“Honey, I’m home,” whispered Areia. She whistled. “Wow, this place is like my underground secret lair dreamhome come true!” They were standing in a vast entryway to what looked like a grand underground palace. Statues and other adornments were everywhere. It was clearly a residential place, but why it was here in Enceladus, they couldn’t guess.
It was not built like the rest of Enceladus. It was made of darker stone, and seemed to be done by different hands, or in a different method. In a way, it appeared even older, if that were possible.
Different alcoves lined the perimeter of most ot the roughly brick and mortared walls. It looked as if there were holes that once may have held a wall sconce every so many paces, but nothing was there now. In places, the metal that perhaps once held a torch or some other instrument was nearly rusted away, but a few traces remained giving away it’s purpose. It must have been a grand place to live she thought.
Thrak walked forward, swishing his tail with what the rest of them had grown to see as a sort of nervousness. But you don’t tell a lizardman he’s nervous., so as per usual no one mentioned it. Besides, they were too busy taking in the eeriness of this place being here.Presently, there was a gong and a voice rang out.
“Well, what in the blasted Ket hole is a stasis, and how do you terminate it?” asked Areia, her hands and daggers up in the air in her typical sarcastic some one help me figure this out gesture. “I mean honestly, these freaky underground palace building people.”
“I think, Areia,” said Zy’an. “the idea is that something has been broken, a spell perhaps. Listen!”
A voice rang out from an antechamber, it was remarkably off tune, and sounded so merry that the contrast with their recent sufferings made Areia giggle, and Iricah break a smile. Thrak tilted his head to the side in his usual way.
When the sun in the morning peeps over the hill
and caresses the rosebuds on my windowsill,
my heart fills with gladness when I hear the trill
of the birds in the treetops around any old hill.
it gives me a pain to dance and sing this,
must I do it again?Tra-la-la, fiddle-dee-dee-dee,
there’s penance to do how happy
I’ll be when it’s finally through!”
Iricah withdrew her rapier and walked towards the sound of the singing. Thrak tried to pass her and peered his snout around a statue of a dancing goblin. “It’sss a painting!” he snorted. “I really do not get these humanssss..”
Iricah, cautiously, stepped into a side antechamber and walked up to the painting, which was indeed of a man, an elf in fact. He was youthful, with blond hair and blue almond eyes. He was within the artwork itself, animatedly singing. The man was two dimensional, standing in a field of yellow flowers. He was tall and wearing a strange garb. He hopped on one leg down a long dusty road that ended in the background to some unseen valley. The whole impression was rather comical, and seemed quite out of place.
“I’m really tired of annoying dudes in paintings,” moaned Areia. She put her hands to her ears. “Anyone able to get this thing to stop?”
Just then though, the painting did. The man in the image went still. Iricah took out her notebook and studied the runes at the base of the painting. “According to this, his name was Melf. He was a wizard. And this was his punishment for a bet against another wizard!”
“That must have been a big bet,” said Frank. “But I’m confused. Is he inside the painting?”
“No, I think not,” answered Zy’an. “Iricah, thoughts?”
“I don’t believe he is,” she said muttering a few magical phrases, she wrote some more notes. “Areia?”
Areia had wondered off a bit. Or a lot one might say, for she had seen something that didn’t belong. In short, it was a larger antechamber and at the center of it, unbelievably was a bar. Behind the bar were bottles of every hue. The others rushed in, weapons drawn.
“Look, it’s clearly been a while since I was in a bar, you know? I need a drink, people!” She winked and ran her fingers along a few. “Whew, this stuff looks great. Oh my,” she looked back grinning at them, “Wow, this was a very fine year lads!”
The others looked at each other. “Aw to Ket with it,” said Zy’an. “You know it has been a while since any of us have been in a bar.” He reached over and grabbed a few glasses. Areia handed him a bottle and he poured.
“By my calculations, nearly 10 years!” said Iricah, “I mean we still need to ascertain exactly the scale of time, but there’s…”
Areia handed her a glass. “Bag lady, relax!” She smirked. “Ladies and Gentle-halves, here’s to Abraxas! May he and his scaly girlfriend patch things up!”
“Something tells me, that isn’t going to happen,” muttered Frank. He took a swig. “Holy Inquisitioners, this stuff is good!”
“No, it’s great,” said Zy’an. And then more to himself, looking around, he said, “But who in the darkness is this Melf, fellow?” He looked to Iricah, who had downed her glass.
“Password Please.” came a voice from another room.
“Uh oh,” said Zy’an. He bounded out into the main hall, the others set down their glasses and followed quickly. Areia couldn’t help herself, she grabbed a few bottles from the shelf and stashed them in her pack, then she drank the rest of Thrak’s, who of course had turned his snout up at the liquor.
Rounding the bend into another antechamber, they stopped and waited. But there was no voice, no sound. Their breaths caught in their throats. Zy’an brought a finger to his lips. He had been thinking that no password was better than the wrong password, but then he forgot all about that.
For at that moment, he was looking into a great laboratory of some kind, in the middle of which were glass tubes of many different sizes, some as big around as a large beer fermenter. The liquid was water or else a clear one, and floating in each, was a creature.
“What in the night time sky, is that?” muttered Frank. He stepped forward, his shield in front of him. He pictured the things bursting out of the tubes, at him, but the closer he got the more he realized they were long dead. He came to one and peered inside. It had the lower body of a man, but the upper one was that of a bull. “It’s a minotaur!” he said.
“No, my friend,” whispered Zy’an, coming to stand next to Frank, pointing in at the tube, “It was an attempt at one. Look there! See how the head isn’t fully formed, the horns not fully situated properly. This beast would never have been able to support the weight of it’s horns. This. This is an attempt at something. a failure.”
“What are you saying Zy’an?” asked Iricah. Her mouth went dry. The other tubes held similar figures in similar arrangements of abherration. Fauns, a kenku, one of the bird people she had heard about that inhabit the wilds. “What do you mean?!”
“I mean,” began Zy’an, “That this laboratory,” he motioned around at the apparatus, the equipment, the creatures in the tubes, “This is a laboratory for creating things. Creating beasts of a sort.”
Thrak moved forward, standing next to a tube of a small childlike creature, no bigger than a couple of feet long. it had a long tail, and a snout, even in the tube, scales could be seen along part of it’s anatomy, but in other parts there were none. He began to grow angry, bewildered. “What blasssssteeddd evil wasss thissss place?” he growled.
“I think,” whispered Iricah, “I think this is where your people began Master Thrak. I am sorry my friend.” She looked at the lizardman with soft eyes, and for the first time, she saw in him, not the warrior, but a man. His squinty eyes confused, his scaly head making him look like a dog with the ears pulled back. But there was more. A human look upon the face. As human as he was a beast. “I think Master Thrak, that Ulua’s people were right. I think something powerful made things here. But I don’t think it was O’lorhan. I think….”
“It was us,” said Zy’an. “It was Kasille.”
“Password not accepted,’ said the polite voice. “Guardian stasis terminated.”
There were no time for jokes this time, not even from Areia. As from around the corner, came the sounds of movement and something large at that. A lurching, slithering sound, but mixed with others, scratching, clawing. Quickly, and instinctively, they ran to the door of the laboratory they were now in, and peered outside into where they had heard the voice. Their weapons drawn, breaths held. Something was coming!
Zy’an peered out and saw several statues against the wall nearest to where he was. Each had a smiling face, one a halfling in jest, another an elvish maid in a bar serving drinks. The rest of the area was vacant except for the pattern of brickwork along the ceiling, nothing really caught his attention. “I think we’re ok….” he began, but then he remembered, “Wait. I don’t remember statues in this area.”
“Nor I,” said Frank speaking to himself, his eyes wide, looking around. “And that one there! It looks like a friend I once had out of Silvershore.” He had his shield out but wasn’t holding it in front of him. He was holding it above him.
“Frank, why are you holding your shield like that?” said Thrak.
“Look, the ceiling! The brickwork is in only two sections, small. Something is wrong there. I cannot tell.” Iricah took it all in, and about the same time it struck her, the others saw it too.
It all happened so fast.
First, Thrak would remember the statues turning and stepping off their platform. The faces longer than they should be, stone mouths opening and very real flesh and teeth from a monstrous jaw inside, like the statue was simply the creature painted white marble on the outside. And they moved fast! Arms turning to long ropes of some clawing animal from a nightmare. Above them, the ceiling peeled away, and a creature mimicking the pattern above tore loose, dropping on Thrak, grappling and enveloping him like some kind of insect in a cocoon.
They hacked their way through the grisly horde and found themselves backed against a wall, and that’s when Thrak’s tail, so often in motion saved them all.
As he was slashing out with his axes, his tail moved for balance and struck a side of the wall. Quickly the wall moved on a track, revealing a secret passageway!