Her brothers were bigger and stronger, and they could climb longer and better.
But not higher.
She looked down upon them from her eagle’s perch. She did their eagle call and their bronzed faces winked from far below. Were they waving back, or were they shaking their fists?
A moment later she was through the crack in the rock, through the opening where they had decided the god of the sky must live. This crack in the rock was tight, and her body – slight as it was – almost completely cut out daylight from behind. But not in front. She could see a glimmer, and it drew her onwards, deeper and further, walls of rock harsh against her skin.
With a suddenness that was dazzling she popped into the light. She had emerged at the bottom of a mighty fissure in the rock, the sun at just the perfect angle to sear its rays from the top to the very bottom. This grew gradually wider until she was unable to touch the walls on both sides.
She paused, entranced by the paintings. These were old, mere black lines showing bison and aurochs, showing them herded into pits for the slaughter or over the edge of a cliff. How old were these paintings? How many summers and moons had they seen? Life without arrows and spears? Madness.
From the skin pouch at her waist she took one of her fire blacked sticks sharpened to a point. She would come back to this place and do it properly, she would bring rock pigments mixed with pig fat, pictures in glorious red and green, but for the moment it would do, simple lines etching her symbol of the eagle onto the rock.
Despite his own sensible advice to get some rest before the dawn, Ed had barely slept a wink. How could he sleep, with Franny gone into a cave and not come out? Driving past the bandstand in the early morning dark he was flush with fear, Franny’s giggling laugh on the journey into town when the satnav told them to turn right – did the driving man just say the bar steward word?
Ed had to tell himself to breathe as he abseiled down into the fissure; slow and steady, don’t land too heavy and break an ankle. That would be no help. Waiting at the bottom were the first two rescuers, white faced and gloomy. They played the lights of their head torches over the whitened bones they had found.
Ed looked from face to face, then roared with laughter.
‘She went in yesterday! Good God, these aren’t her bones.’ He knelt for a closer look. It was surely the skeleton of a child, bones flensed of flesh by the ages. Ed said, ‘These bones look ancient.’
He made his way down the fissure, calling for Franny, rewarded at last by the flicker of movement. When hugged his little girl to his body there were free tears down his face.
‘Oh, my darling, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry you had to spend the night in this place all alone.’
Franny broke the hug. Her spirits were good despite the long night in the cold.
‘It’s all right, Daddy, I wasn’t alone. Eagle Girl was with me. And guess what, she is a better climber than her brothers too.’