Beorn cups his hand under a fountain spout and splashes his face with water mystically pumped and filtered from the nearby river. Rolling his broad shoulders, he waves Theros over.
The horse-sized goat snorts and stands, scattering a gaggle of human children who had been brushing his coat. With a clatter of hooves on cobbled stone, he joins Beorn and dips his muzzle into the evening-cooled water.
Beorn reaches under the goat’s horns to scratch his thick neck. “These Badgertown kids are enamored with you. Do mind if I tell them your story?”
Theros slurps and lifts his head. His golden eyes sparkle with a soft glow, and a deep sound rumbles up from his belly that makes Beorn’s hair stand on end.
“Okay, so you’re grumpy,” says Beorn. “You’re always grumpy, but I don’t have magic active to interpret your exact meaning. Stomp once for yes. Twice for no.” He holds up a finger. “But consider how disappointed your little groomers will be if they don’t get a proper bedtime story.”
A three-legged dog hobbles across the street, chased by a pumpkin-orange rooster with something metallic strapped to his beak. Telisa turns into the alley they ran out of, bumping into a human boy half her height.
“Oh, shit logs!” He falls on his butt and scrambles back like a crab. “Your eyes are lights.”
Telisa sighs and crouches. “I heard there were rebelling zombies in these slums. Help me find one, and I’ll give you a… treat.”
“You a demigoddess? What you a lady of?”
She holds out her hand, curling fingers thin and long to help him up. “I host nothing divine. My eyes shine because my race stores sunlight. Have you never met an olympian before?”
A lighthouse in the middle of a misty city street, Telisa stands a head taller than the traffic that parts around her. Eyes glowing like lanterns and a black cloak snug about her shoulders, she is a mystery the locals whisper about but do not molest.
Dawn has arrived, and Telisa is lost. Reaching with fingers too long to be human, she traces grooves in a large oval sign. It was supposed to detail Titantale City, every street and block. Perhaps it did once, but generations of vandals have marred the oak, almost cutting through it with their graffiti.
“Hey there, pretty lady.” A shirtless blue man flies up to her and hovers on a swirl of smoke instead of legs. “I can direct you to interesting things.”
“I have been tricked and abandoned by rivals.” She brushes midnight hair away from pale cheeks and shining eyes. “Because I am an interesting thing.”
“Oh, then I’ll direct people to you.” He cackles and slaps his bare belly.
The granite wall sparkles next to Jacob’s torch. Smooth and flat as glass, it is carved with a titan’s eye towards perfection. Jacob crouches, butt hovering over sea water that fills the room up to his calf, and the flame flickers where a knee-high tunnel bores through into another shadowed room.
Jacob places his torch in the hole, pulls out his black coral flute, and plays crisp notes. Discovered in a treasure chest full of titan gold, the instrument summons piquant water that he gulps like a flask between blows. He sighs. It’s refreshing, as if from a cool mountain spring, despite an off-putting taste.
Kriv hops over. “Can I try some magic flute juice?”
Wiping his mouth, Jacob tucks the flute into his ragged tunic and splashes the little beebo with sea water. “Since this room isn’t draining on its own, do your part. Drink your fill of this ocean slop that your awesome friend summoned.”
The Undersea hall is wide and tall, made by a giant race of scaled men. The floor is smooth and wet, and Jacob is slow with his steps. An iron and oak box strains his callused fingers. Sealed shut by centuries of neglect, it is red with rust and soft with rot.
Metal clinks inside as Jacob shuffles forward. “This one’s heavy enough to be filled with gold.” He huffs, struggling to maintain his posture. “Not more devil-damned dwarven copper.”
Kriv, short as Jacob’s hip, scoots his bald blue head under the chest. “Need more light.”
“Get out from under there,” says Jacob.
Belazar, a head taller and a barrel wider, shuffles over with a torch and grips the side of the chest with his free hand. “May I have a turn, Sir?”
Jacob nods, and the burly orcelf tucks the box under his arm, easy as a load of laundry.
Torchlight makes shadows dance as the adventuring band tiptoes deeper into the Undersea maze. Built by a giant race, the place shrinks the veterans into children. They are like puppies and kittens with trinkets and charms, exploring an endless dungeon with fur raised and ears twitching.
Breath hushed, the band of five pause where the yellow ribs of something colossal blocks an entry like a portcullis.
Solaris runs her hands along a carved bone thick as her arm. “Could you break through this?” She gestures to Belazar. “Without too much noise?”
The bulky orcelf saunters over and grips the bone bars. “Maybe.” His dark gray skin flushes and tiny tusks poke from his lips as he grits his teeth.
Spiders: Featured spider color altered from original: taken by Thomas Shahan. Used with permission.
Still under the docks of Titantale City…
The empty bookshelf swivels open to a passage, a short tunnel through the Undersea’s speckled blue granite.
Solaris runs her soft fingers across the rough cut stone. “Not titans’ work. It is old though. Maybe chiseled through by the first people that took advantage of the scaled giants’ disappearance.”
Jacob rubs his hands together. “Let’s get some treasure.”
Solaris taps his back with the base of her torch, and the martial artist leads her and the rest of their party into another dark room. The floor is dusty instead of damp and webs cover the walls all the way up to the ceiling, a tree’s height above Solaris.
The walls are a mixture of porous and smooth, hard granite and fossilized coral full of holes. Solaris swings a flaming torch from side to side. Blues, blacks, and whites, all swirl together, and the wide corridor echoes with skitterings and clickings coming from inside the stone.
“Crabs are fine.” Solaris kicks at a foot-sized claw poking through the wall. “It’s the beetles, bats, and spiders.” She shivers. “Especially the jumping spiders. Those things look like a nightmare ate a teddy bear and grew eight legs, too many eyes, and huge fangs.”
The crab she had kicked snaps at her. Shell striped, purple and gray, with cyan barnacles adding a spiky layer, it is a giant crustacean that has survived many seasons. Solaris makes a circle and slash motion of her overgoddess to show respect and then jabs with her torch until the creature skitters deeper into the nether behind the carved stone.
Sylyca, the diminutive elf holding the parties’ other torch, points back at the oversized stairs they’ve descended. “We are below sea level, aren’t we?” She lowers her voice. “Have we entered the Undersea? Is that dream demoness close?” Continue reading The Undersea Party: Part 2→
Seagulls squawk and soar over the city’s slumside docks. Under new management, boards have been removed from storefront windows, replaced with trade goods displayed behind glass. Shiny trinkets, silk, and spices instead of empty bottles, drugs, and darker vices.
Clean money flows into what the band called Lute now controls.
At the edge of this district, a ship-length inland from the choppy water, a dark building sits. Built with salvaged titan granite, it is scaled for men, not giants. Shiny black pillars guard the entrance, a veneer of obsidian elegance.
Solaris, the sea witch, licks salt from her lips and runs her hand over the volcanic glass covering the stone columns. She helped remove crusaders that had claimed this place for their overgod of tyranny and death, but that isn’t what causes her goosebumps.
Tables borrowed from other taverns, piled with food and drink, boxing off the street. A breakfast feast for the victors of the ballroom slaughter.
Colgrevance sits in the dirt, apart from the others. A plate of fish and eggs cooling under the early spring sun.
“Boss, are you not hungry?” Solaris saunters over with a roasted chicken wing in hand. “I’m starving.” She peels the seasoned skin off with her teeth and slurps it, moaning. “My favorite part, especially when it’s a little crispy on the outside but still juicy fat underneath. You know what I mean?”
Colgrevance sets his food aside. “He made a deal. Harmony and her demigodess will remain.”
“ ‘He?’ ”
“Lord Valor treated with Lady Notion after destroying the vampiress. So many dead, and the Ultramarines remain headquartered in that mansion… like vermin.”