Monday, March 1, 2010

The Necropolis of Alkhezzar - Part VII

"Oh classic!"  Pops said peering up and tilting his head to the side.  "Fafnir, watch the walls go from city sewer contract work to obsessive dwarves incorporated."

Fafnir spared the walls a quick glance before turning his tense gaze back to the corridor.  "It looks old."  he said as they moved down the passageway.

"Oh sure." Pops continued.  "Charter membership in the 'we don't build them like that society for hidden crypts'." 

As they crept carefully forward the clean lines of the hall gave way to a chamber of moderate size.  Fafnir's light threw twisted shadows that danced and stretched across the stone floor.

"Pops," Fafnir said nervously.  "I am not terribly fond of crypts."

A dry voice cut into the conversation, "Then perhaps you should leave while you are able."

"See?"  Fafnir said, pointing vaguely into the chamber.  "This is why.  Either something is living in a crypt, is lurking in a crypt, or trying to either get in or get out.  There are no abandoned crypts."

"Where is the fun in an abandoned crypt?"  Pops asked.

"Are the two of you going to continue this inane chatter?"  asked the voice.

"Yes."  Fafnir and Pops said together.  

"You see," Fafnir continued.  "You obviously don't want us to leave."  He stepped further into the room.  Pops slid in past him and stepped to the side.  The shadows on the floor and walls bounced and twisted.

"I assure you I do,"  insisted the cat-like humanoid as it stepped within range of Fafnir's light. 

"No.  I agree with my friend." Pops pointed at the three other Cateris slipping down the hallway behind him.  "You suggested we leave, but your friends are blocking the way out."

"Which means you want to talk."  Fafnir surmised.

"And we like talking."  Pops concluded with a grin.

The Cateris peered at them with emerald eyes.  When he spoke, he revealed sharp gleaming incisors.  "Perhaps we wish to fight?"

Pops chuckled.  "Considering the pressure plate your see-in-the-dark friends back there just stepped on, I am pretty certain that wouldn't work out for you."

The Cateris's eyes opened in alarm and he growled something to the three in the corridor.  There was a quick back and forth in the cat tongue.  Pops started moving around the room.

"Stay where you are!"  hissed the Cateris.

"Or what?  You'll spit on me?"  Pops snorted and continued his investigation.

The Cateris growled out another phrase in his tongue and the warriors at the entrance began loading crossbows.

"Oh come on!"  Fafnir said with an exasperated sigh.  "What are crossbows going to get you?  Two dead bodies you can't go near because a horde of whirling blades will chop you into meat?"

"What if they miss?"  Pops asked.

"Yeah."  Fafnir looked over his shoulder.  "Have you thought about that for a minute?  You miss, then I do something drastic.  It knocks half of you off the plate.  Whirling death.  Then the roof caves in."

The leader of the Cateris snarled, "You do not understand the forces you are dealing with."

"Of course I do," Pops said at the same time that Fafnir replied, "Obviously, I mean look at him."

"Hey!"  Pops complained.  "Oh ye of little faith, wizard.  Watch this."

Pops twisted at several stoned against one wall, looked at his map a moment, and then, with his tongue caught thoughtfully between his front teeth, made three more deft twists.

"Aha!"  He cried out with glee.

"You fool,"  called the Cateris.  "What have you done?"

There was a grinding of stone followed by a section of the wall splitting open.  Pops reached into the crevice and pilled out a glittering purple gem.  He clitched it with both hands and did a small dance.

"Holy crap."  Fafnir said.  "Look at the size of that thing."

"I found it!  I found it!  The key to Alkhezzar!"  Pops chortled and pranced.

The Cateris swore.  "Chaos!  You are in league with the wretched ones.  You will die for this trespass little man!"

"Whoa, whoa, whoa.  We are not 'in league' with anyone."  Pops backpedaled.

"Then why have you sought the key?"  asked the Cateris with another growl.

"Um...flawless purple gem the size of my fist?"  Pops answered with a confused look to Fafnir.  "Key to the gate of unheralded riches?"  He whispered loudly to Fafnir, "Is this guy slow?"

"You believe the Alkhezzar is a trove of treasure?"  The Cateris practically spat in disbelief.  "You are dumber than you look, halfling."

"Now wait a minute..." Fafnir interjected.

"It's a necropolis.  People bury their dead with riches."  Pops explained.

"You...you...what?"  the Cateris looked stunned.

"I mean, I am not planning on digging anybody up."  Pops put his hands up defensively, the gem clutched firmly in his right hand.  "There should be plenty of interesting things lying around."

"The...the Alkhezzar is not a necropolis...it is a Necropolis."  The Cateris explained with emphasis.

Pops blinked.  "It's a necropolis.  That's what I have been saying."

"No, you crazy halfling.  It is one of the Necropoli.  Ancient fortifications of chaos.  Resting place for the armies of the forsaken.  Closed by the archmagii millenia ago.  Prison to the champions of chaos.  That key has been lost for centuries.  If the Alkhezzar were ever opened."  The Cateris shuddered.  "I beg you.  Please.  Relinquish your hold upon it."

"And give it over to you?"  Pops asked.

"Pop..." Fafnir said with concern.  "If what he says is true..."

"Have you ever heard of these forsaken bathhouses?"  Pops rounded on Fafnir.

"No, Pops...but...well...its sounds kinda scary.  Like...dead forever scary."  Fafnir replied.

"Please..." begged the Cateris.

"Why you, Cateris?" Pops asked suspiciously.  "What if I wanted to protect the key?"  He whispered loudly again, "Size of my fist, Fafnir."   There was a pained desperate note in his voice. 

"We are a sacred order charged with the protec..."

"Oh who the hell isn't a member of a sacred order?"  Pops cut in.  "I'm in three."

"You try my patience and insult my honor little one.  Have a care."

"Or what?"  Pops thrust out his chin and dropped one hand to the sling at his belt.  His eyes bored into the Cateris.  A sudden snarl ripped out from the warriors at the entrance.  "Sorry, didn't catch that.  You were saying?" Pops asked without breaking his stare.

"Company!" Fafnir shouted, spinning back towards the entrance.

.

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Geek - Gamer - Librarian - Writer. Only awesome at one of those things at a time, unfortunately.

About Fading Interest

After writing op-eds and travelogues for several years, after finishing a few books, and after failing to get the ball rolling with project after project I stumbled into an idea that might just hold my interest long enough to enjoy some level of satisfaction with my writing.