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.
Jacob stomps the smooth floor with his sandaled foot. “Come on, buddy.”
Belazar’s thick arms flex, and his whole body shakes. Solaris narrows her eyes at the mystery room beyond. The orcelf settles, breathes deep and strains again. The barrier doesn’t budge, and nothing stirs past it.
Sylyca pats Belazar’s broad back with her delicate elven fingers. “We believe in you.” She wipes his sweat off on the moss hanging from her waist and clasps her hands together. “Visualize what you desire. Make your dream reality.”
Roaring, Belazar lifts his elbows and squeezes his eyes shut.
“Volume.” Solaris slaps the orcelf’s hip. “Lower it.”
He gasps and goes limp. “Nope.”
“How about a crowbar?” Solaris turns around, holding her torch in the faces of her companions. “Well, anyone bring one?”
Jacob raises his hand. “I brought the ring of keys.”
She sighs. “Do you see a lock or anything remotely resembling a keyhole?”
The shaven man rubs his chin and runs his fingertips across the edges of the entry. “Maybe the bars.” He pokes at an indent carved into a rib. “Could be this, but I don’t see how it’d work.”
Solaris brushes aside a loose curl of blonde hair and rubs her temple. “There’s no lock, you circus reject. It’s centuries old, sized for giants, and stuck. That’s it.”
Yawning, Messoack steps past her and wiggles his fingers across the bone bars. “Shall I use up my special magic and pop this open?”
“Come on, crazy man.” She shakes her head with a raised lip. “Wouldn’t your cracking side effect echo and draw all the starving cave monsters’ attention?”
The magician smiles with thin purple lips. “You think our demoness would hear?” He picks at a metal stud decorating his leather armor. “Can you imagine finding her? What a mind she must have after centuries isolated down here. How deep and twisted her thoughts must go, deeper than Limbo, deeper than Pit, crossing over from djinn to demon like a wish to a curse and perhaps madness her only gift.”
Jacob eases away from Messoack and whispers something to the big orcelf and the small elf maiden. They both nod and also shift a few steps back.
“Stay focused in this moment.” Solaris runs her hands through her hair. “And do not waste your power on some stupid bars. Just peek in and confirm there’s nothing ready to pounce on us.”
Messoack kisses his fingers and murmurs something. Dark smoke with a blueish tint spills from his lips and coats his hands, distorting them like a series of circus mirrors. Solaris blinks and rubs her eyes as Messoack clicks his teeth, cutting off the stream of smoke. Grinning, he spreads the distortion from his hands to head like it’s soap instead of smoke.
After lathering up with his chaotic warding, Messoack squeezes his shifting head through a pair of the massive ribs. “There’s a statue in here, fallen over. It’s got that simple ancient look to it.” He points back at Sylyca. “Come and examine with your pure elven eyes.”
The druidess gulps. Jacob takes her hand and pats it. She grips and tugs him along to the bars.
Solaris stretches her torch through, waking shadows with the flickering flame. Jacob counts down with his fingers and presses his face between some ribs while Sylyca manages to slip her whole head in like Messoack has.
“Two statues.” Sylyca points past Solaris’s torch. “A smaller one in the far corner, still upright and devilish in style.”
Messoack squints and nods. “Good eyes, pure blood. They look very different. Far one, maybe a giant stone devil hibernating or could be a true statue.” He chuckles. “Can never tell until the claws come out.”
Solaris frowns. “How would something from Desert World get down here?”
“How did they end up guarding Lowtide Mansion?” He shrugs and wags his finger at the closer statue. “This one isn’t so realistic in form. Probably a titan original. Their work tended to be highly stylized. It is a female I think. Hard to gender when all covered with webs.”
Jacob jerks away. “Burn. Them. All.”
Solaris waves Belazar over and pulls a couple torches out of the large warrior’s backpack. “We’re going to retrieve these.” She lights them with her torch and hands both to Jacob. “Don’t miss.”
The martial artist smirks and tosses one in the air. Solaris gasps. He catches it and tosses the other up. She growls. He puts a hand behind his back.
“I need a third for this to be a challenge.” Jacob catches and tosses, all with the same hand.
Solaris passes Sylyca her torch and then spins her arms, building up an electric charge of mystic power.
Jacob shifts and tosses the lit torches through the bone bars. “Done.”
Both land in webs. Flames erupt and a swarm of apple-sized spiders fry and fall. Solaris smiles, shaking away her attack spell.
Messoack claps and points up. “Cave queen spider, on the roof!”
“Two!” Sylyca yanks her head back. “Another from behind that devil statue.”
The magician wiggles and gestures, sending a bolt of purple power into the wagon-sized spider above. Solaris pulls him from the bars as the monster’s leg thrusts down, just missing his head that no longer has a distortion ward.
“Remember.” She shakes him. “Cave queens have hypnotic eyes and spear legs.”
Jacob scratches his neck. “I maybe left my crossbow in the tavern. Can you blast them with magic, keep them interested, while I run back and get it?”
Solaris snorts and wiggles her fingers, forming a half-dozen balls of icy blue light. “Freeze!”
She thrusts her hands forward. The balls shoot in and explode with the cold fury of a raging blizzard, crusting both giant spiders in ice and snow.
Messoack clicks his teeth and casts another purple bolt that blinds several of a spider’s eyes. “With webs cleared off, I can guess that toppled statue is a demigoddess of the sea.” He grins. “Maybe it’s of our demoness before she darkened from blue to black.”
Jacob clears his throat and motions towards a side door. “Mind if I try to open that?”
“Whatever, freak.” Solaris moves her arms in a wide circle. “Messoack, call the plays. I’ve got to focus on this.” Her arms flare bright blue. “Gonna flood these big bugs with a monstrous wave.”
She swings her arm like a sword, and a line of azure light cuts through the statue room’s air. Tensing her shoulders, she curls her fingers and strains to move her glowing hands apart. The line thickens and spreads up to the ceiling.
The spider Messoack injured rears and jabs the light with a leg as its popped eyes ooze a purplish jelly. The other snaps its jaws at the line’s center where a bulge is forming like a birth beginning.
Solaris moans and with a thunderous whoosh, she tears the mystic line open. Water bursts through. A spray becomes a wave that beats down on the pair of giant spiders. As they scramble for cover, the prone statue glows a faint blue. Solaris shudders, and the tear in space stretches. The waterfall becomes a flood.
Solaris jerks at at the sharp sound from behind her, and the tear jerks too, opening wider, spilling the guts of another world’s ocean.
Messoack taps her shoulder as water tickles her ankles, flowing through the bone portcullis. “Well,” he says, “I popped open that door, and your summoned sea had already spilled in there.” He holds up a mace. “I guess the rooms are connected.”
At the bars, Sylyca gasps. “The stone devil’s awake!” She sticks her torch through. “Look.”
Solaris shakes off her spell, closing the rift between worlds as icy water climbs up her shins. Roaring, the stone devil stretches griffin-sized wings and leaps into the spiders with claws out.
“Okay,” says Solaris, “Let’s call it a day.”
Messoack huffs near her. “Closer, ever closer.” He cackles and coughs. “Next time or the time after, it will be Her that we wake.”
Solaris nods, but her torch shakes, and the water she summoned doesn’t drain.
Belazar, warrior—rugged former Verdant crusader
Jacob, martial artist—tumbling scout with mystic fists
Messoack, magician—loyal explorer of madness
Solaris, sea witch—whimsical lover of the grotesque
Sylyca, druidess—elvish caster of dreams and life