Today is part 3 in my series previewing Scars of the Sundering, book one: Malediction. This scene follows immediately after the previous two.
Pancras willed his legs to carry him forward. Destroying the undead was easy. He simply recalled the energy used to create them. It gave him the boost he needed to erect the shield in time, but the shadow demon was strong, and the impact leeched much of that energy away. He was lucky he could use the demon’s own shadow to step through and avoid its next charge.
His cleverness did not come without cost, though. Pancras, tired and hungry, felt as though his last sleep and meal were weeks ago, though, in reality, they were but a few hours past. Magic taxed the weilder, particularly when fighting such a strong foe and using different effects so quickly and close together.
A shadow demon, a chaos rift, a bloodmaw. I hope those hairy little cretins appreciate this. No wonder the Seer-King didn’t send his own dwarves down here. I’ll bet the old bastard suspected something like this and asked for Sarvesh’s help because he views us as more expendable.
“How in the name of Pacha’s blue bollocks are we going to destroy those things?” Edric jogged to keep up with Pancras. The minotaur slowed his pace.
“That is a very good question.” One for which I do not have an answer. I can seal the rift… if we can find it.
The three skirted the edge of the bloodmaw’s pit. Pancras heard the shadow demon scrambling against the sides, howling and roaring. He hoped the downward-pointing teeth hindered its progress long enough for them to find something, anything useful.
He stumbled over a boulder, sending a cave rat scurrying for cover. Pancras saw a glint of metal up ahead. He surged forward. The metal was part of a digging apparatus, unattended, yet churning away at the rock. Locked into place the digging bit spun fruitlessly above dirt just out of reach as it had for ages. It appeared to be dwarven in make but was a style he had never seen.
Edric ran up to it. “Wow, this thing is old. There are a few of these back in the city, but we don’t use them anymore.” He ran his hands along the machine. “These date back to before The Sundering.”
“Wow.” Kale’s wide eyes gleamed like a child experiencing the wonder of the first snowfall. “How does it work?”
Edric climbed up on it. “I’m not sure. These are from before my time. The controls don’t look that different than some of the machines we have now. Well, except it feels different, if that makes sense? Can you feel it?”
Pancras reached out and placed his hand on the machine. He felt arcane energy running through it. “The magic is old. How do the ones you have currently work?”
“There’s a bunch of springs, clockwork gears, that sort of thing. I think they draw power from the Soul Forge, but I don’t really know about that kind of thing.” Edric pulled a lever. The machine lurched forward, spewing bits of rock and dirt. It left a gouge in the ground. Edric pulled another lever and the machine turned toward the bloodmaw pit. It chewed its way forward.
Edric jumped off the top of the machine. “Seems a shame to waste such fine craftsmanship, but I suppose it might do some damage if we let that beastie chew on it a bit, eh?”
Pancras nodded. “I’m sure it will buy us some time. I’m sure that shadow demon won’t be pleased when a giant dwarven machine falls on its head.”
Kale tugged at Pancras’s sleeve. “I don’t know. My daggers went right through it like it wasn’t even there. Look! There’s another tunnel behind the machine!”
The phosphorescent fungus covering the cavern walls and ceiling seemed to lead toward the tunnel Kale found. They spiraled into the tunnel, making it appear like a whirlpool dragged them deeper underground.
Pancras led Edric and Kale down the tunnel as it curved and descended. The weight of the earth above them pressed in all around them. The ground shook, and they heard high-pitched wailing.
Edric looked up at Pancras and grinned. “I’m guessing that bloodmaw beast didn’t like the meal I gave it.”
Dirt fell from the ceiling and smacked Pancras in the head. He shook it off and continued forward. The ground beneath his hooves became harder. He tapped his hoof against the ground. The surface felt like metal.
“Eww! Pancras, the wall is furry!” Kale recoiled from the wall, bumping into his friend. The minotaur stumbled into the opposite wall with a squish.
He pulled away, bits of the wall sticking to his robes. “We’re close to the rift. See its effect on the environment?”
The tunnel grew brighter as they followed it, until they found themselves standing in small chamber, which at its center stood a glowing slash. Closer inspection revealed it was a pulsing, writhing river of light, swirling, coruscating, and hovering about a drak’s height from the floor.
The floor beneath the rift bubbled and churned, as though the metal were boiling, but he did not feel any heat from the molten metal. Pancras found it difficult to look directly at it, though he felt it tugging and pulling at his eyes. Dozens of shadowy tendrils rose like smoke out of the fissure and pierced the ceiling of the chamber. A thick fleshy column descended from the ceiling into the heart of the pulsing light.
“There! The bloodmaw is still connected to the rift.” Pancras stood before the swirling miasma and gathered threads of magical energy. He spread his arms, looking over his shoulder at Kale and Edric. “I’m going to close it. Whatever happens, you have to make sure nothing interrupts me.”
Kale drew two daggers. “What happens to the bloodmaw if you close the rift while it’s still in it?”
“It might be cut in half. It might be ejected all together.”
“Ejected?” Edric stood next to Kale, his sword ready. “On our side or the other?”
“Yes.” Pancras moved his hands in the complex patterns of the ritual required. Sealing the rift should be like sealing any other magical portal… I just hope I have strength enough left to do it. He chanted under his breath, allowing the volume of his voice to rise with the power of the magic. “Stenee pyealee, stenee pyealee…”