By Jaap-Peter Hazelhoff
Chapter 57 - Clutches of Evil
Berdusk, 1371 DR, Eleint, 10th day, afternoon
Cold, wet, hard and pain. Those are the senses which first register to the young woman as she regains consciousness. And a lingering haze, as if being drugged… The hammering feeling in her head resembles a dwarven forge at peak activity; maybe the drug isn’t so bad, it seems to suppress the worst effects. Then the smell of her surroundings enters her nose again, causing an involuntary urge to retch. The painful spasm of her stomach accompanied by a similarly painful awareness that she can’t move; her legs and arms are tied. A steady dripping sound slowly penetrates to the foreground of her thoughts… ‘Where am I?’ With a shuddering groan, Portia twists onto her left side and curls up slightly, feeling the bite of the bonds on her arms. Overcome with the pain of her headache, she vomits. The sour bile only adds to her misery. Gasping, her eyes closed, the cleric mutters a simple prayer to her god. “Kelemvor, watch over me…”
After a moment, her eyes flutter open, and she tries once again to take stock of her situation. Its then she realizes why she’s so cold and wet: She’s obviously in a sewer somewhere, and she’s wearing nothing but her underthings. Her legs are filthy, and covered with goosebumps from the chill. Her thin undershirt clings tightly to her, as filthy as the rest of her, leaving little to the imagination. A foul slime streaks her from head to toe; the makeup of which her mind shudders away from. Her hair, usually an unruly mass of curly red, is matted with the same sludge that covers the rest of her, hanging limply about her face.
Portia whispers, “Holy Kelemvor, what happened?” She’s unable to maintain the hunched position she took to examine herself; she goes limp, letting her body relax to ease as much pain as possible. Her head feels like a fireball’s gone off inside. Wincing once more with the pain, she tries to make out her surroundings.
The feeble light of one, small, oil lamp barely illuminates the dismal surroundings. A domed brick ceiling overhead is covered in glistening slime, same as the walls. A steady almost rhythmic drip falls from various points from the slimy ceiling overhead. Another wave of shivers courses across her body in the cold and damp dungeon. As much ass she’s able to tell, Portia finds herself on some sort of table – or even worse – a torture rack. There seem to be two doors in the room, behind one of which she thinks she can hear the flow of water or such, the only other sound beside the dripping, her own breathing and the thumping of her heart.
Gritting her teeth and squinting against the pain coursing through her head, Portia begins to test her bonds. First her hands… If only she can just free her hands… Wriggling against the bonds and applying pressure, Portia tries. Finished with her hands for the moment, Portia does do her best to free her legs. All the while, she keeps a small portion of her concentration on the two doors. All struggling is to no avail, only resulting in sore wrists and ankles; the leather moist from the surroundings holds her in a tight grip, allowing only the minimal movements she has made so far.
Then after what seems a long period, she hears some scuffling noises from behind one of the doors. Letting herself go limp against the cold table, the young woman feigns unconsciousness. The scraping of metal over metal, and a click; a lock opens. With the creaking sound of rusty hinges the door opens, assaulting the dimly lit room with a flood of light from a torch. Portia tries to make out the newcomer as the light of the torch throws the room into flaring brightness, a feat made even more difficult because her eyes are nearly closed, forcing her to peer through mostly closed eyes as she feigns unconsciousness. However her attempt to look at who – or what – comes into the room is made a little more difficult as her eyes start to water. Not wanting to give away the fact that she’s awake, she resigns to see only the blurry image of what could be a man. Suddenly she feels fingers running over her bare leg. They start at her right ankle and slowly move up as the stranger looms over her prone form. Torch held high the person’s face slowly comes into focus as does a wave of alcohol stained breath. “Well, well, sweet little thing. Are you awake yet?”
Unable to suppress her reaction to the man’s violating touch, Portia shudders with loathing, anger… and fear. Blinking the tears from her eyes, and fighting through another throb of nauseating head pain, Portia gasps weakly, “Why? …Why have you done this?” She squirms a bit, trying to get away from the man’s groping. “Ah, our little treasure is awake…” The man says, sending another alcohol stained breath into Portia’s face as his hand slowly moves up higher on her thigh. “Why? She asks… Why not!” The man lets loose crazy giggle as his other hand reaches out to touch the prone priestess’s face. Obviously the man is well into his cups. Despite Portia’s efforts to squirm away from his hands, he manages to touch her cheek with his hand. “Now, now… let’s not make it difficult. We’ll just have some fun.”
Portia takes a deep, shuddering breath and lets her body relax… Then, with a smile – admittedly a bit weak, but she does have a headache after all – she says, “Aahhh… If that’s what you’re looking for, I can teach you a thing or two…” She actually presses forward a bit, letting the man’s hand explore even more of her body. “I’ve never turned down a bit of ‘fun’…” Surprise highlights the eyes of the man, his half-mad grin widening even more. “Now there’s a good girl.” Feeling a day’s growth of beard scrub her cheek, the man starts kissing his way down from her ears to her neck and further, in the meantime letting his hands roam all over the priestess’s body.
Moaning softly as the man’s hands continue their exploration, Portia whispers, “I wish I could show you a REALLY good time… But all tied up like this, I can’t even touch you… and I’m really good at… touching…” Portia’s words seem to arouse the half-drunken jailor even more. Withdrawing his hands from her private parts, he straightens and loosens the strings of his baggy pants. Letting the garment drop beyond his knees, he looks at his apparently horny prisoner. “Let’s see how good you are then, my little brat.”
Fumbling a little the man shuffles closer to the table – his pants hampering his movement – he tries to undo the bindings, his lust making him hasty and at first unsuccessful. A few whispered words of encouragement from Portia don’t seem to help, but finally the woman’s hands are free. Expectantly he looks at the woman before him, her partly torn undershirt clinging to her body revealing her feminine curves where they are not openly visible. Playing her part a little more in having the man believe her intent in joining his lustful pursuit she starts stroking him.
Seeing the man become more engrossed in their activity, the Kelemvorite priestess, with a commanding voice, suddenly says; “DIE!” A look of astonishment flashes over the man’s face briefly before he slumps unconsciously forward against his ‘victim’. With revulsion on her face, Portia pushes the man away, uttering a brief prayer to Kelemvor, upon which her hands momentarily seem aglow in a grayish aura. With audible snaps, several of the man’s bones break and several bruises and small wounds appear there where her hands touched his chest while pushing him away. Limply the wounded and unconscious man’s body sags to the floor.
With a desperate look toward the doors, Portia pushes herself over the edge of the table, knees up so that she drops her full weight – knees first – onto her captor’s chest, purposely looking to hurt him as much as possible. The impact sending all air out of the man’s lungs and cracking even more ribs. She immediately searches the man for a knife or a dagger, something she can use to free her legs quickly. Portia glances frequently up at the doors, hoping on one else will enter, and at the man beneath her, hoping he won’t suddenly regain consciousness. Frustration threatens to overcome the half naked priestess as her fumbling efforts to locate a weapon on the man turn out empty. Desperately Portia starts looking around trying to find something else she can use. Then she notices that the man’s breathing starts to become more labored as pinkish foam forms around his mouth. Remembering her training, she recognizes that this is a clear indication of punctured lungs… Even if he regains consciousness, he will not be able to do much.
Crawling awkwardly, Portia puts a few feet between her and the man. The froth at his mouth is telling – she’s hurt him badly. Hopefully, enough so that he won’t be able to hurt her if he wakes… Having nothing else, she starts to work on her bonds with her fingers. After a moment, casting another worried glance toward the doors, the priestess stops her efforts and drags herself around the table, hoping that if anyone enters the room, they’ll notice the body, and not bother to wonder where she’d gone. At the least, she thinks, maybe they’ll think I’ve already escaped… Once somewhat hidden by the table, she continues to pick at her bonds.
After a moment of fumbling with the ties around her ankles, Portia stills her shaking hands and takes a shuddering breath. Tears streak her face as she once again dwells on what has just happened. The labored breathing of the man only a few feet away only exacerbates her pain. And the cold doesn’t help… Stilling her mind, she does the only thing she can do. She calls on Kelemvor for aid and protection. A few breaths later, her silent prayers complete, she feels slightly better. At the least, she has regained her composure. The young cleric blows briskly into her cupped palms in an effort to warm her fingers a bit before once more picking at her bonds.
The moment of rest and warming of her fingers must have helped, the bonds slowly open and restraining herself, Portia keeps working them diligently. She has almost undone the last of her bonds when suddenly the man makes gurgling noises and starts flapping with his arms, one arm going for his throat. Some more gurgling and then everything goes quiet – save for the incessant dripping of water. A waft of sour air reaches Portia’s nose nearly upsetting the priestess’s stomach.
Pausing a moment, Portia closes her eyes, saying a silent prayer for the man she has just sent to her lord. After the brief pause, Portia finishes with her bonds, freeing her ankles. Rising to a crouch, the priestess somewhat self-consciously straightens what remains of her clothing, doing her best to cover herself up. “What I wouldn’t give for some armor right now,” she whispers, stepping carefully around the table once more. She grimaces as, now that things are not quite as tense as before, she begins to notice the cold of the stone beneath her feet.
Once around the table, she looks once more on what’s left of the man she’s killed. There’s nothing more to be done for (or to) the man; he’s in the hands of Kelemvor now. But… With some effort and nearly gagging on the stench of vomit and blood, Portia begins to drag the man around the table, trying to keep him out of view of anyone entering the room. Once she’s got him around the table (with a good deal of jerking and grunting), she drops to her knees and goes to work on his clothing. After a bit, she manages to get the man’s shirt off. Seeing the deep bruising covering his chest, she shakes her head; the combination of her spell and her knees had dealt some serious damage…
With only a brief hesitation and negating the man’s soiled pants and too-large boots, Portia wraps herself in the man’s shirt, wrapping it about her as best she can. And then drapes the man’s waist coat over her shoulders. Giving a last look at the man she notices a small cord around his neck from which a small flat stone hangs. Once she manages to wrap some clothes about her, and curious to see what the man might have around his neck, Portia kneels near the man’s head and reaches out, taking hold of the stone and checking it out. Might the stone offer a clue as to who this man might be? The small stone, rounded and polished seems unimpressive in the weak illumination of the room. Running her fingers over the surface, Portia feels some sort of engraving. Looking a little closer at the stone, she sees a small rune-like symbol carved into the surface of the stone.
Slipping the stone from around the man’s neck, Portia ties the cord around her wrist with the thought that she might get a chance to look it over later. Rising to a crouch again, she looks toward the doors. It’s time to get out of here, she thinks to herself. With mincing steps Portia moves over to the left-hand door, pausing to listen there for a bit. Keeping quiet and letting her own heartbeat slow a little Portia listens carefully, hearing some scuffling noises behind the door. Suddenly her heart skips a beat when something lands against the door and makes a scratching noise. Quickly she moves away from it trembling slightly all over. Once she has herself under control once more she moves to the second door and repeats the process of listening. Anticipating another strange event, she can only hear the sounds of water or such flowing by. Also the smell of sewage is somewhat stronger near this door.
Trying this door Portia finds that it is not locked. A simple latch keeps it closed on this end. Slowly cracking it open an inch, Portia peers through, hoping to get some idea of what lies on the other side. A waft of cold and foul sewage air assaults the priestess’s nose. The feeble light of the oil-lamp and the sputtering torch on the floor don’t help much to illuminate the area beyond the door. It seems to be a small hallway sloping down towards the now stronger sound of flowing water. Gently closing the portal once more, Portia turns and, crouching quickly, takes up the sputtering torch. The slightly smoking torch sputters as if in protest, but then, as if it recognizes it can burn fully once more, illuminates the area with renewed vigor. With torch in hand, the priestess once more examines the stone pendant on her wrist briefly. Finished with her examination, which didn’t turn up any clue, Portia takes up the oil lamp as well and moves to the door where she heard noises.
By the twin lights the priestess examines the door, more precisely the simple latch which is the only visible way of closing the door. Glancing once more at the hinges, Portia places the torch in a wall sconce on the left side of the door, hoping that the door blocks much of the light when it swings open into the room. Kneeling below the torch, Portia places the oil lamp below the torch on the ground. Slowly rising, she steps closer to the door to listen once more. No sooner has she placed her ear against the door or she hears the scuffling sounds from the other side of the door, and she takes a quick step back as two items bang against the other side of the door, followed by a scraping sound. It is as if someone on the other side is trying to slam or claw its way through the door.
Warily keeping an eye on the door, Portia moves to retrieve her torch. Whispering to herself, she says, “I think my curiosity can wait…” Moving to the first door, she opens it again, once more carefully cracking it open. This time, she continues to open it slowly, positioning the torch so that its light illuminates the other side of the door. Her heart is pounding with the fear of getting caught, and her head is throbbing with the same inexplicable pain that she’s known since she awoke. Beyond the door is a rough hewn hallway leading down into darkness. From below the sound of flowing water is clearly distinguishable, just as the smell of sewage and the watery cold. The hewn rock is slick with moisture and algae, providing treacherous footing for the priestess’s bare feet. Gingerly she moves further down into the bowels of the earth. The feeble light of the oil lamp in the room above barely visible, in front the reflection of the torchlight in the water. The soft lapping sound of the sewage at the hallway’s terminus and the dripping water the only sounds the young woman can hear.
Stopping for a moment, the priestess ponders about her next actions. Eying the torch a little dubiously, she doubles back into the room to retrieve the small oil-lamp and then returns to the slick and damp passage. Portia continues downward towards the sewer channel, moving slowly to allow for the slippery conditions and doing her best not to lose her footing. The cold wetness of the passage slowly creeps in the woman’s limbs, the numbness spreading slowly up from her feet. Portia pushes the thoughts to the back of her mind and utters another brief and silent prayer to the Judge of the Damned to see her through this ordeal. Focusing on her footing the priestess cautiously tests the cold steady flowing sewage when she notices the glitter of another light source further upstream in the channel… Biting her lip, Portia comes to a stop the moment she notices the new light source. With a muttered curse, she looks over her shoulder back up the passage, weighing whether or not she should return to the room and risk hiding there. After a moment, she shakes her head. Stepping carefully, she continues down the passage. She holds the torch in her left hand as her primary source of light, while she holds the small lantern loose in her right hand, ready to throw it if necessary. A little flaming oil should slow a bad guy down… In the light cast by a glowing staff and something that could be a lantern of sorts, Portia can make out several figures, half of the group man-sized, the other half much smaller… the combined light reflecting of the armor and naked sword of the closest of the man-sized figure.
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