Three Keys

In The Dark

Start the tale with the Prologue

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Adventure Log 4: …in more ways than one

The flickering torch illuminated a long dark hallway, cobwebs in the corners, a think layer of dust on the floor. The was no discernible movement in the air, and it smelled stale and musty, like an old barn that hadn’t stabled a horse in many years. The darkness was claustrophobic and heavy, the weak torch doing little to keep it at bay. The cave-in behind them still settled, and small stones and pebbles clicked and snapped down the slope, an odd rumble from deep inside made them uneasy and they all moved a few more feet down the hall and away.

“Would you agree to putting that torch out?” Yanew asked. “It messes with my eyes. I can’t see nearly as far in this darkness with that thing flickering.” Janko nodded his head in silent agreement.

“You know I can’t,” said David, “Harrison and I would be completely blind. You’ll just have to make do.” He adjusted his pack and pulled out one of his two short swords. Holding the torch high out in front of him, he said, “OK, I’ll go first. Yanew and Harrison behind me, Janko at the rear. Everyone ready?” He started down the hallway at a slow pace.

“Ever onward,” said Harrison, and moved slowly down the hall behind David, the others following behind. Janko had his bow at the ready, Yanew a small dagger, while the priest used his staff as a walking stick, almost casual in his demeanor.

A dozen yards along, they came to an area where the hallway opened on the left and right into alcoves with slotted openings in the recesses. They were in the center of the wall facing the hallway, and were about a meter tall but only an inch or two wide.

“Arrow loops,” David said, and peered through. “Can’t see much, but there’s definitely a space on the other side. Be wary.”

They passed two other alcoves with the same loops, before seeing a small rise ahead, three steps up, and as they neared, they could see forms in the darkness at the intersection beyond. They slowed.

WHO DARES ENTER THIS PLACE AND INTRUDE UPON THE SANCTUARY OF ITS INHABITANTS?!”

A shockingly loud voice echoed through the halls, almost deafening. Hands quickly shot up to cover ears stung with pain, eyes wide with shock.

“What the hell?” yelled Janko over the echoing din, his hands still on the sides of his head. Before anyone could answer the voice came again, the same phrase booming through the darkness.

WHO DARE ENTER THIS PLACE AND INTRUDE UPON THE SANCTUARY OF ITS INHABITANTS?!” Janko couldn’t tell if it was just the pain and surprise, but he swore it was louder this time. David stood a little taller and called out.

“We are adventurers, looking f…!”

ONLY A GROUP OF FOOLHARDY EXPLORERS,” another voice interrupted, “doomed to certain death.” The last phrase groaning deeper and quieter until it was a whisper at the end. The effect was chilling.

After a few seconds, Harrison peered at the wall in the alcove, and chuckled quietly. “Very effective, these,” and pointed. On the walls of the alcoves, facing the hallway and each other, were two stone faces with open mouths.

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“Must be triggered by anything that enters this spot in the hallway. Hey, look…” As David held the torch closer, the face began to fade away, until there was nothing but the same stone as in the rest of the hall. “Fascinating,” he said.

“Well,” said Janko, “if there’s anyone home, they know we’re here. Let’s see what on the floor up ahead.”

At the top of the three steps, the hallway branched off to the left and the right, fading away to darkness, and in front there were doors on either side, and more hallways. Five skeletal forms lay about them in disarray, obviously the result of a deadly battle of some kind. All still had the remains of clothes and weapons about them, but they had obviously been here for some time. Two appeared to be guards, splayed out on the floor with broken limbs, while another was leaning against the wall, a rusty sword embedded in its chest. A cloaked figure was impaled on the wall by a sword protruding from the back. David marveled at the strength of the arm that could impale a man in a stone wall.

A few steps down the hall on the left, a shorter figure lay, the thick bones and armor signaling this man was a dwarf. The helm had a deep dent in the side, the skull beneath it crushed. The hammer that had probably caused the blow lay beside him.

“This looks like a hell of a party,” David said. He nudged one of the swords on the floor with his foot, seeing that it was pitted and worthless. He whistled softly as he looked at the impaled robed figure. “That took some strength. I doubt either of these two,” he nodded towards the guards, “could do that.”

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“Or this,” Yanew quietly agreed as he prodded at the fallen Dwarf with his dagger. “This man’s skull is powder, and I think they used his own weapon on him. See?” Be pointed at the hammer on the floor next to the body. “Blow was enough to break the shaft. Whatever killed these men was damn strong.”

“Well,” said Janko, “which way now?” The doors were simple wood, no banding or thickening, just a latch. “Through here or down one of the hallways?”

“Let’s have a look down these hallways before we go poking through doors,” said Yanew. “Anyone care which way first?”

“Left,” said David. “Always left.”

The passage to the left didn’t go far before taking another left and heading back in the direction of the entryway. David assumed this hallway would give them access to at least one side of the arrow loops they’d come across in the entry hall, and they quickly came across the first. As they moved further down the hallway, the saw a slight glow ahead of them coming through a doorway on the right. David looked back at the others to see if they had seen it, they all nodded.

When they came to the door, they could see a green glow from the room beyond illuminating the roots and vines spilling out into the hallway. The torchlight showed them to be healthy and green, not dead and dried like the bodies behind them. David had stopped and was looking at the vines as Harrison moved around him and peered into the room beyond.

“Oh my,” he gasped.

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