|| Asymmetry | Role-Playing | Earthdawn-ish | Chapter 2 ||
Eventually they felt ready to go on; Terzin listened at the door and heard nothing, so they filed back out into the corridor. Jared took point; Robin assumed rear guard. She noted that while the upper levels had been clean stone, the corridors here were full of the tracks of muddy, clawed feet.
For a while the ceiling dropped down a bit; it seemed to be passing underneath the ramp they had gone down earlier. Then it turned right. The roar of the river echoed everywhere as they passed under it, and the walls were damp here, too. Robin walked backwards, keeping an eye out behind them.
Another right. From there it extended to the alcove on the other side of the waterfall. The only way out of the loop was they way they had come, through the water. Either there was a secret tunnel somewhere, or the lizards had been there solely to guard the bridge.
They returned to the alcove near the barracks room and checked for secret doors, found nothing. They moved the altar, but found only dust behind it. Resigned, they returned to the waterfall and jumped across again. Jared barely made it; the others were starting to worry about him.
They kept going down. Past the bridge the corridor continued straight for a while, then turned right. Another corridor branched off to the left. Both had tracks on the floor. They kept going straight. It turned right again. After a bit farther it ended in a heavy oak door, with ordinary bronze bindings and an ordinary doorknob.
Terzin checked around the door. Tracks led up to it, older than the other ones. The lizards didn't come this way very often, apparently. He yanked it open and jumped back. A dark room waited on the other side. He shone the lantern around.
It looked like an anteroom. Directly across from them as they cautiously entered the room, stood a set of elaborately carved double doors. There was nothing else there. The tracks outside did not enter the room. That seemed somewhat ominous. The doors looked strong and heavy. Terzin tied his rope to one of the handles and hauled.
It swung open, revealing a large, dark room. The door was counterweighted, and kept trying to swing shut; Terzin tied the other end of his rope to the doorknob of the anteroom. Jared and Robin went in first, Terzin behind them with the lantern. The light didn't reach the far wall, but it seemed to be generally hexagonal in shape, and they presumed that the far end had another set of doors. In the center stood a foot-high dais holding a sarcophagus. Around it stood four statues, much like the gargoyles they had encountered on the upper level. The clawed, distorted figures looked in at the stone coffin. Four more perched near the ceiling, in the corners of the hexagon.
"I'm thinking maybe we should go back," Robin whispered. Jared seemed in agreement.
Harrick sensed bound elemental spirits in the area. Terzin peered at the sarcophagus to see if it was encrusted with jewels; metal glinted, but it looked corroded and verdigrised. The carvings had the same unpleasantly squamous look as the statues upstairs did. Nothing moved, however.
As they turned back, considering their options, Harrick noticed the interior of the doors. The carving on the outside had looked decorative; this was magical work. Runes and what looked like circles of binding, all laid into the wood with some hard metal. Binding spells, preventing whatever was in that room from leaving.
They decided as a group that it would be a good idea to leave.
"Who the hell put this here?" the orc wondered. "He wouldn't build a room to keep himself in."
"Think about it later," was Robin's advice. "Maybe it was one of his enemies."
"Or a failed experiment."
"We should leave," Jared agreed.
They left the room and untied the door; it swung shut heavily.
"Why don't we check out that corridor that we skipped," Terzin suggested.
They went back and followed the branch. Again, things were wet. After a bit they came to another plain-looking door. The tracks were much fresher.
Behind the door lay another bridge, about forty feet long, crossing a sizeable chasm. At the far end was another door, slightly ajar. Beneath it lay the river; above was another bridge, some unexplored area of the upper levels, and possibly a way out that would avoid the green slime.
They worked their way across the bridge. Beyond the partially open door were stairs leading down. They descended several short flights and found a pair of double doors, also slightly ajar. They could hear loud water; they were probably close to the level of the river.
Harrick and Terzin each pushed at a door while the other two stood ready. The lantern-light revealed a sort of dock area, the stone extending right out over the river. Stomping up and down on the dock was a nine-foot-tall reptilian... creature, with a sloping forehead and a single large horn growing up from the middle of its face. It turned and saw them, howled, and charged the stunned explorers, homing in on Terzin with that horn while it clawed at Jared and Robin.
Jared absorbed another vicious blow to the head, staggering backward out of its reach, but Robin was only bruised, and Terzin's swirling cloak partially baffled its horn as it rushed at him. Harrick promptly disappeared, much to his companions' momentary outrage.
This was no time for faint-heartedness. Not sure how badly hurt Jared was, Robin raised her spear and charged the thing, driving the point deep into its chest and inflicting a gaping wound. Its scream echoed above the noise of the river for a long moment. Terzin slashed at it with his knife, but the blade bounced off its thick scales.
Please, by all the summer gods, tell me that wound isn't healing! Robin thought, realizing that they had to kill this thing, quickly. A deadly barrage of thorns flew from Harrick's invisible hands, peppering its side and back with a hundred small holes and releasing another scream from the creature. Seeking its assailant, it saw only Robin. Her spear point glanced off its armor; Jared thrust at its back, but his spear slipped down along its scales to no effect other than to shatter his spear shaft. Terzin threw his knife, aiming for one of the wounds already opened (and slowly closing) on the creature; the steel blade sank into one of the holes Harrick's thorns had left, embedded nearly to the hilt. He unlimbered his bow.
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Copyright © 2000 Brian Rogers et al