This level of the underground world was hot as hell.
Five figures picked their way along the lava flows, weaving through huge and dramatic natural monuments.
Ruins here were different from the ones above. They were even weirder, constructed in shapes like ovals, squares, pyramids and cones. Every corner, line and curve was exceedingly precise. Every face and facet was perfect. Even the most accurate measurement tools would find no deviation.
Where they left here by the gods?
“What is all this? They remind me of Elysian Temples…”
“You’re right, there are a number of similarities. But the major difference is their function. By their look it seems our guess was correct – this place has something to do with the gods.”
Phoenix, Bruno, Natessa and two others had gone on this excursion. One of them was Cloude family elder Oren. The other was one of Skycloud’s former foremost commanders, Cosmo Thane.
Since being left here by Cloudhawk, the group had uncovered and collected a number of murals. These depicted secrets of days long passed, eventually leading them to this place hidden so deep underground.
If they weren’t mistaken, this was a secret bunker. The topography looked old and eroded, maybe several tens of thousands of years old. Its original creators were likely gods, but the most pressing question was why build it?
The group stood before a structure hanging in midair, looking at it with expression of wonder and amazement. However in the back of their minds they wondered – after exploring for so long, would they be able to find their way back?
It was hot like an oven, with air so scalding it was hard to breathe. Ordinary people would not survive. In fact of the five explorers, only Phoenix was not burdened by the heat. Thankfully Natessa spied an entrance into the spherical Temple and pointed it out to the others. They were faced with a choice.
One, they could enter alone. Two, they could return to the base camp and get others to come with them.
“I figure since there is no opposition, there’s no rush. We don’t know if it’s safe.” Bruno offered his thoughts. “If there’s one thing we have it’s time. We should find our way back, gather a team and make a plan to return.”
“Easy for Master Bruno to say,” Oren grumbled. “We’ve at least a hundred thousand meters below the surface. There are lava flows and volcanic tubes filled with scorching air. We can’t just say ‘let’s go back’ and be done with it. We have to bide our time.”
“If I still had my dagger, it would not be that difficult.”
“What’s this nonsense, Bruno?” Phoenix scowled in disdain. “We’re here. Now you suggest going back empty handed? I’m going in, if you’re frightened you can find a place to hide.”
Bruno rubbed his nose and chuckled helplessly. The two Master Demonhunters were very different people. He was patient and hard to anger, whereas Phoenix was defiant and inflammatory. In her eyes it didn’t matter what dangers they faced, she would deal with it using her fists. Consequences be damned.
Bruno, Natessa and Cosmo looked at one another. There was still some hesitation as to whether to enter, but their wordless thoughts were interrupted when the ground began to tremble. Plumes of poisonous fumes belched from fissures and angry red light poured forth.
Was the volcano awakening?
The area was unstable, so an eruption was not out of the question. Only they soon discovered it was not that simple. From among the hot ash and glowing magma, several figures emerged.
Creatures. Things that were able to live within the flowing rock.
All of them were caked in ash and as they flew from the lava, they left trails of smoke. Their bodies looked like balls of magma formed into bat-like molds, only large as dragons.
Five sets of faces stiffened at the sight.
Again? There was always some new terror lurking around every corner! Only this time there were many, at least a thousand of them.
“Damnit, we’re surrounded. We have no choice – quick, into the Temple!” Even Bruno’s stoic calm was cracked by the scene. He shouted for them to get moving.
Magma birds descended on them with a cloud of smoke and ash. Their vision became clouded and chaotic. Once within range the birds opened their jaws and vomited a mixture of hot smoke, toxic dust and magma. It was a lethal cocktail.
One or two such creatures wouldn’t have been a problem, but a thousand? There were far too many, and the humans were too few. Their only option was to flee toward the Temple and take shelter.
Bruno had his thunderblade in hand. With a wave of his arm a streak of lightning was let loose. Several of the magma birds were cut apart, but there was no blood or meat. Instead their wounds spewed magma and knit back together.
Well, striking them was no use. They had to be destroyed completely.
Caught in this position, Phoenix felt particularly awkward. Fire was her domain, but these beasts were resistant. Her attacks would do no damage unless she pumped them up to incredible heights. More likely they would increase the power of these monsters!
“Come with me.”
Natessa summoned a whirlwind, blowing away the fume that concealed their vision. She was first to break passed the birds, jump into the air and shoot toward the Temple.
Phoenix was next to react. She spread her arms and they burst into flame, becoming a pair of smoldering wings. Attacks from all sides were burned up before they got close. She then carried the others upward in Natessa’s wake. They quickly made their way into the structure.
The magma birds circled for a long time, but seemed to hold some instinctive fear. They did not try to force their way inside. So eventually they flapped back into the caves and fissures, and eventually calm returned.
Here they were. Bruno looked around, uncomfortable and uncertain. “What is this place?”
Huddling close the explorers looked around. They were in a white chamber, surrounded by nothing but walls.
“There shouldn’t just be one room in a building this big.” Bruno turned to the others. “Let’s look around. There’s probably a hidden door.”
Phoenix strode toward one of the walls and pressed her palm to its surface. She found something almost right away. “These walls are made out of special material. It resonates with mental power. Let me see…”
With that Phoenix reached out with her mind. Sure enough the wall began to resonate with her and react. All at once the milky-white walls turned translucent and malleable, almost like jelly.
It was a particle gate. The portal opened and closed using mental energy. What an instant before was a solid wall now became a loose connection of particles, small enough for someone to pass through. When the portal was closed those particles tightened once again, and the wall reformed.
Particle gates were both practical and effective for defense. Every creature’s mental energies were different. One could set the gate to open with a specific frequency, blocking out anyone without the right resonance. In addition, whoever controlled the particle gate could stop or kill anyone passing through it.
By all rights Phoenix should not have been able to open the particle gate, but it appeared the restrictions for it had been left unguarded. Anyone with the requisite mental powers could activate it.
Phoenix outstretched her hand and pushed it through. The wall rippled like water.
“Good, we can enter through here. Let’s go!”
The group each passed through smoothly in turn. Nothing stopped them and they entered into a long hallway on the other side. At the end was another particle door and a chamber beyond.
The chamber was the heart of this building. When they entered, Phoenix and her compatriots where stunned by what they found.
It was filled with technology the likes of which they could not comprehend. Light that acted like liquid weaved patterns in midair. They were complex and widespread, like the roots of a brilliant tree or industrial pipes. The latter was more apt, for they seem to be involved in making something.
“Look! What’s that?”
Bruno saw something he struggled to understand. Even his voice quavered. As the others stared something like bubbles formed within the light. They moved without the constraints of gravity, hanging in the air before the shocked onlookers. They were like eggs almost, with something encased inside. These tiny ‘embryos’ were… armor?
They came in different colors and complexity, but their style was all similar. Light continued to pour into them as the suits formed further at a slow pace. It was like some kind of assembly line, like weaving tapestries. It was incredible to behold.
“That… that’s god armor!” Everyone stared, wide eyed and speechless.
Why was god armor being produced down here? Was this some kind of… factory? If that were true then it would explain all these buildings and why they were here.Previous Chapter Next Chapter