I awoke last night feverish and dry of mouth, my eyes as wide as eyes may be and my skin shaking though my body was rigid. You see, that night I dreamt of the old passages. The ancient roads that lead down into the subterranean world that none today have seen with waking eyes. That was where my dreaming took me, and I pray it never does so again.
It is, in my experience, impossible to recall the opening scene of any dream, if of course an opening scene there ever is. When you dream you simply begin, and are unaware that there was at any time a prelude to this beginning. It is like being alive. I doubt that any can recall the point from which they were not until the point that they were. Still, in spite of this I find myself remembering with a certainty that is burnt into my consciousness, the start of my meanderings into that dark and dreadful place.
There were lights as I recall. Flickering, dancing, warm globes held in place by braziers the likes of which one might find in the halls of an Arcan cathedral, or at the very least a place of great reverence and spiritual warmth. It was a friendly sight, and compelled me to investigate these tunnels further.
I walked seemingly for countless miles, though in truth one rarely remembers these details in a dream, even one so vivid as this one, and yet for some time I appeared not to make any progress towards whatever destination I was headed. This did not seem at all strange to me, as I was comforted by the light of the torches, and the firm belief that every step I took brought me closer to my goal, whatever that may be.
Eventually I passed by the last of the braziers, and in truth I was sorry to see the back of them for the path ahead was shadowy and the ground more treacherous than before. It seemed that this was a tunnel long since abandoned, for reasons unapparent to me. Still, it was the only path available to me, lest I turn back. I had come too far to give up now.
My pace from then on was of a far more cautious nature, as I lost my footing on two occasions, both within minutes of one another. Both times I heard the sound of tiny stones tumbling down some invisible crevice. They seemed to fall for a very long time, and this troubled me. I endeavoured from that point onwards to crawl rather than walk until I could be assured that I was safe from whatever deep hole had consumed them.
To my fortune I did not need to crawl for long. I was soon at the end of the tunnel, which turned into a great chamber, once more illuminated by braziers but also by an assortment of gemstones buried within the walls, that glowed with crimson light. At least, I took them on first glance to be gemstones. On closer inspection they appeared more like a metal ore, though I, being of a scholarly background, have little practical experience with such things and could not say with any real certainty. I should add that at no point did it appear strange to me that while the tunnel I had traversed through previously had been abandoned, this one should show such obvious signs of recent habitation.
Once more I felt a compulsion fall upon me, this time to reach out and touch one of the glowing minerals. I denied the compulsion with a rational thought. It would be foolish to touch anything that I did not recognise or understand. Still, I decided that the braziers seemed a safer bet, and considering that I did not wish to repeat my earlier mistake of crawling in the darkness, I unhooked one from the wall.
As my hands clasped around it I was stunned by its temperature. In stark contrast to the raging flame it bore, the brazier was cool, almost icy. It was not an entirely unpleasant phenomenon for I had found myself growing warm as I traversed the tunnels, but it was uncanny nonetheless.
My curiosity would not be deterred, and so in spite of the strangeness I took the brazier and scoured the chamber for answers. At first I was sorely disappointed, for the chamber itself seemed little more than an old outpost, most likely intended for miners and travellers to rest within before pressing on into the deeper tunnels. There was one thing however that drew my eye, and that was a tiny stone carving, little bigger than a die, cut into the form of a beast I did not recognise.
Upon closer inspection I concurred that the artist in question had been no expert. The thing, whatever it was intended to be, was misshapen and disproportionate. Its head, little more than a round and bulbous skull seemed to have been crafted after several attempts, as there were multiple half-formed skulls peeking out from the sides and underneath it. In addition to this, the body of the thing, which I by then assumed was meant to resemble the human form, was tall and gangly, and held itself in a foetal ball. Its arms and legs seemed to disappear into the carving, emerging only at their bases to reveal long and curly fingers and toes. What dismayed me however, more so than the shoddy craftsmanship were the two elongated wings that stretched out behind the thing like a cloak that rounded its body at the knees.
Though the piece was far from the likes of the ornaments and sculptures that I am witness to on a far more regular basis, I could not deny that there was something about it that spoke to me. Perhaps it was the attention with which it had been carved, though imperfectly, it had the feel of a much loved possession of whomever had once owned it. I turned the thing over and spied an etching in its base: Siyahn. Doubtless the name of the craftsman, for it seemed to me unlikely that such an unusual looking thing as this could warrant a name of its own.
After a while I grew tired of the chamber, and its refusal to offer up answers to the most basic of my questions. I still did not know why I was there, or what this place was. I could guess, or surmise, as my analytical mind is often able to bring me to logical conclusions that further evidence merely confirms, yet on this occasion I could not, or in fact would not allow myself to be swayed. Something in this place was calling to me, and I fully intended to find out what.
I ventured on.