Depths

“Ya father woulda had ya’s both stand yer ground up there, and ya’d both be with Bwonsamdi.” Jal’antu says, standing up.

Neli searches with her hands, running her fingers along the wall.

Faint light illuminates the water-filled grotto, a skylight in the ceiling reveals the early morning. The thick air smells of dirt.

“Been more than two-hundred moons since I been ‘ere.” she whispers, watching droplets illuminated by the skylight fall.

Neli examines the overgrown foliage, “Looks like we’s the first since.”

“Get behind me girl.” the shaman says.

Neli watches her mother unsheathe her staff, sticking its end in the calm water.

Jal’antu closes her eyes, drawing in a breath as she raises an open hand to shoulder height.

As a glow grows on the mother’s palm, Neli moves back.

Jal’antu holds her staff vertical, scowling in concentration as the water churns. She places her open hand further down on the staff, the glow joining its feathered top.

Slamming the base of her staff onto the floor, the water surges, spouting out of the skylight.

Neli watches in awe, “Ya never told me you’s can do that!?”

Jal’antu leans on her staff, looking down, “Ya’s knew I work with water.”

“Yeah, but…”

The shaman looks over with a smile, “Come, we got swimmin' ta do.”

They walk down the now empty lakebed; a hole leading to a water-filled corridor is visible.

Climbing out of the passage, the trolls gaze upon a huge rectangular room covered in runic shapes.

Neli traces a wall with her fingers, “What is this place?”

“Forgotten.” Jal’antu replies, walking down the stone steps. The room is a straight pathway leading to the opposite wall, either side filled with water. Great statues line the water and reach close to the ceiling, each illuminated by their own skylight.

“Elortha, Shirvallah, Hethiss, Hir’eek, and Bethekk.” Jal’antu says as they walk by the Loa’s statues.

“What ‘bout Bwonsamdi?”

“Our exilers don't care for 'em.”

“…oh.”

They reach the other end, the pathway meeting the rune-covered wall.

Jal'antu places the heart in a crevice on the floor, sprinkling fadeleaf in a circle around the blood. She holds the top of her staff close to the heart, waving it in circles while chanting in a whisper.

Neli moves to the side for a better view.

"Bleed on it." says the shaman, eyes closed in concentration.

The daughter furrows her brow, "What?"

"Cut yerself 'n bleed on it!"

Neli presses a knuckle against one of her tusks, dripping onto the ritual. 

Jal'antu slams her staff onto the heart, bits flying everywhere.

Part of the wall falls into the floor as she opens her eyes, "We's 'ere, start lookin'."

The entrance seals once inside.

Several hours pass as the two go through rooms of Gurubashi trinkets.

“Find anythin’?” Jal’antu asks, several rooms down.

Neli walks over, despondently saying, “No…”

“Lookie ‘ere.” the shaman says, holding out the hilt of a weapon as the skylight glints its wooden edges.

Neli holds the object, mouth hanging open.

“Anything?” asks her mother.

The daughter runs a finger along the emblazoned rune matching her necklace, laughing hysterically.

The shaman smiles.

Looping the hilt in her belt, Neli wraps her arms around Jal'antu, chin resting on her shoulder.

 

To be continued...