Chapter IV: Revelation
The pair stared into the darkness for a moment, before they both bolted into the newly revealed room. Neither seemed all too worried of the possibilities of a negative outcome.
True, it could be a trap, Selene reasoned to herself as she ran inside, but who can pass up a hidden room?
As they stepped inside, an enchanted fire lit up the room. The room stretched onwards almost endlessly on either side. In the distance, you could see the distant walls were lined with rows upon rows of books. The walls stretched high above to a vaulted ceiling covered in a strange enchantment that made it appear as if clouds were hovering above them. Facing them was a grand mural, depicting some kind of historical event, using similar imagery shown in the temple above and the chambers below.
Hovering before the mural was an inscription in the air, written in a strange script. It stretched high above them, yet appeared legible no matter where you stood.
At the center stood seven thrones in a circle, each was ornate and covered with distinct ornamentation and enchantment. They were each a marvel, likely rivaling thrones of the greatest kings this world had ever known.
Strange they’re buried so deep beneath the surface.
While Selene inspected each throne in kind, Jezran was focused on the words and mural on the other end of the room.
After a moment staring at one that appeared to be enchanted as if it was moulded from a wellspring of molten lava, Selene joined him in his study. While covered in fancy ornamentation, it became clear quickly the thrones did not include anything she could take as a souvenir.
“Any idea what it says?” Selene asked as she sidled up beside him.
Jezran squinted, then sighed, “No, sadly. The old tongue has been difficult to decipher, even with the Eye of Arcana. I suspect it’s enchanted to block the use of magic to decipher it, though I do see a few words that I’ve seen repeated throughout my research, particularly this symbol.” Jezran pointed to one of the words on the mural.
Selene looked at the word closely, suddenly recognizing it as the name that appeared in the temple. Confused, she whispered, “…Igryss…here too?”
Jezran turned to her, shocked. “What did you say?”
“I…I was just…reading what you pointed towards,” Selene stammered.
Jezran’s eyes became as large as fish bowls, “You…can read this?”
Selene tried to read the rest, but found that the words still looked like scribbles in the air. It was completely indecipherable, save the one word.
She shook her head.
“Well, it was worth a shot, I suppose,” Jezran sighed. He continued to study the mural, brow furrowed.
Annoyed, Selene turned away to look at the rest of the room, hoping to find something useful.
Or at least interesting.
Before she could get far, a massive headache sought to split her skull wide open. She doubled over on the floor. Jezran, who had been writing down notes on the mural, rushed over to her as soon as he realized she collapsed.
“Selene, are you alright? What happened?”
“I…don’t…know.” Selene said through gritted teeth.
Suddenly words spoken, similar to the voices she heard in the strange chamber flooded into her mind. They all spoke in unison as the inscription suddenly became clear.
Let this tale be marked eternal in rock and stone. A reminder for all history of the greatness that is our King.
Once this world we know was naught but endless sea, ruled over by mighty beast, the Igryss.
By the Máni’s hand, struck Heart and felled Igryss.
As the Abyss receded, land split sea across Ashar.
Though Heart was lost, Igryss, too great to perish, was reborn in Abyss to lesser forms. The great beast gave forth to many, the Children of the Abyss.
Aeons pass, and mortals came to walk the earth.
One of the Magus, High Order of the Arcane, sought audience with these Children. He promised service in exchange for their power.
The Children, though as clever as their forebear, did not perceive malice in his words. They agreed, binding him to their service.
His sole task: seek out the Heart, lost and buried deep beneath Ashar.
Decades passed as he searched. Over time, the Magus gained knowledge and power. A city formed above as the Magus searched.
The Children, sated by frequent sacrifice thanks to the founding city, awaited the day the Heart was found.
But they were deceived.
The Magus, cunning as he was, watched and waited.
Upon finding Heart, he made his move. He betrayed the Children, for in all their cunning, they did not consider the power the Heart might give to mortal hands.
Now they too are but servants of his grand design.
All hail the Great Magus, founder of our city.
All hail our King, once and forevermore.
All hail Lendrig the Traitor, Lord of the Abyss.
As the words finished, Selene collapsed in a heap, as if released from some kind of spell.
It was then that all hell broke loose.
Tentacles appeared from the clouds above. One quickly descended and wrapped around her tightly. Another reached for Jezran, but he reacted quickly, casting a spell that transformed him into mist before it could wrap around him. He reappeared a moment later out of their reach.
“Selene!” Jezran shouted, looking up at her as she was lifted several feet off the ground.
Thinking quickly, he shouted off a number of spells, avoiding any that might harm Selene.
None seemed to faze the tentacles or loosen their vice grip.
Selene, slowly regaining her strength, drew her knives and weakly struck against the flesh. Despite the rather fleshy exterior, it was remarkably resilient. She tried again and again to stab the creature. It did not seem to have any effect.
As if annoyed by her struggle, the tentacle suddenly tightened to a death grip, seeking to crush the life out of her. A strange gurgling sound escaped Selene’s lips as air was shoved out of her lungs. It was not long before her chest ached and she became desperate for air.
I have to…get out of here. Thoughts were becoming difficult, but suddenly she heard a voice scream in the back of her mind.
You need to Shadowstep!
If you don’t do it, you’re dead.
Selene tried, but she couldn’t take a breath to calm herself, the tentacle’s grip around her stopped any attempt.
No breaths, no hesitation. Just go!
She panicked, as spots began to dot her vision.
Her mind fell silent as darkness closed in around her. On the brink of passing out, a strange calm fell over Selene.
Time began to slow.
A moment later, Selene hit the ground with a dull thud as time resumed. Her body, freed from restraint, took a massive breath. Air sweeter than honey filled her lungs, but she did not have long to rest.
Jezran, seeing her fall, quickly rushed over. A tentacle reached for him and he barely ducked under it as he reached her side.
No time to check for damage, he grabbed her arm and dragged her along with him as he made to escape the room. Strength quickly returned to her legs, allowing her to bounce up to her feet mid sprint. She surged forward, catching up to his pace.
It was not long before she began to drag Jezran along instead.
As they ran back out into the hallway, dozens of those fish-men began to swarm in through the tunnels cutting into the hallway.
Selene and Jezran were forced to halt at the center of the room, as they found themselves surrounded by a wall of spears and tridents pointed at them from every direction. Selene quickly drew her blades and took a defensive stance. Jezran grabbed his focus tightly and put his back to hers.
For a moment, there was a standoff between the pair and the horde as neither side seemed keen to make the first move.
Finally one of the creatures, possibly their leader, came out to stand before them. Seeing it up close, Selene realized just how bizarre a creature it was. It stood on webbed feet and human legs. Its torso was thin and its skin pale, almost translucent. Gills jutted from its neck and its face was like a fish. It had no nose and eyes black as pitch. Yet its lips moved and acted as if it were human.
Slowly, it began to speak, revealing teeth sharpened to razor points like a shark. The voice was garbled, and slow, as if it was trying to speak while choking on water, “You..have…done well…to evade…us. But now…you must…surrender.”
“Why, so you can kill us without a fight?” Selene said, trying her best to present a false bravado.
“We…do not…mean…to kill you.” The thing said, stopping to take a breath. “You have been…summoned.”
“Summoned? By whom?” Jezran asked, confused.
The creature made an attempt to chuckle, but it came off as more of a gurgled snicker, “You snoop…in this place…and know not…the lord? Fools…You’ve been summoned…by…our Great Lord…Lendrig.”
A reverent silence fell over the horde as his name was spoken.
Jezran paled, “Bu-but I thought-he… was dead?”
Angry cries rang out from the horde, but the leader silenced them, before turning back to them, its glassy eyes obscuring any emotion, “Our lord…is eternal, …as unending…as the deepest ocean.”
“Now please…follow. We were asked…to bring you…alive. The Lord…did not say…unharmed.” The creature, thinking itself clever, cracked a menacing grin.
A malevolent murmur passed through the horde.
The words of the Firstborn passed through Selene’s mind as she weighed her options. Was this what it meant? Is there no way to win?
Selene knew she wasn’t doing well, using Shadowstep again had drained her and she was still struggling with the dull ache in her shoulder. It was doubtful Jezran had a lot of magic left either. It might be wise in this case to go with the flow and save the rest of their energy for the right opportunity.
Also, if they were looking to find us alive, maybe everyone is okay too. If we go with them, maybe we’ll be brought together again. Then we can plan our next move and escape together.
The two shared a look, apparently coming to the same conclusion.
Getting caught is bad…but at this point it may be our best bet.
Jezran raised his hands above his head as Selene sheathed her daggers.
Two of the fish-men behind them grabbed their wrists and bound them tight.
Neither could do anything as they were then pulled down the long and winding hallway to meet the lord, Lendrig the Traitor.
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