There was a problem they hadn’t considered in having Essek go first into the dark. Yes, he was quieter; yes, he could see farther. He, however, had no reason to consider testing if the floor could take his slight weight. Thus it was a surprise to both of them when the stone floor buckled under Caleb a few dozen paces into the strange building, dumping him into a slide of crumbling rock. Caleb had enough time for adrenaline to spark cold electricity in his veins, to see Essek reaching back for him with wide eyes, before his lights flared out as he reached for a feather. Essek’s hand closed on his wrist just as he tripped into darkness. Such it was that the pair of them went tumbling instead of just Caleb alone.
The fall was short, not enough time to cast. They dropped maybe six feet before hitting another layer of broken floor, this one angling down even deeper. They hit, Caleb’s ankles screaming in protest, and then rolled. Caleb caught Essek where he still gripped his wrist and pulled him close, tucking himself around him to try to take the worst of it. It was over in seconds, though it felt like an eon. They slid down the makeshift ramp and dropped another ten feet or so. Long practice had Caleb rolling with the landing, winding himself rather than breaking a rib or three, even with Essek landing on him.
“Essek?” He wheezed, coughing.
“Here. Fine,” Essek replied, similarly choking on the dust that had clouded the air from the fall.
Caleb lit his globules and they both froze.
The ‘dust’ reflected the candle-lit amber glow of the lights, but the color was wrong. In the warm light, the flecks disturbed by their fall were an icy blue. Caleb glanced over at Essek, dread welling in his stomach. Essek’s face was painted in dawning horror. Their eyes met, and they knew.
Just one of them and it might have been paranoia. But they’d both come to the same conclusion, Caleb could see it written clearly across Essek’s face.
The spores settled slowly, both seeming too afraid to move.
“Scheiss,” Caleb breathed minutes after the air had finally cleared, his first breath since he lit the room. Essek reached a shaking hand out and gripped his wrist. He felt the tug and didn’t pull back. The world blurred and they found themselves back at the top of the skree, Essek’s Door a pitch black shadow at their feet. A wave of his hand chased the flecks of blue from their coats and boots. He took a shivering breath, then sat down hard. Caleb eased himself down next to him, shoulder pressed against shoulder.
“Well,” Essek’s voice was eerily calm. “Well. I suppose we’ll know in a day or two.”