We had finally made it. When I looked at the entrance, I could see nothing different from any other cave mouth, but I knew this was it. I could feel it. The lost dwarven city of Osrog was hidden past that cave.
We had searched for this place for many months, comparing thousands of years old maps to new ones, translating ancient scriptures for hours upon hours, and searching for clues on foot. The three of us had grown fluent in ancient Dwarvakian, spoken to some of the few remaining dwarves and travelled around the world in our search, and this was where we had ended up.
I looked back at the shabby, beat up tent we had spent so many nights in, including last night. I was not sure I would ever see that place I had come to call home again. The olive green tent was currently being occupied by Travis, my trusted friend and comrade.
As I watched, his large frame exited the small tent, then straightened out and he walked towards David and me. David and Travis were physically almost opposites. Whereas Travis was tall and built, David was small and quick. Travis had blonde hair and mischievous blue eyes while David had black hair and pale green eyes. I guess I was somewhere in the middle; average height and quite scrawny, with brown hair and amber eyes.
As Travis walked towards us, he looked behind us at the mouth of the cave. “Are you sure this is it, Felix?”
I nodded, “Yes, I’m positive.” I was tempted to reply sarcastically with No, I only brought us around the world because I thought that this was a nice camping spot, but this was a time to be serious.
Together, the three of us stood for a moment outside the cave, then David lit a torch and we walked down into the cave. The entrance was large, and the cave grew larger as we walked inside; so much so, that the one torch could not fully brighten it up. David lit a second torch and gave it to Travis. The two of the would hold torched because they fought with one handed weapons – swords, while my bow and arrow took two hands to operate.
With two torched, the cave lit up enough to start searching for a doorway. We knew that it would be hard to find because of the scrolls we had read, which told of the doorway being hidden with magic. Just by the quick look of the cave we had so far had, it seemed completely normal, but we knew that we would have to search. It seemed like forever, but after a while of running my hand along the wall, I felt an unnatural crack in the rock. I dug my fingers into it and pulled. To my surprise, it slid away to reveal a beautiful inscription.
Due to the grinding sound the slab of rock had made as it slid away, Travis and David had already started to walk over, so by the torchlight, I started to read aloud.
“I am dead, and you’re alive
“Yet the two of us are intertwined
“To get being, and past this block
“You must spread me along the rock”
It was a riddle, and it puzzled me alright. I could see that both Travis and David were thinking. True to his nature, Travis began to think aloud.
“So we need to spread something we are intertwined with along the rock. Does that mean one of us has to die to let the others in? Because we’d have to take something we need out to spread it along the rock.” He reasoned, but I could tell he was going in slightly the wrong direction, though that would explain why no one else had returned before.
The David growled, “No, not die. You must hurt.” He handed me his torch and took out his dagger, cut his hand and spread blood along the rock.
Immediately, there was a rumbling sound and a part of the wall swung open to reveal a thin passageway. I gave David his torch back and he led the way through into the next tunnel. I followed and Travis brought up the rear. Once we were all through, the wall closed, trapping us in.
David braved forward at a brisk pace, and following, I nocked an arrow, just in case. Travis drew his sword behind me, but David kept his hands free, with the exception of his torch.
As we walked, the ground steadily sloped downwards, and eventually we came to a point where is straightened out and we entered a room. It was most likely a guard post that would stop anyone unwanted from entering, but it was long abandoned, the two wooden chairs and table broken or cracked and covered with cobwebs. David took a quick look around, saw nothing of interest, and moved on.
Again, we walked through a hallway, but this one was short and we soon reached the dwarven city of Osrog.
Even after being barely seen for over 500 years, it was still magnificent. We stood on a balcony overlooking the city with spiral stairs on either side, wrapping around flowing lava, which must have been kept in place by magic. Below us, the stone houses were set in orderly rows, getting progressively bigger and fancier as they went deeper into the city. Scattered throughout the city were parks with tree and stone statues, as well as farms, empty ranches, and off to the right was what looked to be an industrial sector. But the real jaw-dropper was the castle at the back of the city.
The outside walls were stone, with vines engraved into them, getting progressively scarcer as they moved away from the giant and beautifully designed front gate. The courtyard was filled with lava fountains and more statues, and there were towers in each of the four corners of the outside walls, topped with golden roofs. The inside castle had walls of blue stone, with streaks of gold, in amounts that only dwarves would even possess. It was tall, with turrets coming out of the corners and rising almost to our level, which could easily have been over a kilometer off of the ground far below. The castle was topped with a golden shingled roof, and was really a sight to behold.
After we had gaped our fill, we silently made our way down the spiral staircase on the left, which was mirrored on the right, and joined with ours every time they met in the middle. None of us spoke because it felt unholy to disturb the silence, and I know I was awed to the point of speechlessness.
How I would have loved to have seen this place at the height of its existence, but that had been 700 years ago or so, at least, according to the legends. The legends were hard to trust though because they rarely lined up, though the main story was always the same.
The dwarves had been a great empire, thriving and very successful. They had seven kings and each wanted to become a better ruler, so they devised a spell to form into one entity and become the ultimate ruler. They imbued magic into one key each to keep themselves anchored and safe. Then, they fused into one mighty being, but found that one king had a black heart and were diffused. Each came out confused and had much of their power stolen, which then disappeared into the void. The now frail old beings returned to their separate castles and waged war on the other kings, and most legends say they went crazy. During the Dwarven civil war, the kings were assassinated, and eventually the dwarves stopped fighting, but there was very few of them left. They split up and left the city deserted. It had been visited by various explorers and adventurers, but no one had ever come out. We would be the first, I was sure of that. Why?
Because we needed the keys more than anyone else before us. Up on land, even at this moment, there was a magician who had harnessed the power of dwarven magic and had been moving through Heidell – the human country – and taking over. The keys seemed to be our only chance.
By the time I had stopped thinking about these things, we had reached the bottom.
“Where to now?” Travis asked in a whisper.
“There,” David replied, looking behind us. Travis and I turned around to see another tunnel, with works engraved over the entrance.
“That wasn’t hard to find!” I whisper.
“These were kings, not spies – they didn’t need to hide.” Travis replied and we walked down the tunnel towards our first challenge.