Bujilli readied his tulwar and let the gloomlight seep into the yawning black abyss before him. The dust was settling. Nothing had come charging out of the sealed space, nor had any predator come sniffing around the entrance. There was just the plink, plink, plink of the freezing sleet outside. And the beating of his heart.
He extended the tulwar into the murky darkness. The gloomlight didn't reveal very much. There was still a bit of dust swirling in the fetid air after his spell had removed the once-secret door. The spell was supposed to just open the way, not collapse the thing into dust. Maybe it was just too old. The workings might have deteriorated too much to hold the heavy slab in place any more once the ancient wards were stripped away. Old places tended to operate along their own set of deeply entrenched rules. It could be dangerous, even fatal to make assumptions like he had about the knock spell.
Or maybe his uncle's notes on those scrolls weren't quite so accurate or reliable as he had thought originally.
It wasn't a cheerful thought.
No one wanted to test-out a spell in the field to find out that it wasn't quite what they thought it might be. That kind of thing had gotten a few sorcerers into serious trouble.
Good thing Bujilli didn't rely only on his spells.
He took a cautious step forward. Another step. The gloomlight showed him the walls of a squarish chamber at least 20 if not 25 feet along a side. The walls were painted in bright spirally patterns, underneath the layers of soot, filth and grime. Bujilli paused and played the gloomlight over the left wall. There was something about--
--Crumble GRumBle CrUMPle--
The floor collapsed.
Bujilli turned and dived back for the doorway.
He nearly lost his tulwar.
He nearly fell into the gaping pit in front of the doorway.
Bujilli carefully crawled away from the collapsed section of floor and considered his options for a moment.
The second cloud of dust subsided much more quickly than the one he had raised with his spell.
He had been lucky.
Bujilli rekindled the gloomlight and examined the extent of the damage. The gap in the floor was too wide for him to jump easily, Especially if there was no way to know how stable the floor past the hole was any more.
He needed a long stick, or a pole--that tree outside the entrance. Bujilli smiled ruefully. He really ought to have cut a good, stout length of wood from that dead tree outside. It would let him test the floor on the other side of the pit, and maybe help him get across.
Within twenty minutes Bujilli had done just that. And he enfolded a few stones and a slightly shorter-length and mostly straight limb cut form the dead tree into his vest with another spell. The weather outside was getting worse. It seemed to be keeping predators away. Maybe they were smart enough to stay inside their nests or dens and wait-out the freezing cold sleet. Bujilli didn't mind it so much. He had grown up amongst mountain-dwelling almas, and so was used to drastically shifting weather.
The newly cut makeshift pole reached to the other side of the pit easily. Bujilli probed the stonework. It was reasonably stable. At least nothing new shifted or was dislodged by his prodding. So he propped the tree-limb across the pit towards the left-side, making a sort of bridge that would cross over to the closest bit of stable masonry he could reach comfortably.
He piled some heavy bits of rubble from the collapsed wall on his end of the tree-limb to keep it from shifting or sliding around.
Then, with a deep breath and no little trepidation, Bujilli sidled across the rough length of dead wood, keeping his hands propped against the doorway until the last moment. For a brief, terrifying moment he felt like he was going to fall into the pit, then he was on the other side. Not so much safe as intact.
He left the wood in-place just in case he would need to make a hasty exit.
Bujilli took better stock of his surroundings. He re-drew his tulwar.
The wall nearest him wasn't painted in spirals. Not really. Now that he was closer to the section on his left, he could see that what he took for colorful spirals were really large, coiling serpents. Dozens of the things all curled around one another in a frantic, writhing, scaly mass.
This place was old. It reeked of aged dirt and buried secrets. Bujilli looked at the wall a bit closer. He allowed the gloomlight to play across it softly and unobtrusively. Some of the serpents had the heads of birds or other beasts, even a few were human-like in countenance. Others had arms, or legs, or were much more like a person than a serpent. A few had wings. All of them had fangs.
Bujilli shivered. All the eyes of the painted figures had been inlaid with bits of mica so that they would gleam or glitter like real eyes in torchlight. It was an old trick. He knew about it from working in his uncle's workshop where he was taught the fine art of crafting fake relics for the lowland merchants. Old relics used mica and other substances to fool people. It was a good trick. An old trick. One that went back long before the almas had come into their lands.
This had to be an older place, older than even Zormur's palace--the Airlord probably has his fortified palace built over the ruins of an older structure. This structure. A place painted with serpents and serpent-things.
As long as it wasn't bigger than himself, Bujilli wasn't afraid of most snakes. Unless he knew it was deadly poisonous. Like the spitting snakes he'd heard about. Those bothered him. He didn't much care for serpents that spat poison at people. It must be unpleasant in the extreme.
He turned away from the grimy tableau that ran all along the wall back into the deep darkness. Bujilli followed the wall with his gloomlight. There was the length of wood. the pit. The wall on the other side of the doorway. More wall. More serpent paintings. Then he saw it.
There was another narrow doorway in the far wall, what would have been on his right-side as he entered this chamber.
Bujilli considered his options.
He could go over and examine this newfound doorway, or proceed farther across this chamber to the passage he knew was there, waiting for him like the fanged maw of a giant serpent. Maybe that was just the sculpted features surrounding the passage...
Here's the updated map: