Kurt moved a rusty gate aside and took a few steps into the darkened tunnel. "This is it, it's abandoned," he said.
Father Benedict Dietrich shined his flashlight against the walls, they were slick with running water and growing moss. "Looks like it," he said, "let's go." The three of them took a few steps inside, their feet squelching in the sticky mud of the tunnel's floor.
"This is disgusting," came Father Hans Richtor's voice from far behind them. Benedict turned around.
"Well, it's not St. Peter's, but it will have to do," he said, "Kurt asked and the Starsmore's said 'no' so this is the only way onto the property."
"Were they saying no to us or did they just not like Kurt?" Hans asked.
"I think they didn't like me but it's too late to do anything about that now," Kurt said, "Anyway, that was a great find you made on that map, Hans. We would have looked in here anyway."
"Oh. Well, that's good to know," Hans said, sounding a little sorry he'd found it. "Ah!"
Kurt and Benedict swung around. Benedict trained his flashlight on his fellow priest who was already looking sheepish. "Sorry," Hans said, brushing off the shoulder of his jacket, "I got a big drop of water down my shirt."
Benedict grinned as he and Kurt turned around and kept walking.
"So what do we know?" Benedict asked.
"Just that the locals are reporting unusual activity, noises, dogs behaving strangely, lights…" Hans said. "I don't even know if you could classify it as an extraordinary. It could be anything."
"It sounds like ghosts," Kurt said, "what does that have to do with us?"
"You never know. Remember, there are extraordinaries on record who can control throught; it's not unreasonable to have activity like this. We're looking for anything out of the ordinary. That's why we're here." Benedict said.
They walked a while in silence, Kurt leading the way as Benedict and Hans looked along the walks for anything unusual.
"Uh oh," Kurt said, stopping so short that Benedict nearly ran into him.
"Can you see something," he asked.
"Well, no. That's just it. We're at a deadend. This tunnel had some sort of a cave in or landslide" Kurt said. He kicked at the ground where it seemed to drop off into nothingness.
"Damn." Benedict shined his flashlight into the blackness.
"So this was for nothing?" Hans asked.
"Maybe not for nothing," Kurt said, "It's like a chute. I think I can see down it. Here, grab my tail."
"Your…" Benedict hesitated for a moment. He wasn't sure if he wanted to "grab Kurt's tail", especially if he didn't know why.
"Just hold on, I can look down," Kurt said. Kurt wrapped the end of his tail around Benedict's wrist, who, seeing what Kurt had in mind, braced himself and held on as Kurt planted his feet and swung out over the chasm. Kurt could look directly down it now. It wasn't such a bad thing, having Kurt on the team, especially when they were out in the field like this.
"Well?" Benedict asked.
"Nothing," Kurt said. "I need your flashlight." Kurt reached back and Benedict handed Kurt his flashlight, watching as Kurt, nearly at a 90° angle now, trained the high powered beam downward. Hans had already grabbed onto his belt as they were already dangerously close to sliding in after Kurt; there was nowhere to gain footing in the slippery mud.
"It opens up," Kurt said, "but it's impossible to tell."
"Maybe we can find a way down there?" Benedict said.
Hans, one hand still on Father Dietrich's belt, tucked his flashlight under his arm and tried to shake open his map.
"No, I can't see one. Let me check something." Kurt said. Benedict and Hans were suddenly thrown backwards into the mud, Kurt's weight suddenly gone in a burst of imploding air.
"Damn, I hate that," Hans said, getting up from the mud.
"But very useful no?" Benedict said. "Kurt?" He called down the hole. There was no answer so squelched through the mud to Hans and looked at his map.
"This chasm isn't on the map," Hans said, "these passages aren't well charted either. I can't even figure out what they're for."
"Coal passages maybe. Or perhaps a previous Lord of this place had a mistress he didn't want seen leaving. There are many reasons to hide things, people have secrets and therefore, secret passageways," Benedict said.
"Where do you think Kurt went?"
Benedict shrugged. "God only knows," he said. "Come, let's get out the ropes, maybe we can find a way down after all."
Hans looked doubtful, but the two of them began unloading their packs, removing ropes and rappelling gear. A moment later Kurt was standing beside them again.
"That's not going to work," Kurt said. "The opening is too narrow. I can take us down though."
"What's down there," Benedict asked.
"I'm not sure," Kurt said, "you need to see. I'm not sure what it is."
"Just leave the climbing gear up here," Benedict said, shouldering his pack again. Hans did the same and stood in tight next to him.
"Oh, I hate this part," Hans said, covering his eyes with his hands.
"It will be over in a moment," Kurt said coming up behind them, "and besides…"
There was a sound like a gun shot followed by the most intense feeling of nausea.
"It's worse for me than it is for you," Kurt finished, dropping to his knees on the ground.
"Are you alright?" Benedict asked.
Kurt nodded. "I'll be fine. It was just a lot easier without two passengers. I just need a minute to catch my breath."
Benedict patted him on the shoulder and stood up to look around.
"My God… It's unbelievable," Hans said, turning in circles, gazing around the domed space. Kurt had already set up a few lanterns so it was easy to see that though the cave was a natural formation, the patterns on the walls and ceiling weren't. They were layered on top of each other as though they'd been deposited over time rather than all at once.
"What's doing this?" Hans asked.
Kurt, still kneeling on the floor, shook his head. "I couldn't tell," he said hoarsely.
At first it had looked like there had been a fire or series of fires in the cave, but the patterns of soot on the walls were too orderly. They were swirling, organized lines of carbon stretching out all over the walls and ceilings. It was almost artistic except they clearly hadn't been made by hand.
Hans got to work immediately, removing his lights and high definition camera from his pack. He set up and shot a few pictures.
"You know what, when you get in close, it's almost iridescent," Hans said. "It looks like smoke, but I don't think it is. It's more like, mineral deposits or something that changed the nature of the rock itself."
"I'm collecting samples to take back with us," Benedict said. "There's only so much analysis I can do here." He turned around, "What about you Kurt, are you going to do any work?"
"Sorry," Kurt said, climbing to his feet, "that was a lot harder than I thought it would be." He picked up one of the flashlights. "I'll try and find us another way out."