Finders of the Path-Egmir's Tale
Finders of the Path: Egmir’s Tale
Egmir knew the job would be a challenge. All the jobs were these days; no one bothered with the Mercenary’s Guild unless they were desperate, crazy, or most often, both. But, a man with nothing couldn’t afford to be choosy when there was money to be made in the besieged city. That’s why he found himself in the poorest parts of Chandegar standing across from a burnt-out bar that even when it was up and running would have been considered seedy. The ‘Broken Anchor’ said the dilapidated broken sign, much like the dilapidated broken warrior who read it.
The interior was, surprisingly, in worse shape than the outside. Part of the roof had caved in over the bar along the west wall and what wasn’t moldy from water damage was blackened from a none too recent fire. The thought of the building collapsing and burying him forever wasn’t just an idle thought as he surveyed the grim empty room. No choice now; he’d agreed to the meet. He made his way towards the least ruined chair and pulled it opposite the door where he sat with his back against the wall and waited silently.
Soon enough, another person entered the gutted tavern. “No armor,” thought Egmir on first glance. His hand moved toward his sword, but the newcomer did not seem to notice or to care. “Spell-slinger,” he told himself after a moment’s consideration, “not experienced enough to recognize a threat; thinks his ‘gift’ will protect him from everything.” The stranger moved to the far wall, positioning himself between the door and Egmir so he could keep an eye on both.
Dusk, the time of the meeting, was fast approaching, and right on time, a tall, nobly dressed man with a long wooden staff came in who matched the description given Egmir. This, then, was the client and now he would find out why his skills were needed. The client looked over at the other man and gestured him towards Egmir’s table.
“We’re waiting on one more,” said the tall man sitting down. “We’ll give him a few minutes.”
“No problem,” said the caster.
Egmir remained silent.
Ten minutes later, an armored dwarf stumbled through the open doorway, looked around, spotted the trio of humans and came to sit with them.
“I was losted,” he said in a thick accent.
“Well, we’re all here now,” began the client. “I need you to fetch something that was stolen. For retrieving my property, I will pay each of you ten gold pieces with another ten as bonus if you can return it to me by dawn.”
“What was taken?” asked the caster.
“This staff,” said the nobleman holding his staff aloft, “well, a staff that looks just like this one. This is a facsimile. Mine was taken from me by an orc ambush in this pitiful excuse of a building. Without my staff, I am…weakened, yes just so, and, hmm…rivals, would be eager to, uh, take advantage of that situation, as it were. It doesn’t matter. Get the staff, bring it to me in the Chambers of the Mother’s Temple by dawn.” And he stood and left without an answer, because even though he had never worked a day in his life, he knew desperation when he saw it.
Egmir looked over his two companions and hoped they were up for the task; if not, well, sometimes that’s how the bones rolled. The life of a mercenary was simple. Do the job, get paid. Companions were like arrows or shields: tools to be used, some more effective than others.
“He said he was ambushed in here,” said Egmir taking charge, “look around, see what you can find.”
“What are we looking for?” asked the caster.
“Tracks, remains, anything to get us pointed in the right direction; otherwise this is going to be a long night.”
For his part, the dwarf looked under the table.
Beneath the rubble, was a covered door leading into a store room. There, the trio found a hatch leading down into the tavern’s basement. Egmir lit his hooded lantern and knelt by the trapdoor casting the light about the dim cellar. At the foot of the ladder was an enormous black rat which scurried away. Cautiously, Egmir started down the steep ladder while maintaining an iron grip on the slick rungs. At the bottom, he placed the lantern near the foot of the ladder and unslung his shield, taking up a defensive position while waiting for his companions.
“CLEAR!” he called upwards peering into the corners of the small room watching for the giant rat.
The sorcerer climbed down closely followed by the dwarf.
“Where’d that rat go?” asked the sorcerer.
“Dunno, but there’s a big hole in that corner there,” he said gesturing toward a gaping hole in the floor. “And, the stink coming out of it makes me think we’ve found an entrance to the sewers.”
The sorcerer’s face screwed up into a sour expression as he realized the implication of that statement, but the dwarf happily trod over and peered down into the malodorous abyss with his innate dark-vision.
“Uh-oh,” he said pointing downwards and looking back at the two humans. The giant rat sprung out of the hole and, by sheer miracle, completely missed the flat-footed dwarf who was totally oblivious to the attack.
Egmir strode forward and slice open the creature’s side before it could pounce on the lumbering dwarf from behind. Mortally wounded, the beast screeched as it died on the cellar floor. No sooner had it quit twitching than a swarm of small black, grey, brown and white shapes scurried out of the sacks of grain and barrels of dried goods and gathered around the solitary light source as if drawn by the dying cries of their larger cousin.
“Shoo,” said Egmir brushing the rats away, but they suddenly charged en masse and covered the heavily armored fighter in a blanket of writhing squealing bodies, nipping, scratching and clawing their way into every opening in his scale mail.
“Son of a…,” declared the warrior as he smashed rat after rat with his gauntleted hands and heavy shield.
The sorcerer waved his hands and some rats fell dead on the floor. The dwarf stomped on those that still twitched with his heavy boots. Soon enough, Egmir dispersed the swarm and had only suffered minor inconveniences from the frenzied rodents.
“Now what?” asked the sorcerer while the dwarf looked over Egmir’s scratches.
“Down,” said the warrior nodding toward the pit. “Hold the lantern over the hole; I’ll check it out.”
Crude handholds were carved into the slick cistern wall. Slinging his shield unto his back and sheathing his weapon, Egmir carefully climbed down into the sewers below the Broken Anchor while the sorcerer held the lantern aloft and the dwarf peered after the receding warrior. The distance wasn’t great, but the slippery walls were quite a challenge nonetheless; however, Egmir reached the bottom without incident.
“Hand down the lantern,” he called when he reached the bottom. Egmir looked down the sewer’s length in both directions then took up a defensive position while he waited for the others.
SPLASH! And, the dwarf fell the few feet to land in a heap in the flowing stream of detritus.
“I falled down,” he said in his thick accent clambering to his feet.
Once the sorcerer joined them, the trio moved through the sewers, Egmir in the front, the sorcerer next carrying the lantern and the dwarf following using his racial sight to watch behind them. Finally, the sewers opened into a junction and a dim light reflected down the right tunnel.
“Hood the lantern,” said Egmir to the sorcerer who immediately doused the light.
Moving toward the light, the trio carefully inched forward along the slimy sewer wall. When they got to the opening, Egmir glanced around the corner and spied two orcs; one with a throwing axe, the other with a wicked looking battle axe. Leaning his shield silently against the wall, Egmir loaded his crossbow and using brief hand signals, notified the others of the two enemies further within. Egmir wheeled into view and shot! His quarrel found a home in the thigh of the first orc who wildly threw back missing entirely. Egmir grabbed his shield and moved forward unsheathing his long sword as he went. The axe wielding orc charged down the narrow sewer shaft but Egmir’s shield moved his weapon high and wide giving the sorcerer and dwarf opportunities to strike at its unprotected torso. Electrical darts sprang out of the sorcerer’s hands as the orc took the brunt of the attack in the chest. Egmir ended its life with a skewering to the mid-section. The other orc drew its own battle axe and advanced on the human fighter. The orc, now frenzied, struck blow after blow against the human’s battered shield, but the well-trained human took no serious injury and retaliated in kind finally penetrating the other’s defenses and eliminating the threat. A quick search revealed some minor coin, but the party gathered up the orc’s gear, too, and left the corpses to rot in the fetid sewer.
“I seen another go over there,” said the dwarf pointing towards the back wall.
“And, I heard someone say ‘chamber of hosts’ or something like that,” said the sorcerer.
“That’s in the Temple,” said the dwarf smiling that he knew something.
The tunnel continued toward the rear of the room, but it ended at a rusted grate that was sealed with a large chain. Nearby, a single ladder was affixed to the wall.
“Up it is then,” said Egmir and he climbed the ladder which abruptly ended at closed hatch. Placing one hand on the hatch, Egmir carefully lifted, but the hatch did not move. “Damn and double-damned,” thought Egmir and he climbed up two more rungs and placed his back against the hatch and used his leg muscles to push the stubborn door open and found himself in the street across from the Temple of the Mother. No one was in sight. As the other two came out of the concealed door in the thoroughfare, Egmir moved to the entrance to the Temple.
“Greetings,” said the acolyte on duty that evening, “welcome to the Temple of the Mother. Are you weary? Have you come to pray with us tonight?”
“I need to go to the Chamber of Hosts,” said Egmir. “Can you take us? Or give us directions?”
“Only the chosen are allowed there this time of night,” said the acolyte.
“He’s a ‘chosen’,” said Egmir indicating the dwarf who only now was entering the front door.
The acolyte’s face lit up in recognition upon seeing the lumbering cleric. “Of course,” said the acolyte smiling as he removed a large key from his pocket and handing it over to the dwarf. “Return this when you are done, and please refrain from disturbing the bones down there.” And with that, he returned to his duties in the temple.
“Lead on,” said Egmir to the dwarf who stared at the key like it was a great treasure.
The cleric led Egmir and the sorcerer to an ornate door behind a tapestry on the west side of the nave. The door opened easily and the three shuffled into a small room with a circular staircase heading downwards.
“I guess it’s down again,” said Egmir handing the lantern back to the sorcerer as they started down the twisting path.
On the first landing, Egmir paused and looked to the dwarf who pointed down.
On the second landing, Egmir paused again, but the dwarf pointed down once again.
Two more landings passed before the dwarf stepped forward and unlocked the heavy oaken door with the key given him by the acolyte earlier then he very carefully and methodically placed the key in his belt pouch and tucked the entire pouch inside his jerkin as if to protect it from any harm.
A long straight corridor disappeared into the darkness beyond the door and the lantern light was insufficient to see the end. Well maintained crypts lined the walls and occasionally the trio came across the remains of flowers, mementos or offerings placed here and there on the floor in front of some of the tombs. After fifty long paces, the corridor stopped and split into a T-intersection, faint light could be seen in the distance and a rhythmic chanting could be heard echoing off the dead marble walls.
Egmir moved down the corridor as silently as a cat, a cat wearing scale armor that is. But, whatever noise he made was drowned out by the lumbering cleric behind him. Abruptly the chanting ceased and a voice in the impenetrable gloom called out, “Is that you, Berick?” “No,” shouted back the dwarf which elicited stern looks from both of the humans. Gripping his shield a little tighter, Egmir hurried down the hall but was stopped by a skeletal figure running towards the group. He braced for impact, but the dwarf suddenly called out for the Mother and the undead foe dropped to the floor in a heap of clattering bones.
“Hurry now,” said Egmir, “we can’t let them box us in here; we’re too vulnerable.” And he started off at a quickened pace leaving the sorcerer and the dwarf to keep up as best they could. The trio approached the well lit vestibule where they found a trio of robed figures standing by a sarcophagus, the wizard’s missing staff laying upon it while oily smoke oozed out of the cracks and crevices of the decaying crypt and surrounded the prized item.
“Three of them,” said Egmir to his companions, “I’m on the leader.” And with that, he charged into the room slamming his heavy shield into the middle priest trying to instill as much chaos as possible.
“Zappity-zap, zap-zap,” said the sorcerer as bolts of force sprung from his outstretched hand and skewering the left most figure.
“((Magic stuff)),” said the dwarf and a feeling of blessed resolve draped itself over Egmir giving him a morale boost.
Slightly stunned from the shield bash, the central priest moved out of range and began casting a spell to heal the damage just taken while the other two took up flanking positions around the human fighter. Their attacks were easily deflected by the heavy armor and precise shield-work of the veteran warrior. Stepping out of the flank, he swung his long sword at the head priest who responded by bleeding all over the floor and then dying.
“Zippity-zappity, zappity-zoom,” said the sorcerer as the priest who had taken the brunt of the previous spell burst into flames and expired.
“((Magic stuff)),” said the dwarf and the final foe growled in anger as the power of the Mother bitch-slapped him from across the room momentarily stunning him.
Egmir took the opportunity and skewered the remaining foe through the chest killing him instantly. With no more foes in sight, the trio collected the staff, searched the bodies for loose change and left the desolate crypts.
“That’s IT!” cried the wizard when Egmir presented the stolen staff. “Oh, I’ve missed you so much baby! Daddy is never going to go with orcs into a bar again, and that’s a promise. You’re my number one priority from here on out. Let’s go home and make popcorn!”
“Ahem,” coughed Egmir interrupting the enraptured wizard.
“Oh yes, here you go,” said the wizard tossing a small leather pouch to the human and then departing without a word of thanks.
Egmir divided the small bag of coins into three stacks and presented each of his companions with his share.
“Not a bad way to make a living,” he thought as he was leaving the Temple of the Mother. He even dropped a copper into the donations box as he departed.
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