Yin blew dust off the ancient clay tablet, and read aloud its ancient text by flickering candle light, his stuttering monotone accompanied by the slow and steady drip of water from the cavern above. "On the 37th day of the alignment of the monkey, a comet arced across the night sky, that is all it says".
Zhe reacted angrily, a flush of red crossing his face. "My men and I have fought for three months to locate this cave, to clear its guardians and ransack this lousy crate, and you tell me I have done all this for a lousy riddle? There is no treasure?" His men grumbled behind him.
Yin was nervous about responding, for he was certain this was no riddle. For some reason these ancient peoples had felt the need to both record this information for all time, as well ensure no one knew it, there was no sense in getting killed over it however. "We should go back to town, I can attempt to decipher this riddle there, it is probably a treasure map". This seemed to placate Zhe's men, who were already muttering the riddle, trying to discern its reasoning.
Deep below them, the dust of a dozen millennia crumbled off a sleeping figure. Dozens of feet long, its armoured carapace seemed to pulse with a faint blue glow. It had the body of a giant centipede, but its head was like that of a lamprey, with dozens of long needle-like tongues lashing back and forth as it sampled the strings of time and space that vibrated around it. It began crawling, slowly at first, but soon it was moving faster than any horse, faster than a thrown spear. It was heading to town.
Mankind's great sense of wonder and curiosity is sometimes seen as a great virtue. But the high bureaucrat reminds all denizens of these lands that faith is a virtue, and this curiosity is a sin that leads to wrath as sure as any other. A peasant should not seek to know more than he needs to know about his harvest, a soldier should not busy his mind with the purpose of his orders, and a king should not investigate the lives of his peasants. Those alchemists, sages and doctors who seek to bring enlightenment to the Kingdom of Balance may have good intention, but they will only bring ruin to the great harmony. Deep in the earth lie the ancient beasts from before mankind, servants of the ruinous powers, created by the lurker at the threshold. These creatures are spoken of in hushed tones simply as "The Secrets". Each one has long lain dormant, forced to dream of the toils of mortals, unable to lash out at the world. Each of these beings is tied to a single scrap of knowledge, and they are powerless to act so long as no one living holds the knowledge. But those doctors, those sages, those unholy meddlers who seek to bring enlightenment often raise these foul beasts from the cthonian depths that bind them. These creatures wreak great swathes of destruction, slaying without mercy. Each time they are felled, another rises from the depths to take its place. The only way to stop these creatures is to slay all who know the secret that animates them, and bury the knowledge in an inanimate object. So long as the knowledge slumbers, so too will the creature who thrives off of it.
The Labourers Under the Volcano
2 hours ago