From Chapter 1 of No’va
It was as though a wave of white washed over him. It was all he could see as he tumbled down the hill until he finally came to rest. Sprawled out, he figured his position was similar to the snow angels children made along the streets of Mayla. As strict as the council was, they did allow for some fun – but not much. Keeping up with their studies was more important than being with family, and most were enclosed in schools to be taught what parents were not aware of, save for council members. Being a member had given him and his friends access to those teachings, rules, regulations, punishments, and more. Jenario was only glad his son would never be a part of that system.
His cheeks stung from the wet cold pressing around him. It was a struggle to dig himself out and stagger to his feet. He wiped snow from around his eyes and glanced around the area. Thankfully, his lantern was still lit and slightly protruded from the snow not far from his landing spot. With limited vision, he quickly scooped it out and held it aloft to better see.
Light played along a rocky cliffside, long tendrils of icicles clinging to overhanging edges. The sound of wind whipping across hollow space suggested an opening. Jenario trailed the light down to his left until it failed to penetrate the dark mouth of a small cave. It was just large enough where a grown man could walk inside. He peered inside.
I NEED MORE LIGHT. Too dark to see how far back it went, Jenario checked the hillside to see Thomas Gracie’s light at the top.
“Jen, you all right?”
“Fine! There’s a cave here! Can you make it down?”
“Hold on! Let me find a way around this drop-off!”
Jenario waited, following the sound of crunching snow as Thomas Gracie made his way down the slope. It did not take long for him to join his companion in front of the cave.
“Good job.” Thomas Gracie slapped his hand over Jenario’s shoulder in good faith, then entered the cave. “You’ve always managed to do what you thought was best.”
“By falling head first?”
Thomas Gracie chuckled. “You use your head. That’s a good way to be. Me? I tend to act on impulsion. That’s why my name was on the list.”
Jenario followed his companion, the extra light allowing for a glimpse into the back caverns. The farther they walked, the more they realized the tunnels split between a left and right path. Thomas Gracie paused in front of the left passage and directed his lantern over to Jenario’s right.
“You take that side. See how far down it goes, but don’t branch off into any others.”
“What are we looking for?”
“Oh, just making sure no bears linger around, that’s all.” He winked before entering the tunnel.
An echoing chortle answered, his traveling light fading from Jenario’s sight. “You want your son out of the cold, don’t you? Just check the tunnel, Jen!”
Jenario sucked in a breath before proceeding to the opening off to his right. He swung the lantern around a bit just to make sure it was clear. Then he entered, hating the sound of his boots crunching over small pebbles and tripping over the occasional stalagmite.
ANYTHING HERE WOULD KNOW INSTANTLY WHERE I AM…HOWEVER FAR DOWN THIS GOES!
His foot caught against a stalagmite, jolting him forward in a flailing attempt to keep his balance. The lantern scraped across rocky surface, busting one side of the glass. While fragments streamed down the side wall, Jenario had no choice but to let go so he could bring up both hands in time to catch his fall. He was lucky no other stalagmites rose under him as he listened to the lantern skid across floor. The palm of his hands burned where they had scraped the rough ground but managed to push himself to a sitting position. Ahead, the lantern winked out.
Jenario stilled himself, trying to listen for any other sounds. At the moment, his weathered breathing was the loudest. Despite his attempts at keeping quiet, the rustle of fabric and leather boots still echoed down the tunnel. He thought about calling to Thomas Gracie, but dropped the idea.
I can’t even hear anything over myself! How am I supposed to hear him, let alone expect him to hear me?
Jenario squinted, barely making out a bend in the passage just ahead. What should have been complete darkness turned into a search for a possible light source. With his lantern now useless, he left it where it lay, though he could not avoid the multitude of shattered glass cracking under his boots. As he turned the corner, the walls took on a slightly different hue. A blue glow faintly illuminated the cavern walls. It was enough to see some of his breath rise in the frigid air.