"Dammit, more pottery." Kant threw another shard aside. "Let's try over there, that looks promising."
"What about under that statue?"
As they passed by, Melantha shook her head at this lack of a systematic approach. "Anyone could have come through here and picked the place clean fifty years ago." Anything left was going to be well-hidden.
"Or a hundred years ago, from the way it looks," Nadya agreed.
"Well, it was sacked," Roman told them. "They were driven from it. Presumably they pillaged as well."
They headed for the big boulder to see if there were any clues there as to where the treasure might be hidden. While Roman studied the falls, Melantha climbed to the top of the high rock and looked around; nothing interesting. She slid back down.
Closer than he probably should have been to the water, Roman noticed that there were hundreds of holes in the rock around and behind the falls. After some observation, he guessed that the water flowing through and around these holes was what made the singing sound, varying with the speed and pressure of the current. He had no idea who could have built such a thing; too simple, impractical, and above all nonmechanical for dwarves or gnomes, and it wasn't magical.... He filed it away for more thought later and went back to where Melantha was waiting.
A squirrel alarmed by his passage hopped into the undergrowth near the boulder. Watching it, he noticed a rock in what seemed to be an unnatural position. He walked over and brushed off the dirt, pushed a vine out of the way, and revealed a stone door set into the hill next to the boulder. A thicket had grown over it, hiding it completely.
"I promise not to say he's dim ever again," Melantha swore to Nadya, as the three of them set to clearing the door. They hauled on it until it opened up, revealing a tunnel that curled away into the darkness.
"Should we get Kant?" Melantha asked. "And Vineleaper?"
"I'm not sure that Vineleaper would be able to come with us." Nadya looked at the size of the passage. Stale air flowed out.
"I guess he won't fit."
"But if we're willing to trust him that far, we might be able to leave him at the door as a guard." It would be difficult to keep the door a secret, in any case. "So, let's go get the guys?"
They returned to the village, collected some torches and their comrades.
"What are you doing?" a villager asked as they lit the torches at the common fire.
"We found something," Roman explained. "A door."
"A door? Where?"
"By the large boulder near the waterfall."
"In a house? What was the door attached to?"
They murmured among themselves. A small cluster of villagers followed the adventurers as they returned to the door.
They peered inside; the air smelled of stone. It looked safe. Nadya went first, sword drawn, then Melantha and Kant, and Roman bringing up the rear.
As it turned out, the corridor wasn't long at all. It curved sharply around to the left and ended up inside the boulder, which was hollow. They had found the temple. Three large symbols dominated the wall above the altar: the sword and the anvil of Halav, a shield instead of a potter's wheel for Petra, and Zirchev's owl. Benches had been carved out of the rock, with enough room for perhaps thirty worshippers at a time. Gold and copper inlay gleamed in the stone, although not enough of the former to make getting it out worth the effort, and the latter had turned green over time. Firepits flanked the altar, which had a blood groove for offerings. Inscriptions covered the walls, in no script any of them had ever seen.
"Wow, look at this place!" Kant waved his torch, looking around.
"This is their lost temple," Roman stated.
"I can see how they managed to lose it," Melantha admitted.
"Look at these inscriptions, I've never seen any like them."
"Neither have I." Roman went over to study them more closely. They vaguely resembled normal letters. Didn't appear to be a magical script, they weren't runes, although a couple of them seemed to resemble those. "The villagers will be pleased, if nothing else."
Their smoke rose up and vanished somewhere, so there were obviously vents up there. Nadya went up to look at the altar. Melantha looked around, noted the lack of treasure, and sighed. Unlike Roman, she wasn't particularly interested in the place for its own sake.
"This place is weird."
"I wouldn't worship here," he admitted. They went out and told the villagers what they had found; a bunch of them ran inside to see for themselves, then came back out and embraced the visitors joyously.
| Top |
Copyright © 2000 David Twiddy et al