You hear the torch clatter to the ground. The echo feels almost like it is mocking you, daring you to see if you could survive that same drop. A moment later, you hear a loud click. The area is flooded with light, the blaze so bright it is blinding. Someone has set up an array of work lamps at the bottom of the steps. The ground is mercifully close. After a few quick revolutions around the tunnel, you find yourself at the bottom of the steps.
A figure moves from behind the light. It stands in front of a lamp, silhouetted.
“I thought I told you to come back later,” the figure shouts. It’s Will!
“This is unbelievable,” you say. “Where are we?”
“The catacombs of the Inner Domain. When the Formless Ones have finished feasting on their prey, this is where they wind up.” He turns a lamp around to face the wall behind him. The walls are built from bones, meticulously arranged in a macabre pattern. You can make out femurs, pelvises, and rib cages, all of them human. Along the tops of the walls, a multitude of skulls stare down at you with empty eye sockets. Some of the bones are bleached, others still have bits of rotting flesh attached to them.
“I’m sorry I didn’t believe you,” you begin. Your brother raises his hand to stop you.
“Don’t be. I knew how crazy it was driving me. But I had to stop it. Once I understood what has happening, there was no turning back.”
“What is happening?”
“The Formless Ones are waking,” Will says. “They’re hungry. And if no one does anything, they will devour us all.”
You stare at him for a moment. In spite of your surroundings, the reality of the situation just seems too much. “How come no one has found this before now?”
A voice from beyond the lights speaks. “Someone has.” From the shadows, another figure emerges. He is far older, his hair grey and his frame twisted and weathered by time. “Gerard Wax,” he says, introducing himself. He puts out his hand, and you acquiesce. “Come searching for your brother, have you?” He turns to Will. “I told you the note wouldn’t be enough.”
Will sighs. “Fine, you were right. You’re always right.” Then, to you, “Gerard is the creator the Inner World source books.”
“I was trapped here for over a decade when your brother found me,” Gerard explains. Then, proudly, he adds: “I was subsisting on rats and lichen.”
“You were completely mad when I found you,” Will adds.
“You were half mad when you found me.” Both of them laugh.
“You’re both still mad,” you interject. “What are you doing here?”
“Containing the Formless,” Gerard explains. “Keeping the creeping darkness at bay.”
“You both have a flair for the dramatic,” you say. “Let’s do it and get it over with.”
“You misunderstand,” Will says. “I’m not leaving. Neither is Gerard. We can’t leave. If we leave, they wake up. They wake up and they consume everything.”
“Humanity could give new meaning to the phrase, ‘good to the last drop,’” Gerard jokes. You don’t laugh.