THE KRAKEN'S DAUGHTER

Once upon a time, what seemed like a lifetime ago, Asha Greyjoy had dreamed of seeing Valyria with her own eyes. Skalds would sing on the Lands of the Long Summer in her father's halls, telling tales of the great cities and palaces of the dragonlords, the unmatched wealth and beauty of the land and its people and the doom that fell upon both. Sometimes her nuncle Euron would speculate on what might still be there in the ruins, what treasures might await someone who braved the smoke and fume, and those speculations would fuel a little girl's imagination. In those days Asha would dream of taking a longship and a crew of worthy ironborn into the Smoking Sea, braving those waters to see the silent cities and topless towers where dragons once roosted. She dreamed of the gold, jewels and sorcery that might still be there, and what it would be like to bring it to Pyke in triumph, laying her spoils at her father's feet before the Seastone Chair so none could ever dare challenge her rights as an ironborn and as a Greyjoy again.

Asha had also heard the stories from her nuncle Rodrik when she had imagined a bit too loudly. Rodrik's stories weren't about the wealth of Valyria, but rather about the perils of the Smoking Sea, of how the Doom had cursed the land and water forevermore and how it was a place that no bravery could ever make safe. She learned of the Lannister king who sailed an entire fleet into those waters never to return, as well as accounts from other seafarers like the Sea Snake and even some ironborn who'd strayed too close to Valyria's grasp over the years. In the impetuousness of youth Asha had dismissed those stories; the Lannisters were greenlanders to a man, not a single beardless youth with any salt in his blood among them, and those others were just unlucky. She was ironborn and a Greyjoy, heiress of the blood of the Grey Kings, and no sea would dare challenge the god's chosen folk.

She'd learned better by the time she first laid her hands on a tiller, to be sure. Regardless, the dream of seeing fallen Valyria for herself and—perhaps—taking some of it for her own never quite left her. And now, years after her first idle daydream of the glories hidden in the Smoking Sea, Asha finally came face to face with the reality of the dragonlord's fate.

"Man," the captain said dryly. "I take you guys to the nicest places, don't I?"

Alleras shook his head in a sharp, jerking way that made Asha think of a man in a noose. "No," he said. "You really, really don't."

Carefree Victory drifted no more than a mast's length above a stretch of black and gray. The captain had done something to the walls, some kind of enchantment that made them vanish and let them see as if they were standing on open deck. There was nothing but desolation in all directions. The Smoking Sea lived up to its name, throwing up clouds of steam and fume as the water churned like a pot on the boil. Water crashed against shores of black stone and gray ash with no living thing visible. Above, slate-gray clouds hung just a scant few feet from the ship's hull, casting the entire landscape into a dim gray twilight even though it couldn't have been more than midmorning by Asha's estimate.

"An absolute mess," the captain pronounced. "Don't think I've ever seen anything quite this bad before."

Asha cocked her head curiously. "You say that as if you've experience with things like these," she said. The captain glanced back at her, eyes unreadable behind the Myrish glass, then looked away.

"My people's history isn't exactly all sunshine and sweets," she said quietly. "Some scars don't fade easily." She then turned her attention back to the blasted land of the dragons. "But then this doesn't look like it's actually scarred over, let alone started to fade. There's got to be a story here."

"Perhaps we'll find an answer when we figure out what we're looking for," Alleras noted. "Where was the comet looking, do we know?"

A set of bluish lines popped up on the enchanted wall, marking out a spot in the hills a few leagues from where the ship currently was. "Estimated center of the transmission would be right about there, ten-fifteen klicks inland from here," the captain said. "Satellite images say there's something like a city—or what's left of one anyway—in the vicinity, so we'll start there and work our way outwards." With a gentle rumble the land beneath Carefree Victory tilted and the ship's bow swung towards their destination. "Victory can find a safe place to land on her own, so let's get downstairs and into the suits. We'll be hoofing it from here on out."

In the ship's hold, the witch's familiars had been busy. Where the great gangway ramp had been the little creatures had built something resembling a makeshift tent over it, sealed to the floor like it had grown from it and secured with the sort of door a lord might use to protect his treasury or maiden daughters from an ironborn raid. Asha took note that the door was currently open as she slowly negotiated her way through donning her new armor. This new bit of magic was perhaps the most marvelously practical thing Asha had ever seen. To an extent it resembled her uncle Victarion's favored armor, made of hard plates of metal with flexible bits at the joints to make movement easier, but it was lighter and more durable than steel plate and sealed up in a way that no other armor possibly could. When they first tried the suits on, just before their departure from Qarth some days prior, the captain had assured them all that if properly closed the suits would protect against nearly anything. The witch's value was even greater than her ship, it seemed.

"Okay," the captain said as they finished donning the bulky contraptions. "We've gone over how to use the environment suits already and we've done enough walkthroughs on putting them on that we don't need to do that again. Now here's the important rule, and if you don't think you can handle it then you can stay here with the ship and wait: once we go into the decon lock the suits stay on until we're back on this side of the hatch. Under no circumstances do you try and take your helmet, gloves or any other part of the suit off. Nose itches, ass itches, suck it up and ignore it. Because—and I want to be absolutely clear here—what's outside right now won't kill you straight away, but every breath you take of that crap will shave half a year off your lifespan. And that's not counting the really nasty stuff we might encounter. So keep buttoned up and we won't have any serious issues, okay?"

"Understood, my lady," Thoros said mildly. The big Myrman looked somewhat ridiculous in his suit, almost more puff-fish than man, but his bearing new had less of the priestly mein and more that of a man used to marching and orders. Alleras voiced his own understanding, while Asha merely nodded, grunted and donned her helm. The thing, made half of some unknown alchemical substance and half of silvered glass, dropped onto her collar with a metallic click and a faint hiss as cool air started to blow across the back of her neck. She then took her favorite axe and dirk and gently hooked them to the armor's belt. Thoros did the same with his battered old sword and Alleras produced a god-be-damned goldenwood bow and quiver that he slung across his armored shoulders.

"Okay then," said the captain, slinging a large pack over her shoulder. "Let's go see what Valyria has to offer."

In the beginning, all Valyria had to offer was silence. There was no sound of bird nor beast nor water, and only the slightest puff of a breeze. Asha could hear the rasp of her own breathing echoing within the suit and the crunch of loose stone and ash beneath her boot. The silence and stillness bore down on her, heavy and oppressive.

"I'm curious, captain," Alleras said as he tread alongside the captain through the fields of ash. "What did you mean by scars fading?"

"Well," replied the captain. "It's something of a long story but… well, things like this aren't unknown to my people. But in the places like Valyria that I know about and I've been to, life tends to come back pretty quickly. Seeds get blown in on the wind and find good places to take root, animals start coming back from the undamaged areas. Within a few years of the disaster, flowers will be blooming somewhere.

"But here? So far as the sensors can tell there's nothing. Nada. Zip. Life not really coming back to the active geothermal spots is understandable, but most of Valyria isn't that kind of active at the moment. There's some airborne bacteria and fungal spores, but nothing too out of place from particulate counts elsewhere on Planetos. And that's, what, four hundred years after the event that took out the peninsula? Hell, Krakatau had grass growing on it a year after it took half the damn island with it!"

"At the Citadel," Alleras said in the tone of a man who clearly had no idea what this Krakatau was but seemed to get the gist of what the witch was raving about, "we were taught that the Doom was a natural calamity, the inevitable consequence of living among volcanoes like the Fourteen Flames."

"I won't say they're totally wrong," the captain replied. "But something like this to remain uncolonized for so long, and the rest of Essos largely unaffected?" She shook her head. "This wasn't just an eruption. Something else is going on here."

"Then perhaps we'll find out soon, my lady," Thoros put in. "I see ruins ahead."

Before them lay the topless towers of Old Valyria. In Asha's dreams they had been mighty works of hewn granite and marble standing defiant against the Storm God. Here, she could see the crumbled wreckage of the towers jutting from mounds of ash and rubble like rotten stumps on a beach uncovered by a storm. The ruins were all made of black stone and hard to pick out against the dark grays of the ash surrounding them.

"Where's all the city?" she wondered.

"Buried underneath the debris," the captain said as a familiar swung around, eye flashing green. "We're probably a good seven or eight meters above where the old city streets were."

"Does this mean we're going to have to dig?"

"Maybe. If it comes to it I'll call Victory in and use her to punch a hole. Right now let's find the signal epicenter first then decide if we need the heavy earthmovers."

They continued on into the wreckage of Valyria. As they drew closer to the ruined towers they started to see bone. The dragonlords of old lay where they fell on that fateful day; time had rotted and withered away skin and flesh, but everywhere in the towers Asha could spot white sticks that marked the place where a Valyrian or their slave had perished. Harder to see against the stone were the black bones of dragons scattered around the broken towers.

The captain stopped, stooped and picked something off the ground. "That's interesting," she said. Asha looked and saw a glittering black fragment of dragonbone. The bone had broken at some point, but the edges were oddly soft-looking, almost like bloomed steel fresh out of the forge.

"They say on the day of doom, the fires grew so hot that even dragons could not stand it," Thoros rumbled.

The captain hummed and dropped the chunk of melted dragonbone into her pack, and they continued on. The march was still silent save for their breath and the ash beneath them. As they trudged between the broken towers Asha could feel the hair on the back of her neck start to stand up. She had the impression that something was watching them as they walked through the dead city. A flicker caught in the corner of her eye and she twisted round to find it, but there was nothing there.

"See something?" Alleras asked. Asha frowned, though the maester couldn't see it through the silvered glass of the helmet.

"I thought I did, something moving in the shadow but…" she shrugged. "Just a bad feeling; this place seems to conjure those well."

Alleras didn't laugh at the weak jape. "Trust your feelings, Greyjoy," he said seriously. "The captain's not wrong, there's something unnatural at work here. The last time I felt anything like this was..." he trailed off and the helmet turned away, looking back at the ruined city.

"Was?" she prompted.

The maester remained silent for a long moment, then replied. "Above the Wall, when the Others tried to draw us into a trap." Asha had no good reply to that, and Alleras seemed to shake himself awake and moved on, with one last "Keep watching" over his shoulder.

After what felt like an eternity the captain finally stopped her march in front of a large building that seemed in better repair than anything else they had seen yet in the city. It was a domed structure that reminded Asha of the one time she had seen the ruin of the Dragonpit in King's Landing, but the dome was lower and broader than the ruin atop the Hill of Rhaenys. It, like everything else in the city, was buried in ash and rubble but the way the dome hung over the rest of the building seemed to create a clearing in the debris that might be navigable. What's more, the dome seemed more like the Valyria of her dreams, a palace of marble and bronze, rather than the black stone of Valyria's towers.

"Seems to be the epicenter," said the captain. "Whatever the widget upstairs is trying to talk to is, it's most likely in there." She paused, then added wryly, "So does anybody have any idea what it is?"

Alleras clambered up a nearby pile of rock for a closer look. "I'm not sure," he said. "It might be a temple; that sigil there–" he pointed at an obscured squiggle carved into a great bronze shield that seemed to hang over where the front doors might've been "–looks like the symbol of the god Balerion."

The helms didn't let Asha see anyone's face, but she could imagine the captain squinting at the strange symbol. "Balerion, eh? What was his remit?"

"Fire, of course," replied the maester. "But every Valyrian god had fire attached to them in some way. Um. The Freehold never particularly discussed their gods with outsides, and much of their godlore was lost in the Doom, and Baelor the Blessed likely burned much of what wasn't forgotten in some dark corner of Dragonstone or the Citadel library. That said. I think Balerion was a war god of some kind. Possibly with connotations to a god of smiths as well? He had a connection to dragons of some kind but I can't recall if the Citadel ever had a clear idea on how."

The captain hummed tunelessly. "How's access look from there?"

"I can see the entrance. The doors are closed but not blocked."

"Alrighty then." With that the captain clambered over the drift of ash and rock that covered the temple of Balerion, and they followed her. It didn't take long for them to reach the top of the rubble pile and make their way towards the great iron-banded doors of the temple.

The captain and Thoros gave the doors an experimental push, but they remained shut. "Probably corroded in place after all these years," the captain noted. She whistled, and the swarm of her familiars swooped in and began casting light on the doors, causing the massive things to quiver in a way large, heavy objects shouldn't. After a few minutes of effort, the familiars managed to force one door off its hinges, causing it to suddenly pivot back into the gloom of the temple's interior and vanish with a terrible clattering sound.

The captain made to venture inside, but stopped at the doorjamb, running her hand along the white stone. "That's interesting," she said. "Al, come take a look at this."

Alleras moved to assist the captain. "What is it?"

"Take a look at this, what do you see?"

Alleras moved his hand along the jamb just like the captain had. "There's a… groove?" he said, puzzled. "And it looks like there might be something in there?"

"Yeah." The captain paused. "I don't think those were the original doors."

"What?"

"The design of this place was bugging me. It stands out too much compared to the other ruins we're seeing, and it's too well-preserved." The captain gestured to the white walls around them. "That door came off the hinges too easily for something as well-built as this, and the doorjamb clinches it. The groove's a recess for another door, Al. A powered door, like the ones on Victory."

"Oh," Alleras said dumbly. Then, like a lightning bolt had hit him. "Oh!"

"Yeah, this was a Builder facility of some kind. Has to be; I didn't see any sign of tech like powered doors in use elsewhere."

"But what was it for, before the Valyrians turned it to worship Balerion?"

The captain shrugged. "Dunno. Shall we go find out?"

Together they entered the door to find themselves in a large, pitch-black antechamber. What little light crawled over the ash-pile before the doors wasn't nearly enough for them to see anything in that gloom. If there were windows, they likely would've been covered with ash as well. The captain whistled, and her familiars illuminated the room with bright beams of almost-daylight.

After a second, Asha wished they hadn't.

*/ "Bridge of Death" Hildur Guðnadóttir Chernobyl (2019) /*

The temple of Balerion was filled with the dead. Above in the ruined towers there were scattered bones and sometimes skeletons, but time and the elements had stripped flesh from bone. Within the sealed confines of the temple, no wind nor rain had managed to find the bodies of those left inside, and the foul air and heat of the Fourteen Flames kept the rot from taking too great a hold.

Here they found the withered remains of the blood of dragons, cast about on the marble floor of their god's temple like broken toys. Most still had skin like old leather and brittle silver-gold hair that moved and broke off in the wake of the familiars' passage. Asha dimly heard Alleras gasp and Thoros swear softly in Low Valyrian at the sight, while she found herself transfixed by the bodies of a man and woman clad in the remains of fine linen clothes. Between them she spotted a small tuft of silver hair and Asha turned her gaze away.

Asha Greyjoy thought herself no stranger to death. She was ironborn and a reaver true, who had paid the iron price against the pirates of the Stepstones and the merchantmen of the Free Cities. More than once men had fallen to her axe, and she fully expected that one day she might come to the same end. Here, though, was death in a way that she'd never seen before, had never even imagined. "Wh-" she started to ask the obvious question, but the sound died in her throat in a choking rattle.

The captain was silent for a long time, stooping to examine the body of a man who'd been near the door. "Suffocation and radiation poisoning, I think," she said, sadness tinting her voice. "The air in here is practically unbreathable now, and on the day it was likely a hundred times worse. That plus the delta count..." she sighed. "It wasn't quick, but it wasn't as ugly as it could've been, if that's what you wanted to know."

"Gods give small mercies for that," Alleras whispered harshly.

"Yeah." The captain remained still, taking in the horrible sight, then seemed to twitch. "Okay," she said quietly. "These people are far beyond our help, and we can't stay here. We need to keep going and find whatever the comet widget was talking to. Keep your eyes peeled for relics, idols, altars, anything that looks like it might be important for a service or ritual. Hopefully the target will be blinking or glowing or something to let us know it's what we want. If it's not, well…"

"Burn that bridge when we get there?" the maester asked. The captain laughed once, softly.

"You know me so well, Al."

Passing through the corpse room they came upon another chamber, this one not as full with bodies. The occupants had apparently been the priests or some other sort of highborn as they were clad in brightly-colored silks and were adorned with gold and blue jewelry. They were scattered about a long ebony table piled high with the shrunken remains of what likely had been a very impressive banquet. Asha studied the corpses; something about what they were wearing tickled the back of her mind. I've seen that before somewhere, she thought, and then she had it. "Hey captain," she called. "Doesn't this look like the same sort of thing the Targaryen chit was wearing?"

The captain hummed thoughtfully, as was her way. "You know, I do believe it does," she said. "Well spotted, Greyjoy." Another whistle and a familiar darted up to collect a few of the ornaments for the captain's pack. "Pretty sure this isn't what we're looking for, though. Onward!"

For hours they continued to search the temple of Balerion. The deeper they ventured in, the fewer withered bodies they found, which was all for the best. Though Asha—and, she was sure, the rest of them—wasn't looking forward to crossing the antechamber of the dead again, the fact they weren't wading through the dried remains of the dragonlords was a great relief. The rooms of the temple were all richly appointed, though the fabrics were old and brittle and more likely to fall apart in one's hand than anything else. Tapestries and mosaics of the glories of the Freehold in general and Balerion in specific adorned every wall, and the doors all covered in High Valyrian glyphs that only the captain and (sometimes) Alleras could read. The two of them examined every glyph with deep interest, attempting to divine the location of the whatever-it-was that they were looking for.

Eventually the party made its way to a large chamber near the heart of the temple. The center of the room sloped down towards a great door set into a niche carved into the floor, and around the perimeter were a series of oaken doors.

"This looks pretty important," the captain noted. "Some sort of sanctum sanctorum, maybe?" She looked around. "Doesn't seem to be any bodies here. That's interesting."

"Frankly I'm glad for the respite," Asha said dryly.

The familiars' light continued to sweep across the chamber, causing light to glint off the oaken doors as it revealed strange glyphs gilded onto each door. At first they didn't seem all that different from any of the other glyphs festooning everything inside the temple, but the sight of one made Thoros's bulk jerk to a sudden halt as he blurted "R'hllor!"

Asha almost crashed into the Myrman as he stood rooted in place before the sigil. "What?" she asked, confused by the man's shock.

Thoros gestured towards the door. "That is the mark of the Lord of Light," he said. "In the oldest of the god's temples in Volantis this mark is on the door to the inner sanctum, where the nightfire is kept burning at all times. As an initiate, I was told that this same mark is on the greatest temple to the Lord in Asshai-by-the-Shadow. It's said to be a sign of R'hllor's favor from the days when the world was still young."

The captain stepped away from the pit in the center of the room to touch the gilded wood. "Interesting," she said. "Does that mean Balerion and R'hllor are part of the same pantheon? There's precedent for that, especially for empires as big as the Vallyrians..."

"No." Thoros said with force. "The Lord of Light was worshiped by Valyria's slaves, aye, and by those who lived under the dragonlords' heel across their empire, but not by the lords of the Freehold. Never by them. Their gods were only for those of pure Valyrian blood, and the god's priests came west from the Shadowlands beyond the Jade Gates. This is a temple to Valyrian gods, and the Lord's mark wouldn't have a place here any more than it might in a sept, or carved into a weirwood tree. Why would they have his mark here?"

"That's… a very good question." The captain's head tilted a little. "And I suppose the only way to find out is to open the door." So saying, she pushed on the door and, with only a few small groans of protest, the oaken door swung open to reveal an empty round chamber, the walls marked by a line of soot about waist-height around the whole of the chamber.

"That's it?" Asha asked. She stepped forward but was stopped by the captain's outstretched arm.

"Let's check first," she said. "Something about this room is giving me a weird feeling." She whistled and the familiars swept forwards, throwing blue and green light over every surface. The captain called up another one of her magic windows, and soon a copy of the smaller chamber was rising before her, with lines and circles and numbers spinning around in a way that made Asha's head hurt.

"Hm, okay. That's interesting. Um. Wait, now you're not supposed to be here," the captain mumbled as the familiars continued their dance and the ghostly image of the room twisted under her ministrations. "That's very interesting. Why would they use something like that?"

"Captain?" Alleras said quietly, staring at the magic window.

"It's some sort of shielding device," the witch said absently. "Or at least it's supposed to project a forcefield of some kind, that much seems certain. I've seen this kind of architecture before in Builder designs. Tanis uses something similar for the map holotank, but this is definitely meant to keep something in. The confinement radius is small enough to allow for more stuff inside. Lab space around a central subject, maybe? But what would they be putting in there? What needs a subspace inversion field to be contai—" She broke off suddenly, and Asha could almost hear the woman blink hard as she stared at the chamber.

"Well, damn." She said it with no heat, and almost a fond exasperation at the edges of the words. "Give them credit for balls if nothing else."

"I'm sorry, what?" Alleras said, confusion plain in his voice.

"I think I figured out what they were doing here." The captain turned to face them. "Spread out, everybody. Check those other doors. If you see something that looks familiar, sing out."

Asha turned to Thoros, who shrugged and moved to see to the other doors, as did Alleras. The familiars streamed out of the R'hllor chamber to illuminate the main one again, and Asha looked at the other doors. Like the one they had opened, they all had gilded symbols adorning them, but the symbols had no meaning to her.

"I've got one!" Alleras called from the far side of the room. "This symbol here is a representation of the Mother Rhoyne."

"Aye," Thoros called from another door. "And this looks like it could be Ghiscari. A harpy of some sort, at least."

"This might be a… crown? A seven-pointed crown of some kind? The old Andal symbol?"

"Imperial conquests of Valyria," the captain mumbled. "Yeah, that sounds about right."

"Captain, what in the name of the Drowned God's watery balls is all this?" demanded Asha.

The captain's mumbling paused and she looked at Asha. "It's a trophy room," she said. "The whole chamber clearly has some sort of other religious significance and there's more hiding in the underchamber but this room is a trophy room. It wasn't built for that I don't think, but that's what the Valyrians were using it for."

"But there's nothing in the room," said Asha. "How can you have a trophy room without any trophies?" Thoros and Alleras returned to them after looking at the other doors, both seemingly as confused as she.

"Um, how do I explain this? Right, backstory: Back home there was an ancient kingdom, a city-state that became an empire, and they had a specific ceremony whenever they conquered another city-state: they'd take all the effigies of the conquered city's gods and haul them back to their own city where the effigies would be set before the effigy of their god, to formally surrender and acknowledge that the conqueror's god was the stronger. You know, my god can beat up your god, right?"

"The Dothraki have a similar custom, it's said," Alleras noted. "Whenever the horse-lords sack a city they drag statues of gods and kings back to Vaes Dothrak, to line the road into their city. A reminder of the power of the horse god."

The captain nodded. "Yeah, like that. It's not unknown among conquerors to do things like that to symbolically seal the deal on their conquests." She gestured at the great chamber, with the small empty rooms branching away. "I think the Valyrians did something like what the Dothraki did, but they were a lot more ambitious than just taking a statue or an idol back as spoils of war.

Asha blinked. How could the Valyrians be more ambitious than taking the treasure of a god? Presumably they could just take the entire temple, but she'd seen the temples of R'hllor in the Free Cities. Even the meanest of those wouldn't fit inside the chamber with his symbol marked on it. And still that didn't explain how the chambers could be empty of idols or other godly treasure.

Alleras made a small, choking sound that disrupted Asha's thoughts. The maester twitched and then said in a voice that was surprisingly high for a boy's, "They… couldn't actually do that? Right?"

The captain's shrug was as eloquent as it was terrifying. "Archaeological evidence suggests that they tried, at least," she said. "No idea how successful they were overall, but, well."

"How?!" Alleras all but shrieked. "How could the Valyrians chain a god?! How could they chain more than one?!"

"Don't know the mechanism, but… this started as a Builder installation. Each one of these secondary chambers was set up as containment for something. They probably used it as a way to study Shroud entities without having to build a forward base inside it. Maybe they used it to design and train the first dragons; who knows, really. When the Valyrians found this place, they figured out how to use the containment system as well." She idly scratched the side of her helm, the metal making a faint scratching noise in the deathly quiet of the temple of Balerion. "No idea how they managed to get the entities into containment, but once they did… what's better than having an image of a conquered god bow and scrape before yours? How about the actual god? So that's what they did; they captured the god, or a piece of a god, or maybe just some poor schmuck of a Shroud entity that was in the wrong place at the wrong time and they thought was the right god, and kept them here. Hostages and symbols of Valyria's might."

"And then the Doom came," Thoros said with a knowing nod.

"Exactly. The eruption must've disrupted whatever was powering the containment gird and all the gods they captured got loose." The captain paused, then turned back towards the door they came through. "And they probably stopped on their way out to complain about the accommodations, too," she added thoughtfully.

Asha shuddered. "You mean those poor fucks out there might not have choked to death on bad air, but were killed by vengeful gods?"

"Maybe. It's possible they were all dead before containment failed." Asha decided she would believe that, given the option. Some things weren't worth the imagining. "Though a bunch of angry entities deciding to doubly salt the earth around Valyria would explain why nothing grows here anymore. They don't want anybody to start the machine back up just in case."

"Well, my lady," Thoros said. "This is all quite… horrible, and I fear trying to explain it to my brothers in faith once all this is over. But is it what we're looking for?"

"No." And isn't that just a damned shame? Asha thought. "This was a lab before it became a trophy room. We're looking for a command and control center. I'd hoped that this was the inner sanctum, but if anything it's probably more of an outer chamber. And if the Valyrians were using Builder equipment to catch gods then they had better control over it than I previously thought." The captain shook her head. "No, if the widget is still trying to talk to this building then there's got to be another chamber in here."

"But where?" Asha decided she might as well ask, though the answer was obvious. Sure enough, the captain pointed at the door set in the bottom of the pit.

"Further in and further down we go."