8 i) The cave is eroded away from thick black limestone

The cave is eroded away from thick black limestone like gooey chocolate cake, Fassn thinks. He stops to lick a wall and finds its rough surface abrasive on his tongue and lacking severely in a sweet taste. Instead, the cave is suffused with a warm, wet animal smell, like the damp coat of a dog.

“Perhaps some creature calls this cavern home,” says Cang.

“Everything calls somewhere home,” Fassn replies with a sagely nod of his head.

The others ignore him. Shyan, scratching at the thin skin on the back of her hands — alternating, first the left, then the right, cyclically — feels at the walls where the late afternoon sun cannot reach. They’re gritty and stain her hands with a deep black. “There’s nothing here,” she says, unaware she’s slurring her words. She’s about to repeat herself when her hand moves past the solid rock and she finds a wide passageway. “There’s something here,” she says.

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