Dusty stone had given way to bare under Alron’s feet; his frantic footfalls no longer kicked up great choking clouds. On the other hand, he’d been running long enough to make every breath an urgent matter, his heart felt fit to burst, and his legs were on fire from strain. He had to stop.

Somewhat to his surprise, he found that he could. The preternatural terror had faded; how long ago, he couldn’t say – had it been just this moment, perhaps shaken loose by physical demands? Or had it been gone for minutes already, only the echoes of it spurring his flight?

The bear slowed to an unsteady walk for a few steps, then gave up and leaned against a support beam, panting hard. His waterskin was about half-full; half of what was left, he swallowed hurriedly, anxious to chase away the hoarse dryness in his throat. A few swallows later, and he didn’t exactly feel healthy, but at least it no longer felt like there was a rasp twisting in there with each breath.