Drewin worked through the afternoon, but seemed to be getting no nearer to the summit. Occasionally, when the climber stopped to think, Urbelin would move as if to climb up after him or to shout some advice, but would restrain himself. Towards the end of the afternoon Drewin stopped and sat down on a step. He looked exhausted and dispirited, and he was bent over with his head in his hands. A sigh, a quiet groan, went up from the watchers on the cavern floor, for it seemed that, after all, Drewin had been defeated by the problem of the stairway. Disappointment showed on all their faces and they turned away: some of them seemed about to leave.
Only Urbelin stood still and fixed his eyes on Drewin. Only Urbelin saw Drewin stand up slowly, tiredly, and start to climb again. At each step Drewin paused, thought, then moved. The people became silent again, and watched as Drewin moved remorselessly to the top of the stairway. When he reached the top, he looked up and stared for a long while, then he turned and called to Urbelin. ‘No light! No light, Urbelin. Where is the light we are seeking?’
Urbelin smiled sadly and replied. ‘Do not fear, Drewin, it is there. We have not reached high enough yet, when we get higher we will begin to see it.’
But Drewin was angry. ‘No! You are wrong, Urbelin: this is not the way. There is not even a glow, a glimmer, here; there is more light down there on the cavern floor. It is dark here, darker than the demon’s chamber that I escaped from: but I will not come down from here, I will go on.’
Drewin looked up from the top of the stairway, and saw blackness. He stepped forward, beyond the top stair, and fell into dark empty nothingness.