Grit, dirt, and a small amount of cat hair filled Behr’s mouth. He coughed and spat and tried to get his arms and legs to move. His body ached from where the blast had knocked him hard against the sandstone blocks of the corridor’s wall. Blinking, the world eventually moved into focus to reveal Ava standing over him. Her face was twisted into a frantic scream. She sounded so very far away as if only the impression of her voice had carried on a distant wind. Much too far away to hear. She was shaking him now, roughly with both hands. Her voice grew closer and closer until finally its volume matched her screeching features.
“Get your ass up! We’ve got to get out of here!” Ava shouted. She released him as he nodded blurry agreement. As Behr collected his senses, she passed her fingers over a cold torch and breathed arcane words into the dead wood. In her hands, hot crackling fire sprung to life at the torch’s head, washing her in an amber light. The glow deepened her autumnal complexion and made her golden eyes flash.
A deep rumbling formed a baseline under Ava’s voice and the hallway began to tremble like a pot about to come to a violent boil. Veils of dust and sand had begun to fall from widening cracks in the ceiling. Behr lifted himself to his feet to see the shattered remains of the terracotta barbarians splayed across the floor of the throne room from which he just narrowly escaped. The tremors seemed stronger in there as the columns teetered at troubling angles and large stones fell from the ceiling with increasing frequency. Rivers of sand and soil poured through the widening gaps and within moments the throne itself was buried.
It’s caving in! Behr realized with a cold feeling in his stomach.
Through the falling sand, the warm, violet glow of Caeldrim’s dark hands still shone as he whispered a soft hymn and gently laid them upon Dust and then himself. When he was finished, their wounds had closed without even a scar. Caeldrim helped Dust to his feet, briskly but still looking inappropriately serene. Dust’s features twisted into something short of a snarl as he took in the situation around them and visibly came to the same conclusion as both Ava and Behr.
The tremors intensified into a quake and the flag stones began roll like waves. Sand and rock fell like rain and hail. The four adventurers set off at a run back down the corridors that had led them into this place and towards the cave in which they had taken shelter only hours before.
Wildly, the corridor warped, rose, and fell with the power of the quakes tossing the group like small boats on a stormy sea. A stone peeled away from the floor, catching Caeldrim’s boot and throwing him to the ground with a grunt. Dust and Behr scrambled back across the growing debris field towards their friend. Squinting and stooping to keep the falling sand from their eyes, they gripped Caeldrim under both arms and hoisted him to his feet.
Another violent shake ripped through the corridor causing Ava, marked by the torchlight, to bob and bounce ahead of them. She danced out of the way as a column of sand poured from a sudden gap in the ceiling and nearly doused the torch. A loud crack like a bone snapping cut through the din followed by a shrill scream as the ceiling caved in above Ava.
Caeldrim, Behr, and Dust clawed their way towards the rubble, hearts pounding in their throats. Through the dust, only a pile of rock that filled the space where Ava had once stood could be seen. It obstructed more than half of the corridor. Breathless, Caeldrim dove atop the pile. Eyes wet with wild panic, he dug his hands into the stone and earth, wildly shoveling away great handfuls before the others reached him. The dirt flew frenzied in all directions and clung to the streaming tears that ran down his ebony cheeks leaving pale gray lines of dust from the rim of his eyes to the point of his chin. The world bucked and kicked around him but Caeldrim had no care left for the danger.
Two sets of strong hands grappled at him, trying to pull him away from the rubble. They shoved him and tried to push him farther down the corridor towards the exit and the promise of safety. He struggled away, clawing and kicking and fighting to cling to Ava’s rocky tomb. Urgent, desperate voices spoke to him, shouted at him but he had no ears for their words. A distraught strength filled him, and he dug deeper, down to his elbows in the stone and soil, despite impeding hands.
“By all the gods, stop playing in the dirt and come the fuck on!”
His head snapped up to find Ava standing at the far end of the corridor, feverishly waving her arms at them. Caeldrim stared at her incredulously as though was she an apparition in the night until the goading hands of Dust and Behr propelled him onto his feet and over the earthen pile that was not Ava’s grave.
By then the corridor had lost nearly all recognition of its former self and was rapidly deforming into a narrow irregular tunnel. Sandstone rock tumbled in all around them and forced the group to swerve and dodge all the way down the passage. Literal tons of sandy soil poured in from behind, sealing the retreat and nipping at their heels. Nearly bent in half, Ava, Behr, Caeldrim, and Dust scrambled their way through the remaining run and out into the entry way. There the quakes had toppled over the bear statue and broken it into four distinct pieces. Its head, lopped off at the shoulders, had slid all the way to rest in the center of the open stone doorway such that they leapt over it in their mad dash out of the crumbling crypt.
They flung themselves down panting onto the reassuringly still cavern floor and listened in the dark to the cacophony as the tomb collapsed into itself. After the last rock had fallen and the air hung motionless again, they still laid quietly in a circle staring up into the constellation of stalactites, listening to their breath and dripping cave water. Behr was the first break their silent meditations.
“What was that thing? That creature in the dust cloud.”
“A mephit of some kind, I think,” said Ava. Her voice was soft and creamy again with a heavy dollop of exhaustion mixed in.
“And what may I ask is a mephit, exactly?” It was Dust who asked the question this time.
“Some kind of elemental imp, apparently,” answered Caeldrim in a matter of fact tone that ended in deep yawn.
“Well it certainly added some excitement,” said Behr. He was smiling to himself in the dark. It was the sort of smile that little boys wear after they have survived a particularly frightening dare. He slipped into that smile easily and it rested comfortably on him like soft leather boots broken in by a lifetime of use.
“Yes, some excitement indeed,” said Dust. His thoughts trailed away from the mephit and found their way into his pocket. He reached down and extracted the rusted iron flask within. He held it up in front of his face, running the pads of this paws along its pocked sides. He tingled when he touched it as though a very faint but palpable vibration emanated from within. There in the dark, and not for the last time, he lay stroking it and wondering what was held inside.
“Where did the mephit come from anyway?” asked Behr after a long pause. Now that he had settled back into the quiet satisfaction of being alive and in one piece, his mind had become free to wander back through the experience with a more detached interest.
“We summoned it.” Caeldrim’s voice sounded dreamy and it trailed off at the end.
Behr chewed on the fat of the statement for a moment before deciding that it was unsatisfying. He asked, “and why did you summon it?”
“The spell was in a book I just purchased, and I wanted to try it out.” Ava answered with a sigh. Though her voice was still smooth as butter it carried enough tang to imply that Behr should stop bothering her with stupid questions and let her sleep, please and thank you.
Behr made a noncommittal hum and then laid quietly, ruminating on the recklessness of his colleagues. He thought for a moment to comment on the danger that Ava’s experiment had put them in but then remembered that he had already been in quite a lot of danger of his own making before the mephit had intervened. In the end, Behr decided it was probably best to just let this one go. With that final solid reflection, his thoughts melted into the stuff of dreams and he fell asleep right there on the cavern floor.
Tomb and Tome is unofficial Fan Content permitted under the Fan Content Policy. Not approved/endorsed by Wizards. Portions of the materials used are property of Wizards of the Coast. ©Wizards of the Coast LLC.