The rugged faces of the mountain cliffs were behind him, sporting crude structures at the mouths of caves. Tiny fires smoldered in some of them. A flat-domed structure stood in front of him, decorated with a string of small baubles and sporting an irregular chimney structure.
A good distance away to his left were more chimneys. But these irregular structures had white smoke issuing from them. Between those and the mountains were more spires like the one he'd climbed and decorated.
To his right, as he stood upon the flat rock, was a clear pathway leading out of the city.
Gypsum gave a snarl of satisfaction, his torch held at shoulder height in his right hand; then he turned sharply and silently made his way toward the exit that offered a clear escape from the old and unlovely ancient city.
He had many miles to travel to reach New City. He would have to skirt the perimeter of Old City and do it cautiously to avoid any residents of the city.
Plus, he was hungry and getting hungrier every minute. There was no rule that he needed to return by the end of the day, and night would be soon upon him.
After working his way through the piles of rubble that cluttered the exit avenue, he headed straight away from the city and then veered away from his destination and toward the foot of the low mountains. He hoped to find a cave or at least some kind of concealed place to sleep.
He kept his senses alert for anything that might serve as food.
He was disappointed.
But he did find a small cave.
It was little more than a shallow hole in the rocky face of the cliff. But it allowed him to sleep out of sight of any casual passerby and it offered shelter from the wind that seemed to always pick up in the evenings.
There were a few trees in the vicinity. Gypsum tore off a thin branch with plenty of leaves and then walked back to where he exited the city.
He used the leafy branch as a broom and swept away his footprints. It was a tedious chore, backing up the entire distance to the cave while sweeping the ground behind him. But he felt it worthwhile. If any patrols should come looking for him, or just on random patrol, they would have no clue that he had passed this way. He would be able to sleep without being on high alert.
He shed his armor for the sake of comfort and quiet, growled his displeasure at the hunger pains he felt, and went to sleep. His last thought was a hope that Topaz would not worry too much.
But Topaz did worry. She had kept faithful vigil atop the hill with Feldspar and Beryl. When hours passed with no sign of Gypsum, all but Feldspar and Topaz sadly left the hill and returned to their homes. After darkness was the dominant theme, Feldspar insisted that Topaz return to her home and they would begin again their watching in the morning. She reluctantly went, taking hope in Feldspar's assurances that his brother would return on the next day, and relatively unscathed.