Eggledorn planted his staff firmly in front of his body, the butt-end wedged between two flagstones at his feet. The tip was angled toward the Noisemaker, which Eggledorn concluded would come barreling around the corner from the direction he had come just moments ago. He steeled himself, ready for what fate would bring his way. In the last second he chose to fix his face into a visage of what he considered a look of resolute determination, a signal to whatever was chasing him that it had bitten off more than it was expecting. He didn’t really think it would make a difference, but Eggledorn felt better having done it.
The Noisemaker came barreling around the corner just as expected, and Eggledorn was ready. The unknown became known; the originator of the noise turned out to be an improbable collection of clockworks and artificial sinew, with something approximating a mouth on the front. A mouth full of multiple rows of gnashing, rotating tooth-drills, prepared to snap shut upon and shred anything in its path. Eggledorn watched with detached curiosity as the Noisemaker made its best attempt to convert his gnomish form into something more…abstract. More digestible by whatever served as this construct’s stomach.
Naturally, the attempt failed. Eggledorn was not actually standing in the center of the corridor, awaiting his fate. He had instead called upon his innate ability for illusion, a natural gift bestowed up on his gnomish race by whatever god or gods or simply nature itself; Eggledorn was himself agnostic. But he could do it, so he did. Seconds before the Noisemaker made its final lunge, the diminutive explorer conjured up in his mind a false image of himself, standing at the ready to meet its fate. Simultaneously, Eggledorn stepped to the side and flattened himself against the side of the corridor, hoping that his small size would be enough to keep him out of actual harm’s way. His calculated gamble paid off.
The Noisemaker—unable to see through the false image—passed straight through the imitation gnome and smashed into the hole in the corridor’s floor, breezing straight past the actual gnome with only inches to spare. It continued to gnash and thrash at whatever was ahead of it, but now all that was in front of its massive jaw was empty space. Its prodigious body was crammed into the hole, giving the nimble Eggledorn the path forward he needed; the construct that had aspired to murder him had become an ersatz bridge. He hopped across.
With a wistful look behind him, Eggledorn suppressed the urge to stay and study the Noisemaker. He was intrigued, but also aware that a seemingly safe situation could turn on a moment’s notice and become dangerous once again. He wasn’t prepared for that. So he turned and continued down the hallway, mentally preparing himself for whatever challenges may greet him on his quest.
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