by Trevor Hopkins

I guess Trinity really didn't like being asked this kind of direct question. She fumed silently for a few moments before condescending to reply.

"Okay," she snorted, trying to regain some control of the situation, "An explanation. Yeah, you're right. I do want to know what in all the Hells is going on."

In case you didn't know, the Hells is a conventional name for a very dark mystery. The usual reference is to the Lost Caverns, caves abandoned by Goblins long ago. Some are reputed to have become filled with water when the bed of some surface sea or lake ruptured, or with lava from the magma channels of a volcano not quite as dormant as the original surveyors thought. It is also said that there are ways to travel to these caverns, hidden and mysterious ways, full of danger - which seems only too reasonable, given that they are supposed to be either molten rock or water under extreme pressure. Such nonsense. They are stories fit only for children; nobody takes them at all seriously.

Of course there are just a few caverns which some might consider to be part of the Hells, but which you can actually visit. Not that you’d be advised to do so. These parts of the Lower Realms are populated by some very strange and mysterious beings with worryingly unclear motives. Best not to ask, really.

Trinity took another deep breath, and looked up and down the street. I followed her glance with my own. There was very little traffic on the road, and absolutely nobody on the sidewalk. It really was a well-chosen site for an illicit entrance to the Lower Realms. I wondered idly how much of this was the result of intensive observation and careful selection, and how much was the application of subtle - and entirely forbidden - magics in this area.

"We need get off the street," Trinity said resignedly, the inevitability of the situation dawning on her, "You'd better come inside. Then we can talk."

She turned and walked back in the direction from which she had come. I followed her, Nether a step or two behind me. At the point where the runes nestled amongst the swoops and whorls of eagerly-executed urban street decoration, she stopped and said a few words that, inevitably, I could not hear - this is a standard characteristic of Goblin glamours - and waved a hand nonchalantly.

At her gesture, some concealment glamour flickered and died, revealing a battered-looking doorway set into the grafitti’d brick wall. It was, I noticed, a human-sized door, its lintel way up over my head. It looked as if it was part of the original fabric of the building, erected no more than a hundred years ago. It was now very worn and damaged; humans never really build anything to last.

"Come on," I turned and yelled at Rosie, who was still standing at the alleyway entrance looking entirely bemused. Gumshoe grabbed her by the arm and urged her forward. Trinity pushed the door open and we all followed her inside.

Part 32 Part 34