3: Torsten Underground
Byron rubbed his goatee. “I doubt it drainage or I would have certainly caught the odour by now.” He sniffed the air — where Joel had his ears, Byron had his nose. “Ah, but I do detect the faint scent of our tumultuous ocean. Perhaps her waters have encroached inland along some underground channel. Theia is, after all, approaching her zenith.”
Joel’s eyes bulged with panic until they were moons themselves. “Fookin’ ‘ell, mate! We better get outta here!”
Dante scanned the walls for signs of a tidemark, but the only thing that threatened to flood the tunnels was Byron’s raucous laughter. With a grumble, Joel slung his make-believe weapon over his shoulder and three continued onward. Soon enough, the sound of rushing water filled the tunnel, rising to a roar as the way ahead opened to a wide cavern. Dante grimaced as a cabbage-like smell flooded his nostrils.
“Mate,” said Joel, his hushed awe almost lost in the noise, “no one told me we had shit like this down here.”
“Perhaps you should spend less time gallivanting about the World’s End and more time exploring our town’s dark depths,” said Byron, stepping out into the cavern.
Dante surveyed his surroundings, letting his visor fill in the details the transmuted strips of light failed to illuminate. It looked as if the machines that built the catacombs had transformed the cavern into a small port or transit station. The underground river had claimed the platforms below, though, leaving only an upper balcony and bridge, which connected to the other side of the chamber.
Or, at least, it had done. Now there was little left but its frayed remains, like the tattered edge of a cloth turned to stone. The other side was a good five metres away.
Byron dared the steps to the platform below, stopping short of the water. He knelt down and swept his fingers through the churning waves. “Even here, as far underground as we are, and as far from the walls that keep her rage at bay, we cannot escape Theia’s influence. Of all the tragedies of this world, she sits at their heart. Would you not agree, Orpheus?”
Dante nodded. His visor superimposed the moon’s crescent over its predicted position in the sky. Presently, with a new moon but hours away, the tides were rising, flooding the exposed seabed with towering waves of destruction. Within a space of hours, a whole land mass, for as far as the eye could see, would become the ocean, which would then leave as quickly as it returned. Even recordings of the process made for sobering viewing.
“So, what now?” asked Joel. “I mean, we can’t turn back or Kao’ll beat us!”
“Crossing this chamber is no difficult task,” Byron replied as he returned from his brief excursion to the water’s edge. “I am more concerned with the force that tore this bridge asunder. These catacombs are forged in transmatter, built to survive.”
“C’mon, mate, we’re not here to study bridges.”
“Have you forgotten our true objective? Perhaps the destruction of this bridge is related to the Donaran massacre, for I would wager the damage intentional. Orpheus,” he turned to Dante, a contemplative hand stroking his chin, “you are versed in cellular analysis, so perhaps you could perform a cursory scan of the damage whilst I solve the riddle of our overcoming it?”
Byron talks the way he does because he’s spent far too much time reading old books.