Pulling himself back to the moment, Peter saw that the short passageway opened into a larger room. Casting a last look back the way he’d come, he stepped softly into the new tunnel and continued to grope along the wall. When he noticed that there was sufficient light to see, he quickly dropped his hand from the bones and instinctively wiped both on his pants.
The next place he found himself in was a circular room constructed of the same material. Dominating this space were five pillars of enormous circumference and spanning from floor to ceiling. Naturally, they too were made of bones and skulls, and on the floor surrounding each of them were individual pools of water. Closer inspection showed that the pillars and walls were not circular but were in fact flat surfaced.
He walked around the colonnades and counted five sides on each. Four of the structures seemed to be plain-faced, containing only knobby bones and skulls, but the fifth held something that he couldn’t readily identify. It may have been the mummified remains of a dog or some other four-legged animal fastened to the balustrade. The thing had a long protruding muzzle and spikes lining its back. One of its front hands or paws was visible and it contained razor-sharp claws. Its tail, which was frozen into an ‘S’ shape, ended in hooks. Although the thing didn’t appear to be very large, Gentrick was certain that had it been alive it would easily have made short work of him.
The water around this pillar was the source of the light. Peter looked into it and tried to gauge its depth or perhaps find what was illuminating it, but the brightness made it difficult to determine either. It also was not wide, and had there been a landing under the column, he could have easily jumped onto it—had it contained a door, that is. Unfortunately, there was nothing that he could see that would offer such salvation and he highly doubted that he would find it at the bottom of the water.
Staring into the shimmering liquid, he felt dryness at the back of his throat and, for a moment considered the implications of drinking from this strange source. The water though was obviously not stagnant because its slight ripple indicated that there was a current moving somewhere beneath.
Despite that logic he was nonetheless hesitant, but the burning thirst forced him to turn caution aside, so he knelt and dipped one hand into the pool. It was surprisingly cold and sent a shock coursing through him as a snippet of a vision danced at the outskirts of his memory. He tried to grasp it and draw it in like a fish nibbling on a hook but all that came to him were a pair of green eyes.
Peter removed his shirt from his face, cupped his hands, and drank. The next thing he knew his mind was reeling from dizziness as though he’d spun in circles. He climbed to his feet to try to walk off the vertigo but succeeded only in falling to his hands and knees. His second attempt was more successful, though he swayed and stumbled his way around the room. Fearing that he would crash to the floor without support, he moved to the nearest wall and leaned against it while he tried to centre himself. As his giddiness ebbed he became aware that he’d been breathing rapidly, nearly hyperventilating, so he took slower, deeper breaths.
A sudden movement out of the corner of his eye cause his heart to nearly freeze. Peter turned and saw the mummified creature walking down from its place on the pillar, the empty sockets where its eyes had been were intent upon him. Additional movement in the room made the blood rush to his head and his delirium to increase. Similar creatures stalked down towards the waters from the other pillars. That he could see the knobby bones of the column’s construction through their bodies made them more frightening.
The first beast was now on the floor and bounding towards him. When it was within a few metres it sprang with its tail whipping the air and its arms and legs raking at the empty space between it and its prey. He tried to avoid the attack but his unsteadiness made his movements sluggish. One of the creature’s talons ripped into his left shoulder blade, knocking him painfully to the ground. When Peter tried to crawl away the other things closed on him and barred his escape.
A claw bit into his ankle and twisted him onto his back. He looked up into the face of the mummified thing, and to his continued horror it had grown and now towered over him. A voice like a straw bristled broom on cement pounded in his ears, “The end of man draws near. The initiate has been chosen…the convocation has begun!”