ii) Sleep came for Shyan

Sleep came for Shyan. In a dream, she found herself outside a seaside cottage, built of driftwood and thatch. It stood atop a rocky cliff. The scent of sea salt filled the air, and she heard the screeching cries of gulls as they circled above. One by one, the gulls dropped from the sky, dove into the choppy blue ocean without a splash. Many hours passed as Shyan watched for their return to the surface. A bitter wind cut at her skin, but still she kept her vigil for the gulls. The deep red sun set at the horizon, and in the dream, she felt herself returning to wakefulness. As the cottage and cliffs faded from her memory, she saw a gigantic fin cutting the waves, heading fast towards her.

i) It’s night outside, though no one in the dome has seen the sky

It’s night outside, though no one in the dome has seen the sky for hours. Exhausted, the group unfurls their bedrolls and builds a fire from some meagre kindling, carried in from outdoors. Cang takes first watch, dusting the concrete powder from his warhammer’s grooves. Stealing a glance at Fassn, sleeping deeply, Cang takes a sniff of the powder, recoils from its acrid scent. He blows it away and stares into the darkness, kept barely at bay by the sputtering fire.

v) Under the weight of the warhammer

Under the weight of the warhammer, the wheezing concrete thing crumbled. Its rebar skeleton bent and cracked as Shyan laid into it. Her shield forgotten, she pounded the splintering beast into rubble.

When it moved no longer, Shyan, panting, dropped the warhammer, which soon returned to its normal size, such that Cang was able to lift it and attach it to his back. Abia’s whistling died away, and the corridor seemed oddly silent without the concrete creature’s wheezing. Fassn examined the rubble, nose scrunched, and let it lie.

Shyan said simply, “Let’s rest.”

iv) Fassn’s appeals to Old Ajralan went unheard

Fassn’s appeals to Old Ajralan went unheard, or at least so it seemed. From Shyan’s flank, he offered a few blows with his sword that sparked off the rocky hide of the creature and were otherwise ineffective.

Abia’s whistling rose in pitch, and as it did so, the hammer in Shyan’s hands grew in size and density, nearly doubling before their eyes. Suddenly the hammer was a struggle to wield, but Shyan, with teeth gritted, brought it up over her head. With a barely discernible nod, she signalled Cang.

Cang, behind the beast, lobbed a glass flask of oil at its concrete form. It shattered, coating the creature in a film of black oil, and at this, the thing turned, wheezing at Cang. When it did, Shyan brought the full force of the amplified warhammer down upon its spine.

iii) The creature of concrete raised a heavy paw

The creature of concrete raised a heavy paw, tipped with ragged iron, and brought it down upon Shyan with a wheez. She deflected the blow with her shield, but the force of it nearly sent her sprawling. Regaining her footing, Shyan let out a baritone cry and charged toward the thing.

Abianarin fell back and began whistling a birdsong, waving her hands in undulating patterns. Cang darted past the creature, and withdrew his warhammer, made ready to toss it to Shyan. Fassn spoke muddied phrases in praise of Old Ajralan.

Shyan pushed back against the creature with her shield, but its bulk was implacable. She signalled for the hammer, and tossed the shield aside as she snatched the lobbed weapon out of the air. It was small for her, and she wielded it easily, gritting her teeth at the wheezing beast.

ii) A thing of crumbling concrete

A thing of crumbling concrete and rebar stepped out of the murk, blocking the path of our erstwhile heroes. Its breathing was low and heavy. Its black eyes glassily stared. It advanced a step, another.

“Back, demon,” shouted Fassn, to no effect. He turned to the rest and shrugged, raised his weapon.

“A creature of stone and iron,” Shyan said.

“That certainly seems to explain the stench,” Cang added. He lobbed a stone at the creature with his sling, but it plinked harmlessly away.

“This place rise up against us,” Abianarin said.

Shyan grimaced, raised her shield and advanced with careful steps. “Ready your weapons.”