Chapter Eleven: *Plop*
The tales of Galshea swirled around in Ivak’s head at the mention that someone had been present in the cave. He hoped that a number of the tales were not true in that moment, in fact just to be safe he hoped none of them were true.
“I don’t sense anyone, well at least I don’t sense anyone hostile” Claroosa said.
Given that Claroosa was a warrioress of some prowess, it wasn’t surprising that she could in some small way sense others. Fatho being a thief could see all kinds of signs not clear to Claroosa and Ivak.
A scuff here, a hair there, dust that was flakes of skin, the subtle wake left in the flow of magic from the passage of others. Fatho didn’t even need to use any of those though.
“Come, follow me and don’t go ahead, who knows what traps or protections there might be here”
“Wait, what if there is still people about?” Ivak objected.
Fatho shook his head. “No, there isn’t anyone”
He lifted his head and sniffed the air, his eyes going a little glassy as if he was looking at something else, while his grey irises glowed faintly.
“There is something in here, a portal of some kind, recently used, look yourself Milord, you should see where the flow cuts off, as if it was flowing through a door that was suddenly closed”
It is possible to look at the flows of magic, but given that it is all around and ethereal, understanding what you see can be a bit difficult, and it often obscures the physical. All who live in Kigan naturally divide their sight by instinct, and it requires a good bit of training or mishap to gain access to this second sight, sometimes called magesight.
Ivak closed his eyes. The method he had been taught demanded this, it was a very safe method, as it meant that as soon as one opened their eyes, their sight would return to the physical.
Ivak saw a river of flickering rainbow. Magic shifts through colours, or perhaps colours shift through magic. The river filled his sight. The river had an icy golden sheen to it. The iciness was the presence of the cold, the golden sheen was seen throughout Kigan, it meant the magic was mostly the pollen of the great anchor tree, refined heartflame.
Ivak could make out his own spark of life, his heartflame. It sent out raw wild sparks of turquoise tinged reddish grey magic from his form, which in his magesight, he could only make out due to the countless patterns of many colours upon it. He did not even see all the patterns there was, his mind would not have been able to take that, but most of the patterns were interlocked. He could however see that his sparks were minuscule spheres, so used was he to his own magic.
He could see the blazing purple ringed green grey heartflame of Claroosa, a gentle but hard flame deep beneath the shifting patterns on her form, only his familiarity with her granted him this sight. There was, disturbingly, a dark green almost black pattern that did not move, lain across her back like the skin of an animal. The legs and arms of this animal however wrapped themselves around the arms and legs of her form, while the back was a impenetrable knot. Ivak had been perturbed by it the first time he had seen it, but Claroosa had been well aware of it, and had refused to speak of it, so Ivak had gotten used to the fierce sight. This pattern as always pulsed with promised power.
He could not see Fatho at all. He supposed that being a thief of his calibre, Fatho had ways of hiding himself from the second sight of others.
Ivak followed the flow of magic, it carried the wind into the cave, a trailing pattern chasing the flow almost invisible. He tracked the flow beyond what he could physically see, through the ice which itself held trapped magic that restlessly oozed about. The rainbow flow ended sharply, though it was starting to flow around and out of the cave, as if someone had shut a door on it.
There was other things too, Ivak saw trailing metallic dim purple lines reaching out to the cave entrance from a pattern deeper in the cave, but he was not skilled enough to follow anything other than the flow of magic. These lines cut through the flow, subtly suckling on it, like a plant’s errant offshoots seeking the light.
“Yes, this is quite the sight.” Ivak said.
“I should really learn to do that one of these days” Claroosa mused.
“You mean you can’t? I would have thought someone of your experience would have been able to” Fatho remarked.
Claroosa shrugged “Never took the time when I was adventuring, and it didn’t happen as a matter of course, then I guess I didn’t have need of it when I was back at House Vulk”
“Well, its a pain to make sense of any of this stuff anyway, I’d happily have someone do it for me” Fatho complained.
They moved deeper into cave, Ivak began to see more fronds of the metallic purple pattern. There was wide stepped stairs, black stone, laid into the ice. The stones were warm to the touch. The stones did not leave anything other than a form with patterns in the second sight, the patterns were different from the patterns of the ice of the cave walls, but, it was not a difference Ivak would be able to see.
“Milord, hold onto my arm, there is steps” Claroosa said, seeing Ivak’s eyes still closed.
Ivak gingerly grasped onto her outstretched arm and they descended.
“Fatho, do you know of what rock these steps are cut from? I’ve not seen its like before” Claroosa asked.
Fatho was furtively looking at the walls, ceiling and floor, his eyes flickering between magesight and regular vision. He stopped abruptly at Claroosa’s question almost tumbling down the steps.
“Woah, ah, right the steps. I reckon it’s just regular durcan, but doesn’t explain why it’s warm to the touch” he said.
“A side effect of the larger pattern in the cave?” Ivak posited.
“Might be onto something there” Fatho agreed.
Claroosa was content with this, and they continued their descent. More and more of the walls and ceiling were replaced by durcan as they got deeper in, and Ivak watched the greater pattern show more of itself. Ivak let out a gasp as they reached the end. It was a dead end room, all hard angles. Runes and other mystic sigils carved into the walls, floor and ceiling. The ceiling in question was made up of hexagons, a different stylised figure in the centre of each one.
Before them was what was clearly a portal of some sort and before the door was a pedestal made of durcan, carved in the shape of serpentine creatures. A pair of massive amethyst doors, a pair of pedestals bearing the shattered remains of clawed amethyst feet, probably once statues. The doors were covered with engravings of doors, which in turn had engravings of doors.
It was a bit much.
Ivak however saw something quite different, a pattern like a plant, and where the door was closed purple petals with green edgings. A flower that when its petals opened, would reveal a way to the shadowrealm, the land of mirrors and dreams, Awarth. The pattern was clearly not natural for all its plant-like appearance. Ivak saw it more as like a painting of a flower or more acccurately a sculpture, welded metal sculpture. Still, it took his breath.
“Of course, a shadowgate. Claroosa, my easel if you please” Ivak requested.
Fatho considered objecting, he’d have liked an to have a bit of help figuring out how the portal worked. Instead he sighed.
” A few words before you get stuck into painting milord, have either of you been to Awarth before?”
“No, I have not” Ivak said.
“Neither have I, I’m afraid” Claroosa said.
Fatho lightly tugged one of his antenna.
“Right well, whatever you’ve read Milord Ivak, and whatever you’ve heard Miss Mjorn, you obey what I say. I’ve been there a few times, first couple of times I almost died, after the first time, I made sure not to return without a guide, I still almost died. Kigan is dangerous, but if you aren’t native to Awarth, it’s more dangerous. We’ll be weaker in Awarth, more vulnerable.”
Fatho began pacing back and forth, frowning.
“I’ve a couple of ground rules that I can think right now, I don’t care if you’ve heard or read of them before. Now these are all equally important some will be more fatal if you don’t follow them.
First things first, don’t use magesight and if you do, don’t look at the sky. In fact just try avoiding looking at the sky, it isn’t healthy for us.
Second, don’t eat anything that we haven’t brought with us and don’t eat anything I don’t first approve.
Third, if we get separated, ask ‘how is the dried eel today’ the reply is ‘it was alive so I didn’t have any’. If you don’t get this answer or question, then just run or attack whatever is pretending to be one of us.
Fourth, if we end up in a dream bubbles, just do your best to get out as quickly as possible, and don’t play along with anything, again don’t eat anything.
Fifth, don’t look in any mirrors.
Sixth, do not go near the shadows of beings, if one makes contact with you, get away.
Right, you got all that? We’ll go over some stuff when we get to the other side, but just stick to my lead, and we’ll likely be fine”
“What about Dreammist? What do we do if we end up in that?” Ivak asked.
Fatho sighed. “You are probably asking that because of some stuff you’ve read, well I can tell you that the stories are true. If you get caught in dreammist, all bets are off. You won’t even remember that there was anything outside of the dreammist, and almost nothing escapes unchanged from dreammist. There’d be no point to going in after someone caught in that”
Ivak nodded. Fatho stalked off to fiddle about with the pedestal. Claroosa finished setting up Ivak’s stuff and then took her time looking about the room herself. Ivak set to painting what his second sight revealed.
Fatho glared at the sight of the top of the pedestal. It was a board of holes and channels connecting the holes, with pegs that had various carved animal heads on them. The pegs could slide about but it wasn’t possible to lift them.
“This might take me a while!” Fatho called out.
“Especially if I don’t want to end up killing us all” he muttered.
He stared carefully at the board and the pegs for a long time, switching between magesight and regular sight.
“Need to supplement my sense of direction with more information” he murmured to himself.
Then he stepped away from the pedestal and followed the patterns, carvings and structure of the rest of the portal. He went about carefully examining all of this for some time…
* * * * *
They ended up taking a break for a meal, and Ivak decided to paint a picture of how the door looked normally as well. Claroosa decided to practice a few stances and techniques, she could be heard grunting in the background, but Fatho was able to tune out the noise as he returned to the portal lock.
“This’ll be easier than I thought” He said, after more time had passed.
“This place is really old” He said, while moving pegs here and there “but it’s been recently and kinda regularly used, not often though, there’s pretty huge gaps between the visits”
He moved more pegs around.
“The portal leads two places. One is some place far beneath us, and the other?”
“Awarth!” He moved the last peg in place and all the pegs descended into the board.
The darkness oozed out from the cracks in the doors.
This continued for about half an hour, well after they had everything packed away and ready. The darkness lurked sullenly at their feet.
“Well, I’m not sure what went wrong, It should have worked.” Fatho said.
It was that moment that everything lit up dim pulsing metallic purple, the figures on the ceiling danced about, the doors slammed open and the swirling liquid darkness behind it sucked the group into itself with a plop, rippling for a while afterwards. The doors slowly closed shut and then the strange portal sanctuary was empty once more.