The cave seemed to moan on occasion. A soft whispering sound that shook Delias to his very core. He knew the sound could be anything. It was most likely a wind from somewhere, or some other natural occurrence. But still. That was not for certain. For all he knew, there was something dark and sinister lurking inside.
Time passed. And the light that spilled through from the entrance faded, leaving Delias in the cold and dark cave, unable to take another step. If he continued without a source of light, it would be the same as a small bird without wings; vulnerable.
Delias stood there for a while. He knew what he had to do, but he just did not want to do it. Finally, heaving a light sigh, Delias reached into his brown leather bag, and pulled out a light crystal. As soon as his skin touched the crystal surface, a glow emanated forth. Looking down at the the thing in his hand, Delias’s heart bled. He knew the value each crystals had. Especially now that he knew it was possible to thwart the wraiths with them. But Delias had not been prepared. He had no torch, and it would have been difficult and time-consuming to go around and find the materials to make one, and all without being spotted by a rivaling group. I wish I had more. I have to make this crystal last for this entire trip. I probably have anywhere from atwo to four hours. This means I at least need to be out within two.
As the light shined within the cave, Delias could see as much as five meters ahead. Deeper in, the air grew more damp, and stalagmites began to form. So this was a cavern after all and not a cave, Delias thought. And at that, Delias’s face fell. I was not planning on searching the caverns yet. The difference between a cavern and a cave was a cave usually, in a uniform way, either went up, down, or straight. And caves were just a hollow in the earth or in some other form of rock. But a cavern was different. It was like a system of caves or tunnels that housed organisms and could be connected to waterways or even places with volcanic activity. The degree of danger was completely on a different level. An accidental slip up, and he could end up falling into a sudden rift, crushed by an unstable formation, or be eaten by a creature lurking around a corner. But even with all that danger, it was still secondary to the fact that there were possibly wraiths within.
A main portion of Delias’s reasoning into going into the cavern in the first place was because he thought it was a cave and that no wraiths would be inside as they seemed unable to enter any of the caves from before. But now, it was different. This was a cavern, and even though it was still daytime, it was unknown as to if the wraiths came out only during the day, or hid because of the light in itself. If it were the latter, then it was quite possible that Delias would run into one if he continued.
Delias gulped. His hands were shaking a bit, but he pressed on forward. He hoped and hoped that things would pan out nicely, knowing that he could not back down now. If he did, he would still end up with no gains, and now having activated the crystal, would come out with a loss. And a major one at that.
Thinking on this, Delias began to ponder why the wraiths could be found in the caverns at all to begin with. Delias had read the book and there were no reasons on why the wraiths would occupy the caverns. But then again, it was not like Delias could see much during that night. He could not be entirely sure that the amount of wraiths that were in the caverns were a majority. There is something here. Or maybe not. But that is not the most important thing. The most important thing is to find a key, and find out how to get more. Delias focused his mind. It was not him to understand what was going on in the minds of those tortured souls. It was for him to try and pass the Crawfields trial alive. And knowing how much danger his life was being put through, an anger raged within Delias. Why all this? Why can’t the trial be something simple? Damn you Crawfields! But his anger could only stay inside. There was no point in exploding at this moment. No point in cursing about the stress he was being put through.
As Delias travelled in deeper, the cavern grew larger. There were some areas where he had to push through tiny gaps, but once he did, it would eventually open into a large area with several paths leading elsewhere.
Some paths lead up. Some lead down. Others turned left, right, or straight. Some paths even spiraled and twisted within rock formations. But for each and every time Delias came upon an area with differing paths, he would use his gut feeling to choose. It was that same gut feeling he had when he was at the entrance to the cave. A feeling that he would find something important here. But what worried Delias was not whether his gut feeling was right, and there was something there, but whether that something would cost him his life!
As Delias travelled for almost an hour, he looked back. He had made some marks along the way with his knife to help guide him back in case he could no longer remember everything exactly. But as time flew by, he was getting worried. The cavern seemed endless, and he was not sure how long had passed, but he guessed it had already been an hour. Delias was not sure if he needed to escape fast, if he could trace back his steps quickly enough to escape. Furthermore, at this rate, he would have to turn back soon in order to save from using another crystal and shorting out his supply.
And just when Delias steeled his heart and was about to turn around, he heard it. Light cackling sounds echoed throughout the cavern. It was so soft, that at first Delias thought he was imagining things. That it was like the moans he heard from time to time. But as he listened, the sounds began to sound different. They almost sounded like… A person? As Delias went to the edge of the small open area, he came upon the entryway of a narrow path. He followed that path until the end. There was, at the end, was a small opening. It was barely enough for him to squeeze through, but Delias did not choose to go any further, and instead peered into the small opening.
As he looked, his gaze landed on a giant chamber. It was at least a hundred meters high and wide enough to encompass at least half of the width of one of the stalagmites outside. Delias’s eyes widened. Could I be in the center of a stalagmite? It was possible as he had not made any turns, and thinking about the position he was and the direction he went towards, he could be under or have encroached towards the center of a nearby stalagmite.
But the thoughts that ran in his mind was not what made him feel surprised. What surprised him was that he was able to gage the size of the room. He could clearly see the very walls of such a large place. How could that be possible when the only source of light that should be there was his own?
It was then that Delias’s eyes caught it. One. Two. Three. Soon there were dozens. Dozens of light crystals were embedded in the walls of the open space. Some were lit, but most were inactive. Delias shuddered. If I can get my hands on just a few, then this trip would have been worth it!
But the cackling came up again. This time it was more clear.
Delias frowned. If someone else was here, they were most likely from a rivaling group and would not want to share. Against anyone of the averati, he would be killed swiftly. These averati were geniuses among their own kind. Not some run of the middle chump. They were the best of the best, and Delias, Delias had not been that fully trained when he was in the military. After all, there was a limit to how much someone could learn from when they were twelve to fifteen years old. After that. Everything that Delias learned were from books, and not practice. And those books were definitely not on fighting. For all he knew, Delias probably forgot the feel of even how to fight at all.
After searching for a while, Delias could not find the source of the cackling. It was obvious that someone was laughing. And on occasion, he could hear the voice talking. He did not hear another voice, only that one. Talking to himself?
But, Delias made a decision. I can always sneak in.
Delias squeezed himself through the gap and entered the giant chamber-like place.
As soon as he stepped through, his foot landing on the stone floor. But, as he looked down, he saw the chamber extend at least another hundred feet down. Varius caves or caverns littered the walls. It looked similar to a beehive, but with a lot fewer holes. Over half of the entrances glowed with a pulsing dark green light.
Delias shuddered. The top of the chamber used crystal light, but below used anothe form. The green glow was something that had popped out when there were wraiths!
Just what did I get myself into.
Delias was going to turn around and step back into the cavern he just came out of, but he quickly saw some crystals to his right.
Delias’s mouth twitched. I don’t see any wraiths. I could just grab a few and leave. I won’t even be going far.
Greed clouded Delias’s mind. He crept slowly to the right until he came up close to a few crystals, and quickly he popped a few out, as gently as he could, and let the fall into his bag. He was careful not to make any noise or let the crystals touch his skin, allowing them to activate.
After spending a few minutes collecting over fifty crystals, Delias stopped. His bag was heavy. The tinge of greed waned, overcome by fear. If he needed to run, his bag would weigh him down and he would most likely be taken.
“Almost there!” A laughter came from below. Delias took a glance, but he still could not see where it came from.
Taking his heavy brown bag from his shoulder, he placed it next to the mouth of the cavern he had previously entered. That left him with just his small satchel on his shoulders. The satchel was light, and so, with only two crystals, Delias went around the chamber. It took a few minutes before he found a path leading down.
I have something, but this is not enough. Not nearly enough. I need to find a key. Or some vital information. The crystals may or may not be useful. I have yet to confirm whether they can thwart the wraiths. Right now, I need to find out who that person is, and or what is going on here.
Taking a deep breath, Delias began heading down .