And thus they fled, knowing that they had, at most, less than a day before the drone would return with enough soldiers to compel obedience. For the most part, the surface was rough granite, with very little sign of erosion. There was almost no water; both women showed intense joy when they found a tiny pool of it standing in a crevasse. They filled their gourds as well as their stomachs.
A few steps farther on, and the pair stepped out of the shallow gully in which they had been walking. Immediately they were exposed to a very strong and exceedingly cold wind, such as seemed to surprise them in no way, but compelled both to actually lean against its force. Moreover, although this pressure was all from the left, it proved exceedingly difficult to go on. Their legs seemed made of lead, and their breathing was strangely labored. This, also, appeared to be just what they had expected.
Presently, however, they found another slight depression the rocks; and sheltered from the wind, made a little better progress ahead. It was bitter cold, however; only the violence of their exercise could make them warm enough to stand it. All in all, the two were considerably over three hours in making the last mile; they had to stop frequently to rest. The only compensating thing was their freedom from worry; the bees would not bother them where the wind was so strong. So long as they could keep on the move they were safe.
But what made it worse was the steadily increasing difficulty of moving their legs. For, although the surface continued level, they seemed to be climbing now, where before they had simply walked. It was just as though the plateau had changed into a mountain, and they were ascending it; only, upon looking back, nothing but comparatively flat rock met the gaze. What made them lean forward so steeply anyhow?
Rolla seemed to think it all very ordinary. She was more concerned about the wind, to which they had become once more exposed as they reached the end of the rift. On they pressed, five or six steps at each attempt, stopping to rest twice the length of time they actually traveled. It was necessary now to cling to the rock with both hands, and once Cunora lost her grip, so that she would have been blown to one side, or else have slipped backward, had not Rolla grasped her heel and held her until she could get another hand-hold.
“Courage!” gasped Rolla. Perspiration was streaming down her face, despite the bitter cold of the wind; her hands trembled from the strain she was undergoing. “Courage, Cunora! It be not much farther!” On they strove. Always it seemed as though they were working upward as well as onward, although the continued flatness of the surface argued obstinately against this. Also, the sun remained in the same position relative to the rocks; if they were climbing, it should have appeared overhead. What did it mean?
Finally Rolla saw, about a hundred yards farther on, something which caused her to shout: “Almost there, Cunora!”