Frigid air once again whipped its way around every inch of her body. Although Atka and her people were accustomed to the ever-increasing harshness of the winters they had to endure, it did not make them any warmer. Only years of discipline kept her teeth from chattering. After one final check to ensure that all of her equipment - her bow, knife and pack, that is - was present and in good working condition, she set off. She knew the journey she was to make well. Off the beaten path, through various deserted caverns and caves, to emerge at the eastern edge of the Modabe desert within three moons, according to her people's most respected cartographers and one gibbering, incoherent soul who somehow achieved success in his attempt to pass through.
Although the bitter cold had driven the majority of the range's open-air inhabitants to warmer lands, the same would not hold true for various cave-dwelling beasts that made their home in the Glades' caves. Beasts that only a few of her tribe had seen in a number of expeditions. Not all of them returned, and none of them had achieved a kill; not even the most skilled. She must be cautious, and remember her mission. With this in mind, she went on her way; using the sloping path that led to the lowest points of the range.
Atka travelled for what seemed like an eternity through the misty valleys of the mountains, with nothing but birdsong and the constant hum of a tracker's thoughts to accompany her. Finally reaching the first cave she was to pass through in order to take the shortest route to the Modabe, she noticed that nightfall was steadily approaching. Quickly weighing up the risks involved in travelling through an already dark cave with no beacon to guide her back to the exit, she decided to set up camp in foliage roughly one hundred yards from the mouth of the cave. Expertly crafting a bed of leaves in the maw of an overhang to shield from the wind and the majority - but not all - of the cold, she managed to kindle a fire. As she warmed her hands and ate a little of her ration for the night, she could have sworn that she had heard something from deep within the cave.
After the night had passed, it was time for her to enter the cavern. She checked her knife and bow again, more out of habit than anything else when about to enter a dangerous situation such as this, and treaded into the darkness.
The cave seemed to feast upon whatever light ventured into it. She could clearly see an outline of where brightness could not pass, and this disconcerted her. It was almost as though whatever was in the cave did not want to be found, or at least wanted her to believe that it didn’t. Relax, she thought, you're here for a reason. Don't get caught up in fear, especially fear of something that you haven't even seen yet. Rule number 1. Fear control.
Deeper and deeper she journeyed into the blackness, relying on her unnaturally keen eyesight - though not keen enough to penetrate this gloom - and her instincts to guide her.
The slightest noise seems to be twice as loud in here, she mused, irritated by the deafening drops of "mildew" as they struck the stalagmites, causing a chime-like ring throughout the cave. This place could drive you insane.