We start this session with Elenari using his bardic magic to lull the remaining guards inside the Mordant Hand’s Wall St barracks while in the yard Kraysus nudges aside acid eaten chains and, with only a small squeal of the hinges, lifts the heavy iron grill which had been sealing off the prison pit. That hole proved surprisingly deep. It gave up the smell of fresh dirt and sawn timber, and the faintest of sewer stink.
The adventurers gathered, slinking through dirt piles from their hiding places in street and stables. Cheshire, (a shade-side assassin hot swapped in to replace Baraqu the dwarven invoker), slipped from a cornice as he climbed down from the barracks’ badly maintained roof. Yet he managed to land with such acrobatic skill and stealth that the guards inside were not roused from their lullaby.
The pit below the adventurers’ feet was dark in the blue green shadows of the big moon. Those with good vision saw that the hole opened into a large through tunnel about twenty feet below. Braced in timber, this tunnel headed directly toward the portal quarter’s massive wall. The faint sewer breeze gave hint of where it let out in the other direction, and the trampled piles of loose dirt directly below showed where the prisoners had been gathering their diggings for hauling up into the yard. For those with the keenest eyes, a small unbraced hole, a crawlway really, burrowed in the side of the tunnel just up from the pit shaft seemed the most likely place to look for the rescuees.
After a little sotto voiced arguing about who should go down first, our adventurers rappelled down into the tunnel. Kraysus went last, lowering the grate on his shoulders to minimise the appearance of a break in but leaving the black silk rope tied off to the stable.
A flaring sun rod lobbed up the crawlway by the bard brought into sight some dirty and emaciated feet, sticking off of the edge of some planking that was just visible around the bend of the low passage. Kraysus, Elenari, and Cheshire got on their hands and knees to discover the missing slum folk sleeping on a wooden pallet in the small space that the crawlway opened into. There were a couple more than expected, with an old men among them whose rag tied leg was bent at an angle and stank of corruption, indicating a bad break. As the warlord and the bard woke the prisoners and set to explaining their presence and applying healing (hp gain meant old man not at risk of dying from being moved but didn’t remove the “condition” of having broken leg). Cheshire was heard to wonder to himself if their contract really necessitated the recovery of extra folk.
The prisoners were glad to hear that the Society had sent our adventurers, crying blessing down on the head of Kiptos. Quick too were they to give warning. Giant snakes of fire, gifts from the Hand’s inner space associates to Captain Drax, roamed the tunnel which the prisoners said led from an opening into the sewers up past the barracks’ pit and through to a stone lined basement where green flamed lamps burned and Salamanders stood guard. Apparently the red marks painted onto the prisoner’s sleeping palette were the only thing keeping them safe as they slept, fear of those snakes had kept them from any attempt at escape despite their fears of what would be done with them now that the tunnel was complete. With a snort Kraysus (the flame resistant tiefling) assured the slum folk that elementals would be not stop them leaving.
Emerging back into the tunnel they conferred with the main group. The old man’s leg meant climbing the rope would be a difficulty, and every passing moment increased the chance that someone above would discover the corpses left strewn behind them, so our adventurers decided to move quickly, without even a short rest, out through the downstream end of the tunnel and into the sewers beyond, hopefully to work their way back up into civilisation.
Their passage was easy, with no sign of the snakes, but an iron grill blocked off the end of the tunnel where it opened into a rift, a kind of underground gully formed by one of the splits which riddle the bedrock below the great city of Cepilos. From the sound of trickling water, and the smell, they guessed that this one intersected with a sewer system above. The prisoners told the heroes that they’d been dumping the dirt from the last stages of the tunnel into the flow here.
For sake of quietness and speed, and to cover the lack of a dedicated thief, Cheshire stepped up to try his hand at picking the lock on the grill. With several moments work the assassin finessed the mechanism, but he’d failed to notice magical tell-tales associated with the lock and even as the grill swung open red characters blazed to life on its frame and lintel. Angered hissing echoed in the ravine as the two flame guardians emerged from holes in the sloping wall on the other side of the gully. The were very large snakes, rearing up as high as a man is tall, each with wings of flame and a general hazing aura of fire tumbling around them. (Both were in fact Solos). They looked hungry.
Skurd and Kraysus reacted first, hurling a tanglefoot bag and a flask of alchemist’s frost from the mouth of the tunnel across the ravine. But although the frost steamed and cause pained thrashing, the tangling vines caught against the swinging grill binding uselessly among the bars even as one snake took wing to fly down the ravine for a better angle and the other exhaled flame, transforming briefly into the blast so that after the gout of fire tumbled across the rift and burned among the front runners of the party the snake reformed among them, ready to lash out.
Cheshire drew down a shroud of the shadowfell onto the serpent among them even as he adjusted his aura-sight goggles for a better view (one of those must have been a free action). In conjunction with an arcana check from Elenari, (as the bard urged the prisoners quickly back up the tunnel), the two determined; that the serpents were in fact elementals, with the resistances and vulnerabilities that entailed, the rough toughness of the beasts, and they also got a fair idea that it would be a very bad thing to get flanked by the beasts. Those auras looked like they had the capacity to feed back upon each other.
The next few minutes saw some intense close fighting there in the mouth of the tunnel. The snakes lashing out with triple strikes as their auras roasted on all sides, and transforming into tumbles of living flame as they tried to position themselves. Kraysus shifted out onto the loose footing of a path that led down into the bottom of the ravine. The tiefling warlord trusting in his flame resistance as he risked getting flanked in order to make more room for fighting. Between them, He and Elenari kept the snakes moving around (powers forcing shift on hit, or on enemy missing etc). And with Skurd laying down the occasional stop hit the adventurers prevented the guardian serpents from ever positioning them selves to maximum advantage.
Still, searing venom and burning flames were taking their toll in the close quarters. At about the time that a maniacally laughing Kraysus called upon the arts of his infernal heritage to force one of the snakes to be considered bloodied the other heroes were so damaged that Skurd pulled forth a flame bane bomb, dousing himself, Kraysus, and Niveus as well as temporarily suppressing one serpent’s aura. The big man drew on his heroic reserves (action point – second wind) enhanced by his cloak of the walking wounded and a wound patch, and kept slugging on.
Cheshire cursed the “bloodied” snake with Targeted for Death, and then spent his action point to lay in Nightshade’s kiss as well, contributing his own slide to the pushing around of the snakes, and allowing Skurd to try a stop hit. By spending a fate point the big man managed to hit, scoring max damage with his enhanced flail. Niveus finished it off with a slashing twin-strike on the next round.
Now the heroes concentrated on the remaining snake. Cheshire smothering it with shadows drawn across from the reflection city, so close down here in the sinisterward direction. Kraysus scored a critical hit with the reliable Calculated Assault. Niveus scoring an offhand crit with twin-strike and Elenari adding his cutting words to the mix as he used a majestic word to keep Cheshire in the fight. The beast’s aura flared back to life and it took its last desperate strikes on Niveus before Skurd managed to finish it off with a Rain of Blows…
We end the session with the prisoners cautiously approaching our panting, wounded heroes. They severely need a rest (and could claim a milestone now), but are not situated to do so – what with chance of their infiltration of the barracks above might be discovered at any moment.
-1 fate point for Dr Rick (for Skurd’s attack hit)
+1 fate point to Dr Rick, Felsen, Elenari, Amovere, Echmoth, and me :)