“Well,” the girl says, “this is peculiar.”
I give a sharp nod. “What now?”
“There’s obviously something there,” says one of the boys; I look at him and see long blond hair escaping from his hood. “We can all feel it, right?”
“Maybe there’s some sort of mechanism,” the other boy says. “Let me…”
I see as well as feel him extend shadows towards the forest, and the smattering of flora begins to ripple and give. I extend my own shadows and find that the trees and bushes compact at my shadows’ touch, as if they’ve expanded from a smaller shape.
“Come on,” the girl says before forming a tunnel out of the illusory forest and stepping into it. “Nice one, blond!” The blond boy bristles and hurries after her; me and the other boy are close behind.
When I step into the forest I find myself enveloped in the presence that drew me here–my senses feel heightened, and it’s much easier to read the shadows around me. The forest itself, I realize, feels like shadow; I reach out a hand towards a nearby leaf and pluck it. It looks enough like a leaf, and feels like a leaf to my fingers, but to my mind it is nothing but concentrated darkness.
“It’s shadows,” I say to the boy next to me; the blond one has now moved forward to walk next to the girl, where they’re whispering an unintelligible conversation.
“I know,” the boy replies.
I explore the shadow forest using the dark, finding myself not even needing to send out shadows; my power is so heightened, the information comes nearly instantly. And yet, despite straining my powers to go as far as I can, I cannot find a possible destination for us–the forest is all there is.
“Are you sure this is the right way?” I say to the girl. “There isn’t anything where we’re going.”
She lets out a loud sigh. “Check the ground.”
My brow wrinkles, but I do as she says and find what feels like a trapdoor some ways ahead of us. I keep quiet as my face reddens.
Soon we all come to a stop, gathered around the trapdoor; it’s made of old, rotted-looking wood, with a handle of black metal. Despite its weathered appearance, it’s heavy as I pull on the handle, but as soon as I lift it up a short ways, my companions wedge shadows underneath it and fling it open. Hidden under the trapdoor is a steep, dark stone staircase.
I smile as we begin to descend. Other people might be unwilling to walk this staircase, with its pitch-black darkness, damp dirt walls, hard stone steps, and chilly atmosphere, but I am a Disciple. I can navigate the gloom with ease, and I don’t care about moisture or cold or dirt.
We’re soon at the bottom, where there’s a short corridor ended by a wooden door that, unlike the trapdoor above, looks new and clean. The girl opens it and dim light filters into the corridor; while my eyes adjust to the light, I use the remaining darkness to view the area in front of us. It’s another corridor, technically a continuation of the one we stand on, but I can feel the shape of lights affixed to the walls, which are smoother than the dirt where I am. This space goes on for a short space before one more door blocks my shadows.
My eyes are now adjusted, and they find exactly what the shadows told me–the walls look to be made out of stone, and the door is identical to the one before it save for the fact that there’s no way to open it. The others are already moving, and I hurry to follow them while simultaneously wondering where the lights get their electricity from and why the door has no knob.
“Hmm,” the girl says, having reached the door first. When I catch up to her, I realize that there’s a small, circular hole in the door–as far as I can tell, there’s a lock inside, surprisingly similar to the ones I’ve been opening on my trip.
“What is it?” asks the blond boy.
“A lock,” I and the other boy say at the same time. I briefly glance at him, then say, “let me.” I step forward, up to the lock, and the blond boy and the girl move out of the way for me. Gathering up a group of shadows, denser than any other I’ve made, I begin to pick the lock.
“Where’d you learn to do that?” says the girl when I succeed and the door pops open. I say nothing and step past the doorway.
The room beyond is square, and two doors line each wall to my right and left; at the back of the room is a wooden desk, and behind it sits a man dressed in black.
“And you are…?” he says.