Obsidian goblins – faces tortured and motionless – watched our trek. As a young one, I swore I heard their chatter in the catacombs. Their ghosts would give me night terrors until my father took me to the Ritual of Spirits.
The sound of water trickled from the stalactites above us. The sulfuric scent in the cavern was masked only by the amber crystal I carried in my hand.
I stopped at a fork in the cave and turned to the young ones behind me. For our yearly pilgrimage, we all would take the path to the right, warning: “never take the left.” Every few years, one would dare it and not return. It was a lesson that none forget.
I smiled and turned toward the left corridor. Their faces bespoke no fear, but their posture became rigid. My mate nodded to me at the end of the group and ushered the young ones towards me.
“Trista ugar nabulosum. Trista ugar nabulosum,” my mate and I chanted.
Our crystals lit up showering light upon the spirits surrounding our party. We had entered their land. Without the chant, without the amber, we would be lost here.
A shriek echoed through the cave, and the spirits shrank away. The eyes of the young ones widened.
“Tavykha,” I heard my name called. I looked back upon Tav’i, but she shook her head.
I followed the path as I always had until we reached the throne room. Here the spirits did not enter. With the young ones inside, Tav’i closed the door and we circled the perimeter – our chants lighting the chamber. The group gasped at the remnants of the Troll Dynasty before them. Beast-skulls lined the walls; our sigil hung over the throne. In the centre of the circular room was a raised platform bearing a large fountain.
The door to the chamber rattled. I heard my name, but it was best I ignored it. Spirits were not allowed to speak with the living.
I ushered the young to sit down in front of the fountain and placed my hand inside it. I drank from my cupped hand.
“Long ago our troll ancestors lived in this cave,” I began.
“One Winter, the Obsidian Basilisk could see our people dying and invited us into the cave to live until summer returned,” Tav’i said.
“The basilisk protected us from our enemies, the goblins, and turned any that entered into obsidian. The troll dynasty built this throne room for our Troll-king. But after a whole winter in here, the Troll-king started to show signs of madness. The basilisk realized that we could not see what she could see and fed one of us her milk.”
“That’s when the first Spirit Warrior was born. He saw what the basilisk saw.”
“The cave was touching the underworld,” I said. “And the spirits were maddening the king. The basilisk and the first spirit warrior made a pact. The Spirit Warrior would protect all peoples from the spirits, and the basilisk would stop any spirits from speaking to the living. If ever they did, she would turn their spirit to obsidian.”
“And thus we have remained protected since. The amber and the chant stop us from losing our way during the ritual.”
The door rattled once more. Voices echoed within.
“Tavykha!” I heard.
“The basilisk is dead!” another cried.
Suddenly the door swung open.
Jumping over the fountain and the young ones, I swung my weapon at the spirits pouring in with Tav’i at my side. We swung at foe after foe, but spirits kept coming in. Unable to stop the onslaught, I watched in horror as our group met the spirits’ touches. Defenceless, their souls were snatched from their bodies.
“Run!” I cried as I pushed through the door, grabbing Tav’i’s hand. We had to warn the others. Tav’i and I hacked our way through the mob, but still they pulled on our souls.
Tav’i shrieked, her hand going limp. I dared not look back, but I knew the truth. My mate was gone.
I kept running towards the obsidian goblin entrance. If I could reach it, I could protect my clan.
The amber crystal glowed bright as I reached the goblins. The spirits grabbed hold of me.
I slammed the amber crystal into a stalagmite. The igneous stone exploded. Stalagtites crashed down, trapping us inside. As my soul was pulled from my body, I smiled. The crystal’s magic had worked. The spirits could not escape here today.