back Reunited

Into the Rat's lair

"Let's go then. The sooner we are in the sooner we can get this finished!"

The cavalry had brought a few spare mounts, but not enough for all the new arrivals. Graylor and Egil's party face a walk back to the New City: fortunately the nearest gate, next to the river, is considerably closer than the Wyvern gate route that the zebras will be using to re-enter the Rubble, and much of the route takes them along the riverbank. Even so, it's Fire Season, and getting hotter as Yelm climbs into the Sky. They pause in the shade of some trees when the shadows are at their shortest: Egil's Mostali device turns mud into those patties that they have determined are rather similar to Bob's Bison Burgers, only without the flavour. Irnar's smile had persuaded one of the serving girls at Gimpys to part with some bread and cheese before they left, and adding this makes the whole thing rather more palatable. "I can has cheezburger", he mumbles through a full mouth.

(Before he severed Egil had a sister who was a priestess of Lolcatz, anyone caught invoking cheezburger in her name was given a particularly bad cause of furballs.)

At last, at the hottest part of the day, they approach the walls of the New City, looking almost lost next to the giant-built ones that surround the Rubble itself. A path leads up from the river to the Gate and the guards standing around it, trying to keep in the shade. Silver Shields... Rana scans faces hopefully.

"Yes, I did get it right. Just follow me and keep quiet, we'll be fine." She leads the way confidently up to the desk at the side, and the soldier sitting there, sweat dripping onto a pile of paperwork.

"Oreros, you still on midday duty? I didn't get you into that much trouble, did I?"

He looks up and smiles. "'Course you didn't, love. If they handed out demerits for every little scuffle, we'd all be digging latrines. You'll be in the usual this evening, then?"

"If you'll be there. You're not on duty overnight, are you?"

"No.... but I can probably manage to stand to attention, given the right encouragement." The grins they exchange leave very little to the imagination. He looks past her. "This lot are with you? Go on in, then."

Irnar raises one eyebrow and you could almost see his whiskers twitching. A slow smile crosses his face as he reappraises Rana.

Egil (and the rest of the legion no doubt) is particularly adept at avoiding eye contact with the local Lunars, neither looking directly at them but not conspicuously looking away either.)

Once through the gate and far enough away from the guards, Egil turns and faces the Rat, his expression becomes glazed again and his eyes black. "Now, little Eurmal, take me to my sword or your suffering shall know no end. My halls will be closed to you and you shall spend your afterlife running from my deathlight like Vivamort."

"Poetic, isn't he?" the Rat remarks to no-one in particular. "Follow me, then, and try not to be too obvious about it." He heads towards Marrow Street, and turns up the first alley into Riverside.

"Bait Street entrance?" Rana asks.

The Legion present will realise that the route there will take them very close to their current New City base, a tenement block just off the Fish Market.


Irnar waits for them to get off the main path before he talks to Rana. "Interesting boyfriend! Mixing business with pleasure is always a tricky thing though. Me I prefer my pleasure undiluted!"

"Both is always an option," she murmurs quietly, with a quick grin.

A surprised but delighted smile crosses Irnar's face. "Later then!"

Meanwhile the Rat is leading them out into Ingilli Street, round various corners and courtyards, and back into another alley, coming out on the corner of Bait Street in front of the Teelo Norri soup kitchen (closed). Ahead of them lies another alley that leads to Silver Street and the TN temple (probably not closed). The Rat nods towards that. "Check out the other end, would you? We don't want interruptions at this point." Rana heads in that direction.

Irnar walks silently with Rana and extends his senses to the full augmenting his natural abilities with the magical senses of Yinkin. Graylor stays with Egil and the Rat but makes sure that he is fully alert, he silently calls on Ashar to spot anyone readying an attack and decides that spotting chaos would be a good thing given the Lunarised view of chaos that the Rat has.

"So Ratty boy, is it likely that someone is lying in wait for us? Not undead or chaotic beasties by any chance? Ah well, I've come for my sword but anything else that wants to play is quite welcome to join in." Egil almost smiles before he calls on Hu's and Ashar's aid to reveal hidden enemies.

"The sewers lead into the River. Work out for yourself what might be down there, apart from my own guards when we get closer. For now, though, we don't want to be seen entering, and there's a Lunar temple at the other end of the street. You may want to play with them, I don't."

But Rana and Irnar's stroll up the alley and back reveals no-one watching, and all the magic shows no threat for now. She pulls the grating away from the entrance. A ladder leads down into near-darkness. "Ladder down, about two feet of water at the bottom, mind your footing."

Irnar shrugs regretfully, looking daggers at Graylor, he mutters quietly to Rana. “Come to Pavis with me he says. Be a nice change from the cold of the mountains. Dry your fur out in the warmth of the Praxian sun. He says nothing about chasing Rats down holes! No mention of water filled ditches! Two feet deep you say. That’ll be another pair of boots you’ll owe me then! Shall I go first then boss?”

Not that any of his complaint seem to stop him from being first through the grate. He is quiet and careful on the climb down. He has kept all his senses on maximum, cat’s vision being very useful in the tunnel. It also offers him a fine view as Rana climbs down next. “I was right about those legs though..” He purrs smugly to himself. "and all the right curves to go with them. Lovely!" The sight of Graylor's boots coming through the grate pulls him out of his wool gathering. He again checks that they are alone in the sewers and waits for Egil and the Rat to lead the way.

The Rat is last down, replacing the grating on the way. "East, for now. Rana, you know the exit. I'll lead after that, the guards won't know you."

"You still using Black Fang?"

"I might be."

There was a distant squeaking and skittering noise from the west, dying away as they moved further from it. They waded east, moving through semi-darkness brightened by the occasional spill of light peering timidly through a barred grate above. Soon Rana led them into a sub-branch that rose onto bare stone. Just as they were congratulating themselves on reaching dry land they heard the squealing, closer than before, followed by a pattering of not-so-tiny feet. Even with the echoes to confuse them the sound unmistakably came from just ahead.

(Thanks to Penelope Love for most of the text)

Egil rarely walks in the dark when there is no need (doubtless Graylor is the same) and carries his unsheathed blade which casts its deathlight pall along the sewers. Upon hearing the noise Egil flashes a hand signal to Graylor: "Rubblerunners!"

Grateful for the information from Egil, Graylor draws his second sword and waits patiently for the explosion of movement that will bring destruction to his foes. Irnar is intent on the passageway ahead and misses the sign but he has his claws ready to deal with anything that comes for him. Meanwhile he is straining his senses to identify the foe and their numbers.

Not much straining is needed: a grating overhead at this point gives plenty of light.

A thing comes barreling round the corner, low and thickset and hairy, like a boar crossed with a rat, only with fang-filled jaws that hinge from somewhere near its kidneys. It peers at them with piggy, ratty eyes and gives a pleased squeak.

Rana looks a little surprised. "Hello, Wuffles," she says calmly, and reaches out to pet it.

"Wuffles," says a fluting voice from the darkness ahead. "Sit. Stay."

The rubble runner peels back its lips in an ingratiating grin, a disturbing sight something like a smiling doberman. If it had a tail, it would wag it. Lacking one, it just slobbers.

Someone – or something – steps momentarily into the fringe of the light. They see a misshapen bald head, seamed with red scars, a single red glaring eye, a hank of hair and a twisted iron claw. Then the thing steps back into darkness again.

"Rana," piped the mysterious voice. "These are with you? Where's the boss?"

"Here." The Rat pushes his way to the front. "These have safe passage in, and out again - once. Any trouble here?"

"No sir, no sir, none at all." The voice sounds almost servile.

"Good. Keep it that way." The Rat leads them up the new, dry, tunnel, past a side passage from which a red eye can be seen gleaming. Wuffles whines, sounding rather disappointed.

While this conversation is taking place Graylor registers the creatures, Wuffles and it’s misshapen owner, as chaotic but this is neither the time nor place to consider their fate. He’ll report back to Vur and allow the established chapter to deal with the problem. Anyway just at that moment Ashar intervenes; Graylor’s sword vibrates in his hand, the signal that there are enemies preparing for attack. Graylor acts quickly, he steps forward to the Rat and two swords flash one is now jabbing into the Rat’s kidneys the other has whipped round and is pressing tightly against the front of his throat. Graylor whispers in the Rat’s ear.

“This better not be a set-up! If you wish to remain a baritone then you had better make sure there are no mistakes!” The point of aim of Graylor’s second sword lowers by about a foot, to emphasize his words.

“Remember Eurmal Orlanth gave your obedience to me. Now call them off before I slice them off!”

Graylor sends his senses abroad again and this time he finds more chaotics ahead. He half turns so that Egil can hear. “More of your chaos chums for us to fight?” This time all Graylor’s truth sense is focused on the Rat. It was too much of a coincidence that Ashars warning happened the moment the Rat identified himself. Graylor wants to know how much of a surprise this information is to the Rat.

"What..??!!! Call what off? There's no setup!"

As far as Graylor can tell, he's telling the truth as he knows it.

He calls ahead. "I said they're with me! No enemies here, stand down."

A figure appears from around the corner of the tunnel ahead. This is the opposite of the last guard: a tall, inhumanly beautiful woman with pale blonde hair. Muscles ripple in her arms and chest. The Rat relaxes. "Ragna, so you're on duty today. These are friends of mine - of sorts - for the next few hours at least."

Her smile shows slightly pointed teeth. "So you said - and that's the only thing we have against them. Frakor, you should have known better. The Fang takes hires, but we don't like having our allies betrayed. You've been out-bid."

And again, as far as Graylor can tell, she's telling the truth.

Egil almost chuckles but the part of him that is Hu comes to the fore "Our friendship is a marriage of convienience and all that is keeping him alive, he has something he desperately wishes to return to me. When he has done this it will effect a divorce, although certain promises will allow him to cling to his miserable existence for a little longer."

"He stole from Humakti? He does pick his enemies, doesn't he?" She assesses the group, with no apparent fear, only professional interest. "Want him to retrieve this item of yours, then we kill him afterwards?"

Egil waves away her offer and explains "I have promised not to kill him for this offence and would be faithless and without honour if I asked another to do it in my stead. His crime against me will be put aside on return of my goods. Crimes against yourself I gave no word on."

"Oh, you wouldn't have to ask." The teeth show again in a mirthless grin. "Standing aside while we do what we're paid for is all I'm suggesting. I doubt if you gave your word on crimes against our employer, either. Your business with him and ours are not connected, but we'd better conclude each in the right order."

The Rat looks from one to the other in horror. "You're supposed to protect me!" It isn't even clear who he's addressing: the same could be said of either party.

Turning to Graylor Egil bows slightly "You stand in Orlanth's place as Eurmal's keeper, so you choose his fate for now and I will stand full square with your decision."

Graylor has been using the time during the conversation to assess their situation. He has been trying to calmly assess the numbers and disposition of troops that the ogress has and the likelyhood of them getting out alive if it came to a fight.

Graylor can't sense any more chaos beyond the ogress, but there's more people back there, certainly. He can't see or hear them, but her attention is there, in part, she's addressing people behind her as well as those ahead. She may think she's being subtle, but to one trained to detect Truth, she's wrong.

She doesn't want to have to fight Humakti as well as her target, that much is clear. She isn't sure of her chances: and that's in a position where she set up the ambush.

Internally Graylor relaxes a bit knowing that they have a chance. There is no way that he intends to let the ogress have the Rat. Not from any real loyalty for the Rat from more from his hatred of chaos and this is a chance to deny them something they want. Calmly he analyses the situation. She seems sure of herself but not so sure of those she is leading. How can we increase our chances? Killing her may well do it, but she has her people in the right places. What’s the best way of disrupting an ambush? Move the point of attack. So that’s what we’ll do.

He speaks out loud. “It seems that you have us at an advantage and that we have little choice so I will consider your proposal as we go and fetch the pilfered item. You’ll grant us passage for that much I presume. When we return here I’ll give you my answer. Perhaps you would accompany us, just to make sure that we are doing what we said.”

"Go ahead." She gestures towards the passage way, and the door that's just visible beyond. "I don't see any reason to doubt Humakti."

He sheathes his swords and manages to quickly sign to Egil. “Move then fight, no survivors.” Then looking back at the Rat, Graylor apparently has a change of heart he redraws both swords. “You have given us the slip once too often. I think the pressure of a sword point might keep your mind on the job in hand! Let’s go.”

"You'll protect me?" But he seems to realise that the time for whining is past. "Follow me, don't touch anything, and when I say stop, stop: there's wards."

“Lead on then Frakor.” Graylor tells him in a controlled voice. “Let’s not strain the tolerance of Ragna.”

Once out of sight of the Ogress Graylor sheaths one of his sword, the other remains in the Rat’s back, and flicks annoyed signs to Egil as he scratches the back of his head. “Didn’t fall for it. Will spring ambush on return. Watch for eyes.”

Egil returns a grin that is almost a leer "And I shall be carrying Death!" he says quietly: then he follows with the sign "Death to chaos!"

Keeping a sharp lookout for potential enemies and listening all the time to Hu and Ashar in case more tricks, traps or ambushes should be present Egil allows some prayers to Hu. Readying himself for the moment soon when he will unleash slaughter on his would be attackers.

Graylor’s second sword is out by the time they reach the first warding. Graylor asks quietly "are these yours or are they general access?"

"First one's the start of the Lanbril-only section of the sewers." He grins. "I'm guessing that leaves you out?"

“It does.” Graylor confirms. “Is there no way through for non-worshipers of Lanbril?” At the Rat’s shaking head Graylor sighs.

“Not unless you want to suffer the thieves’ penalty!” He looks at the blank faces. “When these tunnels were first occupied the standard penalty for being caught thieving was to have your hand cut off, and they continued lopping of extremities for repeat offences.” The Rat grins mirthlessly. “Somehow the spell was never toned down when that punishment went out of fashion! Oh and of course all of my brothers resting within will immediately come to dispose of any limbless person within the tunnels. Want to come?”

“Don’t suppose you can go with him Rana?” Graylor looks hopefully at the young Vingan.

She hesitates a moment before replying “Yes I can safely pass the wards.”

“OK while you two go and get Egil’s stuff we’ll discuss what happens next. Remember Frakor you owe me your obedience for now. Bring back Egil’s real sword and quickly.”

Rana and the Rat move down the near-circular tunnel ahead to where there's a rather neat and tidy green door blocking it. The Rat pulls out a heavy copper key, and unlocks it: one of these complicated Mostali mechanisms that are popular in Pavis. He goes inside first, Rana following, and the group remaining on the safe side of the wardings can just see comfortable living quarters beyond. He stops just inside. "Ah. I see that lock isn't quite as secure as I'd hoped. I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised, but locking it after yourself is a nice touch. Is there going to be any unpleasantness at this point?"

The voice that answers is unknown to the listeners, but sounds relaxed and urbane. "Not at all - I heard my orders. You're free to pass and retrieve whatever will get our visitors out of our hair: I've even pulled back the curtain over the door to the safe, so you needn't fear any surprises there, other than the ones you've created yourself, that is."

Egil starts searching in earnest for potential hiding places and would be ambushers, any small nooks and side passages.

The tunnel still contains as many side passages as it did before: none.

There are some cracks between the stones of the wall in places. A small millipede crawls out of one of them, and crawls back in.

However, Egil's extensive experience as an archaeologist tells him that nice man-made stone-worked passages can have Secret Doors, if you tap to listen for hollow places and look very carefully for cracks. He starts hammering gently. It'll probably only take him ten minutes or so to check out the 20 yards of passage between the ogress and the wards.

“Hey Egil that’s noisy. If you are impatient, why not wait back down the passage a bit. Only do it in silence this time! I have grave concerns about the situation here.” Graylor slightly stresses the words "silence" and "grave" hoping that Egil catches on as he turns back to the situation behind the warding.

“Are you two OK?” He calls out. As soon as he can hear that Egil has activated Silence of the Grave, by the lack of noise coming down the tunnel, Graylor continues. “We need both of you to return safely to Orlanth, there is no need for anyone to be left behind.”

Rana's moved further into the room, but staying in Graylor's line of sight. "We're fine," she calls back. "He's gone into the room at the back, beyond the personal wards, and our new friend is leaning against the wall next to that door, twiddling his thumbs. Nice place, this, very cosy."

As he is speaking Graylor kneels down and silently places his swords on the floor to either side of him where he can grab them in an instant. He unslings his bow from his back and nocks an arrow ready in case it is needed. Graylor meditates, focusing his mind and senses on the room in front of him, trying to catch every sound and sight that he can from the room. Graylor asks for Ashar’s help to find out if when violence is going to erupt and for good measure he checks if the newcomer is chaotic.

No chaos, but while there's no violence at the moment, it's only waiting for a trigger. "Preparation" for an attack is exactly what Graylor can feel, as can Egil.

Irnar watches his friend and decides that a bow is a reasonable option, trusting Graylor to take care of the tunnel to the thieves he concentrates his attention and senses into the tunnel back the way they had just come.

Watching, Egil and Graylor see Rana straighten up slightly. "Here he comes, I think." At the same time, the warning from the Legion wyter sharpens.
"And he's got - oh, no!" The warning hits a peak - the attack is now.

There's a sound of running feet, and a choking gurgle. The Rat appears, staggering through the doorway and slowing to a stop as he reaches it, scabbarded sword held out in front of him: he almost throws it forward, though not quite far enough for it to reach the wards. There's another man behind him: very close behind him indeed, with his hands close to the Rat's neck. He's pulling on something: after a moment, the watchers recognise it as a garotte.

There's something odd about this: their detection magic is being distorted, pushed away, from the man's hands. The garotte looks odd, too, though in this dim light it's hard to tell exactly how.

Egil braces himself to charge through the ward readying his battle magic but before he does so he call upon Hu and Hereward seeking their aid to break the garotte. "Lord of Death and his faithful servant help stop this dishonourable cowardly attack and snap the garotte."

The gray light of Death magic reaches out to the thin wire, a slashing wind going with it. Colour fades from anything it touches: yet the wire is already grey, not the warm glow of bronze. The magic pushes against it, and is driven back: the wind fails to cut it.

Egil's face takes on the gruesome demeanour that signifies his Visage of Fear has been cast and calls on Hu to make his sword strike as powerful as it can be with a great blow, then sheathing his blade (so it doesn't fall where he can't find it when his hand is severed.) he charges towards the ward. Seeing Barzaad's Tooth lying on the floor near the ward, he stops. Bending down he uses his sword to drag the Tooth back through the ward. Once it is in his hand he feels Hu's power surge through him. Then a thought occurs to him. "I am Hu, I am the sword, Ashar can make the sword unbreakable." Calling out in a soft voice he says "Ashar, this is the blade of Hu, make me unbreakable that I may pass this barrier unscathed."

Egil stares at his sword until he becomes a part of it and then he is it. He feels nothing just hard, sharp edges and a straight forward purpose, the task he has set to do. There are enemies to be killed by his edges he must now advance and destroy them. He steps over the ward and gets an unfamiliar sensation, pain. Only once before has this happened, in the fires of the forge, but he remembers that it is fleeting and will soon pass. He waits a few moments for the forge-pain to pass before he begins his advance again.

Meanwhile, Graylor is also taking action. He raises his bow and draws back ready to release. No simple target presents itself. Thinking quickly he remembers the whistle calls that Yenda taught him from her home tribe, the same as Rana. He whistles the call for "Take cover" and hopes that Rana has had enough training with the warband to know the calls.

She hears the signal, looks surprised, but doesn't start to move out of the line of fire until she actually sees the arrow coming in her direction.

Then he sends Hereward's Doomwind down the tunnel to disorientate the occupants of the room. As the wind is doing its job he bravely he takes the decision that he can help the Rat to escape but it will hurt. Calmly he shifts his aim to the Rat's left shoulder as he prays to Ashar to ensure the arrow isn't destroyed by the warding.

He murmurs the key word for the bows targeting feat, releases and without waiting to see if the strike is true he draws a second arrow for a fast strike against the assassin. He calls for death on the second arrow, reward for interfering with someone in his care.

The first arrow hits the Rat in the muscle just below the shoulder, and he jerks around slightly: an unexpected movement that takes his assailant by surprise. He tries to say something: something quite rude by the expression on his face: but the garrotte stifles whatever it might have been.

The assassin sees the second arrow being loosed, and dodges behind the Rat again. Rana has now vanished out of sight: close to the door and the fight, as far as Graylor and Egil can see, but out of the line of fire. Egil, however, as he advances through the wards, is directly between Graylor and his target, blocking his view completely.

Both the assassin and the Rat see Egil coming, and his Visage of Fear make it quite clear that he isn't there to chat. The Rat flinches away, as best he can while benig strangled: the assassin does his best to hide behind both his victim and (perhaps rightly suspecting that this won't stop Egil), the wall next to the door. This is a mistake. Egil makes the best judgement he can where the assassin is stood behind the wall, walking swiftly up to it he plunges Barzaad's Tooth through the stone to dispatch him.

There's a gurgling sound, and the assassin slumps: not quite to the ground, though. The Rat gasps, and pulls the slack garrotte from his neck. Egil steps through the doorway to be sure of his victim, and finds Rana with her left arm around the assassin's neck and a dagger in his back, staring at the sword-point that's come out of one side of his chest.

Egil looks at the fallen assassin impassively before delivering a coup de grace, then turning to the Rat and Rana he says "Follow me, we're leaving! If anything tries to stop you, kill it!"

As he stalks back towards Graylor he signs "Hostile dead, move out."

Graylor acknowledges Egil, and apologises to the Rat. "Sorry for your shoulder, it was the only thing I could think of to save your life. You were given into my charge, something I take very seriously. There is no way that I would give you to that abomination in the next room. I'll see to your wounds when I have seen to your friends next door."

"I am going to see if I can shake a few fangs loose!" His grin is devoid of real humour. "I can put an exploding arrow into their room. We should be OK with the sound, but I am worried about the backlash. Egil can you use the wind to counter the blast? I'll help with mine, can anyone else provide any backup to block the aftershock?"

The Rat is still clutching his shoulder and swearing under his breath, but Rana replies. "We're blocking the wind? I can help a little, then." She raises her left arm as if holding a shield, and waits for him to shoot.

“Great. In that case lets get on with it. I suggest that we just storm the place as soon as the shock wave passes. I want the ogress though!” Graylor instructed. “Irnar will you pick off any that try to escape? We want to wipe out the whole band. I don’t want anyone to report back to Black Fang of what happened. OK?”

Seeing the nods of agreement from the others Graylor heads down the tunnel. His black cloak making him appear as one of the many shadows. The others are not far behind but stay out of sight of the main room. While Graylor readies himself, flurries of wind eddy about him waiting to protect him from the blast. His bow is drawn before he takes the two strides that open up the room to his aim. The bow leaps soundlessly, a very strange feeling for Graylor who is used to the deep note the bow usually makes on release, and the arrow is propelled into the room.

An eerie, silent explosion follows Graylor can see the effects but can’t hear them nor does he feel anything but a gentle breeze as the Truewind and Rana’s magic neutralise the shockwave. While his brain is taking all this in his hands are busy. His bow is slung over one shoulder and his swords drawn, already gleaming blackly with Jalmar’s Magic. He flings his arm forward, simultaneously summoning the others to the attack and throwing the doomwind into the chaos the explosion wrought.

Graylor leaps bravely into the aftermath of the explosion and yells a challenge to the ogress. Using the power in his new gloves to try and force the battle he so earnestly desires. “Here’s my answer bitch. I wouldn’t give you the time of day, except to carve it in your worthless hide. You will have nothing of me or my companions other than death.” He then releases a torrent of profanities designed to enrage Ragna and provoke a rash attack.

Egil says nothing, he looks for opponents to fight and closes in on them and announces "Death has selected you!". He is filled with the spirit of Hu and has the iron willed determination and the lack of emotion displayed by his lord. These people must die so his job is to complete that task.

Charging into the room, Graylor sees the ogress picking herself off the wall she had been thrown into. She takes one look at the screaming maniac coming at her and runs, throwing a dagger backwards as she does so. She's out of sight round the next bend in moments.

Graylor continues after the ogress. He is conscious of the fact that she is running towards the guard and rubble runner, though this doesn't noticeably slow him down. Somewhere in the back of his mind he wonders where the rest of her companions are too. Mentally he shrugs, relying on Egil and Irnar to cover his back, what is in front will be dealt with.

She's a fast runner. Round the next few corners, past the alcove where that first guard had been, a splash ahead as she enters the water: and a squeal closer to him. There's something in his way, at the edge of the dry land. Wuffles. This time the teeth aren't grinning in a friendly manner at all.

Graylor hardly breaks stride as he disposes of the creature. A swift kick closes the grinning jaws with a load snap and a single thrust of his blade through one of the piggy eyes leaves it bereft of life.

Graylor tries one last thing to slow down the escaping ogress. “Halt Ragna!” he commands using the power of his Jalmari gauntlets, backed up with his own magic a hastily improvised feat to impede the escape of the ogress.

Meanwhile, Egil continues his steady advance, Irnar beside him. Rana and the Rat follow: he's complaining about his injured shoulder, and it sounds as if she's treating it in between telling him to shut up.

Graylor can no longer hear the sound of running footsteps, nor of splashing. She must have stopped, as he commanded - but where? He steps out into the sewer to look in both directions: then suddenly realises where she is, as hands grip and twist his leg and he's pulled into the water. He also realises rapidly that she's got a black dagger between her teeth.

Fine, now that combat has arrived Graylor is calm again. He releases all the tension in his body and lets his swords fall at the edge of the water. Allowing the ogress to pull him under, he lies at the bottom apparently stunned, though in reality waiting for his moment to destroy this foul creature. Graylor allows the doomwind that has been with him to die off.

Once under his old fear of drowning resurfaces, though through years of training he now knows that he can hold his breath and fight underwater effectively which calms the rising panic. Graylor’s thoughts race, he hopes that seeing him disarmed would make Ragna underestimate him. Unlike the common perception of Humakti, the Jalmari magic is not invested in their blades but their gloves, blades are mere extensions to those gloves. He waits for his opening, his dedication to the Jamari cause gives him the confidence that he will triumph.

Ragna may, possibly, be underestimating Graylor, but she's still trying to kill him. A heavy weight lands on his chest, and hands grasp his throat, her thumbs going for the grip at the sides of the neck that find the big artery there. More sophisticated than strangulation, and a great deal faster. Graylor realises that if he wants his fake unconsciousness to remain fake for more than another ten seconds or so, he needs to act.

Meanwhile Irnar rounds the corner to see the ogress kneeling in the water on something he can't see, and apparently trying to strangle it. He can guess what's going on, and looses an arrow at the stationary target.

And act he does. A huge plume of water is blown into the Ragna’s face, the results of Graylor releasing the Cutting Wind of Truth from under the water. His hands follow an instant later one grabs the dagger helpfully in Ragna’s teeth, not bothering to pull it out he tries to drive it further into her mouth. His other hand grabs at the top of her head to prevent her pulling back.

Unfortunately for Graylor the spray of water deflected Irnar’s arrow. The water causes Ragna to shift her weight back a little, enough for him to miss grabbing the dagger and her head. Almost immediately she leans forward again tightening the hold she had round his neck.

Graylor has one last chance he reckons before he blacks out. He forgets about the dagger in the creature’s mouth and concentrates on the hands round his neck. This time there will be no avoiding the magic of Jalmar.

Irnar cursed Graylor’s timing with the water spout and nocks another arrow. This time he surely can’t miss a stationary target at this range.

Ragna certainly noticed the last arrow, and is trying to dodge the next one, but trying to keep her grip on Graylor at the same time is hampering her. She isn't quite stationary, but close enough, at this range: the hunting head hits her in the ribs with a solid thump, hard enough to hurt even an ogre. She gasps and rocks backwards into the water. Just at that moment Graylor feels the lessening of the pressure on his neck, he bucks his body sideways and with his left hand pushes the ogress sideways onto her back. Without Ragna on his chest he can now reach his belt and the daggers that are there, with his right hand he swiftly draws one and plunges it into the chest of the ogress. He pulls on the dagger as a levering himself up on it, opening a large jagged hole in Ragna’s chest. His left hand grasps his second dagger as he leans over the gasping ogress and whispers in her ear, his voice so low that none but she can hear it.

“You have been marked for death by Jalmar, none of your kind will survive his wrath. Go now to the abyss of oblivion and be forgotten!”

His left hand strikes, the dagger enters under her jaw and proceeds through to her brain where Graylor releases the full power of Jalmar’s wrath and all life is extinguished.

A second later Irnar is splashing through the water and pulling Graylor to his feet. "Thought she was going to get you boss. Especially when your water spout washed away my first arrow! You alright?" The latter said as he notices Graylor's pale face and wobbly stance.

"Will be in a moment." Graylor manages as he staggers out of the water and collapses against the wall. The sounds of fighting penetrate Graylor's brain. "Help the others. I'll be OK."

Seeing no-one else in front of him Egil turns and walks slowly backwards towards the exit. He watches warily for anyone coming down the tunnel and through the ward. He doubts they will be hiding too much, they almost certainly don't know that Ashar has the room lit up like a Sacred Time tree.

So, he's walking backwards, looking past where Rana is trying some healing magic on the Rat's shoulder, when he sees the attack. Not from the wards, as he'd expected, but from the alcove they'd passed earlier. The ugly chaotic guard, Wuffle's mistress, leaps out incredibly fast, black dagger in hand, and stabs the Rat in the chest. He collapses, and the creature turns on Rana, black dagger in one hand, iron claw jutting from the other.

Without giving another moment's thought Egil charges the monster, calling on the 7th cohort to help him face it. While it is still occupied with Rana he chops at its neck to sever the ugly head from the equally ugly body.

The Rat falls to the ground, and the monster turns from Rana to face the more dangerous threat. The single red eye glares at Egil, and the iron claw on her left hand reaches out for him. Yes, "her": it may be easier to think "it", but this is definitely female. The elaborately painted black dagger is covered in blood - and some unpleasant-looking black substance.

Rana dodges in from behind with her own dagger, striking home, at the same time as a great swing from Barzaard's Tooth hits the monster in the shoulder. She screams, her left arm goes limp, and she backs into the crevice she came from, dagger held out in front of her as a defence.

Egil steps forward, grabbing the things wrist to prevent her from stabbing him. He hopes to buy enough time to bury Barzaad's Tooth up to the hilt. Aiming for the stomach, figuring she can't duck or jump a thrust there, the warrior asks Hu's aid to ensure the sword penetrates as far as it can and plunges the sword into the monster.

She screams, and tries with no success to get her dagger-wrist free.

Having immobilised her wrist Egil sets about trying to finish off the creature. He makes many short jabbing thrusts into the torso, opening many wounds which bleed profusely. He keeps the attack going until she falls: which takes longer than he'd have preferred but the end result is never in any doubt.

Egil stabs until the signs of life are extinguished, then he lets the body fall before turning to Rana. "Grab an arm, we'll drag him out and sort out whether he's dead or alive later." He motions to the Rat "I wouldn't be happy leaving a corpse for these buggers to turn into a zombie."

"You go ahead, I'll catch you up. I'm not happy leaving poisoned magical daggers around for them to pick up, either, I'll do a bit of tidying up."

Egil walks down the corridor, Barzaad's Tooth in one hand, Rat in the other, until he come to first Irnar and then Graylor. Rana follows a little behind, with an interesting collection of black daggers on her belt, and cleaning the last of the blood from her own.

Their arrival rouses Graylor. "Who’s hurt?" He staggers to his feet: as he looks it is obvious that the Rat is the one in trouble.

"No! Don’t move him yet; let me see what I can do." He says to Egil as he sees him about to lift up the Rat again.

Egil smiles grimly "We met her pet, very nice indeed. I think this one is dead but we'll check properly once we're out of here. Shall we go? I wonder, do you think the Legion would like to come down here a little later and give the place a thorough clean?"

"I don’t think it will be worth it, but we’ll report and see what the top brass want." Graylor responds as he is tending the Rat. "You are right this one is nearly dead but we may be able to keep him alive, at least long enough to get him to a competent healer."

"Talking about this place we should dispose of the bodies where they are less likely to be found quickly. What do you think? We could dump the bodies in the Rat’s room, behind his personal warding." Graylor muses, "Irnar, do you think you can fix the place so it looks like we weren’t here and the Rat did it on his own? Rana, can you manage with the bodies through the warding?"

She looks up from where she's helping hold bandages. "I can get them through the Lanbril warding, but not the one tuned to him. And really, what's the point? The next people to check in here will be the next lot of Black Fang guards, and I'm sure at least one of them will be a Lanbril member, so that ward won't stop them. You can't hide the fact that these people were killed by swords, and an archer in one case. No-one's going to believe he made all this mess, it isn't his style at all: especially the sword-shaped hole in a stone wall back there!"

"You're right, oh well, let's just confuse things as much as possible and get out of here. We need to get this guy to the white ladies as soon as possible. Has everyone got everything they want from here?" Graylor retrieves his swords and shakes off the water before sheathing them. With Rana's help he hoists the Rat onto his back. He motions for Rana and Egil to take the lead, Irnar takes the back position and obscures their tracks as they leave.

Carrying the unconscious form of the Rat between them, the small group head for the way out. Emerging above ground once more much use is made of back alleys and deserted lanes in a bid to avoid any imperial entanglements. Soon they arrive at the Chalana Arroy temple. Egil drops 5 silver coins into the hand of the apprentice at the door. "Do what you can for him except you can't use my money to resurrect him. We'll be back later to see how he's fared."

A meeting at Gimpys
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