Chael hurried down the corridor, color draining from the walls as the darkness swallowed the remaining outdoor light and their darkvision took over. They hopped over a pit, weaved through the motionless remains of an already sprung blade trap, stopped to listen at a junction, then took the left corridor toward the voices. It was two voices now. The birdlike, semi-melodic trumpet of a panicking dretch, and the flustered, endless jabbering of a know-it-all witch trying to talk her way out of more of a do-your-way-out-of type problem.
Chael came around a bend and saw color cutting through the greyscale darkness. Pinkish light, crawling around on the rough stone of a dead end. Newts? Chael ran over, brushed a newt aside, and placed their ear against the wall.
Through the stone, Chael could make out Mahani’s voice.
“Fire! Fire!” She was yelling, over and over again. “Fire? FIRE! The Sun? Heat? Oh come on! It has to be fire! What else could it be??”
They stepped back and studied the wall. The flagstone, normally staggered, all lined up at the edges. Plus the mortar was different. It was a wall-drop trap. Mahani and Glig must have triggered it, and now were sealed off. And from the screaming, Chael guessed the room was probably filling with something.
They felt the wall, testing for loose stones. Then taking the kobold longsword, an adorable little 20-inch-long thing that was basically a dagger in Chael’s hand, they started chipping away at the masonry. Within two or three strikes, they heard the muffled voices change timbre, and a few strikes later Chael was punching a tiny rectangle of wall out, and peeking in at the surprised and sweat-covered faces of Glig and Mahani, teetering together on a tiny stone pedestal, surrounded by some sort of deadly, rising liquid.
“Chael!” screamed Mahani, seeing their face.
“Breep!” screamed Glig.
“I’m not interrupting, am I?” said Chael, feeling great about how roguish it sounded.
Mahani glared, “Just get us out of here, okay!? There was this riddle on the wall and the answer is FOR SURE FIRE,” she yelled at the ceiling, “But the door still wouldn’t open and now the room is flooding and — “
“Where is it pouring out of?” asked Chael.
“The liquid. Can you see where it’s coming from?”
“Yeah, the left wall,” said Mahani, confused. “Your left. But, the riddle — “
“Forget the riddle,” said Chael feeling around the stones to the left of the deadend, “The power is out in this place. The trap is mechanical, but the riddle switch, the magical sensor that listens for the passphrase and then turns off the trap? That needs power to work.”
“So I’ve been screaming fire for nothing??” yelled Mahani, exhausted.
“Well, it got my attention.”
“Great. My hero.”
“Just doing my jo — “
“WILL YOU JUST GET IN HERE AND HELP US ALREADY.”
“I can’t. The rest of this wall is solid.” Chael came back to the hole in the wall and talked into it, “So unless Glig, Kobold God of Torture wants to take another fingernail off, I’m stuck on this side. Okay?” They stuck their fingers through the hole and winggled them.
“Bree — “ started Glig.
“Don’t even try,” Chael snapped, cutting him off mid-apology.
“Chael!” snapped Mahani back, “Please. Just tell us how to get out of here.”
Chael looked in at both of them and sighed. “I don’t know, but it probably will take a few hours of digging.”
Chael went back to feeling around in the corridor.
“CHAEL!” Mahani screamed, “WE WILL BE DEAD IN, LIKE— “
“I’m going to try to shut it off,” said Chael, spotting something near the ceiling. “There’s probably a supply tank somewhere, and it probably has a fill hatch hidden out here. What’s the liquid, acid or poison?”
“I don’t think it makes much difference.”
“It does for me, I might have to swim in it.”
“Breep,” answered Glig, quietly.
Acid. Not ideal. Angels could resist acid longer than a materian could, but weren’t immune to it. If it was weak enough, they might survive a dip in it, but a strong enough acid may also kill them instantly, no matter their angelic skin.
“Okay. Do you know what kind? Mahani, that’s your thing right?”
“Sorry, I don’t have my ALCHEMY SHOP ON ME RIGHT NOW — “
“Hey!” snapped Chael, “You need to stop freaking out, and start listening. Okay?”
“Okay, then. Mahani, what kind of acid is it?”
“I, I don’t know — “
“Narrow it down for me. Animal, vegetable, or mineral?”
“Breep,” assured Glig.
“Right,” said Mahani, “Okay, yeah, it’s not mineral. Too viscous. Slimy.”
“What else,” said Chael, reaching up and feeling around on the wall.
“And, yeah, it doesn’t smell like any of the plant acids I’ve seen. Definitely not caster acid.”
“I think I found it,” said Chael, wiggling what they thought was a hidden panel.
“Plus caster acid isn’t stable for long,” continued Mahani, “Come to think of it, most non-mineral acids lose their potency fairly fast. How would a dungeon this old still have a fresh supply? Because this seems pretty potent.”
“Well, this place is probably full of surprises,” said Chael, absently, working on the panel. It was sealed pretty tight. “Okay, so you think it’s animal-based then? Any idea what kind?”
“Let’s see,” said Mahani, “It’s milky. Slightly pink. Warm. Smells terrible.”
Chael froze. The panel popped loose.
“Did you say warm?”
“Yeah,” said Mahani, “It’s like a steam room in here. You should see the condensation drip down the walls.”
Chael tried to snap the panel back on, but it was too late. A dozen sticky feelers shot out from the opening and wrapped around their arms, causing the panel to fall to the floor and shatter, leaving Chael to stare into the hungry, unblinking eye of a giant acidic dungeon slug.
Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoy it so far. You can earn this series reputation points by clicking the heart or sharing it with a friend! CAN’T YOU SEE THAT I AM IN MY ELEMENT??!!?