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.
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.”
The many windows of the gothic mansion are curtained, blocking the late afternoon sun with thick midnight-blue canvass.
Colgrevance settles his horse as a dozen men from the Pale Crusade form up to either side. The soldiers plant shields and kneel, peeking over with helms on and heavy crossbows aimed at the tall doors of the ballroom’s entry. Their holy man stands before them, hands clasped, mumbling in Celestial until a white light glows through his palms. Behind, their leader slips on a helmet to seal plate armor fancy enough to rival Colgrevance’s and strides around humming hymns of the angel’s tongue.
“Tristen?” Colgrevance puts on his own helmet.
His armored peer pulls a greatsword off his back and rests it on his shoulder. “We’re ready. Where’s your wearebear?”
“Beorn’s fetching the big lout.”
Tristen taps his breastplate and whispers a word. A white glow spreads across his suit, like moonlight shining through a metallic window.
Colgrevance drums his fingers on his saddle. “Messoack!”
“I am present.” The gray-skinned magician steps out of the shadows of the alley behind them.