Catacombs

It had been a night of grand merriment when I stumbled out of the tavern in Solania. The reason for my visit and cause of celebration is both unknown and unimportant. But the festive nature of the evening took a downward turn when I entered the privy and found I was not the only occupant.

To make matters worse, my confederate was in a tattered soldier uniform. While I am not entirely familiar with the emblem, members of the constabulary, especially those encountered in a privy should be avoided. But there was something entirely not right about this situation. Then it struck me.

“Egads my dear fellow! You’ve obviously had quite a night of revelry, and no shame in dispensing with the overflow ale, but your clothes will be in quite a ruinous state if you don’t get up off the privy floor! Further, you should latch the door when the premises are occupied, I feel a dash awkward about this encounter.”

“Outlander! What great fortune I find you here!”

“Now see here!” I quickly explained. “First, there is to be no talking in a place such as this! It should be considered sacred ground. Eyes forward. No talking. Those are the rules. Second, I don’t know what you’ve heard, or what you think you know, or what that old spinster claims, but it wasn’t me, I was never there and plenty of people in the realm wear this style of hat!” I emphasized my point with many hand gestures and the attempt to hypnotize the soldier. “And on top of that, this is the largest privy I have ever encountered and that alone is disconcerting!”

“I am Helena of the Whiteguard soldiers and it’s urgent I speak with you!”

“Beg pardon? Helena?” I asked.

“Yes, of the Whiteguard.”

“Helena, I believe you are in the wrong privy.”

“Privy? No, Outlander, you are in the Solania catacombs. And I am need of your help.”

“Not a privy?” I asked.

“No,” she replied. “A catacomb and death awaits around every corner. This is why we must speak.”

“A catacomb you say.”

“Yes,” she answered. “It has been a catacomb for quite some time. The privy is quite a distance in the other direction. How many libations have you consumed this eve?”

“That is of no consequence!” I stated. But, if you will you excuse me for a moment, I have an extremely urgent matter to attend to, and it must be done in private. Peeping eyes only make me nervous.” With that, I retraced my steps as best I knew how. Moments later I returned and picked up the thread of our conversation.

“Now, you say you need my help?” I asked.

“Yes! To help defeat the Ichor Witch!” she said with great fervor.

“Ah I see. And let me guess. She is some sort of terrible abomination roaming about this dank and terrible place and you want me to risk life and limb to venture into the catacombs, defeat this horror where others have failed and bring you back some sort of token of the deed. Does that sum it up?” I said.

“Well, as a matter of fact, yes. But how did you know?” she with great confusion.

“This isn’t the first catacomb I’ve mistakenly stumbled into,” I replied. “And what is it you would like me to bring back? Some sort of heirloom? A trinket of some kind?”

“Bring me the head of the Ichor Witch!” she demanded.

“Great Halmar’s Teeth!” I cried. “That’s a bit grim don’t you think? A swatch of clothing seems sufficient if you asked me.”

“No! I need the head, I wish to use it for scrying to determine the origin of this terrible menace!” she said, her voice full of venom, the bandage on her head shaking wildly.

“Perhaps it would be best if I escorted you to a healer. It seems you have suffered a rather debilitating head wound and a lie down is what you need rather than the severed head of some witch.”

“No!” she insisted. “I need the head! It will reveal all and I must have answers! It is important to me, to the Whiteguard, perhaps even to all of Novia!”

She had a determined air I couldn’t help but notice.

“My goodness, quite a few requests for heads in backpacks these days. But if you insist, I will see what I can do. I have to confess, I think there are better ways of handling this sort of thing. Popping the heads off witches seems a little less than noble,” I said.

“The whole head!” she said again.

“Yes, yes. The whole head. Now point me toward danger,” I insisted.

“Follow that path,” she said pointing down the corridor. “I’m quite sure you will run into one of the Bloodbone creatures and all will be revealed.”

“Bloodbone? That sounds dangerous,” I commented.

“Oh, it most certainly is. How do you think I got the head trauma?” she said.

“Does it have to be tonight? I’m not really in the mood for head trauma,” I answered.

“Well, certainly not. I can be any time you like. Shall I quill you in for next week?” Helena retorted.

“Oh, is that possible?” I asked. “I’m sure there is an opening after bath night.”

“Absolutely not!” she bellowed in a shrill voice. “Now get in there!” Her gestures were frantic and a little unsettling.

I did as instructed and slowly crept down the dank corridor. As predicted, skeletons leapt out from the shadows intent on stabbing me in the vital organs.

However, after crushing their brittle bones to dust, I found I was in possession of someone else’s vital organ and it pulled me deeper into the catacombs.

“Now see here unknown force,” I said. “I don’t take direction from disembodied organs! That leads to nothing but trouble!”

But it was no use. I tried to go my own way, but the sway of this grim fetish was rather overpowering. I was guided through twists and turns leading me to a most grisly chamber.

“Curses and blast! Yet another hideous chamber of death, or worse,” I said.

The macabre relic compelled me forward, into the circle of Bloodbone fighters, frightening cauldrons and shocking columns of light and fire. This ridiculous heart that had somehow been stashed in my pocket wouldn’t let me leave. It drew me right into the middle of the fracas putting me face to face with the terrible creatures.

It my panic and want to stay alive, I let loose with many exuberant slashes and run in an unpredictable course, weaving a web of confusion. I was working on me, so I could only assume I was making progress against them.

Unbeknownst to me, my gyrations triggered some sort of summoning ritual as the Ichor Witch made her appearance. Like so many other diabolical creatures that materialize from the vapors, she was not pleased to see me. Her cry of burning my soul or some such insult clued me in to her distress and that there would be no chance to sit down over tea and discuss matters.

As such, I dispensed with the pleasantries and skipped over the pithy monologue that normally explains my adversaries malcontent behavior and went for the cleansing fire.

Fire is the natural enemy of witches and seems to bring out the worst in minions. I was thusly attacked from all sides. Amidst a cacophony of debilitating strikes, fireballs and spells that nearly rendered me unconscious, I lashed out to defend myself.

I swung at everything that moved, and several things that didn’t. My Whirling Blade cut a destructive path, broke a few vases and upset a few cauldrons. But soon the hall was quiet except for the sound of dripping fluids from unknown origins.

To my great surprise and relief, the witch and her minions were crumpled in a heap on the floor. Despite my belief this is no way to get a trophy, I did the nasty work that needed to be done and returned with the witch’s head in a bag.

Returning to the guard, I handed over the trophy and stood by anxiously to hear the conclusion of this strange mystery. But what the guard mumbled made no sense and was borderline incoherent. She claimed the witch came from both here and there, was both old and young and was a little bit of this and a little bit of that.

“Are you sure you shouldn’t lie down before taking on such measures?” I asked. “I may have stumbled in here by accident, but what you say makes no sense.”

Then, tossing the head at me, she claimed, “I have learned all I can, I must now ponder upon this new information. Here, enjoy the skull.”

It was now a blackened husk with frightening, glowing eyes that seemed to stare straight into me.

“What the deuce am I supposed to do with this?” I asked in horror. “I don’t want your cast off skulls! I’m not traipsing through town with this disgusting relic without a darn fine reason!”

“I don’t know, turn it into a lamp. Put it on the mantle. Save it for the Samhain season and scare some little urchins within it.”

“Oh I say, it would indeed look quite fetching on the mantle. I do have those pieces of Naturamas that could use a centerpiece,” I said mulling it over. “While I don’t disagree with your decorating ideology, I feel you are deeply troubled to have come up with it.”

“Bah! That is just the green monster of jealousy talking!” she retorted coldly.

“Be that as it may, I bid you good evening. These have been troubling and sobering events. I believe it best for my mental well being to spend some time in the tavern washing away these memories.”

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Gadzooks my dear fellow! This is no place to take a rest! And goodness sake, lock the door when facilities are occupied!

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Oh my, this looks bad. Very bad indeed. Are those pools of blood coming to get me?

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Very well, I admit, I have a room full of these looted skulls. There’s nothing wrong with that. I’m quite sure I’m not the only one.

More brilliant musings about my adventures in New Britannia

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