Darkness Swallows


Qi, Saori

Date: March 20 ,2013


Qi and Saori are approached by a woman pleading for their help in saving her son who she's lost. The pair set out to do what they can to find the boy.

"Darkness Swallows"

Kirigakure's hidden cavern

Valley Cliff Wall [Land of Water]

The valley comes to a sudden halt with a great wall of rock surrounding the path forward. There
appears to be no way around with the top of the cliff vanishing in the thick mist from above, not
allowing one to view the height of this enormous structure. In the mornings it blocks out the sun
completely leaving the area dark. The area is cold with a constant wind blowing from all over. The
source of the wind coming from a small hidden cave entrance set behind a thick shrub of bushes.

Saori(Runner and Logger)

Enter Cave - (EC) [Dark Cavern]
West - (W) [Down the Valley]

<You're going to love it.>

<I'm telling you, ~madame Zhang Mai~, it's the most enjoyable place on this whole cold, wet, harsh
island.> Saori is leading Qi through the vale, looking towards the fast approaching cliff wall. The
woman flashes her partner a secret smile, voice lowering slightly. <Plus, it's plenty private.> She
looks up towards the weak sunlight filtering from the noon dad star, flicking her fingers as though
to remove some of the mist that'd managed to cling to them. <Though… it'll take some doing to get
there. One of the shinobi showed me the spot. He took me through some unpleasant places…> She
looks towards Qi, then. <But it was worth every step and every breath.>

Qi was already making a face at the name… she was remembering it easily enough after having it
repeated so often, but she still wasn't sure she especially liked the name now, even if she had
chosen it herself. <Stop with the madame thing~!> She whined, <You're not my servant or something!>
She follows closely behind Saori, holding tightly to her hand. She raises a brow at the suggestive
way that Saori seemed to mention that it was private, but she didn't complain, instead just drawing
closer, <What IS this place you're taking me, at least give me some sort of hint.> She turned to
stare at Saori, as if looking for a hint in her face as to where they were headed.

Saori looks to Qi, smile turning into a grin. <As you command, madame.> was her quip, though the
gentle squeeze of her girlfriend's hand held a far more tender tone to the act. She quietly clicks
her tongue against the roof of her mouth, studying the other woman's face as hers is studied in turn,
rolling the thought around in her head. She absently slides her bottom lip between her teeth before
nodding. <Alright. But just -one- hint, okay? And then we wait until we get there.>

Qi seems to think about this for a moment, her lips pursed in thought of the possible ramifiations
to agreeing to the terms of only ONE hint. <Mmmm… Fine, but it has to be a GOOD hint, not
something like 'It's not in Kirigakure' or something!> She pokes at Saori's shoulder in a way that
suggested she was trying to drive that point home. <Then I'll leave it be and let you lead me there
and I wont ask anything else the rest of the trip, I promise.>

Saori lets out a scoffing sound. <Ugh. Mai~. Do you have to be so restrictive?> The words are
accompanied by a brief pout soon replaced by that grin of hers, saying she'd been caught red handed.
<I guess you've earned a good hint.> She thinks it over for a few moment, absently sliding a finger
along Qi's. <Let's see… It's… It's an underground place tha—>

"Help me!" A woman suddenly appears from the looming cliff wall not so far in the distance. She
wore simple clothing, most of the fabric rough. A plain body and a plain face but for the fright
that'd taken hold of it. She was running towards them. "Please! Please, I need your help!"

Qi gave a smug little smirk that suggested that she was pleased with herself for catching Saori in
her own game, and was listening intently to have her hint when all of a sudden… a strange local
woman appered over the cliff wall and started to run towards them, screaming something about help.

Qi stopped and turned to look at the woman, a look of both confusion and concern crossing her
expression. She glanced back at Saori, giving her a look that suggested that she wanted to at least
see what could be done to help, then turned back to the plain woman, "What wrong?" She tilts her
head a little, stepping toward the running woman… something seemed off… clearly it wasn't just
your average 'I need help with directions' there was legitimate fear on the woman's face, which
meant it was probably urgent.

Saori frowns slightly, step faltering a moment at the sudden appearance of the woman. But her
fright and her need brings the wanderer to nod, not even needing to look in Qi's direction. <Let's
go.> She removes her hand from her princess', fingers wrapping around the hilt of her blade as she
runs to meet up with the woman. "What's wrong? What's happened?" She was far more fluent in the
language than her companion, it'd seemed.

Seeing that they were coming, the woman quickly stopped and began backpedalling, though out of
urgency, not out of fear. "Come, come! My baby boy," she wails. She points to some bushes against
the cliff wall as she approaches them. "I've lost him in the cavern. It was dark and there were
noises and he got scared and he ran — Too fast, too fast, I could't grab him — and I can't find
him and he's only a boy, how is he supposed to survive in there alone, he's only a boy! I've called
for him and called for him, but he doesn't answer — something's wrong, please find my son —
please!" She was nearly hysterical at this point, words flowing from her like water from a breached
damn, tears beginning to flood her face and her voice. She then just ran through the bushes,
revealing the cavern hidden behind them.

Qi follows quickly after the woman, managing to keep up without a second thought. She frowned
slightly, having somehow expected something along those lines, though she couldn't really explain
why at the time. Now she looks into the small cavern, placing a hand on Saori's arm. She seems
hesitant for a moment… She was no hero, she was just a girl from the south; but she couldn't just
let the boy who had disappeared into the cavern just stay there, especially not with his mother
begging for help.

"…I go." She moved away from Saori and toward the cavern, turning back to her girlfriend, <Do we
have anything that we can use as light?> she stared into the darkness, <We wont get very far if we
just grope around in the dark.>

Saori is right behind Qi, though as she moves through the bushes and sees the cavern she pauses
with a small frown. <Yeah. That's what I was thinking.> She looks towards Qi, rubbing small circles
against the hilt of her sword with her thumb. <Whatever we're going to do, we have to do it fast.
She's losing it. And you're the one who trained with that shinobi. Didn't he teach you any glowing
hands magic or anything?> She looks over to the bushes, considering how she might be able to set
them slight here in this wet place.

"Takane! TAKANE!"

The sounds of the childless mother screaming for her child reverberate from the darkness of the
cavern. They're accompanied by the smell of must and age and dank decay

Qi shook her head, <No… He didn't. All I learned from his was basic healing.> She looked back at
the child's mother with a frown, then stepped back, "I be right back…" She turned and ran back the
other direction. She stopped at a tree and hopped up, grabbing a branch and pulling herself up
within the canopy for a moment… Then, after a moment, she leapt back down with a sizable branch in
one hand. Straigtening, she took off back toward the cavern with the branch in hand, <Beginnings of
a torch, right here… Just need to get the rest of it… I saw someone use cloth, wrap it around
the tip, and light the cloth on fire… That seemed to work, though I have no idea how long it would
last… We would have to try and be fast.> She looked down at her own clothes… the expensive
clothing was left at home, since the land of water was… damp, and she didn't want to ruin the silk.
She wore a sort of cloth garment now… Something that she considered to be ugly, but that would
probably burn well enough to give the beginnings of a torch.

She set the branch down and tore a thick strip of cloth from her skirt, shortening it by several
inches, but not enough to make the fashion choices too immodest… Then she wrapped the torn cloth
around the branch. <There! Now we just need a way to ignite it.>

Saori nods as Qi makes her way over towards a tree and shimmies up it. <Well, there's our wood,>
she murmurs to herself. <But how the dust are we going to get it to light in a place like this…?>
She scowls slightly, shaking her head. She didn't think to bring any flint or anything with her —
they'd been heading for an enjoyable outing. She shakes her head, moving towards the entrance of the
cavern and stepping inside, entering the darkness.
"Hey!" she calls to the woman inside. "Stop! Come back! You're going to get lost! We'll find your
soTakane We'll find Takane, but it doesn't do any good if he comes back to find his mom gone!"
She steps inside with a glance back to Qi, beckoning. <Come on, Mai. She's going to get herself lost.
We've got to get her before something happens. We'll figure it out after. I already know one path
through, anyway.>

The woman seems to either not have heard Saori's words over her own shouts or had ignored them. But
her voice was getting further and further away as the woman searched for her son blind.

Qi frowns and nods, clutching the makeshift torch in her hands for the time being… they'd figure
it out. <Okay… You lead the way then. She started toward the cavern, glancing back at Saori, then
offering one hand so that SHE didn't get lost… or hurt… or dead. Mysterious caverns were not a
safe place to go into blind.

You head into Dark Cavern.
Dark Cavern [Land of Water]

From the small opening from the cliff on the outside it brings forth an environment of total
darkness with cave walls, tunnels, tendrils, rocks and an abundance of life ranging from bats to
large poisonous spiders. The area smells of death and decay, a thick stench floats in the air from
the undisturbed g0rund. There are sounds of all sorts throughout, some identifiable and some
completely undiscovered. No light shines through the dark caverns of this cave showing only total


North - (N) [Dark Cavern]
Out - (O) [Valley Cliff Wall]
Qi arrives from Valley Cliff Wall.
Qi has arrived.

Saori's fingers intertwine with Qi's, the laced fingers cleaving firmly to their mates and the
woman nods. <Let's go.> She steps into the cavern, her sight quickly reducing to nothing. Her other
senses begin to come to the floor, the sound of bats overhead and claws on stone rising against the
backdrop of their breathing as they move on. <Come on…> she murmurs, starting to move a little
faster in urgency as the woman grows further and further away. <Just how far can it b— Goddess,
finally.> Her hand had found the wall. <I've found the wall. We're going to jog.>

The woman's shouts, now much quieter echoes begin to grow louder as the pair approach, following te
wall deeper into the cavern. The sounds of the life in here occasionally break into sudden fervor as
something gets caught, screeching it's defiance, or something scrabbles along the rocks higher up.
Abruptly, the shouts for Takane turn into a wordless scream.

Qi clutches at Saori's hand tightly and follows along with her without a word of defiance, trusting
Saori fully to lead her through the darkness. Once Saori finds a wall she stops and then nods,
giving a grunt in acknowledgement at the mention of jogging.

She tries hard to not pay any mind to the sound of bats, suddenly feeling more than a little bit
nervous with the scrambling overhead… There were much worse creatures… but it was both the fact
that they were little furry flying demonrats from HELL… and the fact that she couldn her.ouldn't
see them at all, that really bothered her.

Qi clutches at Saori's hand tightly and follows along with her without a word of defiance, trusting
Saori fully to lead her through the darkness. Once Saori finds a wall she stops and then nods,
giving a grunt in acknowledgement at the mention of jogging.

She tries hard to not pay any mind to the sound of bats, suddenly feeling more than a little bit
nervous with the scrambling overhead… There were much worse creatures… but it was both the fact
that they were little furry flying demonrats from HELL… and the fact that she couldn't see them at
all, to avoid their needle-like blood-sucking demon teeth that really bothered her… Okay, she just
REALLY didn't like bats.

But it was the scream that caught her attention… she couldn't imagine that it was the bats that
caused the scream… it could have been, but with the way she was yelling, the bats should have
swarmed her a long time ago… no, it was probably something worse. <Hurry…!> Qi pressed, trying
to get Saori to move faster in the darkness… even though it was dangerous to do so.

<Yeah,> says Saori, a frown in her voice. She gives her partner's hand a gentle squeeze, feeling
some of her tension. <But… she didn't follow the wall. We're going to have to leave it to get to
her.> Her stride smooths out, lengthening as she increased speed without making it difficult to keep
a hold of Qi. And she didn't push away from the wall just yet, her only lifeline. "Hey, woman! Where
are you? Are you okay!?" She called out. "If you can hear my speak, shout out but don't move!" She
didn't think that was the exact wording she should've used, but it was pretty inconsequential right
now. <We need a light and we need one now.>

The sounds of sobbing can be heard, the echoes ghostly in a darkness so thick it seemed more of
what the breathed than the stale cavern air. "Help me," is her sob. "Please help… I don't want to
die. I'm over here. I'm over here, just hurry. Please hurry. I can't hold on much longer."

Qi sighs, <I can barely see the torch… let alone see if there's something we can use to light it.

She squeezed Saori's hand once, then started to slow down, <I'm going to go and try to help her…

You stay here so you can call me back.> and then she released Saori's hand… She started to move
closer to the woman's voice as she moved, careful with her footing, "Keep talking!" She called out
"I will follow voice! Try hold on!" There must have been a dropoff… Qi was a bit nervous about
falling into it herself, but with any luck that wouldn't be an issue… She still had the torch with
her… and after a moment, she started to use it as a sort of cane, helping her feel ahead in the

<Qi, wait!> Saori stops as Qi's hand leaves her own, grasping at the air and groping in the
darkness, trying to get a grip on her. <Mai!> she calls, correcting herself. <That's half of our
problem. It's hard to tell where someone is because of the echoes in here. I don't know if we'll be
able to find eachother again!> She scowls in the shadow, worry and helplessness written across her
hidden features. But she stayed where she was, as told, despite not at all liking this. The sound of
the branch being used to help guide her provided her with some modicum of comfort.

<Just… Just be careful, Mai.>

"Please… Please help," comes the disembodied voice in the darkness. A helpless woman's distress.
"I don't know… how much longer…" All that's left is sobbing.
The sound of scuttling claw on earth accompanies something unseen bumping into Qi's walking stick,
forcing it to the side — but whatever it was was small, and moving away from her. There's a sudden
wet plop on the ground beside her. Bat guano. The offending animal could be heard swooping overhead
in it's travel through the cavern, dipping only briefly closer. The walking stick eventually drops
further down. It was a sheer drop. An unseen abyss and it extended in both directions. The echo
proved no problem in helping to locate the woman here. Because her sobbing came from beneath Qi,
into the abyss, somewhere off to the right.

Qi's gaze shifted slightly to the right… it was a useless action, as she couldn't really see, but
she got down on her hands and knees, using the branch to feel out the edges of the chasm, then
slipping it lower, over the edge, in hopes that she would find the woman, and be able to convince
her to grab hold. "Be calm. I be there soon…" She tried to comfort the woman, "I pull you up, then
we find little boy 'kay?" Though there was the sinking feeling that Takeru wasn't going to be found..
. if the woman had run into the chasm… what were the odds that the boy had done the same? She had
no way of knowing how deep it was, and he wouldn't have had anyone to help him out, even if he HAD
caught himself on the edge.

Saori can do nothing but stand and wait and listen, one hand on the wall, the other wrapped tight
around the hilt of her blade. She breathes shallowly, more in tension than a desire to avoid the
stench of the place. She flinches, lifting her foot with a small sound as a rodent scurries over it
but soon settles her heart once more, straining to hear Qi comfort the woman.

"Please…" The voice didn't seem to have enough left to say anything other than that. "Please,"
drifts up again, followed by more quiet sobbing. The stick was too far away from the woman, who was
still further to the right. Qi would need to move closer to make contact with her.

Qi takes a breath and starts to crawl forward, moving relatively quickly, keeping herself from
falling over the edge by following it with the base of the branch. As she gets about five feet
further… in her mind, a good place to try again… she tries to drop the branch down, feeling
around for the woman. She could feel the sweat beading on her forehead… which was odd thanks to
the cold air in the cavern… but she was starting to feel the stress that came with having that
woman's life in her hands… nobody else was going to be able to save her. "T-try again!"

Qi's makeshift torch touches the woman in the shoulder, and her sobbing breaks off into a gasp as
she jerks at the contact. But she soon realizes what it was, sounding as if she'd only just realized
that the woman was anywhere near at all. "Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you." The stick gets
tugged on and pushed away some before the woman gives a small squeek. The sound of loose rock
tumbling down the cliff face resounds. "I don't… I don't think I'm strong enough…"

"Just grab stick!" Qi calls back, "You grab stick, and I pull, you just hold on. I strong enough,
so you don't have to be!" She shifts her grip on the stick and starts to stand to her feet, prodding
the woman in the shoulder again once she's got her footing. She searches with her foot for something
to brace herself on, hoping that something will be there to keep her from just tumbling into the
chasm, to where she would no doubt NOT be coming out from again.

Saori squeezes her bottom lip between her teeth, hearing what was happening. Tension filled her as
she wondered what would happen. She hoped, fervently, that Qi wouldn't be dragged down by the woman.
She was speed and grace over power, and she didn't know if she could pull her up. She took her hand
from the wall and stepped out… but then stepped back, resting her hand against the rough cavern
wall once more and pressing the heel of her other hand against her forehead. <Don't be stupid,> she
tells herself. Even if she could miraculously get to Qi without falling and dying or something, she
could never get there in time to help. And she might just end up bumping into her and pushing her
<Trust her… She can do this.>

A quiet groan escapes the woman, the sound holding a bubble of grief and strain. "Please…" she
whispers. Qi would hear a feminine grunt and feel the weight of the woman as she shifts over,
grabbing hold of the stick. That weight abruptly triples as she grabs on with both hands, her full
heft threatening to pull Qi down and over the edge of the chasm. And then, suddenly, it's gone. A
strangled gasp and the weight vanished…

"Please… Find Tanake…" A shouted whisper.

<NO!> Qi screams, tossing the branch behind her, where it clattered loudly against the stone, and
dropping to her knees at the edge all in one swift motion… but she was too late, the woman was
gone, and there wasn't anything she could do. Qi fell silent, staring into the blackness… It was
hard to believe, somehow. Certainly hard to come to terms with… She had just failed to save the
woman… In fact, that woman might have died BECAUSE of Qi… If she had just been smarter, or
stronger, or even just a little faster…

She sobs a little. She could feel her eyes burning as tears quickly began to well up and she began
to cry in earnest, a sound that would no doubt have been easily heard by Saori. She tries to stop
crying shortly after, covering her mouth and squeezing her eyes shut in an effort to stem the flow
of tears, and soon enough she felt like the moment had passed, or at least been pushed back far
enough that she could stand back up without any further issues.

Find Tanake… that's what the woman said, and despite Qi's doubts that he was even still alive…
that was really the only thing she had left that she could do besides turn back around and go home,
and she couldn't bring herself to do that… not now.

<Mai? Mai!? What's happening?>

Saori calls out to Qi, tears stinging the back of her eyes. She'd asked what had happened, but she
knew precisely what had happened. She felt it in her gut, the confirmation of Qi's tears only making
the weight heavier in her stomach. <Princess,> she speaks, sorrow in her voice. <Come back to me…>

Qi took a couple steps back, then crouched down, searching for the branch again in the darkness…
Finally, she comes across the fallen piece of wood, and picks it back up… Then starts to use it to
try and find a way back to Saori. It takes her a while… but soon she finds the wall on her own,
and starts to creep her way along it, her fingers finding Saori's arm. She dosen't say anything, she
just throws her arms around the other girl, sobbing again and seeking comfort more than anything
else at that moment. She takes a second or two, then sniffles and speaks, <We should try to get this
torch lit…> She sounded drained and perhaps a bit distracted now. <Find that Tanake boy a lot
faster if we can see.>

Saori continues speaking, voice an attempt at reassuring, words never ceasing, urging Qi to come to
her, to come closer, that she's right here, that's right. And then her princess' hand finds her arm
and Saori immediately pulls the woman into her arms, holding her near and tight, simply murmuring
that she's sorry to her over and over again. And then the words come. The urging to go deeper into
the caverns, to find that boy. <Mai… We need to go back.> So quickly continues, <We're not going
to abandon him. But we can't find him like this. We have to go to the village and get help. It'll
take longer trying to light that thing and stumble around after him than it would to go get help and
come back. Getting a search team is his best chance.>

Qi looks a little upset… and perhaps a bit hurt, torn between doing what Saori said was best, and
doing her own thing, but then she nods, relenting. <…Okay.> she sniffles a little more. Finally,
she releases Saori, and reaches to take her hand. She takes a deep breath and then speaks, a little
louder this time, <Let's go back then. You're right… More people, especially more people with
LIGHT, who might even be familiar with this place, is the best option…>

Saori nods, <Exactly.> She takes Qi's hand within her own and gives it a small squeeze, turning
towards the entrance. She pauses long enough to look over her shoulder and shout. "If you can hear
me, Takane, just sit tight! We'll be back for you!" And then she begins jogging towards the cavern
entrance, using the wall as a guide as she moves to lead Qi out of the darkness. <Don't worry,

<It's the right thing to do.>


The two women did make their way back to the village as swiftly as they could manage, nearly out of breath by the time they reached it's gates. They spoke to the guards and they reported what'd happened. They passed word along and within an hour a search party was formed and en route to the lightless cavern. The search ensued, going far more swiftly with the light of flame from torch and ninjutsu of one of the three shinobi that'd been tasked with accompanying the group.

After just over half of an hour of searching, the son of woman was found. Takane was cut out of nest of one of the giant spiders dotting the ceiling, the boy's body being digested for the now dead spider's later consumption. There was one less orphan to roam the streets of Kirigakure.

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