Tuesday, November 09, 2004


Day 48

Memree, Cleve and I ventured outside the city walls today, just to explore the area where some of the treasure run tunnels and crypts begin. Cleve and I had our swords, and Memree carried a light crossbow, but we weren't dressed or prepared to actually go any distance inside, and made a point of acting like casual visitors, carrying a picnic basket.

It seemed like a good idea to get a general impression of what goes on there, and I suppose it was, but in some ways it was a rather depressing place. We saw one group coming out of a tunnel, running and stumbling and half-carrying one of their number whose tunic was badly stained with blood - something had followed them, we heard the eerie screaming noise it made, but it wasn't going to come out into the open daylight. There is apparently always at least one healer on duty there, and we saw him administer some potions to the group, or its surviving members. There were two elven, or maybe half-elven, archers in the group, and I suppose a red-bearded dwarf with a large double-headed axe is a necessity, but the humans with swords looked like cannon fodder to me... a resource easily replaced in a city like this. The mage was young and female and rather pretty, and unable to stop crying, so the group must have lost at least one member precious to her. She'd presumably had a staff when she went in, and lost it, which would have just about halved her effectiveness as a spellcaster.

There was a stall selling potions, though the colours didn't look quite true to me, I'd always buy from a proper shop or someone I was sure about, and the man and woman behind the table, while cheerful, didn't strike me as the sort of people who would be particularly careful about getting their ingredients at the right time, and generally going to all the trouble you have to if the various combinations are going to work fully.

We watched a large group going into a rather elaborate entrance - three women and a man with crossbows, a massive man or half-orc perhaps with a sword almost as tall as me, a white-haired but clean-shaven mage with a metal staff with a line of light up its entire length, his female apprentice with her own staff and a pack of books and spell ingredients, a couple of female human swordfighters, and a rather young dwarf, his beard cropped short, carrying a warhammer. They had a donkey too, its packs only half-full - leaving room for treasure, but I'd have taken a full load in, and discarded any surplus supplies if the amount of loot took up all the room.

We sat on a stone bench to eat our lunch, and I offered a pie to one of the city guards, who was standing close to us, watching that group enter the tunnel. "Are they after any special treasure, M'ser...?"

He smiled, and took the pie. "Oh, I expect they have a wondrous map, crinkled and fragile with age - or from being held close to a forger's fire! There is treasure to be found down below, but I'd rather stay poor and live a few years longer, myself, the tales people who make it out of there again tell are not for the faint-hearted."

Memree took a spare beaker, and poured some beer from our flagon into it. "Are there actually monsters down there...?"

"Thank you, Sera - just the one small beaker, I do have to stay alert, it's not unknown for something to come out of a tunnel, chasing a crypt raider." He perched himself on the end of our bench. "Once you get past the first tunnels, there are larger caves, and, with the hot water springs, there's vegetation, and a small amount of light, so the place does actually attract what we think of as monsters... and if you get lower still, there are massive snakes and spiders, and ruins of some early city built down there when the world was a bit younger." He paused to take another bite of the pie. "The original folk died out, but their magic became part of the very stones, and warps any creatures who attempt to live down there, so that a fugitive thief can turn into some sort of flesh-eating ghoul, and not one that you can stop with a couple of arrows." He shook his head. "One day we ought to clean the place out, many people are sure that innocent city children and drunks get kidnapped in the night and end up as captives down there, until they change so much that they become monsters themselves... but you could send a whole army in there, and still not find half the rooms... and maybe lose half your men, if you weren't careful."

A little later another party of adventurers emerged - they'd got some treasure, it was obvious, but there was also business for the healer, and we could see him looking grim as a tall woman gently put down a slender half-elf she'd been carrying across her shoulders. Broken bones she could mend, cuts and bruises could be healed, but even the finest healers have their limits...

So it wasn't just Cleve who was a bit quiet when we walked back towards our tavern, this afternoon.

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