Chapter 40 - Dark Caves

“Hmm, it’s still eating away at me that I can’t remember Gendal’s partner.” Shan stared off at the working Bakkons and Frakkals along the walls. “Guess it doesn’t help that he is fairly new. He has only been working here for a few weeks, yeah?”


The rest of the group wore confused faces. “I don’t think anyone pays the Zinnals around them as much attention as you do, brother.” Reok glanced at the surrounding Zinnals, collecting their materials.


“I may recognize a few faces here and there, but that’s only because they’re the ones that we start our shifts with when we’re released from our Parti Tabs every morning,” Tynun said. “And even then, it’s hard for me to pick a few of them apart.”


They walked down through the rocky dim-lit halls. Workers grew sparse in numbers the further in they went, though for them, that seemed to be a positive. They could discuss their plans of escape without having many prying ears. The dull colored stone turned to specks of shines from the artificial lights that hung from the cave ceiling as more rocks full of sought-after minerals came into view.


“Just how far is our new mining area?” Neyr said, trailing a small way behind the group.


“You can’t be tired already,” Tynun said. “We haven’t even started working yet.”


Neyr sighed. “I know, but I just wish we didn’t have to do the same thing every single day. Some days my legs don’t even want to move, not because I’m physically tired, but my mind is drained.” He lowered his voice. “Can we please try to get out of this place soon?”


“All in due time, Neyr,” Reok said. “If we take shortcuts, we’ll end up in here forever without even a single chance of escaping.”


Tynun thought about this almost daily, too. And he suspected everyone did. But, the longer he spent slaving away in here trying to observe all he could, the more he realized this would not be as simple as he thought from when he arrived. For one, their strength hadn’t increased in the levels they had expected. The Parti Tab notified them at the end of every shift once they returned of how much their bodies were improving—and improved they had, though Tynun still couldn’t help but feel disappointed. He did not feel confident in his strength to even consider the possibility of escaping yet, and it was obvious that all the others felt the same way, well, perhaps besides Neyr.


Neyr was quite a bit younger than the rest and didn’t seem to grasp just how powerful the world around him was yet. That was one thing that Tynun loved about him; he always brought up the spirits of everyone when discussing plans, even if his ideas were unrealistic.


After coming across the dead Bakkon, it’s no wonder why Neyr’s outburst came so early today. Surely he felt that if he didn’t leave soon, that he could end up in the same situation. Especially because the murderer was still on the loose.


As they continued deeper into the tunnels, even Tynun kept his senses more alert than normal. Every little pebble dragging across the ground caused him to flinch. The faint voices of partners talking to one another along the walls lulled more today than any previous.


Reok pulled a piece of paper from one cavity in his shell and unfolded it, trying to find the perfect source of light so the drawing on it became legible. On their way down to the depths of Mount Dai, a masked human handed them a map and gave them instructions on their next location. Despite not understanding anything the human said, based on its hand gestures and the circles on the map, they figured out what the human was trying to communicate to them. And as soon as the human appeared, it disappeared into the forests surrounding.


“We’re almost to the new dig site.” Reok smiled. “It looks like there won’t be many others around us. Perfect.”


“But with such a long walk to get to our location every day, it’s going to take us even longer to collect all we need to for the humans to be happy.” Neyr lowered himself to the ground next to a sparkling rock face.


“Think of it like this though, Neyr. We’re even more by ourselves than before. We can create more plans, and we don’t have to worry about something like what happened to Gendal out here. We’ll have no one to get into a conflict with.” Tynun believed part of what he said, but Neyr was right. Trekking out this far every day for work was going to be tortuous.


Shan took out his pickaxe and struck at the wall next to Neyr. “You should be happy you aren’t a Frakkal,” he laughed. “At least you can relax after the long walk for a bit while I create a pile for you to sort through.”


Neyr and Shan laughed to one another and grew deep into their own conversations as usual, but Tynun could still see the look of fear deep within his brother’s eyes. Would it be possible one of them could die in here before even getting a chance to make an escape? Tynun looked further down into Mount Dai. At the edge of his vision, the pathway turned black. It seemed the humans had yet to place lights that far down.


“Tynun! Let’s get started on this wall here.” Reok walked to the wall across from Shan’s.


Tynun jumped out of his trance and crawled over, positioning himself close to the wall, watching as debris fell down before him as Reok swung his shoulders over and over. “Hey, Reok, this mountain seems never ending, huh? Once we finish with this area, you think they’ll just keep adding lights further and further down?”


“Probably.” Reok swung his pickaxe. “You curious what’s down there too?” He smirked.


“A little. I’ve never seen such a place so dark in here. I thought the humans had the whole place settled and mapped out.”


“What do you say we take a brief adventure down there? If we don’t get our fair share of materials today, it’s fine. The humans will believe we got lost on our first day going so far down, it happens all the time.”


“I don’t know…” Tynun glanced down the dark hall.


Reok sheathed the pickaxe back into his shell. “Well, it’s settled we’re going to go.” He turned to Shan and Neyr. “We’ll be right back, guys. We’re going to see if we can find a decent place to piss down there.” While lowering his voice so no other Zinnals within the hall could hear, he muttered, “or escape.”