Friday, May 8, 2009

The Tale of The Exile--The Second Night: Though the Belly of Miir (Part 4)

Part 4: Saints and Jokers

They aren't that far ahead of me. They make slightly less noise than a herd of cattle. I wrap the cloak around the blade to dampen its light--no sense alerting them too soon. I can hear them talking to someone.

Boil and damn. That's Eric's voice. He sounds like he's trying to plead. There's some ugly laughs. He's cornered.

I pull the pistol from my belt. I guess I get to see if this thing works. I can see three, but I hear two more voices around the corner. Five bullyboys total. Not great odds. But Kneebreakers like them tend to be cowards. Sufficient shock and awe should scatter them for a bit.

I raise the pistol and aim it for one of the bullyboys. Careful. Ready...aim...squeeze the trigger...

Well. That didn't go exactly as planned.

No click. No flash. No boom. No downed bullyboy.

What went wrong? No time to figure it of them is turning my way.

OK, time for Plan B--Shock and Awe the old fashioned way. I yank the dagger out, grab the edges of the cloak, wave my arms, and run at them howling "BLARG! I IS THE REDCAP COME TO PEELS OFF YER FACE!"

There's something gratifying about watching grown men scream like little girls and try to run in five different directions at once. I'm sure I'd do the same if I saw some lunatic with a glowing dagger and blood running down his face come swooping out of the dark at me. I reach the first goon, who's frozen in terror. I smell urine.

I whack him across the face with the pommel. He shrieks as his nose breaks, which is a nice counterpoint to the howls of terror. That should convince them that something deadly is here. They go scrambling away, and I reach Eric, who's on his knees muttering something. Probably a prayer of protections. He hadn't even drawn his sword. "Time to go." I tell him.

"Gaven?" he stutters. Probably never expected to see me again. I pull him to his feet, and lead him back the way we came, towards the fall.

"That won't stop them for long." I mutter. "As soon as they realize there's no monsters, they will be back, twice as mad. We should hide."

He nods numbly, and we hop down. I get wet. Again. But this time I'm expecting the ground. We rush down the tunnel junction, into the dark. We run, taking tunnels at random, for a while. After a quarter of an hour, we stop to rest. I lean against the wall, exhausted.

"You certainly gave me a start." he says. "I thought my heart would stop. I actually believed the Redcaps were coming."

"They very well could be." I grumble. "For all I know, those goblins live in these tunnels. Probably to avoid being hunted by day."

“I thought that might be a Redcap's hat.” he mutters. “So they ARE in Miir. We'd heard rumors...never took them seriously.”

“Better start. We may met the whole clan later, and fighting Redcaps is not an experience I care to repeat.” I shiver, then take a moment to examine the pistol. Ah. Here's the problem. I went after them half-cocked. No wonder it didn't fire. I remedy this.

"Where did you get that?" Eric asks.

"Let's just say we aren't the only criminals to use these tunnels and leave it at that. Where now?"

He looks around. He gets a concerned look on his face, and I feel my heart sink. I know what he's about to say. "I don't know. We're lost."

Wow. THIS is familiar. Roaming around in the dark, no idea where to go. At least there's no signs of pursuit--we've lost the bullyboys. The smell has become incredible. We're now out of the sewers with fresh drinkable water. These are the bowels of Miir. Don't drink the water.

We come across a niche in the wall. A serene statue looks out across the muck, an expression of contemplation on his features. Eric stops. He kneels by the statue. I'm confused.

"Who builds this kind of thing in a sewer?" I murmur. Eric shushes me. He's praying again. "Who is he?" I ask.

"He is a saint, and he watches these tunnels." Eric says reverently. "Placed by the workers to watch over them. Do you have a coin?"


"Pay them a coin, and they'll be your patron."

Great. Even the Saints must be bribed in Miir. But who am I to judge? In Calisipas, the Dragon sees all, but outside Calisipas, the Dragon's not there, as the saying goes. I pull 2 coins. Eric places them beneath the statue's feet. Well, there's 2 good coins I'll never see again. The Saint's protection had better be worth it.

We move on. Our daggers gleam in the darkness as we pick our way through the tunnels. We seem to be going in a slow spiral out of the city. Something strikes me. Not that I don't appreciate the light, but where, exactly, does someone on a typical guards salary get fireglass? I figured that the dagger that he gave me is the same one that was taken away when I was recaptured this morning, stolen from a lockbox. But his dagger seems to be an exact copy of mine. Made by the same knife maker, at the very least, possibly part of a set. I'd like answers.

"These daggers are handy, Eric. I wish I'd had one when I tried to pull the job I got pinched for--might not have gotten locked up." I say. He ignores me."In fact, I was under the impression that fireglass was something of a rarity. I mean, I've only seen it used in The Bastion."

"Well, then, I suppose you should count yourself fortunate." He grunts. We climb up a dry tunnel. No sludge here. It's a relief.

"Sure. Fortunate. You know, I found one of these in a house I robbed last night. Near some dragon claw quills. Those aren't common things, either."

"You're admitting a crime to an officer of the law?" He grumbles. He clearly doesn't like this conversation.

"Well, you sprang me from jail and you're on the run, so I don't think you're in a position to arrest me. And I did save your life."

"I appreciate that, Gaven, but I don't know if you've actually done me a favor. There are worse fates than in the hands of Lord Dythanus."

"Yeah. At least they didn't take your light from you, eh? Then you'd be screwed."

He whirls around. His face bounces between emotions. There's rage, fear, sadness and...guilt? It takes him a moment to compose himself. "If you please, I would prefer to return to silence, rather than listen to you tempt fate by mocking The Shadows."

That's certainly interesting. Reading marks is an acquired skill of mine. I think over what his reaction has told me. One, he's more terrified of The Shadows than the Bullyboys. Two, He's hiding something. Three, he feels bad about the secret he carries.

The Bullyboys wore the uniforms of the other guards in this city, but mentioned payment from some "Lord Dythanus." It's not the first time I've had run-ins with city authorities being used as hired muscles for nobles. Even Longshankes could swing that. Still, Eric didn't seem this tense last night when he lead me out to the gates. Nervous, yes but not like this. And he had a candle then.

There's a glow up ahead. I stow my questions. We have some company. While I'd like answers, I don't want them enough to get attacked. We put our daggers away, plunging us into darkness. The light up ahead isn't moving. It's a constant glow, not a flicker like firelight. I creep forward, while beside me a blade is pulled from a scabbard. Really, Eric. You couldn't have done that earlier against the bullyboys? I peek into the tunnel. There's nothing there. A seam in the rock glows a soft orange. It's natural fireglass. I breathe a sigh of relief.

Hello, there. What's this?

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