The Girl with a Bird for a Heart - Chapter IV

Enin did not have much time. He had work to do and a world to end.

Enin came from a small village in Etarika. As a boy, long ago he ran away and lived most of his life in the streets of Kudra Kai. As a man Enin travelled to Airomon, Hybourne, and even the Dark Expanse of Kuros. He had walked the world in search of answers. He discovered the magic of the Crystal Men and the craft of the Hidden People of the Red Valley. Enin had unlocked secrets he’d never expected and been laden with curses he’d never imagined. The worst curse of them all was his life.

 He opened the lid of the barrel which had allowed him into the hall and got immediately to work. He passed the beautifully carved columns of kordwood and did not pause to admire the ornate reliefs of Maj, the Shaper forming the world with sacred fire out of the raw material of the void. Enin glanced briefly at a depiction of Mur, the Destroyer inhaling the sacred breath from all living things and moved on.

 Enin held a hammer and a wedge and with them began prying apart the floorboards.  It took several attempts before he found what he wanted- an opening. Once he had the correct spot Enin swiftly made a hole in the floor deep enough to climb down. Cool dank air rose into the hall.

 The estate had been built on a very old parcel of land. Long before the worshippers of Maj and Mur ruled Vatrus the world had been a much different place. The land had been tamed over the ages but in some places could still be found the breaches- openings between this world and the other. Most were hidden deep underground. A few were closer to the surface.

 Enin sucked in a lungful of the cavern air then hopped down into the hole. It was only a few feet deep, but a subtle breeze blowing into the dry air of the cave informed him that the tunnel extended far and led to where he needed to be. Ducking on all fours, Enin entered the dark passage and crept along in blackness.

 The further he went the narrower the tunnel became. After several minutes of crawling Enin could barely move. After several more his hands felt the lip of a ledge. Reaching down, he could not feel the bottom. Enin had brought no light with him because he knew the caverns were not entirely empty. He knew that a light in such a place was like a bloody chunk of meat in a lion’s den. He climbed down leg first and hung to the bottom of the ledge. Still the bottom of the cave eluded him. Clinging to the ledge only with his fingertips, Enin kicked his legs below himself in search of a cave floor and found none.

 Worrying that he had come to the wrong place but having no other choice Enin released his grip and slid down the rock wall.

 He fell longer than he had expected, but the wall sloped slightly and he reached the bottom with minimal injury. Scratched and slightly bruised, Enin groped around in the black pit. He looked for The Door.  

 Several times he scanned the pit with his fingertips. Several times he found nothing.

 Enin stood and fumbled in the dark. He determined the hole was roughly twenty feet in diameter. For at least an hour he ran his fingers along the walls and floors of the cave to no avail. This was surely the place. The scroll he had taken from the Temple of Aina had lead him here. The opening, the cavern, the pit- all were as predicted. This must have been the place, but The Door was nowhere to be seen.

 An infinite amount of time seemed to pass. Enin’s thirst and hunger gnawed at him. He had brought no tools except the hammer and wedge, no provisions save one. That was the rule. The darkness does not offer its secrets to those who come cautiously. He knew that. He knew that he needed to eschew the needs of the mortal world if he were to enter the breach. He had fasted for three days before coming. He had become as clean and pure as a human could be. The only impure part of Enin was his heart, but he had prepared for that.

 Enin reached into his pack and procured a small sack. He opened it and removed an object the size of a pear wrapped in leaves. Through the wrapping he felt it pulsing and warm.

 Enin had committed many sins. He had wronged many people, but always, he told himself, for good reason. He unwrapped the object and felt the wet and beating heart of Tula Petek in his black hands. He felt her pain when he stole it from her. He carried her cries of pain in his ears every day since. Enin did not wish to harm her or anyone, but he knew it was the only way. Without a pure heart he could not open The Door.   
 Many more hours passed. Soon the preparers of the wedding would discover the hole in the floor. Enin doubted any would dare investigate the tunnel. He would never be found. The legends regarding the dark things beneath the estate were still fresh in the minds of the people. They would probably cover the hole and act as if nothing had been seen. Or perhaps they would burn the hall and lay heavy stones over the spot where it had stood. Perhaps they would salt the ground and place wards and totems around it to prevent any from ever suffering the fate of the fool who ventured into the darkness.

 But Enin would not die. Enin could not die. That was his greatest gift. His greatest curse. He could suffer and starve and wail and scream until the end of the world, but before that time he would be doomed to sit in darkness in a hole clutching the heart of Tula Petek.

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