The Plunder Gains
Know that between the time that the oceans drank
Atlantis and the rise of the sons of Arnold, there was an age undreamed of,
when powerful kingdoms struggled for supremacy of the world – Hyperbroea with its ancient
citadels, Zarmora and its dangerous underworld, Yogia with its serpent guarded
tombs, but the mightiest kingdom of the world was Macrolonia, unrivaled in
stature. It was an age of barbarians, sorceries light and dark, mighty empires,
and heavy burdens. It was the Hybroian Age. Hither came Bronan the Swolerian,
black haired, fierce eyed, sword in hand, a slayer, a thief, with gigantic
appetites and gigantic shoulders, to heave the world from its very foundations and
set it upon the Iron Path of Brodin.
A rumbling sound down the tunnel was swiftly followed by a waft of dust. Then the air took on the sepulchral essence of the deep warrens the group had just plundered. Panic shot through the fastest of them as torchlight revealed a great stone door blocking the portal they had entered hours before.
“I saw no mechanism for a door when we passed this way,” Kurle grunted, his voice tinged with confusion and dread.
“We’re trapped,” Flye muttered in fear, turning to face the shadows behind them.
Four more raiders were illumined by the torches, panting from the effort of their near flight. The dark atmosphere of the tombs had caused them to leave quickly, not quite running for their lives. Heavy thuds sounded as the leader approached the stone door.
“Traps, check it out,” his deep voice ground against the stone of the tunnel.
One of their number, half in shadow, lithely moved to the edges of the door. His deft fingers worked at edges of stone and clefts of tunnel wall, looking for switches, key holes, or pressure plates. After half a minute he turned and gave his group a terse shake of the head.
“No way out, chief,” Traps said flatly.
The chief’s face was blank and inscrutable. A brief pause and he grated.
“Jug, try your iron.”
The largest of their band stepped forward. The hulking Hyperbroean hefted a hammer easily weighing ten stone, forged in the shape of Swjölnir, which Brodin gifted his son. His mass of red hair swept over his shoulder along with the huge weapon.
“Step back,” he said.
His compatriots sprang swiftly away as the hammer arced forward, its dark head flashing in the torch light. With a deafening crack it impacted the stone door. The resulting force vibrated through Jug’s arms, causing him to grunt in pain and stumble back. Where his strike had landed only a tiny crack, less than the width of a finger, had appeared.
A fresh flash of panic moved through the band. A howl echoed down the long tunnel from which they had come.
“By Brodin, what was that?” Kurle muttered, ever the superstitious one.
“Pray to Fwheya we do not find out,” their sixth member said, stepping forward. “There is a spell upon this door which repels our strength.”
“Can you lift it?” the leader asked.
The corner of Kinesia’s mouth quirked up and she flexed her bicep.
“You should know better than to ask, Bronan,” she said mockingly. “There is nothing the gods cannot lift.”
Several of the band made the Sign of Brodin and took a step away from the priestess of Fwheya. Angry red light twisted up around her as she chanted guttural words in an ancient language. The red light seemed to reflect off a black, glassy surface covering the stone door. Sweat broke out on Kinesia’s brow. Her veins stood out sharply as she gripped her staff, pointing it toward the enchanted door.
“Break, Fwheya burn you!” she grunted.
The raiders leaped back as blinding light flashed; red energy battering black stone. The air shook with thunder. Kinesia gave a shout of triumph and the blackness faded.
“One spell lifted, chief,” she said, still smirking.
The others chuckled, but it was cut short by another blood chilling howl. This one seemed much closer. Heads jerked backward toward the darkness. Jug hefted his hammer and approached the door.
“No time, Jug,” Bronan said flatly, his keen barbarian ears gauging the distance of their pursuer as very close. “Everyone form up behind me. When I give the word, dive for the door.”
No one protested and no one questioned their chief; they trusted absolutely in his strength. They formed a semicircle blocking the darkness of the tunnel from Bronan, who now faced the door. A ball of red light burst into existence above Kinesia and the raiders hurled their torches down the tunnel to push back the darkness.
Shadows flitted through the bubbles of torch light. The raiders hunched behind their shields, bracing for whatever might spring from the blackness.
“Hold!” Bronan thundered as he squatted and jammed his fingers into the earth beneath the stone door.
Bats swirled out of the dark and enveloped the band in leathery wings, disorienting all but Bronan.
“Back, spawn!” Kinesia shouted.
The ball of red light grew and flashed brighter. The bats screeched and retreated. Another howl tore through the tumult. The raiders looked back toward the torches.
A tall, slim figure stepped into the circle of light. Its close fitting robes were so dark they seemed to absorb the light, much as the deep hood which hid the figure’s face.
“Someone has a sense of the dramatic,” Kinesia joked, but immediately made a choked noise.
“What in Brodin’s name is that thing?” Kurle asked with a worried tone, tightening his grip on his mace. He turned his head to look at Kinesia. When he saw her face he became more worried.
“What is it, Kinesia?” he asked again, this time his voice almost a whisper.
“How’s that door coming, chief?” she said over her should, panic tinging her voice.
Just as she finished, Bronan gave a yell and heaved the stone door clean of the floor. The muscles of his legs and back flexed to the hardness of steel. At the apex of his feat he reversed his hands to hold the door aloft.
“Through!” he grunted through gritted teeth.
The band of raiders retreated through the stone door. Fresh morning air filled their lungs, dissolving the bonds of panic thrown over them by the darkness. Jug thumped Bronan on the shoulder and raised his hands to take the weight on the opposite side.
“All out, chief.”
Bronan’s arms twitched with the effort of holding the door. When he felt that Jug had the door, he lowered his arms and turned to face the darkness. The slim, dark figure still stood in the circle of torch light. As Bronan watched, the figure lifted its arms and pulled back its hood. Bronan’s hand went to the hilt of his sword.
A face shone pale in the faint light. High cheekbones jutted over gaunt cheeks. Eyes burned yellow from sunken sockets. Thin lips curved into a cruel smile.
“Did you find what you were looking for, son of Brodin?” the figure asked in a smooth voice.
Bronan did not respond. Instead he reached into a leather bag and withdrew a golden goblet. Upon seeing the cup the figure’s smile disappeared and its eyes took on a zealous glare.
“Have to complete my collection, lackey of Brahphomet,” Bronan said mockingly.
“Blasphemer!” it hissed and flashed forward.
“Jug, drop it,” Bronan said calmly as he walked out into the dawn light.
The giant let the stone door fall, shutting in the pale, snarling creature; its angry howl now muffled by stone. A moment passed and the group took a collective breath of relief. Just as Kinesia opened her mouth the door shook under a heavy impact. Their heads turned, hands gripping weapons. Another loud thud and spider web cracks popped out from the center of the door.
“Do not wet yourselves,” Kinesia said wryly. “It cannot follow us into the daylight.”
No one seemed to find comfort in this. Weapons and shields still raised, the group stared at the web of cracks in the span thick stone. A few chips fell to the ground, but no more blows struck the door.
“Praise Brodin,” Kurle said with a heavy exhale.
“Aye,” Traps grunted, “and Fwheya.”
The tension began to bleed out of the raiders. Some made the Sign of Brodin. Kinesia muttered a prayer to Fwheya. Bronan stood considering the golden cup. After running his thumb over the heavily engraved surface he put it back into his bag.“Let us move out, this is goblin country,” he grated, and turned his back on the stone door which now blocked the tomb entrance.