Malagor, Norar Remontar, and I stepped out of the elevator and into a room lit just like the one from which we had left. This room had no geometric video controller in it however, and it was triangular in shape, with the elevator opening in the middle of one of three equal sides, and an open doorway on the wall to our left.
“This is peculiar,” said Norar Remontar.
I nodded my head at the understatement.
“I would be willing to bet that this elevator, these rooms, the lighting, and the controls for the video images, are all artifacts of the Elder Gods, or whomever it was that created Ecos.”
“I am inclined to agree,” said Norar Remontar.
We looked around this new room for several moments, but found nothing of interest. Finally Malagor voiced the opinion that we really had no other alternative but to head down the hallway and see where it led us. I was toying with the idea of suggesting that we try our luck one more time in the mysterious elevator, but I decided that Malagor was probably right. It was time to continue on our way. That is just what we did.
The dark hallway beckoned us like a gaping maw, but I tried not to think of it that way. It really doesn’t take too long to adjust to continual daylight. I think it would be much harder to adjust to continual darkness. Norar Remontar turned on his small flashlight; I unsheathed my sword, and the three of us with a quiet look between us, started down the long hallway. This time it continued straight for what must have been five miles before opening into any type of room what so ever. At last it did though, and as soon as we stepped into the room, I knew we were in for trouble.
A sudden wave of stench assaulted my nostrils. It was the smell of several dozen bodies that had not seen a bath in a long time, mixed with the smell of bodily waste accumulated over a period of several generations. I wasn’t the only one to smell it. Malagor immediately began coughing and gagging, to the extent that I feared he would pass out. A look of disgust crossed Norar Remontar’s face, but otherwise he remained characteristically stoic.
Malagor had just regained his composure, when a horde of creatures burst screaming toward us from the dark. There were a score or more of the short, bipedal, four armed rat-like creatures, and they attacked using stone axes and razor sharp teeth. Screaming like banshees, the Kartags literally fell upon us.
I skewered the first creature to reach me on the end of my sword, turned, and threw my shoulder into the next one, sending it flying backwards into its fellows. At that moment the entire room was lit up by the incredible brightness of the Amatharian sword unsheathed. It sizzled and sparked as Norar Remontar used it to cut through the bodies of three of the Kartags. At almost the same moment, Malagor let loose with a burst of light rifle fire which cut a nice round smoking hole in the chest of another rat. This display of destruction was all that was necessary to convince most of the beasts to retreat. I quickly lopped off the head of one who apparently was having difficulty making that decision.
The screaming inhabitants of the tunnels ran away into the darkness and it became once again like a tomb. The light from Norar Remontar’s sword dimmed until it gave no light at all. I sheathed my own weapon, and followed the pale circle of artificial light as the Amatharian continued on his, and our, way. I felt Malagor take up a position behind me.
The stench was just as bad now that the Kartags had gone, as it had been when they had been present, and we soon found out why. Continuing on through the room, the size of which, like the previous giant room, was indeterminable, we stumbled upon the camp of the filthy creatures. It consisted of nothing but a pile of filthy furs, most with pieces of reeking meat hanging upon them. Scattered between the filthy animal skins were chips of stone, obviously flaked from hand made tools, and here and there, piles of feces. I had been willing to give the Kartags the benefit of the doubt up until that point, thinking perhaps they were only attacking us because we were invading their territory—that perhaps they were simply misunderstood. I could not imagine any intelligent creature though, fouling its own campsite, when there were uncounted stretches of tunnels from which to choose a suitable spot for a commode.
The room turned out to be relatively small, at least in Orlonian terms. When we had gone about a hundred feet past the Kartags’ home, and about two hundred feet beyond the scene of the short battle with them, we found another passageway continuing on into the darkness. Being more interested than ever to get out of the infernal underground, we trudged on.