To Talon's eyes, the Sorcerer's Guild always seemed so much larger from inside. Paths wound their way in every direction, dizzying, disorienting. Some were brightly lit, furnished and hung with artwork, or decorated by esoteric murals bearing runes of long-forgotten ages. Hideous, if only one could read them. Other passages were bleak and bare, the stone blasted black by some unknown force, or oddly liquefied and sculpted, or somehow wrong, sloping off into impossible angles. Others still were dark, and empty, and silent.
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It was to this last that Talon and Silverscale came, the rustling of the sorcerer's long robes whispering along the corridor. Talon was an elf, and an assassin; he made no noise. Silverscale conjured a small glowing orb, and sent it along ahead of him. It picked out a set of stone steps in dim greenish light. They started down, Silverscale in the lead. The steps were old, and pitted with holes where the slow drip-drip-drip of water had eaten away the rock. Down and down they went, turning a slow spiral as they descended, feeling the constant cool of the deep earth. Talon looked up at the overhanging stone ceiling with some trepidation. They were now deep below the city, deeper than he had imagined any tunnel could go, save perhaps the deepest shafts dug by miners. He listened with his keen ears, made all the more sensitive by the first claustrophobia the elf had ever felt, and above- or was it below?- the whisper-whisper of Silverscale's robe, he heard something new. Something bubbling and roiling, like slow-boiling water, organic and somehow alive.
"What is-?" he started to say, then stopped. He could have sworn the sound from below had changed. It had heard him! He tried again. "What is that?"
Silverscale said nothing. He stepped aside and motioned with his arm in an after-you gesture. Talon stepped in front of him and followed the glowing orb down the last few steps into a low stone chamber of unknown size. The orb seemed to grow dim, as if the darkness were pressing down on it, and Talon found himself moving forward carefully, hands outstretched to ward off anything that might come out of the black. His eyes were preternaturally acute, as are the eyes of all elves, but even he could pick out nothing in the sunless chamber. He took a step forward. Then another. Then another.
A hand grasped him by the shoulder, and he came within an inch of screaming.
Silverscale smiled a knife-blade of a smile, and removed his hand. He pointed ahead, and the sphere of light brightened.
The floor ahead fell away into a deep chasm, from which the roiling, splashing sounds- living sounds, somehow Talon was sure of that- were coming. He craned his head to look down into the great well, and saw a silvery-black substance, like tar. It boiled and rolled like a stormy sea, a living sea, hungry and mindless and somehow aware that he was up there, out of its reach.
Another step, and he would have fallen into it.
He glared at Silverscale. The sorcerer looked back impassively.
"What am I looking at?" Talon asked.
"The work of ten years," said Silverscale. "Ten years, and a will unlike any you can imagine. This is the best-kept secret of my guild, guarded carefully, by whatever means necessary, nurtured with patience and dedication. We found the pit, and the passage leading down to it, quite by accident, one day. The man who found it swore it had not been there the day before, though there are so many tunnels in the deep places here, he could simply have overlooked it. But I wonder..."
"What does it do?"
Silverscale turned from his reverie. He regarded Talon as a hawk might regard a field mouse it had taken some particular interest in. "It eats souls, of course."
Fear blossomed deep in the assassin's mind.
"No you don't." Silverscale turned back to the pit. "No one does, not even I. But we are explorers, you understand. We do not shy from the black void beyond this world, nor do we fear the idiot chaos at its center. There are those who found a way to speak to the formless consciousness inside the pit, and it whispered many secrets to them, before they went mad. The pit eats souls, you see. It feeds on them, grows and changes with them, and when it is strong enough, it can be sent out into the Void. Like rope of flesh, it can catch hold of things in the outer darkness, where we can only go as consciousness without form or place. It can bring them back. Bring them through. It is a conduit, a door between worlds. A living door. You understand?"
"Perhaps." Talon looked at the pool with growing trepidation. He did not like being so close to the unknown. "What use has this for you, Silverscale? Are you planning to bring back some monster from beyond our world?"
"Of course not. No. Even with all we learned of the pit, it would still be no more than a strange relic, to be considered and explored. It was fate, or the will of Krin, that put the tools in our hands. I told you we were explorers in the strange realms beyond the rim of our world, and I did not lie. We leave our bodies and go in spirit into the skerries, into the watchtowers, into the Void. Ten years ago, we went even further, into an unknown and unexpected place, somewhere below the starry void." Silverscale paused, looking at nothing. He smiled that knife-edge smile again.
"We found a god."
"Quit this world, quit the next world, quit quitting!" -Sufi proverb.