The veil of darkness still hung over Iricah as she fell into a heap onto something hard. She winced and the pain made her let go of her shovel. It scattered away from her, maybe close, she couldn’t be sure. She could hear the sounds of sand cascading down onto the floor around her. I was up there. Where the sand was. Now I am here. But where is that?
Whatever here was, all was dark and hot. The air was stifling. Her surroundings came to her slowly, a flash of bright white light out of the corner of her eye, Thrak raging and roaring somewhere near her. Frank was shouting something, and there was a clanging of his armor, or shield or perhaps his mace. But it all seemed to be coming from so far away. Zy’an she thought she saw above her, bounding upwards to some place she couldn’t see yet. A light from above was disappearing, like a great golden sphere that grew smaller. It was frightening to think that the sun may simply be shrinking into oblivion. Going. Going. Gone.
The reality of what was happening started to come to her, but it was slow. And even as it did, all was cloudy, and nightmarishly fuzzy, fetid. The images that slowly came to her senses of smell and sight and sound shouldn’t be. This was a place she shouldn’t be, nor should anyone be her mind knew. Her heart and soul knew it. This was hell. This was Ket.
In an instant, all the stories she had been told, all the tales and Celn superstitions came true.
When things did begin to sink back in and the clouded toxic veil began to lift, the first thing she knew for certain was that they were under attack. There were figures that seemed to be among them, higher, or lower. This was some kind of high cave, long and cylindrical. Like an urn buried in under the sand she thought. She had excavated quite a few of those.
But this urn was damp, its walls oozed with something poisonous. Its latticework platforms strung to its walls like…the figures. Thrak’s cry. Frank’s battle cry stilled in mid-call. The sounds of Zy’ans strikes landing on something.
It took her a while to realize they the figures were simply floating in the air! Each had come to hover near the others. She, as with Thrak and Frank were on some platform that stretched from one side of the cylindrical cave she had fallen into. Below felt like empty space although she couldn’t see far. Don’t fall over her mind insisted. Not there. Thrak and Frank had stood over her, protecting her, while she had come to. And they were now paying the price for compassion. Something was wrong with them. Something that made their hands go to their temples, made them drop their weapons. Made their faces frozen in sheer terror, anguish.
The platform had a central area in the middle, where Iricah now found herself. Thrak and Frank each faced a gloating figure. Below her, a figure drifted up through the darkness. This one, somehow she knew had come me for her. She saw it’s eyes, glaring, burning. The eyes that could burrow into her mind too. We’re doomed.
“Iricah! Iricah!” It was Zy’an’s voice from somewhere above her. “We don’t have much time! Get the others out. Get. Them. Out!”
What others? Thrak? Frank? Iricah looked around and that’s when she saw figures, other people, against the walls around her. It looked as though someone had simply stuck them to the walls with some kind of sticky paste. Spinning around she could see there were about a dozen of them. Heads slumped. Each robed like a monk. This was the missing faction. This was the group that Sal had told them about!
“Get them out Iricah!” This time it wasn’t Zy’an. It was Sal! He had landed on the platform nearest to her just as the floating demon had withdrawn it’s hood. It was indeed like something out of a nightmare. She had seen once an attack on a vessel from a great beast, crossing the still waters. Long tentacles, snapping for victims to drag under. Suctions and sheering claws embedded along the terrible and twisting vines reaching along the ship decks. She had ducked to avoid one just as it crossed over her and when she had she had looked through the gap in the railing and come face to face with the most horrid of faces. Like an octopus, except the eyes shone with wickedness, and there in the center, more tentacles and a beak, snapping for it’s prey. This was the face that was before her. The face that shouldn’t be.
“Get them out of here! All of you!” yelled the monk. He landed on the platform with a thud, surprising two of the demons simultaneously. Just that instant seemed to free the mind of Thrak and Frank, who shook their heads and picked up their weapons, engaging the enemies once more!
Iricah saw her chance. She wasted no time and grabbing her shovel ran to the closest two of the faction, prying them out with her blade. Somehow, the metal seemed to sear the wicked strands holding them tight. They fell to the floor, free! But they were unconscious.
Just then the entire cavern shook. Shockwaves ran down it’s walls, shockwaves that moved like….By the light, thought Iricah. This isn’t a cave. It’s no cave at all.
“NOW Iricah. We’re on a highway to hell. There are only seconds left! Get them…OUT!!!!!” Zy’an’s last word was a cry, one of pain. The beast he was fighting was now fighting back with it’s mental weaponry. It was a powerful attack, the likes they had never seen before.
Her mind focused back on her task, Iricah pointed a single finger and before her traced a large rectangle. As she did, the invisible line she traced glowed with a magical energy. Once the shape was complete, she spoke a word, “Surface” and within the portal she had created could be seen the very surface from where they had come. She reached down, taking one last look at the others. Zy’an above was crying out, yet still fighting against the highest of the floating demons. Thrak, Sal and Frank battled the other three below.
“NOW Iricah, DO IT!” Hollered Sal.
Iricah pulled both of the bodies slumping on the platform through the door. As she did, she for the first time looked at the latticework itself. It wasn’t wood or metal. By the light, it’s, it’s flesh!
The sun struck her immediately, even as the ground below her thrummed and churned. Something felt like it had been turned on. Highway to hell Zy’an had said. With all her might she pulled the two monks as hard as she could up and out of the sand, and into the clearing as far as she could take them. The land around her was now vibrating loud enough to hear. The earth and soil became like a fluid undulating.
“Thrak! Frank! Zy’an!”
And then, while she stood there and watched. A magnificent hole erupted in the sand, and something massive, as massive as a hill, dropped towards what seemed to be the very center of the Earth itself.