Mugama, The Gold That Is Not
Nestled between the towering cliffs of the Zorian plateau, lies a vast cavity that is wide enough to swallow an adult bull elephant with enough space to spare for a small herd of draft horses on either side. There you will find gold, an abundance of it. But what is that you say? That the natives tell you that it is a place of death and home to hideous monster that will devour you? Ignore the savages. They only seek to protect what they are too indolent to grab for themselves.
-A Khanate offical assuring a bunch of miners.
For centuries, the great Kohsian Khanate has sent its armies of prospectors deep into the domain of the barbarous Chimics to mine the vast gold deposits so plentiful and rich for the pickings there. On the back of this vast gold trade, the Kahnate has grown wealthy and powerful, its glittering exports feeding insatiable appetites in the more refined lands across the Black Sea .
But the Khan is still dissatisfied with the considerable progress made by his prospecting teams. His dreams are fixated on securing the fabled Mugama, the vast cavern that is said by the natives to contain a vast trove of mineral riches that dwarfs anything his men have ever mined.
But what of the terrible rumours that surround it? The Khan's miners are superstitious men, easily reduced to terror by the dark tales that the natives tell of Mugama. Go in, the savages say, and you will never emerge again. A dread of supernatural menaces is so deeply ingrained in Kohsian culture that even the allure of gold is dimmed by it. But the Khan is not afraid or superstitious. He is determined to seize Mugama for his won and orders the terrified miners to embark for that point, or face the terrible consequences. Left with choice but to accept the possibility of perishing to the sinister dangers of Mugama over the certainty of being executed, they make their reluctant journey.
But the Kahn is not alone in wanting miners to exploit and ravage the wealth of has. Fate ahs given him a mysterious ally that has proven most useful in curbing the paranoia of miners about to descend into the yawning maw of Mugama.
As the miners approach the giant cavity, an improvished man clad in filthy rags approaches them. Assuring them that he is but a Kohsian miner like themselves who had become separated from his mining party, he informs them that unable to find his way back due to his unfamiliarity with this particular swath of the plains and not wishing to risk an encounter with some band or robbing savages, he has remained here for over a week, subsisting on a scanty diet of captured rabbits and rain water. But it is not something that he regrets entirely. On account of his forced confinement, his boredom grew to such proportions that abandoning his fears, he mustered courage and ventured into the cavern of Mugama to ascertain the true value of the gold deposits lying within. The results he continues, easily exceeded his wildest dreams. Gold is abundant there, along with a more modest but still subsantial amount of precious stones. And best of all all, there are no savage monsters lying within. It is just a contemptible tale told to prevent honest Kohsian miners from obtaining what the natives are too lazy to exploit for themselves. Everyone knows that intend to withhold their most precious source of gold from the Khanate until the Khan agrees to pay them a tax for prospecting in their lands.
It is this last bit that forestalls the mutinous plans of those among the miners so afraid of Mugama that they had hatched a plot to rebel against their team leader and subsequently flee into one of the neighbouring lands to escape the Khan's wrath. Now their minds are devoted to planning something else, the plundering of Mugama's vast wealth, all their dark fears put to rest by the stranger's comforting words.
Wasting no time, the miners quickly offer him a share of their haul if he should guide them into the lustrous heart of Mugama. He readily agrees, saying that he is glad the gold he discovered is finally going to be of use to one like him who has been forced to suffer so mnay deprivations of late.
Instructing them to follow him closely, he scrambles over and descends past the lip of the cavity.
The miners find themselves in a broad passage filled with pitch darkness. The walls are oddly soft tt he touch and palpitate with this strange sound. It is a soft ''hsh-hsh''. A strange act and one that becomes even odder as their hands come away slick with a strange transparent fluid. In the dim light cast form their torches, this fluid is transparent ans completely liquid, leading them to believe it its water. A gurgling sound that reverberates across the entire space quickly leads them to conclude that a stream rushes over their heads. But despite that obvious explanation, there is a foul, rank odour emitted by the droplets that can't help but arouse unease in the dark, primitive corners of their minds..
There is no time to loose. Their guide, seen holding his torch aloft, frantically gesticulates to them to follow him. Then making a sharp turn to the right, he vanishes. Temporarily alarmed by the fact that their guide is no longer visible in this strange, alien place, they cease indulging all childish worries and hasten to catch up with him. Entering a small tunnel branching off from the side, they are soon able catch sight of his widly bobbing torch again. Relieved, they do their best to ignore that the smell of rankness grows stronger as they pursue their guide, as well as shield their eyes from the fact that the moist damp on the walls of the passage has become a rust brown. Meanwhile, the gurgling sensation becomes ever louder as they progress, a mighty rumble that now causes the tools strapped to their belts to jangle and clang about in the most uncomfortable manner..
At last their furious rush comes to a halt. The strange guide now comes to a halt, and points towards a series of large depressions located some distance ahead of them. Large and uneven scoops in the soft, pulpy ground surface, a rich lustrous golden vibrance looms form their bottoms. Overwhelmed, the miners rush to the edges of the cavities to find their dreams realised. Stretching for as far as the limited light of their torches allows them to, the pain plain of cavities seems to stretch eternally. And nestled in their depths, are great big mounds hills of gold deposits, among which tiny hills of gems lie intermingled. As if to invite them to scale down and take their fill, large rock protrusions project from the walls of the cavities, forming a series of descending ledges that make it it a very simple matter to mine these treasure troves. And that is exactly what the miners do. Jumping onto the topmost ledge, they hurry to scramble down to the ledges directly below in their haste to reach the gold.
That is when it happens. Something, an inchoate shape, is suddenly seen burrowing out from all the ledge simultneously. It is soon revealed to be a thick tendril, a tentacle monstrosity that grabs the wretched miner on the ledge and begins dragging him towards the wall of the cavity. As responding to the incoming presence of screaming, thrashing man being pulled towards it, a large fault in the wall parts, revealing a a vast maw filled with thousands of shredding fangs, each the size of a man's head, that drip with the same rank brown droplets the doomed men had previously seen. Opening wide, the maw reveals a long, thickly muscled tongue that snatches the captive from the grip of the tendril and and yanks him into its slimy embrace. Then it closes again. The closed fault appears once again, except that this time, muffled shrieks of agony can be faintly heard coming from behind it. This scene, repeated a dozen times over, elsewhere in the cavities, makes the walls of the cavern ring to a nw sound: That of the blood-curdling screams of men that ar are in the process of being shredded alive, while acidic spittle melts their hides off to allow the monster greater ease with this task. Soon ,nothing will be left of them of but a congealed mass of human offal that crystilises into the monsters stomach to form masses of ''gold'' and ''rubies''. A couple of hours later, this excretement is ejected out form the same maw, adding subsantially to great deposits of ''precious minerals''.
But those of the unfortunate party that survived this horrid assault by virture of not being fast enough to get into the cavities in time do not stay around long enough to witness this twisted spectacle. Terrified out of their minds, they scatter and widldy disperse, hoping to make it ut of this nightmarish place alive. But without their tracherous guide who has mysteriously vanished, they are hopelessly lost, and find themselves running down numerous side tunnels. Many of these ends in tight confined spaces marred by hundreds of much smaller but still voracious maws that quickly decimate them. The rest terminate in broad expanses where brown acidic spittle drops down like a torrent of rain, rapidly dissolving the bodies of the terrorized men into slushsy, semi liquid pools of partially digested bones and flesh that are rapidly slurped up by the ravenous giant cavities in the ''ground'' that they attempt to flee across.
But by a miracle, a single man does manage to return to the correct tunnel leading to the entrance through which his ill-fated party entered. Seeing a glimpse of day light, hope rapidly blossoms in his heart, and he begins to laugh hysterically, thinking that he, unlike his poor comrades, is meant to live. Then the laughter abruptly ends.
There is something is staring at him. A slithering, corpse white, maggot like thing measuring ten feet long and sporting a shark's all encompassing jaws, it is one of the many parasites that dwell in the monster's digestive tract. Feeding off the residue left by the beast, they thrive and prosper. But they will just as happily eat fresh meat when given the chance to. Scared out of his wits, the man runs in the opposite direction and finds himself facing a vast heaving mass of the foul things this time. And it slowly begins to move towards him, a huge slithering jumbled and confused mass of intermingled jaws and and slithering tongues... The beast is sated and it safe for them to leave the crevices where they were hitherto hiding, to feast on this tasty morsel the ravenous monster has left them..
As the Chimics secretly joke among themselves, there is no gold in Mugama, only certain death awaiting the foul, gold grubbing Khosians that choose to allow themselves to be deceived by the Ghost Of Greed..
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? Responses (13)-13
This is certainly twisted enough to win the Cthulhu stamp of approval! I specifically liked the fact that the walls and floor are lined with these shredding maws, plus the fact that the state of the maws isnt specifically pointed out. There is no way to tell if the things are a multitude of monsters, or if it is a giant monster with hundreds or thousands of mouths.
Ah... Cthulhu... enter the Dimensional Shamblers and you have a full blown party.
A monster or monsters that turn it's/their victimes into gold and jewels. 5/5
Sublime! I am impressed! Your work is truly original Maggot.
Nice. It was quickly clear that it is a monster of some kind (or perhaps some colony creature living in symbiosis with several others), then it turned into a blank horror, with the added insult of victims being turned into the gold and jewels that attracted them in the first place.
But somebody has successfuly escaped from here, at least once, to bring news of a place full of treasures.
How true. And if they did escape they must have brought proof so others would follow behind them. And if that is the case would they not know of the dangers? If they did know of the danger what would be their gain in not telling anyone?
So.. disturbingly... wow. I likes this a lot.
Okay, I liked this. It was well written and entertaining. That is the good news.
The bad news are that I find this dungeon a bit monotonous and unvarying in pitch. It'd better be suited as a side-quest dungeon of horror. Most likely the characters are going to die in that cave.
What then if the cave met some arch mage or grand hero that thrashed the maws before the maws could thrash him? Would he find gold and jewels, or are they but organic fakes?
Organic fakes, AG. Hence why he would remain about silent about anything he saw in Mugama. The Khan is a somewhat deranged despot, meaning death awaits anyone that escapes from Mugama with only false treasure to show for their pains.
BUMP for Halloween.
Another fascinating take on "dangerous gold' that shines perhaps too brightly.