8 iv) Cang is first to descend

Cang is first to descend, and he brings the lantern with him, clutched in one rough hand while he uses the other to rappel. His progress is jerky and shallow at first, and the others above, holding the rope, stagger and shift their positions to keep its tensile strength high. As Cang gets closer to the growth of mushrooms at the bottom, the warmth they give off grows. Soon his brow is soaked with sweat, despite his athleticism, and the fungi’s green glow washes across his face.

Planting his boots on the rocky ground, Cang kicks at a few of the mushrooms. “How many do we require?” he calls up.

Silence greets him.

Grumbling, he knocks a few caps off their stems, doing nothing to diminish their glow. He stashes a handful in his pockets, wishing instead he had the tiny emerald instead. As he prepares to ascend, he notices another tunnel, and holding his lantern aloft, the candle’s light falls upon a carved stone door, covered in the undisturbed dust of an age. His curiosity peaks, but the coughs of his companions at the top of the cave break the spell, and he grabs the rope. Shyan, Fassn and Abia strain to pull him back up.

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