MALPHITE SHARD OF THE MONOLITH

Residue hung in cloak as Shoorai followed the mechanical-limbed type of Tunnel-Chief Hewlett more profound into the mine.

She inhaled by means of an utilized esophilter, and did whatever it takes not to envision what number of Zaunite diggers had sucked air through it throughout the long term. Faltering chem-flares hung from wood rooftop radiates spilled gleaming beads onto their hollowed iron head protectors as they went underneath.

“Notice you waz test on’a square,” snorted Hewlett, investigating his shoulder. “Waz large abound ‘staken.”

We heard you were a decent assayer, Shoorai deciphered. However, we were woefully mixed up.

A long time since she’d come to Zaun, yet the excavator’s odd terminology despite everything took her a second to parse.

“State ta Ore-diviner we no need Piltie test,” proceeded Hewlett. “She not canny mind Zaunrock compare we is. They as done sunk us inna first overflow!”

“I guarantee you, Chief Hewlett, I have dove mines wherever from Shurima to Zaun,” said Shoorai. “I realize this stone just as you.”

“So you sayin’,” snorted Hewlett, as they entered the exhibition chamber toward the finish of the pole, “yet rock here not be compare you state.”

Residue spread excavators sat close to chem-drills, pneuma-picks, and containers of hexplosives. All of them should be assaulting the stone looking for the hexite crease she’d guaranteed Baron Grime was here. To see them inactive railed against her hard working attitude.

Hewlett lifted a chem-light to enlighten the stone toward the finish of the chamber. From the start, Shoorai didn’t know what she was seeing. Zaunite layers was regularly squashed sedimentary limestone, mixed with pockets of transformative stone fashioned by extreme, and in the no so distant past, warmth and weight.

This was something different altogether…

Shoorai grabbed the light and strolled the length of the display. She pulled off her glove and ran her fingertips over the divider. Hollowed and warm to the touch, with an inquisitive umber shade—like something she’d hope to discover in her local Shurima.

“This has neither rhyme nor reason,” she said. “This wasn’t here yesterday.”

“I have a go at telling ya,” answered Hewlett. “We drill on the yester, jus’ compare you state. Return on’a first chime and seen this.”

“Whatever this is, the Baron isn’t paying you to lounge around sitting idle. Impact through it.”

Hewlett smiled. “So we fix’n to spread out ‘splosives, yah?”

“Indeed,” concurred Shoorai.

“I WOULDN’T DO THAT IF I WERE YOU.”

The voice blasted from surrounding them—a shockwave noticeable all around, each word seeming as if it had been framed by pounding structural plates.

The excavators ran away, yet Shoorai leveled herself against the side mass of the chamber and pulled her protective cap firmly down on her head. The voice seemed like it had a place with something titanic. Splits spread over the roof of the exhibition.

She gazed upward so as to see the hollowed rock divider… move.

It moved, pounding as it reshaped itself. Shoorai viewed in wonder as it shaped two profound pits that resembled shut eyes, and an anticipating ridge that could be a nose. Residue poured from a bended and barbed gap that looked appallingly like a huge mouth.

The face filled the divider before her, completely thirty feet across and twice that high.

Azir’s bones! On the off chance that this is its head, how large is the remainder of its body?

The pits of its eyes opened with a crushing sound that helped her to remember the time she’d seen that meandering weaver young lady perform ponders headed for Kenethet. Shoorai met the look of the goliath face, its eyes a fluid yellow jewel like material.

Quartz, she thought. Not characteristic to this locale.

“THIS ROCK IS INFESTED,” said the voice, and Shoorai squeezed her hands against her ears at its stunning volume. “Animals MOVE WITHIN IT. Delightful IN THEIR OWN WAY, BUT CHAOTIC. YOU SHOULD NOT BREAK THIS ROCK, IT WILL END BADLY FOR YOU.”

The eyes flickered, and stones tumbled from their rough covers.

“Um, are… are you the mountain soul or something?” she inquired.

The forehead of the face wrinkled with a moaning thunder.

“NO. In any event, I DON’T THINK SO. I THINK I WAS PART OF ONE, ONCE. SO MUCH CHAOS IN THIS WORLD, MAKES IT HARD TO REMEMBER EVERYTHING.”

“So what are you?” she inquired.

“Ok, WHAT INDEED?” it stated, and the mine flexed as the face moaned sadly. “A SHARD OF A GREATER WHOLE. A SERVANT OF ORDER SEEKING PURPOSE. CALL ME… MALPHITE.”

Free shale fell from breaks in the dividers of the passage, and the wood underpins moaned as they were exposed to stresses they were never worked to persevere. Shoorai didn’t care for the vibe of the split lines on the crease over her head. They were driven, anxious to race onwards.

“Might you be able to quit moving? I believe you will the cavern.”

“Gracious. SORRY.”

“You said the stone was… invaded?” asked Shoorai. “With what?”

“THINGS THAT SHOULD NOT BE. Animals THAT LIVE ONLY TO CONSUME.”

Shoorai felt her heart race. Experiencing childhood in the shadow of lost Icathia, she knew about animals that coordinated such a portrayal.

“I know them,” she said. “However, they just abide in the deserts of the southern landmass.”

“ONCE, PERHAPS, BUT NOW THEY THREAD THE CRUST OF THE WORLD LIKE THE ROOTS OF A POISONED TREE.”

Shoorai took a gander at the ground.

The stone face laughed, and more shards of stone tumbled from the rooftop.

“NOT TO WORRY, I HAVE THEM TRAPPED WITHIN MY BODY. I WILL CRUSH THESE ONES, BUT MORE WILL COME. SO BE WARY OF DELVING TOO DEEP… “

The shine of the animal’s eyes blurred as its substantial tops shut and the passage started to shake.

“YOU SHOULD GO NOW,” said the stone face.

Hewlett showed up behind Shoorai and grabbed hold of her with his chem-fueled arm.

“We gotsta skedaddle, test,” he said. “We wait, cavern be crushin’ us.”

Shoorai gestured, moving in an opposite direction from the display. “I’ll disclose to Baron Grime this crease was played out.”

Hewlett smiled. “Perhaps you examine on’a square all things considered.”