Chapter 6 – The Trial

“You will face a trial. We do this to test your mettle.” She said as she waved her hand towards the hole in the ground. Zephyr looked down and his legs very nearly crumbled beneath him.
“I’m ready!” He said.
“Are you?” She replied with a predatory grin.  “You’ve yet to hear the choice you have to make.” She said.
“What choice?” Zephyr replied. “You are about to take a journey. You can choose to climb back up and join us or follow the caverns below to your freedom.” She said voice raised.  “Freedom? A way out of Crater?” Zephyr questioned and Veronica nodded in affirmation. Zephyr’s eyes grew wide and he took a deep breath. Beside him came a low but solid whisper from Machuum.
“Remember, one of two things…” Said Machuum.
“I ask you now; are you ready?” Veronica continued her voice a crescendo amongst the tempest. She raised her hand in the air unveiling a large glowstone that radiated a brilliant azure light. It highlighted the faces of the crowd; the shadows outlined sharp monstrous shapes upon their faces. Zephyr’s whole body shook with fear. He drew quick breaths as the anticipation sent tremors through his body. “I’m…” Zephyr began to say before a sudden force knocked him into the void. Zephyr plummeted into the darkness. Blistering gusts of air whisked around him; sharp against his bare skin. A light flew past and illuminated the jagged rocks that encompassed him. He tried to reach out and grip the sides of the tunnel but a biting pain ran over his palm as he failed to secure himself. The move sent him into a tumble until finally he slammed into a pool of water.  Plunged into the icy depths Zephyr felt the impact hard against his frame. Breath left him as his lungs emptied, causing bubbles to rise to the surface. As he sunk he gasped for air. Disorientated he no longer knew which direction was up or down and his arms flailed about as he sought purchase where there was none to be found.  A soft shimmer drew his attention and he scrambled for the source. The glowstone lay embedded in the silt at the bottom. Outreached, his hand grasped onto the beacon. He twisted in the water until the sand slid between his toes. Pushing off the floor he launched himself through the murk with fierce snaps of his legs. His vision began to dim and he felt his strength ebb but he pressed on. A final kick and he broke through the water surface. With a roar he filled his lungs with great gasps. Sound returned to him. Waves crashed into the tunnel walls with his every movement. They reverberated up the sides which caused a fearsome racket. Illumination came from the glowstone as he held it aloft in one hand and used the other to stay afloat. Rock and water was all that surrounded him. He spun in the pool as he paddled doing his best to examine what little space there was. A crag hung a foot or two above him, it was a surprise that he hadn’t split his head open on it on the way down. He swam to its base and began to climb. His hand stung with a sharp pain as he pulled himself onto the ledge.

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