“I told ya I would sort it.” Lot said with a childish grin upon his face.. “You said Mac would sort it.” Replied Zephyr. A grunt came from Machuum but no rebuttal. “You didn’t answer my question Mac, what’s going to happen?” Zephyr continued.
“Trial. We’re going to test you. Enough now, quiet.” Machuum replied sternly.
Together they walked back through the narrow corridors. They strode through the Rotunda and Zephyr was surprised at how silent it was. The hussle that made it out to be the center of activity earlier was now gone, replaced only by the sound of their footsteps and the drops of water from the ceiling. Machuum led them through yet another passage way away from the dome. The man behind Zephyr had gotten closer. Too close. Zephyr kept being jostled by Lot as they walked elbow to elbow and so shrank into himself.
“What’s wrong? Scared?” Lot said. Zephyr ignored the boy but he continued his nuisances.
“You don’t like tight spaces? Not so brash now are ya!” Lot continued.
“Enough!” Rebuked Machuum. Lot was quick to obey.
It took them a few minutes, as they hiked through caverns, to near their destination. Machuum slowed their pace as they drew closer to the end of the tunnel. Zephyr noticed that they no longer had the cat eyes guiding them. Instead the stones had been replaced by torches that burnt bright within the darkness. Even Zephyr knew that a naked flame was a bad idea inside the mines. Gases known as Firedamp were common especially among freshly excavated areas. In the first days of the mines many had died to either explosion or suffocation. Stories of such were still told on main street to that day.
The space they entered was just large enough for a gathering. Light in the room waned, spurred on only by the flicker of the torches. Around eight bodies that Zephyr counted made up a circle in the focal point of the room. They sat on rocks, leaned upon their haunches or simply stood. Veronica, the woman in charge, loomed a foot taller than the rest as she positioned herself on the highest point in the area. A perch that overlooked whatever it was the others were blocking out.
“What..” Zephyr began but was cut off by a sharp hiss from Machuum.
As they approached Machuum stepped to the side to join the others, members of the circle gave way and revealed what they stood vigil over. In the center of the circle lay an all consuming abyss. A portal into oblivion itself where no light penetrated. A shrill whistle came from the hollow and gust whipped up clothing around the room. Zephyr felt his hair tossle in response to the gale.
Compelled forward by a push Zephyr then stood only a span from the precipice. His hands flew up and his back hunched as if to push himself away from the pit. He did all he could to resist the urge to scream.
“Zephyr, of the breaker boys,” Came a strong feminine voice from Veronica. It was powerful and backed by the acoustics of the cavern. Her voice echoed and reverberated. “You seek us out in an effort to join our ranks?” She said in question. Zephyr struggled but forced himself to stand up straight and face her.
“Yes!” He said as a shout to overcome the flurry of wind from below.