Saturday, June 30, 2012

Frozen Treasures

The sixth Winter's Riddle publication is up on the Amazon Kindle Store.  The Bodies tells the story of the Fencer and the Trumpeter's search for a treasure left behind by Clea.  Yet this work marks a departure from other tales in that it is told primarily from the view of Rel, a slave held in captivity by the Slavemaster.  What follows is a journey into the pleasure palace of that strange tyrant, yielding a wealth of beauty and horror. 

Feedback is welcome, as always, as are Amazon reviews, tags and so forth.  Enjoy~

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Pale Blank Skin XIX.

            Sparks scattered as Afrax shattered his opponent’s sword with a vicious swing of his khopesh.  The Ulosh fighter backed up, full of fear and anger, the icy hills of the upper Samla framing his powerful form.  Sleeping waters stretched down past the men, towards the frozen delta, and Ruin.
            “Not many places to run, you know,” Afrax said, his voice calm and even. 
            The Uloshian’s response was to go dead in the eyes and flick something out of his armored sleeve. 
            Afrax moved automatically, with no thought, as he had learned to do through two decades of struggle.  He didn’t see what it was that the blue-tinged man held nor did he know what his fellow conspirators did behind him.  Two steps and he popped his arms forward, letting the great sickle-blade’s weight do the cutting in one sharp snap.  His opponent’s face and front erupted into red.
            When the body fell to the ice a long, thin dagger slipped from the man’s hand and became a ship on a sea of blood.  The stuff flowed downhill, towards the distant and troubled city.  Afrax whirled.
            “I lead now,” he stated in no uncertain terms.  “So if there are any more part-time swords amongst us let’s work out our differences so that each may know the certainty of our goal.”
            The addressed rabble was a mishmash of Winter folk, but all had hardship written great and heavy on their beings.  They were armed for a small war, blades and other, more exotic weapons tucked and buckled and set into their armored skins.  The only response they gave was an exchange of coin; a bet had been won and lost.
            Without a word he set off for the southeast, towards Ruin.  Afrax hated the cold.  He flexed his hands and they cracked with pain from within their scaled gauntlets.  He wore a full suit of the meticulous mail, which chimed in a comforting way as he set the pace. 
            His fellow mercenaries followed.  Each man and woman in their band worked for the palace-tribes of Ruin, but they were rarely welcome in that city.  No, their tasks sent them far afield, to nearby villages and communities where they secured goods and guarded caravans, bolstering what trade there was in the icy south.  Each served different names, Nyriax, Zoxx, Theb, Sysyn, and so on, wearing that tribe’s color but they all truly served one master.
            That morning they had found a silver coin dropped on their person in the night, the work of more subtle agents.  The coins were whole, a rarity considering how common clippers were in the south.  The only shared mark was the single shape punched through them, the shape of a tear, every one falling on purpose.  They met at the agreed upon crossroads, discovering who their allies were, the captain holding a few lines of information concerning their task.  Payment never entered their minds for they acted out of loyalty to an ideal.
            Now the band was almost to the goal, the great and broken city of Ruin seating upon its plateau.  An hour from the gates things had gone wrong.  Through the bleary afternoon an uncanny light swam up and out of the buildings, charging the clouds of smoke and fire, bursting from the ice an unsettling white.  Even the sun hid from this terrible ray. 
            Some of the men panicked, the long-instilled hate and fear of magic animating their superstitions.  The captain had been one of these.  Now Afrax led on towards their destination, any sign of worry hidden from his dark, scarred face.  Those back in his home tribe knew him as a coward, but he now followed what he felt to be a greater cause than survival or community, and this was courage enough as they sought after two men and a dream.

            White and Black played a game in the upper tunnels beneath Ruin.  There the Necromancer’s forces had gathered, like a mass of information about to blossom into a new idea, bursting upon the hapless denizens of the city in a wave of realization.  Now light had intruded, bringing with it indecision and reflection. 
            Lumnos wondered at the light which had driven them deeper underground, insulated as he was in the realm of a dead mage, the Argent Lord.  The rest of Winter was a mystery above, hidden beyond this maze of silver.  The walls were smooth, with a slight polish, so that murky reflections stared back with blurred countenances.  He wanted to reach out and smooth the surface, but the clanging of metallic insects forced their way into his reverie.
            “I don’t much care for that wall,” said the Trumpeter, gesturing back to the array of arms and eyes at the far end. 
            “That’s why I’m staying right here,” smirked the Fencer, blade readied for the coming noise.  Laxa and Belleneix nodded, but each was uncertain that their weapons could harm the insects of living metal tumbling towards them from the opening in the ceiling. 
            The noise grew and grew, a metallic sunrise of sound.  They looked around but saw no exits from the confrontation. 
            The first silver creature crashed upon the floor with such force that it bounced, sending a shockwave through the chamber.  Still in the air it unraveled from its ball, each armored plate separating slightly along tiny seams, revealing a play of clicking limbs and two long, frond-like antennae.  It moved aggressively towards the band.
            By chance Lumnos looked away, because he would never admit to cowardice, and saw the wall move.  One arm, a long and reptilian appendage, unfolded from its state of rest and gestured.  The target, he realized, was the silver pill-bug.  Another clanged into the room now, but the wordseller was enraptured.  An eye opened up on the scaly palm.
            There was no battle.  The insects, now a good half-dozen of them, calmed and worked their antennae curiously. 
            “Come closer,” chimed a voice of such resonance that the chamber hummed, even though there was no sound.  It spoke directly to their minds.
            Though the silver beasts trundled dutifully over to the talking wall, it was clear by tone that the request was directed towards the outsiders.  All turned to see its many eyes upon them.
            “I am Ecul,” it continued evenly.  “By my master’s design I am here to assist.”
            “Master?” said Belleneix, curling her nose at the thought of servitude. 
            “Zeklos, the Argent Lord,” it responded balmily, petting one of the restless pill-bugs with a long and sinuous appendage.  Each limb the thing wore was different, and each held an eye within the palm.  “On his behalf I offer my apologies concerning the actions of the Idosa, they were merely acting upon defenses laid out by the design.”
            Lumnos had never heard the name before, the Argent Lord had always been simply the Argent Lord, the title itself a mask like the one worn by the magus. 
            “What is this place and what is your purpose here?” began Lumnos, a torrent of questions already building.  Just as with Loce here was a potential font of information and the wordseller grew anxious.  He wanted to ask all his questions at once, a chaos of desire, of needing to know, to set aside past ignorance and understand.
            “I fear we’ll lose our scholar to a new friend,” joked the Fencer, who relaxed some, but kept his weapon drawn. 
            “I am an arranger of information and an observer,” replied Ecul, who occasionally added gestures to the words.  “This place is the Palace of Chimes.”
            “How may we leave?” asked the Trumpeter.  Instantly unseen portals irised open all around them. 
            “The palace contains many safety measures intended for defense and these may be orthogonal to the capabilities and health of the icebound,” explained Ecul, but did not elaborate, it simply added, “be careful.”
            “What is beyond this place?” asked the Fencer, gesturing downward with his weapon.
            “I do not know,” said Ecul, picking away some unseen blemish from its wall.
            “Oh, so much help,” said Laxa bitterly. 
            “I do know that the outsider automata make constant forays into the realm beyond the palace,” Ecul added helpfully.  “They bring up vast quantities of an unknown substance, returning for more and more.  This is a recent development and as they are not creations of my master I have no power over them.”
            “How can you not know what they carry?” demanded Lumnos.
            “I have yet to be given a sample to inspect,” it said with a bit of sadness touching each of their minds.  “I am so curious.”
            Lumnos felt the fool.  Though his revulsion at the oily crystal was grounded in experience, he should’ve, as an educated man, put aside his qualms and taken a sample when he had the chance. 
            “I can describe it in detail,” he offered, but there was no need.
            Belleneix produced a small bit hidden in her belt and without a word handed it to Ecul.  The wall creature took up the black shard carefully and its interest grew as the many arms extended inhumanly from the structure.  A crowd of hands surrounded the sample, each eye observing it from a different angle, rotating and cycling through in meticulous observation. 
            “You kept that thing on you this whole time?”  The Trumpeter was aghast at the thought.
            “A funny thing,” she replied with half a smile.  “My hands pick up all sorts.”
            “What is it?” Lumnos asked Ecul.
            “It is a broken soul,” stated the wall.  “A small collection of them, several in this one piece.  The Idosa say great amounts of noetic material are taken through the palace each day, which lends one to believe that there is some use for these things.”
            “Noetic?” asked the Trumpeter, who swore he had heard the word used before.
            “From nous.  It is part of the soul,” began Lumnos.  “A contentious topic, with many theurges claiming varied divisions and nomenclature.  I’ve read many a treatise.”
            “I know only those I possess,” offered Ecul.  “There is soma and psyche, both of which exist with me and allow me to exist, as devised by my master, and then there is the nous, which I lack.”
            “What is nous?” asked the Fencer, who was now patrolling the exits, testing each one as he sought some way out from the chamber of words. 
            “Derived from the triangulation of both soma and psyche through the medium of time, as mutated by certain radiations and numina, nous represents a mixture and an impossibility,” Ecul stated, though by the look on their faces the travelers did not comprehend. 
            “So, what does this mean, if there are lost souls in the rock?” asked Laxa with growing worry.
            “I do not know exactly,” thought Ecul to each of them.  “But a broken nous may wish to become complete.  Emotions pool up, grow into strange blossoms, becoming masks cut from ink.”
            “That isn’t a clear answer at all!” shouted Lumnos through his frustration.
            “Sometimes the clear and direct answer is a lie,” explained Ecul.  “Sometimes the truth can only be expressed obliquely, through poetry, in fragments and parables.  Some truth flees from the observer through the act of observing, and one with eyes must take care with methods and mediums.  Magic is such a thing.  It is everywhere and all-pervasive, yet still it is other, occasionally anathema, often strange and dangerous.  I’ve always felt it funny that there is a term such as magician.”
            “Mad territory and too much of it,” complained the Fencer.
            “Just my kind of dialogue!” beamed the Trumpeter.  “Hand it your sword, Fencer, and I’ll hand it my Trumpet.  We can spend all day here listening to the talking wall talk.”
            “That’s my fear,” noted the swordsman.  “We could learn everything but lose it too.  How long until Ruin is overrun?  Or Summer sweeps clean what offends their height?  Might we all be taken to the red demon’s hell for want of action?  No, it is time we carve our way through these tunnels armed with what we now know.”
            “Ecul, what can you see, or sense, yes that’s a better word, what can you sense in the palace?  Can you sense anything outside the palace?” Lumnos asked quickly, lest anyone interrupt.
            “I said we are going,” growled the Fencer.
            “I observe only this room and what I may be given,” replied the wall.
            “I see,” began the wordseller, his mind working at a problem only he could see.  “Control.  Do you have control of any faculties beyond this room?”
            Laxa drew a knife to emphasize the need to move soon.  Lumnos didn’t notice or care.
            “I have no power beyond this place,” said Ecul.
            “But you can command the Idosa?”  Lumnos followed a chain of hope towards a certain goal.
            “I can,” was the reply.
            Now the Fencer moved to silence the academic, but the Trumpeter interposed.
            “Let us see where these words take us,” he said.
            “Can you command an Idosa to command another?”  Lumnos was close now, his eyes reading an unseen text.
            “What would you have me do?”  Ecul jumped to the end result of their conversation.
            “I wish you to command each of these Idosa to attack any automatons bearing material such as that you hold now, and to give these same commands to each Idosa they meet,” stated Lumnos carefully. 
            “It is done,” replied Ecul, instantly and threw down the soul fragment lest the wall fall prey to the program now enacted. 
            The silver creatures had been lying still this whole time, only their antennae twitching in the air.  Now they sprang to life and trundled off in different directions, one coming up to the group and waiting.  Belleneix snatched up the evil stone and the silver creatures made no motion towards her; she wasn’t an automaton after all.
            The Fencer lead and the Idosa followed, and between these two the whole group moved, some anxious about the future, others despondent about lost knowledge, and others with a mood all their own.  The two travelers from the south guided their more civilized peers towards uncertainty.  The silver insect kept pace with the slowest amongst them, which invariably was the Trumpeter, who preened and examined their new companion like a child poking a dog to see if it would react.
            Halls of bright splendor opened up their picture galleries and sitting rooms, their dining halls and dungeon cells.  All the Argent Lord’s work was like the Idosa, minimal analogues to natural forms, cast sterling and fine.  A silver table would hold silver dishes, and a bed would crinkle like finely beaten metal as Laxa jumped on its cushions and declared it both soft and cool.  Still, for all the comforts it was a sterile place and the Fencer kept the lot going, as did the rancorous sounds of other denizens moving about at the whim of either the Necromancer or Ecul.
            “Are you certain of this way,” pestered Lumnos for the tenth time, the one where the swordsman finally snapped an answer.
            “I have a method,” the Fencer pronounced.  “We go up when I find a way, and towards the initial entrance when there is none.”
            “But that will not lead us down to the mystery beyond the palace,” said Lumnos, as calmly as he could in light of the swordsman’s blade.
            “We have business with the Necromancer, not mystery,” replied the Fencer.
            “Reasonable,” mused the wordseller unhappily, “but let me share this.  We have been wandering a good hour, while it took us not even ten minutes to reach Ecul’s chamber.  Either your method is flawed, which I doubt, or this place is itself a maze, which I propose.”
            “Then I have a test,” grumbled the Fencer.
            He led them back the way they came, causing Laxa and Belleneix to complain about wasteful footsteps.  They hadn’t backtracked long before the way became different, the gently curved tunnel descending and finally exiting onto the banks of a large pool which extended the entire width of the room and reached a good ten meters towards the far side.
            The Trumpeter lazily pulled a thread from his ceremonial scarf and dropped it into the pool.  Instantly a hissing, sparking confusion took place, lighting up the ceiling.
            “Can these mages never keep a sane home?” sighed the Fencer as he tried to wish the acid pool away. 
            “I say we return to Ecul’s room,” added Laxa.  “Or I might be able to track the passage of those metal things carrying the stones, I’ve seen some sign of them in our journey.”
            The sense of being isolated and lost in the Palace of Chimes dragged their mood down.  From each burnished surface vague reflections looked on as though observers through a hazy mirror.  Even if they made for Ecul’s lair there was no certainty that they might not end their days walking circles in this place where the walls moved silently. 
            “I certainly wish Ecul had said something about this,” moaned the Trumpeter.
            “We never thought to ask,” said Lumnos, as the sound of clanking metal came closer and closer.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Pale Blank Skin XVIII.

            Where Loce’s light cast its feeling rays the underground revealed itself clean and grey and dead, cleansed by the scouring energies of the Necromancer and his brood.  The opening to the outside ground shut suddenly, healing like a wound behind the sorcerer in order to prevent more infectious light from spilling in and violating the mysterious dark.  Now the Abjurist was alone with the starkly illuminated arches and tunnels, the caves and cisterns, shining bare stone.
            He pulled his dreamed-up cloak about him a bit tighter, not because he was cold, but because he was so used to his second skin.  He would like to say that giving the Phyox away to that icebound scholar had been a cunning move on his part, but in truth he had been delirious with whatever poison lived in the cold man’s blade and was surprised to wake up almost naked on that balcony.  Loce suspected the Phyox had chosen to go, a troublesome loss, as it was his means of directly confronting the world of Winter.  Without its powers he was uncertain of his ability to combat the dark, but still he delved, further and further.
            Pernicious dark seeped beneath Ruin, fully colonizing each crook and corner, fighting against Loce’s illumination, a globe of brilliance which exuded from his person, a sacred barrier between himself and harm.  Without the Phyox he only had so many eyes and couldn’t see the long shadows following stretched and silent along the floor behind him.
            Striking all at once, a company of amorphous shapes fell upon the Abjurist’s light and drank deeply.  He whirled and there saw them, limbless torsos wriggling worm-like through the air.  Each could form a sort of aperture or mouth, and with a kiss this organ diminished his light and the dark grew bubbling.
            Loce fled, the things mewling hungrily after.  Soft, hollow noises followed, voices without life speaking the raw strangeness of the Umbirae.  Passing through a square portal he discovered himself atop a split landing, steps leading down in both directions.  Behind, shadows raced.
            He reached to the Lattice, careful not to touch the Black, seeking the White.  Striking the proper motions, the words which carried the burden of meaning, a spell was worked and the way behind grew a seal luminous.  The crying stopped.
            A minute passed but Loce couldn’t take his eyes off the sealed door.  At any moment his magic might fail and they would be upon him again, devouring his manifest soul.  Finally he pulled himself away.
            Neither path down displayed promise and Loce wasn’t about to risk his mind to divine which way lead where.  Things were waiting for his mind.  He chose and hoped.
            After a thousand steps he entered a room of black, glistening things.  Many cries went up and echoed.  Turning to run, the way behind betrayed him as the steps became a waterfall of black fluid, jagged arms and legs struggling out from the tar, staring without eyes. 
            Shadow stuff and Umbirae, marrowmere and doad, these rose by the score within the vast hall into which he had foolishly wandered.  A trap!  The floating marrowmere clung to the walls and ceiling in a tangled mass, their bodies twitching uncontrollably.  The doad smeared themselves with the dark fluid, moving easier.  There was much motion from the dead, as if they were excited for the illusion of life.  They greeted Loce and his light like cannibals at the prospect of company.
            And a million possibilities spilled out from this one dark moment, as dead flesh and never-been careened close and eager, snuffling if they had noses, sighing with hunger.  From the walls dark arms stretched, shadows cast upon the very air, while glistening eyes rippled open along the undead fluid, soaking up Loce’s rays, causing the stuff to bubble and multiply.  In their myriad ways they consumed him, like a crowd does the stage, the performance enthralling.
            Loce had no way to fight these things.  All his studies were tied towards shielding the self so that he may do no harm or tamper with fate or control destiny.  Now this philosophy threatened him, as even his great bulwarks of power would finally be undone by the dark.  The mage of light felt his being fall into the shadow mysteries, to where unborn things, roused by the Necromancer’s art, waited. 
He raised his one good hand and with all his Art undid the seal he had placed on his soul so long ago.  It was an ultimate failure of his ideal, determined entirely by black circumstance, but what came forth was brilliance to which the sun was second.

            Below this the travelers faced the Inky Child, the Necromancer, as he stood poised at the moment between the Fencer’s sword and the Trumpeter’s trumpet, while all the time Lumnos’s mind struggled after some device by which he could change this fate and avoid the conflict.  He knew their path had lead this far, but he felt like it could be better written in a different direction.
            “He doesn’t have it,” sighed the Trumpeter.
            “What don’t I have?” responded the child.
            “A book we lent by proxy,” continued the musician, much to the discomfort of the others.  Laxa was a danger here, ready to leap first before the Fencer to prove herself, just as Belleneix might dash ahead, competing for glory.  If the words stopped there would be blood.
            “You mean, my book,” the child replied.  He was all inky now, dripping the clean, black stuff, leaving a footprint with each step he took towards the group.  “It has informed my will and answered my soul’s question.  If you are after it then I’m sorry to disappoint, if you are after death, then I am prepared to grant satisfaction.  You have felled the Ossus and that adds to the weight of my cause and only slows the inevitable.”
            He raised one hand and those with weapons drawn dashed towards the child.  Dead reality rippled out from the slight form, like the sullen aura of a marrowmere, only many times more potent.  Their souls began to leave their bodies.
            With a shock like being dumped into freezing water the effect ended, the boy looked up and they all saw a great moaning light spill in from the far cavern, from the city of the miners, or beyond.  This brilliance dawned all at once, as if a massive shutter to the place where suns were forged was opened.
            Then they knew the sound came not from the light but from the tongues of a thousand dead throats and other less human apertures, quaking at the sight of the glory.  Together this cacophony echoed strange and alien, the sound of souls blinking through horror.
            The light faded and as it grew dark they all looked at each other one last time.  Whatever pale luminescence filled the air before had vanished, and slowly the unnatural sun set into darkness, a black, absolute and natural.  With a flicker a small flame brought them back from this abyss.
            Cradled in his long, worn hands, the Trumpeter held another taper.  Their eyes glistened at the sight.  The boy was missing, only his footprints remained.  Everything else was quiet. 
            They fled from the memory of noise and light, towards the silver shining at the edge of the little flame’s radiance.  Beyond the doors they found a number of tubes, all round, all large enough to accommodate several persons.  These twisted off into mystery.  The choices seemed irrelevant.
            “Which way do we go?” mused Lumnos, thinking that surely there must be some method to reason out an answer, but Belleneix had other plans and leaped into one without a care.  With hushed shouts they followed her and her laughter.
            This was the silver labyrinth, as named by the pale thinking dead of the miner’s city.  That it was a creation of the Argent Lord was not in question, but this was the only fact which Lumnos had.  Never had he heard of this place, like something out of a dream, orderly and serene.  It featured in no history, no lore or legend or biography.  Stories told that the silver mage hid his face behind a mask of sterling metal; it seemed he hid more, much more. 
            As the following troop rounded a bend they watched Belleneix trip through some unseen barrier.  There was a twang and along a seam in the wall a sudden panel slid silently into the girl.  Her weapon was up in her hand and she braced against the opposing side.  The metal screamed and her laughter turned to a whimper as she strained to keep the door from cutting her in two.
            Unyielding steel forced the dagger against her palm, letting loose a stream of blood.  Those nasty teeth of hers set against pain.
            Dhala cut through the offending metal with a scream and the remnants began to quiver.  The group fled quickly from the unwholesome device.
            “Why did you run off?” demanded Lumnos, a second before the Fencer demanded the same thing. 
            “We almost had death,” she smiled, her mood brightening at the prospect, even as she took one of his handkerchiefs to stop her bleeding.  “But we live.  How can’t we smile at that?  Maybe laugh?”
            “The young lady has a point!” declared the Trumpeter and he raised his trumpet to his lips.  Everyone there watched in horror, except Laxa, who snatched the instrument from the madman.
            “Silver,” she stated, looking around at the tunnel.  Indeed there was a resemblance.  A whole dungeon of the stuff, a king’s ransom, more wealth than any present could imagine.  “Is it the same?” 
            Considering this the Trumpeter regained his device and softly struck it against the hall.  A warm tone ensued and he shook his head. 
            “No, this is real silver,” he decided, gesturing to the wall.
            The construction was solid, as if a perfectly smooth hole had been bored through a giant vein of ore.  The design minimal, without adornment or device, and though it had lain dormant for many years there was no sign of dust or waste.  Nor was there any evidence of the machine things, which had come from beyond the great door and surely must’ve originated their journey here.  Perhaps this was the wrong tunnel.  In many ways they now moved through the mask of the Argent Lord.  To what, they had no clue.
            The Fencer bullied his way into the lead, with Laxa close behind, both keeping their weapons drawn.  By the flickering taper they saw a host of mutant reflections shimmer off the walls and floor.  Echoing forms heralded their careful footfalls and followed close on their heels. 
            A cubic room opened up, some thirty feet on a side.  They lumbered out of the opening.  Though the floor seemed evenly polished and level Lumnos stepped out and there was a click.
            “What was that?” said Laxa nervously. 
            “I seem to have found an anomalous bit of floor,” grumbled the wordseller, eyeing everything for trouble.  He hadn’t long to wait as distant pinging became audible, growing to a thundering ricochet.
            From one exit—the room having one on each side—a sphere of silver burst in at such velocity that it should’ve continued down the portal opposite, yet instead it collided off center.  Clamorous peals rang so sharp that all winced and tried to cover their ears, while the sphere ricocheted and would’ve bounced about causing much carnage if Lumnos hadn’t thrown them all into a corner his geometry told would be safe from the ball’s play. 
            The thing unfurled, revealing itself as some kind of insectoid creature with a segmented shell.  Limbs extended from its underside, wriggling with a living grace, all of silver, even the hideous head festooned with a maw of varied and terrible mandibles. 
            It lunged at stunned Laxa, who barely managed to put her blade between it herself.  The thing’s back opened up and from between the plates an array of feelers flew out and disarmed the girl.  Hungrily it began to devour the sword it claimed. 
            Lumnos’s mind flew about trying to categorize the thing.  He couldn’t tell if it was alive or some kind of cunning artifice, perhaps a mixture of the two, or neither.  The form suggested one of the ancient insects from the warm time, but never had such grown so large. 
            While he considered the party fought.   The thing hungered for more of their precious metal, though it seemed equally interested in flesh.  Belleneix and Laxa gave it fair attention with their blades, but their blows were turned aside by its carapace.  It took the Fencer’s weapon to sunder the thing. 
            With a single blow of the nightmare sword he felled the creature.  Out came a gush of milky, silvery fluid, while its body twitched angrily at being cut in two.  Its legs ended in nasty blades, small but sharp enough that a single graze could debone even the largest man.  These scraped against Dhala and strange sparks flew.  Still, there was no respite from their troubles.
            More noises started, same and distant, trouble rolling in from all directions.  Considering his instrument the Trumpeter placed the narrow aperture to his ear.
            “This way,” he declared and fell through the hole in the middle of floor.
            Lumnos, not willing to wait for more of the terrible insects, was second.  The initial fearful lurch of gravity eased and bent, gracefully, then acutely, turning to speed.  A turn caused him to slam into one silver side, knocking the air from his lungs. Up and down, side to side, he took on the motion of a crazed snake until another portal spat him out at great velocity. 
            There was no death.  He fell lightly into the air of a long room.  One side held an array of protrusions.  The Trumpeter took his hand and pulled him to his feet.
            “Magic,” realized the wordseller, considering the forces involved.
            “So much of it, and certainly not the Necromancer’s style,” nodded the Trumpeter as he readied to move each of their fellows from the cushioning bit of air.  They all arrived safe, but worried at the noises following.
            “I sense a score or more!”  The Fencer pointed back up the tube ringing with those demon pill bugs. 
            Then they saw the wall, its arms lax and waiting, so many of the silver things.  One second and the wall winked open its myriad eyes, taking account of the newcomers as trouble rolled upon them with the sound of thunder and cacophony.