Current total word count: 22,304
Eventually, she came to a set of stairs leading up. The walls became regular, and carved, which was unusual. The architecture reminded her more of the Palace than an ordinary cavern, and she marveled at the pictogryphs. While she could not read many of them, since the language was ancient and always reminded one of the time before the Spider came so not many were inclined to study it, she could tell there were frequent warnings to the dangers ahead, should one travel to the World Below. I am walking up, she thought. Is the World Below behind me, or ahead? She remained alert on this new ground.
There was an odd light up ahead. The phosphorescent rocks on her belt continued to glow, which she found comforting, but this light was disconcerting. It wasn’t painfully bright, but there certainly seemed to be a lot of it. She reached a landing, and stepped through a doorway. It was the only way she could describe it, as there were no longer visible walls of the new chamber she entered. She walked around the outside of the small room she just left. She had never seen a chamber so huge – not even the Royal District with the Great Lake was this large. She marveled at the pretty glowing rocks across the ceiling and wondered how their glow could stay so bright even when so far away. She wondered how anyone could mine such rocks- certainly they were a better light source than the ones imbedded in her belt. She recognized the stone structure as being modeled after one of the major Houses in the Old Quarter, albeit on a much smaller scale. She found the staircase leading down the side of the pyramid, and was happy to have such a memorable landmark. It was always easy to get lost in very large caverns. In corridors, one only needs to remember the turns, and recognize them.
Tyrrae froze midstep. She could hear the voices and they didn’t sound very far away.
“Are you sure this is a good idea? The stories they tell of this ruin! There’s ghosts and everything!”
“The reward would be lousy if there wasn’t any risk. Shut up.”
“But Luthar, the elves say this places is bad mojo. They say the dark ones used this place to enter a different world. What if we get trapped there? It could be an alternate universe or something! There could be demons, dark ones, and worse…”
“Do you really believe that nonsense about the elves splitting off their evil nature and walling it up in some tomb? Guthlan, some days your idiocy even astonishes me. No, they just spread these stories to keep honest thieves like you and me away from their hordes of treasure. I reckon we just need to figure out what’s inside by going in ourselves.”
“You never meet an elven thief, Luther? There are no bad elves. They just sing and play games all day. Stupid elves don’t know how to be bad. They barely know what bad is!”
“Some of them do. I’ve met a few elven wharfrats. Believe me, when they decide to go bad, simple theives’ code is the only thing that keeps them from robbing everyone blind. Elves is sneaky critters when they wants to be.”
By this time, Tyrrae could see where the two men were. It helped that they were carrying a glowing box with them. May as well telegraph their location to the world with that thing, held cautiously by the one called Luthar. From what she could see of the their faces, they were as pale as Lily, their skin glowing in the light. Guthlan pulled a small cart that looked like it had earth moving tools, and it looked heavy. They were both wrapped in coats of a dark, heavy material, and had hats covering their hair. Even their gloves were dark colored.
She saw they were headed toward the pyramid, but not directly to the side on which she perched. She was on the only side with easily climbed stairs, as is traditional, yet the other sides of the pyramid were not smooth. The men should have little difficulty scaling the summit, assuming of course they knew how to use the tools they were carting. Obviously, they were intending to enter the pyramid, and steal the treasures within.
Tyrrae was amused at the audacity of the plan. She thought of the troll guardians in the doorway, and how easily they could crush the tools and the men who wielded them. She thought of the spiders’ toxins, the burrower, and the Guardian. Her mind tried to not to linger on the broad chest in her memory. She knew that each would easily destroy these fools, and she was tempted to let them wander blindly into their fate. But their conversation was strange enough to raise questions within herself. Resolutely, she walked over to their side.
“Excuse me,” she said politely, “but what is an elf?”
The men froze. Guthlan looked at Luthar, while Luthar scanned around with the glowing box. “Who said that,” Luthar demanded in a harsh voice.
“I did,” Tyrrae said calmly. “Would you consider me one of these dark ones you mention?” She climbed down a ridge to be closer to them, for easier conversation. Down was much easier to accomplish than up. She realized that her silk robes and cloak blended well with the old grey stones in this weird light. She felt vaguely like a spider crawling down the rock, and was pleased by the image.
Guthlan grabbed Luthar’s sleeve. “A ghost! It’s an evil spit! Let’s get out of here!”
Luthar said, “Hogwash.” He fumbled with the glowing box. He swung a door open, and strong light spilled over the pyramid where Tyrrae stood.
Tyrrae cringed reflexively. It was so bright that she had to shield her eyes with one of her hands.
“My god,” Luthar said, dropping the box, “the legends are true! Run!” And he followed the screaming Guthlan, who had abandoned the cart as soon as the light had touched her. They ran as fast and as hard as she had ever seen anyone run, making enough noise to shake the roof down upon them.
Tyrrae carefully moved around the pyramid, away from the light, and back to the stairs. What sort of web was this? She did not know which thread to pull for greater understanding, and feared it would all unravel for not enough strength in the few threads she had gathered. Was she an elf? Or a dark one? And if they were neither, what were those men? Surely they were people. But what was the difference?