Deep, Deeper, yet Darker
Miltos creeped through the tunnel as it led him downward into the earth. A portion of the slope was carved into steps, preventing him from sliding down into the unknown. Each step into the darkness revealed horrible truths. The miasmic sensation not only bewildered his senses, but also his nose. He gagged for breath, placing the mask Adelard had given him over his face. The scent of the herbs lessened the stench, albeit lessening his sight, too.
He raised his torch, careful not to extinguish it against the roof of the cavern. The tunnel’s width widened as he traveled, becoming more leveled. He noticed small grooves in the earth where objects(perhaps bodies?) were dragged.
The walls and ceiling disappeared into the darkness. Miltos reached an interior room, built during ages long forgotten. Large columns,bearing trace amounts of etched metals running downward, lined the room in distributed lengths. He scoured the columns, fearful of finding a brazier. Dense objects littered the room, but they did not move.
Miltos found several braziers, some lining the walls near the entrance and others on the columns. Lighting them, he found the mournful consequence of the city. Corpses sat against portions of the walls,some alone and others in groups; others, he found on their backs, the last thing they saw was the cold ceiling.
They did not speak, but it was enough to see them and their trials. Concentrated reminders exposed themselves on their bodies. Abnormal bone pierced their clothing, engrossing parts of the body.
The underground room was vast, and he did not wish to see what else lay further in the darkness. There was no need. The caverns continued further underground, where creatures stirred.
Miltos noticed an irregular path connecting to the underground room, one that did not lead to other leveled areas; instead, it sloped downward. It was a breach in the smooth wall. He stepped onto the slope, thinking steps were carved into it. Slipping, he gripped his torch and mask, holding them tightly, fearful of losing them as his body plunged further into the darkness.
His feet crunched the bones of several corpses. Miltos gagged. Scrambling over the bodies, he freed himself, noting how heavy they were. The density of the abnormal bone brought added weight to the bodies. Even if the person could move their limbs, it was an cumbersome appendage.
A foul stench roamed the air, but it did not emanate from the corpses either above nor at his feet, though the decaying corpses did enrich it. The miasma grew potent as he traveled further. He found smaller rooms with columns and tunnels carved out of the earth, each of them bearing similarities to the first interior room. Corpses were littered in the corners and tunnels. Some were in odd positions,laying on their stomachs. Gold and copper etchings ran along the walls in paths that did not curve. He saw where someone had tried to remove the metal with picks or other instruments, and other glyphs that had degraded over time.
Far below the surface, Miltos was afraid. These caverns felt less like the interior of the earth, and more like a tomb. He would die here,if he was not careful. The structures and glyphs that surrounded him gave a sense of small calm. Men had once been here, though ages long ago. The columns and walls remained as silent guards, watching in the darkness.
However the smooth walls disappeared, and few columns remained, yet he found corpses. The caverns were naturally formed at their deepest. How far did the diseased people travel below? Miltos could not imagine they would, or could for that matter, travel the length he went.
Something stirred in the voluminous cavern. He stiffened, waiting for the creature to come near him. Its movements were glutinous, and it did not hasten to his light. The slime passed him, carrying a corpse within it. Its body stretched and contracted as it went to its destination. Miltos followed, sensing the source of the miasma.
He stopped. All around him he could sense this poison, as though it flooded the air, however there was a land of dry earth among it all. A wall limestone blocked him from his path, and not wishing to surprise whatever else was down below with him, he followed the wall to search for an opening. Circling around, an opening hid his breath of fresh air. He removed his mask, and though he could smell decay,he could not sense the miasma.
The torch waved in the darkness as he sought to make sense of the room.Faded glyphs ran along its walls, and four spikes, each with their own glyphs, lay on their sides on the ground, encircling what was a small burial ground. He rested on his knee, peering inwards, sensing a small portion of the miasma, as though it were once contained within it. Cautious, lest he fall into it, he jerked back. His hand nudged against one of the spikes, feeling his strength fill it. It did not consume his Karas; rather, it reminded him of water naturally flowing down streams into lakes. Taking the pike in hand, Miltos thought he saw the strange metal contort in his hand. Its polished surface seemed more like water.
Holding it as one might hold a sword, the spike rippled, losing its shape. It was the same as when he first molded a knife from dirt in his village, spilling his own blood to renew the crops. The spike oozed around his hand, forming a make-shift hilt, but it was incomplete. He took another of the spikes, allowing his Karas to fill it, and pressed it against the molded hilt. With more material, it formed into a long sword similar to what he had seen hanging on the walls in the citadel. With the cruciform hilt and double-edged blade fully realized, its size demanded two hands, but he found only one hand was needed to lift it. Lifting himself from the ground, he ventured into the miasma, feeling confident with the weapon.
The viscid creature crept to its destination as Miltos followed it.Though he wore his mask, the repugnant smell of decay became unbearable. The source of the miasma was clearly visible in his mind’s eye, but he thought it best to follow the creature from a distance. He tried to conceal his steps, however a curdled substance grew beneath him. It throbbed like blood, coursing along the cavern walls.
“You are not the vessel of Andyr.” A voice hissed, trying to mimic a human.
Miltos froze. He extended the torch to his front as he readied the sword. A creature of organs and flesh rose from the curdled substance, taking a shapeless form. Its mass writhed, unsure of how to compose itself.Veins, viscera, and bone intermingled, twisting into itself. A skull began forming from the muscles as they convulsed, tearing themselves apart only to heal in the manner of the plague that affected the city.
“Where is the vessel, mortal?” A loathing eye regarded Miltos. It glowered at his presence. “What concern does Dyrda’s vassal have?”
“From what I can tell, to get rid of you. Whatever you are.” Miltos replied. He readied the sword at his shoulder, to swing at the creature should it charge.
It gurgled in an attempt to laugh. “Has she sent a dying man to do her work?” Its body shook in amusement. “What lies has she told you? What has she promised you? Your body wanes from her Karas.”
Miltos rubbed the tip of his index finger as it wrapped around the hilt of the sword. An indentation was forming; dirt was being shoveled out of it as he rubbed it. “What do you mean by that?”
“She has burdened your body.” The voice emanating from the creature sounded less like mimicry. “I am Osinis, Bone Shriver and servant to the Ancient Light; I am a far greater deity than Dyrda,and I know her ways. Your decrepit gods will return to the void, and take you all with them!”
The creature lumbered towards Miltos as its tendrils slowly sifted through the coagulated substance on the earth. Branching out onto the walls, they encircled Miltos like claws. He swung the point of the long sword across one of the tendrils, severing it from the creature.Blood flowed from it like a wound, healing instantly into bone.
More tendrils shot out from the walls of the cavern, latching onto Miltos.He struggled, swinging his sword in an attempt to cut them away. One of the tendrils jetted out of the ground, wrapping itself around his face, crushing the mask. It penetrated his lips, forcing itself down his throat. Miltos flailed himself against the wall, trying to remove the tendril from his body. Dropping the torch, he gripped the tendril at his mouth, squeezing it in the hope that his bare hand would crush it.
The creature enclosed itself onto Miltos. Its putrid body, composed from the corpses of the citizenry, rumbled as though in laughter. Another body, but one filled with Karas, would strengthen it. Soon it would leave, and search for the vessel of Andyr.
Metal destroyed flesh as Miltos pierced the creature with his longsword. He gagged on the tendril in his mouth, filling his body with poison. The sword, having penetrated the flesh of the creature, took on the shape of a multi-pronged weapon. Points of metal darted from the original blade, puncturing additional organs, bone, and muscle of the creature. Like a poison itself, the aqueous metal began coursing in the creature’s veins, paralyzing it.
The tendril loosened it grip, and Miltos pulled it away from inside his mouth. He vomited. Various fluids were ejected from his stomach. Some seemed to be blood and bile, whether it was his own or the creature’s was unclear. He gasped, able to breathe again, though the miasma soon reminded
him that it was best to not take deep breaths. He reached for the torch,wiping away at his mouth.
It stood just over him, paralyzed as though it were a statue. He thrust the sword into what seemed to be its chest cavity, and it extended itself in various directions into the creature, binding it. Miltos gripped the sword, trying to remove it, but instead he broke off the hilt of the sword. The blade and its additional progeny remained in their punctured state within the creature. The creature hissed, but could not speak. Its one eye watched Miltos despairingly as it saw its previous shackles become renewed.
Miltos molded the remaining portion of the hilt into a long spike,puncturing the skull and eye of the creature. Bone did not form from the pierced flesh. The miasma dissipated, though the stench of decayed bodies remained. All that remained of this old god was its melting carcass and its remaining bone ligaments. Its skeletal features were not of any common animal, but rather a synthesis of various bone. The ribcage was asymmetrical, producing a spine that curved like snake with a hand and femur attached to it.
The strange metal held the bones in suspension as it penetrated various parts of it. However it took a fluid state, enveloping the bone. The pike shifted itself into the cavity of the skull, filling it as the metal covered the remains. Bones cracked and shattered. Falling to its side, the skeleton was crushed until what remained was an orb of metal.
Miltos leaned over it, rolling it around with his foot. The orb did not seem to mind him. He vomited again, gagging over the remains of what was no longer in his stomach. It was over.
The orb was light, despite its contents and material. Cradling it in his arm, he picked up his torch and headed to room of the small burial pit. Two spikes remained on the ground, waiting for him to make use of them. He dropped the metal orb into the hole, then lifted the two spikes. They reacted to his presence, flowing from his hand like water into the pit. Filling it to the brim, they formed a tomb for the orb.
Miltos headed to the surface. His body ached, though the Karas enhanced his endurance. As he followed the trail that led him to the depths of the cavern, he commanded the earth behind him to cave in, so that no one would be able to find it again. Those depths would forever contain the tomb of a god, lost and long forgotten.
He walked up the steep slope, remembering that Adelard went for his friend. Help was no longer needed, perhaps it was never needed. Miltos was the who was required. He did not, however, sense the creature that had attacked him. When he stood before Osinis, it was not the same power that had gripped his face. He searched the landscape, and also recalled in his memory, of where the creature could be.
Miltos could only sense Adelard.