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【书籍搬运】Ruins of Kemel-Ze 凯梅尔-泽遗迹

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原文地址:http://www.uesp.net/wiki/Skyrim:Ruins_of_Kemel-Ze

中文翻译:

凯梅尔-泽遗迹

——罗拉德·诺德森

我决定立刻回到晨风的时候,帝国学会同僚的赞许掌声依旧在我耳边萦绕。我并非是毫无遗憾地向帝都大熔炉说再见,但我也知道我从拉雷德-马凯带回的奇物仅仅敲开了晨风锻莫遗迹的表层。我觉得更为惊人的财宝就埋在那里等待被人发现,于是我自然是亟盼出发。而且我面前也有可怜的班纳曼做好榜样,到现在他还在靠着自己二十年前在黑沼泽的单独一次探险经历挣饭钱。我绝不会落到那种下场,我发誓。

有女皇陛下的信件在手,这次我就能得到帝国主管方的全面协助了,不用再担心被迷信的本地人袭击。不过我的下一个目标要选哪里?凯梅尔-泽自然是不二之选。不同于拉雷德-马凯,前往遗迹所在地并不是问题。以“峭壁之城”为人所知,凯梅尔-泽位于瓦丹非尔裂谷的陆地一侧,不规则地延展下垂直绝壁。从瓦丹非尔东岸过来的旅行者经常能乘船路过这个遗迹,而从附近的村庄走陆路到达也不会遇到任何困难。

在处理完为在这片半开化土地上行动而需要的冗长手续之后,我的探险队在塞达·尼茵整装完毕,就向遗址附近的村庄马洛格进发了,我们希望能在那里雇到一队挖掘工。我的翻译图恩·帕奈以黑精灵的标准而言算是笑口常开的了。他是我在塞达·尼茵在一位当地卫队司令的推荐下雇佣的,司令向我保证说当地村民对凯梅尔-泽都非常熟悉,因为他们从几代之前就开始盗掘遗迹了。顺便一提,“三寸钉”(不久我们就这么称呼他了,因为他总是很有趣)简直就是无价之宝,如果我有同僚打算在晨风的荒野进行类似的探险,我会毫不犹豫地推荐他。

在马洛格,我们碰上了第一个麻烦。村子的头人,一个沉默又优雅的老人,似乎愿意合作,但当地的牧师(他们荒谬本土宗教的全权代表,这宗教崇拜一类叫作“审判席”的神,他们说这些神实际上居住在晨风的宫殿里)却狂热地反对我们挖掘遗迹。他应该是靠谈论“宗教禁忌”来把那些村民拢到自己一方的,但我只是把女皇的信件往他鼻子下一塞,再同他提起我在塞达·尼茵的卫队司令官好友,他就立刻安静了。毫无疑问这是村民们为赚更多钱而想出的标准交涉战术。无论如何,在牧师独自甩步自言自语着离开,毋庸置疑是要诅咒这些异邦魔鬼之后,我们就有了一整队的村民想要参加探险。

我把类似合同、补给这样的日常细节留给助手负责,然后就同亚伦大师一起骑马奔赴遗迹现场。走陆路的话,要到达这些地方只能通过峭壁上方刻出的狭窄小路,一步之差就可能让人摔到下方怒涛汹涌危岩耸立的大海中。这座城市通向地表的原本入口一定位于城市的东北部——就在很久之前红山爆发弄出这道让人心生踌躇的宽广裂谷的时候塌陷入海了。成功穿过这条危险小径之后,我们发现自己身处一间大屋内,大屋一边直接暴露在蓝天之下,另一边却隐入了黑暗之中。我们朝里面走去,靴子不停踩过一堆堆的破碎金属,这些东西在矮人遗迹中就像破陶片在其他古代遗址中那样常见。很明显那些盗掘者就是从这里把他们在更深区域的发现带出来,把那些矮人机械价值连城的外壳剥落带走,却把内核丢在这里——这肯定要比把完好无损的机械搬到悬崖顶上轻松许多。想到这里我就不由得发笑,有多少战士毫不知情地带着矮人机械的部分碎片漫游泰姆瑞尔啊。当然,我指的就是世上绝大多数的“矮人甲”究竟是什么——只是远古机器人的装甲外壳罢了。在考虑完好无损的机械能够价值几何的时候我终于冷静了下来。从铺满这间大屋地板的零零碎碎来推断,这地方肯定到处都是矮人装置——或者曾经到处都是,我提醒自己说,盗掘者已经在这里偷挖了好几个世纪。把剥下的外壳当作盔甲卖掉就能赚上一小笔钱。大多数矮人甲都是用这些来自不同装置的外壳拼凑出来的,因此一直让人觉得笨重异常。但来自同一个机械的完好一套可要比与其等重的黄金还要贵重,因为所有部件都彼此适合完美连接平滑,穿戴者几乎不会有笨重之感。当然了,无论盔甲价值有多高,我也不想仅仅为了盔甲就毁掉我的发现收藏。我要把这种盔甲带回学会以进行科学研究。我想象了一下,下次报告时我把这盔甲公布出来我的同僚会发出多么惊叹的高喊,这让我又不由得微笑了。

我从脚边的金属堆里捡起了一块被丢掉的齿轮。它依旧光泽明亮,就像是刚被做出来的,矮人的合金能抵挡住时间的侵蚀。我想知道在我面前的室内迷宫中还留有多少未被探知的秘密,躲过了盗掘者的视线,等待着重新出现在它们许久未见的光天化日之下。等待着我。剩下的就只是把它们找出来了!我向亚伦大师做了个不耐烦的手势让他跟上,然后就走进那片阴暗之中。

亚伦大师、“三寸钉”还有我花了好几天在遗迹中探索,而我的助手们则在峭壁顶建起了营地,从村中拉来补给和设备。我在寻找一片可以用来挖掘的合适场所——一条被阻断了的小路,或者是没被盗掘者触及的走廊,从这里就能到达废墟完全未被发现的区域。

早先我们发现了两处类似的场所,但不久后就发现不少迂回通道绕过了障碍物进入了后面的房间。不管怎么说,即便是在这些绝大多数区域都早已被多代的盗掘者清理一空的外部区域,在专业考古学家的眼里还是充满了宝藏。在一扇因某些大地中发生的远古混乱而与绞链炸开的厚重青铜门后,我们发现了一间墙上刻满精美图案的大室,就连自称探索过晨风的每一处矮人遗址,早就对此厌倦了的“三寸钉”都惊叹不已。上面描画的似乎是某种古代仪式,一长队的古典蓄须矮人长者顺着墙依次站好,所有人似乎都在向刻在大室前墙上的巨人形神灵鞠躬,而这个巨人正在走出一座被云和蒸汽笼罩的火山口。根据亚伦大师所说,现今并没有已知的关于矮人宗教仪式的刻画,因此这项发现确实令人兴奋不已。我让一队人马把雕刻石板从墙上撬下来,但他们连在表面弄出裂痕都做不到。仔细察看下,整间大室的墙上都装有一种质地和手感类似岩石的金属材料,不惧我们的任何工具。我也考虑过要不要让亚伦大师试着对墙使用他的爆炸魔法,但这么做可能毁坏雕刻的风险太大了。尽管很想把这些雕刻本体带回帝都,我还是只能让人前去模拓。如果我在学会的同僚中有任何人对此感兴趣,我就一定能找到精于此道的专家,比如说一名炼金大师,找出安全挪下这些石板的方法。

我在一处极长的盘绕楼梯的顶端发现了另一间令人好奇的屋子,因为不断有碎石从天花板落下,那道楼梯只能勉强走人。楼梯尽头是一间圆顶小屋,屋子中心摆有一大块已坏的机器。在圆顶的表面,绘制出的星座图还很清楚。亚伦大师和我在此达成了一致看法,这间屋子一定是某种天象台,而那台机器肯定就是矮人望远镜的残迹。如果要把它从那道狭窄楼梯搬出遗迹,恐怕就必须先把它完全解体(正因为此,它才躲过了那些盗掘者),所以我决定暂时把它留在原处。不过这个天象台的存在暗示着这间屋子原本应该是高于地表的。对房屋结构的细致检查发现这间屋子确实是修建起来的,而并非是掘地而成。通向这间屋子的唯一其他通道被彻底截断了,而通过从悬崖顶到遗迹入口,以及从以及入口到天象台的精确高度测量显示我们目前仍处在地表之下250尺。这可是对我们已经忘却的红山之怒的一种重要警示。

这项发现让我们的注意力向下方转移了。因为现在差不多已经粗略知道远古的地平面究竟在哪里,我们就能把泥倾泻地表之上的阻塞通道统统排除出去了。一条宽阔且侧面排列着洞中石柱的通道引起了我的兴趣。通道在一大片坍塌前戛然而止,但我们能看见盗掘者最先开始而后放弃了的在砖中挖出的通道。有一整队挖掘工和亚伦大师的魔法协助,我相信那些先来者失败了的事情我们能够成功。因此我就组织我的一整队黑精灵清理通道,为我终于开始在凯梅尔-泽的真正探险而欣慰起来。我希望不久后我的靴子就能扬起那些自从时间初始就存在于此未受打扰的尘土。

因为这个令人激动的预期近在眼前,我大概是对我的挖掘者催促得有些过份了。“三寸钉”报告说他们已经在嘀咕每天工作怎么这么长,有些也说要退出了。个人经验告诉我说只有尝过鞭子的滋味这些黑精灵才会回心转意,于是我就把带头的那个抽了一顿,然后把其余人全部关在遗迹里,直到他们清理完通道。真要赞美斯丹纳尔,我预见到了这点,提前在塞达·尼茵咨询了几个军团士兵!工人们最开始很不高兴,但我答应在他们打通隧道后给他们多支付一天的薪水,于是他们就心甘情愿地卖命去了。也许对习惯于文明带来舒适的我的读者们而言,这些事情听起来有些严酷,但我向诸位保证,除此之外没有其它任何办法能让这些人专心工作。

阻塞比我最初以为的要严重许多,到最后清理完毕总共花了差不多两周的时间。当挖掘者的镐头终于在通道尽头抡进空气之时,他们简直像我一样兴奋,然后我们就一起干了一轮本地土酒(说实话就是一种很难喝的混合物),尽释前嫌。他们把洞打大以让人能够穿洞进入后面的屋子,这时候我几乎无法抑制住自己的渴望。这通道是通向这座古城的新一层,到处都是消失矮人留下的物品?还是说这通道只是个死胡同,是哪里都通不到的侧边线?我悄悄从洞中溜进去,在墙外的黑暗中蹲了一会儿。从我脚下咯咯作响的石子发出的回声来判断,我正身处一间大屋内。说不定非常大。我小心翼翼地站起来,取下油灯遮罩。灯光流满屋子的时候,我环顾四周,惊讶万分。这是我最狂野之梦也不能及的奇迹!

油灯的光亮洒满了落岩之后的房间,我环视四周,诧异不已。到处都是矮人合金的温暖光辉。我找到了这座古城还没有被人触及的部分!在我东张西望的时候,我的心因兴奋狂跳不已。房间很宽广,天花板向上方蔓延,溶入了我的灯光也照不到的黑暗之中。房间尽头在阴影中只有一抹撩人微光,仿佛在暗示那边还有未被发现的宝藏。每面墙前都站着一排机器人,除了一点奇怪之处全都完好无损:它们的头都被仪式性地取下了,放在它们脚旁的地板上。这只能说明一件事——我发现了一位伟大的矮人贵族的墓室,说不定甚至是国王的!这类陵寝在以前曾被发现过,最著名的就是在落锤地兰森(Ransom)的探险中,但被发现的还没有一处完整的墓室。直到现在。

但如果这确实是王室陵寝,墓室又在哪里呢?我谨慎地往前走了走,无头的躯体沉默站立,与它们在多少纪元之前别无二致,而它们空洞的双眼在我通过时似乎一直在注视着我。我曾经听过那些关于矮人诅咒的狂野故事,但总认为那些不过是迷信的笑话。但现在,我呼吸着这座城市神秘修建者呼吸的相同空气,而此地自从那拼出他们厄运的灾祸之后就未曾被打扰,这让我胸中阵阵粟然。我能感觉到这里有一些力量的存在,一些对我的出现极度愤慨的恶意存在。我止步片刻,侧耳倾听。四下一片沉寂。

除了……我似乎听见了轻微的嘶声,像呼吸一样有着规律性。我强压下突然涌现出的一阵惊恐。我赤手空拳,根本没想到贸然闯入淤塞通道之后探险可能遇见的危险。当我在阴暗中搜寻任何移动时,汗水顺着我的脸颊淌下。这房间很暖和,我突然注意到,比到目前为止的迷宫其它区域都要暖和。我的兴奋回来了。我是不是找到了这城市中依旧同正常运作的蒸汽栅板相连的部分?管子贴在墙上,和城市中的所有区域没有不同。我走过去,把手放在其中一个上面。管子很烫,烫到几乎不能去碰!现在我看到了这些古代管道侵蚀破损的地方,小股蒸汽的气流正在喷洒出来——这就是我听到的声音。我不由得嘲笑起自己的疑神疑鬼来。

现在我朝着房间尽头快速走去,那些排成行的机器士兵刚才还显得如此险恶,此刻我却能朝它们微笑行礼了。灯光扫过多个世纪的黑暗之时我露出了胜利的笑容,光下是一个高台之上的矮人国王巨型雕像,他金属质地的手紧紧握住权杖。这确实是个奖赏!我慢慢绕着高台,欣赏远古矮人的精妙技艺。黄金国王站在一个独立的穹顶之下,有二十尺高,他向上倾斜的长胡子高傲地朝外刺出,而他闪闪发光的金属眼似乎在盯着我移动。不过迷信已经被我丢到一旁了,于是我高高兴兴地凝视这位老矮人王。我的国王,我已经开始这么看他了。我爬上高台,打算把雕刻盔甲看得更清楚些。突然间雕像的眼睛睁开了,而它挥起全副武装的拳头朝我砸来!

那条黄金手臂砸向我的时候我立刻跳到了一旁,而拳头在距我原先站立的地方几步之外击出一片火花。蒸汽嘶嘶作响,齿轮开始转动,这座巨像笨重地走出华盖之下,以令人害怕的速度朝我冲来,在我向后挪动的时候眼睛一直跟踪着我的行动。在拳头再次带着风砸下的时候我躲到了立柱后面。混乱之中我丢掉了油灯,如今只能远离光源在黑暗中匍匐。,希望自己是在无头及其中间穿行,然后就能逃回通道的安全之中。那个怪物跑到哪里去了?您大概会觉得一个二十尺高的黄金造物谁都能看得清楚,但到处都看不见它。油灯只能照亮房间中很小的一部分。在阴暗中他躲在哪里都有可能。我爬得更快了些。毫无预警地,那个怪物守卫在我前方逼近过来,把一排暗淡的矮人士兵击飞了出去。他切断了我的退路!我不断朝后躲去,可那台不可安抚的机器一拳接着一拳毫不知倦地跟着我,把我逼到了房间的角落里。最后我无路可逃了。我后背贴着墙。我对我的敌人怒目而视,下定决心一定要站着死去。那双巨大的拳头高高举起,准备好最终一击了。

房间中突然爆发出一阵光亮。紫色的能量矢击中了矮人怪物的金属甲壳,于是它停下来,半转过身子去看看这个新威胁。亚伦大师过来了!我正要欢呼一声,结果那个巨像又转了回来,完全没因为亚伦大师的闪电矢受到一丝伤害,打算先把我这个首位闯入者干掉。在巨人挥起拳头准备把我砸到地板上时我高喊“蒸汽!蒸汽!”然后就是一阵嘶声,还有一股冷风,于是我抬头向上看去。怪物现在披上了一层冰壳,就在解决我的前一刻完全冻住了。亚伦大师听懂了我的意思。我靠着墙,安下心来。

我上方的冰层碎裂了。黄金巨人国王站在我面前,冰壳逐渐脱落。他的头胜利性地转向了我。就没办法停下这个矮人怪物吗?!可随即他眼中的光辉消失了,手臂也落到了身侧。魔法结霜起作用了,冷却了它蒸汽驱动的引擎。

亚伦大师和挖掘者把我团团围住,祝贺我大难不死,我的思绪却漂走了。我在想象自己回到帝都,那将是我到目前为止最伟大的胜利。我怎么才能超越这项发现呢?也许继续前进的时候到了。重新找回寓言中的阿格里亚之眼……这太妙了!我蔚然自笑,沉醉于此刻获得的荣誉之中,却也已经为在计划我的下一场冒险了。

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Ruins of Kemel-Ze
by Rolard Nordssen
An archaeologist's adventure through ancient Dwemer ruins

 With the acclamations of the Fellows of the Imperial Society still ringing in my ears, I decided to return to Morrowind immediately. It was not without some regret that I bade farewell to the fleshpots of the Imperial City, but I knew that the wonders I had brought back from Raled-Makai had only scratched the surface of the Dwemerruins in Morrowind. Even more spectacular treasures were out there, I felt, just waiting to be found, and I was eager to be off. I also had before me the salutary example of poor Bannerman, who was still dining out on his single expedition to Black Marsh twenty years ago. That would never be me, I vowed.
With my letter from the Empress in hand, this time I would have the full cooperation of the Imperial authorities. No more need to worry about attacks from superstitious locals. But where should I look next? The ruins at Kemel-Ze were the obvious choice. Unlike Raled-Makai, getting to the ruins would not be a problem. Also known as the "Cliff City", Kemel-Ze lies on the mainland side of the Vvardenfel Rift, sprawling down the sheer coastal cliff. Travelers from the east coast of Vvardenfel often visit the site by boat, and it can also be reached overland from the nearby villages without undue hardship.
Once my expedition had assembled in Seyda Neen, with the usual tedious complications involved in operating in this half-civilized land, we set out for the village of Marog near the ruins, where we hoped to hire a party of diggers. My interpreter, Tuen Panai, an unusually jolly fellow for a Dark Elf who I had hired in Seyda Neen at the recommendation of the local garrison commander, assured me that the local villagers would be very familiar with Kemel-Ze, having looted the site for generations. Incidentally, Ten Penny (as we soon came to call him, to his constant amusement) proved invaluable and I would recommend him without hesitation to any of my colleagues who were planning similar expeditions to the wilds of Morrowind.
At Marog, we ran into our first trouble. The hetman of the village, a reserved, elegant old fellow, seemed willing to cooperate, but the local priest (a representative of the absurd religionthey have here, worshiping [sic] something called the Tribunal who they claim actually live in palaces in Morrowind) was fervently against us excavating the ruins. He looked likely to sway the villagers to his side with his talk of "religious taboos", but I waved the Empress's letter under his nose and mentioned something about my friend the garrison commander at Seyda Neen and he quieted right down. No doubt this was just a standard negotiating tactic arranged among the villagers to increase their pay. In any event, once the priest had stalked off muttering to himself, no doubt calling down curses upon the heads of the foreign devils, we soon had a line of villagers eager to sign on to the expedition.
While my assistant was working out the mundane details of contracts, supplies, etc., Master Arum and I rode on to the ruins. By land, they can only be reached using narrow paths that wind down the face of the cliff from above, where any misstep threatens to send one tumbling into the sea foaming about the jagged rocks below. The city's original entrance to the surface must have been in the part of the city to the northeast - the part that fell into the sea long ago when the eruption ofRed Mountain created this mind-bogglingly vast crater. After successfully navigating the treacherous path, we found ourselves in a large chamber, open to the sky on one side, disappearing into the darkness on the other. As we stepped forward, our boots crunched on piles of broken metal, as common in Dwarven ruins as potsherds in other ancient sites. This was obviously where the looters brought their finds from deeper levels, stripping off the valuable outer casings of the Dwarven mechanisms and leaving their innards here - easier than lugging the intact mechanisms back up to the top of the cliff. I laughed to myself, thinking of the many warriors unwittingly walking around Tamriel with pieces of Dwarven mechanisms on their backs. For that, of course, is what most "Dwarven armor" really is - just the armored shells of ancient mechanical men. I sobered when I thought of how exceedingly valuable an intact mechanism would be. This place was obviously full of Dwarven devices, judging from the litter covering the floor of this vast chamber - or had been, I reminded myself. Looters had been working over this site for centuries. Just the casing alone would be worth a small fortune, sold as armor. Most Dwarven armor is made of mismatched pieces from various devices, hence its reputation for being bulky and unwieldy. But a matched set from an intact mechanism is worth more than its weight in gold, for the pieces all fit together smoothly and the wearer hardly notices the bulk. Of course, I had no intention of destroying my finds for armor, no matter how valuable. I would bring it back to the Society for scientific study. I imagined the astonished cries of my colleagues as I unveiled it at my next lecture, and smiled again.
I picked up a discarded gear from the piles at my feet. It still gleamed brightly, as if new-made, the Dwarven alloys resisting the corrosion of time. I wondered what secrets remained hidden in the maze of chambers that lay before me, defying the efforts of looters, waiting to gleam again in the light they had not seen in long eons. Waiting for me. It remained only to find them! With an impatient gesture to Master Arum to follow, I strode forward into the gloom.
Master Arum, Ten Penny and I spent several days exploring the ruins while my assistants set up camp at the top of the cliff and hauled supplies and equipment from the village. I was looking for a promising area to begin excavation -- a blocked passage or corridor untouched by looters that might lead to completely untouched areas of the ruins.
We found two such areas early on, but soon discovered that the many winding passages bypassed the blockage and gave access to the rooms behind. Nevertheless, even these outer areas, for the most part stripped clean of artifacts by generations of looters, were full of interest to the professional archaeologist. Behind a massive bronze door, burst from its hinges by some ancient turmoil of the earth, we discovered a large chamber filled with exquisite wall-carvings, which impressed even the jaded Ten Penny, who claimed to have explored every Dwarven ruin in Morrowind. They seemed to depict an ancient ritual of some kind, with a long line of classically-bearded Dwarven elders processing down the side walls, all seemingly bowing to the giant form of a god carved into the front wall of the chamber, which was caught in the act of stepping forth from the crater of a mountain in a cloud of smoke or steam. According to Master Arum, there are no known depictions of Dwarven religious rituals, so this was an exciting find indeed. I set a team to work prying the carved panels from the wall, but they were unable to even crack the surface. On closer examination the chamber appeared to be faced with a metallic substance with the texture and feel of stone, impervious to any of our tools. I considered having Master Arum try his blasting magic on the walls, but decided that the risk of destroying the carvings was too great. Much as I would have preferred to bring them back to the Imperial City, I had to settle for taking rubbings of the carvings. If my colleagues in the Society showed enough interest, I was sure a specialist could be found, perhaps a master alchemist, who could find a way to safely remove the panels.
I found another curious room at the top of a long winding stair, barely passable due to the fall of rubble from the roof. At the top of the stair was a domed chamber with a large ruined mechanism at its center. Painted constellations were still visible in some places on the surface of the dome. Master Arum and I agreed that this must have been some kind of observatory, and the mechanism was therefore the remains of a Dwarven telescope. To remove it from ruins down the narrow stairway would require its complete disassembly (which fact no doubt had preserved it from the attention of looters), so I decided to leave it in place for the time being. The existence of this observatory suggested, however, that this room had once been above the surface. Closer examination of the structure revealed that this was indeed a building, not an excavated chamber. The only other doorways from the room were completely blocked, and careful measurements from the top of the cliff to the entry room and then to the observatory revealed that we were still more than 250 feet below the present ground level. A sobering reminder of the forgotten fury of Red Mountain.
This discovery led us to focus our attentions downward. Since we now knew approximately where the ancient surface lay, we could rule out many of the higher blocked passages. One wide passage, impressively flanked with carven pillars, particularly drew my interest. It ended in a massive rockfall, but we could see where looters had begun and then abandoned a tunnel through this debris. With my team of diggers and Master Arum's magery to assist, I believed we could succeed where our predecessors had failed. I therefore set my team of Dark Elves to work on clearing the passage, relieved finally to be beginning the real exploration of Kemel-Ze. Soon, I hoped, my boots would be stirring up dust that had lain undisturbed since the dawn of time.
With this exciting prospect before me, I may have driven my diggers a bit too hard. Ten Penny reported that they were beginning to grumble about the long days, and that some were talking of quitting. Knowing from experience that nothing puts heart back into these Dark Elves like a taste of the lash, I had the ringleaders whipped and the rest confined to the ruins until they had finished clearing the passageway. Thank Stendarr for my foresight in requisitioning a few legionnaires from Seyda Neen! They were sullen at first, but with the promise of an extra day's wages when they broke through, they soon set to work with a will. While these measures may sound harsh to my readers back in the comforts of civilization, let me assure you that there is no other way to get these people to stick to a task.
The blockage was much worse than I had first thought, and in the end it took almost two weeks to clear the passage. The diggers were as excited as I was when their picks finally broke through the far end into emptiness, and we shared a round of the local liquor together (a foul concoction, in truth) to show that all was forgiven. I could hardly restrain my eagerness as they enlarged the hole to allow entry into the chamber beyond. Would the passage lead to entire new levels of the ancient city, filled with artifacts left by the vanished Dwarves? Or would it be only a dead end, some side passage leading nowhere? My excitement grew as I slid through the hole and crouched for a moment in the darkness beyond. From the echoing sounds of the stones rattling beneath my feet, I was in a large room. Perhaps very large. I stood up carefully, and unhooded my lantern. As the light flooded the chamber, I looked around in astonishment. Here were wonders beyond even my wildest dreams!
As the light from my lamp filled the chamber beyond the rock fall, I looked around in astonishment. Everywhere was the warm glitter of Dwarven alloys. I had found an untouched section of the ancient city! My heart pounding with excitement, I looked around me. The room was vast, the roof soaring up into darkness beyond the reach of my lamp, the far end lost in shadows with only a tantalizing glimmer hinting at treasures not yet revealed. Along each wall stood rows of mechanical men, intact except for one oddity: their heads had been ritually removed and placed on the floor at their feet. This could mean only one thing -- I had discovered the tomb of a great Dwarven noble, maybe even a king! Burials of this type had been discovered before, most famously by Ransom's expedition to Hammerfell, but no completely intact tomb had ever been found. Until now.
But if this was truly a royal burial, where was the tomb? I stepped forward gingerly, the rows of headless bodies standing silently as they had for eons, their disembodied eyes seeming to watch me as I passed. I had heard wild tales of the Curse of the Dwarves, but had always laughed it off as superstition. But now, breathing the same air as the mysterious builders of this city, which had lain undisturbed since the cataclysm that spelled their doom, I felt a twinge of fear. There was some power here, I felt, something malevolent that resented my presence. I stopped for a moment and listened. All was silent.
Except... it seemed I heard a faint hiss, regular as breathing. I fought down a sudden surge of panic. I was unarmed, not thinking of danger in my haste to explore past the blocked passage. Sweat dripped down my face as I scanned the gloom for any movement. The room was warm, I suddenly noticed, much warmer than the rest of the labyrinth thus far. My excitement returned. Could I have found a section of the city still connected to a functioning steam grid? Pipes ran along the walls, as in all sections of the city. I walked over and placed my hand on one. It was hot, almost too hot to touch! Now I saw that in places where the ancient piping had corroded, small jets of steam were escaping -- the sound I had heard. I laughed at my own credulity.
I now advanced quickly to the far end of the room, giving a cheerful salute to the ranks of mechanical soldiers who had appeared so menacing only moments before. I smiled with triumph as the light swept back the darkness of centuries to reveal the giant effigy of a Dwarven king standing on a raised dais, his metal hand clutching his rod of office. This was the prize indeed! I circled the dais slowly, admiring the craftsmanship of the ancient Dwarves. The golden king stood twenty feet tall under a freestanding domed cupola, his long upswept beard jutting forward proudly as his glittering metal eyes seemed to follow me. But my superstitious mood had passed, and I gazed benevolently on the old Dwarven king. My king, as I had already begun to think of him. I stepped onto the dais to get a better look at the sculpted armor. Suddenly the eyes of the figure opened and it raised a mailed fist to strike!
I leaped to one side as the golden arm came crashing down, striking sparks from the steps where I had stood a moment before. With a hiss of steam and the whir of gears, the giant figure stepped ponderously out from under its canopy and strode towards me with frightening speed, its eyes tracking me as I scrambled backwards. I dodged behind a pillar as the fist whistled down again. I had dropped my lantern in the confusion, and now I crept into the darkness outside the pool of light, hoping to slip between the headless mechanisms and thus escape back to the safety of the passageway. Where had the monster gone? You would think that a twenty-foot golden king would be hard to miss, but he was nowhere to be seen. The guttering lamp only illuminated a small part of the room. He could be hiding anywhere in the gloom. I crawled faster. Without warning, the dim ranks of Dwarven soldiers in front of me went flying as the monstrous guardian loomed before me. He had cut off my escape! As I dodged backwards, blow after blow whistled down as the implacable machine followed me relentlessly, driving me into the far corner of the room. At last there was nowhere left for me to go. My back was to the wall. I glared up at my foe, determined to die on my feet. The huge fists lifted for one final blow.
The room blazed with sudden light. Bolts of purple energy crackled across the metal carapace of the Dwarven monster, and it halted, half-turning to meet this new threat. Master Arum had come! I was about to raise a cheer when the giant figure turned back to me, unharmed by the lightning bolt hurled by Master Arum, determined to destroy this first intruder. I shouted out "Steam! Steam!" as the giant raised his fist to crush me into the floor. There was a hiss and a gust of bitter cold and I looked up. The monster was now covered with a shell of ice, frozen in the very moment of dispatching me. Master Arum had understood. I leaned against the wall with relief.
The ice cracked above me. The giant golden king stood before me, the shell of ice falling away, his head swiveling towards me in triumph. Was there no stopping this Dwarven monstrosity?! But then the light faded from his eyes, and his arms dropped to his sides. The magical frost had worked, cooling its steam-driven energy.
As Master Arum and the diggers crowded around me, congratulating me on my narrow escape, my thoughts drifted. I imagined my return to the Imperial City, and I knew that this would be my greatest triumph yet. How could I possibly top this find? Perhaps it was time to move on. Recovering the fabled Eye of Argonia... now that would be a coup! I smiled to myself, reveling in the glory of the moment but already planning my next adventure.

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