Escape of the Pathfinder
The Escape of the Pathfinder
Deep in the mountain, the Lithics stand at the gate, motionless as the stone they are carved from. The glowing runes on their skin paint the cave walls a kaleidoscope of colors. The Gatekeeper nods and, for the first time in a century, the opening of the gate begins. Bars are removed, clever devices lift tons of stone, a river is temporarily diverted. The dozen soldiers assigned to this all important task know that the rumble of the opening gate will summon the servants of their patient enemy. They hustle through the opening and the Gatekeeper nods again. The river flows, the stones slam back down and the bars are replaced. The dozen soldiers hasten through the dark halls where their people once held sway, using memories passed down from ancient Pathfinders.
They opt for speed instead of stealth, trying to keep ahead of the monsters in the darkness. Like boulders rolling downhill, the Lithics speed onward. The groans and wails of the servants of the enemy get closer, driven onward by terror and hunger. Soon, the Lithics come to a narrow passage and the last soldier in the line turns, to buy the rest time. Only then do the stoneborn speak, the defender singing as he slays and is slayed while the other Lithics solemnly utter his name for the last time. This carries on for many hours, perhaps days, until there are only a handful of Lithics left. The enemy’s servants are everpresent and without number but the group of Lithics have made it to the final external gate. And at the gate stands the enemy himself, with crackling black sword in one hand and glowing destruction in the other. The servants cower in fear, unwilling to face their master’s gaze. The Lithics sing together, in case they all should die, and run toward the foe.
All but one. This one is not of the dozen soldiers. He is the reason for their sacrifice, a Runepriest, but more than that, a Pathfinder, perhaps the last Pathfinder if he fails. While the warriors sing of their battle, the Pathfinder makes the sign of opening upon the gate. Although the enemy is beset by Lithics from every direction, in a voice both beautiful and terrible, he forbids the door from opening. The Lithics redouble their efforts and begin to die. The enemy speaks to their armor and it melts, he sings to their axes and they fly from the soldier’s hands. But distracting the enemy’s song gives the Pathfinder the time to make his runes of opening upon the door without interference. The door opens and the Pathfinder runs through and turns to see his defender’s last struggle. “They will live on in my runes, in my memory, until I can return with help.” the Pathfinder thinks.
As the last defender falls, the enemy leaps toward the gate and collides with the old runes that keep him trapped in the mountain. As the gate begins to shut, the enemy smiles, wipes some blood from a cut to his cheek and says, “Greetings second born. Congratulations on the escape. My creatures are diverting that river as we speak. Hurry along now, you don’t have much time, bring back more victims. Give my warmest regards to the pond scum.” With a smirk, he turns and stalks back into the darkness with his frightened, foul minions. The Pathfinder turns and walks down the mountain, intoning the names of the fallen for the last time.
- Total Codex