Jean and Annalise make their way around several half-awake bodies. Jean looks around proudly. “What did I tell you,” he said, “no one even noticed we were gone.”
“I don’t recall you ever telling me that.” Annalise scanned the area. Thousands of twinkling spores float endlessly through the space of the cavern and streaks of starlight dart across her field of vison. Her gaze rests on a faint outline of the Centrumbole. “It’s releasing more spores than usual, don’t you think?”
“I wouldn’t know,” he said. “I’m rarely here.” People passed by the two, giving Jean weird looks. “Speaking of which, I should go before I get reported.” He twisted around, “Oh yeah,” he stopped. “Tell Hura to meet at the entrance to the crystal cave, and, if she asks…”
Before Jean could finish a deep womanly voice sounded, “Jean, how did I know I’d find you with Annalise again?” Jean groaned and turned to the source of the sound.
“Looks like you spoke too soon about getting reported.” Annalise whispered as a short, stout woman stomped angrily in their direction.“Good lumimare, Gennit.” She ignored Annalise’s greeting and grabbed Jean’s forearm forcefully. Her face was contorted and twisted like a burning log.
“You are straying from schedule,” she spat. “What are you even doing on this side of the Centrumbole?” she tugged at his arm. “Excavators sleep on over there.” She points in the opposite direction.
“Actually, we sleep over there.” Jean points slightly to the right of where she did. Annalise nudged him in the side. “I’m not helping my case, am I?” he whispered before getting dragged away. Annalise shook her head with a smile on her face and waved him goodbye. Jean waved back while he got an earful about a recent cave in near the tunnel of ore. “I’m not even late Gennit! Yuo isn’t even up, why aren’t you yelling at him?”
Annalise turns and walks towards the Ilum tree, a thick, twisting tree the color of stone. Its branches stuck straight up and dug into the ceiling. The earth below its trunk glowed softly with a blue aura. An unusually tall girl with unusually dark hair ran up behind Annalise and they exchange greetings. They walk notably far from each other
“Hura, you’re actually awake.” Annalise said to Hura who was yawning loudly.
“I suppose I am,” Hura muttered pulling of a wiggling root, wrapped around her arm. They continue walking up to the Ilum tree in the center of the cavern and enter a tunnel at the base of the hill where it sits. The tunnel is well worn and offers plenty of space for multiple people to walk through. It eventually opens up into a small circular cave structure. Above Hura and Annalise, blue, pulsating roots cover the ceiling and seem to creep along the walls as if stalking unseen prey. Hura stood with her hand on her hip, glaring with her nose turned upwards as if the roots somehow dishonored her. “I am so sick of having to pull these roots up every single luminmare. Why don’t we just move somewhere with more Ilum trees? These roots become dimmer every harvest.” Hura pulled out a curved knife crowned with colorful jewels.
“That reminds me,” Annalise said with forced casualness, happy with the opportunity to bring up the topic. “We found something last sovereun…”
“We?” Hura turns away from her silent battle with the squirming roots, suddenly curious. “Did you sneak out with Jean again?” her eyes squint. “Don’t you remember what happened last time-?”
“Ugh I know… Everyone remembers!” Annalise folds her hands defensively.
“Just get on with it, Lise.” Hura twirls her hand. “What did you two find this time, and how am I going to get in trouble for knowing about it?”
“Well,” Annalise’s finger finds a place on her chin, “I’m not sure exactly how to describe it.” She walked carefully over to a pulsating root and gripped it firmly. “Jean just told me to ask you to meet us at the entrance to the crystal caves.”
“You two are always so vague. It runs in the family, huh?”
“That’s what I’ve been told.” Annalise rips off a root that swings and narrowly misses her face. She tosses the squirming root into the woven basket upon her back.
“Makes everything more interesting I suppose.” Hura mutters to herself as she fought with a particularly stubborn root.
“Will you join us?” Annalise inquires before summoning up some courage. “Jean was pretty excited to have you along.” She gave Hura a playful side-glance, but Hura’s expression was unmoving.
“Well, if you insist,” Hura finally decides.
“Oh, I do insist.” Annalise said with a smile forming on the side of her face.
The two continue ripping roots off the wall until their baskets were full, and their faces were splotched in a liquid that glowed like the midday sky. The baskets trembled slightly as if hundreds of mice where trying to escape. “I think we have enough for,” Hura stepped towards the entrance, “maybe a half of a very small tunnel.” Annalise smiles, but worried thoughts plagued her mind.
“Maybe the other harvesters were luckier,” Annalise said with forced optimism.
“Maybe,” Hura muttered half to herself. They walked back through the dark tunnel; their bodies outlined by the faint rays of light emanating from their baskets. Estrella worms greeted them at the entrance to the main cavern. Hura swatted at them before they could get near her face. “What is up with these worms?”
“Well, we did just steal their food,” Annalise said while a feathery worm landed on her shoulder. It slid across her damp shawl and floated down to the ground to meet drops of glowing liquid.
“Speaking of which,” Hura flicked a dark strand of hair away from her face. “Let’s find some willowed mushrooms to eat.”
“We should really get these to Tuia before the east tunnel goes out,” Annalise kicked a small pebble down the path. “Don’t you think?”
“She won’t notice if we’re late,” said Hura.
“Yes she will,” Annalise rolled her eyes. “She always notices.”Hura pushed past Annalise and started in a different direction lined with small, purple mushrooms. In the distance, she could make out a small cluster of hazy flora, glowing with numerous neon colors.
“I’ll see you and Jean at the crystal caves,” Hura called back, leaving Annalise alone with the worms.
“Fine,” Annalise huffed, “but I’m not going to make any excuses to Tuia for you.” Annalise reached back and pulled a wiggling root from her basket, and held it up like a lantern, hoping to find some relief from the flickering darkness around her. Annalise glanced behind her wearily before turning back sharply in annoyance that Hura left her alone. She stomped off, anxious to drop off her harvest and discover where that strange light she and Jean had discovered will take them.
Author's Note: So, I'm leaning towards making this a graphic novel instead of a writen novel. I'm not too excited about my descriptions and I believe this story will flow a lot better with drawn imagery from scene to scene (and it'll do the atmpsphere more justace). I don't think I'll be posting much more of this story unless I wanted some feed back with dialogue. Thanks for reading, and let me know what you think! :)