Bryn should not still be breathing.
That was not the first thought to percolate up, not even the second – how do I get out how do I get out how do I get out came first and second was what is this thing?
The third thought, though, was that breathing was surprisingly not unpleasant. Bryn had fallen in the water before, had dove in, had swum. There always reached a point where air was needed, then where air was painfully needed.
The thing holding Bryn, pulling Bryn towards the light deep underwater, had been pulling for long enough that Bryn should really be far past the painfully needed stage. And yet – And yet Bryn was just breathing.
There was definitely water; Bryn swallowed a bit and it was salty and unpleasant; Bryn’s clothes were waterlogged and the boots were probably a lost cause.
But air? Air did not seem to be a problem.
The thing – the thing was, it seemed, a very long arm or tail of some sort, a tentacle like the squids that liked to frolic near shore, but gigantic – the thing was pulling inexorably closer to the light underwater. And as Bryn struggled and pushed and completely failed to get out of the thing’s grip, the light became more and more clearly a building, and the building became more and more clearly a complete structure.
Bryn and Johnie had gone diving in the ruins near the coast plenty of times. With enough patience, they could often unearth something missed by previous divers, left behind by whoever had lived there once upon a time.
This was bigger than all those ruins put together.
It was more complete than any of the ruins they’d ever seen on land.
There were doors, wide, giant, double doors, the doors were open, and the tentacle was coming out of them – or returning to that doorway, yanking Bryn inside.
When the doors slammed shut behind them, the tentacle uncoiled, leaving Bryn standing uncertainly on blue stone floors like nothing ever seen on land.
The doors wouldn’t open to Bryn’s touch. There were no buttons or levers or pressure plates or even a knocker.
Bryn took in a breath, trying not to panic. The water was still breathable. The water was clear, far clearer than it should be.
If the doors in front were not available for an exit, if Bryn didn’t need to leave this moment before the air ran out, then the reasonable answer was to explore.
For a moment, a stab of guilt attacked: Johnie was waiting. Johnie was probably worrying.
Then the curiosity overtook Bryn, and the lights along the hallway, and the doors dotting the hall, and the tentacle that had vanished completely, they all seemed to sing you want to know, you need to know., and Bryn started looking.
If nothing else – it was a sort of logic, even if it was a bit self-serving – at some point Bryn would need to find an exit. At some point this spell would wear off, and Bryn would need to breathe again.
The thought was a bit chilling, and it meant Bryn moved more methodically than might otherwise have been the case. Left first door, look inside. Nothing. Right first door, repeat.
On the fourth door on the left, however, Bryn found a motherlode.
And a hole going deep, deep down, a hole that, when Bryn looked in, seemed to be nothing but blackness.
Bryn skirted well away from the hole, tempting as it was, and considered the books instead. How were they still here? How were they still intact?
What language were they written in?
Bryn’s language skills were limited to basics – enough numbers and words to buy things at the market, enough to not get cheated, enough to know the prayers – but these, Bryn was pretty sure they were written in something complete different than the market boards or the prayer books. Even the library in town didn’t have books like this.
Byrn’s bag was shoved full of the books – picked at random, grabbed from every shelf in the room – by the time the tentacle began snaking back out of the hole.
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