The farm house looked deserted. In all reality they probably took a trip to town. It was mid-afternoon and not a human in sight. The animals were around, chickens scampering like fools. I had a sudden craving for warm soup.
If one were to look at the road we approached on, they might find a bug or two; see that sparrow that just flew by. The Priestess had cloaked us well from the untrained eye. Yet a feeling was there, one that told me it wasn’t the untrained we needed to be careful of.
Hagub had informed us along the way that we should check the house first. We were looking for a staircase. The front door had been left slightly opened. Easier entrance was my first thought. My second was wondering what tricks awaited us inside. Sparsely decorated. Might have been nice if it didn’t smell of hay and sit in the middle of otherwise wilderness.
It didn’t take up long to find it, nestled in a corner of the kitchen. The stairway led down to a darkened room. The coward kept to the back as we heading into it. The smell of fresh soil was strong and I found myself scrunching my nose in disgust. I fiddled briefly with the satchel at my waist and took out a silver band. As soon as it reached my finger a glow began to illuminate our surroundings. I love trinkets.
It wasn’t a large room. A few gardening supplies scattered around. Looked more like the basement to a shed or such than inside a home. Wood planks lay across the ground. Weeds intermingled between the cracks. It was disgusting. Either you live indoors, or not. I couldn’t see any reason for this mix of the two.
There was a hall across from us. The walls were lined with the same wood as the floor. I loathed the idea of going into it, but I knew what was coming.
“We’re not far now. Not far at all.” His voice was a nervous chatter.
The Priestess eyed the darkened passage cautiously. I prayed she would have the same idea as me.
“We are here. I’m certain you can go the rest of the way yourself.”
His eyes widened. “But we are not to there yet! The curse…we don’t know how it works, or how the ring is hidden! I need you there with me until I get it!”
If the magic settled in the area wasn’t enough to prove where a curse, or otherwise, was I would be very disappointed in my mentor. She always had a much clearer feel for it all than me.
“Well then, let’s continue. You can lead the way.”
With a forced smile he slowly started forward. Despite my discomfort at the surroundings, I had little choice but to follow. The halls were narrow. I had to wonder what sort of fools these people were to set up this giant tomb under their home. Or perhaps that had been their intention.
A glance at the Priestess showed her to seem fully occupied, scanning what appeared to be every inch of the wall linings as we passed. She paused once. Hagub took a while to notice and had to make his way back. She placed a single hand against a rotting plank to our side and watched it as though it were an incredible mystery.
“It is here.” She stated quietly. Of course the greedy weasel’s eyes began to sparkle with excitement.
She began to chant quietly what I knew to be a form of dispelling. When she was finished, the wood gave way easily to reveal a rather dirty, silver colored ring settled in the blackened soil. The idiot reached out quickly to claim his prize.
No sooner had he taken hold of the ring then the ground under us began to tremble. I shot him a look of pure hatred. Dirt fell onto my shoulder from a crack in the planked ceiling above. Why did I allow her to get us into this place? I didn’t know what to expect from here at this point. My heart sped despite my outward attempt to remain calm. I could feel my Priestess’ hand on my shoulder, although one look at her told that her attention was not on me but instead whatever was happening.
Just as I thought I couldn’t hold my balance any more, the ground stopped. Just stopped. Filled with silence. The woman turned to me suddenly, her eyes demanding to be obeyed.
We started quickly out the way we had come in. The darkness seeming to creep in all around. The light on my ring showed barely a few feet in front of us now.
A cry came unbidden as a wall broke free in front of my path. Splintered wood crashed around my sandaled shoes. Somehow I knew that would get me into trouble one day. A creature stood there uttering a painful moan as it blocked us from heading further. Shock filled me more of surprise then fear. A dangerous substitute. Its face was a mangle of flesh and caked blood. Torn, decaying muscle fell in layers.
“Undead!” The half-orc’s fearful statement drew me out of my trance and I backed away. We were not fighters. I should say I wasn’t. The Priestess could handle her own against one. I tried to turn around, to push Hagub out of the way to let her through, but the walls began to crumble around us. More undead pushed they’re way to us. The darkness was becoming smothering. I felt a blow against my chest as one began to attack. My breath dispelled from pain. I hardly heard the spell cast by my companion but I did see them back away. She pulled me closer as she moved away from the approaching beings.
“Follow me.” Her voice was strong with the demand and we found ourselves hustling in the other direction, further into the dampened tunnels.
No more blocked us as we headed deeper, although the creatures moved surprisingly fast for being dead. I didn’t mind necromancy, so long as it was under some sort of control. I should say my control. Being on the receiving end wasn’t as nice.
It amazed me that for such a small piece of land it could have an underground system this long. Wood flooring had long turned to dirt. The hall twisted at least twice before a doorway appeared. We rushed towards it in welcome.
Once we were in, the woman’s eyes darted quickly around the small room. Frustration was evident in the surprised expression. A moment later she moved back to the single doorway, throwing the door shut and bracing it with a nearby shovel. The chants began, although I couldn’t understand what she was trying to do. It wasn’t long before the pounding began. Loud, shuttering vibrations against the door. The moans could be heard in accompaniment.
I felt the coward’s filthy hands take hold of my arm in fear. His eyes wide as if pleading for help. Disgusting fool. I had almost forgotten he was still there.
I snapped my arm away. With a quick push of the leg I sent him tumbling to the floor. The ring tumbled to the ground. Forgotten.
“Don’t every touch me again!” I hissed sharply. He hit a nerve. I did compliment myself on the tone though. I was getting better. From the look on his face I knew my point was made.
“But…but we can’t take all of them. There’s too many.”
I wanted to slap his jaw shut to keep him from stuttering.
The woman’s voice made me look up. The pounding was starting to get more intense. I was motioned closer as her voice withdrew to a whisper. She pulled out a potion from the pouch around her waist. She couldn’t mean to actually….
“What are you doing?!”
She smiled with what I assume was reassurance. It didn’t help.
“I’m going to take some of them and see if I can’t make it out to some sort of safety. You know it’s not worth it to pray to Cyric for return passage to the temple. Not with how far we have come.”
“You know how sick those make you.”
I couldn’t help but remember the first and last time she had used the potions of teleportation she had acquired. It took her days to recover from the illness that accompanied the liquid. And that was only from one. There was no guarantee where it would take her. It wouldn’t be far, but it could be as close as the other side of the active door. The pounding and moaning of undead echoed in the darkness we called a haven.
“I must hurry. It won’t take much longer before the doors give way.”
I felt her take my hand, feeling a paper placed inside. How on Faerun did she have time to pull that out without me noticing?
“I will summon you if I get to safety. If I fail or they break through, pray for recall. This is a copy of the information needed for when you arrive at Waterdeep. It will be set back some time, but you will get there regardless for the actions to take place.”
I wasn’t a fool enough to comment that she wouldn’t fail. In fact it might make things easier on my task if that were to happen instead. Still, I found myself offering a prayer to the Prince for the Priestess.
She quickly swallowed the potion and was gone a second later. My eyes darted to the door. The illumination on my ring had become strangely eerie considering the circumstances. I heard a whimper as the pathetic creature moved to a far corner. He seemed to be looking for any other way out. The Priestess hadn’t mentioned what to do with him one way or another, so I pushed it out of my thoughts.
I gripped the paper in my hand. Had almost forgotten it was there. Good reminder for me to focus on things at hand. I quickly threw it in my satchel and waited. As I felt the familiar tug, I sent up a quick thanks before offering a sly smile to the surprised half-orc. The last thing I saw was his angered features. The expression was almost prize enough for the hassle we had just been through.
The new surroundings faded in around me and I found myself taking a minute to set my footing in the farmhouse foyer. The priestess was there, still whispering words in chant to ensure the spell’s completion. I could do nothing but wait for the brief effects to pass. It was already clear by her trembling hands that the potion had done its job well. Her face was pale with a hint of sickly yellow. I moved closer, taking her hand in my own. Amber eyes opened with a pained smile as focused on my own.
“Hagub?” I questioned for more the purpose of getting a response from her than curiosity.
“Let him rot.” Her voice was cracked with dryness, but still strong.
“Are we safe?”
“For the moment…but we must move.”
She took a step forward, nearly collapsing on the hardwood floors beneath us. I moved quickly to give her support. The lighted doorway before us was a welcomed sight.
“This is still on their grounds. Once we make it to the roadway, they will have no power to follow.”
I nodded and started us out into the open air. The nearby scent of pine had never been so wonderful.
We had to pause twice as her body rejected what was left of the potion, yet it didn’t seem like it was long before we had made it. I tried to insist that we stop but she was stubborn, naturally. She was persistent that we keep moving until we found someplace to camp. At least she accepted some healing before we moved on. The poison, however, still had time to sit in her system.
It was four days before the Priestess was able to travel again. Fever had overcome her and I found myself constantly at her side. Even in sickness, our presence together was oddly quiet. We only spoke if we needed to, yet there was always an understanding. Five days behind schedule. If we had recalled, it would have been nine.
There was only one potion left that granted the ability to teleport. We found it was random, with no pattern to where one would end up. So long as it wasn’t mid-wall, it was considered a blessing. In this case, she had found the side effect to be worth it.
“Why did you leave the half-orc there?”
During one of our few talks, I couldn’t help but ask. “After you went into that speech about paying dues?”
A welcomed smile appeared on her face.
“I never said the debt was in his favor.”
She never did tell me the events which drew this mess of an adventure. Sometimes I wish I had asked. I realized in that moment that she had planned it all along. If not the situation, the outcome. I still had much to learn.
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