|Artwork Property of CubeHero - https://cubehero.deviantart.com/art/Ice-Dungeon-393285731|
Braum held his shield aloft in one hand with his hammer ready and primed in his other. White hot flames sparked and licked across the head of the enchanted weapon, giving off strange and monstrous shadows that hid in every corner and seemed to seethe around them as they moved. As a dwarf who'd lived for over a century in the darkness of mines and caves, he could see the specters of darkness for what they were, yet it always made him just slightly uneasy.
Some shadows should be feared.
They had been walking for a short period. The cave had narrowed slightly but still seemed large enough for an entire troop of wild bull elephants to pass unhindered and it always seemed to be moving downward in a soft corkscrew shape.
Whether it was the shadows, the thought of a dragon, or some pre-programmed requirement to be the first into danger, Braum moved in front of Ember. This put him lockstep with the hovering beast that the summoner controlled and in full range of snark for it.
"You know that's completely unnecessary."
"Old habits." Braum responded shortly.
"You realize we have a beast of extraplanar capability, right? Quite literally a monster from another dimension. Why do are walking AHEAD of it? Just let it deal with whatever we find."
"I'd think you'd be happy having someone else willing to throw themselves ahead of you."
"Well, when you put it that way. Lead on. Make sure to step on any funny shaped rocks. Particularly if they make a loud clicking sound when you do."
Braum gave the summoner a sideways glance but said nothing in retort. He'd learned over a decade of travel that mages, no matter their school, had a certain way about them. Perhaps it was the innate ability to unravel and reweave the laws of the universe as one saw fit that made most mages act like certified assholes, but Braum had long since stopped letting it get to him. If the worst he dealt with from someone who could quite literally summon monsters into being by sheer force of will alone was a bit of smart-assery, he could certainly take it.
They walked on in silence for a few minutes more before something caught his eye.
The walls of the cave seemed to be shifting as they moved deeper into it. The change wasn't stark, but among crags and uneven marring in the walls, he started to notice pillars. Stonework. Signs of handcarved architecture and structural engineering that struck too close to home.
"What?" Ember asked in confusion.
"The walls. The stonework. There." he said with a few jabs of his hammer. "And there. This looks like Dwarven work."
Ember, to his surprise, didn't say anything. Instead, they kept walking in silence.
Everytime Braum glanced at the walls, they progressively became more and more solid. More and more carved out and resembling an actual Dwarven city. Pretty soon, he might have just been walking through the darkened, abandoned halls of Ironcore or Kaldoran themselves except that he knew those cities were much farther East and most definitely occupied.
More to the point, they still had all their treasures. Unlike the massive, empty horderoom they'd just entered.
"The five hells is this?" Braum asked, glancing around the echoing room they'd just stepped into.
The room passed cleanly from the cavernous hall to create an even more monumental space. At first, it gave the impression that they'd entered a new cave system, but a few sparing glances around showed drag marks, scuffs, and lost and scattered coins from the treasure that had once been here.
There had been chests here. And gold. Enough treasure to fill the coffers of the human kingdoms for generations.
"Looks like a party." Ember commented offhandedly as he picked up and pocketed a loose gold coin that had somehow been overlooked. "And we missed it."
"I guess we know where the other adventurers found their lucre."
"Could have left some for us."
The tinkle of disturbed rocks grabbed both of their attention in the near vacuous silence. For the first time, Braum noticed that the room had a pair of doors, both tucked away at the far end of the room. One, a massive set of double doors near as high as the imperceptible ceiling, were made of stone and metal and set into the far wall. The other, notably smaller and made of simple cherrywood, was off to the left.
"Well now." Ember commented as he glanced at the massive set of doors. "Think that's where they keep the good stuff?"
Braum thought that's where they kept the dragon, but kept that to himself and approached it anyway. As he did, he noticed something in the dirt on the floor.
"We've got some footprints here." he commented, staring down at the scuffles in the collected ages of rock and dust.
Ember snapped at the monster that followed him and it joined Braum in examining the marks.
"What's that about?" Braum asked tentatively.
"The..." he pointed at the massive eidolon and then back to Ember before imitating the summoner's snapping.
"I'm telling him to look at the footprints. That's pretty obvious."
"O...kay. And you don't because...?"
"Because, unlike some of us, I can't really see without his help. It's a bit dark in here, afterall." Ember shot back snidely.
Braum just stared at the man who'd just followed him perfectly through the caves and ruins for the better part of an hour before scratching his head. The summoner answered the unasked question.
"I'm ok with SOME dark, but you might have noticed it's pitch black in here and the most light you have is that." Ember said, motioning towards the softly flaming hammer.
The enchanted weapon cast a glow, but did nothing to actually light the way.
"I see through his eyes." he quickly added, with a nod towards the monstrous creature.
"Got it." Braum said with a nod, although he didn't understand the intricacies of the magic. "We'll see about getting you a torch."
The summoner shrugged dismissively and Braum returned to examining the footprints. There were a wealth of marks around, entering, and exiting the smaller door on the lefthand side. The massive double doors, however, only featured a single set of tracks that entered and no sign that they ever left.
"Way less traveled." Braum regarded towards the single set of tracks.
"Sounds fine to me." Ember agreed. "It's not like we actually know where we're going down here."
With considerable effort, Braum and the Eidolon were able to forcibly open one of the double doors. Even with all their combined strength, they were only able to get it open a foot or so, but it was enough to be able to slide in.
And what they saw...was nothing.
The other side of the double doors was simply a void. The footprints continued on into utter darkness; an inky black that even his trained eyes couldn't penetrate. Stepping past the door, he could make out the walls near him and a good couple dozen feet away, but that's where it stopped.
It was as if he was staring into nothingness.
"This is enormous." Braum commented, his eyes falling on the sheer emptiness.
"Yea..." Ember agreed before quickly adding. "Other door?"
They started back on their way before Braum quickly added.
"Let's make sure this is closed. Don't want anything sneaking up behind us."
With a little more straining, they were able to reset the massive door back into place with a hollow, echoing boooooooooom that they could feel in their very bones. A few moment later, they were on their way through the other door and following a small, winding path through rough hewn stone, completely unaware of what they had woken up as the echoing sound reached its sensitive ears.