There were more immediate concerns. That light was painful. And in her experience, bad things were attracted to bright lights, so she’d best be moving away from it. She chose a different direction than the way the men ran. Wherever they had gone, there would be more of them than her, and they did not seem the sort willing to converse coherently. Cowards such as they would only gather and attack her, and in numbers, she may not be able to scare them so well again.
To have someone afraid of her was a new sensation. She found it as amusing as she found it empowering. Many matriarchs of the established Houses were feared as much as they were respected, but their Power was old and tested, and thrived on generations of experience. Tyrrae was young and untested. She knew she must steady herself for the tests ahead- after all, that was why she had come. She knew she wasn’t special, just ordinary. Her sister had delighted in reminding her of this fact. Firstborns received many privilidges, extra lessons, and granted automatic respect. Anyone else had to earn respect in the community, as well as their own inheritances. This was never meant to be easy, which is why respect was so important. The fiercest fighters were often the youngest of any House, but Tyrrae had never felt that cornered or desperate. Perhaps if there had been many more siblings between herself and the Firstborn, she would.
But not today. Not yet. She’d been given a vague sort of mission, and sent off. She considered the possibility of following the men to where others of their kind gathered. She may be able to catch one alone and create a new servant of him. But she also may be caught by sheer numbers, or other powers she did not yet know. Besides, they were cowards. Why should they be honored to be her servants? They would likely be disobedient and weak. Tyrrae could never tolerate such an effort wasted on weakness.
Carefully, she worked her way down the steps. As she suppressed her wild thoughts, and focused on the task at hand, she began to notice the unusual sounds. There was no constant musical dripping off in the distance. She missed the familiar sound dreadfully, and was certain she could have filtered it through the constant creaking that she could hear. There were other sounds, but the one that really worried her was the movement of air through the stalagmites. They actually moved. That was the creaking she could hear, and it reminded her of too many collapses of the ceiling. These stalagmites moved more than she had ever seen a piece of stone move before. It was alarming to watch, but they did not break. She wondered why? Perhaps the odd lichen growing on them enhanced the flexibility by devouring the rock, and yet still held it together? Perhaps she would take a sample home for her father. More worrying than the stalagmites was the source of the movement of air itself. It should only move that strongly if there had been a collapse of some kind. But this was constant, like a fan held by servant. It made no sense, and it worried her. This chamber must be very special indeed to have such unique physics.
Another odd thing about the stalagmites was how they grew. They did not have pillars or ribbons- they had long delicate fingers stretching in all directions. This could only happen if the ceiling patterns changed frequently. She wondered how often this chamber flooded. Given how dry it felt, it had likely been a very long time. She would have loved to have seen the spiderweb patterns of the stalactites, but they were well above her. Perhaps even more odd was that all of these stalagmites were dead for quite some ways. It takes centuries for the lichen to grow so luxuriantly, yet they too must have water. The moss under her feet when she stepped from the stone grew high enough to cover her ankles. It reminded her of the obligatory trip to one of the mushroom farms her school took her to, where they were not allowed to walk among them. This felt as she imagined that must- and she reveled in the luxurious feel of it.
Cautiously, she moved to the direction of where the air came from. If there had been a collapse, it was probably too long ago to do anything for any survivors. But at least she could see some of the patterns in the ceiling veins of rock. It was easy to imagine comfortable spiderwebs woven between the outstretched fingers of the stalagmites as she walked, and the image gave her great comfort.
Tyrrae whirled at the sudden sound. It was like the squeak of a door repeated several times. Fortunately, it seemed to be a ways off- there were no buildings close by, she was certain. The noise unnerved her just the same. Things felt out of context in this large cavern, and she had the paranoid suspicion that it was herself out of place. She heard the noise again from a different direction. Then she noticed something far more alarming: The cavern was becoming brighter. She looked up, and could only see a few glowing stones on the ceiling- but the edges of the cavern were definitely brighter. And it was slowly increasing. She felt another wave of panic. This cavern was huge- was there a fire? Could it be surrounding her? Could this cavern be large enough to support a fire without filling immediately with smoke?
She remembered a long time ago a fire had swept through one of the new quarters, caused by a mining accident. Even several caverns over, the smoke had been hard to avoid. The oxygen consumed by the flames had taken days to replenish, and the arena games had been suspended. All servants were required to do nothing but wave fans, and her sister had complained bitterly about learning servant chores like cleaning and cooking. Tyrrae had followed along to learn- for how could one instruct a servant on something one did not know oneself? Her sister was delighted that their mother had insisted Tyrrae do nothing but fan. Her sister preferred to think of her as a servant.
If this were fire, burning so brightly, surely there would be smoke. The light kept growing brighter, and it was becoming unbearably painful. She squinted at the various moving creatures dancing about the stalagmites. They weren’t spiders, although a few looked vaguely like rats, and several looked vaguely like bats, except they perched upside down on the stalagmites.
She fumbled in her pack for another silk to shade her eyes, and her hand encountered the hard metal and glass oddity. These were very strange glasses, but probably Lily knew about this painful light. She put them on, and wrapped a veil around her face. Peering through the gauzy silk and dark glasses helped a great deal, even if it meant some fine details of her path were missing. She shouldered her pack and kept walking, keeping a curious eye on the strange creatures.
It took a while for Tyrrae to notice another odd thing about this cavern. Here, she could not see any trace of water. Besides the absent constant dripping music, there was always a place to for water to collect and often to run. Many of the caves were carved by the slow progression of water, and there was always a trace of it around. In a cavern so large, surely there should be a river nearby? She would move downslope… but there was no discernable slope. Nor could she hear any water rumbling in the distance.
She looked at the noisy creatures in irritation. How could anyone think with such noise? It was no wonder she could not hear any water with their creaks. She continued on further, paying attention with her ears most.
Current word count 23,213. Great, until you realize I started with 14,720. I've fallen behind, but almost don't care.