“Whatever happens,” Gemen said, “stay close.”
“What is this place?” Velori asked. “What are we dealing with –– and what are we looking for?” A mist loomed ahead, but not chill and cool, nor even white; it was warm, vaguely yellow, and stank with all the putrid force of recently rotted flesh.
“We are about to violate the final resting place of an ancient monarch, Cleon Cryptlord. The elders of his time would not suffer him to be buried anywhere near the city. Inside is a chamber, half-flooded with water, with a great keystone. I need that keystone, my friends. It is for that that we have come.”
Ahead lay a clearing devoid of plant life, centered on a great earthen mound the size of a tumbledown barn. Part way up the naked slope was a gap, not so much a cave as a mouth, and from this hole poured the fog through which they walked. It emerged in gasps and billows as if blown from the lungs of something both vast and immeasurably sick.
“No,” said Velori. “I’m not going in there.”
“We are going, and we are going now. Corvaen and his mad companion agree on one point: whatever lies beneath is not especially alert. If we are quick about our business, we may never encounter what they did.”
Mark Rigney is the author of the plays Acts of God and Bears, winner of the 2012 Panowski Playwriting Competition, as well as the non-fiction book Deaf Side Story: Deaf Sharks, Hearing Jets and a Classic American Musical. His short fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in Black Static, The Best of the Bellevue Literary Review, Realms of Fantasy, Talebones, Not One Of Us, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet and many more. His contemporary fantasy novel, A Most Unruly Gnome, won the 2009 First Coast Novel Contest. Two collections of his stories (all previously published by various mags and ‘zines) are available through Amazon, Flights of Fantasy, and Reality Checks.
You can see the complete catalog of Black Gate Online Fiction, including stories by C.S.E. Cooney, Donald S. Crankshaw, Aaron Bradford Starr, Sean McLachlan, Harry Connolly, and Jason E. Thummel, here.
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