“Why what?” Zephyr shouted at the choir. Then next to him he heard a click, then another, then a louder clack that ricocheted off the walls. Something slammed between his shoulder blades and he lost his grip. The fall was shorter this time but no more jarring as he hit the water. Awash in fear but quelled by anger he began his ascent again.
Determined to escape the pit he climbed faster. With the glowstone as a guide, tied to the back of his hand, he reached the middle once again. And once again the chanting started up.
“Why? Why? Why?” They said. Zephyr thought upon this. Why join them? He assumed.
“Wealth.” He shouted back. The questions stopped. So he began his ascent again, sure he had found the answer.
“Why?” The word broke the silence and with it came the stones. They’re aim drew much closer to their target this time. He heard loud thumps against the wall and so chose to drop instead of taking another hit. The barrage subsided as he made a splash into the water. For a moment Zephyr rested afloat on the surface. With reluctance he placed the glowstone on a ledge and clambered up the opposite side.
In the darkness he resumed the climb. He had to feel out each hand hold in turn which made his journey much slower. Each movement strained his muscles and ate away at his reserves. Stealth was his only hope as he scaled the wall but in his fatigue he scuffed the rock.
“Why?” Began the incantation. Zephyr refused to comply and instead continued in silence. The missiles flew and each sound made him wince, yet he climbed still. The sounds grew more numerous and rowdier; Almost like the thunder of a thousand tiny storms. A projectile cut the air as it flew past his ear. He flinched and his fingers gave way which caused him to fall once again.
Down he fell. His back slapped hard against the water knocking the air from his lungs. He flailed and grasped for life until he found the crag once more. The assault above continued for a moment longer and he hid under the ledge until it finally came to a halt. Onto the platform he climbed and retrieved the glowstone which he wrapped around his hand once more. Tears welled up in his eyes. He considered the caverns and the path to freedom, one way or another, but that would be giving up. Zephyr refused to be beaten down. He remembered all the thrashings he had taken from the Overseer’s, the older boy’s and even from the other inhabitants of Shanty. They would not defeat him so easily.
Exhausted he rose again. It was difficult as every fiber of his limbs grew taut, his body felt heavy yet he pulled himself upwards, resolute to reach the top. Steadfast he continued his climb and when he reached the halfway point, as expected, the monotonous chorus manifested itself.
“Why? Why? Why?, Why? Why? Why?” They sang.
Worse than the never changing cluck of the creatures. More abysmal than the mallets tapping stone as boys broke up ore. He blanked it out as he continued to ascend. His resolve was his only shield as the volley came again; he heard stone pelt against the cavity. A projectile struck him with a crack, it shot pain into his ribs but he clung to the wall with all his strength.
“Why?” They said and he continued.