127/366 – Beneath the Wall

The tattoo on Flint’s arm began to tingle slightly, making him unconsciously rub it with his other hand. Around him, the crumbling underground room lit by the glowing amethyst gems embedded in the wall vibrated slightly, scattering a few pebbles and raining dust from the ceiling.
“What was that?” Judah asked as the final piece of the magical lock before them went dark, and a slight click echoed through the room.
“I don’t know,” Flint replied, “but I think the door is open now.”
“Should we open it or wait for the others?” Judah asked.
“I think you know my answer,” Flint said, striding toward the door.
With a heavy boot, Flint kicked the double-doors where they met at the lock, and the doors burst inward. A deep purple light spilled into the room as though it were made of water, flowing over everything rather than simply shining and producing shadows. Just inside the door, two masked men waited with weapons drawn.
“This is my kind of party!” Flint boomed as he stepped forward, drawing his battle-axe.
“Wait,” Judah yelled as he took aim and loosed his arrow. It flew true, striking one of the waiting foes in the shoulder before spinning them around from the force of it.
Flint hefted his axe, coming down with all his might on the other enemy, who narrowly dodged the attack.
“Death is inevitable,” the masked man screamed as he thrust forward with his dagger.
Flint, using his axe, pushed the attack off course as he laughed and made the man run into the door. The goliath brought the weapon back around and swung true, the blade of his axe slamming hard into the door, sending stone shards flying in every direction as the masked man’s body fell to the floor.
“Judah, there are more people here,” Flint called over his shoulder.
“Come back here, Flint,” Judah said, knocking another arrow. “We have to wait for the others!”
Flint took a step back as the doors slammed behind him, sealing him in the chamber.
“Welcome, Flint,” a cold voice said. “Come closer, please. I think we need to have a conversation.”
Flint turned around to find himself in a massive burial chamber. The ceilings extended into the dark beyond the range that he could see. Fifty feet away, four more of the masked men stood with a familiar person standing in the center of a blood-covered alter, Brett Palmer, the wizard that had brought him to the shadow realm.
Beyond Brett, two figures stood, one taller and thinner, the other roughly the size of a halfling. They stood facing a statue that took up most of the wall. The visage of Death, carrying a massive silver shield, and a rod with a glowing jewel at its end encompassed the far side of the room, making it impossible to see beyond.
“Who are you?” Flint asked.
“That’s unimportant, what matters is that I know who you are, my friend,” the taller figure said, turning around, revealing a silver mask that looked eerily similar to the face on the statue high above them.
“Flint! Help me!” Brett pleaded as the four cultists lowered gem-tipped spears toward the wizard.
“Don’t hurt him!” Flint said, reaching forward.
“Why not?” the masked person said. “It only hurts for a moment, then Myrkul uses their energy to undo the bindings on him.”
The spears moved quickly forward, but Brett threw up his hands as an arcane bubble formed around him. The spears deflected off and moved to the side.
“We discussed this, Brett,” the halfling said, turning around. Under the hood, even from this distance, Flint could see the face of the little halfling girl that had come into The Iron Trumpet only days ago to warm of the attack on Malton. “This is for the balance of the universe. We need your energy.”
“I-I-I-I think I-I-I-I need my e-e-e-energy,” Brett stuttered in his usual fashion. “P-p-p-perhaps more than you do.”
“Stop, Saoirse!” Flint boomed as dust floated down from the darkness above him. “I need that magic man to get me home.”
“I-I-I-I agree with the g-g-g-goliath,” Brett said, pointing to Flint.
The masked figure stepped around their spear-wielding friends and walked casually toward Flint, stopping twenty feet from him. There was a distinct moment of sizing him up as the figure’s mask moved in a nodding motion.
“Would you mind showing me your left forearm?” the masked person said. Flint felt the power in the words as his left arm extended. His other hand opened, dropping the axe, and pulled the bracer off, revealing the tattoo beneath. “Ah, so it’s true then. They made you a lock for the gods. How interesting.”
“How did you do that?” Flint asked, pulling his arm back as though it had been stuck in the mud. “What are you talking about? Its a tattoo, not a lock.”
“There are things you don’t quite understand, Flint, as is evident by your willingness to come in here,” the masked person said. “That tattoo, as simple as it is, an ancient magic that not many possess, nor understand fully. I need your help then.”
“Why would I help you,” Flint said as banging began on the door behind him. “Let my friends in here.”
“If I let them in here, they’ll interrupt, which I can’t have at the moment,” the masked person said, waving their hand. “Why don’t you come over here to Brett?”
Flint felt a similar pull from when he had dropped his axe, but this time resisted it. He took a single step backward, retrieving his axe.
“If you won’t let my friends in, then I will,” Flint said. He yelled a battle cry, letting the adrenaline fill him as he swung his axe at the door.
Where his axe landed exploded into the other room, opening a three-foot-diameter hole in the door, Judah, Dylian, Gwen, Byron, Chad, and Zhen came through the hole with surprising speed, spreading out on either side of Flint.
“How unfortunate,” the masked person said, shaking their head. “I suppose there will be more opportunities to talk some sense into you.”
A tremendous black wall rose from the floor, wrapping itself around the figure before collapsing back into itself, leaving nothing behind.
“You’ll pay for that!” Saoirse screamed as Brett put his hand out toward the massive statue. An explosion ripped through the statue, breaking off large chunks of it. The head rolled forward and fell.
Flint watched as though in slow motion as the head landed where Saoirse had once been.
“She’s gone!” Zhen said.
“Save Brett!” Gwen and Dylian said simultaneously as they rushed forward.

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