31/366 – The Dark Place (Cont.)

Continued from 30/366 – The Dark Place

The smell of damp earth filled Morn’s nostrils as he followed Koldian down the path with Celeste and Jaque close behind. The light from Koldian’s staff provided the only light for them to travel by, which meant that Morn and his friends were mostly left with dim light to see.

Morn kept his hand on the stone wall they passed, letting the grit of it keep his senses about him as the air grew stale and cold. Somewhere ahead of them, they could hear the sound of dripping water and the occasional skittering of some unseen creature. Morn could feel his heart thrumming hard in his chest.

“Do you think this is an unknown tomb? Or maybe the lair of some terrifying monster?” Koldian asked, his voice echoing down the passage.

“You’re not helping things,” Morn replied as something skittered nearby, making him pause. “I don’t want to think about monsters down here. It’s bad enough that the air is getting hard to breathe.”

“I’ve been in tighter places than this,” Koldian replied, “This air is just heavy with water, which means there’s a spring somewhere down here.”

“This is crazy,” Celeste said, “are you sure that Mrs. G’Lair’s elemental stone is down here?”

“Not sure of anything, to be honest,” Koldian said, “but the stones prefer to be underground. I can’t recall any time that one has been found on the surface. There’s something pure about being down here, don’t you think? We could be the first humans to ever discover this.”

“I doubt that no one has ever found this,” Jaque called from the back. “This is far too close to the town for no one to have come down here before.”

“Too right, Jaque,” Koldian said as they came up to the mouth of a large cavern.

The beacon of light from Koldian’s staff reflected off the far wall as the low chirping of bats echoed from the ceiling above them. On the far side of the cave was another opening, much larger than the first. The smell of bat droppings rotting away filled Morn’s nose and turned his stomach.

“Be careful through here,” Koldian said as he pulled his robe to his face. “Try to keep your face covered while we go through. Hopefully, there will be a natural vent ahead. If not we may have to get crafty.”

Morn, Celeste, and Jaque all followed Koldian’s directions before they proceeded across the guano covered floor. It felt like wet moss under their feet as various bugs, and small creatures avoided them, scattering to the darker portions of the space.

They stepped into the next passage and found that it continued on for a short while before doubling back, all the while descending further below the surface. The air was becoming so thick it was getting harder to breathe for everyone.

Koldian waved his staff in a circle around himself, nearly knocking Morn in the side of the head.

“Quickly, come closer to me. I’ve cast a purification spell that will help with the air until we can, hopefully, find a vent,” Koldian said.

Morn walked forward cautiously, and it through what felt like a lifting of a weight off his chest. The smell of the bat droppings vanished and the air became much lighter.

“This is amazing,” Jaque said as he stepped in and, upon the realization of the difference of the air, took a few deep breaths. “How did you do this?”

“This spell is at your disposal once you’ve earned a rank or two as a full-fledged wizard,” Koldian said. “It’s a simple spell that makes life much easier for the traveler. It’ll keep out the rain and toxic air. It even keeps the temperature at a comfortable level.”

“Abjuration is a wonderful school of magic,” Jaque said.

“Indeed,” Koldian replied, “moving on.”

They continued following the tunnel until it reached a fork. Koldian plunged the bottom of his staff into the soft floor and stepped forward. Morn noticed a visible change in his demeanor as he moved further than ten feet from them.

“Wait here for a moment,” he said, struggling between breaths. “I have to check something.”

Koldian moved down the fork on the left, disappearing from sight.

“Do you think he can see in the dark?” Celeste asked. “He didn’t take his staff with him.”

“There are low-level enchantments that can be put on just about anything to allow a person to see in the dark,” Jaque said. “I read about them last semester. It takes a few pricey components, but otherwise, it’s only a few days work. Then, as long as you’re wearing whatever it is you’ve enchanted, you can see in the darkest of places.”

“I wonder what he’s checking down there,” Morn said. “I hope he’s okay.”

Koldian reappeared in the light, almost as though Morn had summoned him.

“We are definitely not the first people to come through here,” Koldian said, catching his breath. “Some poor sap down there met his end a long time ago. I need you to wait just a few minutes longer while I look down the other passage a ways.”

“Yes, sir,” Jaque replied as Koldian took a few deep breaths and stepped out of range of the staff once more.

Morn waited, practically holding his breath for Koldian to return. When the sound of pebbles bouncing behind them caught his attention, his mind went in a thousand directions at once. He turned slowly, keeping the light just behind him as he struggled to see if there was anything there.

“I heard it too,” Celeste whispered. “What about you, Jaque?”

Jaque nodded.

“I see three have trespassed into the Dark Place,” A voice said. Morn imagined a snake-like monster from the sound of the voice. The words seemed to hiss out of whatever was speaking. “Have you come to play, or have you come to die?”

A pale figure stepped into the furthest edge of the light. It looked human in shape, but too long, as though a man had been stretched thin. The creature’s head barely cleared the roof that was at least two feet over Morn’s where he stood. It wore black clothing, and its eyes reflected the light.

“I advise you to loosen your tongues before we remove them from your heads,” the figure said. “You’ve trespassed into a place none of your kind should be. Now speak.”

Continued 32/366 – The Dark Place (Cont.)

 

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