A timeless scene of glass-calm pools, awe-inspiring stalactites and towering stalagmites meet their eyes as tthey slowly adjust to the gloom. Dripping water and the quiet scratching of bats overhead seemed to echo throughout the enormous cavity. They move further and further in, carefully training their electric torches pn the groun in front of them and then sweeping up to view the rocky walls. There seems to be no end to the cavernous depths. They folloe natural steps, down, down until they reach a dead-end and then, moving to make the ascent back up, Suzanne's reptilian eyes, glowing faintly with reflected light from the torches, catches sight of stairs, carefully blended in with the rest of the surrounding rock, but showing tell-tale signs of human craftsmanship.
Intrigued, she signals the rest of her team to wait for her as she climbs the steep, narrow steps. Higher and higher she foes, her scaly limbs giving her the endurance to keep going where normal, human legs would have been uncontrollably shaking from the exersion. A whiff of sandalwood on the still air grows stronfer, and Suzanne knows she is reaching the end of her climb, whatever the end may be. Noticing lights up ahead, she switches off her torch and finishes the last few steps in semidarkness. Rounding the corner, she halts in her tracks, surprised.
It's a shrine. A shrine in the middle of a mountain. A shrine which, after cursory examination, appears to be dedicated to Vishne and his consort Lakshmi. Removing her shoes out of respect, she moves closer. The votive candles are burning brightly and the incense was recently lit. But who had lit them? Suzanne glanced around for hidden alcoves and dust on the ground for another set of foot prints. Nothing. No clue as to who the mysterious devotee was. Checking once more and with one last look at the shrine, Suzanne turns and, replacing her shoes, begins the long descent.
Emerging from the cave with the rest of the group, Suzanne fills them in on everything she had seen. It was now late in the afternoon, so rendezvousing with the Jeeps they had arranges to meet at the check point, the team rumbles down a mountain path to the next village.
Once there, however, they receive word from their local contact, village gossip Kiliash Giri, that the train has been delayed for at least the next four hours. From his network all up and down the mountainside, Giri was also able to inform them that the Maoist Separatist guerillas were currently active in that part of the countryside, the local police having just foiled one of their plots the day before to blow up the local post office. It was imperative that the Americans leave the village that night, the sooner the better, since their presence put them and the rest of the village in great risk.
tunned by this latest bit of news, Suzanne and her compatriots move to the bus depot hoping transportation will come by soon to take them and their guides back to safety. As dusk moves in, they begin darting furtive glances into the shadows and down alleyways. What would happen if they were caught by the red rebels?