Looking up at the great iron doors that barred the way to the Shogunateâ€™s arsenal, Lodaris nodded slowly. â€œInteresting.â€ To his spiritual eye, the door was a maelstrom of colors, old bindings still holding strong despite the centuries. â€œNo spirit or demon could gain access to this base, unless they were of phenomenal power.â€
â€œFortunately, that doesnâ€™t include us.â€ With a smile, Steel reached outwards, grabbing one massive rusted ring, and began to pull. There was a straining sound, and he paused and frowned at the door. â€œDoes it?â€
â€œNo.â€ Lodaris stepped forwards, taking the other ring, and began to pull, his muscles straining as the great door began to ponderously open. Steel stepped forwards to pull on the same handle, and the two gradually got the door opened enough to slip through. As soon as it had reached that length, Lodaris released the ring. â€œBetter to have them come through one by one, if a battle is to result.â€
Steel considered that a moment, and then nodded with a shrug. â€œShall we?â€ Without waiting for a result, he turned to slide through the gap, into the base. Alina was just behind him, with Lodaris a few steps back. Jasmine hesitated at the threshold, and then cautiously stepped forwards; when the wards failed to stop her, she resumed motion, and the zombies filed in behind her.
Inside, it was dark, the interior shadowed and smelling of mold. With a thought, Alina let her castemark shine, illuminating the base, and she looked around with a frown. â€œThis seems familiar, somehowâ€¦â€ The thought slipped out, and Lodaris gave her an odd look.
â€œThat seems unlikely.â€ Steel was walking forwards, looking at a massive rockfall cutting off a side corridor curiously. â€œShogunate base, remember? Unless you were a Dragon-Blood in a past life.â€ He looked back at her. â€œWere you?â€
â€œDonâ€™t be absurd.â€ Jasmineâ€™s voice was curt, as she scanned the area. The vast chamber that had been the main Shogunate armoury was torn and tattered, the victim of tremendous damage. She stepped forwards and knelt by an old skeleton. â€œThere was a battle here, it seems.â€
â€œYeah, no kidding.â€ Steel had wandered over to a rack, and poked at a row of thick pikes. â€œForce pikes. Totally ruined, though. Real shame.â€
â€œHm.â€ Lodaris stepped over to one wall, and studied what appeared to have been Essence cannons. Picking one up, he hefted it experimentally, only to sigh as he realized that it, too, was ruined. â€œA battle indeed. And a great one. Look at the acid scoring, everywhere.â€ He frowned, realizing that the light from Alinaâ€™s castemark was moving away. â€œAlina?â€
Without answering, Alina drifted further down the great hall, past a row of silent figures. Following her, Steel paused to look at them. â€œHoly void, brass legionnaires. They look functional, too. Anyone see the command codes around? Sunny, maybe your fancy second sight could give us a clueâ€¦ Alina?â€ He frowned. â€œHey! Creation to Alina, you are wanted!â€
â€œIt was sealedâ€¦â€ Her voice was faint. â€œWe fought to the heart, desperate to live. Maxas pressed it beyond time.â€
â€œHuh?â€ Steel stepped up, touching her shoulder. She jumped, and spun around. For a moment, her eyes were unfocused, but then she blinked. â€œYou okay?â€
â€œYes.â€ Alina knelt, touching the floor. â€œThis room predates the armoury. I remember it, from the Usurpation. This is where I died.â€
â€œWell, that makes one of us. I donâ€™t remember squat.â€ Steel looked around. â€œEverything here looks Shogunate. What was soâ€¦ hang on.â€ He pointed in the direction that Alina had been walking. â€œIs that a door?â€
The archway was dark, and towered eight feet tall. To the eye, it seemed to go only a few inches into the wall, but the ground in front of it was scorched and torn, a gouge carved inches into the unyielding stone. Around the edge of the archway were blasphemous sigils, each evoking a feeling of horror just to look at, looking as though they had bled from the rock of the wall. Even Steel found himself speaking lower, as though afraid to wake it. â€œWhat does it say?â€
â€œI open with a touch, and close with a word. The glory of the endless sea is yours for the taking.â€ Alinaâ€™s voice was soft, and Lodaris nodded.
â€œIt is Old Realm, but the lettering is doneâ€¦ wrong. Oddly.â€ He frowned. â€œWhat is this place?â€
â€œIt is wrong. It is abomination.â€ Alina looked to the others. â€œI donâ€™t remember what is there, but I know that we were willing to die rather than have it be opened. This is what the Lintha want.â€
â€œGreat. But what IS it?â€ Steel stepped forwards. â€œDonâ€™t suppose you remember the word to close it. We could take a peekâ€¦â€
â€œNO!â€ Alina almost screamed the answer, before recovering her composure. â€œItâ€™s too dangerous, Steel. We canâ€™t.â€
â€œI am not concerned with us.â€ Jasmine pointed towards the entrance. â€œThey are coming.â€ Her zombies began to take up a formation near the door, ready to fight. â€œWe must prepare for battle.â€ Stretching her arms, she began to chant, and darkness gathered around her. Alina, Lodaris, and Steel each took up combat stances, and Lodaris let flames start to flicker around him.
â€œDibs on the first beastman through the door.â€ Steel grinned, looking at the doors, his sais out and ready to attack. â€œOne by one, weâ€™ve got things covered.â€
Abruptly, the lefthand door buckled inwards. With the sound of groaning metal, two pairs of shining silver claws burst through, tightening around the reinforced metal. The sound as the door gave way was like a demon screaming in agony, and the group watched in shock as the ten-foot door was torn from its hinges and flung into the room. Zombies, caught by the force of it, were scattered like pine needles, and the gap was left wide for the beastman crew to step through.
At their head was a monstrosity the likes of which Alina had never seen. Seven feet tall, and barely recognizable as female, she was a scaled cross between a barracuda and a fish, her green skin fading to black hair, and her snout filled with rows of razor-sharp teeth. Her tattoos pulsed in the darkness, casting light and shadows across her body, and her sharkskin armour stretched and strained as she moved.. She cracked her claws and bared her teeth, and when she spoke her voice echoed through the hall.
â€œI have come for this place. Step aside, or die where you stand.â€
Alina raised her chakram before her. Steel stepped forwards and gave his sais a twirl. Lodaris crossed his swords in a combat position, and Jasmine disgorged her first dark shadow. It was Alina who spoke. â€œYou will not open this gate while we draw breath.â€
â€œThat will be remedied, then.â€ With a gesture, the Lunar leapt forwards, and her crew charged with a roar.