Cang darts to a corner as the shrieking creatures burst from the dome. In the melee, he notices the metallic glint of what could only be a gem of considerable size. As his companions duck away from the creatures, he sprints for the gem, which one of the creatures had perhaps been saving for its bower somewhere. Sure enough, he scoops up a tiny, flawed emerald — or something like it — from the floor, and drops it into his pocket. With a glance, he notes his companions hadn’t seen him, and so he returns to their side.
“Another delightful surprise in a life of adventure, eh comrades?”
Shyan gives him a surly look.
Abianarin, seeing the many eyes, waves her arms in balletic gestures as she mutters something unintelligble. In a swirling blur, the loose silks of her garments blend and contort until they resemble a flock of gyuju birds: all greasy feathers and gnashing beaks. Even Abia’s chanting takes on the aspect of the foul raptors.
The illusory gyujus, in a vicious cacophony, make for the glowing eyes above, sending the thousands of creatures shrieking from their roosts in the gloom.
“Why you botherin’ the birds, Shyan?” Fassn whispers, looking fearfully to the shrouded space above their heads. “They ain’t what we’re after.”
“I’d rather frighten them before they frighten us,” she replies.
“Gotta be a bit late for that, yeah?” Fassn fumbles with his tinderbox, his dirty hands quaking. He gets his lantern lit and affixes it to the end of his spear, raises it into the gloom. Thousands of tiny eyes catch the glow of the flickering flame. The creatures’ cries grow louder: more shrill and insistent.
“Er,” Fassn says, then falls silent.
Shyan calls for a hold. Her teammates scuffle to a stop around her. She squints into the darkness, then grabs the carved ivory horn at her belt. It had long ago been pried from the head of a six expex chargerbeast. She held it to her lips and blew a low, mournful tone. The animals’ tittering became a jumbled mass of cries, confused and afraid.
The dome’s spacious interior is cool and dank. A rectangular corridor leads straight into the depths of the dome, while equally geometric — though perfectly curved — hallways run from each side of the main room. The whole thing appears to be carved of flat, grey stone, with a pebbly texture to its worked surfaces. Our friends’ boots clank against the stone floor, their armour creaking in the vast, open spaces. From the shadows above, they hear a group of unseen animals, tittering.
“Real nice, Cang,” Fassn calls. Cang sheepishly returns to the group, striding slowly with his head down, hands thrust into his pockets.
“Might have overestimated that one,” he says when he rejoins them. He holds up a few pebbles which Fassn greedily snatches.
“Creature guard dome?” Abia asks.
“Or something inside, maybe,” Shyan says. “Some light, Fassn?”
Fassn whispers an invocation and a boon of light is granted. He follows its shimmering glow, his companions by his side, into the gloomy murk of the dome.