Basalt Halls had been pretty interesting—until Derek found the pedestal.
The dungeon was the first one Derek had seen in his life, at least that’s what he had known. Although, the large, natural cavern made of hexagonal shaped basalt pillars which stretched far above their heads was not what he had imagined in the first place.
With the low groan of the entrance door swinging shut behind them, Derek shifted on his feet as the Quilava leading the escort team puffed a ball of flame into the torch he was holding. Even though the cave was illuminated by the ethereal light coming down from the numerous cracks and gaps overhead, sunlight was rather dim so everything was bathed in shadows.
“This must have been a volcano once.” Ardor remarked once he got a good look at the area. “Here, hold this.” He handed the torch he was holding to Derek and took another one from his supply bag. A puff of flame later, the second torch was lit.
“How do you know?” Derek asked.
Turning around, the Quilava opened his mouth to answer, but he was cut off by an impatient huff. “Yes, yes, I suggest we move on quickly.” A Mienshao drawled.
Derek bit his lower lip in annoyance as he stared at the Mienshao, who they will be escorting to Geoda. Reuben Hetterich was one of Andalusst’s most prominent and influential nobleman who possessed those classically handsome but haughty features, with pristine pale cream and purple fur that was obviously well groomed, and clad in a simple yet elegant fur trimmed deep red collar-cape… thing… with his long sleeve fur rolled around his arms like a pair of oversized sleeves. Really now, what’s with the expensive garment when you will be traversing an uncharted dungeon, Derek thought dryly. He would have looked quite regal if not for that perpetual frown that seemed to be marring his face.
Hetterich’s impassive black eyes swept past the cavernous hall with disinterest—once to the scarf-clad Chimchar and his silent Honedge companion in unveiled disdain—before he settled on the tall, dark Quilava with the black hooded vest up front.
“I trust you two… amateurs can escort me to Geoda as fast as possible?”
Already, Derek was liking this Andalusstian nobleman less and less.
Ardor nodded. “Yes.” He replied politely, but Derek could see annoyance in his team member’s pale green eyes. Turning around, the Levantine Quilava began to walk forward while casting his torch ahead to make sure they didn’t step into a gaping cliff or something unpleasant. The cavern wasn’t flat to begin with, since the basalt columns were literally everywhere. It’s like walking on a stormy ocean of hexagonal stones.
“What do you think was that?” Derek asked as a low, ominous groan echoed through the cold grey pillars from afar, causing him to shiver.
“Must be the dungeon rearranging itself.” Cael remarked, looking somewhat agitated. His green sash kept flicking back and forth nervously as they walked—or floated, in Cael’s case—deeper into the cavern.
Derek nudged his Honedge companion on his hilt. “Something wrong? It’s not like you to sound so meek.” He teased.
Cael’s single sapphire-like eye twitched, but he shook himself. “Nothing… I… just don’t like being underground… that’s all.” He admitted. “Why did we stop?”
Ardor had held out his arm and halted. “A sec.” He uttered, bending to look down a root-shaped growth between large basalt stalagmites.
“Meatroot… if you’ll excuse me, Mr. Hetterich.” Ardor glanced at the noblemen and gestured at his teammate. “Derek, your bag.”
The Chimchar nodded and handed Ardor their supply bag as the Quilava began to cut the particularly meaty part of the plant with a short blade and stashed it into the bag.
“Right, that’ll go to the Storehouse—” Ardor began; dusting his paws on his cloak, but was rudely interrupted by someone clearing his throat.
“If we can MOVE on?” came the impatient sound of the oh-so-welcomed nobleman.
Holding back a glare, Derek hauled the bag over his shoulder and huffed. “Of course, Your Bighead Snootiness.” He muttered as he rejoined Cael in the back of the group.
Hetterich’s head turned around so quickly that it might as well snap, his narrow eyes turned into thin squints. “What was that you said?”
“Nothing, nothing.” Derek replied, flapping his hand dismissively. “We just have to escort the worse, don’t we?” he added dryly in a low tone as the group began to move again.
“You’d be surprised, there will be worse.” Cael remarked as they moved deeper into the chamber. “Hmm, strange?” he added.
The Honedge gestured to the uneven floor with his sash. “Footprints. There, there, and there… looks like we aren’t the first one to tread this chamber.”
“The Guilds did sent scouts earlier to make sure that this dungeon is safe.” Ardor piped up from up front. “Maybe those are the footprints of previous teams or even the natives which lived here.”
Hetterich let out a scoff. “Natives? Oh please. I suggest you two talk less and walk more, or we will find two less Hunter rookies around, which is isn’t as hard as it looks like.” He sneered. “Are we clear?”
Sensing the hard edge of the Mienshao’s tone, Ardor nodded tersely, his fists were clenched hard on his sides as Derek looked torn between amusement and anger.
Eliminate Ardor? Ha. The Quilava wasn’t that easy to take down from what Derek had seen. There’s also the secret society Ardor and Darius had built which Derek didn’t know much about, but from what he had heard from the new recruits, they seemed to be some sort of an underground organization.
Not that Derek was worried about what Ardor and Darius was hiding.
Perhaps, just a tad.
Derek shook his head in annoyance. Just focus on how Ardor would kick Hetterich’s elegant rear. Yes, it’s much better, he thought gleefully.
There were thankfully no more distractions as they finally crossed the chamber, until reached their first obstacle: a locked door.
The door wasn’t really remarkable actually. It was a simple rickety wooden door with slightly rusted iron hinges, lock, and handles which Ardor grasped and tugged. Then he tried to push it.
“Well then.” He let out a small huff and reached into his knapsack. The Quilava pulled out a tiny and long leather pouch, which he soon untied and out rolled a dozen or more lock picks. Ardor was soon making a quick work over the lock, looking thoughtful with his tongue between his teeth.
Hetterich looked nonplussed with the revelation, but it was clear that Derek was surprised. He looked as if he wanted to ask something, but the sound of the lock clicking and the door swinging open made him forget what he was going to say.
The chamber behind the door was more of a long corridor rather than a cave. Like the rest of the dungeon, it was still made of basalt, but light didn’t reach this part of the dungeon. Ardor had to ignite his flames to provide better lighting.
“Hmm… so, where to now?”
The small rookie team glanced at each other, trying to decide which way to go. Either way can be a passage to the exit, or it might not. The dim light casted by Ardor’s torch and flames, coupled with Derek’s own flame tail caused the shadows to dance as they stood, unnerving the Chimchar.
It wasn’t long before Cael spoke up. “You know, I felt a breeze coming from the path down there.” His sash pointed to the direction on their left.
“…looks promising.” Ardor nodded after he tried to feel the wind around. “Yes, let’s go.”
They turned into the chosen direction and somehow ended with Derek walking in the lead. The natural hallway narrowed as they continued deeper, and nothing happened until the Chimchar yelped and slipped on something smooth but rather sharp, and purplish in color… and thread-like.
“Remarkable. Spoolstones.” Cael exclaimed before he helped to push a grumbling Derek up. Scooping up a few of the mainly purple colored threads with the tip of his blade, the longsword-shaped Honedge hummed. “Hmm, hmm… these had grown quite exceptional.”
Hetterich sighed, but he bent down to examine the threads nonetheless. “Stoat, your torch.”
Ardor rolled his eyes but handed the nobleman the flaming torch.
“Ah, yes… these are quite the fine growth…” Hetterich murmured as he stood up. He turned to Derek—who was nursing his hurting butt—and pointed. “You there, chimp, gather a few balls of Spoolstones and we’ll continue.”
“This chimp has a name, you know?” Derek muttered, glaring all the way as he bent down to roll up the threads.
Several rolled Spoolstones later, the Hunters team continued down into the hallway, and into a narrow corridor. It was a bit short, as they could already see the end of the path after taking two steps, but it was so narrow that they have to make a single file to enter.
“We sure stumbled on a lot of things today.” Ardor suddenly remarked in amusement as they emerged to the next chamber.
Derek stared at the Quilava in slight confusion, wondering why Ardor said that. “Er… yeah, I guess… oh.”
Fleshcaps. A large cluster of them.
Ardor nodded, kneeling down. “Alright. Let’s gather the best ones we can get and let’s move.” he said, much to Hetterich’s annoyance.
The noble began muttering something along the lines of rookies and amateurs.
Derek simply shrugged in a ‘whatever’ sort of way to Hetterich. What did he expect? The whole Hunters Guild had its arms full with clearing the new dungeon and already this Mienshao pulled his strings to get into the dungeon, demanding a full-fledged Hunter team to escort him through Basalt Halls? Ha, yeah right. Serves your ars—
“…what do you think, Derek?”
Evidently, Ardor and Cael had been discussing something because they were looking at Derek expectantly.
Shaking his thoughts away, the Chimchar shifted on his foot. “Uh… what?” he asked lamely.
Hetterich made an impatient noise on the back of his throat. “Just look around you, boy.”
Derek glared, but he gazed at the chamber anyway. His eyes widened as he finally registered what he was supposed to be looking at.
They seemed to be inside a remnant of an ancient temple or something similar. The cavern was dotted with huge chunks of engraved white rocks and pillars, with vines snaking up every surface available. And snoozing far on the end of the ruins was a Barboach, who somehow was nibbling on a spoon.
“Oooookaaaay….” Derek found himself lowering his voice down considerably. “I guess we will have to move silently.”
Ardor nodded and turned to look around the chamber. Since the whole cave was flooded with light coming from opening far above them, the two fire types quickly extinguished their torches –and their flames in Ardor’s perspective.
“There.” The Quilava pointed to a set of decrepit old wooden door down sitting inside a rather intact looking alcove, riddled with faded engravings and runes. Nodding to himself, he led his team up through the rubble ridden path.
The distance was covered quickly and the small escort group made their way straight to the door, which they found to be a large double door with rusty iron frame and a large door knocker shaped into a rather grotesque looking face.
Maybe it was just the trick of the light or the rust, but Derek swore the eyes on the face had blinked. Really, what’s with frowny, ugly faces and door knockers, he thought.
Unsurprisingly, Ardor crouched to his knees and began inspecting the door. A frown quickly creased on his brows. From what Derek could see, there were no keyholes visible.
“Strange…” Ardor hummed. “The door seems to be unlocked, yet…” he gave a mighty push. The door moved an inch before there was a clang and a bump, and Ardor can push no more. “See? Something seemed to be blocking it from the other side.”
“Why don’t try that pedestal over there?” Derek voiced his thoughts.
All three ‘mons turned their heads/bodies to the Chimchar. “Pedestal?”
Derek simply pointed to the stone construct to the right of the door. It was as white as the basalt around them, and pretty simple in design. It was more of a small stone cylinder sitting on a short dais, supporting two disc-like shapes stacked on each other. In the middle of the top most disc was a small, raised sphere embedded with a glowing blue gem.
“Do you think this will open the barricade, or whatever it is behind the door?” he queried.
“Maybe…” Ardor went to inspect the pedestal and the gem above it. “Looks like a button.”
“It is a button.” Derek intoned dryly.
Ardor merely gave a flippant gesture with his paw. “Whatever it is, we still don’t know—”
“Just let the boy try it, if you are too afraid.” drawled Hetterich. His beady black eyes turned to Derek briefly, who in turn glared at the Mienshao defiantly. “Only one way to find out, won’t it?”
The Quilava’s mouth gaped open. “If you are implying I would risk my teammate…” he began hotly.
“Need I remind you that you are a rookie team, and thus you have no say in what I should and should not do?” Hetterich replied icily. “I say let the Chimchar try the switch, since it was his idea in the first place… or are you too afraid to try?”
The smirk on the nobleman’s face was enough to set Derek off. “Shut up!” He snapped and promptly strode up to the pedestal and reached for the button.
Cutting the Quilava off with a wave, Derek sent another glare at their client, who merely gazed back with that infuriating haughty impassiveness. The Chimchar opened his mouth to say something unflattering but thought better of it and let out a frustrated huff.
Hetterich’s eyebrow rose. “What are you waiting for then? Just press it.”
Ardor gripped Derek’s arm. “I still don’t think it’s a good idea.”
“It’s just a button, Ardor.” Derek shot back flatly before he slammed his fist on the button.
A sharp pain erupted on his arm right as the whole pedestal exploded into a bright purple light.