“Hey wait! My feet are stuck!” Khesh said with surprise.
He heard a sliding, grinding sort of noise that sounded deep or remote or maybe muffled. His feet were… sinking? The sounds from below were suddenly made loud as the ground swallowed him and just as quickly, they muffled again as his ears filled with sand. Holding his breath; his arms flailed wildly looking for purchase, but he was moving so fast through the earth he might as well have been trying to fly. Well, this is it I guess.
He landed with a thud on a stone floor. A small fart punctuated his arrival and he subconsciously looked quickly around both in denial of the squeak, and for someone else to shame. He was alone with his airs.
He was in a small passage, that looked like it continued on up ahead, with some periodic openings in the stone that looked to be side passages. He stood up, brushing himself off. He looked up. Well I can’t go back this way. The sand had slowed and whatever he’d just slid down looked impassible. He could hear the sounds of his compatriots in battle above. He wasn’t too deep.
The stone of the passage was cut, but it wasn’t Dwarven. It lacked the sort of patterned flourish that Dwarves often applied to worked stone. Goblins? Khesh was reminded that these lands used to be Goblin lands. He walked quietly and with care down the hall. There could be anything down here.
The hall came to a crossing. It continued on ahead, and there were passages to either side that appeared blocked. There was also a low finger of stone or maybe a petrified stump that seemed placed purposefully to the side like a marker. A few symbols were carved on it’s face. They were certainly goblin runes but very old. Khesh didn’t know much ancient goblin, but even as a dead language it informed the languages that grew from it. He could make out one word. Throne. To the king then.
He kept moving, until the passage opened into a slightly wider space. There was another stump here. Another set of runes. He tried to puzzle out the meaning. Something .. look more.. something. No that’s not it. That part has kind of an arrow carved down looking thing.. oh. Beware! Khesh was pleased with himself. He had figured out the .. dammit. Beware what though.
He stared at the runes a while waiting and got lost in his thoughts. Maybe figuring out beware was like a little spark, and maybe his mind was like the small twigs you start a fire with, he waited and mused about that, hoping that little spark would reveal the rest of the message. My mind is not small twigs but more like huge logs. Yes. Strong logs that can think powerful thoughts like you might build a house with or. wait. what? Khesh frowned, realizing he wasn’t going to figure this out.
“OK. just be careful” he said quietly . He looked around ahead of him. Hmm.. The stones in the floor don’t all look the same. They might have when this was made but these look like they are made to look like the others. He considered if these were pressure plates, there would be YES. There were cuts in the wall at varying height. “Huge strong logs” he said out loud to no one.
He pulled a few iron files from a pouch and set to work on the first dissimilar stone. Almost immediately it popped an inch or so upward. Clearing some of the detritus around it he found he could turn it slightly. It slid back down in place and there was a clicking sound behind the walls. He wasn’t sure, so he waited a few seconds to see if he’d sprung the trap or disarmed it. Silence. Putting his tools away he again congratulated himself. There are lots of kinds of smarts. I gotta remember to tell Thag the log thing. He walked across the trapped area and continued down the corridor.
Further ahead, another complex rune carved into stump. He could only make out part of it. Speak. He said aloud the name of the people that probably made this place. “Dhakaan”. Nothing happened. He noticed immediately ahead of him the passage seemed gloomier or somehow focused differently. There were a few piles of bones on the floor and one of the bones sticking out of a pile seemed canted at a weird angle. Like it hadn’t settled properly or was somehow defying gravity. Is this is some kind of field or something? He considered lighting a torch to get a better look. He could see in low light but everything was greyed out. So far he’d been mostly quiet and he didn’t want to alert anything to his presence if he could help it.
Instead of making light he walked up to where things looked a little off. Putting his hand forward he felt resistance and a slight burning. He pulled it back. It looks dusty here on the floor, and over there ahead, but not right in front of me where these bones are.This is some kind of jelly thing.This one doesn’t hurt much. There was no where to go but forward, so he did. He pushed through the gelatinous cube, slowly, burning the whole way. He was out the other side. It wasn’t that bad. He considered the bones behind him. Either the cube cut me some slack, or maybe it was old and weaker now. He was unsure.
He kept on, heading down the corridor, seemingly deeper into the place. He could hear what sounded like faint scratching. The passageway opened out into a large roughly square chamber about 20 feet a side. Other passages ended here but they all appeared blocked. In the center of the room was the desiccated remains of a Hobgoblin, sitting on a stone throne. It was wearing rotted finery, and had one hand on a pitted serrated blade, the other resting on arm of the throne. It’s head was turned to the side, and it seemed somehow alive and looking… looking at “what the hell is that??!” Khesh stepped back. Against the wall he saw source of the scratching. A fiendish shadow that seemed alive, talons scrabbling frantically at the wall like it was trying to flee, it’s bat-like wings flapping and slapping against the wall in vain, but part of the shadow seemed pinned to the floor where a silver colored nail was struck.
The whole thing was unsettling and before Khesh could decide his next move a silvery mist rose from the floor all around him. I need to get the hells out of here, only he couldn’t move. A small scream tried to find it’s way out of his mouth, but it too was frozen. He tried to avert his eyes but those were also stuck watching the mist surround him. What he could see of himself, his hands out in front of him, stuck there.. began to slowly disintegrate. He felt held there, like he just couldn’t will himself to move. What was keeping him? In the back of his mind he felt like it was himself but somehow other. He was concentrating on keeping himself there, just as he was trying to sort out how to move and get the hell out of this place.
He tried to shake it off. He could not.He thought about the parts of the ancient words he read back behind him in the halls that led here, and he tried to concentrate on them like he was saying them but no words came.He was fighting himself but in his mind, all the while the shadow scrabbling and fighting against the nail, and the mist surrounding everything. Every bit of his subconscious felt like it was present and forcing him to stay put.He must confuse it. Somehow.. He thought about that stupid song in rounds.. The boat rowing children’s song they all sang like idiots. Maybe he could think it over and over again, just himself singing it to himself, layer after layer. He did… his head a din of a foolish rhyme on top of itself.. Row row row your boat gently row row row YOUR GENTLROWROWBOATGENTROWROW all the while another voice that was also him, commanding him to stay in place while he disintegrates.
As always his temper got the best of him.He flew into a rage and the word ENOUGH! leapt from his throat. That seemed to be exactly the thing that was needed. Losing his temper, that other him also lost concentration and whatever magic was holding him was broken. The mist dissipated, and the shadow broke free and fled.
The hobgoblin corpse’s head now looked forward, at him. In one bony hand it held out the blade of the notched sword, the hilt facing Khesh . The other hand it held out open. As Khesh took the grip of the offered sword, the dead hobgoblin tightened it’s grip. The other hand seemed expectant.
Khesh took out his own sword and placed it hilt first in the other hand. The corpse brought his hands together and Khesh followed, bringing the swords together. Where there were two swords there was now one. Khesh’s sword was gone. The hobgoblin released its sword to Khesh with a sigh. Its dead face unmoving, Khesh heard the words in goblin “Peace at last. Make your way”.
A flash seemed to pass across the corpses empty eye sockets, and its hands collapsed to its lap. It was gone. Khesh appraised the sword with a swing. It looked old for sure but there was something fine about it under all that tarnish. The metal was a deep violet color and the serrations he noticed before were barbs that ran the last 8 inches of blade.. they looked pretty nasty to whoever might get caught on them. He swung it again and in the same move slid it right into his scabbard. Well that was lucky. He looked around. More luck. The clearing mist seemed to be chased away by light behind him. Back the way he came more sand had fallen deeper into the cracks and voids that riddled this place. I can probably climb out here.
Fallon tunnels his way down the collapse as a giant badger, surprising Khesh for a moment. Fallon reverts to his normal form, and seeing Khesh in one piece asks “What’d you find down here?” Khesh brandishing the sword replies “This new toy.”