Novel Excerpt
The Augur of Esteria
By Maggie Giles

The ground shook Menta out of her restful slumber. She and Gaius still sat outside the cave, having fallen asleep there the previous night. But now the young dweller hurried about, stumbling as the earth shook, trying to gather their things.

"Gaius, what's happening?" Menta called.

Gaius glanced to her for only a moment before continuing to move about. Darius and Duke emerged from the cave, Duke stumbling as he did and leaning against the cave for balance. Darius hopped to Menta's side and mewed his disapproval. The ground continued to rumble and shake.

Menta scooped her bag from the ground, all the while trying to stay steady. A rock broke free from the cave and fell to the ground at Menta's feet. She stared at it; it had almost hit her.

Gaius' rough hand grabbed her own. "We need to get away from the cave." He began dragging her away but as the trembles got worse, she stumbled falling on to her knees.

"Careful, Menta," Duke said, grabbing her and pulling her to her feet. The three companions and Darius headed away from the cave and towards an open area.

Menta saw the forest in the distance. "Should we take cover?" But as she asked it, a tree shook loose and fell to the ground with a distant thump. Gripping tighter to Duke, she looked to Gaius once more. "What is going on?"

Gaius shook his head. "I don't know. Radak is angry. He won't let me see. He only trembles with rage."

"What would enrage him so much?" Menta asked.

Gaius frowned. "The Earth God is ever changing like the earth."

Menta opened her mouth to ask what they could do about it when she heard a sickening crack. Gaius picked up his pace, running now and Duke quickly followed. Menta was dragged along but risked a glance over her shoulder. A large crack in the ground stretched toward them.

Looking away, Menta kept running.

There was an awful noise that sounded like a high pitch screech. The sound of something dying. Not only dying, suffering a long and painful death. It wailed loudly as the ground shook more. Risking another glance, Menta saw the ground continue to crack open, more lines breaking away from the first and reaching towards them like fingers trying to grasp.

Duke pulled on her hand, jerking her forward. She ran harder, grabbing Gaius' arm as she passed him and helping stubby dweller move faster. Her legs began to burn and her chest heaved; her heart raced, feeling like it would explode.

Gaius stumbled.

Menta lost her grip on the dweller and he quickly fell behind. "Gaius!" but his name came out as nothing more than a lost breath. She couldn't hear the dweller; it was lost amongst the shrill wailing. Running wasn't working. She could feel the rocks breaking away under foot as she moved, the earth was catching up with them.

Duke's hold on her tightened and in one quick movement he picked her up and threw her out of the way of the breaking ground. She landed on a section of deep grass in time to watch as the earth broke away from around Duke and engulfed him.

"No!" Menta yelled. Neither Duke nor Gaius were in sight. What happened to Darius?

The wailing shifted and the earth seemed to still for a moment. Menta took the chance to scramble to her feet and run from the scene. She needed to find higher ground, or protection. Anything to escape the quaking ground. She wasn't far before the ground began shaking again. Stumbling, she caught a quick glance and saw the earth cracking and breaking once more.

It was coming for her. She ran as hard as she could but it was no use. The earth broke away from around her and she sunk into the ground, being engulfed by an unknown darkness as the ground closed overhead.

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