Chapter 5: Chains of Fear

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Log #470: Biology

Less than twelve hours after we left Ismira, our Party was ambushed by a new species of Shade: a scorpion-like monster with three stingers, each connected by a separate tail. It has been officially classified as a Core Stalker, as well as the forty-eighth species of Shade to be discovered. Approximately the size of a one-story house, they are the first creatures that display intelligence beyond mere reflex. This conclusion has been deducted from their tendency to ambush Squadrons and cut them off from the rest of the Scouting Party, as well as their amazing ability to adapt to our PLDs as a battle progresses. The massive Core Stalkers are truly powerful, quite possibly the deadliest of all known Shade. We still have yet to capture one, let alone discover a weakness.

-General Shura Averin

0290 BPE

I looked down, heart pounding, at the massive serpentine head on the floor of the chamber next to the marble stairway. I had flown down Heim's Pit and ventured into the cave as before, but this time I was prepared for the serpent. Without wasting a second, I had heaved the glittering purple gem at the guardian, where it slammed into the snake's head and landed right back in my hands. It was like the gem had been magnetized to my hands. The effect on the serpent was instantaneous; the moment the gem made contact, its eyes shut, and it hissed angrily, rearing up before collapsing deafeningly on the stone floor.

Instead of returning home with the gem, my curiosity pushed me onward, and I searched for the rest of the serpent's body. Strangely enough, the neck stretched into a hole in the ceiling that was barely the width of the snake itself, so there was no way to figure out what the rest of it looked like, or what else may have been in that ceiling hole. Slightly disappointed, I turned around and prepared to head back, when a cluster of blackness caught my eye.

I scanned the side of the chamber opposite to the entrance, where another mysterious hole had opened up, beckoning me onward. I walked over to the opening and peered inside. Unlike the first hallway, this new path was pitch black, like a void. The strangest part of the new passage, however, was the sound echoing from it. An eerie moaning of some sort could barely be made out, but it was there, no doubt about it. I had already braved the first challenge of the hurricane and given the second challenge a brain tumor, but I was still nervous of how many "challenges" Heim's Pit would bring upon me, or if they would get increasingly worse as I went deeper. It was almost as if it the cave were a living entity, daring me to go as far as I could.

I slapped myself twice with both hands, and shook myself to ease the jitters that had begun to surface. Ignoring the moaning from both the cave and my gut, I headed deeper in to explore even more of the ever-expanding cave. Aside from the unnerving sounds, the only other sense that reacted within this cave was the cool, moist touch of the damp rocks under my light moccasins. The quiet moaning grew steadily louder, until it transformed into more of soft wailing. This cave truly was a test of courage, but I wasn't about to give up, not when I had made it so far. I steeled my nerves, and pressed onward until my eyes began to notice something on the wall.

Small, white spots.

They were dull but luminescent, and every step closer increased the detail of the objects, as if I were turning up the resolution on a camera. Before long, they no longer appeared as objects, but instead images.

A multitude of cave drawings were arranged on both sides of the hallway. I counted five, each portraying a different human. I slowed to a stop in front of the nearest one, and decided to inspect the image out of curiosity. When I was directly in front of it, every fuzzy detail sharpened, showing me a loose drawing of a human girl, assumingly a grade-schooler from the size of her body. On her waist, a gaping hole was etched into the wall.

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