By Jaap-Peter Hazelhoff
Chapter 53 - Down the Drain
Berdusk, 1371 DR, Eleint, 10th day, afternoon
As the group leaves the courtyard the fog that was slowly settling across the city has thickened. The moist cold penetrating through armor and clothes draws involuntary shivers. The sounds of the city flow strangely distorted through the gray veil. After a brief and wet walk across the two hills that dominate the center of Berdusk, the group arrives at the shallow cave. After Immerine has pointed out the almost faded tracks on the ground – mixed with the more obvious prints of Jez and herself – she steps into the opening, peering into its interior. On the floor of the cave, a little further past the entrance, Tempest spots various small stones that should work with the sling from the quartermaster. While the group is about to go exploring the cave opening, the sound of hooves approaching can be heard. Someone is riding up the hill fast, though through the mist nothing can be seen. The horse slows down as it gets closer to the cave
Immerine cocks her head to the side and her nostrils flare subconsciously as alarm grows vivid in her eyes. Shaking her head suddenly she puts on a quizzical face and waits for what she hopes is Jez. Her hand tightens around her staff in case it isn’t.
The half orc bends over periodically to collect a smooth stone for his collection of stones for his new sling. He shivers a bit when the cold seeps into his bones, but focuses on the retrieval of Portia to banish the cold. “This is the place?“ He asks in a low voice. As he hears a horse approaching, he grips his mace, wary of what may be approaching so quickly. He smiles as he shifts the weight of his shield as he has practiced so many times, but has never been able to call one as his own.
Jezbodiah spurs the horse onward up Clearspring Tor. Having retrieved some equipment back home, he is rushes through the mist to join the others. His hair clinging wetly to his head and feeling a bit numbed by the cold, he reigns in his horse near Lover’s Embrace. As he dismounts the young half-elf can hear voices drifting through the fog. They seem to originate close to the cave’s opening. For a moment his suspicion is roused, but then he recognizes the voices.
“Hey, Immerine, Company, I’m here!“ Jez’s voice resonates with merriment. “Don’t go wandering off. Ya could get lost.“ The half-elf dismounts and ignites one of his torches then proceeds towards the cave’s entrance. From just around the opening of the cave a slender pair of hands snakes out to grab Jezbodiah by his cloak and pull him into the cave. “Boo!“ Whispers Immerine. “Goddess!“ He yelps as Immerine jerks the hemline of his cloak. “Don’t do that. Oh, I’m supposed to be quiet, am I not?“ The last his said with a wry and obvious jovial smile.
The team, once reunited, sets out into the shallow looking cave on the side of the Tor. The cave’s entrance though formed by water seeping through the soil above and eroding the soft rock, has no stalactites and stalagmites. Only a few pieces of flowstone give testimony to the cave’s origin. With Immerine and Jezbodiah in the lead at first, the two show the illusionary wall covering an entrance into the mountain to the others.
The passage, hewn out of the solid limestone leads downward in a rather steep slope. The air is damp and rank and clearly smells of offal and unidentified other sources. The wall glistens a little in the flickering torchlight. Mosses and small fungi grow in abundance on both sides of the narrow passage. Overhead tendrils of slimy algae hang down, now and then releasing drops of water to the uneven floor. It is obvious that the passage has been used very recently, there are scrape marks left and right on the rough walls, the smell and texture of the muck resembling the dirt on Jez and Immerine as they appeared in the castle’s courtyard. From below the sound of flowing water can be heard.
Scrunching up his face, Telsom looks to Jez, “Oh what a foul smell you bring with you.“ The words are laced with humor however, and the young paladin offers the man a smile. “I am happy that Lady Firehair grants me immunity from diseases, for I’m sure this is surely a breeding ground for them. You’d all best make sure that you don’t get any cuts or scratches, if you do tend to them right away and keep it away from the filth if at all possible.“
“Ha, very funny.“ Jez snickers. “It’s perfume. I bought it from a Sune dandy before I arrived.“ He gestures to Telsom with a smile and good humor. “You must have found one with your mother…“ Telsom says letting the words trail off. Mace tightly gripped by his right hand and the new wooden shield strapped to his left arm, Tempest says, “I can see in the dark, if I may, I would suggest I go in first, as I do not need a torch that would likely give up our element of surprise if a torch bearer went first.“ His suggestion barely concealing the eagerness to get in and get on with it.
“Good points.“ Jez says, “But only Immerine and I know where we’re going. Best let one of us go first.“ Finding a descent crack in the wall, Jez wedges the base of torch into it. With this accomplished Jezbodiah removes his backpack and removes a fresh cloak and shawl from it. He dons the garments quickly and pulls the hood of over his head. Save his eyes and the top of his nose, his face pretty much obscured from sight. Pulling the shawl down, he says, “Sorry, but if these are kidnappers are Zhents or worse, I need to keep my identity concealed. I have family here in Berdusk and I care about their safety. I don’t want unexpected trouble coming home with me.“ He pulls the shawl over his mouth and nose. He seals his backpack and slings it around his right arm. With torch in his left hand again, he proceeds to the entrance of the tunnel. Looking at Tempest and the others once more and says “It’s a tight fit. I’ll be your point man.
Immerine frowns as first Matteo and then Tempest speak up to be in front. “Tempest speaks the wisest so far, My Lord.“ Immerine pokes Matteo in the back. “Tempest should go first, I should be second, you third, Jez next and Telsom our rear guard. I have been down here as has Jez. We should not be placed next to one another in the group in case we are forcefully separated. If instead you prefer to have Jez after Tempest and me next to Telsom, I would not disagree with that either. Telsom is the most skilled warrior and should hold the place of honor as rear guard. We need someone quick and skilled following Tempest, and while you are both, Lord Ashgale, you remain stiff from your earlier wounds.“ Immerine tries to keep her tone as suggestive as possible but everyone can tell it is difficult for her to keep from ordering everyone where they should march.
Looking over his shoulder towards the surface, a wistful smile comes to Telsom’s face but just as soon as it appears it is gone, turning to Immerine the holy warrior gives the woman a friendly smile. “It matters little where I am positioned… if voices or noises are heard though I should be brought up to the front to investigate, where shadows might hide an enemy from sight, their evil presence cannot hide them from me.“
“This sounds good…“ Jezbodiah says, “But other than Tempest, I’m the only one who has any good vision in the dark unless of course you want me to light my lantern.“ The last is said with a smile. “Then I will be behind Matteo.“ Immerine says quietly and moves to her position. “Besides possibly Tempest at the front.“ Matteo replies, “We will all be staying together, Master Wisp, so you would be carrying a lantern anyway.“ Pausing for a moment, Matteo’s lips thin and he adds, “Immerine is right though, in that either she or yourself should follow Tempest as you have been here before. So you might as well follow Tempest, I’ll come after, then Immerine and Telsom.“
Looking up and down at Jez’s cloak and shawl Matteo quirks an eyebrow but says nothing, rather he glances over towards Tempest and says, “Might as well get going I suppose, we’re not accomplishing anything standing out here.“ The cleric growls a bit, but understands the need for others to see as well. “I will be right behind you, sir.“ Tempest says to Jez. “Let us go, and I will do all I can to make sure you are not harmed!“ He replies. Looking at the large half-orc, as he were sizing him up, Jez’s tilts his head and through his shawl says, “Whatever you do, don’t get stuck.“
“Thanks.“ Tempest says with a sigh. “I don’t plan on it!“ He smiles as he enters the cave, using his vision to see where he is going. “I like the lady’s idea.“ He says, “I can take point and you can direct me!“
“Okay, but leave some distance between us. I don’t want to burn you.“ Jez takes the torch he planted in the wall and turns and looks at Immerine once more then back to Tempest. “Okay, proceed down the corridor until we reach an open chamber. It will be filled with water and slime, like a sewage pool. So watch your step and secure your footing. Immerine and I heard something splash into the pool so stay alert. Okay, you first. I’m right behind you.“
A wide smile fills his face as the journey finally begins. Carefully Tempest enters the crack in the wall and navigates it, watching the colors fade as his darkvision compensates in the blackness of the cave. Listening to Jez’s suggestion, he walks ahead and listens carefully. He walks down the corridor until he reaches an open area. Once there he looks around to see if there is anything there. Not wishing to burn or torch his newest companion, Jezbodiah proceeds after the half-orc, but maintains his distance. He keeps his sharp ear alert and his vision handy.
Carefully the group descends through the narrow passageway down into the heart of the Tor. Eyes are prickling a little from the smoke of the torch that drifts upward in the draft, making the already smelly venture even less comfortable. Trying to avoid most of the moss and slime on the walls, Tempest is the first at the end of the rough hewn corridor. The ground under the half-orc’s feet feels a bit slippery, and when he looks down, he sees that he is standing in a large puddle of sewage. ‘The chamber’ Jezbodiah mentioned is actually a tunnel, a sewer channel. The sewage channel is made from rough masonry and covered with spider webs, slime and moss. Peering into the dark depths of the tunnel, Tempest sees no movement other then flotsam drifting by and occasionally getting stuck in places where debris has cluttered.
Due to last nights snowfall and the subsequent rain, the level of water in the sewer has risen and reaches a little into the side tunnel. It is obvious that the only way to continue is to wade through the murky water either up or downstream. Carefully testing his footing Tempest steps into the sewers ducking his head and bending through his knees, the priests sinking up to his ankles in the murky fluid. A slow but steady flow pulling on his legs confirms that the drainage is from left to right. Initially keeping close to the wall, Tempest moves sideways to the right, the shape of the sewer forces him to bend forward as he makes room for the others.
Bringing the light of the torch into the sewer, Jezbodiah also steps from the opening into the muck and follows Tempest’s example. Just as the slightly shorter half-orc, Jezbodiah also finds himself hunched over and despite his misgivings about the situation and his earlier venture below the streets, he steps towards the middle of the channel, disappearing up to his middle, but able to stand upright. The top of his head clearing the sewer’s ceiling by only a few inches.
Jezbodiah is followed by Immerine and Matteo, who despite initial reluctance, also step into the middle of the flow. The cold murky water sending chills up the spine and quickly saturating boots and hoses. The splashing sound from the group’s entrance into the cold murky waters sends a wave of brief echoes through the system and as soon as Telsom has entered, everyone holds quiet for a moment, yet no other unusual sounds come from the city’s cold, wet and smelly bowels.
From the new vantage point and within the circle of light provided by torch and sunrod, it is clear that the channel the group wading through is a type of main channel. At irregular intervals small tubes open up in the walls at varying heights, spilling their contents into the main stream. At the edge of the circle another opening larger then the tubes, but smaller then the main channel, spills its contribution to the flow. “Pssssttt, Tempest.“ whispers Jez softly to his newest companion ahead of him. “Do you see anything ahead of us?“
“Do you know which way they went?“ Tempest asks in a whisper, or at least trying to be as quiet as possible. He sighs when he is expecting the answer to be the smaller tunnel. If that is the case, he will carefully advance and enter the tunnel. Immerine’s nose twitches and her eyes water from the odors assaulting her. She steps into the muck and closes her eyes as she feels the slime around her feet. Swallowing the ball of bile in the back of her throat she opens her eyes again. She hisses in annoyance, “Well? Which way?“
“Well… If they abducted this Portia you are looking for, chances are they took the larger direct tunnel. It would be easier to navigate through this tunnel and if I were a kidnapper or smuggler that is the way I would go.“ Trying to use all available light, Jez scans the tunnel ahead of him. “We found two patches of cloth, obviously from this Portia. Keep an eye out for any patches.“
Grimacing with distaste as he moves forward, Matteo covers his nose and mouth with a hand as he looks about the area for any sign of what might have happened to Portia. “Then again, you didn’t abduct Portia, Master Wisp.“ He adds in a slightly muffled tone, “If I were a short kobold I would be inclined to take the smaller passages where my stature would be an advantage against any likely pursuers. Moreover, if the kobolds took Portia back to their lair I doubt they chose a nice big roomy chamber for our convenience.“
“Unless anyone has any violent objections I suggest we take the smaller passage for the moment. If we find nothing we can always come back and take the larger tunnel.“
“True.“ Jez says, “But kobolds aren’t fighters unless they are defending their home. I suspect she is a hostage for someone else. That’s my conclusion. Whoever her true kidnappers are, the kobolds may be holding her for them, at least temporarily. If you wish to explore the smaller tunnels first, I shall not hinder you.“ Having remained quiet, Telsom speaks up from his rear guard position. “Pick a tunnel… I agree with Matteo on this but even if you want to go through the large one, just go. This stench is horrid.“
“I don’t know the way, tell me and I will go, was there any evidence earlier of where they might have taken Portia?“ Tempest inquires, unsure of where to go. “Take the small passage Tempest.“ Matteo replies, still covering his mouth and nose against the foul odors. “All we really know is that followers of either Cyric or Velsharoon are somehow involved. Lead on, the sooner we start moving, the sooner we can get out of here.“
“My friend, this is where Immerine’s skills lead us and it leads into the unknown. This is where the adventure begins.“ says the Lliiran with joyous reassurance. “Keep an eye open for torn bits and pieces of cloth.“ Looking at the smaller hole, he utters, “Tempest, I’m dousing the torch. We’ll need your eyes more than ever.“
“So be it!“ The half-orc says as he hunches down and enters the smaller tunnel closest to the scrap of cloth that belonged to Portia. Tempest looks down the tunnel with his darkvision, hoping to find something of interest. Peering into the smaller sewage channel, it is apparent that going through there will require crawling on hands and knees; not a very comfortable idea. “Tempest, there is something I should tell you.“ The youthful half-elf replies as he speaks into the pipe. “If this drainage pipe continues to shrink as you approach, chances are it will lead to Clearspring River. Let me know and we can go back to the main tunnel.“
On hands and knees, Tempest looks down the tunnel and listens, to see if he can hear or see water or a river. The sound of the flowing water changes ahead in the small channel; a piece of driftwood and some other refuse stuck behind a protruding sewage tube is partially blocking the way, the obstructing creating a stirring in the water that causes the rushing and gurgling sound. From her place near the rear Immerine speaks up, “It is too small. The kidnappers were medium height and build. They were not small enough to fit into this pipe without difficulty, especially if they were struggling with a burden. We should go the other way. And the tracks I had found only led into the sewers, not back out.“
Tempest, having crawled a little deeper into the small tunnel has found something that peeks his interest. When he investigates closer and tries to examine his find, a chorus of agitated squeaks emerges, and a small horde of rats burst forth from the small tunnel, crawling and biting their way over and along Tempest. Jezbodiah and Matteo at the mouth of the tunnel are also swarmed by the little rodents which disperse quickly downstream into the larger tunnel. In their panicky wave they have scratched and bitten their way through the three, creating several superficial wounds.
“Arrrgh!“ The half orc groans as a multitude of scratch marks and bites. Having nowhere to go, he sucks in some air and tenses, feeling the little savage beasts run over and past him. Once they are gone, he exhales slowly and wiggles his left arm to reach his holy symbol. “Great Kelemvor, please heal your servant.“ He intones as drawing on the powers his deity has provided him. A pale glow temporarily surrounds Tempest’s hands as he administers the wounds inflicted by the rodents. Once done, Tempest looks in the hole he made to see what is there.
“Damnable Rats! Ugh!“ Cries Jezbodiah in disgust as he brushes a few of the vermin off his shoulders. Taking grim satisfaction in what he has done, he watches the few remaining dogpaddle or scamper off downstream. “Plague bearers of Talona!“ He hisses in a superstitious tone. “Tempest! Get out of there before you get yourself killed. We take the main tunnel. This one will eventually lead to Clearspring River.“ Looking at Matteo he says, “I told you we should use the main tunnel, but you didn’t listen to me. Do you think kobolds can and would carry a woman, that far and deep into a drainage tunnel like this?“
“Jez!“ Immerine snaps at the half-elf, “Matteo did not know what we were following earlier. Do not blame a man for ignorance in the face of information lacking.“ Immerine steps closer to Matteo placing both her hands gently on his shoulders and whispers softly, “Khelliara, please aid your servant and heal this man.“
“This might still be the right way to go.“ Telsom says as he peers over Immerine’s shoulder. “I think we should keep going this way.“
“Sorry, I just don’t like rats.“ Jez says with in a disheartening tone. His words are true and genuine. “That was very untoward of me. I was raised with better manners.“
As Immerine lays her hands on his shoulders, Matteo starts then jerks away. “I will be fine.“ He says in an abrupt tone, staggering back a step before regaining his balance. Straightening up he looks at her and is about to say something more then stops, his eyes fixed on her. After a moment he quietly adds in a subdued voice, “Remember what happened last time you tried to heal me, My Lady. I would not have that happen again.“
Turning from Immerine he looks down the main tunnel. “I think Master Wisp might be right this time. The large tunnel might be a better initial option…“ When Matteo jerks away there is a brief flash of sadness in Immerine’s eyes but it is quickly subdued by her usual masked glare. “I remember quite well. I choose to take the risk, not you – MY Lord. Since you choose to spurn me I will give my attentions where they are appreciated. Step aside so I may attend Jez.“ With concealed mirth in his voice, Jez the wispy boy says, “I always say: never turn down a helping or healing hand.“
“Great Kelemvor, please heal your servant.“ While Tempest evokes the gifts granted by his deity a pale glow temporarily surrounds his hands as he administers the wounds inflicted by the rodents; the luminescence showing the contours of the small tunnel in a ghastly light for a brief moment. Once done, Tempest looks in the hole he made to see what is there.
In the main channel the vermin has disappeared in the darkness beyond the wavering circle of light cast by Jez’s torch. Trying to keep the vermin at bay, Jez inadvertently touched the torch to the sewage, causing the flames to sputter and increasingly produce smoke. “Who has the sunrod?“ Jez inquires. “Hey, Tempest, quit playing with the Talona’s bastard children and get out here. We’re going down the main tunnel.“ Jez waits for a reply and then looks at Telsom or Matteo. “Anyone has a sunrod I can borrow? I want see if Tempest found anything.“
Tempest nods in the tunnel, not wanting to bring any more attention to himself as he looks down the new hole made by the removed piece of wood. When he dislodges the wood, another couple of rats crawl out of the rubble that partially blocks the channel. The half-orc looks at the wood to see if there is anything of interest on it. Finding nothing of interest on the rotting and waterlogged piece, he tosses it away. By pulling on the wood, part of the nest seems to have become unstable and the steady flow of sewage starts to push it in Tempest’s direction.
Peering beyond the obstruction into the darkness, Tempest sees at the edge of his vision the tunnel curving away. There seems to be another obstruction close to where the channel bends.
Immerine steps past Matteo, bodies brushing against each other in the confines of the tunnel. The young witch glares at the Sembian, a look that brooks no argument and leaving Matteo subconsciously rubbing the small scratch wound on his cheek. As Immerine approaches, he says, “Thank you m’lady. I hate rats. I really do.“ Shifting her attention to Jezbodiah, Immerine’s attention is drawn to the small scratches and bite marks on the young half-elf’s face and hands. Cupping his face in her hands she intones a brief prayer to her goddess and again a soft glow lightens the tunnel, this time in soft greenish tones compared to Tempest’s healing magic.
The half-elf waits impatiently for Tempest’s return and begins to shiver in brief spasms. “Well, I’m getting cold just standing here.“ Jez says, “What do we do now? Do we wait for Tempest and proceed down the main tunnel or get on our knees and take the smaller storm drain with all the lovely sewage?“ The last of his comments are spoken with distaste. The young half-elf rubs his hands in an effort to generate heat.
The half orc shimmies backwards as he crawls out of the tunnel. “There was another hole with another nest, but I was unsure if I would fit!“ He replies. “I guess we go down the big tunnel now, eh?“ He asks. Small cuts and bruises line his hands and face, but the large half orc looks finer otherwise. “Yes.“ Matteo replies, glancing briefly towards Immerine then away again. “Now we go down the main tunnel. If you would be so good as to lead the way again Tempest?“
Silently, Telsom stays back scanning the shadows and uses his gift to search out evil. Although relatively new to his armament, the shield and broad sword somehow look natural in the young paladin’s hands. Wiping the wet hair from his face Telsom looks to Tempest. “Yes let us be on our way, the sooner we find the girl the sooner we can smite the villains who have done this to her and get out of these dreadful sewers.“
Mace and shield in hand once again, Tempest follows the main tunnel, slowly and carefully. Immerine pauses for Matteo to squeeze by her again so she can retake her position behind the stubborn oaf. Her face is impassive and she is a frozen statue until the group begins moving again.
Slowly the five wade through the cold and smelly sewage down the long tunnel, Matteo’s sunrod provides a cold glow to see by. The shadows cast by their light source seem to distort details further ahead; what looks like a large protruding beam turns out to be no more then a stone sticking out at an odd angle; a joke from the builders or something else? Investigation of the thing turns up nothing. It takes quite a while before there are any other channels opening up into this main tube.
A gurgling and rushing sound comes from ahead, it sounds like a series of rapids though no extra pull from the sewage can be felt. Prodding with the mace, Tempest dislodges it and the current immediately caries the flotsam away. Following the floating debris for a moment the half-orc spot’s movement on top of the flotsam; peering a little closer he sees a rat climbing to the top of the floating pile. An almost indignant squeak sounds as protest against the dislodgement of its hiding place. The half orc growls at the rat, but says nothing.
The place is really full of the vermin; as the group passes the first of a series of small tubes opening into the main tunnel they can hear and see the creatures inside. With more normal sewer levels the banks on the sides of the channel must allow these creatures to roam everywhere under the city. And if they can… what else…?
After a while, a vague illumination can be seen ahead as dim light seems to emerge from the sewers’ ceiling. Where the light falls down, the sewage tunnel seems to widen. The sound of water cascading down can be heard as well over the steady gurgle of the sewers.
Beneath his cowl, the roguish half-elf glares disdainfully at the rat as it sits atop its makeshift raft squeaking in protest. “Not on my back…“ He mutters. “You’re swimming to shore on your own.“ Then his pace slows, almost blocking the others from behind him. The hairs on the back of his neck raise like Lathander’s dawning. His hands reach behind his cloak and the unsheathing sound of his short swords chime softly, like a warning as they slide into his slender palms. From his posture, Jezbodiah looks very tense, as if he is waiting for someone or something awful to reveal itself.
Tempest leads the group, trying to stay as quiet as possible, as he travels towards the light. He wanders closer, first looking at the widening tunnel, and then up through the hole to see where it leads to. Matteo slows in his position behind Jezbodiah, coming to a stop behind the stationary half elf. “What is it?“ He asks quietly, his senses straining for any sound or sight out of place. “Don’t know. The direction of the flow doesn’t look right. Someone light a torch.“ Jez whispers, “And be quick about it.“ He places his hand on Tempest’s shoulder and says, “Hold my friend, don’t venture until we have more light.“
Immerine frowns slightly and whispers a soft phrase. Suddenly Jezbodiah’s wish is granted and another source of light illuminates the cold and mucky tunnel. Immerine moves closer and leans to the side pressing close to Matteo. “Well? What is it? What do you see?“ She says irritably as she extends the staff.
As the others close ranks to examine the forefront, Telsom turns slowly on his heel bracing one foot behind him as he tightens his grip on his shield. Turning his blade over in his hand, the paladin watches the rear with grim determination. The extra light from Immerine’s staff doesn’t make it easier for the paladin, as the movements of staff and sunrod cause shadows on the walls and ceiling to play a weird dance.
Tensing as Immerine presses against him to shine the light from her staff forward, Matteo takes a shallow breath but does not move away. Turning his face slightly towards her he murmurs, “I don’t see anything.“ His mouth tightens in what might almost be the beginning of a wry grin before adding, “But then, this is the first time I have ever been in a sewer.“
At the point where the tunnel is widening, a little further downstream in the direction of the light and the sound of water plunging down into water, the group arrives at an intersection. A second channel joins the channel the group is walking through and together the combined flow continues on. Tempest halts just before the tunnel widens. The intersection forms a somewhat large chamber, its ceiling a couple of feet above the sewers’ ceiling. Mounted on the left wall, between the two merging channels, rusty rungs lead back up to the surface, some of the rungs are missing, leaving only some rusty remains or a hole in the wall as a reminder. A cast iron grating overhead covers the shaft and allows the dim daylight to stream in along with drainage from the streets, which runs in small rivulets along the walls before plunging the last few feet through the air into the swirling pool that forms the center of the chamber. Six rotting vine-like creepers or roots hang down along the wall into the murky sewage.
Immerine resists the urge to shove Matteo into the swirling murk, and steps forward towards the rusted rungs. She examines the wall closely, looking for any sign of passage. The rungs in the wall appear unstable, the first one she puts her hand on feels almost brittle, small flakes of rust breaking off as well as some pieces of mortar. It doesn’t seem likely that the kidnappers went this way. As she turns around to face the group, she spots something on the right corner of the downstream sewage tunnel.
“Lliira, laugh at my folly.“ Jez utters. “Why didn’t I think of it sooner? The entrance to the sewers was covered by an illusion. That’s one way to secure a door. The second is locked it shut. The third is to hide it in plain sight.“ He stops and looks at his companions, eyes bubbling with mirth. “I think a secret door would be hidden in plain sight, especially in the sewers.“
Immerine examines the rungs and suddenly brushes her hand roughly against her cloak, flakes of rust and mortar fall away from the wall. She turns around and faces the group again when something else catches her eye. Her eyes narrow as she drops into a crouching pace and cautiously moves toward the downstream passage. “I don’t think anyone has been using those rungs…“ Matteo begins to say when Immerine moves off. “What is it?“ He murmurs in a low voice as he moves to follow her.
Jez turns his head in Immerine’s general direction and squints, hoping his elven heritage will take advantage of the poor light. The young half-elf moves away from the light sources, seeking a place where shadows might make it harder for possible opponents to see him.
Carefully Immerine moves closer to the right-hand corner of the flowing sewage channel, the combined flow of the other two channels pull more strongly against her legs as the sewage flows into the channel. Matteo crosses the intersection and joins her, looking in the direction Immerine is moving, absently rubbing some of the scratches the rats made; the cold murky water seems to bite into the small wounds.
Tempest had been looking up at the grating overhead, trying to see if there would have been a possibility for the kidnappers to go that way. Coming to a conclusion the half-orc shakes his head and looks around the chamber to see what his companions are doing. Telsom is guarding the rear as good as possible, using Sune’s gifts to help where his eyes have more difficulty to penetrate the darkness. Nothing seems to be coming from the tunnel.
Immerine bends closer to what she is looking at and scrapes her fingernail across it. “What do you make of it Matteo?“ Only when they’re close Matteo sees what Immerine must have spotted. The light from the staff play’s along the glistening surface of the wall, casting any recesses into shadow. One set of shadows stands out form the rest. Upon closer investigation, Matteo and Immerine see some sort of crude symbol carved in the stone. Just above the sewage level, the symbol is not immediately recognizable; two horizontal lines topped by a wavy line with a barb.
Realizing his nerves are on edge and that the immediate light makes it difficult for him to hide amongst the shadows, Jez sheaths his short swords and secures them once more. He proceeds towards Immerine and Matteo and says whispering, “What do you see? I see something at the edge of the darkness. It looks like a stick, positioned in the muck at an interestingly awkward angle.“
“Hmmm? Oh a marking on the wall. Show me your stick, it may be important.“ She straightens up suddenly barely avoiding smacking into Matteo and Jez. “Oh… Sorry.“ Jez steps back and smiles at Immerine’s brief apology. “It is in the other inbound channel at the edge of the darkness. We would’ve hit sooner or later. It looks like someone has placed a broomstick under a steep angle.“
“It could be a trap.“ Telsom says as he takes his attention away from the party’s back and moves forward concentrating on the water before the group. “That’s true,“ Matteo concedes as he steps a little away from Immerine to give them both some space. Glancing at the etching in the wall then back at Immerine his face appears momentarily troubled and his brow darkens. “I don’t know. There is something telling me I ought to know what it is, but for the life of me I cannot remember.“ Shrugging he adds, “Perhaps I am just mistaken or seeing ghosts.“ Straightening from his inspection he says, “Well, if we don’t know what it is we might as well press on. I cannot say that I want to be down here any longer than necessary.“
Immerine glances back to Matteo, her brow creased for a moment. “I believe the marking is a way marker of some type; A director for those who come. Perhaps the crook is telling whoever looks upon it to follow in this direction for two main passages; But then again perhaps not.“ The young half-elf stands in silence as Telsom, Matteo, and Immerine voice their decisions. “Jez, shall we examine this ‘branch’ of yours?“ the witch asks the half-elf. “Sure,“ he says. “But I have a nagging suspicion it may be more than a trap.“
“That is why we are going to examine it.“ She winks at the half-elf and cautiously moves towards the area Jez indicated. Jez moves along side Immerine and once again retrieves his short swords from their sheaths. “You know, earlier I said there are kobolds running in the sewers. I wonder if this is one of their food traps. I’ve heard stories about cats and dogs getting lost in the sewers, only to be captured and eaten.“ He shivers under his cowl and cloak. “I hope their just that…“ He pauses, “Stories.“
Glancing about at their surroundings Matteo grimaces in distaste and says, “Somehow I doubt anyone is trying to snare cats or little dogs in flowing muck as deep as this. Or rather, it would be a very odd cat that tried swimming through all this crap in order to set off such a trap. More likely, if a trap exists it has been set to deter people like us.“ Moving a little closer towards Immerine as they proceed, Matteo looks for signs of activity in the area or for any mischievous device.
“Unless you’re a kobold. I heard they’re bottom feeders and not too picky in what covers their dinner.“ Jezbodiah pauses for a breath or two, and then continues, “We’ll need the light.“ He says. Glancing over his shoulder, he looks at Matteo and says, “We’ll need your sunrod.“
Holding her light-tipped staff in front of her, Immerine and Jezbodiah are together in the front, almost squeezing each other in the narrow passage. Together they form some sort of a mini-dam and all kinds of refuse washes against their upper legs as the slowly wade forward. Matteo holds the sunrod a bit higher adding another light source to Immerine’s, allowing them to see a little further into the channel and highlighting the mucky and smelly details of a sewer.
As he holds the sunrod a bit higher to look deeper into the tunnel, Matteo and Jezbodiah notice that opposite the stick is one of the smaller sewage pipes, one that seems not to have been in use for a while. Only a thin strand of algae hangs from the lip of the pipe down into the sewage.
Telsom follows the trio into the channel, concentrating to see if he can feel any enemies lurking about using Sune’s gift. A slight frown is creasing his features, marring his normal handsome face, as he wades carefully forward. Tempest, gripping his mace more tightly brings up the rear of the group and remains in the channel’s entrance to the chamber; his natural darkvision enabling him to spot any danger coming up from the darkness ahead.
“We’re being watched.“ Telsom whispers as he tightens his grip on his blade. Eyes swiveling in their sockets the paladin begins to scan the area for any hiding spots a creature could be concealing itself in. “There is an absence of evil in the area, but still trained animals who act on hunger or protective instincts aren’t evil… be wary. There could be an aquatic creature chained to that stick that’s lying in wait for a leg or foot to come within reach.“
From beneath the cowl that masks his face, Jez begins to shiver in anticipation as the first drops of fear course through his veins. “Immerine…“ He whispers softly, “My Lady, I suggest you prepare a dagger. If there is something under the sewage, your staff will prove to be cumbersome.“ With his short swords unsheathed once more, his knuckles tighten and begin to whiten in anxiety.
Raising his sunrod a little higher Matteo lays a cautionary hand on Telsom’s arm then draws his borrowed short sword. “Watch that pipe.“ He murmurs in a quiet voice, leaning close to Immerine and reaching past to indicate a side tunnel opposite the stick with his blade. “It has not seen any sewage flow for some time and lacks the algae build up you might expect. If a creature were to lair here, then that may be its most likely whereabouts.“
“Aye,“ Jez whispers. “There a single strand of algae that extends from the lip of the pipe to the stick. Something or someone put something here.“
“Nonsense! Why would I use something as crude as a dagger. I thought that was kept for the dinner table of you northern barb… I mean, I thought it was primarily an eating utensil for the Northern peoples.“ Immerine smiles sweetly at the half-elf while reaching beneath her cloak for her unicorn pendant. Jez puffs in one long extended burst from beneath his cowl, “No offense taken but each to their own at the diner table.“
Immerine listens intently while the others make their observations, “Well whatever is nearby has heard each of us in turn.“ She stretches her staff out and touches the end of it to the strand of algae. Not relaxing for a moment, Jez prepares his short swords for any inevitable attack. His eyes widen and he says, “That might not be a good idea…“ His voice trails off into silence.
Immerine touches her staff to the strand of algae and pushes it slightly to the side. The resilient strand moves with the staff as the young witch pushes it a couple of inches to the side, lifting the lower part out of the muck; that part, though slimy with sewage, doesn’t appear have the same algae-like appearance.
“Hmmm, interesting… Perhaps it is a trip wire or some such. Matteo? Can you see anything else about it?“ Immerine has a curious half-smirk on her face. Flashing Immerine a suspicious glance, Matteo edges forward carefully to stand beside her, “You think I have spent a lot of time in sewers before and would know what to look for?“ He asks quietly as he looks at her. Nevertheless he moves forward slightly with his sunrod, brushing against her as he leans in to get a closer look.
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