The way into the tunnel is a steep stairway. The horses have difficulty negotiating the steps, but eventually we vanish into the outcrop. As night falls outside, Hanna and I enter absolute darkness.
We each have a mount, and another carries our gear. Initially we will lead them, for the ceiling is too low, but that will change Hanna promises. That is when we will make up time, by riding.
We have lanterns, but the pools of light create confusion. I trust to Hanna to guide us, for I barely see my feet.
An hour later, the path descends and begins to broaden. There is more space overhead also.
We clamber onto our horses and go on. The silence is broken only by the metallic sounds of hooves.
Occasionally we halt to water the horses and ourselves, but we do not stop long. I have no idea how much time passes, but I know I am exhausted. Nothing changes in our environment. There is only rock on all sides.
Finally Hanna calls a halt to sleep. The space is larger. Clearly this is resting place, but I ask no questions. I am asleep before I have even wrapped into my blanket.
This happens again and then again, before a glow in the distance reveals we are nearing the end of our dark journey. When I ask Hanna how long we have been underground, she murmurs three days. It feels as if forever has passed. Damin is now in Porlese; I wonder how he fares.
The glow strengthens into an oval of daylight. We exit into a forest grove alive with birdsong and beams of sunshine.
“The rain has stopped,” I say as I inhale the fresh air of the world again.
Hanna grins my way. “Lyra, we are far south. It does not rain as often here.”