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.”
Kriv licks the cloudy water and spits. Belazar growls, handing the little man a flask as big as the beebo’s bald blue head.
Jacob snorts and salutes his two adventuring companions before crawling inside the tunnel. It is a tight fit. Kriv could have walked, but the illusionist doesn’t have the melee skill to lead. Belazar is more than enough warrior, but his orcish shoulders are too wide to squeeze past the opening.
The passage is smooth in places, a hint that it was built as a vent and made rough by other use. Jacob runs a finger along scrapes that have worn away the stone.
He has fought giant crabs and spiders, devils of another world, undead and other monsters that infest this Undersea maze, many of which must have used this passage in the centuries since the titan empire fell. Leading with his flaming torch and free hand on the hilt of his shortsword, he scoots out of the hole, eyes wide and breath held.
The floor is dry, sealed off from the flooding that a fellow adventurer summoned. Jacob gulps. The room is vast and dusty, but not empty or dark. Azure light competes with the warm glow of his torch, shaking in his hand.
Spaced along one wall are three glass tanks wide as the trunks of ancient trees. Full of water, they connect the floor to the ceiling high above, and floating within each is a shimmering body. Giants twice his height, they are regal in posture and covered with equipment—items for war, for style, and some too exotic to guess. What little skin peeks through their gear is a deeper blue than Kriv and scaly like a fish, rather than frog-smooth like the beebo is.
“By Lileth’s frigid tits.” Jacob gulps again. “A titan graveyard.”
Throat dry, he sets his torch down and pulls out his flute. Lips tight, he blows a single note that echoes as it summons a mouthful of tangy water.
A shadow of movement draws his eye to the farthest tank, where the largest titan floats. Taller and wider at the shoulder, the giant inside also has the most extravagant armor and a fancy swordspear held in the crook of its elbow.
Like a cat with silent paws, Jacob moves towards the tank on the balls of his feet. The eyes of the other two titans stare out of glowing helms and follow him as he passes.
He blinks and shakes his head. The giant heads haven’t moved. It is an illusion, like an artistic trick of a master painter. He sticks his tongue out at them, and taps on the glass of the superior one with his flute.
“I know you didn’t move,” says Jacob. “You look well preserved, but no more than a pickle in a jar.” He points at doors of stone and bone along the other walls. “Any more friends in there?” He taps the glass again. “Hello?”
This titan has a full helm with a sapphire lens shielding its eye-slit and blocking any illusion of staring.
Jacob chuckles and spins his flute around his arm like a circus baton. “You’re wearing some fine treasure.” He slaps the glass with his palm. “Would shattering this tank trigger a trap? Maybe, summon your ghost?”
The titan floats and glows.
“You’re no fun.” Jacob sighs and sticks his flute in his mouth.
He blows and as water gushes into his mouth a bubble warbles up from the bottom of the titan’s tank. Spitting, he stumbles back a step. Heart thumping in his ears, he blows into his flute again and another bubble drifts up.
Dropping the coral-carved instrument, he hunches over and coughs out some of the pungent water. The hands of the ancient giant are covered by form-fitting gauntlets, each finger fully articulated and ending with a blade over the fingernail like the claws of a beast. Jacob blinks and tucks his flute away. The glass distorts his view, making the blades twitch as he paces.
“You didn’t move, I’m sure.” Chewing his lip, Jacob pats his sword’s hilt. “But just in case, I’ll take my leave while you rest in peace.”
He grabs his torch and crawls into the tunnel. A tingle travels from his toes to his spine and up his neck. He crawls faster, and his flame sputters.
At the exit, Kriv hops and claps. “Yay, light.”
Jacob drops into the calf deep water and hands the dimming torch to Belazar. The large orcelf feeds it a strip of pitch-soaked cloth, and it crackles back to life.
“Ah.” Kriv pouts. “I want to carry it.”
Jacob frowns. “You said you hate fire.”
“I hate the heat, not the light.” Kriv’s inner eyelid blinks. “Solaris says my contradictions are adorable.”
Jacob pulls out his coral flute and hands it to the beebo. “Go ahead and toast to how awesome Solaris is.”
“Wow! Thank you, Sir.” Kriv hums into the instrument and then gulps from it. “This reminds me of my mamma’s soup.” He drinks some more. “Delicious.”
Belazar, warrior—rugged former Verdant crusader
Jacob, martial artist—tumbling scout with mystic fists
Kriv, illusionist—cheerful researcher of adventure
Sylyca, druidess—elvish caster of dreams and life