When heroes deeds will make it shown
the road to the Path of Light.
“Ever feel like you try to stand out and someone keeps one upping you?” asked Frank. He was trying to be playful, but his hands shook slightly. The battle with the dragons had wound his nerves together into tight little balls. He held forth his mace, which glowed with brilliant light. He was still recovering from the transformation he endured each time he called upon his divine powers. His skin prickled with heat, his blood boiled. His face made for an ominous sight, full of teeth, and horns. All around and behind him the shadows grew from the floor up onto the walls like dark tendrils. A perfect backdrop to his portrait. Above him, towering over all of them, like a great evil umbrella, was the grotesque statue of what could only be described as a demon. It had hoofed feet, and two long whipping tails, two necks with two heads like baboons, only malformed and corrupted into something far worse. Fangs and horns rippled along it’s form from joints and the spines. In it’s hands it held a replication of innards and a skull atop it. The entire thing was made of dark volcanic stone of some kind. Immense chains ran from the hands and into the walls above it.
“This is a trap,” said Ulua, she stood in front of the statue gripping her spear. She pointed it’s tip at the claw of the creature which was clearly pulled down from where it would have been. Thrak tightened the hilt of his axe. Zy’an dropped deeper into a stance. “It was sprung. Sometime ago,” she said, revealing the way in which the mechanism released several chains around the room. Thrak relaxed hiss grip, but only slighty.
Areia investigated the hands holding the stone skull, ignoring Ulua’s spoken thoughts. She had known the trap was sprung as soon as she walked in. “This is the mechanism,” she said to the others, and peered off into the chamber looking around for something. She pointed, “There!” They looked around on the floor to see corpses, mummified skin draped over skeletons. The bones of arms and legs were manacled and tied to chains laying upon the floor. It was a gruesome sight to behold. “I’ve seen a trap like this discussed among the pirates. But I’ve never seen it like this. Usually, the trigger releases something the trapmaker has caught. Something harmful. I studied Fritz’ map. He indicated their party had sprung several of these entering here. We’re a bit lucky I’d say, this one looks rather nasty!”
“Nice welcome the Kasillians had,” said Thrak. He was using what Andril had called ssssarcasm. He wasn’t quite sure how to use it yet, but he was learning.
“No, I think not mighty Thrak,” said Iricah. “In fact, this does not appear to be Kasillian at all.” She stood near Frank’s glowing mace, and was making entries in her journal, walking around the pedestal. “The Kasillian’s were rather particular about their art, their imagery. I don’t think this would meet their high standards.” She studied the walls and stone work around her, the domed ceiling. Much of it was covered and coated in dark soot. She went to the wall, and ran her hand along it. After some rubbing, the whiter stone beneath shone through. But it took some doing. “This place has seen much since the Kasillians used it I think. This trap, this statue, this came after. Maybe not much after, but it has been here for a long time. Enceladus was opened to whomever or whatever did this,” she pointed to a fanged mouth above her, “a long time ago. And then,”
“Then what?” Asked Zy’an. He, like the others, was listening to her, as he stared around the entrance.
“Then, they left.”
“So, where’d they go?” Asked Areia. “I mean, it looks like a bunch of sophisticated street urchins in Far Realm tagging their names on the side of ships in tar.”
“That is a good question, Areia,” said the bard. “Perhaps, we will find the answers within.”
A shiver ran up their spines, and for the first time since the doors closed, they realized the silence that lay around them. Marcus who had gone off to search further in, called back, “There is an open well here, two pathways into the fortress.” He moved back to where they were. Zy’an pulled out Fritz’s map. And spread it before them on the wall. Frank moved his mace closer so they could see.
“Fritz took this path, here, to the right,” said the monk. “This is the direction Haryk discussed us going. The way that Commander Fritz believed the inner chamber of this fortress lay.” He then ran his hand along the opposite hall drawn on the map. “This is how we will exit the fortress. Based on his notes, a fissure in the mountainside had separated the great stonework here, and here. Following that will lead us to the northern portion of the isle.” Zy’an look up from the map and back in the direction where Marcus had found the exits deeper into the fortress. “This map would seem to be accurate, at least to what Fritz came upon.”
“That is Serpent’s Fang,” said Ulua, pointing towards the path Fritz marked as the one his expedition took, “It is past the mountains to the North.”
Iricah’s eyes gleamed, “That my friends, is where my ship will be waiting for me.”
“Got room on that ship for a few more?” said Frank. His horns curled upwards, and as he smiled, his teeth dangled from his lips. Next to him stood Zy’an, his hood covering his features within, except for his gleaming eyes.
“I’m sure we can squeeze us all in,” said Iricah. “Let’s make it there first, though okay?”
“Sounds good to me,” said Thrak. He rose to his full height, and swooshed his tail. His axes swirled in the air and his tail wagged back and forth. “Let’s go exploring!”
The hallway branching off to their left was the twin of the right, in which Fritz had drawn the way they could exit. Stepping into this space, and looking down at the stone, it was clear that whoever had built this place had reached levels of craftsmanship even the Celns had never dreamed of. The stonework was in most places like one melted seemless piece. Some magic of engineering that welded rock together in a form of their choosing. In places, the rock, like a tree, seemed to grow into it’s shape, giving natural steps of perfect precision. The hallway, not perfectly straight,went on for some many yards. Areia led the way and kept her body turned inward as she went. The effect to Areia was as though they were moving in a grand circle, many hundreds of yards wide perhaps.was of moving in a circle. At several points they came to junctions to other hallways which branched off. But the party kept on, following the major tunnel, onward.
The fortress did not remain as silent as when they had first arrived. Sounds, from deep within it, from down hallways vast and dark echoed subtly on the rock wall around them at times. A drip of water? A pebble falling from the adjusting mountainside? They couldn’t be sure. But the sounds made them cautious, and they lowered their light, and their voices. Creeping on, they moved along, senses and bodies alert.
When they had moved some hundred yards along the hall began to slope downwards. A stale cold air whisked downwards from up ahead. The hallway dead ended at a stone railing. Beyond that was a colossal empty space cavernous and dark inside the fortress. Like a grand cylinder inside the fortress, a void of deliberate engineering. Below it lay a portion of a circular structure, perhaps the top, so massive it would dwarf the King’s Tower in Cillandar. There was no mistaking it, it was the twin of the structure they had seen under Far Realm. This time though, they were looking at it’s top, not it’s side. Ian had been right. Whatever lay there, was just like the one here.
And then Zy’an looked out, into the darkened space. Hopping up onto the stone rail, he pointed to the others to look up. There, suspended by some magic, was a dome covered chamber of some kind. In front of it was what looked like a platform as if it were next to the sea, awaiting a ship to come by and dock.
A light came from within the chamber beyond. A light that beckoned through the darkness outwards into the space above their heads. The monk, his hood, as always covering his face, glanced back a the others. He hopped up on the rail and reached into his rucksack. Zy’an withdrew a rope and tied it around his waste. He handed the bag in which the other end of the rope was attached to the lizardman. “Master Thrak,” he said, “Would you mind holding this?”
“Why am I always the one holding the bag?” asked Thrak to the others.
“Is he always this funny?” Asked Iricah to the others, but they were watching Zy’an.
The monk turned, squatted low and took a mighty leap out into the dark cavern!