"Tell me if you're game?"
The question was asked so furtively it aroused Esau's curiosity.
"I'm game," came the whispered response.
"Yes! Good. Get Petr and meet me back here at sundown".
As Esau came out of the passage he saw the two men, a conspiratorial look about them. It was not unusual for these two to spend time together, for Ronan often consulted with Allan while working in the mine, and they frequently visited together during meals. But this furtive whispering was different than the easy banter Esau normally observed, and Esau wondered why.
He'd not spent much time with either men; though Esau and Ronan were both from the Kuran tribe and Esau had been at Elbrus now for a full season. He’d found it difficult to make friends and thought it was because he was so much younger than the others, Ronan and Allan were at least five summers older, and they usually ignored him.
Ronan acknowledged Esua now, and headed for the exit passageway, while Allan turned up a different corridor. Ordinarily, Allan would eat and sleep with the workers, but yesterday visitors had arrived from the Rioni and Arak tribes, and Esau knew that Allan, as the Elbrus Heir, would be expected to attend meals and other functions with his tribe.
Esau couldn't help but wonder what Allan and Ronan were planning, for it seemed highly suspicious that they would be planning to sneak off together when such important guests were on site.
Later that night, after dinner was over and the sun almost set, Esau unobtrusively followed Ronan and another man out of camp and into the mine entrance, where Ronan had agreed to rendezvous with Allan.
Esau noted that someone had recently replaced the crystals set in strategic locations throughout the cave; they emitted a low light that illuminated the otherwise dark interior of the place. Esau stayed well back in the passageway as the men he followed met and greeted Allan; creeping forward quietly as they made their way into the most recently excavated mineshaft.
This new mineshaft had just been opened two days before, as the miners quarried a newly discovered vein of crystal for which Elbrus was so famous, and in the process had discovered a huge, cavernous chamber whose very walls shimmered with immeasurable wealth. The Elbrus leader had immediately stopped further excavation in order to decide what to do with this fantastic space, for it seemed the setting was much more valuable than the crystals it contained. As Esau faced into that chamber now, he estimated it would be large enough for all the people of Elbrus and Kura to gather within and still have room for more.
Esau watched as the men made their way to the far edge of the chamber and found places to perch.
When Ronan pulled out the flute he'd been given as a child, Esau began to smile.
Allan was setting a large, hollow, wooden base upon a flat surface, carefully placing varying sizes of stone slabs upon the base, while Petr uncovered a handheld drum fashioned from a hollowed tree trunk, over which he'd stretched some sort of animal skin.
"Ready?" Allan asked, his quiet voice easily resonating across the distance.
And then they began to play.
Esau had heard music before, although only rarely and usually only on ritualistic, solemn occasions.
This was different.
This was like nothing he had heard before.
The flute was old and had been handed down through generations, deer bone hollowed and pierced just so; it produced a high, sweet note that rose and fell with Ronan's breath in a playful crescendo of trills and tones.
After a moment, Petr struck a rhythmic staccato upon his drum, while Allan created a mellifluous tempo upon an instrument that would be known one day as a lithophone, playing a melody of chiming notes that harmonized in accordance and consonance with the other instruments.
Obviously these men had played together before, the music flowed and danced upon the air, vibrating and reverberating within the chamber and beyond. As the music continued, Esau became aware of others filing in around him, including the Leaders and their Heirs; men and women drawn to the music and the resonance and the pulse, stimulated by the intensifying cadence as the composition repeated and built. And as they came, Esau noticed how Allan's smile widened and grew, and Esau knew then that this was exactly what Allan had set out to achieve.