The Return

As Nate pulled himself up the last few feet of cliff he felt the exhilaration gradually leave, only to be replaced by the ache of exhaustion. When he flopped onto his back with his feet dangling over the Edge Cliff, the one thought that consumed his mind was that he had done it. He and the Professor had successfully descended the Edge Cliff.

The Professor clambered up a moment later and giddily said, "We finally made it! We have become the first people to ever reach the bottom of the Edge Cliff!" "I know," Nate replied as he suddenly realized the weight of what they had accomplished. He and the Professor had begun their descent into the inky blackness nearly eight weeks earlier. Their descent was easy enough as the Professor's late brother, Iffix Hentadile, had left his grapple hooks driven into the rock pavement that made up the Edge Cliff. The more difficult part of the journey had come when they reached the end of Iffix's hooks. Nate and the Professor had to drive their own hooks deep into the hard rock, while battling howling winds, wraiths, and their growing fatigue. But despite the danger and the risk to their health, they had made it, Nate thought contently.

The Professor gradually stood up and stretched, no doubt to try to relax the clenched muscles from the long climb back up the Edge. "We should head into the ruins of Old Undertown to get ready for the arrival of the Archemax," said the Professor between stretches. At the mention of the Archemax, Nate's mind immediately flew to the past year and all that had happened. After the concentration it took to descend the Edge Cliff, the memories flooded back quickly, from his and Slip's escape from the phaxmine all the way to him leaving to descend the Edge with the Professor. Nate's memories suddenly cut off as his mind wandered onto that one person.

"Eudoxia!" he exclaimed.

The Professor had meandered a little ways away and spun around at his shout. Walking back briskly, the Professor crouched down beside him. "What was that, you said?" the Professor asked inquisitively. Nate, face suddenly bright red hastily replied, "Nothing." The Professor ignored his attempt to waive off his curiosity and said, "Don't try to play dumb. I can plainly see that you care for her." Face still bright red, Nate blurted out, "Is it that obvious?" "Absolutely, and I know that she will feel the same" the Professor replied. "How can you be sure?" Nate said. "You made that promise with her, didn't you?" the Professor responed. All of a sudden Nate recalled the promise that he had made to her. How he had promised to return to her. Nate's mind started to blur with questions that came in raging torrents: Would she look the same? How would she react when he got back? Had she changed her mind about the promise? What if she forgot?

"Let's get a move on, I can see the steam of the Archemax on the horizon" said the Professor, his words cutting through the daze of Nate's thoughts. As Nate rose from the cliff face and walked through the budding stacks of flight rocks in the Stone Gardens, he couldn't help but feel the anxiety brewing up in his stomach.