sundiver: (SF- Lady With Parrot)
[personal profile] sundiver

The catacombs underneath the main temple of Jadus in Khorevail were cool, damp, and lifeless. Once a week, one luckless squire was sent to inventory its dark vaults. Once a month, one of the elder priests wandered through to ensure nothing had broken free. There were no bodies held there; worshippers of the sun god started their final voyage on a funerary pyre.

Instead, the ancient catacombs held the spoils of centuries of battles against dark forces. Possessed swords, dark altars steeped in sacrifice, cursed dice. What the priests could not cleanse upon arrival, they catalogued and stored away for later purification. Some items were later brought up out of the dark vaults for one of the questing paladins to use, but only in the direst of circumstances. Only the darkest magic could withstand the power of the son god’s priests’ cleansing spells and no one wanted to chance one of the cursed items waking out of the stasis the priests had managed to place them in.

Tonight it was not one of the young squires making his way through the maze-like structure. Instead, it was two scruffy men in ill-fitting clothes meant for a higher class than theirs. They walked with the soft careful steps of men used to walking on more unstable surfaces than the stone underfoot.

“Two more corridors on the left,” said the one man, “and then it’s the next entrance on right.”

“We ain’t getting paid enough to piss off the Jadens,” said the other. “I says once we nab the trinket the broad wants, we helps ourselves to a tip on the Jadens’ tab. Nothing flashy-like though.”

“They don’t keep money in the cats, Mekes, you dim-wit. Jadens got a proper treasury for that. They keep the bad magic down here. And the less we touch, the better. What’s say you ask her for a raise once we’ve returned to her with her bauble.”

“We’ve passed up some shiny swag, Faustin,” Mekes complained. “And I hate creepin’ about in cats. Give me an honest roof job any time.”

“Not so honest,” said the taller Faustin with a harsh laugh, taking a right. Mekes laughed with him.

The vault they had arrived at was mostly bare. A necklace made of interlocking gold discs lay on a shelf next to a jewel-encrusted helm. The helm still had bloodstain splatters on it, giving one the impression the previous owner had lost his head over the matter. A small blood-encrusted altar sat almost in the center of the room, with a long, wicked-looking kris embedded in it. On another wall sat a low shelf littered with potion vials and two large tomes leaning towards each other for balance. A cat’s skull glared blindly towards them from its resting place between the tomes.

“One gold disc necklace, right where she said it would be,” said Faustin smugly. “You still got the fake she gave you?”

The other man pulled a similar necklace out of one of his pockets. “Reckon I’ve got to place it right where t’other one is?”

“As close as possible, Mekes. Don’t want nothing to look out of place, and they walk by everything regularly. Someone might remember the necklace not hanging off the side of the shelf the last time they went by.”

Mekes carefully replaced the necklace. “Weight’s a mite off,” he said.

“Can’t be helped. No one’s touched the thing in decades, and I don’t think anybody ever wrote a paper discussing its weight. The Jadens don’t fondle the goods, anyway. Just eyeball it and run a spell-sweeper and that’s the important part. And the lady says she’s a soft-hand at copying the spells the original has. Could be years afore anyone notices the swap.”

“And then it’ll be her problem, not ours,” agreed Mekes, pausing next to the altar. “I say we gets out of here double-quick. No telling when her magic wears off and people start noticin’ us again.”

Faustin exited the vault and began retracing his route. “Keep up, Mekes. You’re right about not wanting to be near Jadens when the spell goes. They might recognize our faces from the red sheets the guards pass around.”

Mekes quickly followed him, stashing the necklace into a pocket and slipping a long wavy-bladed knife into a belt loop.

Inside the vault, the empty blood-stained altar’s narrow base started sinking into the ground with a low rumbling groan.
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