A hand grabbed me at the ankle, an iron grip grinding the bones together. I nearly screamed, and lost my hold on the wall. Only the grip, keeping one foot anchored in place, kept me from falling back. But it was too awkward. Held just by the ankle, my entire weight levered on my knee and hip, and it felt like something was about to tear. Some muscle had to give—
Whoever had grabbed me clamped another hand just above my knee, and then another – three arms? two people? – grabbed at my shirt and yanked. With the help of whoever had a hold of me, I stumbled, almost fell, into the hole several feet. I may as well have fallen into the deepest trench of the Pacific.
Complete darkness enveloped me just a few feet in, even the flames wreathing my head having gone out. My rescuers were swiftly turning into abductors, as they dragged me along into the depths of the hole. They let go of my leg and shirt and grasped my shoulders instead. I struggled against them, trying to wriggle out of their grip and get away, but their hold was too strong. I considered pulling out of my shirt, but the solid hold they had on my shoulders suggested against it. Any move that had a serious chance of escape, and they could crush my shoulderblades and collarbone like twigs, I had no doubt. It wasn’t so much my exhaustion and weakness as their fantastic strength that convinced me.
The floor descended sharply. At least they weren’t dragging my face against the rocky floor. Small blessings. I closed my eyes, trying to draw my strength together, and considered my options.
They weren’t many. I could go along peacefully, or I could go along kicking and screaming – and wasting my strength. If I had enough strength to fall apart, I certainly didn’t have enough to maintain it; I’d have to reform quickly, and they’d be able to just grab me again, even more exhausted. And, if the passage we passed through was indeed magical, perhaps there was a more benign reason they were carrying me. Traps or wards that recognized them, but required contact for someone else to get through safely.
I doubted it, but it was at least possible.