Little lacerations covered her fair skin like the crevasses that stood between her and Bit. Nikt rubbed her tender skin, feeling for the cuts that would soon scar. The water was warm and comforting, but her mind was reeling into exhaustion. “Think of your kin,” they told her. But Bit is my only kin, Nikt argued in her mind. The more she thought about Bit the more she despised the kin and the more she realized that mourning was not an option.
She had heard the stories by the soft glow of the luxurious crystals by glowworms and relics, the myths of the ancient days when the world was born. She had heard the myths of the Above and all of the unimaginable things it held. She had heard of the beasts and creatures so big, they could tear you to pieces with their jaws. She had heard the story of Scoria, the woman who had transcended to the Above and came back mad, but who some say was the greatest prophetess known to any kin.
And she knew the legend of Thalweg; the Crown who searched for a miracle, who transcended to find a cure for the dying Mother, and who returned in strange garments, holding a glittering shard of steel in one hand and the cure in another.
Nikt climbed out of the pool to put fresh silk on. She touched the delicate and dark veil that was laid out for her. The garments of mourning were as smooth as eels. The thought of her brother's death made her skin crawl. For a moment she clutched onto the veil as tears dropped from her eyes, unblinking, before letting it fall to the floor.
The Sleep was coming fast and her time of action was now. She pulled her light silk tight around her in resolve. The air was thick with steam and fear. Nikt stepped lightly on experienced feet to the shadows where she would be safe. Her ears were alert, hearing the constant and dull noise of movement and life all around her, until the Sleep came like a curse and all was quieted. She moved quickly and silently to a place her blood knew all too well.
To her relief the fissure had not yet been sealed by the orders of the Crown. The old stranger's memory was not good enough for an exact location and she would not give it to the Crown. For now, they would try to seal up all cracks along the commonway, but this one was still untouched. Nikt crawled through, knowing that it was most definitely going to be a one way journey. She replayed the story of Thalweg once more in her mind for courage as she pressed on.
The perilous journey to the efflux was just the recalling of a memory. All of her falls and bumps along the way went in tribute to her brother. Her blood ran fresh now and it mingled with the salt of the earthy condensation and the salt of her tears. The cold water of the canyons washed away her fears and left her only with resolution. Finally the light of the efflux greeted her face, and Nikt remembered the sound of the black veil falling to the floor.
Nikt closed her eyes as she took careful steps into the Above, remembering the image of her beloved brother vanishing into the light.