- Apr 26, 2016
The gold dust swirled in front of him. He wobbled, his eyes watering in the heat, and squinted through the blinding orange glow. Steadying himself, he focused hard and watched the golden dust whoosh away down the tunnel and out of sight.
Gidro put one foot gingerly in front of the other, and tried not to look over the edge of the road ... at the bottomless pit of lava-coloured doom. Dwarves were never meant to scale such heights. How could anyone live in this godforsaken land? No wonder he’d never heard of Phaestus - it was nothing but a volcanic ruin!
What was he doing here? Any sane dwarf who’d seen his friends maimed by a headless, hollow, golden suit of armour would surely have run back to Kairos with their axe between their legs. He must be the most gullible runt ever to crawl from Belmorne’s Pass! There were no golden statues here, no guild of artisans to welcome him with arms open and chisels in hand. All there was were taunting wisps of gold dust, drawing him deeper and deeper into fire and brimstone. Loa, the supposed “Lord” of this land, had well and truly done a number on him.
Gidro turned to head back, and found something behind him that wasn’t there before: a golden monolith, as tall as he was. It was adorned with gems and ... skulls ... A wisp of dust whooshed around his ankles, swirled into the air, and flew into the monolith through its open top.
His eyes glistened, and he was quite sure he’d never seen anything quite so pure or radiant. He swallowed hard, his throat dry after two days without mead. Stepping up to the monolith, Gidro stood on tiptoe and peered inside.
At first he didn’t realise what had happened, as his eyes tried to pierce the darkness. Then he felt a twinge in his side. He looked down and saw a gouge in his leather armour, and liquid gold pouring out and down his leg. He staggered around and saw the snot-green Gnarling smiling at him, gold dripping from the tip of its rusty blade.
“Another trophy for Mistress Kasita,” gurked the Gnarling.
Trophy? ... Gidro’s side felt cold like metal. He looked down and saw his body turning to gold. He tried to scream, but the metallic numbness strangled him.
“Heigh-ho, here I go!” A dwarf ... He vaulted around Gidro, rolled, drew his axe, and in one fell swoop - a miner’s effortless swoop - hewed the Gnarling in two.
The dwarf turned around, the Gnarling bubbling away in a pool of blood and green goo. Lord Loa?
Loa grabbed Gidro and yanked him away down the tunnel, Gidro’s golden feet unable to move, scraping along the paved floor. As they ran further from the monolith, Gidro felt warmth return to his limbs. He moved his legs, and they responded. Loa released him, and Gidro galloped along under his own steam.
“You lied to me,” said Gidro, as Loa finished dressing the wound. Loa stood, and stroked his long, red beard.
“That will never heal proper, you know. A fine golden scar!” Loa nodded approvingly. “Seems you’re made of stronger stuff than I thought. Gold, in fact!” He erupted with a hearty laugh.
“You lied to me. There aren’t no master crafters round here, no exquisite statues - except me if I’d stayed back there!”
“I told you the truth, laddie. And you know something else? The master crafter of all Phaestus is my own nephew, Saffire!” He leaned closer and whispered behind the back of his hand. “He’s not from these parts, mind you.” Loa winked, and pulled back. Gidro studied his face.
“Look, laddie. I won’t lie. Right now you’re standing in the dungeon of an avaricious fiend that makes us dwarves look like Kairos’ greatest philanthropists!”
Gidro examined the gilded walls all around. Loa went on. “Look, you’re a good soldier. Not many could infiltrate a demon’s dungeon in the middle of a godforsaken land like Phaestus. And you done it single-handedly to boot!”
Loa turned away and stepped down the hall. “See, if we don’t stop this ‘Kasita’, then any chance the Empire has to rebuild will die, bleeding out gold in the rubble, right beside us.” He turned back to Gidro and offered his hand. “What you say, pal?
“I’ll personally introduce you to that nephew of mine, and every one of his sumptuous statues!”
Gidro huffed out a laugh. He really had lost the last ounce of his sanity. He gestured forth with his hand. “After you, My Lord.”
Read the next instalment, “The Gilded Heart”.