Greetings and welcome to another episode of Tallavanor’s tales. Last time, our heroes learned the identify of the ‘monster’ and discovered a coded letter. They decide to head to the Mausoleum, priest in tow. What will they find that they missed the night before? Tallavanor has a longer post today, so more for you to enjoy!
We approached the Mausoleum. The priest was certain there was a monster there, but when we’d spent an hour in there last night, recovering from our ambush, there’d been nothing of note other than some empty crypts. It was only now that I recalled we’d left our prisoner – the blacksmith – under arrest inside the mausoleum. Hopefully
my our prisoner wouldn’t be turned into a zombie or skeleton or something. I’d encountered a few of those in my undercover days. They were convenient for smugglers seeking to guard materials of value without having to feed a living protector.
Gregario pulled the rusted old key from his belt and jimmied the lock open. I held my head against the wooden door. Was that the sound of shuffling footsteps?
No – just snoring. We opened the door and rushed in, waking the blacksmith and sending him scurrying for the far wall. I covered him with my pistol as Gregorio and Claudia searched the tomb for a secret passage. The priest followed us in, staring quizzically at the blacksmith on the ground.
“He tried to kill us.” I said. “I may not be closely familiar with the laws of this kingdom, but attempted murder is still attempted murder. Would your villagers be able to take him back to your village and try him? Or contact the authorities and have them come out to deal with him?” The priest nodded, then walked out the mausoleum doors. He shouted for one of the villagers to come over. The same thickly muscled man soon appeared in the mausoleum. I placed my manacles on the prisoner. I hated losing them, but I hoped to be able to get them back from the villagers after we returned from our adventure.
Claudia shouted at us as Gregario tripped some unseen trigger. I really must discover his origins. Where did he get his training? That’s first rate criminal – or government – knowledge. A large chunk of the floor slid to one side, and a hidden staircase appeared, descending down into a dusty corridor.
“Shall we go in?” She asked. I pulled a torch from my kit and struck it alight.
“You know, we don’t have to do this. We should be chasing the count.” Gregario said hesitantly. “Killing some large monster is good and all, but will it really help us catch whoever is after the count?”
“What, afraid of a monster? Plus, this will fill in the blanks in the story. We need to knwo what happened to the Count’s family, and that story goes missing here.” I looked down the stairs. “Looks pretty dark to me. You two better go first.” I pulled my pistol and cocked it, ready for whatever dark things awaited us. The two members of the party with darkvision stepped just a few paces ahead, and the priest joined me, bringing up the rear.
A beautifully appointed corridor, lined with marble and flanked by four pairs of stone sarcophagi, stretched out before us. The flickering torchlight revealed the figures of Claudia and Gregario already breaking into a tomb. “What are you doing?” I asked, slightly shocked.
“Making sure there are bodies in there. If the priest’s words are true, I’m betting that whatever that monster is took all the bodies. To eat or to do…something.” Claudia said, her dagger at the ready. Gregario’s iron crowbar lifted the lid, but the seal had already been broken and the sarcophagus was empty. The priest made the symbol of Paylor and clutched his icon. He was muttering prayers under his breath.
“Let’s check the others. I want to make sure my suspicions are correct.” Gregario said. I nodded. We checked the others in the hallway. All eight were empty. As we progressed down the hall, the ever present gloom gradually gave way, only to fill in behind us. A rotunda opened up, Five more sarcophagi circling the room. Opposite the hallway, the largest one featured a detailed lid, a marble carving of a knight at rest. The floor was covered in black lichen, spreading from the fancy sarcophagi.
“There must be moisture down here somewhere, a source of water. Lichen doesn’t grow where there isn’t any water.” Gregario pointed to the crypt. The first occupant’s name had been crossed out. In it’s place had been carved another name.
Vladislaus the Ninth
“That’s the Count’s grandfather. He died about 80 years ago.”
“Well the lichen are coming from there.” I pointed out.
“Let’s open it.” Gregario said. “The others are most likely empty as well. But something is different about this one.” He manhandled the crowbar into place and cranked the lid. A wave of decay and fetid rot assaulted our noses, and Gregario took the brunt of it. He dropped the crowbar, the lid thumping back into place, and hurried backwards, nearly retching. The smell of dead bodies was instantly familiar to me, and I was not eager to approach that part of the tunnel. We cautiously approached again, this time leaning back as we pried the lid off. Below was a dark hole about ten feet down, then a sloping, dirt floor covered in lichen appeared. I lit another torch and dropped the first one down the hole.
We could see very little beyond the lichen covered walls and floor. So I tied my rope around the heavy sarcophagus lid and dropped it down below. I shimmied down and landed lightly, pistol out and torch in hand.
Except for the ooze on the ceiling, it was a typical, rough hewn cave tunnel. We debated for a while about the ooze, Claudia eventually holding up a torch to burn it. It sizzled and popped, but nothing moved. There was no sound other than the drip drip drip of water from the ooze itself.
We tossed the torch down the curving hallway and saw the ooze thicken. We advanced behind Gregario and Claudia’s darkvision, my own eyesight hampered by the limited reach of the torches. The priest was practically shaking now with fear. “What were you expecting to do with the villagers once you reached here?” I asked him, angry. His mob had taken many casualties from the Shambling Mount, and the villagers wouldn’t even have gathered together without his urging. How would they have dealt with this. Whatever this was.
Claudia and Gregario entered the large room ahead. A curving shoreline led down to a dark ooze filled cistern. No waterfall or other source of water. Black lichen covered the floor and shoreline. Ahead, I lifted the torch and saw only shimmering black ooze. High enough to be out of reach of our swords, and hard to distinguish any other details. At that moment, both Gregario and Claudia fell to the ground. Gregario covered his ears, saying “The voices, the voices!” Over and over again. Claudia shook it off and dragged him back to us. Quite a feat with only one hand.
The priest knelt by him. He looked confused as Gregario slowly calmed and stood, shaking off the assistance. “The voices filled my head. Draconic.” He said. Claudia nodded. I’d never heard Draconic before but I could only imagine it was not pleasant to hear inside your mind. She said “It didn’t seem to effect me as much. I’ll try again.” She crept forward, walking right towards the edge of the pool and threw one of the torches towards it. It landed right at her feet. I restrained a chuckle.
She walked towards the edge of the water. I ran out to get close to her, just in case the ooze did anything. It shrank back as she approached, but not too far. It gave me the hebbe jebbes. I fancied taking a shot up at the ooze. But then I thought “What will that do other than waste ammunition?” We could see nothing and had no way to empty the room of ooze. We needed a spellcaster, but the priest was in no condition to help us do anything.
Without any further options, we debated for a minute until I gave in to what Gregario recommended. A retreat back to the surface and a continued effort on the much delayed chase of the Count. We closed all the lids and doors behind us. Gregario even locked the door to the mausoleum.
Hopefully that would keep the ooze at bay. At least until we were long gone and I had been able to alert the local authorities. Whoever they were. I jotted down my notes briefly and we resumed the chase.
Like what you read? Get my first novel – Brass Legionnaire – and explore the world of the Steam Empire Chronicles! Only 99 cents at Amazon and Barns and Noble! (Affiliate Links, FYI).
Be sure to subscribe to the blog to get more Tallavanor’s Tales and other writing, life, and nonsense related things!