Ean has been raised in a world of darkness, biding his time until he finishes his studies with the monks, and can slip away to explore the wonders of the cave world. As Ean's past and present collide, he discovers more than he set out to learn, and finds an unlikely travel partner, an ancient Nautilus who teaches him how to travel the shimmering path.
Chapter 1: Starting Anew
This world was still until we came. They brought us here, we the filthy, rattling accused. They left us here to die, or to live, and many died. When we discovered the life beneath the surface, we became the repentant few that would lead the rest back to the light. One day, we will return to the light.
The brothers broke from prayer and Ean slipped away from the rest, gathering his ropes and tools to go, once more, in search of the great canyon. He loved the old stories, so many generations ago, from the few ancestors that had somehow found the cave world. He thought of the surface, the empty, dead crust of the planet that trapped them like a prison. It was the perfect prison. What had they done, those who had been sent here, so long ago? And the home worlds that they sometimes whispered of, the Shimmering Path, where they might travel back to the source, they stirred an aching within him, a longing for a time he had never known. These mysteries kept the other young monks occupied in hushed discussion within the darkened corridors of the monastery. Ean had other interests. He prided himself on his ability to be unnecessary. He could slip away whenever he had the urge. This morning, he was going to descend Glowing Canyon, whispered to be the deepest chasm within the heart of Cave World. It was said that, though it measured many hundreds of meters down, a blue light could be seen emanating from the void. In the library one night, he had discovered the scrawlings of an elder brother, one of the original repentents. He was given an old text to study during a week of silence, and there it was, pressed and nearly crumbling between the pages of one of the dullest book of virtues he had been forced to read. When he unfolded it, he saw that there were symbols, six of them, repeated over and over around the edges of the page . A map of three connecting caverns covered the center of the scroll, it's details fading with the aging fabric and ink. He tucked the scroll into a leather case, and pulled his hood down over his scull cap, making one last mental count of his supplies. In the corner of the room, a hissing, panting sound emerged. "You'll be home soon," Ean spoke softly. The poor blind creature was not at home with the heat of the hall fires in the monastery, and he took his spare cloak from the hook, spreading it across the writhing creature's cage. Lifting it up by the handle, he quietly slipped out the door.
Climbing over the monastery walls seemed as natural to Ean as breathing. He went directly to the corner where 3 lanterns had recently been snuffed out, tossed his rope over the ledge, and fastened the cage to the other end, revealing his callused hands as he deftly tied the knots. Using his fingertips and slippered feet, he scaled the wall and dropped over the edge. The rope began to glide over the side, as he pulled up the cage, the small animal inside whimpering and hissing. As he took to the edges of the Great Cathedral, the dome-like cavern that held the monastery, he looked back, admiring the ancestors for their ingenuity. Pillars of Aragonite hung down from the cave ceiling like massive chandeliers. When the lanterns were lit in the tower each morning, the light reflected like little shards of glass over the entire complex. His thoughts roamed to the stories of stars that lit the surface with blinding light, and the air above the surface, so high that it turned blue as it came closer to touching the bleak nothingness of space. He shuddered at the thought of being out in so much open space. It wasn't natural.