A volcano, he thought, of course it had to be a volcano. He cursed under his breath and wiped his brow. This was not going to be easy. A substantial glob of lava slammed onto the rocky passageway beside him and sizzled. Not easy at all.
He began creeping along the rocky formation which acted as a bridge for him between the two extensive rivers of molten rock. This needed to be done at pace and he knew it. He wouldn't survive in here for long.
As he began to walk, he remembered Sarah's words, "Make light feet and your goal will be easy." Beginning to run, he hoped she was right.
"You aren't getting away that easily!" an echoing voice caused more lava to fall around Horatio on the rocky walkway. He deftly avoided it, one glob singing the back of his coattails, "I still have control of this mountain! Your fate is in my hands!"
"Curse you, Barclay!" Horatio turned and saw Barclay standing by the opening he had used to enter this tunnel of fire, "You can't stop me!"
"Oh, I beg to differ, Captain!" Barclay began reciting a hurried incantation and threw what appeared to be several gems into the lava pits below, "This cavern will be your tomb!"
With a suddenness that caused Horatio to momentarily lose his footing, the walls began to shake and the lava to bubble with a violent fever, "What have you--" Horatio began, but saw the Barclay turn and run as rocks blocked off the entranceway. Now Horatio only had one way to go. He picked up his pace and ran full pelt towards the end of the stone passageway on which he stood.
Crashing and slamming, giant chunks of rock and spheres of lava began pouring down upon the Captain. Whirling and turning, he dodged the falling lava.
A large chunk of rock fell against Horatio's arm and he fell prone on the hot stone, "No!" he shouted at himself, "Get up! Get up!" he could feel the tremendous heat against his face, felt his energy being sapped by the demonic mountain. With heroic strength, Horatio forced himself upright and began running once more towards the other end of the cavern.
Not today, he thought, I'm not falling today.
Horatio risked a glance upwards and saw a tremendous portion of the cavern wall break loose and fall towards him, "Light feet, light feet!" he said to himself as he ran, making a great leap forward with all the strength his calves could carry.
The chunk of stone slammed onto the catwalk, cracking it and breaking off significant parts of its structure. Rock fell in waves down into the pits of molten lava, but Horatio was still running. His great leap had moved him just far enough out of the stone's reach to allow him to keep running. Any slower and he'd be history, "Not today." He said, a stony solidity to his voice.
Just as a large wave of lava and rock slammed into the stone where Horatio had just stood, the brave Captain had once more leapt and landed in the safety of a small crawlspace. The heat followed him down the burrow and sweat poured profusely from his brow.
Out of the frying pan, he thought as he emerged into another of the volcano's caverns, into a brightly lit chamber. The light blinded him for a moment and he shielded his eyes. When he opened them, he held before him a splendid vision of a cavernous construction made entirely from glaciers of the deepest blue. The cavern seemed to go on for miles upwards and across, Fantastic, he thought, out of the frying pan and into the freezer.
Horatio looked around and saw he stood on a thin, bridge-like form of slick ice and rock.
I'll have to watch my step, he thought, a small crack of a smile creeping up his cheek.
The heat from before had faded from his body, being replace with an at first soothing, then biting chill. Horatio's breath misted in the frozen air. He examined the far the room in which he stood. The bridge extended to the other side of the hall, but there didn't seem to be any kind of door there. No escape. Simply sheer walls of glacial ice, "Well this is a fine how-do-you-do."
Horatio walked from one end of the bridge to the other and inspected the walls. There were no secret doors, no hidden passages, nothing. His only way out, was up.
Pulling on his gloves, he looked upwards. There was definitely an opening in the ceiling of the cavern, but no telling how high it was. This is going to be harder than the lava room, he thought. He never thought he'd ever catch himself missing a self-destructing room full of lava.
He gripped firmly onto the glacial walls and began to climb. Looking at his belt, he wished he had his small axe or something of the sort. All he had left was his six-shooter, and he didn't feel a pistol was conducive to helping him scale a wall of ice.
Horatio climbed for what seemed like hours. His muscles burned, pain through his body like lightning bolts.
An explosion rocked the cave wall. Debris showered on Horatio as he fell, grasping empty hands at the wall. When he managed to catch a protruding piece of the wall, he stopped for a moment. His heart raced, his ears rang, his breath was quick.
Clever, Barclay, he eyed the walls and could now see the thin wires placed at periodic intervals along the wall, setting explosives along the cave wall. Very clever, indeed.
The Captain began once more to climb, his muscles screaming under the stress. It took him time to reach where he had once been. A crater in the ice lay where he had once stood. He pressed his face against the wall, spying for trip wires. They crosshatched the wall like a spider's web, shining in the light of the chamber, I'm not going to be your fly, Barclay.
With a cheetah's agility and the grace of a lion on the prowl, Horatio climbed the walls.
Hours passed as Horatio climbed, his body aching but his will strong. The exit was finally within sight. He could feel the fresh air blowing in, I'm coming, Sarah, he thought, putting hand over hand, his gloves soaked through, I'm coming.
As he reached the top, Horatio realised the cavern walls sloped inwards. It would be impossible to sustain himself upside down on these walls, not while his body was so tired. He would have to jump.
Prepping his feet, he coiled himself, ready to make the final leap towards the opening. Breathing deeply, he leapt.
Flying through the air Horatio had seen it. The trip wire's thin sheen had escaped him in his tired state. He had seen it too late. In his final leap he had crashed through a trip wire lain deliberately near the mouth of the cavern.
Boom! Boom! Boom!
Explosions set off all across the cave. Chunks of ice flew through the air as Horatio did, pieces passing him, some striking him. Ice rained down to the bottom of the cavern, sending up rippling echoes.
Then Horatio's heart fell. A large chunk of ice, one containing the edge of the cavern's opening he was aiming for, broke loose. The opening was no bigger, but Horatio was aimed directly at nothing.
With quick footwork, he worked himself to make a second leap off the falling chunk of ice. The extra jump boosted his trajectory just enough to send him towards another edge of the opening.
Winding him, he slammed into the ice. His hands struggled to scratch at a place to hold as his lungs struggled for air. Slipping mostly down into the void, he managed to catch himself. Horatio hung from the ceiling of the cavern, sucking in deep breaths, his eyes watering, his lungs burning.
Finally, he caught his breath. His arms shook. He couldn't hold on. With every last ounce of strength he had, he crawled like a man from hell out of the cavern, and lay on the dirt above.
Then all went black.
Horatio awoke with a jump, slamming himself into the wall behind him. He cringed and held his head. With quick movements, he examined the room he was in. A woman entered, "Oh, you're awake." She said, coming towards him with a wet towel.
"I am," Horatio eyed her, then himself, pleased to see he was still dressed but for his coat, "where am I? How long have I been asleep?"
"You've been out for nigh on a two days, sir," said the woman, pressing the towel onto Horatio's brow, "we all been worried you'd never wake."
Two days! The words echoed in Horatio's mind like earthquakes, "Good heavens!" he shouted, throwing himself from the bed, "Where am I?!" Horatio drew his six-shooter.
The woman shrieked and dropped her water bowl, "Heavens, sir," she whimpered, "You're in Silverwater Dale! A small home outside-a town!"
Silverwater Dale. The train station, "Where's the train station?"
"Some ways down the road," the woman gathered up her bowl and towel, "you'll need a horse. A man saunterin' into town without a horse'll surely cause some starin'."
"A horse. Yes." Horatio sheathed his pistol, "Pardon for the excitement, I hadn't expected such a…delay. Can I be so rude as to ask for one of your horses?"
"Surely. Seems you got the eyes to be fixin' to somethin' big. I ain't gonna be standin' in your way."
Within moments, Horatio was saddled up, hat on his head and coat on his back, "Thanks once more for the care you took of me," Horatio said, fixing himself into the stirrups, "I don't know how I can possibly repay you."
"Don't be fixin' to bother. We're happy to help, is all."
And off he went.
Soon Horatio arrived at the town proper of Silverwater Dale. A small berg with nothing to offer, but filled with kind, honest folk.
"Train station's that way, sir." Said the boy. Horatio flicked him a coin and nodded, "Thank you, mister!"
As Horatio arrived at the station, the train was pulling out, Of course, he thought dryly, "Hee-ah!" the horse whinnied and began galloping at speed. Horatio was quickly alongside the caboose of the steamtrain. Reaching out, he caught on to the safety bars and hoisted himself onto the viewing platform, "Go home!" he shouted after the horse and it turned on its heels and ran.
The Captain opened the door to the caboose with a thud. The door opened, smacking a man on the other side, knocking him, and the serving trolley he was standing next to, over. Raising his eyes from the man on the floor to the rest of the carriage, Horatio saw the unshaven faces of a collection of Tobias Crook's goons, led by the slovenly Dwight Church, "Well, well, well, if it ain't Captain Horatio Silverthorn."