The five were dry from the flood by morning.
“Today’s the day,” Laquin said. “At last.”
“What day?” asked Mills.
“Our last day of travel,” Laquin answered.
“Whoo-hoo!” Mills cheered. “Oh, I thought we were going to have to walk forever!”
“How much longer will it take?” Xala asked. “I busted my knee pretty badly during the flood.”
“Not more than an hour or so,” Laquin answered.
“I can’t wait,” said Mills.
“Well, you have to,” said Laquin. “But not much longer.”
Bubbles of rock started to pop up from the desert floor not long after breakfast. They were adorned with spikey little plants, which came in all colors. The rainbow was rather beautiful as the team entered it and started their crawl over the smooth rock outcroppings.
“Here we are,” Orn announced suddenly.
“Where are we?” asked Mills. “I thought we were headed toward safety?”
“Safety awaits below us,” said Orn. “The passage is tight at first. But then it’ll open up.”
Mills was about to ask more questions when Orn suddenly ducked down into a patch of the rainbow plants and disappeared.
“Where’d he go?” asked Anaxis.
“Home,” said Laquin, with a great smile across her face. “Home at last. Here. Come over here.”
Xala was the first to the tight cave entrance. She squeezed through it, then Anaxis and Mills followed after, then Laquin.
It took a moment for the travelers’ eyes to adjust to the subterranean darkness, but as they did, sparking striations in the ceiling and walls started to glitter for them.
“It’s beautiful!” exclaimed Xala.
“Sure is,” agreed Laquin. She whistled.
A whistle came back from somewhere in the black depths below.
“There he is,” Laquin said. “Follow closely after me. And watch your footing!”
The team passed through a tight passage after Laquin into a much larger chamber.
“I’ve got just the thing for this,” Xala said, reaching into her bag and producing her bioluminescent lamp.
“That’s wonderful,” Laquin said. “But we won’t need it.”
“But you can’t see a thing,” said Xala.
“Just give it a second,” said Laquin.
Almost as soon as she had spoken, a wave of purple light washed across the floor. A wash of blue followed afterwards, then another of green.
“What is it?” asked Anaxis.
“Probably the same thing in your lamp, Xala,” said Laquin. “We’ve treated the floor with it. It shines every minute or so. We just have to follow the path. We’ll wait for the next wave and proceed.”
In another minute or so, the purple wave began. The team walked over the glowing rock as it changed color beneath their feet. Just as they came to another tight squeeze into the next chamber, Orn jumped out of the dark.
“Aah!” he growled with a horrible grimace.
Mills screamed so loud he nearly fainted. Anaxis laughed.
“Really funny, Orn,” Mills scolded. “I’m pretty sure I peed my pants. I hope you’re real happy with yourself.”
“I’m sorry, I couldn’t help it,” Orn said. “Anyways. Come along.”
The next room was absolutely massive. Far-off drips of water echoing from around the space attested to how large it was, despite the fact that it was nearly impossible to see.
“Ready?” asked Orn.
“Ready,” answered Laquin.
“Ready for what?” asked Mills.
There was a blasting noise, and for a brief flash a cannon held by Orn was visible. From it flew a swarm of colored beads, which soared out into the dark chasm. They stuck where they hit, defining the rock pillars of the chamber for those near its entrance. The space was hardly well-lit now, but its features were now somewhat apparent and at the very least more navigable.
“That’s kind of neat,” said Mills.
“We’re nearly there,” said Orn. “Stay close! The trobs live in the next chamber.”
“Trobs?” Mills asked. “That doesn’t sound good.”
“Flying terrors,” Laquin answered.
“Oh,” said Mills. “I liked trobs better.”
As the team entered the next chamber of the cave system, the noise of wings flapping rapidly buzzed by the spelunkers. It was accompanied by high-pitched screams from the animals, and more of the same from Mills.
“That was terrible!” Mills sobbed when the swarm was passed.
“Just be glad you didn’t see them,” said Laquin.
“Hello!” Orn called out. “Talar! Hello!”
There was a brief pause, and then a voice from the darkness answered, “Hello! Orn?”
“Orn and Laquin, with guests!” Orn replied.
A light went up in the distance, which grew to fill nearly half the cave.
“Where have you been?” asked the man behind the light source.
“It’s a long story,” Orn answered. “Lower the bridge?”
“Right away,” Talar answered.