As each woke, the splendor of the cavern hit them full on. The place was immense, a vast green underground lake stretched out before them, waves gently lapping on the shore. Small puddles filled burrows in the shore’s surface where they had drug themselves from the water. Now, more fully aware of what was around them, echoes, soft in their volume, broke through the vastness, though the origin was indiscernible,
The walls of the cavern were a sight to behold as well with hundreds of crystals of various shapes and colors glittered in the rocky matrix, playing off the light of Cyrxx and Alaiya’s magick. They seemed to drink in the power, soaking it up and using it for their own dull, earthy radiance.
They saw also, to their chagrin, a singular passage leading away from their location – a narrow crevice that split the wall nearly twenty feet high. Gathering their supplies they trod off in search of an exit.
The sides of the passage had been smoothed, though not by craftsmanship. The presence of lichens and mushrooms, along with small pools of water, indicated that at some time, the lake behind them had created the outlet they were walking through. As they walked, the passage became more confined, resulting in a rather tight fit for both Stoyan and Veth. In a few spots they had to remove their armor and backpacks and pass them through with Cyrxx and Alaiya. After a few hours, they emerged from the passage into a second cavern, though the first paled in comparison to the vastness of this one.
The lip of rock that they emerged on sat perched high on one of the cavern’s walls. Below them, a river flowed from the same wall at a leisurely pace, weaving through a maze of rock that seemed to stretch on endlessly. Every now and then, the rock below would be cracked and exposed, revealing an old riverbed beneath, long dried up. Similar crystal structures adorned the walls of this cavern, though in greater magnitude, though they all lay in distorted alignments. Previously, the crystals grew within the rock matrices in an up–down fashion. Here, they were turned sideways, slanted, diagonal, and vertical. It was this unusualness that Cyrxx noticed and he followed the direction that the crystals seemed to be oriented toward.
“There! Out there – there’s a structure of some kind.” He pointed out toward the far end of the cavern, where the crest of a domed structure could be seen. “That seems to be a good place to start.” Looking around, he said, his mind drifting, “Now to only get there…”
Stoyan and Veth’s eyes met immediately after they saw the structure, nodding to each other in solemn admission. “There’s something massively divine about that building,” Veth said, a lump slowly rising in his throat.
“Has to be to be felt from way out here,” Stoyan offered. “It would be best to be careful.”
“Bah! As long as they divine up a way out, I could care less.” Cyrxx scoffed as he walked to a precipice jutting away from the rock lip. “Over here, you religious goofs! There’s a larger ledge below and it looks like to leads down to the river.” Veth looked hesitantly at the little edge, something Cyrxx picked up on immediately. “Oh, I’m sure you could use that fan–dangled, whoziwhatzit belief of yours to get down some other way. Don’t you guys have wings or something? You could fly down or something, right?”
Stoyan glared at Cyrxx in a most ruthless manner. “Those are angels, and you will show some respect for the gods.”
Cyrxx scoffed and waved a hand at Stoyan as two feathery wings emerged from his back. “There! Brilliant! Who knew you were an angel? Now you just go on and float down there, and we’ll see you in a bit.” He cackled to himself, but no one else joined in. As he started to walk away, Stoyan moved in front of him.
“You will cease mocking the gods, now.” His voice was stern and sharp, but his emotion was in check.
“Mocking? How can I mock them? Do you even know if they exist? How can you believe so heartily in something that you’ve never seen? Now, this,” and Cyrxx created a purplish sphere of mist in the palm of his hand, “this is real. I can see it, touch it, control it.” He passed the sphere from hand to hand and rolled his hands around it, before he clapped his hands together, extinguishing the sphere.
Stoyan maintained his eye contact with the older Wizard, glaring down at the Gnome half his size who was questioning the very fabric of his belief. Slowly, he unsheathed his sword and held it up, edge forward, for Cyrxx to see. “I believe in this. I can see it. I can touch it. I can control it.”
A knot in his stomach formed as Cyrxx slowly realized the circumstance he had created. He glanced at Veth, but could not read the man’s now stoic face. Alaiya had her head bowed, a hand on her forehead. Cyrxx turned back to Stoyan, a twinkle in his eye and laughed. “So you do, so you do.” Cyrxx scampered around the legs of Stoyan and down the precipice, not wasting time to watch the reactions of the others. Soon, he found himself at the base of the path, standing on a large alluvial.
The cavern looked much larger from further down, though there was slight hope in the intimidating sight. Four branches of old riverbeds extended forth from the alluvial, careening in different directions, with the river flowing out from the alluvial. All of the rivers, past and present, cut down beneath the rock, creating tunneled passages. They had been able to see into these passages from their previous perch, but now, each seemed dark and uninviting.
At the base of the alluvial, standing watch before the four branches, was a monument. Dwarven in nature, with indecipherable carvings adorning the sides, Alaiya noticed an inscription across the top. She read it carefully to herself, then once more out loud, slightly confused.
“As old as stone the relic lies
For paths before you deter spies
Each lead to the ancient stead
power within the souls will wed”
“What do you think it means?” asked Veth, though he shuddered involuntarily. The presence of divine power in the cavern could be felt, and he was not at ease because of it.
“Well, the paths are obvious,” began Alaiya, pointing to the four dried riverbeds before them. “This could be a trail marker telling us about the dangers ahead. And I think that they’ll all lead to that building we saw in the distance, which explains the third line.”
“Seems reasonable enough.” Stoyan peered down the paths, noticing the far right and far left passages veered sharply away from their current location. The other two worked away from the monument at slight angles. “Which way do we go?”
Cyrxx started laughing, more to himself than anyone in particular. “What is it?” asked Alaiya.
Grinning mischievously, Cyrxx pointed to the river slowly winding its way out from the base of the alluvial, perfectly bisecting the four old riverbeds. “There is a fifth path – if you like swimming!” Cyrxx erupted in a minor fit of laughter as Alaiya turned back to the others for a more serious conversation.
“What worries me, Alaiya, is the last line. Talk of power and souls in a place like this? There is a presence here, I know it, and I don’t think it is Sehanine.” Veth looked over to Stoyan, who shrugged.
“I can’t tell who it is, but they’re here. Now, if you think all of the ways lead to the same thing, let’s get going.”
Alaiya thought for a moment, reflecting on her experience and studies of magick and the divine. “What about the relic? It’s likely inside, but it could be a god’s. And why would a god put something way down here? Just seems…inconvenient.”
“It is not our place to question the will of the gods,” replied Veth, and Stoyan nodded in agreement. “And if they are all as good as any, might I suggest we keep an eye on the Gnome? It seems he’s already chosen one.” They all looked as Cyrxx had begun walking down the far left riverbed and ran after the absent–minded Wizard. As the hurried down the riverbed, Veth noticed a marking on the side of the wall. “Hold on! Look at this.” The others came back and looked at the engraving made into the rock face:
“What’s that supposed to be?” questioned Alaiya, but her question went unanswered.
The old riverbed was full of stones, lichens, mosses, and mushrooms. Occasionally they ran into spots where the ceiling had collapsed and they could look up into the vast cavern above, catching glimpses of the crystals. They walked in a single file formation, Stoyan at the head, followed by Alaiya, Cyrxx, and Veth guarding the rear. The glow of Cyrxx’s and Aliya’s orbs provided all light they dared to use, preferring to keep their presence as secretive as possible. Thusly, the traveling was uneventful for the first hour.
After a brief rest to let Cyrxx try to recreate the river, they continued on, but not long before Stoyan brought them to a halt. Through the silence, a soft scuttling of legs on rock rolled down through the riverbed. The way forward was shrouded in darkness, giving them no indication what was ahead. Carefully, they each withdrew their weapons in anticipation. As they slowly crept forward, a large swarm of centipedes burst out from the darkness. Stoyan reacted first, slashing through the swarm, knowing the insects aside. The others calmly held their ground as Cyrxx manipulated the shadows behind the swarm, creating tendrils that extended out and took hold of a large portion of the swarm. The tendrils then pulled them back into the shadows where the tearing of husks could be heard.
Alaiya acted next, calling forth a flame that erupted in the remainder of the swarm, incinerating the insects. Stoyan turned and motioned for the others to come closer, holding a finger to his lips to do so silently. As they approached, more scuttling could be heard from down the tunnel. They readied themselves for the inevitable onslaught of centipedes bearing down on them.
As they fought through the riverbed, overcoming wave after wave of centipede swarms, they finally reached a point of reprieve. Settling down beneath an opening in the tunnel, Cyrxx noted that the crystals had shifted substantially to a near thirty–degree angle. “Interesting. We seem to be heading toward the structure as Alaiya thought we would, and, it appears we’re over halfway there.”
Veth looked quizzically at the Wizard. “How can you tell?”
Cyrxx stood and wandered over to the opening. Pointing up, he said, “Well, if you discern the angles of the lattices in their given matrices, simply apply Haugnaut’s Compen–.” Cyrxx looked back at Veth to see if he was following, but the Cleric simply looked lost. Throwing his hands up in disgust, Cyrxx protested, “Oh, never mind!” and sat back down.
Soon they were moving down the tunnel again, and it was not long before they encountered another swarm, though this one was smaller than the previous few. Stoyan turned back with a smile, “They might be learning they can’t win. That, or they’re running out of stuff to throw at us!” He rushed into the swarms again as the group coordinated its attack seamlessly again. Half the swarm had fallen when suddenly a massive centipede descended from the ceiling biting Stoyan on his upper arm. He yelled, more out of surprise than pain, at the sudden attack. Then he grinned again as the prospect of battle registered. “Now this is more like it!” He roared and flung his sword around his head at the new enemy, but it scurried out of reach. It then darted around Stoyan, circling him like a vulture circles a carcass, distracting him from the swarm at his rear.
The first of the smaller centipedes latched onto the Paladin’s leg, sinking its mandibles deep into his flesh, poison flowing into his bloodstream. Stoyan roared as the venom burned its way through his leg. The distraction over, the larger centipede struck out with its stinger, catching Stoyan in the arm. Stoyan cringed as the two venoms brought him to his knees. His head sank, his neck fell limp, and the Paladin fell to the ground, unconscious.
Veth rushed to his side, calling on the power of Sehanine to nullify the poison. Cyrxx and Alaiya continued to weave arcane magicks, keeping the centipedes from advancing on their comrade. The large centipede took off to the walls and hurried along the rock face, finding itself on the other side of Cyrxx. The Gnome yelped in surprise as he rolled away. “Ahhh! Get away, get away! Die, die, die!” He unleashed a volley of magicks at the creature, causing it to hiss in displeasure.
By now Veth had stabilized Stoyan, but not before another swarm had descended upon the group. Alaiya crafted another pillar of fire in the heart of the swarms, igniting a group of centipedes, while Cyrxx manipulated the shadows to do his bidding. Veth was keeping a careful eye on Stoyan who had engaged the largest of the centipedes.
The swarms fell quickly to the combined magick of the Wizard and Sorceress, but Stoyan was hurting. The venom had obviously effected his movements and he was not able to move as fluidly as he was normally accustomed. When a second large centipede struck from the ceiling, it took all of Veth’s divine efforts to keep the young Paladin standing.
The two centipedes circles Stoyan, intent on their kill, continually lashing out with their mandibles and stingers. Their movements were rapid and their strikes quick, creating a dizzying sight. Stoyan, overwhelmed, collapsed in their wake, unable to continue.
As magick broke upon their husks, the centipedes took to the walls and swung around the enraged Veth, bee–lining for Cyrxx. He and Alaiya continued to craft their magick spells, hurling them with near reckless abandon, hoping to stymie the advance. In the assault, one of the centipedes fell, its body twitching briefly as it slid down the wall. However, the second one continued to advance, soon in line with the Gnome. Cyrxx screamed again, in the most unmanliness of fashions, as he crafted spectral heads and sent them at the creature, hoping for a distraction. It came in the form of a large mace landing squarely on the head of the centipede, pulverizing it into the tunnel’s wall. Green liquid oozed out of the body, sticking to the mace as Veth pulled it away.
“You alright there, little buddy?”
Cyrxx smiled as he patted himself down in a calming fashion. “What took you so long? I thought you knew the secret code for help.” Cyrxx’s eyes went to Stoyan, who was laying on the ground, his chest rising and falling in spurts. “He going to be okay?”
Veth nodded. “He’ll be fine. But we should go. I can feel the aura of that place now. Stronger than before – more intimidating, more present.”
Alaiya looked concerned. “Is it an evil god?”
Veth shook his head. “I’m sorry, but I don’t know. I know that I have never felt this before, so I can only say it is not Sehanine. Beyond that, your guess is as good as mine.” A groan from Stoyan reminded them of their current location. “It would be best if we moved on. Before more of those things come back.”
Helping Stoyan to his feet, they continued through the tunnel, eager to put the tunnel behind them.
The old riverbed’s tunnel ended after a sharp right, opening up into a vast area completely exposed to the central cavern. Once again, everyone could see the crystal structures that adorned the walls, though they were now aligned in a vertical fashion. They continued to eat up the light created by Cyrxx and Alaiya, bending it and twisting it into absurd patterns on the nearby walls. But the group did not notice, not with the structure finally before them. Veth had to steady himself beneath the sheer force of the divine power emanating from the structure. It had been slowly and steadily growing as they traveled, but now, in the presence of the structure, he felt it fully. Stoyan felt it, too, but he was not nearly as affected.
The stone building that stood before the companions was not that large, three stories tall and quite simple in design. A large granite base, square in shape, was the foundation upon which the rest of the structure lay. The second story was similar in shape and design, though smaller, and fit perfectly enough on top of the first layer that a cascading effect was produced. The third story was a dome structure, capping off the entire building with a rounding shape. It stood out in contrast to the rigid definition of the first two levels.
“Hey look what I found,” Cyrxx cried with joyful abandon. The others turned as they saw him kicking a skeleton, long bereft of its flesh. “I think he’s dead.” Cyrxx laughed at the obviousness of his statement.
“Oh, that’s disgusting,” bemoaned Alaiya.
“You’re a disgrace to the gods,” insisted Stoyan. This only caused Cyrxx to laugh harder.
The Gnome bent down and picked up the skull. Holding it in one hand, he placed little magick orbs of light into the eye sockets and then summoned a phantasmal hand to hold it in the air. “Ahhh! A floating head! Get away, get away, get away!” As Cyrxx ran in circles the skull followed, chattering after him. It did not take long before he could not breathe, between the running and the laughter. The others ignored him and turned back to the structure.
Before them, embedded in the lowest level of the building, was an iron door. As they approached, they noticed that, if the river had indeed run through here, it left no traces of rust on the metal structure. Upon the door’s surface where numerous inscriptions, though their meanings could not be determined. Off to the side, etched into the surface of the granitic rock, were more inscriptions. As Alaiya looked over these, she gasped.
“These…I recognize the lettering, but I don’t know the meaning. It’s Supernal. I studied it in Astyr before I–,” and she stopped herself, blushing. She turned quickly back to the inscriptions, pretending to figure them out. “Hold on. There’s a Dwarven word here. It says, ‘power’.” As the others came to see, they, too, noticed the Dwarven mark for ‘power’ beneath one of the characters. “It looks similar to the monument we saw before. Do you think it was the same person who made them?”
Cyrxx shrugged. “Only way to find out would be to go back. Might be wiser to search around here for a while.”
The others agreed and they continued around the structure, finding both a door and a tunnel on each side, exactly opposite one another. Like the first, every door had similar inscriptions, and near each door, along the outer wall of the building, they saw the same Supernal characters and the Dwarven word for ‘power’.
“Well, let’s go inside and see what this ‘power’ is all about.” Cyrxx made a move to the door, but Veth stopped him.
“Not so fast. It’s not that I have a bad feeling from this place, but…I don’t think we should just go and disturb a god’s home.”
“I agree with Veth,” Alaiya chimed in. “This place gives me the creeps.”
Cyrxx glared at both of them. “Then what do you want to do? Check the other tunnels? They were river beds, four of them, and there are four old, dried up riverbeds here. Makes sense to me. Why do we need to go back? You want to try the river?” Cyrxx smiled at the idea.
“We can always check the monument to see if we missed something. Or to even see if the writing is the same!” Alaiya seemed desperate to leave the area, though it stemmed more from a reluctance to enter the building.
“And I am curious to see if there are other symbols on the walls. That first one clearly meant centipedes. Maybe the others will give us a clue as to what we might find.”
“I bet that woman sent us here on purpose.” Stoyan had been unusually quiet to this point, but now had everyone’s attention. “I bet she wants whatever this relic is. I’ll bet she sends people here to get it and she’ll do anything to get it from us once we return.”
“You think so?” asked Veth.
“No doubt. Explains how we lived. Explains the skeleton. And the inscriptions. People have tried before.”
“Then there might be clues in the other tunnels.” Veth was growing hopeful with this new line of thinking. “If we go back, we might discover another way out.”
“Cyrxx,” ordered Stoyan, “Go back and mark the entrance we came through. We’ll explore down here a bit more. This way we can see if they all lead to the same place.”
Cyrxx sighed. “Sure, sure. Let’s see how fast my legs can go. See you in an hour, boss,” and Cyrxx was off.
The group arrived back at the monument much faster than it had taken them to get through the tunnel the first time. Once through, each set to their own tasks – Cyrxx and Alaiya copying the monument inscriptions and Veth and Stoyan finding other markings by the tunnels. After thirty minutes, they regrouped.
“It seems that each riverbed had been marked with a symbol. The first one indicated centipedes. Here are the others. We have our ideas as to what they mean, but I want to hear what you think.” Stoyan laid out a small parchment of paper with crude etchings on it.
/ / / /
“Well, if they’re all animals, I’d say that last one might be a snake.” Stoyan nodded in agreement with Alaiya’s assessment. “And this first one might be a spider…But I don’t know what would have ten legs.”
“Nearly the same, but I think the middle one is the spider. I have no idea what the first one is…maybe ants?” Stoyan rolled up his parchment and tucked it away. “You two find anything?”
“Nothing more, but we have the markings, so we can at least compare. Are you two ready?”
Stoyan nodded, a glimmer of excitement in his eyes. “Can’t wait to get started.”
As the group headed down the second tunnel, the one with the unknown symbol, it became increasingly clear that they were headed toward the structure again. Veth and, to a lesser extent, Stoyan, kept them appraised of their progress as there were no openings in the tunnels ceiling. After a while they noticed they were descending in this tunnel, whereas the other had remained essentially flat. Exhaustion soon set in and they decided to eat and rest. As they ate their meal however, they were interrupted by a giant ant. It came from the darkness, as silent as the night. Stoyan, in his haste and excitement, immediately attacked the ant, drawing its attention away from the others. Through the mixture of steel and magick, they made quick work of the creature. As they gathered their belongings, Stoyan once again heard a faint sound resonating up from the tunnel. This sound, however, was not like the scuttling of centipede legs from earlier. It was a harder, more resolute sound, whose origin seemed to be that of something breaking.
Wary and suddenly aware of what they would be facing, they quickly packed up their meals and trudged on. The sounds of something breaking grew louder the further they descended until they came upon two more ants. These were digging their mandibles into the solid stone and ripping out chunks of rock. The sounds they had been hearing was the fracturing of the stone as the ants wrested away chunk after chunk of rock. Without a second though, Stoyan charged forward to the edge of the light, and struck first. His blade passed easily into the thorax of the ant as the broke free of the stone and tried to take a bite out of the Paladin. Stoyan leapt back, denying the attack, and readied again. The ant however, just clacked its mandibles together, as if communicating with its neighbor, who clacked in response, neither seeing the shadows rise up behind them. As Cyrxx’s shadows skewered the ant engaged with Stoyan, Veth and Alaiya focused on its cohort. A quick blow with a mace and magick and both ants lay still upon the stone passage.
“Well, these aren’t nearly as tough as those centipedes,” Stoyan said, with a touch of arrogant confidence. I wonder what they were…Oh.” Imbedded in the wall, near where they two ants had been digging, was the upper torso of a man. His upper body was fully intact, aside from some torn flesh here and there, and his clothes hung in tatters off his broken body.
The others had started to turn away from the site when Cyrxx noticed the man’s left forearm. “Hmmm…This is the same as that man from before.” The Gnome lifted the arm up so the others could see it in the light. On the underside, welted and scarred, were the remnants of a tattoo that had been mutilated.
“I told you! That woman knows we’re here!” Stoyan’s chest puffed in his moment of correctness.
“This man, yes, he likely worked for her. But you jump to too many conclusions too fast, boy.” Veth’s words instantly deflated Stoyan’s mood. “Let us press on.”
They continued, finding more and more carcasses, though none as intact as that first body. They ran into more groupings of ants digging burrows into the rocks and slew them without a second thought. They were seldom tested as they moved, leading them to believe that the worst of their battles lay behind them. The descent continued and the tunnel suddenly started widening. The burrows increased in size and numbers and there was a noticeable lack of skeletons, which gave the group pause. Additionally, as though to add to the suddenly ominous feeling mounting, the echoing sound of shattering rock ceased.
“I don’t like this. And neither does Gregor.” Cyrxx turned to the floating skull with glowing eyes over his shoulder and both nodded in unison. “Yeah, he has a bad feeling about this.”
“Shut up and be ready. These lights of yours are all we can rely on down here. We need you focused.” Stoyan’s voice was strained with worry.
As they made their way down, slowly and more cautiously, they were ambushed from the walls. Ants spilled out into the tunnel, mandibles snapping in anticipation. They struck Veth first and he was soon pinned between three of them, unable to maneuver away from the ant’s attacks. Stoyan, though, seemed to welcome the challenge and joined the fray, wildly swinging his blade. Alaiya, in the meantime, crafted a bolt, shining with a plethora of colors, and hurled it toward the first ant. It struck, cemented itself in the head of the ant, and a swirling, chaotic light leapt from her to the bolt, following the trajectory of the spell. The ant writhed as the magick pierced its head before it suddenly jumped to the next ant. The spell continued on in this fashion until all the ants had been attached to the spell. Then, one final surge of chaotic magick shot out and struck all of the ants.
Half of the ants had fallen when a loud thud echoed through the tunnel and Cyrxx saw Veth collapse. He was immediately grabbed by a nearby ant which started retreating, pulling the Cleric toward a nearby burrow. Though he was unconscious, the sheer size of Veth proved to make the ant’s task difficult. Cyrxx, in a mad craze, ran after the ant, flinging spells with such ferocity that the entire cavern lit up. That is when he saw the nest and the massive queen within. “Oh no…”
Stoyan rushed to Veth’s aid as well, slashing open the body of the ant as it was pulling Veth into a burrow. “Quick, help him!”
Cyrxx bent down and started pounding on the large man’s chest. “C’mon, c’mon, c’mon! I’ve see you do this a hundred times and it works!” He continued to beat with his small fists. “I know it goes like this! C’mon. Get up!”
Veth moaned and stirred, slowly sitting up as Cyrxx cheered. “Ha ha! I did it! I can heal you! Who needs the gods when they got me?” Stoyan shot the Gnome a look, who quickly pointed to the floating skull over his right shoulder. “All Gregor.”
It was then that the clacking started from where Cyrxx had seen the queen ant. Quickly, rushing from the shadows, the colony of ants attacked. Stoyan raised his shield barely deflected the first onslaught of blows as Cyrxx drug Stoyan to the wall and propped him up. He then returned to Alaiya and offered some encouragement. “Give it all you got, because this might be it!”
As magick erupted within the ant colony, wave after wave of ants died. The carcasses build up, impeding the progress of those that followed. The fight waged on, the sheer numbers of the ants tiring and exhausting the companions. When the tide of the battle shifted and the ants lessened, the queen emerged. Surrounded in a cloud of green, noxious gas, the rushed the group in the small confined of the tunnel, and spew a stream of acid at everyone. All but Veth managed to dodge, the acid slowly eating away at his exposed flesh. Stoyan laid into the queen, slashing at her body, trying helplessly to cleave through her legs, but her exoskeleton barely chipped with each of his strikes. Cyrxx and Alaiya continued to hurl spells, but it soon became obvious that they were fatiguing as their spells dissipated in mid flight. Veth began calling on the might of Sehanine, entering a trance–like state, filling the area with a calming, rejuvenating energy. And the battle waged on.
When the queen started to slow, her actions becoming lethargic, hope started to rise in the group. They had found a niche in working together, and they had begun to understand how to cooperate effectively. Stoyan baited the queen while Cyrxx and Alaiya pelted her with spells. Veth focused most of his powers into Stoyan, maintaining the delicate balance. It worked brilliantly.
Until the ambush.
From the ground emerged another wave of ants. They had burrowed through the tunnel’s floor and sprung up surrounding Veth and Stoyan, rushing to the defense of their queen. Stoyan feel beneath the rush, unable to defend himself in his trance. The sight of his friend disappearing beneath the bodies of ants, knowing what would happen, made Cyrxx snap. He bellowed in rage as a purple haze enveloped him. Shadows lashed out from all directions, tearing into the ants. As the haze manifested itself into flying, nightmarish skulls, each shot forward, cackling not unlike Cyrxx, and slammed head–on into the throng of ants. The crunch of skull on skull burst through the nest as the reinforcements slumped, each dead. The queen, enraged at the site of her brood dying, lashed out with her hind legs, pummeling Stoyan in the chest before racing over with unnatural speed and slamming her legs into Cyrxx. The Gnome shot backwards into the wall of the cavern, and fell to the floor, unconscious.
The move took its toll on the queen, as the wounds of Stoyan’s blade tore open, exposing her insides. Alaiya, tapping deep within her mind, pulled on her latent powers, and shot a burst of magick into the vulnerable spot on the queen. The queen clacked, rose, and rushed for Alaiya, intent on ending her life as well. The wound had been too much however, and the queen ant fell, convulsing, mere feet away from the petrified Alaiya.
The group was forced to backtrack as the nest was a dead-end. They traveled quickly, unsure if more ants would ambush them out of the numerous burrows in the walls. There was silence that followed them as they ascended the tunnel.
“If this riverbed didn’t lead to the building, where do the others lead?” Alaiya was confused because she was positive that all four riverbeds lead to the central structure. “And does that mean that one of those four tunnels don’t lead back here?” Her heart skipped at the possibility. “Maybe there is a way out then, and we don’t have to go inside that thing!”
“Sorry to tell you, Allie, but, we might have gotten there if we had actually followed the riverbed.” The others looked at Cyrxx as he motioned to the left through a fallen pile of rocks. “If we paid attention to the actual riverbed, we could have saved ourselves a lot of trouble. Right, Gregor?”
As they turned down the path, on their way back to the central structure, Cyrxx continued his very detailed conversation about rock with his floating skull.