Marine felt oddly calm, standing there in the near pitch blackness of the Cavern. The light was grainy and grey; making it feel difficult to focus on things with her eyes. She felt energised, though, as though the stone was giving her an extra layer of perception. She gazed at the sleeping Aysmar with her unusal, bubbling, distrustworthy aura around her. Marine didn’t know if she’d be able to put into words how she knew what this aura meant, but her confidence was complete.
Ideally, she could take a few hours to sit and examine the stone and explore what she could now do with it in her pocket and boosting her abilities. But she knew that with Aysmar against them the Cavern was now compromised and they needed to get out of there before Vanweer arrived. It occured to Marine that it was odd Vanweer or her soldiers weren’t already here if Aysmar was working with her.
Marine crunched across the loose soil of the Cavern, avoiding the scattering of dried leaves here and there that threatened to bristle underfoot and wake everyone. She arrived at Ezria’s side and placed a hand on her shoulder. Ezria woke immediately, a hand springing out and grabbing Marine’s wrist to control it. Marine flinched but didn’t startle loudly and she locked eyes with her Captain to tell her all was ok. Ezria released Marine’s wrist and looked around at the other sleeping Tingions, before silently standing and leading Marine away from the group. They headed out together down one of the tiny routes out of the Cavern and towards the city. Neither said a word as they walked - not wanting to be heard from either direction.
They made it out the other side of the tunnel and sat for a moment, enjoying the slightly less fetid air of the more open pathways.
‘I went back to the lab.’ Marine blurted, unable to keep the news in any longer. Ezria’s eyes widened in surprise.
‘Alone?’ She asked, gobsmacked. Marine nodded, finally feeling worthy of the expectations Ezria had of her.
‘Yes, I went alone. I realised how I could hold onto my invisibility and control it better. I took the risk.’
‘And what a risk.’ Whistled Ezria, ‘Was the stone still there?’
‘It was,’ Marine grinned, ‘But it isn’t any more.’
‘Vanweer took it? Did you learn where it went?’ Ezria asked, urgently.
‘It’s here,’ Marine said, lifting the stone out of her pocket and offering it to Ezria on her open palm. Ezria visibly paled in the light from the glow lamps. She shied away from the stone, Marine stretched her arm out further offering it more confidently. ‘Go on, it won’t hurt you.’ But Ezria took a step back, pressing herself into the earth.
‘No, I mustn’t. How…?’
‘I touched it, and I felt this… this crazy sensation,’ said Marine, wishing she had a suitable vocabulary for the life she was currently leading, ‘It felt like I was too big inside my skin and my body was too full of energy and then I felt like it was too much, but I didn’t want it to be and so I… I don’t know I concentrated on being better. On being in control of the stone and then it shrank and… and I took it. I was still invisible and the stone went invisible with me.’
‘How do you feel now?’ Ezria asked, cautiously.
‘I feel calmly,’ Marine found herself being utterly honest and at ease with both the question and the answer, ‘I feel lie the stone is focusing these magics I’ve always been afraid of inside myself. I used it to impersonate Mavis on the way out of the lab - I didn’t know I could do that, and I don’t know how I did it other than to concentrate and just… trust it would happen.’
‘It’s… it’s fascinating.’ Ezria’s voice was quiet, a long way away somehow.
‘Yes,’ Marine was nodding enthusiastically, ‘But there’s more… when I came back into the Cavern, I looked at you all.’ Marine stopped, realising how creepy that sounded, ‘I was sort of looking at who you all are though, rather than looking at you physically. Does that make sense? No, obviously it doesn’t. But, you all had these peaceful auras… you all felt trustworthy. Except Aysmar. I think you’re right about there being a mole, and I think it’s Aysmar.’
Ezria was silent for a moment, she took half a step forward and opened her mouth and then shook her head, looking down at her shoes. ‘Aysmar,’ she whispered, ‘Are you sure?’
Marine shook her head, ‘No, not at all. I mean, it could be anything… but, where you felt like water and cucumber root and other calm things, and all your waves were running in the same direction, Aysmar felt firey and conflicted and sour. It… it could mean anything - I have no idea what these magics are doing. I just know she was different - something was wrong.’
‘This is a blow.’ Said Ezria.
‘It might not mean -‘ began Marine, but Ezria cut her off.
‘We both know what it means.’
They were interrupted by the sound of scuffling from within the Cavern. Marine thought she heard a half shout, there were dull thumps. She stared at Ezria.
‘What is that?’
‘I don’t know,’ called Ezria, already running, ‘But we need to get back in there.’
What is in the Cavern?
- An animal
- Vanweer’s troops