Henrik stepped into the cave and looked around. The Guardsman’s dim stab-light revealed scratch-marks on the walls and bones of past explorers on the floor. The air carried a trace of a rotten, cloying stench, like a corpse drenched in embalming fluid and incense. The cave’s glowing stalactites and stalagmites looked like the disjointed fangs of some primordial beast. This was a place of death. He gave Inquisitor Serena the clear sign and she entered the cave. At her nod, he started advancing.
‘No! Turn back! You face death!’ a voice echoed out of the depths of the cave.
Henrik paused for a moment but didn’t stop. He put his finger on the trigger of his lasgun. The Inquisitor unsheathed her power-sabre. Before they could walk further into the depths of the cave, a pathetic creature stepped into the stab-light’s path. It waved its thin arms about.
‘No! Turn back!’ it squealed.
The Inquisitor stabbed the creature with her power-sabre. Henrik finished the creature off with a las-bolt to its head. They walked over the carcass.
‘What was that?’ he wondered. The dead creature was a wizened thing of wrinkles and tumours, dressed in rags.
‘I care not,’ the Inquisitor said. The two of them continued walking into the depths of the cave.
Henrik had served the Inquisitor for many years. She had found him half-dead on a nameless battlefield, left for dead by his fellow Guardsmen. For giving him a second chance at life, she had Henrik’s eternal loyalty. Even as they went deeper into the wretched cave, Henrik did not falter, because he feared disappointing her.
They came across a bridge over a chasm, a bridge barely wide enough for one person to cross at a time. Henrik took point and crossed the bridge. Once he arrived at the other end, he beckoned the Inquisitor. The bridge shivered when the Inquisitor reached the middle and, after a few steps, collapsed. The Guardsman remembered the few moments the Inquisitor seemed to float in the air, surprise written on her face. Then she fell, without a sound or a scream.
Henrik’s world shattered. A world without Inquisitor was one thing. But Henrik had failed her. He should have died in her stead. He continued walking. He suppressed all his guilt in his mind and tried to forget everything because thinking of his failure a moment longer would kill him.
He walked ever deeper into the cave, traversing its twisting and turning paths. He fought off mutants and twisted beasts the further he went in. He left scratch-marks on walls to find his way. His lasgun battery drained, so he used the lasgun as a melee weapon until it broke. His skin sagged and his eyesight dimmed, but he still continued. He forgot why he came into the cave. All he knew was that he had to continue.
He heard a sound, a foreign sound he couldn’t remember hearing before. He followed it until he saw the impossible. He saw the cave’s mouth with light from the outer world spilling in. Two people walked into the cave, a woman and a man. For the first time in a long while, his heart was fired up with hope. He could at least make use of his life and prevent these people from losing theirs.
‘No! Turn back! You face death!’ he cried out. His voice was hoarse and cracked from lack of use. The people paused but did not stop. He ran and came up to the two people, waving his arms as he did so.
‘No! Turn back!’ he pleaded.
The woman stabbed him in the stomach with a sword. The man blew his brains out with his lasgun.
As the light left his eyes, the Guardsman desperately searched for some light beyond the veil. He only found the chittering laughter of thirsting demons.
‘What was that?’ Henrik wondered, after killing the strange creature.
‘I care not,’ Inquisitor Serena said, as she sheathed her power-sabre. The two of them continued walking into the depths of the cave.
About the Author
Ahmed Kamal Khan is an amateur writer who enjoys science fiction and fantasy stories. He has yet to finish his fantasy novel manuscript. One day, he might even write his third chapter. In his free time, he likes to make headway in his current attempt of a novel and tend to his lawn.