He isn’t a man yet –isn’t real in the eyes of the Family– so when he follows them into the caves, they say nothing. After all he’s just a spirit still, a nameless man-shaped thing that mimics without true understanding. If he dies, or is lost, there is no loss.
He’s made his own torch, a small simple thing that drips tar onto his arms and burns in sputtering gasps of light. But it’s bright enough, and he holds it carefully as he creeps forward, parroting the men.
There’s a witch here, somewhere, that smells of the sea and the sharp mint scent of a greatship’s timbers. The men are searching for her, and the spirit follows. He’s young, even for a spirit, and tires of the game within a few fingers of sunlight.
When he turns to leave the torchlight catches something on the cave wall, something that glimmers wetly in the darkness, and the searchers converge on his startled cry.
It’s symbols drawn in blood by a dying woman, but it’s the wrong dying woman and there’s a glitter in those eyes that gives her away. But it’s already too late and the searchers crumble into dust as her magic touches them, all except for the boy who cried.
Maybe she lets him live, or maybe she dies before the spell is done, but in the end it’s the same. He stands alone in the caves, covered with dust and the smoldering remnants of torches, and wants desperately to be home.
The sea witch finds him sitting there, palms of sun later, tucked up against the wall and drawing symbols in the dust. She lays her sister to rest, sinking her deep into the bedrock while singing soft songs in a language the spirit doesn’t understand. Then, when she has finished, she takes him by the hand and leads him deeper into the caves.
There’s a cave in the mountain that smells of the sea,
Where it leads to nobody knows.
There’s a cave in the mountain that smells of the trees,
And the echoes of long long ago.
If you sit on the hillside and sing to the wind,
She’ll answer you quiet and low,
If you sit on the hillside and wait on her whim,
She’ll lead you off down down below.
But if ever you follow the witch of the sea,
Through the caves where nobody goes,
You’ll never return to the land that you leave,
Lost to songs of long long ago.