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shaft of light thinned gradually until, with a clang, the door closed and the light winked out. Vance could not help imagine that the look on Turval's face was something akin to worry. Or fear.

The total darkness. Vance had experienced the subterranean dark before, not like moonlight where you could at least define shapes. This was complete and dizzying blackness. Instinctively he put out his hands, feeling for some sign of a wall or passageway. As he moved, his foot knocked against an outcropping, causing him to stumble. Blind panic surged through him until he regained his footing.

Vance crouched low. That way, if he fell, it wouldn't hurt as much. As he moved, he began to feel a little stupid. Anyone watching with infrared nightvision equipment would laugh as Vance squatted in the dark, arms flailing. He tried to find anything solid to lean against.

After several precarious seconds he managed to reach a wall. Relief washed over him as he felt the cold rock against his palm. He stood, bracing himself against the moist rock. His eyes had been dealing with the complete dark for several seconds now, and it was obvious there was no source of light - he could make out nothing, no dim grey silhouettes, no shadowy shapes, not a thing.

Steadily, he slid along the wall, keeping his feet close together, moving slowly in case they met an outcropping. His free hand stretched in front of his face so that he would not hurt himself by walking into a low stalactite or other rocky obstacle.

Vance slid around the edge of what must have been an expansive cave, gently caressing the wall as he passed. Suddenly his hand touched something hard and metallic. He felt a metal ring screwed into the wall, rusted by the perpetual damp. Perhaps a torch bracket missing the torch? Vance
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