Mara

Dungeon Crawl

A side story

The tunnel Cevero fell down was a long drop, and the echo of his voice was forever. The tuft of hair atop his head and beard were whipped up, along with his bags and robes as he tossed about in the wind. Eventually the fall began to curve, and he was delivered by a slide into a room – darkness reigned, but the noise of the crash was deafening, like brittle stones being smashed to pieces. Stumbling about at first to gain his balance Cevero was able to use the wall for support, his eyes being useless. Gaining his breathe back he drew Bray, his Luckblade, to cast a spell on it.

“Illumine,” his voice spoke and the blade lit from handle to tip.

Looking up to the ceiling he quickly whispered, “Opiter guide me.”

The light shed a compact room as he pointed around, but as for its exits none could be seen. The floor was littered with bones of all different sizes. He shuffled through the heaping piles of dried osseous matter to look around. Suddenly his heel rung against something metallic and hollow.

CLUNG CLUNG

Stamping on it, he made certain it was no hatch. As he bent down to pick off the covered object he soon revealed a lifeless brass man. The automaton lay there face up, with it’s hinged mouth open. His body was barrel like, and his legs looked to be no thicker than broom shafts. His head was tipped with a spout, and his forearms, and lower legs were gigantic. The eyes were off putting; A bright white fractal extended over the left socket, but the right was missing.

Investigating the remains on the floor he noticed a rock enclave in the center of the room where the drop ended, years before it was covered with dead things. Noticing the reflection of glass within the bone lake a few feet down he managed to recover the eye with relative ease, although it was slightly shattered. The brass man must have come down head first and struck it’s face against the rock. Gathering the eye, he waddled back to the brass man and replaced the sight-binders on the head piece, giving it power.

With a sudden high pitched twitch, the brass man came to life. It’s eyes turned bright as lamps and its mouth began to cough sputtering noises. Pushing off the ground with its massive fore-arms the brass man came to a stand, and at a full eight feet it towered over the old man. The top of his head was sputtering a bright red cloud of smoke with burning embers sparking out of it. The only lights in the room shone off the lamp-like eyes, and the shimmer of Bray’s blade.

Cevero stood away from the automaton, sword pointed at it, “Do you intend me harm machine?”

It groaned with the vibrations of non-use, “Master,” as dust shot from its mouth. The smoke out of its head cooled to an orange, then yellow, faded to green with blue sparks flashing, then to a mellow deep purple smoke. The lamp-eyes fixated on Cevero causing him to raise in arm in defense to blindness.

Cevero stood his ground and demanded an answer, “What is your function robot!”

“Master,” it bequeathed in a cleaner tone now. It placed a hand over its chest. Then the robot rested its arm at it’s side.

Lowering the blade the old man cautiously approached the brass man. The large automaton outstretched a hand towards Cevero with it’s smoke shifting to bright yellow with magenta sparks. Reaching his own hand out Cevero shook the massive forearm of a hand, over-cautiously slow. The robot’s arm had a groan to it as if the grooves of it’s shoulder weren’t adjusting well.

Then it spoke with a deep metallic voice, “I am Galdrafiil. Tinkered by the Gnomist Baatch-ah-bee. Who are you?”

“Cevero Martamian. A simple adventurer who has lost his way, but it seems not alone.”

The voice of the machine was impressively intimidating and Cevero leaned back even as Galdrafiil spoke casually, “Although you may think me purely machine, my master built me with spirit. So long as I am active can I negotiate terms freely with this material plane, but should I appear to be off, then I could not make actions. Thank you Cevero for my eye, my sight. Because of my lengthy stay here and our fateful encounter I will assist you in leaving this place. Please accept my help and gratitude.”

“Y-yes of course Galdrafiil. I would be honored and I would feel much safer to be in your company than alone. My other comrades must have evaded their traps and moved on to lengthier parts of the main monastery. Drats! What finds! Well. We best get a move on and see about exiting. Who knows what lingers down here in the dark.”

Cevero pointed Bray like a flashlight and used Galdrafiil’s lantern eyes to see throughout the room. Along a wall he found a dim conscription engraved. He wiped away the excess dust to reveal an ancient inscription. All the while Galdrafiil watched over his shoulder. Soon he was attempting to decipher the runic encryption, it appeared to be tribal of some sort. He could see certain ciphers that extended to many different cultures, the host of them appeared Gabdonian.

Remembering his studies in ancient folklore he deduced that the structure they were in was merely a pre-entrance for an interrogation chamber, or so the wall told. It also read in the inscription that the walls were aptly movable with the correct spoken word and gesture of the hand. Cevero stood back and made a flourishing motion with his own hand and spoke, “Gracktahb.” The wall shuddered with ancient dust as dirt fell away at where the walls met the ceiling. It began to slide open and revealed a passage way.

Galdrafiil’s vision illuminated a hallway of death in front of them. Cruel left-over appliances of an idea long lost to dust were strewn about. Spikes in variated formats, chains with hooks on the ends, assorted cruel barbed instruments, knives, crystal and rock blades; Hammers with spikes, blunt hammers, and pins from needles to dirks. The room had four gnarly Gnoll statues in each of its corners all up at full height, heads extended in a howl. A full Gabo skeleton hung in the center of the room by it’s ankles.

Passing through that gave Cevero the chills. Galdrafiil’s joints, somewhat rusted, made loud grinding and popping noises as they manuevered through the dark corridor beyond. The room seemed to branch off of a main tunnel somewhere ahead. Cevero scratched his chin at the juncture.

“Well. When in Mara, heheh. What do you think Galdrafiil? Left or right?” Cevero gestured by pointing Bray.

“Cevero. Direction is not my concern. I feel my joints giving way, soon I will be nothing more than a pile of useless garbage. You may have to go on without me as I am soon to fall to pieces.”

“Never fear Galdrafiil. I am a slight magician of sorts myself,” and with that Cevero aimed Bray at the robot to say, “I repair you.”

Some of the joints popped back into place on the machine. A large dent in Galdrafiil’s head popped out. Meanwhile, his right hand regrew with chunky transforming noises. The smoke at his head turned a surprised orange color with pleasant warm embers flowing out.

Cevero’s grin did not show his teeth, it was a closed lip smile. After a few head nods he looked back at the road split, “Fortuna, I’m willing to bet you got me something nice and cozy off this way. Then, left it is.”

The pair descended into the pitch black echoing chasm. Distant whispers of the far off told of barely audible things. The vibrations did not stay long on the air, and came through as eerie spooky noises. The confined moving spaces made for a very claustrophobic time.

Walking through the winding passages they came finally to a place that, oddly enough, lit itself to the strangers at their approach. A huge room became illuminated as four large braziers, and a pair of huge pyres erupted into blue and green flames to reveal an amazing staircase glimmering with inlaid glass beads and shards. At the top of the stair case stood an impressive Gnoll statue guarding a door. Its body was in a charging position, with an enormous club extended over it’s head.

The two examined the find for a brief moment and then ascended the staircase. The statue shifted as they approached it. After changing into an upright posture it appeared to freeze again. It was as if it were now regarding them.

Suddenly an old earthy rasp of Gabdonian was heard, “Greeerrhhhmasshhh. Ich-chi borrrrr. Maaaka litooo morrrrrr?”

“Hmm,” Cevero said as soon as the noise ceased, “He asks why we are here, but I think its a riddle. Im not sure of the preposition in the language, but I do believe this is some sort of clever magic.”

Galdrafiil remained silent as he gazed about the room. Cevero turned around to take a seat on the staircase. “Hmmph,” he groaned out as he sat down. The fires of the room were brilliant and helped for clarity. He thought about his language for a moment. The question seemed to be of an older Gabdonian dialect, so he didn’t want to speak the wrong words for fear of retro-reaction from the magic. He had to be precise, and intelligent.

He made his decision. Standing and whirling about, his hair was like a wing of wispy smoke. Pointing Bray at the Gabdonian statue, “I beseech you old magic. Ancient magic. Ancient gods. Mortack! Purr-mortack!”

The statue flashed for a moment. Then it was not stone, but real, and representational to what it was when it was stone. Fierce, evil and deranged. The feral monster raised the club over its head and howled a deep full-moon howl.

“AaaauuuOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!”

The patchwork colored Gabo reared back to hack out a large ball of saliva and bile. It’s head shivered as it adjusted to it’s senses. Though it’s eyes were in tears they were an eerie candescent shimmering red – an old evil. It leaped into the air at them after coming to it’s senses.

Mad with disbelief Cevero began to wave Bray over his head as he retreated away from the hideous thing screaming, “I’ve awoken the demon!”

And suddenly Galdrafiil was there with steam erupting from portholes throughout his body; the top of his head was spouting little red sparks throughout the green and gold plumage of smoke. The Gabo and the robot clashed with tremendous force. As the two wrestled for ground Cevero climbed the steps to the peak.

The door remained closed at the top, and without a way to open. Though, Cevero ran the length of the door with his fingers, but no knob, handle or crease existed to tug on. He stood back running his hand through his hair – frustrated.

Meanwhile, behind him the brawlers were destroying each other. The robot had ripped off the Gabo’s right arm, but the old Gnomist invention had a large tear through it’s chest, revealing a cluster of sparking organs within. The two hacked and slashed at each other and narrowly avoided crushing blows from each.

“Gods please! I don’t want to die here in this stinking hole!” And suddenly Cevero’s wish was granted.

His vision seemed to dim. He could hear the fighting still, but it sounded dampened, as if someone had poured thick sea-foam down his ears. The lights of the room too seemed darker compared to another light that was shimmering above him suddenly. It was a woman, a proportionately bigger woman, like a giant almost. She was descending through the ceiling.

“Amazing,” Cevero whispered as he stared up.

She seemed to minimize further into his size and came to a graceful landing in front of him. A small and wonderfully whispy strip of cloth hung about her body, barely keeping her privates a secret. Her hair hung about her shoulders in magnificent burnished red and brown ringlets. She shimmered with a golden aura, but it seemed as if only Cevero could see this. Her face was so distracting that he could not look away.

Without saying a word she reached out to present open hands; in a flash and a few sparks a helm appeared where nothing had been. It was magnificent. With conch-like spirals around the ears and very craftily enhanced curves all about the crown and forehead, the back whipped up a small notch. She nodded, very slowly, in approval as she looked him in the eyes.

He could hear an angelic voice in his head, but the speed of her lips seemed so slow with, “Fortuna’s Love.”

As soon as he’d reached his own hands to touch and take the perimeter of the helm, like a candle-light blown, she had completely disappeared. The darkness returned, metal against sinuous flesh smashing each other resumed, and Cevero looked the helm straight on. He spun it over and slapped it on his head, and suddenly all was plain as day.

“Oh my,” Cevero was stunned for a moment as the high of the helm kicked in.

He knew so much suddenly, it was impossible to understand. He looked at the Gabo, with a huge smile on his face and a tear jerking his eye, in Gabdonian he commanded, “Stop, we have come for the ransom!”

The fight immediately came to a standstill. The Gabo flashed into a bright white arc of light and disappeared. At the peak of the stairs the statue had returned, completely whole, and the door at the rear was opened. Cevero stood there befuddled with the ability to read. As he stood there in complete awe, he almost reached the brink of madness.

With the helm on he could understand the exact dialect of the Gabdonian runes. The story told of this temple being thousands of years old. It was a place of great burials, where slaves and all manner of beasts were brought together and sacrificed, with their patriarchs. The history recorded several states and nations of Gabo that reconnecting and reclaimed the area and over time over-ransacked the tomb, re-used it, and had it ran-sacked again by the next nation. All the while exhuming the previous tombs as well to replace with their own. Lots of times the pyramid was ransacked to the point of complete ruin, but having such a leyline connection to the cultures conquering it the next tribe ruler would have it rebuilt. According to the current owners of the region, which were inscribers well over 700 years ago by one – “Grabbyki Dodymahr-Mierto’CraCra Inshi Drahkonbhand,” Cevero attempted to pronounce with a furled brow as he stared at the walls – was responsible for a Three Generation Blood Reign, by a triad of brothers. Where by Gabdonian mythology anything by the third is of extremely lucky coincidence, and should be treated as something supernatural. This rulership, although ancient was something that gripped this land in it’s day, by the throat. The pyramid was built stacked on several layers, and still stands today in veritable display of those three Patriarchs who eventually ordered themselves, at an old age of 99, to be through with their long conquer, and all three decided to have a group casting. An all at once sacrifice to honor their Gods for their glorious creations, themselves. They all entered the void of Death together, to conquer that next vista of existence as one psyche.

All the while Galdrafiil was patching himself by stuffing clotted dirt into his body. Cevero had scanned up to a good point near the door where he slowly began to read the entrance signs, “The Burial of the, uhh…oh, Great Moopah?” Cevero turned around and looked at Galdrafiil who had finished up and was approaching the old man now, clinks and pops sounding off.

“The Great Moopah,” he said over his shoulder as he pointed down the archway, “That sounds interesting. Probably some lower echelon individual, but respectable enough in his time to be sacrificed for one last king, or triplet of kings I guess in this case. I mean he has his own name to his own entrance inside this magnificent burial. Wonder what’s insiiide eh? He-he. Couldn’t hurt to have a look. Come on old one,” and Cevero gave the machine a pat on the shoulder as he entered the tomb.

Though the inside was relatively vacant there was a great display deep down the dungeon after a lengthy walk. Dripping noises could be heard and the scurrying of small pestilent things. The tomb was across a small bridge-way over a shallow moat of glowing green sludge. Cevero sheathed Bray – the light from the goo was more than enough to see. Galdrafiil shambled up behind and stared at the massive architecture.

At the tip of the small nipple of a raised platform in the center rested a sarcophagus, propped up like it was on display. The upper back half of it had shelves mounted on it, so you could only approach it at the front. The shelves were adorned with scroll casings, and dusted potions. The sarcophagus looked to be carved into the shape of a wise and fair looking Gnoll. Its eyes were hollowed, and his canines on the bottom jaw were disproportionately larger than the top.

Motioning Galdrafiil over he attempted the lid of the massive casket alone at first. It was too much, and Cevero’s back ached almost immediately. His body grew sweaty. In the brief moment of over-exertion he became dizzy.

“Damn, wasted my youth chasing dragons and fighting cave-man wars. Galdrafiil. Have a crack at it would you?” Cevero stood back to rub his lower back with a sigh.

The robot leaned over and put his massive forearms around the edges of the tomb. Steam erupted out from the chest down the shoulder, elbow, and wrist joints. The fizzling smoke at the top of his head flashed orange, then purple, then blinked several sparkles of neon green, and blue inside a yellow cloud. He removed the lid, and inside lay a long dead, carefully wrapped and wonderfully preserved mummy.

The mummies arms were crossed over it’s body. The right hand grasped a brilliant silver staff, and the other hand clutched a golden lyre. A row of preservation jars lined the inside of the sarcophagus. Their colors were still polished and were of gold, silver, platinum, ivory, horn, bone, hoof, and even the lumpy skull of a man carved to runic perfection. An array of jewels and colorful rocks, some cloudy others transparent, bedazzled the inside of the casket.

It was a Gabdonian though. No mistaking the snout face, and the oddly shaped legs. The ears were elongated for ritual precision to give him a more intimidating silhouette, like a cruel array of antlers. Cevero quickly swept the scrolls and potions into his deep pockets. He managed to find enough room for all of the jewels and artifacts inside the sarcophagus as well. But when at last he moved a very peculiar stone from between the eye balls of the mummy, like a trigger, he came to life!

“Braaaghhhhhhhhhhh,” a never ending wheeze blew out dust in a whirlwind from Moopah’s gaping mouth and the room turned into a cloudy maze. Gusts were all about, and sight was completely blinded by such a dense amount of dust being thrown around.

Cevero leaped back from the edge of the bin, but was still fogged out from the dust and wind. The cloud came on so quickly, although seemed to cease expanding, the air currents seemed thoroughly non-stop. In his palm rested a perfectly cut square orange gem which began to vibrate. Slowly the jewel levitated out of his hand, and whirled around his head – swirling away dust from his eyes.

Galdrafiil’s lamp-vision reflected off the many particles and seemed to sort of blind the current area with un-doused light. Small spiral shutters at the base of his scull, where the eye sockets meet retracted to dim the brightness. The robot gazed over to the open casket illuminating the scene.

There now could be seen, cast through the pale dust, blue florescent eyes staring from the head – a pair of sky blue shafts beamed across the room from the sockets, unwavering. As the dust cloud whirled about in a magical wispy way where it never seemed to settle, the Great Moopah pulled himself out. Cevero began to hear mutterings through the helm of a deep Gabdonian inflection, they were enchantments. He was a classic composer as well, so it seemed they would do battle.

Moopah let out, “Ooooooooorrrrrmmm dohllllllll mat-chaktha!”

Cevero’s helmet allowed him access to thoughts not previously known. The words made more sense to him than his native tongue, he could feel a reaction to them and knew that he must stand his ground. The voice of the mummy boomed through the air as an unseen force propelled an invisible fist at Cevero. He turned the spell with a simple, “Brand-oh!”

The dust between Moopah and himself had parted like curtains being pulled back, but the hollow sound of wind was all about. With the sight clear, Cevero noticed the mummy’s staff lit at the top end. It turned off when the mummy was silent. Turning to scream at Galdrafiil through the dust blind he stated, “Galdrafiil! The staff! Get the staff!”

As the mummy continued to chant at Cevero, the old man thrusted his sword about in the air blocking permutations brought on by mere words. Galdrafiil’s tell-tale plumage came through the smoke and then the brass man was there, a fiery orange-yellow smoke with black diamond winks erupting from his head. The dust wind had polished him to a slight degree removing some of the old cobwebs. Cleaned and feeling bold the robot marched up to the Great Moopah and snatched the pole-arm right out of his hands.

Taking a step back and looking up, the mummy locked eyes with the automaton. The robot held the staff with both hands in front of him in defense. Moopah leaned his head back as the ancient wrappings at his arm pits tore while his empty hand plucked the golden lyre. Suddenly, Galdrafiil fell to pieces as springs and sprockets popped out of place. The last puff of gray colored smoke stemmed from his head and then the deadly music came to an end.

Astonished Cevero screamed in rage and attempted to assault the mummy. Reaching into his pockets he withdrew a globular potion and hurled it with all his might. The container crashed against the mummy and cast him into bright pink and magenta flames. Screeching the last of his material existence away the mummy flailed about. Cevero threw in a slice from Bray and claimed the lyre hand. The mummy, trying to lie back down in it’s tomb afterward burned into a dust and was gone.

“May Partus accept you into the realm in which you belong,” and then Cevero gave an honest spat at Moopah’s ashes, “Bah Galdrafiil. What is this instrument that destroyed you?”

Cevero claimed the lyre and the staff of the mummy. He also took the broken eye of Galdrafiil for later to see if anything else had since been conjured in a Gnomish province. Leaving the tomb returned him to the outside corridors. Wandering about the catacombs he began to find directions placed in old runic carvings along the walls. It was not long before he was able to return himself to a higher ground in the pyramid’s many levels.

He found Ultor and Lanx and Vannick in worse condition than he, but alive, and they continued out. Their lives hung in dim balance with one another. They left that pyramid, never to return.

/END

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