Down there, under 20 feet of earth and a foot of pale stone, on a raised circular dais under 30 more feet of air, with the broken links of the massive chain lying among them, they surveyed a chamber built in the time of Legends, when the gods of Light fought for the world.
The Hound sniffed round and round along the ancient writing ringing the dais, following the fading hint of the Grey Walker. The sunlight did not serve so much to illuminate the dark or the pale walls, as much as offend them. All three lanterns they brought were lit and burning softly.
One of the 2 long walls of the chamber held bas-relief carvings of the gods of light: the sun god, the dismembered god, the mother of gods, the wise god, the god of pure light, others unrecognizable. The opposite wall had once held similar reliefs, presumably, but they had been chiseled and cut away in the stone, piles of dust at the base of the floor.
On one short wall was a massing trapezoidal door, blocked by a massive stone carved with an image of the dismembered god in his warning posture: holding his screaming head in one hand, and the symbol of Life in the other. On the oposite wall was the same trapezoidal doorway, but the door stone had been blown to bits and piled up in the dark hallway beyond.
The Witch Hunter stepped down from the dais. his footsteps sparked blue fire from the stones of the floor. It took life and ran across the floor in all directions. It climbed the grooves in the carved gods on the wall. It faltered at the base of the chipped-apart wall. The blue fire grew frantic, as though it had a purpose it could not fulfill. The fire went out.
They peered around at the watching gods, wondered what the other wall once held and who so thoroughly destroyed its story. They argued about what on earth they were doing in a place that so clearly did not want them in it. The Hound caught the smell of old blood in the air. Through the open doorway and down the hall they went.
The flooring tiles came in different, interlocking sizes. The walls of the hallway were bare, except for the header stele of writing from the Age of Legends. The hall seemed to go on and on as Captain Varcrest studied the floor. Illyria floated along, a white shadow. The Witch Hunter stumped forward, as the Hound snuffled ahead in the darkness.
The Hound found an intersection, the smell of blood coming from the right. Illyria laid a gloved hand on Gavin’s arm. There was some power ahead in the intersection. As they raised their lanterns, a light took shape somewhere down the hall. Or on the other side of Palladium for all they knew. Maybe the hall went on forever?
The light grew and came forward. Running along the lines of the hall, or through the world. But there was a problem. A shadow in the light. A flaw. The light grew. The flaw grew with it. The shadow was a man. Or an angel. All dark. Touching the walls, scraping along them with its fingertips. Something was running toward them out of the shadow. Something was almost upon them.
Captain Varcrest screamed, suddenly looking up from the floor, “THIS HAS NOTHIN TO DO WITH US!”
The shadow broke over them. The light fell to pieces. Two of the lanterns went out. The Hound whined, softly, and got close to the Witch Hunter.
Captain Varcrest admitted to having the Gift, just as the Monk, Claret did. There was some madness here. The floor itself seemed awake and aware of them.
They did what was natural for a Witch Hunter. They went toward the blood.
Some small way down the side hall, they found Akba’s Garden. Five skeletons arranged artistically in a room whose floor was covered with chalk diagrams, its walls writtten with the bloody word AKBA, old elvish for power. The skeletons were covered in green fuzz of fungus. Below the skeletons, fat white mushrooms grew.
There was a ladder that led up to a pale square of sunlight.
They took it.
They found Karris’ pottery shop. The pottery still remained. They searched briefly, but uncovered nothing obvious.
Then the roaring below began.
Something was stomping up the hallway. Down below, Illyria and the Hound saw something approaching, something massive in the dark. Then fire blossomed in the dark, rushing toward them.
“Get out!” the Captain cried, gesturing down into the dark.
Illyria sprang up the ladder. The Hound scrambled back in the dark.
The fire hit an invisible barrier in the doorway and blossomed, white-hot.
Then the fire was filling the room below.
They slammed the trap door, which vanished from site. They dragged the kiln atop the trap door.
There was a roar.
There was silence.
Sunlight in the pottery shop, dim as it was through the soaped-up windows, had never felt so good.