Something moved in the dark. Something big. It pulled Isais’ attention from the dials and pounded at his chest with heavy footsteps.
“What is that?”
A shadow fell across the pool of light cast by the break in the roof of the tunnel. Isais squinted his eyes, instinctively taking a step back. And then another, until his back was pressing up against cold stone.
Something white ambled towards him through the gloom, sunlight falling on bleached bones. A skeleton, stripped of flesh and muscle and tendon. Only a few loose strands of hair falling lank from a polished head showed any sign of the human it once was. Its mouth, rotten and toothless, swung from side to side as if in some twisted imitation of speech.
“How…?” Isais’ own jaw hung agape.
That much Isais had already worked out. Even ignoring the lack of tissue to keep the bones together, the fact that this thing moved at all suggested a dark and unseen power. Like a poor puppet whose master pulled wildly, recklessly on its strings, the skeleton lumbered and lurched. Arms shot out in wild jerking motions, its mouth opened and closed and opened again. Porcelain white head swiveled, left and right and all the way around. Toe bones click-clacked, knees bent unnaturally, constantly forcing the creature low to the ground at an awkward angle.
It would have been almost comical if it weren’t for the unsettling pulse of evil that emanated from the thing in waves. Despite the skeleton’s lack of coordination and grace, it moved slowly, inexorably, towards Isais.
Ready your magic fool!
Isais jolted as if from sleep. So caught up had he been on the unusual thing that he had forgotten the danger it represented. Slamming shut his mouth he began to concentrate, drawing energy from within. There was noticeably less than the last time he had done it.
Be quick! Something bigger lurks behind it.
That was the last thing he needed to hear. Excited, nervous and inexperienced Isais released too soon. There was a small bang and a pile of bricks exploded from the wall a few feet to the left of the bone creature.
“Pasht!” He suddenly felt very sick, his stomach clawed itself up and into his throat, smothering all organs in its way. His heart fluttered weekly; his lungs struggled to pull in air. He tried to find the power but fear and irritation clouded his head. Anger at his miss; anger at the situation he had been thrust into; anger at the voice that lurked inside his very body.
Isais focused. The skeleton was only two lengths of an arm from him now. He raised a hand, picked a spot on the thing’s ribcage.
It was tiny. Barely a crumb. A splutter of residual magical runoff that didn’t so much explode through the air as it did falter and stutter until it meekly landed on its target with a fizz. But it was enough. A moment later, shards of white rendered the air. Isais squeezed shut his eyes and raised a hand to protect his face as small fragments of bone tore into his skin. When next he opened his eyes the skeleton was nothing more than a shattered jumble of broken and rendered white matter.
Isais collapsed to the floor, sliding his back against the slab of the door that still lay between him and what he hoped was safety. Or, at the very least, respite. Swallowing deeply Isais tried to put his stomach back where it belonged and rid his throat of the rock that had taken up occupancy. It was all for nothing when the roar cut the air. A sound more bestial than any human or animal could make.
Dudsscrsst-dudsscrsst. The thud-scraping came shortly after the scream.
“No,” he whispered. “No!” His arms shook, legs trembled as he staggered to his feet.
The dial. Open the dial!
Isais tried to ignore the sound and concentrate instead on the puzzle before him. The answer was staring him in the face. He knew it, but his brain refused to respond to his internal cries for help.
*Author’s note: below is the first puzzle. Click it to begin and solve it before proceeding. Good luck!
Find her, Stop Him