Instead of jewels, Shyan finds Master Davit. He’s alive and well, a beatific smile upon his lined face. He gestures for her to assume the stance, and she does so gracefully, without word.
Emotions and mistrust war behind her eyes but incontrovertibly, Davit is before her in a warm pool of light.
They go through the warmup motions together, and Shyan feels light, loose, ready to spar.
The voices of her companions have fallen silent. She no longer hears the grind of stone, the creaky voice, the ominous knocking. All is right in the dark.
Many things move in the dark, slipping through the undercurrents of unconciousness. Squirming silhouettes and wriggling sparkles undulate behind the stone door.
The knocking is no more: the voice, the light. Riches swallowed by the night.
The dark is so intense it swallows sound and touch. The gang reaches out for one another, calls out for one another, begs the black to give up the ghost.
What they want is here, what they know is not.
Heedless of the closing door, Cang stuffs his pockets with coins and gems. He doesn’t slow to check their vintage or cut, merely fills pouches with riches. He’s already entirely occluded from the rest of the gang’s sight.
Shyan grabs up Cang’s prybar and wedges it lengthwise to keep the door from closing. The heavy stone strains against the iron bar and the sustained pressure begins to put a bow in it. Then a creaky voice addresses her, saying, “Clever, Shyan, disciple of Davit. He would be so proud.”
The colour drains from her face as she urges Abia and Fassn to enter ahead of her. Lip trembling, she follows behind, and soon, with a great rush of air and a cacophonous rumble, the stone door shuts, and the wings of blackness enfold the gang’s meagre lantern, leaving them in the dark.
The dark retreats like wings, pulling back to reveal a pool of pure light. Ambient noise like the rushing of a waterfall fills the chamber.
Cang is first to see the enormous hoarde of gold and jewels piled up in the light. His prybar clanks to the stony floor as he sprints into the room, scraping to bloody the thin skin of his shoulders. His face bears an expression of manic delight before he slips into the gloom.
The rest of the gang hasn’t even seen the pile before the heavy door begins to close behind him.
Cang puts his shoulder up against the door and leans his weight into it. There’s the slight sound of grinding stone but the door doesn’t budge. Even when Shyan joins him, the door remains stuck fast.
“If this thing’s explaining what’s beyond it,” Shyan says, her breathing becoming ragged with the effort, “why won’t it let us in?”
Cang withdraws a prybar from his bag, lines it up with the door’s seam. With the increased leverage, he’s able to slowly pull the door away from its frame. Rock grates against rock while the door slowly opens, just enough for a person to slip through with bruised temples.
Beyond, a wild, howling blackness that swallows the light.
“Oh, I want to hear!” Fassn exclaims, pushing past Cang. He puts his filthy hands against the cool stone, runs his palms along the finely-worked geometry of the dark frame.
Cang impolitely clears his throat and Fassn takes no notice. “What’s it say?” he asks.
“I believe the door was due to explain what lies beyond its threshold,” Cang says.
“Talking, what do you mean?” Shyan asks. “This is a talking door?”
Suddenly Cang freezes as the door addresses him once more. “There are riches within, Cang. Vast, liquid riches.”
Cang pales slightly, then, shaking off his discomfort, says, “Well, no sense in dawdling. Let us open this portal, forthwith.” The mushrooms’ faint green glow lights his face up eerily.
A creaky voice, splintered like shipboards cracking under ocean waves, follows the knock. “Cang,” it says, slowly, drawling the syllable.
Cang starts, peers at the faces of his friends. They’re distorted in the flickering lantern light, made weird by the bioluminescent hues coming from the mushrooms at their feet. Neither Shyan, Fassn, nor Abia seem to have heard the sounds.
“Cang,” the voice says again. “Why have you brought these others? Are not you curious enough for yourself? Were you not the one who climbed down? Are your pockets not deep enough for what lies beyond?” There’s an amusement in the voice, as though a smile were on whatever face might be speaking.
“Hm,” Cang says, his hand on his chin. “Perhaps not. Tell me, what does lie beyond?”
The gang gives him an incredulous look as he speaks to nothing.