Jun. 30th, 2011

They walked, climbed and crawled single-file down miles of tunnels, some as wide as the main streets of Stuvitze, others so narrow that Bobo had to turn sideways to squeeze through.

They all carried torches. Most of the time the ice that formed the walls of the labyrinth was white streaked with black, but by torchlight they could sometimes see the translucent blue color that gave these warrens their name. Seeing by torchlight for so long made Janosh's eyes smart, and each of them having a torch of their own seemed wasteful to him, but Korvina insisted. "You don't want to be caught down here unable to see," she said.

The Blue Warrens were far from the sterile wasteland Janosh had imagined it to be. There were spiders as big as footballs, harmless overinflated things that bobbed and chittered with fear in the presence of light. Ispil liked to set their cobwebs on fire with his torch, a practice that Korvina could not convince him to abandon. There were mosses of blue and magenta and silver, actually growing directly into the ice. There were rats with white, fluffy coats, and ermines with an extra set of legs that chased them for prey, and things still larger that ate them in turn but chose not to encounter the group, remaining only angry red eyes in the darkness. The tunnels sang with the chirping of cave-crickets and the rattle of ice-peckers, their beaks hammering at the ice walls in search of the fat grubs that tunneled therein.

Bobo's and Hodo's constant horseplay palled almost immediately, but it made more noise to shut them up than it did to let them continue, so eventually the rest of the group sullenly let them kick each other and singe each other's hair. It was therefore unusual when Georgi raised a hand for silence.

"D'you hear that?" asked the Piper. "That faint sound, that rumbling in the distance?" Everybody listened as hard as they could.

"Maybe," said Esmer.

"Can't hear nothing," said Hodo.

"There are needles in my brain," Ispil whined.

Korvina nodded. "I hear it," she said. "It's the Cascade. Its channel runs more or less down the center of the Blue Warrens. Eventually it forms the headwaters of the River Saubel where it foams out from under the end of the glacier."

"Is that where we're headed?" asked Janosh.

"Of course," replied Korvina. "Where there's water, there's life. Even of the unnatural sort."

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