The Lightning Caves

An excerpt from the extensive scrolls of "Natural Wonders of Asheshal" by Observer Otkal

".... And descending down into the throat of the earth,   One feels a breath shake mountains above the head.   Down ten thousand steps into more stars than hidden sky,   To witness the Heros Seven who hold land on the thread.   Crystal songs in the dark shown through flash of fire,   That speak of the fate which one shall dread."   - From the Tale of Talrie's Stand

Witness to the Lightning Caves

When I first came to the Lightning Caves I was unsure that I was in the proper place. You see I had imagined, based on the tales and stories my colleagues spoke of, a grand entrance of carved stone so magnificent that I should weep, and guardians posted at the entrance. Hulking Hopolian Knights who would spear me through at the merest hint of befouling such a spiritual place. I confess that I was disappointed in what my eyes fell upon.

A rough-hewn black hole in the side of the mountain only reached by a thin and broken path cut in by an untold number of passing steps. Outside stood a single Boralid of black fur dressed only in a simple robe of pale yellow and armed with a great spear. He did not wear the armor of a Hopolian Knight though he stood with the easy stance of one long in the service of an army. There was no greeting, nor challenge to my approach, and when I laid the offering of food, water, and crafted goods which I knew were required, he simply lifted his chin a fraction. He watched in silence as I passed into the mouth of the cave and did not speak a word nor raise a hand to stop me though I felt his eyes hot on my back as if they were blazing with flames. It was not a grand entrance which now I realize I had imagined in the form of the Trithan structures witnessed from afar and instead was a natural place but for that no less heavy upon my soul.

The path down into the caves was much like that of the mountain path up though it was in near darkness. The light from the entrance to the caves was soon dimmed and instead, a world of stars appeared before me. Light from unseen and unknowable places was captured and thrown about by crystals. Crystals that are as large as five boralid bulls standing upon one another's shoulders and as small as my littlest finger.

I would have lit a torch under any other circumstance but the light from these crystals filled the chambers with just enough brightness to see my next steps. So instead I let the dim light guide me on instead. For three days I traveled deep into the mountain, always down. There was only one path to take though it twisted and turned and took me through spaces so small I wondered how any boralid managed to squeeze through. At one time I came upon a great chasm as the path took me right along its edge for near two hundred steps. It was like a great rip in the earth that reached down to the unknowable center of the world. So deep was it that the light from the crystals which bounced and reflected did not reach the bottom. And it was there that I first saw that which gives the caves their name.

A great flash of arcing blueish purple lightning flickered from one massive crystal tip to another in the darkness. The lightning strike was so bright the flash of it existed in my sight even with my eyes closed. Though it was not the light that made my knees buckle but rather the sound. The thunder was upon me as quick as the light and it shook my very bones while my ears ached from the splitting sound. It was so loud I feared the crystals would come down upon me and bury me in the earth. Of course, as I had traveled for so many days, I had heard the distant rumblings of the thunder echoing around and through the caves. With each one, I felt the ancient power of the place. To see it and hear it for myself was an experience beyond my ability to describe.

When I reached the largest cavern at some central point of the cave system I was shocked to find the air warm to the point of sweating and a thin layer of mist covered the ground up to my knee. Here I saw crystals of white and clear tinted with sea blue and pink while others were pure black as if made of hardened pitch. The lightning, though flashing and flickering, bounced around all the crystals. The sound of thunder was a constant low rumble in my head and the vibrations made my knees weak.

The light here was brightest of all as it reflected through countless crystals and in the center of the space a ring of torches burning bright white provided the source of the light. In the center of the cavern, the floor was raised in a flat circle that looked like a disk suspended in the air by fourteen hands. Two each belonging to the Seven Heros. Faceless boralid carved one hundred feet high and hands held out to support the stone disk. I looked with wonder upon the carvings of stone which, though faceless, were so distinct and so lifelike that for a moment I felt that I had known each of their like in my lifetime.

Table of Contents
Alternative Name(s)
Throat of the Earth; Tiztomoc; Depth's Roar;
Type
Cave System
Location under
  • Map Image: Lightning Cave Location by KnightOwl Via Wonderdraft

Historical Accounting

By the estimates of The Vatheneum the Lightning Caves were formed during the Dawn Times before thought and memory by the Four Forces of Nature. The unknown catalyst that brought the caves into being is spoken about only in the most ancient of nomadic Boralid tribes who speak of it as the cradle of their birth as a Waking Being.

Considerd one of the most sacred places for the collective boralid species the Lightning Caves serve as a common connection to even the most distant races of the species. All cultures from the nomadic mountain tribes to the formal nation tribes of The Kenima Hegemony have a near-identical connection to the caves through in other areas of culture they may differ. The only exception is The Trithian Kaspithiat who forsook all connection to their former kinsmen. As such the Caves have remained largely unchanged since they were formed. Under the protection of a unified species, the Caves have never been defiled by war, nor outside influence from would-be conquerors.

Myths and Legends of the Boralid

The Lightning Caves are of special significance to the boralid people. As a species, the Trithian's aside, they view this location as one of their most sacred as it is said to be the birthplace of their kind. The Seven Heros are the first of their species and from them, all other boralid came to be though these Heros are not like the gods of the Zrita Pantheon or even the singular god of the Trithians, who abandoned the belief of their former kinsmen. Instead, these Seven are seen as everlasting spirits of will, action, and virtue. When a boralid comes of age they venture to this place to become blessed with one of the Seven Marks. It is a rite of passage for the youths where they learn about the greater world, seek out other tribes to learn of their histories and culture, and in time learn about themselves. The final destination is always the Lightning Cave as a circular journey of sorts. As it is believed that from these caves the boralid were birthed it is only fitting that their youths return to be born into adulthood when the time is right. The ceremony for how a Hero Spirit is given to an individual remains a secret to almost all outsiders. This place is so filled with ancient wisdom and power that it is no wonder that so many cultures the land over have found meaning in them.

A full accounting of the cultural foundations of the Lightning Caves from the perspective of the boralid can be found in Master Zarbek's work Ancient Myths and Religions of Saycha in the passage: The Lightning Caves- Tales of the Boralid.

Unique Ecology

The Lightning Caves are located in a high valley in the Paradurn Mountain Range which make up the southern mountains of the Lelan Mountains on the western shores of Saycha. There are said to be many entrances to the Lightning Caves and not even all of them are said to be known. It's not uncommon for stories to come up of people falling into holes in the ground all over the Paradurn Mountains and ending up in the caves. To the boralid, this is simply the work of the ancestor spirits which guide travelers to the caves to gain wisdom.

Within the caves one can find a unique creature which I had the opportunity to observe. A large lizard roughly the size of a cat with a flat body and large flat feet which can climb the crystals with ease, even upside down. The body was pure white with a scale pattern of glowing purple patches which mostly centered on the tale. The Starlight Gecko feeds off the many bugs that inhabit the caves and have no fear of passers-by. More than once, after a rest, I would find them on my chest or bag eyeing me with those great lamplight eyes.

The Starlight Geckos make their nests in a white moss that grows through the caves. The tightly bunched moss looks almost identical to Pillow Moss though the white coloring is flecked with tiny purple and blue flowers in the seasons of Lasthearth and Waxingsun. The moss grows well in any dark location of mild warmth and when dried provides excellent absorbent material for wound dressing. For the boralid it is often burned during their more important rituals as the smoke reminds their ancestors of the physical world. The delightful, and unique coloring of the moss as well as its easy to care for nature have made it popular as a novelty trade item among merchants traveling to other lands. Though the medicinal properties are not so unique as to warrant cultivation elsewhere it does center as a garden piece in many of the more noble or rich households of The Kingdom of Vyjal and The Tusik Ymanet.

Another curious addition to the ecosystem of the caves is the Black Crystal Bat. These bats are black with short rounded ears and stubbed noses that are no bigger than the palm of a human hand. They gained their name because their wings have a glossy look to them that in the light appear to be made of crystal rather than leathery flesh. At night these bats swarm the forests above. The boralid consider this bat a guardian of the caves which is why a youth seeking entrance to the caves will typically only enter at sunset when the bats are leaving for the forests.

Other Myths and Legends

While the boralid's religious and cultural practices revolve heavily around this sacred place many others hold different legends of these Caves.

The Sernos of Uhala have a great fear and distrust of the place, calling it the 'Depth's Roar' in their tongue. In their legends, a great Mountain Worm named Erdenechy slumbers in a never-ending sleep. They claim that the sounds that come from the caves and the vibrations of the earth around the place are caused by Erdenechy as she sleeps. If Erdenechy is ever to wake she would rise up and devour the whole world, drinking all the water in the seas and rivers and consuming all the mountains and grasslands in her hunger from the forced slumber she was condemned to.

Whenever there is an elemental of Lussist or any natural destruction such as a rock slide or earthquake the Sernos will gather herbs and bind them into burnable bundles along with an offering of food or animal fat. It is said that the smoke appeases Erdenechy giving her sustenance as well as allowing her to sink back into a deep slumber.

The Zrita are also deeply suspicious of the location. For them, it is the location of a great trial for one of their gods, Izromoc. Izromoc was tasked by his mother to gather petrified seeds which she would grow into great forests. He was to travel deep into the earth and find one seed for every type of tree that had turned to stone and deliver it to his mother. Each seed had a trial and within the Lightning Cave, known to them as Tiztomoc, the Trial of Sound took place. Izromoc was able to collect the seed at the heart of the caves but the crystals whispered and bellowed at him, tempting him to stay underground forever, or taking his courage and filling him with fear that he would never find the way back. For one hundred and three days he wandered the underground until he became deaf to the voices of the earth and could return to the surface with his petrified seed, the tenth and final one before he could return to his mother.



Comments

Author's Notes

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Grandmaster RebeccaB
Rebecca Bielow
2 Jul, 2021 11:42

This is amazing! I have to take more time to read through it properly, but this is amazingly organized and I love the idea!

2 Jul, 2021 12:03

Nice article and cool way to tell about this location. The witness of travelling through the caves was well written. I also like the different myths and rituals related to the caves, especially the rebirth one.   One idea perhaps would be to move the lightning image into the witness part as it is talke about there.

Feel free to check out my WorldEmber 2022 page if you want to see what I am up to!
Master Moondare
Laure Yates
6 Jul, 2021 07:45

Great article. I particularly like the storytelling at the start. That ending is fabulous! I am saving this for 'inspiration' when the times come to write my own article on the prompt. Very well done.