THE cavern was dark. It was always dark here. There was never light. Militch, twitched his long, pointed nose as he sniffed. Sniffing was the best way to find out where to go. But there was a different smell. He had never smelt it before. Unable to identify it, he followed the scent.
It emanated from a dark corridor that exited off of the main cavern where he and the other Molpen were working. The Molpen were short people, but a bit taller than the dwarves. Their fingers were long, strong, and had sharpened claws. Their faces resembled a form of human, long past, a bit rounder, with squinty black specs for eyes, a long nose, large pointed ears, and coarse black hair on their heads.
Militch wasn’t the leader, but he had ideas, better ideas than many of the other Molpen, who only cared about finding treasure in the form of shiny rocks, diamonds, and other precious gems. But Militch knew things. He was as smart as the dwarves.
He sniffed the air again. The odor was very powerful and it bit into his senses like really greasy skin.
Moving agilely, he made his way deeper into the labyrinth of tunnels. There were no more Molpen working now, and he was all alone. But still, he followed the scent. Something otherworldly drove his curiosity and he just had to find out what it was.
Finally, he came to a dead-end, a dirt and clay wall stopped him, but a small crack allowed the smell to permeate it. Whatever it was, it was behind this wall.
Digging his claws into the dirt he pulled large chunks of clay out of the wall. He moved with such quickness and dexterity, had someone watched, they would have been amazed at how fast he worked. The wall of dirt and clay crumbled before his claws and in moments there was an opening large enough for him to crawl through. He continued tunneling through the dirt until he sensed that he was nearing his destination.
The last of the dirt and clay gave way and he stood in front of a lake of blackness. The liquid was thicker than water and completely black. It seeped slowly, permeating the clay and dirt, it smelled terrible.
Reaching out his hand he touched the black liquid and it felt oily and gritty. A feeling in his gut told him that this liquid was thousands, no, millions of dead things. Living things that had broken down until all that was left of them was this black liquid.
It was as if the realization woke deep magic. In the center of the black lake, the liquid started to churn, like someone mixing grit. And as it turned it grew in size until a face took shape, then a body, and arms. It oozed towards Militch. He wanted to run, but his feet refused to let him move.
The eyes were red dots and its mouth gaped open as it approached. Stopping just off the shore it spoke. “Militch, I have been waiting to meet you.” Its voice was murky and slurred.
“You, me know?” he asked in his hesitant sounding Molpen speech.
“I have watched you your entire life,” the black liquid said. “It was from me that all Molpens were spawned.”
Militch twitched his ears. Something didn’t sound right in that statement.
“I am Nion, the god of the deep.”
Recoiling Militch held up his hands before falling to his face.
“Come now Militch, you have no need to fear me.”
Militch risked a glance upwards. “But why talking to me, are you?”
“Because you are smarter than others.”
“I, nothing. I, an orphan.”
Nion laughed and the sound slid off the walls. “I made you to fulfill your ultimate purpose.”
“What purpose is mine?”
“To destroy the dwarves,” Nion said. “Once upon a time the Labyrinth was all garden. The dwarves and Molpen lived and worked together. The dwarves were caretakers of the rocks and land. The Molpen were caretakers of all living things. The dwarves learned to harvest precious metals and they would make beautiful things from those metals.
“But as they grew wealthier, they moved away from the Labyrinth. The Molpens envied the wealth of the dwarves and developed their own mining tools and they did not care for the garden any longer. The dwarves are a blight on the earth and need to be destroyed.”
“I will, for you, kill dwarves,” he said. “If that is what the god of the deep commands.”
“I know you will,” Nion replied. A black liquid hand reached into its torso and pulled out a medallion. It had a five-pointed star, but one point looked like it had been pulled to be twice as long as the others. A gold chain hung through the largest point. “Put it on and it will give you power.”
Militch reached out and took hold of the medallion. It felt cold. But not like ice, like death. Placing the chain over his neck, he rested the medallion on his chest. His rudimentary clothing did not prevent the medallion from touching his skin. He didn’t like the feel of it around his neck and he reached up to slide the chain back over his head. But it would not move. He knew that it would not move.
“What, done, have you, to me?” he asked, panic catching in his throat.
“You are my servant now. Remember, this will help you kill dwarves.”
Militch tried to relax in the thought. “Okay, what me, you want to do?”
“Listening carefully, the being moved in close. You are going to destroy the Circle of Trust.”
“Yes,” Militch’s voice rose. It was a perfect idea. It would cause the dwarves to fight each other. “But how get I to Deep’en Cal, city of dwarves?”
“My magic will take you,” Nion replied. He paused as a loud grinding sound and a brief tremor happened beneath Militch’s feet. The black liquid rippled with flat-topped waves. It was the signal of the turning of the day. Every twenty-four hours the tectonic plates shifted marking the end of the day and the start of a new one. All time in the Inner World worked this way.
“How works the magic, does it?” Militch asked.
“Just snap your fingers and you will be transported to the gates of Deep’en Cal, the dwarven capital city.”
Looking skeptically at his fingers, Militch snapped them together. Instantly he was transported to the front gates of Deep’en Cal. At least it felt instantaneous to him. However, upon arriving, he suddenly heard the sound of grinding and felt a tremor in the ground, a whole day had passed, the time it would have taken him to travel to the gates on foot.
Grasping the medallion, he said. “Nion lord, the trip still took me, to get here, a whole day.”
He could no longer hear Nion audibly, but he felt the answer in his mind. Deception magic doesn’t actually change something, it just makes you think something happened.
“Okay, but now how, get I, into the city?”
The voice in his head replied. Snap your fingers again, and my Deception Magic will make others around you believe you are a dwarf.
Believing in the power of the magic, Militch snapped his fingers again, but this time he didn’t feel like anything changed.
Shrugging his shoulders, he set off towards the gate of the city. As he approached, he could see dwarven archers on the ramparts keeping watch.
Keeping his gaze straight ahead, he walked through the gates, nodding at the two guards with spears. They didn’t even acknowledge his greeting.
“Powerful magic, this is,” he muttered.
It was easy to find the Circle of Trust, and he knew it immediately. At the center of Deep’en Cal, a large monument had been created. The dais was a perfect circle, carved of precious gemstone. The diameter was exactly seven dwarven paces long. Three pillars of obsidian rock rose from the sides about halfway across the circular dais. Floating, magically, in the area where the arches would have met, was a ball and it glowed like it was on fire.
It was like a perfect glass sphere containing a fire, and it burned constantly, passionately.
Militch stopped at the edge of the dais. Several other dwarves were also around admiring the object.
“Protected by magic, Circle of Trust is,” he whispered to the medallion.
There is a weakness. Use your diamond hammer and tap the Circle of Trust lightly enough to crack it. The Circle is magically protected from someone trying to destroy it with power, such as a pickaxe. But a light tap with a diamond hammer will shatter it like glass. Now do it. The voice commanded him.
Reaching to his utility belt, he pulled out a small hammer, used for carving diamonds. Such a small thing would cause the dwarves to forget.
Stepping onto the dais, he reached the Circle of Trust, he ignored shouts, as there was a law that no one could step onto the dais. But before any guards could reach him, he lifted the small hammer and gently tapped the Circle of Trust.
A small crack formed and then suddenly the entire ball of fire burst apart like a bomb and Militch flew through the air. As he landed, he felt the earth quaking violently and buildings around him cast dust and debris, one structure further down the street collapsed in a cloud of dust and rubble.
Dazed, Militch felt a brick from a building near him strike him on the head and he fell to the ground unconscious.
He wasn’t sure how long he had been out. But when he awoke his head hurt in a way that he had never experienced before. That was the first thing he sensed.
The second thing he noticed was that the earthquake had ended and in front of him two dwarves were fighting with spears, cursing at each other, firmly intent on killing each other.
“Worked, it did,” he told the medallion. “Forgotten, the dwarves have.”