Darkness, nothing but complete, suffocating and claustrophobia-causing blackness threatened to overcome all of us. The torches seemed inadequate to fight the all-consuming darkness that surrounded the party. Once Peyton and I descended the steps to catch up with the rest of the group, the difference in illumination was immediately obvious and difficult to ignore. The closest simile would be to jump into a bottomless pit where certain death would reach up to greet you when least expected. This darkness seemed unnatural, more like a spell than just shadows. Light was not welcome in this place and the flickering shadows created by our sources of light appeared to mock our desire to continue ever so deeper. Even the sound of our steps appeared to sound muffled. A quick glance at the rest of the party allowed me to see everyone else had the same sensation of apprehension. Where was George Unty taking us? I wondered if anyone else had asked themselves that same question.
George Unty was leading the party at the forefront with his henchman Lubu. Lubu was holding a torch up high in one hand and his other hand rested on the pummel of his sword. The chosen route led the expedition through halls that at times were large enough to fit a whole herd of yaks, but other times just barely large enough to fit a Norn standing at full height. The hall we were currently traversing was just wide enough to allow the party of six to advance in a staggered column. George would look at his notes from time to time and point to Lubu in the direction we were to take. The oppressive feeling of being underground surrounded by total darkness kept everyone in the group silent and highly alert in order to avoid being the source of any kind of noise. In the rare occasion when something needed to be said, it was shared through hand gestures. Since I was at the back of the column, I was unlucky enough to get my hand gestures from Peyton and she always tried to add some flourish to her messages whenever she was bored. I have traveled with Peyton long enough to tell that she was on edge and attempting to hide her inability to kill what made her nervous.
“Narrow bridge ahead” she frowned and whispered when I stopped her hand signaling with my hand. “You are terrible at hand gestures” I whispered back. “Here’s a hand gesture” she said as she turned around and pointed at the ceiling with her middle finger. I ignored her and concentrated on the upcoming bridge. Who would build a bridge this deep underground and for what purpose? Such a bridge would be the perfect place to ambush a group of unsuspecting adventurers. Apparently the same thought occurred to Athena and Peyton as I saw their hands reach for their weapons in anticipation for a fight. I had my bow ready and my hand in my quiver for arrows ready to shoot at the first sound of a fight, but those carrying torches would have to fight with one handed weapons. Peyton already had her axe in hand by the time we reached the bridge.
The passageway opened up into a large antechamber. The chamber was so large that the light provided by the three torches our group carried could not reach the walls on the other side. The narrow bridge we were standing on led into the center of the large chamber. I took a look down from the side of the bridge and could only see darkness, so I grabbed a pebble and let it fall in order to estimate the depth of the chasm we were about to cross. I caught Peyton watching me and shook my head to indicate that no sound was heard. George looked at his notes and was signaling Lubu to continue across the bridge when the torch Lubu was holding suddenly went out. A moment later the torch Artemis, Athena’s companion, was carrying went out as well. Everyone turned to look at the last torch lit. Peyton’s torch flickered as if hit by wind and out it went as well. Artemis’s curse echoed around the large chamber as the darkness, barely kept at bay by the three torches completely surrounded us. Above us, I thought I heard the sound of very large wings…
~ Urebril Sener