the Halls of the Mountain King pt I
Collection: Ages of Youth
Chronicled by: Valhel
Pandora gently swung the ancient doors of the vacant chapel wide. Rusted hinges upon rotted wood disturbed after long years of neglect creaked and crumbled, damp bits and splinters fell down to the stone threshold from where Pandora's touch had held. Tiny, hideous creatures, now exposed, writhed and swarmed to their colonies beneath the wood as Pandora shut the doors behind her. A profane air filled the sanctuary. Though windows and walls were broken and wind would find easy welcome the air remained dead. Five gleaming light shone beneath Pandora's helm, the fortunes of the future illuminating the secrets of the dark and distant past.
Delicately she placed her steps, careful not to announce her presence. Pandora had witnessed the Watchers forsake their meeting to tend the fog bound horrors of night, but she could not risk certainty of their entire departure. Doubtless Desmond, leader of the band, would have unfriendly questions after Pandora's betrayal of his town to the weirded nights that besieged them. Still, Pandora required more answers than even her oblivious hosts. Plague was defeated, the resistance survived, and Pandora was freed of her dark quest, but not her sins.
In the weeks following the final Halleaux Petra, commander of the resistance, had granted her clemency. In the peace that followed the victory at Roanoak Pandora became increasingly aware of a dark plot that slithered through the iron halls of the secret base. It was this shadow that birthed Pandora's foul questions, that drove her into confrontation with the others, and that brought her back to the forlorn chapel, two hundred years before the last Halleaux.
In the wake of the conflict that was stoked at Roanoak Pandora had slipped back through time, a practice now forbidden to the resistance. Arriving just outside of the mist choked village Pandora waited for the night to fall and the Watchers to gather under the decrepit rafters of the ancient church and then depart. Now within the hallowed walls she searched for clues that she was not entirely sure existed in the first place. Her helm, outfitted with technology stolen from the resistance, revealed a thin journal resting beneath one of the pews. Reaching down and dusting off the book, Pandora rifled through the decaying pages. Records of cryptic sightings, murders and the relevant evidence followed by arrests, diaries of bizarre testimonies, attendance of Watchers, a summarized history of Pandora's own arrival some years before, and at last a catalogue of peculiar and vile artifacts seized by the Watchers. This is what Pandora had hoped to find, one more piece of a meticulously erratic puzzle. Removing her helm, Pandora swept her eyes down the log by moonlight alone.
Tomes of false histories...
Specimens of diseased trees...
Trinkets and oddities deemed unnaturally unlucky...
A broken sword of a bygone age...
Charred fangs gathered from an extinguish wild fire...
A devilish crown...
And finally Pandora's clue...a mirror excavated from the mountainside after an earthquake.
Pandora shut the book and replaced it beneath the pew before unlatching the trapdoor behind the pulpit. Below wound a stair that curled into blackness. Setting her helm upon her head again, Pandora ignited her five "eyes" and descended into the shadows.
Below the rotting boards of the chapel floor wound a vast darkness. The ancient and slumbering air clung woefully to Pandora's lungs, it was as is her own breath gave signal to an unseen and poisonous ward left behind to safeguard the passage against invaders. Each footfall down the stair announced the intrusion with creaks and cracks no matter how careful Pandora placed her step. Slowly, fearfully, the descent continued. Brick walls became damp earth, and tiny pale fibrous roots reached blindly into the cold air. Every now and then a tangle of roots would twitch with life in the lights of Pandora's helm before it pulled back into the soil. As this behavior continued Pandora noted that not all of these ghastly shoots were plant life, many in fact were fist sized spiders that retreated back into their hovels.
As the stair stretched onward into the blackness the steps became slick with mud and the once infrequent spiders grew in number, there now being hundreds of twitching and blind creatures just barely overhead. Pandora, now greatly thankful for her helmet, pressed further down the stair at a quicker pace, desperate to be rid of writhing pests and the stifling air.
Along the walls the roots, when not scurrying away, began to turn upward. The creaking of Pandora's steps too ceased as she felt her weight lighten upon the boards, and the soil upon the stair seemed to be more dry than the earth at the top of the passage. Then curiosity struck. As Pandora turned her attention to the ceiling she noted a phenomenon that dismissed all other thought and sensation. For indeed the world did seem weightless, and the ground oddly quiet. Bizarre droplets trickled up from the earth, navigating between root and limb, and then slinking into a puddle that rested upon the roof of the passage. Wonder seized Pandora, the puddle rippled with each new droplet that trickled up from her feet and into the ceiling.
Could it be the gravity shifting? Perhaps an illusion? She thought to herself.
Suddenly pain stabbed through Pandora's chest and a horrific realization flooded her mind. The droplets were not water, but rather were bubbles of air rising not to a pool, but to a surface. Pandora was under water and out of breath.
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