"Careful." Gword warned taking the lamp from her hands. He pumped the lever a few more times, the plank descended several more inches.
"What's--why are you doing that." The woman asked staring horrified at the patches darkness that were visible in the gaps between the wooden platform and the floor.
"We're descending into hell...have you a problem with that?"
"Devil's Helmet is below ground?" She asked fear sinking into the little bit of her face that was visible.
"Yes, when the Devil fell from grace, his Helmet plowed through the ground until it nestled with the earth's heart from which it poisoned her lands and turned forest to deserts, bugs into murders, lizards into dragons, men into beasts or beast into men, there is hardly a difference. This land was covered by the sands as if the earth wished to hide the shame of such a place from all that dwell above the surface."
The young woman looked disgusted, near ready to faint. Gword heaved the lever that controlled the plank up and the wooden platform began to rise.
"Wait, what are you doing?" The girl demanded, climbing onto the platform with Gword.
"You're not ready to travel to Devil's Helmet and I'm not about to take you do your death."
"What does it matter to you!"
"More than you'd think!"
The woman reached across Gword to grasp the lever. Gword swatted her hand away.
"Don't touch that your likely to kill us, you don't know how it works."
"Look mister, I assume you mean well but this isn't helpful! If I don't go down there then something even worse will come up! And everything that I love will be destroyed. You really want to help me? then take me to Devil's Helmet!"
Gword, opened his mouth several times, the desperation that had cause the lady's lips to blurt her heart's secret hung in her eyes pushing any objection from his mouth. He pumped the lever once more. The platform descended. He pushed the lever to the left and let go. The platform began its descent. The chain's on all four sides of the platform clattered as it descended.
The long, slow descent seemed lengthened by the heavy silence between the two. Gword's mind was struggled under the weight of his curiosity, his desire to help yet his trepidation to interfere. As they got lower, the air grew muskier and scented with a foul smell of rot, misery and torment. The thick gas infested air becoming harder to breathe the lower they descended. The small flame of the lamp struggled to survive in the humid air. The young lady gasped and coughed beside Gword. She pulled her scarf over her mouth.
"You'll get used to it, then you won't even mind it...some even grow to like it." Gword said.
The girl didn't answer. Her face hidden by the shadows the lamp couldn’t illuminate.
Drifting up from below them came a sound, soft at first but it grew louder and louder the lower the platform descended. It was the sound of screaming.
"What's that?" The girl asked, her voice horse.
"The screaming volcano."
"Yes, a pimple in this land, it bubbles and hiccups below the surfaces, it's gas poisons the air, it's steam escapes in what sounds like screams of pain. But we draw power from it. It's strange this land, you never truly understand how horrible it is until you see what the world can be without it. "
The young woman coughed but didn't respond. She was too consumed with gathering all her courage for the task ahead to speak. Gword sighed, looking pityingly over at her half visible silhouette. What was to become of this girl in this strange and terrible land?
The platform eased to a stop with a stop with a sickly suction sound as it settled on the rotting ground of a dank tunnel. At the end of the tunnel was a soft glowing burnt orange light. The girl climbed timidly off the platform. Gword pulled a gold card from out of his pocket. The letter S was melted into the front of the card.
"Don't lose this, it's the only thing that's stopping me from leaving this pit without you."
The girl looked at him aghast.
"That's the law, Lord Stratagus' law and you never cross that man! When you're ready just pull that cord over there." he pointed at a slimy cord embedded into the wall of the tunnel. "Then I'll come for you. Don't let anyone see this or even think that you have it, if anyone ever thought you might have one, they'll kill you faster than you can even think to run and have it of your corpse."
The woman gave a humorless laugh.
"I don't know why I had a hard time imagining a place called Devil's Helmet was as bad as everyone made it out to be."
"We believe what we want to." Gword offered her the card. "I'd like to believe I'll bring you up in one piece."
The woman smiled, taking the card and dropping it down the leg of her boot.
"I'd like to believe that too."
"Do you have a name?"
"Katalina Parker, most people just call me Kat."
"Good luck, Kat." Gword said.
"Thank you." She turned and headed for the light at the end of the tunnel.
Gword sighed, he tugged at the chain of the platform and it began to ascend. He whispered to himself.
"Good luck Katalina Parker...Parker...oh God not that Parker?!"
Those eyes, that woman's eyes. He'd seen those eyes before! Those amber eyes so full of life that not even Devil's Helmet could haunt their dreams. His best friend's eyes, Adrian Parker's eyes. Gword hadn't seen him in over twenty year. Not since he watched him run across that barren desert from the pursuit of a Cursed Firefly... And now he saw his daughter, she was so unmistakably like him! Why had he not seen it before? She was here because for her father.
"Oh dear God, Adrian what have they done to you now?"