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What Lay Beneath and Beyond


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In the cell so far under the ground, behind the bars and the slatted door of cold hard metal, there is a table upon which three items are laid. A knife, a resonance archive, and a pouch; none have any more meaning or import than the other, and with the growing sense of unease that rapidly mounts with every moment in the gloom of a guttering lamp, none will have any more meaning to those who may find them later. There is another notable addition to the contents of that cell, one which has been almost entirely forgotten as the sounds of guttural howls and metallic scratching steadily encroach on the small cold chamber.


A sound draws your attention from the table and its contents, the meaning to each falling away from your mind as something changes the chaos that crawls ever closer to this place. The shuffling of feet, and hisses of pain, announce the arrival of the warden to this gaol; yet it is not the wizened one that laid you to rot inside the prison, but another, one in the darkened armor and garbs of a tunnel-fighter. A Blackguard, if the old words and names have any weight or meaning anymore, like the knife and the archive and the pouch. He draws in a breath threaded with pain, and leans against the bars, with a weapon drawn in a hand and the other grasping the metal slats for support. "You, you still endure. When all else falls, you have not succumbed." He speaks, perhaps to himself, or perhaps to you, but the words are as weightless as the table-goods and the names of so many lost and gone to the clawing and moaning that approaches even now.


He does not wait for a reply and expects none; your voice is too melodious and musical for the likes of men to ken, even if you can know his own tongue. A key rattles in the lock of the door, and it creaks open with a squeal of metal quickly going to rust and abandonment; a fate you seem to be spared now, if no worse doom awaits. Your feet find a pace behind the injured gait of the Blackguard, and after passing a row of hooks hammered into the rock wall to your side, he finds breath to speak once more. "Get dressed, you'll need it," he says, waving to the garments left behind by previous owners. Almost five souls left hung up on a peg here, never to return; one who tended the clocks and gears, another who took up the hunt, the rugged kind of raiment of the tunnel fighters, and so on. Even the rags of a commoner or the bindings of the malefactor do not seem to be claimed, but you pick the one which you hold true to and dress shortly.


With your body sheathed once more in more-or-less intact garments, the scarlet boot prints upon the rough-hewn rock floor lead to a device that once had a name for those who knew how to use them. A strange arrangement of gears, wiring, tubules and various esoteric engines that not even your eyes or mind recall the form and function of. The Blackguard too is not comfortable with the contraption, but he pantomimes a process he must have witnessed before. Levers are thrown, gears slotted into positions, and some of those cogs even glow with the very light that brought so much woe and worry to this world. He stops, hands gripping tightly to a final switch, looking to you with a mixture of fear and something else in his eyes beneath the helmet; a feeling you once recalled in better times and better days.

"I don't know what will happen, but I know this place is dead. I'm already gone, and the things coming from above and below, they'll snuff this all out in short order. All I can do is this, to use this machine and give you a chance."

Drawing in a deep breath which ends in a rattle and hacking cough, the man shakes and steels himself visibly against the pains he is enduring.

"I'm giving you this chance...please, give me one thing. Fight this, fight it all, deliver us from this dark or just kill it dead while we molder...but just fight it."

You open your mouth to reply, musical miscommunication or not, but he has thrown the lever and the machine flares into life, corposant and temporal wavering emanating from everywhere and nowhere at the same time. It draws you into the madness, the maelstrom, the maniacal mixing of one existence and another, while things of rust and pain reach out with the cries of the underground approaching the chamber before-


-the sound of the breeze rustling through tree branches dispels all the sounds haunting you, and the sun shines brightly on a Seraph's face once again. Gone is the cell, gone is the table with the knife and archive and pouch, and gone is the corpse-man who wore an lost emotion in his eyes as he pulled you from one place and placed you in another. That nameless feeling returns in this temperate wilderness, the one you could not say you had felt in so long, but now have planted it in your heart as seed from a pouch. A feeling that reminds you of better times spun up in a circle and rendered to resonate from an archive, an emotion that promises to ward you against the cold and the dark like a knife in your hand.

It is hope, the forgotten feeling that lay beneath and beyond.


Edited by PastaNipples
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