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CATACOMBSChapter One

TABLE OF CONTENTS
T

he taste of dust and dirt. Stone stretching outwards. Intricate patterns, chiseled into the rock.

Gradually, he became aware that he was lying face down upon a stone floor.

Odd.

He pondered the fuzzy burning in his head. Another minute passed before, sluggishly, he realized he should probably get up. Struggling against the lethargy that filled his body, he managed to roll over and sit up. The motion cleared his head, and he quickly climbed all the way to his feet.

 

The room was dark, only lit by a dimly glowing crystal embedded in the wall, but by the light he could make out additional details. The walls were constructed of simple blocks, large slabs of stone, cut from some mountain ages ago. The floor itself was a single slab, but decorated with a finely detailed, circular carving of winding grooves, foreign symbols, and hair-line vectors. At some point the roof had been braced up with wood, but that had long since rotted away, revealing more yet more stone. A single archway led out of the room into an even more lugubrious hallway.

All of this seemed very alien to him, like visiting a far off land. More familiar, however, was the item that lay at his feet. What was otherwise a straight and unexceptional sword featured large, left-and-right-alternating teeth extending all down the blade, and, upon closer inspection, jagged veins of gold running through it like lightning bolts.

Yes, this is mine, I remember. he thought to himself as he reached down to grasp it.

As his fingers wrapped around the hilt, a tingle crawled up his arm, a charge. A burning, metallic smell filled the air. At first, this startled him, but something about it just seemed right.

Yes, yes, this makes sense. I’m just… not sure why.

He turned the blade over in his hand, and as he did a spark leaped from his gauntlet. For the first time, he noticed the armor he was wearing. It was light in weight, but covered his entire body. The plates were jet black with golden etchings woven throughout, and they were fit so comfortably he scarcely noticed them. As he admired his metal suit, he took a few strides forward and through the arched doorway.

Beyond was a simple, narrow, arched tunnel that ran both left and right, fading into darkness both ways. Neither direction seemed particularly intriguing, so he chose left. Just as his eyes were becoming adjusted to the darkness, the tunnel began to get brighter, and, after a twist and a turn, emptied out into a larger chamber.

This room had several crystals in the walls, and the floor was slightly bowl shaped with irregular gouges in it, as though someone had broken parts away with a pickax. In addition, two of the four tunnels that fed into the room had been torn up to make them wider. Otherwise, it was as unremarkable as the tunnel he came from.

The people who built this weren’t big on architectural diversity.

Onward he ventured, first down one corridor, then another, and another. Left at a fork, right down a staircase, straight through a chamber. Oh, and there were many chambers: square chambers, dim chambers, empty chambers, and chambers furnished with rudimentary and rotting tables. Each chamber was different, but none were exceptional.

As he wandered throughout the complex, he was surprised to notice a sinking feeling in is stomach.

What’s wrong? What is going on here? He frowned as he tried to diagnose the problem. Then it struck him. I don’t know what’s going on here. I don’t have a reason to be in these tunnels. How did I get here? He tried desperately to remember what was doing before he woke up in the chamber. To his horror, he realized he didn’t recall anything predating the hour.

Don’t panic. I can figure this out. I’ll go back to the first room and start from there.

He turned and bolted back down the hall.

Just a take the turn on the left head back up the staircase… or was the staircase further back.

He was utterly lost. At first, it seemed he was in familiar territory, but before long he found rooms he’d never seen before: rooms with prison cells, rooms with decorated with manacles and chains. His hope started to drain away. Ancient bloodstains decorated the ground. Finally, he stopped and collapsed in the most gruesome room of all. A simple room with two doors and a tall, iron structure in the center.

It towered over him like a ghastly, bony skeleton. It stood despite its obvious lack of maintenance, as though it understood its grisly purpose, but accepted its place in the world. Its rusted metal covered in the vital fluid of its victims, its heavy collar prepared to accept a tribute, its tarnished blade awaiting the order, just waiting to fall.

As he stared at the Guillotine, it was as though the last drop of hope had been squeezed from his soul.


He wasn’t sure how much time had passed when the snuffling began. It was growing quickly in volume as the sniffer drew closer. He didn’t know what was making the noise, whether it was dangerous or friendly, what it was looking for, or what he should be doing about it. However, when one has spent some time deprived of interaction—in fact, when one has no memory of ever interacting—any sign of life, while frightening, can be potentially cheering. So, despite conflicted instincts, he once again stood, and waited for the creature to arrive.

When it did, he regretted that decision. It was a bizarre canine animal, black and grey with streaks of red in its disheveled fur.

Perhaps this would be the result if a large wolf was struck by lightning, survived half singed, and and was dragged through a raspberry bush.

The beast locked eyes with him, and let out a long, piercing howl, before rushing in for the kill.

He backed up, swinging his sword, trying to fend off his attacker, but to little avail. The wolfish monster raked the weapon out of his hand, sending it clattering against the wall. He turned to run but toppled as the weight of the assailant struck his back, forcing him to the ground. He desperately covered his neck with his gauntlets as the attacked clawed and bit at his vulnerability. Perhaps the sensation of teeth on armor was unpleasant for the wolf; after the first bite it yipped and took a step back.

He took full advantage of the opening. Flipping over, he elbowed the wolf as hard as he could in the snout.

CRACK!

As the wolf staggered back, he scrambled for his sword, but he had scarcely wrapped his fingers around it when the monster recovered. The wolf leaped through the air, baring its teeth in a savage snarl. He thrust his sword forward just in time! Aided by the force of the wolf’s own jump, the blade passed through just below the neck, and the beast was no more.

He had no time to celebrate. Even as he pushed the giant corpse off of himself, he could here more howls echoing in the tunnels. Grabbing his sword, he sprinted for the opposite exit.

He wasn’t fast enough. No matter how many intersections he ran through, the howls were drawing closer.

They can smell me. Maybe they can hear me too. Next time, don’t stick around to find out what’s snuffling. Snuffles never mean anything good.

He could hear the scratching of claws on the stone floor behind him. The wolves were seconds away. As he rounded a bend, he risked a quick glance backward. In the narrow halls, it was impossible to guess their number, but he knew there were too many to fight. It was then that he slipped.

A stone had given out beneath him, and now he was tumbling, head over heels down a steep slope. Helplessly he flailed as his limbs were battered against the irregular ridges and lumps of rock. Suddenly, he was in the air. Then, with a mighty splash, he smashed into a body of water and sunk down to the bottom.

It took him a second to recover from the shock, before frantically swimming for the surface. Clawing his way to the edge of the reservoir, he scrambled out of the water. Coughing and choking, he surveyed the cavern. It was rough, not lined with brick, with a few passages leading into it, including the hole in the ceiling. In the center was a deep pool of water fed by a leak in the wall, and the few torches placed around the perimeter illuminated the cave far better than the crystals in the other areas.

Well, at least I seem to have escaped the wolf things. he encouraged himself. And I found a source of water. I don’t need much of a memory to remember that’s important.

He knelt by the water, cupped some up in his hands, tasted it, then spewed it back out.

Salt. Fantastic.

Hearing a splash, he looked up to see a wolf paddling toward him.

Even better.

It was at that moment that he realized his sword was on the bottom of the reservoir. Two more wolves splashed down. He took a step back, then turned to run.

There was a man behind him; he almost jumped with surprise. In his hand was a bow of exceptional make, and a quiver of arrows was on his back. He was clothed in a leather outfit that look as though it had been quite nice once, though now it was tattered and scuffed.

“Get down!” the man shouted, pushing him aside and drawing the bow.

Before he new what had happened, the man planted an arrow in each of the wolves. They ran off whimpering into the tunnels, as the man watched them go, a dissatisfied look on his face.

“Those are 3 arrows I’ll never get back.” the man muttered, turning towards him. “You got a name?”

“Nimbus.” he blurted instinctively. Wait, that’s my name. I remember something!

“Nice to meet you Nimbus. They call me Stinger. C’mon.” the man replied, turning towards a tunnel entrance. “Let’s get you to the Sanctuary before we’re both dead.”

7 February 2015

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