Fictober, Prompt 12 – “What if I can’t see it?”
Warnings: implied violent death, implied eldritch horrors. Horror-flavored fantasy.
“Of course, the containment is in place!” The Head Sorcerer was clearly offended by my question, drawing himself up to his full, thin height and looking down his nose at me. “What did you say your credentials were?”
Keeping my face neutral, I held out the badge I had already shown to five different people to make it as far as the Head Sorcerer’s office. “I am an independent containment inspector, sent by Magistrate Susumu. I am making rounds of all the known Holding Places, doing a standard inspection, and I need to see the seals and locks myself.” I handed over the letter of command from the Magistrate before he could ask for it.
“Well, I’m sure this is all quite unnecessary, but seeing as Magistrate Susumu has commanded it, then we must comply.” He gave a put-upon sigh, tossing the letter back to me. I caught it deftly just before it slid off the edge of his desk and tucked it away in my robes. The Head Sorcerer grabbed a large ring of keys carelessly from a drawer, and stood, coming around the desk and sweeping out of the room without waiting for me.
I followed silently, noting the problems that would have to be entered into my report: unsecured keys, a dangerously arrogant attitude regarding the containment, and a failure to perform any basic magical verification as to the veracity of my person, my badge, or my letter of command.
I followed the Head Sorcerer down through the great stone building, and then further down still into the catacombs below.
Poor lighting, I noted, continuing my earlier list, unsafe levels of moisture on the staircase.
Perhaps that last was a little bit petty. Despite being only halfway through my tour of inspections, my tolerance level for authorities overly impressed with their own importance had rarely been lower. And a slippery staircase was never a good idea anywhere, much less one leading to a containment area, where one might conceivably need to move fast.
“Here,” the Head Sorcerer said at last, unlocking one last door and sweeping ahead of me into the observation chamber, not even bothering to hold the door open behind him. I caught it as it started to swing shut on me and followed.
I had taken only half a step in before my instincts told me that something was wrong. Swallowing, I pulled my left hand up into my sleeve, getting a firm grip on my dagger. There wasn’t anything in this room, yet, but something was definitely wrong.
“As you can see,” the Head Sorcerer gestured imperiously to the observation window in the far door, “the containment spells are firmly in place, and you will see that the physical lock and chains are of the highest quality workmanship.” He did not sense anything amiss, apparently.
Treading lightly, keeping my senses on alert, I crossed the room quickly and peered through the window.
“What if I don’t see it?” I asked, voice tight even as I raised my right hand to put a new spell on this door. That the lock and chains were gone, rather than just loose on the floor, was a bad sign. It meant that the thing in containment here (I was careful not to think its name) had either thought to remove them…or had destroyed them completely and was therefore more powerful than previously recorded.
“What? Impossible,” he said, and shoved me aside before I could get so much as a single sign written.
I stumbled, slipping a little further on the damp floor, and my cry of “Don’t—!” did not hinder him as he took a quick glance through the window and then unlocked the door, throwing it open.
His scream was short. The crunching sounds that came after continued for much longer.
I got carefully to my feet.
The crunching stopped.
My dagger flared violet, revealing its full sword length. With my right hand, I drew my wand from another pocket just as a long, slimy black tentacle curled through the open doorway.
If it thought that I was going to be as easy a meal as the Head Sorcerer, it was going to be in for just a little bit of a surprise.
After all, I wasn’t the only independent containment inspector in five countries for no reason.
I allowed myself just the tiniest smile, then raised my sword.