Chapter 44 - Heated

“How do you even expect this to work again…? It sounded good in theory yesterday, but now that we’re actually doing it… I don’t know.” Tynun, back full of water, took heavy steps into the dark, heated hallway. Water ran out from his back, or was it sweat? Tynun couldn’t tell. The water he held grew hotter by the minute.


“I think it’ll work,” Reok said. “Just follow my lead.”


Tynun groaned. “I’m still surprised that everyone bought your lousy excuse as to why I needed to carry the water.”


Reok smirked. “Eh, I’m sure some didn’t. But, with never ending water, why would anyone care what we did with it? Now, where was that thing that opened the door.”


Blinded in darkness, the two crept close along the right side of the wall. Reok cracked away at the rocks similarly to the last time they had ventured in. After each repetition of flinging his pickaxe back and forth, Reok grunted. Nothing was happening. Tynun stopped alongside Reok, letting his legs curl back up into his body as he rested on the ground. Standing in itself had taken a toll on him. He had forgotten how hard it was to traverse with his body full of liquid. At least he didn’t have fish trying to flop out this time though.


Tynun almost dozed off when he heard it. Reok’s excited swinging. He had come to learn this sound too well. Whenever he found a trove of minerals hidden within the walls, his picking lost its rhythm, and Tynun knew it was only a matter of time before he had to scramble to sort the precious debris. Though this time, Reok swung without any sort of direction. Tynun strained his eyes out of habit, trying to find a hint of anything that stood out, but had no luck. Water splashed out from Tynun’s back as a few of the pebbles of debris landed in the water he carried.


“I’ll wait by the passage door, maybe I can find a hint of another way to open it.” Tynun’s leg muscles tensed with the weight of the water as he lifted himself up. One step at a time, he slowly trudged over to the dead end. Stifling heat greeted him through tiny slits in the wall. He brought his face close to where the heat was the greatest and tried peeking in. Not sure if he was imaging it, he thought he could see the bright reds and oranges of lava. Turning away from the heat, he retracted his legs and rested.


In the distance, Reok continued picking away at the walls. Grunts and pants echoed down to Tynun’s ears. 


Tynun closed his eyes. How was he going to make it through the rest of the day like this? He was already exhausted. Maybe it was a bad idea to carry the water with this plan.


Suddenly, something alerted him. A faint bubbling followed by what sounded like mumbling on the other side. Then the wall rumbled and the door opened.


Tynun, stricken with sensory overload, spilled a small bucket’s worth of water out onto the ground. Within a second, the water sizzled and said its goodbyes, despite the welcoming light of the inner chambers. He turned to face the dangerous heat and was greeted with a familiar face? Or was it a different Zinnal? He wasn’t like Shan, he couldn’t tell others apart from different species by meeting only once or twice.



The fire Zinnal looked frightened. They panicked, moving their head back and forth, as lava danced around their body and white sludge glided across their horns. “You two again?!”


Ah, so it was the same one.


“Oh…” Tynun couldn’t think of what to say. Reok needed to hurry and rush up to his side. As Tynun played through many possible scenarios of what to do in his mind, he observed the surrounding area. Flowing magma cascaded down from the charred ceiling and through the walls. Crackling echoed from deep within. And mixed in with the echoes was distant chattering and more of those Zinnals. Were they there last time?


“Get the hell out of here. I can’t believe I’m going to be suspected of trying to shirk my duties again.” The Zinnal spat lava and reached toward something.


Footsteps galloped from behind and shoved Tynun forward, knocking him over. Water flew toward the Zinnal, completely drenching them. A large sizzle sprayed into his ears and smoke spread through the area. Voices deeper in the cavern grew louder. Reok didn’t have much for a plan in the first place did he? Still, Tynun thought he would have at least tried to drag the Zinnal out first!


“What are you two doing?!” The Zinnal waved their arms through the air frantically. They patted their horns, seeming to make sure that fire was still flowing. It wasn’t.


The extinguished Zinnal cried out in pain, shriveling to the floor. Tynun stared in silence at the immobile slug-like Zinnal, their body now completely motionless. The white sludge from their horn trembled across their whole body. Eyes, arms, mouth, legs, horns. Everything was now encased in a white substance. Within a few seconds, the Zinnal hardened as if they were made of clay. A statue.


“Did we kill them?” Reok asked, stepping closer and poking the Zinnal with the wooden side of his pickaxe.


“We? You pushed me.” Tynun glared. “We weren’t supposed to do this much to them!”


“Like we knew this would happen! Look, you are just as much to blame as I am for this. You knew the basic idea of my plan. And we did just that, so don’t go laying the blame on me. Now get close to the ground so I can try to throw them in your back.”


“What’s that gonna be useful for?! They are DEAD!” Tynun hissed.


Reok grunted. “We don’t necessarily know that. Now GET ON THE GROUND.”


Tynun reluctantly obeyed and lowered his body. His legs trembled even more than when he was carrying the water. How could he become a murderer? What would Neyr think? That’s right, Neyr could never find out about what they had to do to reach freedom. Reok and Tynun had discussed what may have to be done before, but never did he think it would actually come to this.


Reok loaded the body onto Tynun’s back. As Tynun felt the body slide in, he gagged. Carrying a corpse that he helped create? Tynun tried to brush it aside for the time being and looked outward.


A horde of flames approached from the depths of the chamber.


“Shit,” was all Reok could say.