Jandyr felt nothing. The sickening blackness consumed him, engulfed his very soul and poisoned his eyes with its’ innate nothingness. He had no concept of time or relative motion here, it could have been seconds, days or years since he fell through the void. No air brushed past him, no sounds assailed him, no scents nor sense could be felt, there was just infinite oblivion.
Panicking, Jandyr tried to move his arm to his face just to reassure himself that he could still feel. He could not. He willed himself to move his head to look at the recalcitrant limb. He could not. The very real fear that he had been paralysed by the foul necromancer’s strike to his back took over and he began to hyperventilate, but there was no air to breathe. With each airless gasp he moved closer and closer to his inevitable end.
With a pain like burning fire, feeling returned to his back. He let out a soundless scream as he felt tendrils pulling his skin taught, knitting the wound back together. Multitudinous other wounds began to flare into existence along his body, each one feeling like the embers of a great inferno. As he began to pass out from the pain, he was able to draw in a great gasp of fresh air, cool and crisp in his lungs, but like icy daggers after the fires of his back
Motion returned then. He was falling. Fast. Wind rushed past his face so hard it made his eyes run with tears and his eyelids shut involuntarily. Through the small cracks he dared keep open, he began to see an object coming towards him at tremendous speed. He was going to die, he knew it then. There was no way he could survive the impact of this fall. He shut his eyes fully and thought of his family, his wish that his last thought at least be a happy one.
As he did so he noticed his velocity begin to slow. He opened his eyes again to see the object resolve itself into a long grey corridor. In the corridor were three familiar shapes – a large muscular human was at the forefront, holding a light which burnt his eyes to look at and a spiked mace which was swinging around his head. Just behind was another human, much thinner and swathed in dusty rags with a long scraggly grey beard. This one kept furtively looking into its knapsack when it felt sure the others weren’t looking, glancing at a book that seemed as if it were bound in flesh. Jandyr felt something jar in his memory at this, but however hard he pulled at the thread, the memory would not unravel.
The last shape was smaller than the others, covered in metal but bearded like the last. It carried a large axe on its back and a smaller one which it wielded in one hand. This one seemed to be coming closer, and closer, and closer…
“AAAARGH!” screamed Short-arse as Jandyr fell head-first on top of her.
“Bloomin’ ‘ell, it’s raining Elves in here,” said Trogdar as he hurried to help the entwined pair up.
“Get that damn Elf off me!” shouted Short-arse. Jandyr had fallen across her back and she was lying face-first in the dusty stonework.
“Give me a second,” said Trogdar, heaving the unfortunate Jandyr to his feet. “How did you find the long drop then, Jandyr? At least you had someone to land on, The Wizard here nearly snapped in two, didn’t you Sonny?”
The Wizard gave a discreet nod as Trogdar thumped him heartily on his back, almost sending him onto the floor next to Short-arse.
“I am still… a little disoriented,” replied Jandyr, unsteadily rocking on his feet and holding one arm against the wall.
“Don’t worry about that, it passes in a few minutes,” said Trogdar, hoisting the unfortunate Dwarf to her feet. “We could use your help when you come to, we’ve been walking down this corridor for ages.”
Jandyr nodded and set off at the back of the group. His mind was still groggy, his head pounding, but something was pressing, a thought trying to escape to the surface. As they walked, the Wizard kept looking back at him, his eyes narrowing every time he did so before looking longingly into his knapsack.
They walked on for a few more minutes before the pain threatened to overwhelm Jandyr again. “Perhaps we could stop for just a moment while I get my bearings,” he said, collapsing to the floor.
Trogdar stopped and agreed. “Summat funny about this place, it just seems to go on and on forever.” He shone the lantern down the corridor in front of him and then turned around to shine it behind.
As he did so, Jandyr who was sat looking straight ahead noticed a light in the far distance. “Wait a second,” he said.
“What?” asked Trogdar, turning the lantern towards him. The light immediately vanished.
“Shine the lantern back down the corridor,” asked Jandyr.
Trogdar did so, casting a puzzled look down at the prone Elf. The light returned at the opposite end of the corridor.
“Walk down the corridor away from us,” said Jandyr.
“You sure you’re alright?” asked Trogdar.
“Just do it!” shouted Jandyr, his head still pounding.
Trogdar started to walk off down the passageway. As he did so, the light began to grow brighter at the far end as Trogdar disappeared into the darkness until, as he vanished from one end completely, he reappeared from the other end of the corridor.
“How did you do that?” he asked.
“It wasn’t us,” said Short-arse, “It’s you! You’re a sorcerer, you’ve been leading us astray all this time! I should know better than to trust Northerners…”
“It’s not him, it’s this place,” said Jandyr, weakly. “It’s an Ouroboros trap.”
“I see,” said Trogdar, “kinda stretchy then?”
“No, not rubberous, oo-rob-or-ross,” explained Jandyr, “eternal, infinite, a loop.” He helped himself back to his feet by sliding his back up the wall, “There must be a secret exit in here somewhere, and we need to find it before..”
He was cut short as the walls of the corridor bowed outwards and then contracted sharply. The corridor was suddenly much narrower than before.
“That looked kinda rubberous to me,” said Trogdar.
“It’s collapsing,” said Jandyr, “we must hurry!”
The Warriors began to frantically search the corridor, looking for a secret mechanism, a disjointed wall, anything that could lead them to freedom.
“Is this it?” asked Trogdar, pawing at a suspiciously large stone.
“No, that’s just a rock,” said Short-arse, “Give it to Jandyr, he loves ‘em.”
Jandyr paid the Dwarf no heed, there was little time. The corridor expanded and contracted again, narrowing ever more. As he frantically searched, he noticed the Wizard had stopped and was looking at the book again.
“How often have you looked at that book whilst I’ve been with you?” Jandyr asked, pointing at the Wizard.
The Wizard looked up, startled and hastily put the book away.
“How often?” repeated Jandyr.
“Once or twice,” squeaked the Wizard.
“Twice?” asked Jandyr.
The Wizard nodded.
“It’s the book! Throw it away before it gets us killed!” implored Jandyr earnestly.
“My book!” said the Wizard, backing up against the wall. As he did so, the stonework began to shift and mould around him, changing itself to reveal a large chamber beyond. The corridor began to expand and contract rapidly.
“Everybody out!” cried Trogdar, charging for the new-found exit. The others followed as the corridor collapsed on itself completely, the Dwarf barely making it out as she jumped through the gap before it disappeared into nothingness behind her. As she landed, she turned to look at a bare stone wall behind her, their way back completely blocked.
The warriors all turned to look at the Wizard, who was still slowly backing away, clutching his knapsack protectively to his chest.
“That book will get us all killed, mark my words,” said Jandyr.
“If the Wizard holding it doesn’t first,” muttered Short-arse to herself.