Out of the Fissure

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Out of the Fissure




Fire flashing, flames scorching

Tanag’s great eye burned bright.

Marhana would not return his love,

So he blazed with all his might.

 

Then the author of the deep,

Cleft open his own ground.

The fissure gave them all relief,

Lest in light--they be found.

- excerpt from

The Hymn of Descent


- CHAPTER ONE -

The Chasm with No End



In the bowels of the earth,

From the author of the deep,

Sweet elixir is birth’d.

In the bowels of the earth,


From the author of the deep,


Sweet elixir is birth’d.




- excerpt from


The Hymn of Descent



Yana flung the morwok into the cave wall. A quiet whimper escaped from the younger creature as he sank to the cold stone. Taking from such a morwok seemed pitifully easy. Yana traced a palm along the rough walls, trusting hand to find what eye could not. Darkness, it seems, would be the greater foe. With each hollow crevice, his throat panged with desire: food and water give more than friend and kin. But morwok shun all to elixir’s end

A shuffle of fur on stone. The sound pricked Yana’s ears. Turning back to the cave owner, the glint of a stone knife caught Yana’s eye. He stepped to the side of a stab, grabbed the creature's fur, and thrust his knee upward. The morwok crumbled over, and Yana clubbed both hands on his head. Knife clattering on stone echoed through the chamber.

Yana went back to his search. 

It wasn’t long before a narrow gap deeper in the cave rewarded him with an earthen jar of swirling elixir. Its purple gleam stretched his mouth toward his pointed ears. The authors must be writing in my favor today

Brushing the dust off his russet fur, Yana stepped over the still form of his victim, snatching up the knife as he passed. The jagged blade was thin but still worth the taking. He slipped the dagger alongside his own knife, pocketing them both in his roughly woven pants. He slid out of the den, emerging into the main tunnelway, a long and wide passage spotted with the entrances to other morwok dwellings. Much to his dismay, his eyes could see the crags hanging from the cavernous ceiling above; the light in the tunnel was subtly brighter than when he had entered the den. 

Tanag’s flare!Yana cursed the author of fire.

His great eye is going to be peering in now, exposing me in its light, writing his daybreak over my story!

The leathery soles of Yana’s feet slapped against the stone floor as he hurried to the mouth of the tunnel. Shadows moved in a passage to his left. Yana’s legs wavered and tangled in front of each other as he glanced over. A singular golden eye shone out from the darkness. Tucking the jar of elixir under his right arm, he rushed to the nearby mouth of a tunnel.My hand takes. It will not be taken from.

Yana scrambled out of the tunnel and into the fissure, the dark and narrow canyon in which all the morwoks’ stories take place. Peering up, Yana could see glowing streams trickling orange light over the ridges above him, tinting the ever-present shade with the warm smolder of subterranean dawn. Though only a few beams of direct sunlight made their way down into the fissure, even these deflected rays caused Yana to turn away. His green eyes knew the shadows well; sunlight was an imposter.

Not wanting to share any of his precious spoil, Yana sought a less-traveled path returning to his den. Down below the network of tunnels and caves where the morwoks dwelt, there was a thin trail snaking along the side of a dark and bottomless pit: The chasm, a crevasse so deep even the great eye above would not pierce its depths. 

It was here, just above the abyss, that Yana scurried along with his jar, casting nervous glances at the cave openings above. The innumerable holes in the rock above glared down--like dark, vacant eyes, watching him scamper below, thirsty for the treasure he bore.

Yana was not the only marauder who preyed upon the weak of the fissure. Many morwoks didn’t care to produce their own food or goods; for the strong, it was better to take from others. And, although some sought safety in numbers, Yana preferred to work alone. He had shared with a mate once, but elixir is sweeter in whole than in half. Besides, even with a mate or in a tribe, you never knew whom you could trust. Boulders have weight, but a pebble never cracks.

No one’s stories in the chasm seemed to intertwine for long — a few marauder bands, and some families, but even these never had more than five or six members. The only real exception were the Kogari, united in their pledge to serve the dark author of the depths. Yana shivered slightly at the thought of them. If the shaven priests and their acolytes weren’t the ones bringing up Kogarok’s elixir, Yana was certain no morwok would ever have anything to do with them.

Glancing back up at the watching eyes of the caves, Yana felt his shoulders lose a little tension. He was light of foot–most of his steps lay behind him, and the Great Eye Above was blazing but a little brighter. 

As he stole an upward glance, a rock slid underfoot. Yana pitched forward, and his knee caught the brunt of his fall. The jagged stone of the ledge gouged cuts through coarse fur. Clinging the jar tight, Yana felt the knives slip from his belt. He turned to see both blades clattering over the ledge. His eyes followed for a moment as the dark-throated abyss swallowed them whole.

His chest now heaving in and out, Yana scrambled to his feet. For a moment, the chasm on his right seemed to yawn before him, suddenly more ominous than before. The knives had whetted its appetite; it was hungry for more. Yana inhaled sharply and pushed onward, trailing a hand on the wall beside him. His knee ached, and he wanted nothing more than to be back in his den. With the elixir. 

Wary of the looming chasm below and spying eyes above, Yana dared to consult the fiery sun author. He muttered a quick prayer upward. 

"Radiant Tanag, write a path before me to flee from your burning light, and glare blindness to watching foes!” Begrudgingly, he took a mental note to pour out a small libation as offering should he make it back to his den.

The ledge on which he traveled began to wind tightly around the zagging formations of the cliffside. Yana traced around these bends quickly but cautiously; the thin ledge sometimes left room for only one of Yana’s fur-covered feet at a time, and further still the stone was rarely flat. He clung now to the cliffside as he shuffled along, half-wishing he could drop the jar and use both hands. But he didn’t dare. The elixir was everything to the morwoks--said to be written into existence by the author Kogarok himself. One drop of the violet nectar brought about a euphoric sensation; and, if one went too long without elixir, his body became wracked by terrible pain and trembling. It was both life and pleasure.

Yana’s eyes were fixed to his path. They traced each step, but they nearly missed the marauder ahead, lying in wait. Blending in with the dark cliffside behind him, the morwok hid across a bend in the ledge, half-tucked in a crevice along the trail. Yana stopped suddenly--too suddenly. The other marauder, seeing him stop, stepped out from his hiding place and began creeping along the ledge toward him. Before he knew what he was doing, Yana was rushing recklessly along the path in the opposite direction, his fear of the chasm now forgotten.

Yana froze. Again. Two shadowy marauders appeared on the ledge he had just traversed, shuffling toward him. Yana was surrounded; he had set foot in the cords of a well-laid trap. A fight here was hopeless. He turned his eyes to the cliffside above him. It was steep, but not fully vertical. Diagonal veins of rock marred its face. 

“Oh, by Faesha’s lips!” Yana cursed as he threw himself onto the rock and began climbing. With awkward leaps, he slung himself upward with one arm. Elixir sloshed from the jar tucked in the other. He dug elbow and chin against the stone, struggling in his hobbled climb.

He didn’t get far up the cliff before realizing it wasn’t working. His pursuers were already ascending–and far quicker than himself. They would reach him long before he reached the ridge above. With a deep sigh, Yana took a single gulp from the jar. Ice ran down his throat, spreading down to fingers and toes. He stretched out his arm.

A cry of distress mingled with the sound of shattering pottery as the jar crashed upon a marauder below. Clay fragments and purple liquid sprayed across the cliff face as the morwok’s body dropped, clipping the path and spinning into the dark.

Yana, however, saw none of this. He had returned to his climb with panicked haste. Chasm take you. I’d rather feed pit than foe.

Before he knew it, Yana found his limbs carrying him over the ledge at the top of the face. As he scrambled to his feet, he began to feel the toll the frenzied climb took on his body. His arms, legs, and lungs burned, shrieking in protest. Yet he knew he could give them no peace. 

Struggling for air and staggering along, he ran down the ridge, searching for refuge, for a dark cave. His eyes did not know this stretch of the fissure, and his faint ember of hope dimmed with each step.  As he rounded a craggy outcropping, Yana searched desperately for the open mouth of a tunnel. He was met with a cold clifface, bare and indifferent to his plight. 

“Kogarok, great author of the deep,” Yana gasped, “write a cleft in the rock to hide me, to wrap me in the shadows of your depths.” 

His pursuers were closing in. Yana’s pointed ears could hear footfalls echoing off the canyon walls. A gust of wind--a rarity in the fissure--pushed at Yana’s back, as if urging him forward, spiraling dust out in front of him. Rounding another bend in the ledge, Yana was welcomed with the sight of a small tunnel that opened just off the path. At last! Pushing himself with the last dregs of his strength, Yana closed the gap to the cave and plunged headlong into the cool darkness.

But the darkness was not empty. He collided with rough fur and grunts. The inky world spun around him. As Yana staggered backward into the light, several morwoks stepped out from the shadows of the cave, triumphant smiles exposing their sharp crooked teeth.

“Thought you had us outrun now, eh?” laughed one of them. 

He was a tall, sandy morwok, missing one eye, but his other eye blazed with golden fire. Of course,Yana realized,

They’ve seen me from the beginning--and cut me off. The other morwok stepped to Yana’s side, severing any hopes of fleeing farther along the ridge, and the final two came running up from around the bend. With the chasm at his back, Yana was surrounded on all sides.

Yana’s hand slipped to his thigh, but his fingers found no knife. Yana’s chest heaved furiously, but he fought to clear his mind. They had him. His tongue would need to do what his body could not. He hung his head. “Whatever you ask,” he raised his palms, “I’ll give it to you.”

“That would’ve been a wise move--before you’d crashed it on Garnuk’s head,'' a nasty voice came over his shoulder. A sharp point dug at his back. “Then you'd have a bit of elixir to barter for your nothin’ of a life!”

Author below, don’t let my story end at the hands of these thieves.

With one last-ditch effort, Yana lunged off the morwok at his back, trying to push his way through to the side. But the marauder there was ready. He grabbed Yana’s exhausted frame and shoved it back into their midst. Yana made another rush,  to the other side. A flurry of arms marked this attempt even more futile. The band of marauders collapsed on him, pinning arm and leg. Lost in a tangle of brown fur and pounding limbs, Yana screamed and bit; his neck jerked wildly as his whole body strove to do the same. Rocks scraped beneath his feet as they pushed him toward the ledge. Spittle frothed at the edge of his mouth. Yana lurched forward with all his might, grinding the pads of his feet into the ground.

But then there was no more ground. 

For a moment, he felt frozen, in the turn of a page, looking up at the morwoks who had just shoved him off the ledge. Then his stomach shot through his throat as he dropped, hurtling into the dark chasm below. Into the chasm with no end.