In this episode, Marlic learns of Galron’s treachery, and encounters a new horror in the black temple of the Dharin Ki.
“Watch the center tile,” Malric warned. Malric withdrew his blade, Sliver, from its sheath, expecting danger ahead.
The two thieves crept up a narrow spiraling staircase, into a corridor lined with heavy wooden doors and paved with eastern furs and weaves. They were still several levels beneath the ground.
Malric stepped forward into nothingness. For an agonizing moment he swayed on the lip of the pit, watching the carpet that had covered it fall into the darkness below.
Then he was pushed from behind. Plunging headfirst, Malric attempted to roll his body so that he would land on his hands, but he did not complete the revolution and struck the hard stone with his back.
Through the haze of his pain, Malric could see the square of light above him, and Galron’s bearded, scornful face peering over the side.
Malric could not study the bitter picture for long. Slithering through the bones and old blades that covered the floor of the pit came a much older servant of the temple, a long segmented body with countless legs that clicked over the debris as it advanced. Its hungry red eyes and slick mandibles were visible in the near darkness.
Malric sat up and fished among the garbage for Sliver, which had been knocked from his hand upon impact. The beast was almost upon him.
“By Erahorn, Galron shall pay for this,” Malric promised the dead around him. He removed a rusty short sword from the pile.
The centipede reared up its forebody to strike. Malric dodged its mandibles and thrust at the creature. The hard plates that covered the creature’s underbelly deflected the blow.
The creature whipped its long body around Malric’s legs and toppled him as he was rising.
There was an immense pain in Malric’s ankle, and he shrieked. One of the centipede’s hook-like mandibles had found purchase, and the other was greedily trying to take hold.
Malric’s arm was shaking as he raised the blade. Using both hands, he guided the tip into a groove between the creature’s head and the segment before it. He then threw all of his weight forward and down, and there was a sickening crunch as the centipede’s head tore free from the rest of the body and the sword pierced the soft mush of its brain.
Finally the heavy animal chain around Malric’s legs was still, and Malric heaved the carcass from him. Reaching down, he placed a hand on either side of the creature’s dismembered head and worked the mandible out of his ankle, tossing the eggshell skull against the wall.
The stench of the creature’s body was suffocating. Malric looked up with fire in his eyes, but Galron was gone. Malric removed climbing spikes from his belt and steadied himself against the wall before beginning his ascent. He felt faint, and he vomited into the rubbish as he dug for Sliver. He finally found the dagger and wasted no time in mounting the wall. The creature’s venom was already making his head swim.
To be continued…