to a night weeks after the attack on her village...
Valla and Halissa were huddled together for warmth as the rain pounded the earth. Halissa had fallen into an exhausted sleep. But, as had been the case for so many nights before, she was beset by nightmares of the massacre. Halissa woke up, screaming, and ran...
Nearby, the swollen river raced. Halissa ran too close to its banks, and she slipped in the mud... Halissa reached out her hand...
Valla had feared that Halissa would be swept away, lost forever... lost like the rushing waters that spiraled now into the core of the sinkhole, so very much like an eyeless socket.
Her heart sank at the recollection, but she had grasped Halissa's hand. It had worked out. Everything had worked out in the end.
Back in the here and now, the absence in Valla's memory was more pronounced, a persistent nothingness. Whatever the missing piece was, Valla vowed, it did not matter. She felt more tired than ever, but she would finish this. For Halissa.
She knew that her armor would only weigh her down, and so she shed it, piece by piece. Her weapons she placed in a satchel given to her by Bellik for just such a purpose. In the satchel also were flint and tinder wrapped in goatskin. To these she added her bolas and various explosive-tipped bolts.
She removed her cloak and hood and placed them in the satchel as well so they would not encumber her in the water. Once stripped of her vestments, Valla cinched the satchel and stepped to the edge of the cleft.
Valla could think of nothing more unconscionable than a demon that would corrupt children. She felt a heat rise within her core, a seething fury. But that was what the demon wanted, wasn't it?
She thought of Delios. Of his failure.
A demon hunter must always temper hatred with discipline.
Part of her knew that she might not survive the plunge, that the churning waters could pull her to a watery death.
Valla took a deep breath and jumped.