A Walk in the Dark

Pelthe 2, 5682---Vorin Cove was a dangerous place during the day. Located along the coast of Eranithon in Ijelon Sound, the cove once contained the port of a large city called Karteem. Now, fifty-seven years after the destruction of Eranithon, everything that remained of the city was ruins. The cove was strewn with jagged rocks hiding just beneath the frothy waves. There were few ways through the rocks for ships, making the rocks one of the methods the former city used as protection against pirates and other invaders. Fortunately, the Royal Navy had maps to show the correct path through the cove.

The city too was a dangerous place during the day, with rubble throughout the broken streets, and the structures still standing left unstable after decades of neglect. It was rumored that the Queen of the Sea had a hideout in the area, but none of the scouts reported anything.

The area was dangerous during the day, but it was now night, and Tora’Sor was leading Sushala’Mol through the ruins of Karteem, to the cave where the Queen of the Sea had captured her the previous year. They had an armed escort of soldiers carrying torches, more because the soldiers planned to explore the caves rather than because the two women needed military protection. Tora’Sor was thankful though, and used the torchlight to keep from walking into rubble and avoiding dangerous places.

Once inside the cave, the soldiers stopped their advance. They would first rely on Sushala’Mol to inform the inhabitants of their intent and necessity, and ensure safe passage. When the light from the torches faded into the distance, Tora’Sor helped Sushala’Mol remove the blindfold. “How do we find your people from here?” she asked the woman.

Sushala’Mol took Tora’Sor’s hand, and led the way. “Three of them are following right behind us,” she announced softly, “but I believe the rest are in the large area. I cannot say if they will talk to you.”

“I need to try,” Tora’Sor told her. “They need to know we come peacefully, and hope not to bother them.”

They continued in silence through the twisting labyrinthine cave. Eventually Tora’Sor noticed the sound of footsteps following them. She could not see anything in the dark, but knew a crowd was following them. She could hear and smell them. The fact that they were not attacking calmed her little. She would never see them coming if they did attack.

Sushala’Mol stopped suddenly. “We are almost there,” she said quietly. “We cross the great deep. Jump!”

Sushala’Mol never waited for Tora’Sor to be ready. The woman jumped, and pulled Tora’Sor with her into a cool body of water. Bogged down by her clothing, Tora’Sor struggled to swim, struggled against Sushala’Mol’s tight grip on her hand, and struggled to hold her breath while submerged. Someone grabbed her other hand, and she was dragged through the water. She soon felt rocks beneath her feet, and then her head broke the surface.

“Home!” Sushala’Mol announced, although Tora’Sor barely noticed since she was too busy catching her breath and wiping water off her face.

“Where did you say we were?” Tora’Sor asked.

“Home,” Sushala’Mol told her again. “This is where I used to live.”

“How far underground are we?” Tora’Sor wondered. She tried looking around, but there was no light to show her the surroundings. She put out her hands to try sensing her surroundings, but found nothing. “How large is this place?”

Sushala’Mol took her hand once more. “I will show you around.”

Tora’Sor did not protest, and followed the woman across the uneven rocks. There were people sniffing her, or feeling her body as she passed. Sushala’Mol spoke briefly to several of them, but they did not linger long. Eventually they stopped, although by then Tora’Sor was so completely disoriented that she had no idea where she was in relation to the surface or even the path they’d traveled. “Where are we now?” she asked Sushala’Mol.

“We are elders,” a man’s voice replied. “Why do you come?”

“I rescued Sushala’Mol, and wanted to bring her home,” Tora’Sor answered.

“We know of Sushala’Mol’s return,” the man replied. “You are slow and ungainly as she brought you through our village.”

“I also came to tell you that Prince Nomolo, son of the Great King, needs to search the caves for a strange opening. He brings light with him, but means no ill-intent toward you.”

“It is a curse to know light,” the man told her. “We let no one curse us.”

Tora’Sor could sense the diplomacy was wavering, and decided it was time for a different approach. She let her non-visual senses tell her the approximate locations of the elders. She could hear the man speak, and the others were breathing. She took several steps toward him, and smacked the side of his face. Someone immediately grabbed both her hands, and pulled her several steps back. “There is no curse,” she told the elders. “Ignorance and isolation blind you all.” Tora’Sor began to wonder why Rarla’Nun refused to be the one to come with Sushala’Mol. Rarla’Nun was better skilled for the conditions, able to see without using her eyes, and would see incoming danger from far away. Tora’Sor expected the old woman was supposed to be watching her even then, but wondered if it was possible for her to see through the thick layers of rock overhead.

“Never speak of such things,” the man told her firmly.

Sushala’Mol stepped up. “Elder Sethanoth, I thought myself cursed when captured and taken into the light, but learned otherwise. It is nothing more than inexperience with light.”

“Enough!” another man said. “Elder Sethanoth has spoken, Sushala’Mol. You are cursed, both of you. Never mention it, and perhaps you can return to life among us easily.”

“And the woman from the light?” someone asked.

“We do not permit those born cursed to leave our land alive,” Elder Sethanoth said.

“I suggest you reconsider,” Tora’Sor told him. “Attempt to harm me, and I will show light to everyone in this cave. Attempt to harm me, and my blessing will be your curse.”

Whoever was holding her arms let go, and backed away. “There is no curse,” she said once more. “I came in friendship with a desire to help your people. Do not reject me for my differences. Rather, accept and embrace my differences as you would the differences between every one of you. You have different voices, different smells, varied heights and sizes, and many other things. Knowing light is nothing more than an inconsequential difference like those.”

For a moment, Tora’Sor only heard the muffled whispers of the elders, and then one of them spoke. “You give us much to consider,” he said. “Go with Sushala’Mol. Return in three days for our answer.”

“The Prince will move whether you give permission or not,” Tora’Sor told them. “I was given one day to find and give you the news.”

“We care not for the Prince and his affairs,” Elder Sethanoth said. “Those of the light already pass through our caves unopposed. We are helpless to stop them. Only the Great Deep protects us from their power. They blind us with flashes, hurt, kill maim from a distance, and come from the light. We cannot fight them, and must hide when they travel the cave. Your Prince can deal with them as he plans, but if they encroach on our territories, we will attack. You will stay here the three days.”

“Very well,” Tora’Sor agreed. “I expect I will learn much about your people in that time.”