They ran on, waving the key at anything which appeared in their path until they reached a chasm of writhing vapors. The mist seethed and quested at the air like a living thing in search of prey. It crept along the edges of an ancient iron bridge which stretched across their abyssal nest like a piece of dirty floss. The bridge was begrimed with lesions of rust and other less identifiable patches of corrosion. As they edged across the narrow span, it trembled and groaned beneath their feet. They were scrupulous about avoiding the translucent mist though it seemed ephemeral enough that the draft of their passing dissipated any tendrils which came too close. After all she had seen and done, Glory did not trust the ghost-tentacles to remain as immaterial as they seemed however.
A shout rose up behind them as they reached the other side. Looking back, they could see Bho-Rehd and one of his minions. What had happened to the others, she could only guess. Both the goat-men looked as if they had fought for their lives. Bho-Rehd was swarthy with rage. Even on the far side of the bridge, they could see his eyes bulge as he spotted them. He rushed across the pitted bridge, pushing his follower out in front of him… the poor man nothing more than a canary in a mineshaft to his master.
Glory dragged Phoenix after her when it seemed he would rather wait for the Miri Nigri to come to him. It was hard to imagine the gelatinous glob of glowing mucus which oozed into their path could be intelligent, but this too had been described in the stories she‘d read. The myriad eyes of K’thugguol, the so-called grand shoggoth, settled on the pair as if it were sizing them up for a meal. It was indeed quite different from Tsathoggua’s formless spawn.
It had eyes enough to spare for the both of them, no two of them alike. Any attention is paid to Glory however, was clearly only a ploy to distract her from its attack on Phoenix. She barely had time to step in front of him, staggering back from the blow even as the acid of its ichorous touch ate into her flesh. K’thugguol drew back apprehensively as she screamed, as if expected retaliation for the attack. Her flesh knitted itself back within seconds though the shoulder of her shirt was pretty much gone. She glared at the monstrous pile of quivering protoplasm as she pulled the remains of her sleeve off and threw it on the ground.
“If you are hungry, you can have the two behind us,” she hissed. “Now let us pass.”
The thing stared at her, though it was hard for it not to stare when it was incapable of blinking. The rest of its innumerable eyes focused on the entrance to the tunnel where Bho-Rehd would appear at any moment. Moving with more speed than something without muscles should have any right to, it oozed back into the crevice from which it had came. The idle thought entered her head that it must collect the eyeballs of its victims, and she shuddered with disgust. Glory kept between it and Phoenix as they passed, but aside from the rather scornful regard of a handful of eyeballs bobbing on stalks like the jellied version of a raised eyebrow, it had no more interest in them than the bits of rock that time had scatted across the cave floor.
The gray haze of light gathered in the dome which sheltered the seething mass that was Ubbo-Sathla. They froze in their tracks before the quivering black gunk that lapped at the edges of its prison. Maybe their thoughts even ran along the same lines. For Phoenix had worked with the Elder Gods before they altered him and perhaps had at least glimpsed them in their true form, and Glory had seen a similar form in Shub-Niggurath’s memories.
Ubbo-Sathla was less an individual and more a quorum of the rebel Elder Gods. It writhed and bubbled, hungrily lingering on the rocks upon which it lapped before oozing back to rejoin itself. If any part of it did manage to escape the pit, these bits quickly mutated into mobile, indescribable things, most of them without even the most rudimentary sensory organs, or at least no earthly ones. Ubbo-Sathla seemed to sense its wayward children, massive tentacles erupting from the ooze to smash into its tiny offspring. This only made the things which did survive all the more horrible. They had too many limbs or too few. They mindlessly perambulated across the cave floor at breakneck speed, gaining in size the further they got from their parent by lapping up whatever was in their path, whether it was chips of rock or their slower siblings. One of the things rolled in their direction, and Phoenix kicked it away with a grunt of disgust. As it went sailing back to the seething morass of slime that was Ubbo-Sathla, a massive black tentacle shot into the air and caught the thing in midair.
And still the mindless children of Ubbo-Sathla writhed across the cavern floor in search of food and freedom. They were easy enough to avoid at first as only the larger ones made it as far as the tunnel where they stood, and no doubt K’thugguol, self imposed guardian of the door to the pit, ate those that got beyond its master’s dominion. As they edged towards the oily mass, it became harder to avoid the flopping, crawling, rolling, and oozing things. Every possible form of locomotion conceivable was represented by the grotesque menagerie of the Elder Gods. Glory winced as the small, hungry things crunched under her feet and sometimes chirped with a despairing cry, though it had to be escaping gas which made the sound… not a true voice. Surely the things were too small and too vaguely formed to have a larynx, too new to the world to have an opinion about their short lives ending.
Ubbo-Sathla paid Glory no mind as she approached, only interested in or aware of its own children. She stood at the very edge of the pit, awash in the heat that poured off of the Elder God and mindful only of the tiny things which gummed the leather of her boots or attempted to crawl up her legs to escape the hungry caress of their parent. Unlike the quorum of Elder Gods Shub Niggurath had shown her in the primordial days of Earth, Ubbo-Sathla was a restless thing, mindlessly sloshing from one end of its prison to the other. It battered the rocky walls, mostly obscuring the ancient script which somehow compelled it to stay within the confines of the shallow basin it called home. The pit was not deep. It just appeared to be so because Ubbo-Sathla was as black as any formless-spawn, oily as a tar pit. Glory held the key out, but it made no difference to the angry mass, and she lowered it again with a feeling of failure.
Nug had said to find the other key, but a quick scan of the cavern showed little else but the pit where Ubbo-Sathla churned. She was about to ask Phoenix if the book he had read had given him any insight into making Ubbo-Sathla move aside, when the ooze gathered itself like a tsunami to batter the opposite wall of its prison. Numerous small things which had scurried up the wall fell back into the womb of their parent with soft plops. The cratered bedrock which Ubbo-Sathla had vacated was quickly populated by mobile puddles of desperate goo, eager to escape the embrace of their parent. Among them lay a silver key, the exact mirror of the one she held in her hand, though Ubbo-Sathla’s touch had kept it from tarnishing.
She scanned the rim of the pit and spotted a lip of stone which hung over the spot perfectly. It might even have been where Haon-Dor stood when his mind broke at a random secret revealed by a glimpse of an Elder Tablet. “Phoenix,” she called over her shoulder as she approached the worn overhang. “I’m going to try something…”
“By all means, try something,” growled Bho-Rehd from the tunnel entrance. “But if you value your companion’s life, you will retrieve the tablets for me.”
to Book 6, part 3, page 47