After checking on our frightened Hexblade, I notice that Word is tending Vedis, who seems to be out cold from the fall on the deck after finishing off that Quori.
“She seems to be all right, she just knocked her head when she fell.”
Sensing an opportunity, I leap down the stairs to the main deck and grin. “Wait…wait… let me get my giggles out before you wake her up,” I chuckle as I mimic her actions with my hands. “WOOSH…BANG! Seriously… that was priceless!”
I take a few moments to reload all my guns in case there are more creatures showing up, when eventually Vedis groggily opens her eyes and sits up. “Do you see that?” she mutters to Word and points to the air around her head.
“Why yes, I do…” Word replies. Feh… secret psychic stuff I guess…
I lean over Vedis and offer her a hand up. “Great trick… but you need to work on the finale,” I joke. Once Vedis clears her head she and Word scan the ship for any more of these dream creatures… but all seems to be clear for now.
“Well if there’s nothing else that needs immediate attention… I’m going back to bed,” I say as I gesture over my shoulder to the stairs. Bed, yes… rest… well… that depends on if Dassam is still asleep.
It’s about 5 days into our travels inside the sphere when we finally have a planet within sight. According to our maps, there is supposedly treasure on the planet Soharas. Just so long as there is air…and that Dragon constellation isn’t named after anything living around here.
As we travel closer, it seems that the black haze has started to gather in clumps to block our sight… to the point that it feels like it’s almost sentient in the way that it’s trying to block us from going there.
“Any idea what this substance might be?” I ask the silent Psiforged as we perform as look-outs on the fore deck. “It seems odd that a creature from your home would all of a sudden appear here.”
He seems about to reply when Vedis walks by on the deck below muttering something about “pretty sparkles in the fog.” Word turns slightly to listen and then the stones imbeded in his chest momentarially glow.
“There is definitely something odd in the mist,” Word confirms. “From what I can tell… it is as if the barrier between the Dream realm and the Prime is especially thin here…and thus allows the Quori to manifest.”
“Dreams, eh?” Vedis asks as she climbs the stair to the fore deck. “Watch this,” she says as she slaps her hands together and then holds them out and concentrates. After a moment the strange fog seems to thin slightly… to the delight of some of the applauding crew.
“Heh… if that impresses them, they haven’t seen anything yet,” I snort.
Eventually with Vedis’ assistance we are able to make our way through the fog to finally get a good look at Soharas. For a place that’s supposed to have treasure, it looks awfully…well… dull. There’s hardly anything of note on the surface… just flat lands and lots of holes in the ground of various sizes. Some of them are quite small… but some of them are so big our ship might actually fit.
“The scope says the air is good with moderate intelligent life,” we hear Ef Utan declare over the tubes. “We’re going down to 1,500 feet to get a closer look at the larger holes in the ground.”
As we drop down closer to the planet I lean over the rail and try to spot anything our of the ordinary. Once we stop and hover over one of them I still can’t spot anything… but I feel something. It’s almost like…like I can feel a shifting in gravity every time we pass over one.
Illustration by Cam de Leon
Suddenly it clicks and I run over to one of the tubes. “Ef… I think those larger tunnels are made to be ship entrances! I can feel the gravity shift when we pass over them, like a box flipped on its side!”
“Okay… but which tunnel? There are a few in this area.” Ef Utan replied. “The scanner has picked up a few. One of them has a black shimmer to it, one is full of bats, and there are three others that are pretty plain.”
“Hmmn… believe it or not, I vote for the one with bats in it. If they are sleeping there, then there must not be any bigger monsters or other disturbances in the tunnel, right?”
“Good point,” Ef Utan replies. “I’ll tell Lenata where we need to go while the rest of you play look-out on deck.”
Today seems to be a good day for ship piloting… as Lenata is able to smoothly take us down into the tunnel where we initiate silent running so as not to disturb the bats sleeping above our heads. As the light from the green pyramid fades, it is replaced by the dim glow of moss along the walls… just enough for those of us with low-light vision.
It isn’t long before the silence and slow speed get to me, though. “Hey, you want to see a neat trick?” I ask Word as I grab something out of my pack, as it seems he and Vedis are using their powers for sight on the foredeck. He turns to me with glowing eyes and is about to respond when Vedis sees the Thunderstone in my hand and grabs my wrist.
“No…no he doesn’t,” she says sternly before letting me go.
Feh… psions… no sense of humor.
Seeing as that diversion wasn’t going to work… I construct diagrams in my head of my new idea for an invention for ships: Darkvision Spotlights.
Eventually my boredom is broken by us coming to a fork in the tunnel. Once everything is quieted, I lean out on the foredeck and do my best to listen for any signs of life. I’m just about to give up when I hear the faintest sound from the left tunnel that surpises me. Could that have been a…. meow?
“Sounds of feline life from the left tunnell, guys,” I whisper into the tubes.
“…okay…” Ef Utan replies after a moment. “Let’s get the crew manning the weapons while the rest of us take point positions before we move on.”
Once the catapult and ballistas are manned, Vedis and I take the front, Ef Utan and Takero take the back, and Word… he walks over the side of the ship and sticks to the bottom. Show off.
We continue to “fly casual” as Vedis put it… until I see a large circular entrance carved with runes embedded in the tunnel’s path. As we get closer my eyes widen in shock as I realize I recognize these runes… for they are very close to the hieroglyphs of Mulhorand. Could these be from the Egyptos culture that I read about?
“The text speaks of a blessing to Ra, the Sun God and “all-father” to the gods of Mulhorand," I tell the others. “There’s nothing about warnings, infidels, non-believers or treasure… and I didn’t find any traps around it, so I think it’s ok to keep going.”
We all hold our breath as Lenata continues to move the ship through the stone circle, and let it out in relief when nothing happens. Just in time for me to gasp, as once I look past the circle I see in the distance where they might have come from.
“By Bast’s whisker…” I whisper as I take in the sights of the pyramids and obelisks of home.