The tunnel was filled with phantasmagorical images. Other voyagers on other voyages seemed to pass them by with alarming regularity, but without apparent substance. Most frequent were white luminous bodies, quadrupeds, who would intangibly flit along the tunnel walls without seeming to heed the party. Like cells in some great underground vein bumping and jostling along in the great rush of being.
Blue Zalthyrmian lights flitted too along the cave walls, which, Benda noted, passed now and again between smoothly carven stone, and a hard, almost fibrous substance. Though the lights seemed at times to form letters and scripts, their mysterious meaning was still inscrutable to Benda and the others. Though, he wondered whether Machef might not have rather more knowledge of that language than he lett on. No matter, it was Benda who had chosen the way. Where it lead, they would find out in due course.
After a time, the white phantasms — which Machef had confirmed to them were the spirits of Lagoms — ceased passing back and forth in both directions. Their lights went dark for a time in the passage, and then, all at once, they organized themselves in one direction — the way Benda and the others had come from. As the party progressed, the white lights seemed to be more and more furiously streaming toward, and then passed them.
“Should we… be concerned?” Eradus asked, to no one in particular.
“They flee a terror in another age,” Machef’s voice spoke inside them.
Just then, there was a low rumbling, deep, deep within the stone, and a dull yellow light appeared in the distance, accompanied by a smell of mustiness.
“A terror which we seem to flee towards,” added Benda.
Machef seemed to shrug as he kept on, “The way out is through.”
Eventually, the streaming figures in white slowed, and then halted completely. There was only the dull yellow presence, somewhere ahead of them, and the musty smell of air. And a feeling of dull directionless oppression. It made them tired, but afforded them no rest. The way out is through. Benda repeated it himself over and over as he lifted one foot after the other, endlessly heavy and dull, and thudded along.
Until, all at once, the tunnel opened up into another cavern, like the one they’d been in previously, but smaller. The walls here were adorned with murals too, but painted, not set in tile, and the paint was flaked and cracked, and crumbled away in places. Depicted were Lagom warriors in full regalia going to battle against… figures whose images had all crumbled and fallen into ruin long since. A foe without a face.
The yellow light here was suffuse and omni-present. The mustiness smothered the air, and Benda’s eyes searched the haze and rubble for their next passage onward. Tunnel entrance after tunnel entrance away from the main chamber were blocked in by rubble and stone. Nothing moved.
“Wayfinder,” Machef said. “Find the silver thread.”
“The silver thread?” Benda repeated to himself.
“The blue way leads not through here. Whatever it was the Lagoms fought near this place, the Zalthyrmians lingered and linger not still in this spot either.”
The silver thread. Benda did not know what that was, but he could feel the weight of its import beginning to grow in him. The goleks laid down to lick themselves, and one another. Eradus too sat down on the dusty ground, looking up at the murals of the armored warriors.
Benda went off a little away from the others, and faced the wall. He closed his eyes, crouched ever so slightly, bending his knees, balancing his weight into his hips and seat. His body swayed with his breath, and he was plunged into darkness. He let his hands come up from his sides, palms out and sensing, like two great ears that could touch the darkness. They tingled slightly, and Benda could sense the energy flowing through them.
As though pushed by an ocean wave, Benda’s hands rose up and came together in front of him, and where they passed, he felt a twinge. A something. A sensation of a sensation, very slight. His hands swam out in front of him, crossing and he felt it again, and again. It was a single point, then a thin stroke, a line of ephemeral filament. He tried to seize it, but his hands did not function in this subtle space as they normally ought. He had to orient, and retrain himself, as if from outside himself.
His two hands were his only being, and a third point, his heart. He thought then of Eril, the harp given him by the High Augur of Quatria. He imagined himself plucking its strings, and he knew then that this filament — this silver thread — was of the same underlying universal substance, if in another register, and on another instrument.
He felt then the silver thread extend outward from his heart into the darkness of this subtle space, where his two hands were the only embodied forms which existed. And the thread pointed off into a fourth place, the ray of the future. Benda finally managed to seize the thread in his two hands then, having inwardly tuned into its resonance. But he did not pluck it as he would the harp’s strings, for he knew that if he let it go to sound, he might not be able to seize it again. So he held tightly all the while with one hand, pulling, and alternating, pulling and alternating. The thread was very fine, and smooth, but seemed immeasurably strong. Benda was sure he could not break it, tug as he might on it. And tug he did.
The others resting there in the cave witnessed nothing unusual, and took turns dozing, or nibbling on bits of bread. Dema and Selef were soon snoring.
Benda continued to pull on this invisible thread, in his parallel world of awareness. And as he did so, he began to feel almost as though he were again a simple fisherman, pulling on a very long line, and knowing that on the other end, he must have caught something very, very big.
He strained suddenly, and either his awareness in that other space broke, or the line he pulled snapped. And with a start, he found himself tumbled over onto the floor on his backside. Machef opened his eyes and focused on him.
There was then a sound, subliminal. A rumbling. A feeling. Growing. It widened into the sound of deep horns sounding. The yellow light for a moment dimmed, and in their awareness all shadow and light swapped places. The world inverted. A trembling, the sound of hoofs, a horn blast — and a tunnel entrance on the far side of the hall burst open in an eruption of rubble and dust. A huge form passed out of it. Not even a form, a volume, invisible, without definite shape, or discernible character. It swirled into the chamber, around them once, and then vanished down the way they had come.
Their world returned to normal. The yellow light resumed, though the smell of mustiness now seemed to fight to pierce the dust newly set alight. There was an in-bursting freshness of air from the tunnel which had newly opened.
“Wayfinder,” Machef said. “You have found the way.”