Monday, February 22, 2010

The Necropolis of Alkhezzar - Part VI


"Oh brilliant hero," Pops asked Fafnir as they moved through the dank and dim tunnels below the city.  "If you were a member of a deranged chaos cult tasked with loosing a pack of beastmen on an unsuspecting flophouse in the Painted Quarter, how exactly would you get them there?"  

"Probably sneak them through the ...oh..."  Fafnir let his voice trail off.

"The sewers, yeah.  Excellent work as usual.  Riddle me this, do you ever think ahead?"  Pops grunted as he hopped over a small pile of broken stone.

"Hey, you burned down the whore house."  Fafnir reminded his friend.

"A situation that is not unfamiliar to you.  Yet you have selected a rather inconvenient path of escape."  Another grunt escaped Pops after clearing a sickly looking puddle.

"Next time, start the fire when I am awake.  You didn't give me much time."

"Speaking of...do you hear that?"  Pops turned one ear toward the tunnel from which they came.

Fafnir listened then whispered, "Sounds like Darktongue."

"Can you translate?"

"Yes, but it will take a minute to set up."  Fafnir began rummaging through a small pouch on his belt.  The guttural rasping cut off and was replaced a moment later by howling.

"No longer an issue."  Fafnir said and Pops grimaced with a quick reply, "They must have scented us."

Fafnir looked at the aged and crumbling walls flanking them.  "We need to run Pops, anything I do in this section of tunnels is going to create more problems that it solves."

Pops looked ahead.  "Right.  This way."  The two continued moving down the tunnel.  "You know, it occurs to me that most of our problems could be solved by finding one decent swordsman, maybe a guy with a big axe."

"Like those double-headed things on the bravos at market?"  Fafnir asked.

"Yeah.  Something tasteful...but menacing."  Pops scooped up a piece of rock fallen from the remains of a wall slowly dying of age and the unyielding pressure of the careless city on its shoulders.  A brief tour in his sling gave it the momentum to find a new home in the darkness behind them.

"Oh. Like the Headsman's axe?  That has silver inlays and bloodgrooves."

"Really?"  Pops sounded genuinely curious.  "On an axe?"

"I suppose it helps with a cleaner cut."  Fafnir shrugged.

"Bleh.  Not something I like to dwell on."

"Truly?"   Fafnir gave Pops a disbelieving glance.  "I thought much of your scheming would involved thinking about the Headman's axe."

"Har. Har.  It isn't scheming when it works."

"And how often is that?"  Fafnir spent a hurried moment popping his crossbow into place.  The bolt was barely set before he shot it into the dark.

"You tell me.  Right now we are running through the sewers of the city, pursued by a pack of chaos beastmen for reasons unknown, headed who knows where and we just left a burning whorehouse filled with ladies who no doubt would have rewarded us handsomely for their rescue.  Did I get it all?"  Pops ended with a harrumph.

"You forgot about the part where you robbed the dying adventurers, started the actual fire, and left his friends to a fate of either immolation or indentured servitude via prostitution."  Fafnir said dryly.

"When you put it like that we don't come off as the greatest sort, do we?"  Pops snapped two stone missiles back down the corridor in rapid succession.  Heavy sounds of impact and pain brought a quick fierce smile to his face.
"And another thing...this 'we' business is a horrid exaggeration.  I was sleeping."  Fafnir pulled another tuner from a pouch and eyed it suspiciously.  He tapped it gently on the sewer wall, waited until Pops was clear of the most recent patch of what he hoped was mostly water, and released a bolt of lightning into it.  The tuner survived however there was an ominous cracking of stone beneath the water.

"Riiiight.  And when the watch finds out that the arrogant and temperamental Fafnir, battle wizard extraordinaire, was present when the unquenchable fire was started, what are they going to conclude?"

"Unquenchable?"  Fafnir stopped moving for a moment and looked at Pops in disbelief.  "You...you used bottled fire??"

"It was the only thing available.  None of the fireplaces were lit.  Not even in the common room.  Keep moving."

"Pops!  Is...what....I...so...you mean the first thing that came to mind when presented with the sudden arrival of unknown figures in robes, without any external visual cues, was 'Well, I guess its time to burn everything down.' ?!"

"Its worked in the past.  I say it is working now.  Stick with what works, that's my plan.  So anyway, if they can contain the blaze before it gets really out of hand, most of the district should be ok."

"And if not?"

"Well.  The district will think you did it because someone refused to service your tight ass.  The guard will think you did it because its magic fire and you were there.  And the council will think you did it because they want you gone."  Pops removed a small round bullet from an oiled pouch, licked the bullet, and shot it with two spins at their pursuers.  An excited howl was replaced with a cry of agony a moment later as a small burst of flame lit the tunnel.

"I would like to point out that those potentially explosive gasses in this part of the sewer and my death from them is about the only reason I haven't lit you up like a bonfire right now."  Fafnir growled.

"See?"  Pops exclaimed, "Temperamental fire caster prone to violence...you need to do some work on your image."

Fafnir smeared an inky black substance on to a wall.  Twenty yards later he turned and shot the wall with a jagged tipped bolt.  Sparks skittered down the rock face and ignited the sticky tar in a brilliant azure burst.  Several howls started and then cut out simultaneously.  "I think that was the last one."  Fafnir said.

"Hmm.  I thought there were two more.  Did you get the one with the lizard fin thing?"  Pops asked.

"Yes.  Did you get the blue one?"  Fafnir replied.

"One eye?"

"Yeah."

"No, I thought you did."  

"Well that doesn't add up.  Do you have any idea where we are?"  Fafnir asked looking around.

"Not really."  Pops replied casually.  "The last few turns were a bit hard to read."

"Read."  Fafnir said with a flat voice.

"Yeah.  Map.  Remember?"  Pops sighed and shook his head.  "Seriously, you have the attention span of a puppy sometimes."

"You figured out the map?"

"A while back.  When we hit the older parts it started clicking together in my head.  The map is pointing us down that tunnel."

"Alright map-man.  Lead on."  Fafnir gestured at the tunnel.

"Oh no way.  That is just asking for a blade to come flying out of the wall or spikes or a pit with spikes.  See?  This is another reason we need a third guy."

"Apparently stupid is on the list of qualifications now?"  Fafnir asked.

"I prefer gullible.  But its just us so...light yourself up and go first.  I have your back."  Pops finished with a charming grin.

"Suddenly full of confidence in my abilities are we?"

"Never doubted you for a moment, my friend.  Get in there and sprint the inevitable traps."

"Sometimes I hate you."

"I know.  It's refreshing.  The constant admiration and worship wears me down.  Now go."

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Geek - Gamer - Librarian - Writer. Only awesome at one of those things at a time, unfortunately.

About Fading Interest

After writing op-eds and travelogues for several years, after finishing a few books, and after failing to get the ball rolling with project after project I stumbled into an idea that might just hold my interest long enough to enjoy some level of satisfaction with my writing.