Scene 29  1560 4D

Astina began to worry. It had been a few hours since Derizan had led the searchers up the rungs of the shaft. She recalled the image of their wedding in the City, twenty-five years before. His long, bony face with its soft smile, her round face and shock of curls, oh, it feels like just a day ago. A nine-thousand-day day. What a place to celebrate our anniversary! We laughed a lot that day. Little Ezzar – Ezzie – wasn’t long in coming!

She sighed. We’re not laughing now.

Sitting on the floor, her back to the tunnel’s wall next to the shaft, she turned to Daryuz, beside her. “Brother, can you hear anything from up there?”

“No – it’s quiet. But I have an idea.” He turned to Piotras, who was sniffing the air as it moved gently along the downslope of the tunnel. “Hey, could you listen for us at the shaft entrance? You’ve got that andro hearing, right?”

Guinban and Piotras both faced him. “He does,” Guinban said. “Maybe if you ask politely…”

“Never mind.” Piotras. “It’s okay. Yes, let me listen.” He came to the foot of the shaft, holding up both hands for silence. He cocked his head. “Someone is coming down – or something. It’s moving fast!” He backed away from the opening just as Turtuz vaulted gracefully past him to stand by Inkurisar.

“They’re coming back down,” Turtuz said. “They’ve discovered something, but they didn’t say what it was. I wanted to get back and let you know that they’re okay. They’re moving down, but they’re tired and moving more slowly.” He drifted away with Piotras, sniffing the air.

Relief flooded Astina. I’ve never seen Derizan this strong. Ever since his father turned to him, he’s taken up the lead for us. Denzi backs him, Daryuz also, and even Selech listens to him now and then, especially when his wife is around. I want to get Ajina alone – she’ll tell me whether that husband of hers has been staying in line.

Inkurisar’s wife Nakiran came over to her. “Can we talk?” She nodded up the tunnel slope, away from the others. They moved out of earshot, barely within the range of the group’s glowlights.

“I’m seeing things with my husband that concern me,” Nakiran whispered. “He seems to have lost his purpose, and he want to go back.”

“Why? We know the way is blocked. Completely.”

“Yes, but he keeps saying we can dig back through and get out of Fornonck going north. He’s insistent. I don’t know what to tell him.”

“When Derizan gets back, they should talk. Denzari and the others will help.”

“I hope you’re right.”

Terrenci and Munizkara had moved along the tunnel’s downslope, exploring a little with a glowlight, and they returned to the group as Nakiran and Astina came back as well. Terrenci said, “This is a long, straight, gentle descent. It goes beyond a fully-lit glowlight’s range – we used up some extra energy to flare – and there’s no sign of a bend or a change in slope. It isn’t blocked, but there are some outgrowths of large fungals at the side here and there.”

“I can smell those,” Piotras said. “Sweet, fruity, a little tang of rot. Something like the ones over there.”

Turtuz grinned. “Like queeve steak and cheese, right?”

A gurgle from Tellina. She passed her hand across her swollen belly, looking nauseated.

Noises from the shaft, first voices, then the clink and chuff of feet hitting rungs. The first to appear was Selech. “Well! We’ve been up and out and back again.” He staggered a bit, then steadied himself against the wall as Ajina and then Denzari came down behind him. To Astina, all three looked weary.

“Where’s Derizan?” Astina said. She moved over to look up the shaft.

“He needed to rest a little,” said Selech, “but he’s coming.”

All the others came over. As Piotras neared the shaft’s opening, he gasped, his eyes rolled up in his head, and he collapsed into Guinban’s arms, unconscious.

“What’s wrong with him?” Guinban looked up, his face strained.

Astina bent over the andro. “He’s in shock! Raise his legs and loosen his waist bindings!” Piotras began shaking violently. Guinban wrapped arms around him protectively.

As they watched over him anxiously, Derizan’s voice echoed down to them. “I’ll be down in just a moment. We seem to have a problem.”


Next scene.

Last Updated Friday, July 05 2024 @ 10:00 am  7 Hits   
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