Garin crept along the tunnel, his palms clammy with fear. These ancient passages were unmapped and the only light was the small lantern carried by his partner, a surprisingly strong man with a very short temper.
Garin let his eyes stray from where he was stepping for a second and then there was a clunk, followed by the sound of something metallic rolling across the floor to clang against rock. He barely had time to gasp an apology before he was sent reeling against the tunnel wall by the back of his partner’s hand.
He tasted blood and gritted his teeth against the pain where his head had struck rock. Think of the money. Mother is about ready to send Taris and Senda out into the streets to earn their keep pleasuring the night crowd of the fort. They need you to do this!
He had prayed at the One’s temple last night, feeling that when engaged in something less than perfectly legal, it was a good idea to get in well with the gods, and the Creator was as far up the god hierarchy as you could get. It had seemed to him then that the images of the First Gods, Mahweh and Ylrith, dark and light, on each side of the main altar, had shimmered and moved in the half light of the oil lamps. A good sign, surely?
The tunnels were a labyrinth but the other man seemed to know exactly where he was going. Sometimes they turned at every corner and sometimes, as now, they followed long passages for hundreds of feet. Some tunnels ran perfectly straight and some curved, but they all led deeper into the mountain. Garin didn’t need a map to tell him that. The air grew colder and damper the further they went. The sweat from the long walk chilled on his face and under his clothes and he rubbed his body to warm the skin and prevent his teeth from chattering.
He shied away from the thought that he would never find his way out alone. This man needed him, he couldn’t leave him down here. Strangely, he didn’t seem to feel the cold or the damp. There was something wrong with that, but Garin couldn’t think what. Think of the money! Forget everything else…
They finally entered a small chamber which was quite well lit, for all there was only one source of light, the lamp carried by his partner. As he set it down, Garin looked round and realised why it was so light. Small pieces of obsidian were set into the walls and even the ceiling. The black glass reflected the light without dazzling so that one lantern was enough to light the whole chamber with a muted glow. A black chamber of light. It sounded familiar somehow. He looked around some more and realised that something was wrong.
“There’s nothing here,” he said, frowning.
“Of course there’s something here, you fool. We’re here.” The other man turned towards a corner of the chamber.
“Shut up!” Garin cringed from the tone. It sounded like blades slicing flesh.
“My lord.” The other man was addressing shadows in a corner and Garin looked round anxiously. The man was obviously unhinged. There was no one else here. In fact there was nothing here at all, certainly not crates of gold and silver ingots which he had been told he would be carrying.
“My lord, I have come, as you asked.”
Garin looked back towards the corner of the chamber in time to see something which made his bladder give way.
The shadows were moving, curving here, straightening there, coalescing into the form of a man, towering over them to meet the roof of the chamber six feet above their heads. Garin whimpered and the other man caught the scent of fear.
“Oh, that’s disgusting! Why you pathetic little-” He raised a hand to strike.
“Leave him. Do you wish for power, fearful one?”
Garin shrank down against the chamber wall, uncaring that he was squatting in a pool of his own urine, almost beyond speech. The other man turned at looked at him.
“Well, do you?” he snapped.
“Er… I-I suppose, yes?”
“And do you, Morto, wish for power?”
“You know I do, Lord.”
“Then bring light to my altar.”
Morto stepped forward and picked up the lantern. Then he smashed it on the rock and oil spilled across the level rock and caught fire, burning brightly.
“Now. Bring blood to the light.”
Morto approached Garin and pulled him to his feet.
“You should be honoured. Even a worthless worm like yourself can still serve the Other.”
Garin’s eyes bulged. The Other? The enemy of the Creator? In the second left to him he recalled ancient legends.
His cries were cut off by the slim blade sliding between his ribs and piercing his heart. Morto ripped off his shirt and caught the flowing blood in his cupped hands to then spill it in the burning oil.
“Yes!” The shadow grew larger, filling the chamber so that the obsidian no longer reflected light, but darkness. “Where blood meets light, there is my might.”
Morto repeated the words, as if in a trance, uncaring of the blood on his hands or around his feet.
“Where blood meets light, there is thy might.”
With a roar like a mountain falling, or maybe a god coming to life, the shadow in the chamber exploded out, lifting Morto off his feet as it passed through him, before hurtling down the carved corridors and passageways that led out of the mountain.
Morto eventually pulled himself upright, aching in every bone and surprised to be alive. But of course, that was only the legends holding true. That the first disciple would also be the last. The Other’s power would protect him unless struck down by a god. To all others he was immune, and while Morto lived, the Other could not die.