‘We will stay here for the night and see if Marine makes contact. If she does we can inform her of what has happened and formulate a plan for tomorrow. Best that we get some rest if we can.” Ezria said to the small group of Tingions, Marine watched from a distance as they all nodded. She noticed Rishekke’s head turning to look at one of the tunnel entrances.
‘Would you like me to go out and scout around a bit? Bit of security?’ Rishekke asked, calmly.
Marine could just about make out Aysmar and Ezria’s eyes narrowing at her in the gloom.
‘No, it is ok - if anyone is sniffing about round here then there’s not much we can do other than disappear down a different tunnel entrance and leave no clues we were here.’ Said Ezria.
‘It’s safest if we all stay in sight of each other,’ agreed Aysmar, ‘Both for the mission and for our personal safety.’
The little group settled down and Marine felt cold and alone over in the shadows. Her head was simmering with fear and uncertainty. She thought of her family in the cells with Vanweer. Would they be huddled together or would they have been separated to stop them talking to each other? She couldn’t bear the thought of them suffering because of her actions.
Marine looked down at her hands. Her body had been fully visible for some time but she had stayed away from the group in the darkness, keeping very still. She wanted some time alone. The talk of betrayal and moles had frightened her. It was one thing to be part of a brave team of adventurers when they were all in it together and fighting a common cause. But now it seemed messy and confusing and her family’s freedom was involved. Everything had really levelled up in seriousness and she was deathly afraid. There was nothing certain at all. She didn’t even know for sure she had chosen the right team to side with. What if she was just genuinely part of a band of outlaws and Ezria had duped them all?
If she could just know if it was the Lost Stone or not it would be the start of some answers, Marine realised. With a start, she knew she had to go some way to working that out.
‘I need to get back into that lab.’ she muttered to herself, but her stomach went cold with the thought of trying. What if she were caught again? There was no way Vanweer would take any chances with her escaping again. Perhaps there were orders to kill on sight? She swallowed and inspected her tiny hands. She was so tired.
Her frustration at the world began to shift into frustration with herself and she realised what she needed to do. She looked at her hands again and tried to concentrate. She tried to use the frustration to focus, to pool her anger into a clear line of thoughts. She focused on what she needed to do: I need to get into the lab, I need to touch the stone, I need to know.
In the office, when she had needed to escape Vanweer, her body had known what to do. Topside, even though it had got her noticed, her body had known that the droplets were hitting hard and dangerously and it had pushed them away. Her body knew how to help her with the magic, but she needed to be able to ask it to. She looked at her hands and thought about her family in danger, her parents huddled in a cell not knowing if she was alive or dead. She thought about the sneer of Vanweer’s face when she had ordered Marine’s capture. She thought of Ezria and whether or not Ezria was telling the truth.
‘I need to get in to touch the stone.’ She said to her hands, and she squeezed all her fear and hope and panic and worry into a tight ball. She imagined shooting all of her emotions out of her eyes and onto her skin. She sat, tightly wound for second after creeping second against the impacted mud of the Cavern and just when she was beginning to think it was useless, she saw the edges of her hands beginning to fade and wobble and disappear into the darkness.
Excitedly, she leapt up and looked down at her legs and body - it had gone! Marine felt thrilled tears slipping down her face and briefly wondered if they were invisible too. She shook them away and focused. She had managed to make the magic do what she wanted, but she had no idea how long it would last so she had to act fast. This felt the beginning of change.
Keeping to the edges of the Cavern and creeping as silently as she could in the dark, Marine made her way around the edge and back to the tunnel she had entered through. She slipped into it and made her way determinedly down the little burrow. Her feet swept as lightly as she could manage and soon she came out the other side. She looked around but saw no one. She looked down and saw her own hands were still invisible.
Marine screwed up her face and made her way back to the laboratory. She felt two Beats pass as she progressed but eventually she arrived at the staff entrance. She felt strangely calm and collected; in many ways, there was not a lot left to lose.
Marine waited patiently for the first Tingion to come or go through the entrance and as soon as she saw someone come through she slipped in through the open door. Inside, she checked the coast was clear and then made her way silently down the corridors towards the room where the Lost Stone had been.
There was a guard on the door, but Marine realised with a sadness that it was a different Tingion to the one she had lied to. She made a mental note to try and make it up to that Tingion if she could.
Eventually, she saw the little guard open the door to let someone through and she threw herself through the door as soon as she could, just about managing to pull her foot through before it closed.
‘So far so good.’ Thought Marine and made her way back down the corridor to the door where she had met Vanweer last time. To her surprise it was slightly ajar and she hesitated next to it wondering what this could mean… was it a trap? Would it matter if it were? Was there anything she could do EXCEPT go through it and hope? She pushed it gently so it was wide enough to slip through and then stepped back immediately - pressing her back into the wall in case anyone came through in response to it opening. Nobody did. She waited a few seconds more and then moved silently through the opening.
The lab looked exactly as it had done the last time she had seen it, except this time: no Vanweer. Marine swallowed and paced across the lab towards the Stone. It glittered in the light from the glow lamps and Marine felt strangely protective towards it. She tried to shake the thoughts from her head but she couldn’t help feeling sorry for it, being trapped down here all alone, so far from the sky. Marine reached out an invisible hand towards the polished surface of the blue stone…
What happens when Marine touches the stone:
- Changes Colour
- It buzzes
- It cracks