To Azfon Mountain in the northern part of Niska, the sun’s yellow light fell softly, but did not enter the mountain. Azfon was hollow for the most part, crossed on the inside with caverns and tunnels. The sun’s light brought green grass and trees to the mountain slopes. The iced peak melted into streams that ran the length down into the Fenwood below, and disappeared under green shade. In the last days of winter, the sun grew warmer and the ice and snow on Azfon’s peak gave way to melting. The streams were wide and deep. The water soaked into the crust of the mountain, and it thickened the grass and the leaves on the trees. It gathered between the layers of soil above the hollow within. The water was heavy, and it dripped down from the cavern ceilings to be harvested and drank by the slaves who lived there and dug there.
Pools in the smooth rock floors filled with water. Some pools were knee-deep, and some were only puddles. But the slaves drank. Some drank with their brown, calloused hands. Some used ladles, and they passed the water around to the sick and young and old. The old slaves would mutter a prayer of thanks before drinking, and the younger slaves would shake their heads at them, because if there was a God, he could not see inside the mountain. The stronger drank after the weaker drank, and the slaves leaned against the stone walls of their stone and dirt rooms and slept.
The children slept, and the old slept, and the mothers slept with their children, and the men watched over their old parents and young families. A cool breeze floated through the tunnels, and it made a sigh as the mountain slept. Tomorrow’s work would be long and difficult, as was every day’s work within Azfon. The last of the open eyes closed, and the last slave awake fell asleep to the sound of dripping water.