For reasons quite unfathomable, Chi Chi decided that - having stolen the Eye of the Beast and got the payoff from the Cult was not enough – she wanted to rescue the only known elf with a talent for being obnoxious. Romano, her dwarf accomplice, had no interest in saving Riccardio’s skinny red neck from the hangman’s noose so they part company, considerably richer… but wiser?
It was now 4am. Chi Chi decided she should have some help and was prepared to pay (maybe Riccardio would cough up later, she somewhat optimistically thought) and so, being a rogue, she hotfooted it down to the Rogues’ Guild, careful to conceal her death-dealing whip, this being the obvious means of identifying her as one of the gem-thieves. The Guild was open 24/7 and she flashed her token to get past the yawning door guards. When she told the front desk clerk her business she was taken through one of the eleven doors ringing the atrium and she was left to sit in a very comfortable padded armchair to wait. Not for too long, fortunately, given the elf bowman’s execution scheduled for the day just about to dawn.
A middle aged woman with silver hair wearing a deep blue velvet dress entered through the room’s only other door and soon showed she was easy to do business with. Chi Chi’s willingness to pay could have been a telling factor - 600 gold pieces to have the Guild find within, the hour, a wizard, an expert in traps, someone good at sewer fighting and a fourth talented in causing distractions. Chi Chi had given quite some thought as to what she wanted at her disposal. Her luck held and within forty minutes the silver haired woman returned with the four potential recruits. Chi Chi thought better of asking where they had been found or what they were doing in the small hours when decent folk should be a-bed.
The first was an aged yet novice elf wizard, quaintly named Wizzie, who professed some knowledge of traps. He filled two of Chi Chi’s needs in one and was quick to accept her terms – 100 gold pieces if they brought Riccardio out alive, 50 if they brought him back dead and 25 if they failed in that but escaped with their lives. Next was a dwarf by the name of Jim who was a janitor who had frequently to deal with leaky pipes in basements, more often than not ending up knee deep in water. He too took the price and shook hands, triggering the curse the Rogues’ Guild had in place for any deal broken that was initiated under their auspices. Following on from Jim was an interesting specimen: a living statue of dark grey hue who clearly had a formidable constitution and who claimed a knack for distractions. Yamato, too, was hired and Chi Chi’s shopping list appeared to be filled.
The last fellow paraded in front of Chi Chi was a hobbit, a warrior of sorts. More likely out of sorts, since he had not the strength even for a kukri, that standby of so many desperate delvers. This Paddon could offer no talent he chose to name and, unlike the others, quibbled over the price, notwithstanding there being nothing obvious Chi Chi might gain by his employment. The rogue was anxious to get going so the hobbit too was hired.
The Guildswoman made two more offers. Firstly, the sale of a healing potion for a further hundred gold, which the team were pleased to see their leader pay up. Secondly, rather than having to trace their way out of the city and round the walls to the abandoned village of Aardvark, where she and Romano had previously entered the sewer system, the party would be allowed to descend into the bowels of the Guild, there to find quick ingress into the tunnels. Chi Chi gladly accepted this too.
The woman authoritatively summoned another elf, not young in years, but junior enough to Wizzy for him to give a slight bow in deference. This rogue led the party out into the atrium and through another panelled door. This led in its turn to a thickly carpeted corridor, lit with dripping candles, which ended abruptly in a staircase of stone, spiralling downwards.
Events now began to unfold as they would continue. Badly. Stupidly. Wizzy tried blowing a candle out. The elf rogue didn’t like it and told him so sharply before leading them down the stairwell. ‘Don’t’ was all he said . Wizzy then tried to bump his way down the stairs on his backside and tried opening one of the regularly spaced doors they passed by. ‘Stop’ the elf told him, fixing him with a stern stare. He was shot another warning but carried on aggravating the guide. Enough was more than enough. The elf cast Hold that Pose and then sliced Wizzy’s right ear lobe off – 2 points of CON gone for no good reason. The wizard, now chagrined and down to CON 9, pulled himself together and shrugged off the night’s drinking.
By now, both Yamato and Jim had been set a bad example. As the rogue led them down and out into a rough stone cavern with a manhole cover leading to a ladder down into the sewer system, the statue tried opening the last door on the way down. ‘No,’ the elf instructed. Yamato ignored the punishment meted out to Wizzy and pushed the elf out of the way to get to the manhole cover. A final warning didn’t suffice so the rogue cast a spell to show the statue who was boss – he gave him shocking yellow hair as a permanent souvenir of his transgression. Jim scratched his head and wondered if a living statue could cut his hair off.
The elf left them, admonishing Chi Chi to take control of the group and telling her that they would not be able to return via the Guild’s sewer entrance. Wizzy now decided to start earning his fee by checking out the manhole. When he saw there was an iron ladder running three metres down to the sewer, he scuttled down and began testing the depth of the water. ‘One metre, no problem,’ he called up to Chi Chi, who was on her way down, now blocking out most of the light from the cavern above.
Now things went seriously wrong. There was no danger, no reason for Chi Chi and Wizzy to worry. However, something snapped in Yamato’s brain - whatever it was transmitted itself instantly on to Jim. The living statue hurtled past a nonplussed Paddon and leapt down the manhole. Jim flew after Yamato, not far behind. The outcome was clear - injuries accrued to three of the party, two serious. The living statue was extremely heavy. Chi Chi heard him coming, looked up and twisted desperately as she saw him coming straight at her. She twisted in a futile effort to avoid harm but took the full weight of Yamato on her shoulder. Not before she hit the warrior with a Hold That Pose spell though. She was smashed savagely against the stone side wall and the crack of breaking bone echoed in the well. Her shoulder was badly broken and she had to make a L1 SR on her current CON (7 down from 29 as she took 5d6 damage). She made the roll thanks to her level and now it was Wizzy was in dire trouble. The rogue crashed down on top of the wizard, with the statue and the dwarf providing the crushing force. The 2d6 damage that Wizzy suffered reduced his CON to zero and he slipped out of consciousness. Jim took 2d6 damage as retribution for his idiocy but, being a dwarf, he scarcely noticed.
The four delvers were now underwater in the sewers and in near total darkness. Chi Chi struggled to her feet and cast Poor Baby on herself, using up all her remaining khremm. The bones rippled under her shirt as they knitted themselves back together and she breathed easier with CON up to 15. Yamato was still held by her spell but it would elapse in a few seconds. Jim got to his feet, up to his broad chest in the foul water but little troubled given his talent. In the gloom, he went to draw his katar with the intention of taking the map of the sewers from Chi Chi which he knew to be in her pocket. The rogue was too quick for the dwarf and brought her whip slashing down on the hilt of the punch dagger. She made the L5 DEX SR required to hit the target. The whip had magically toughened glass shards embedded throughout its length and the force of this lethal weapon was enough to sever Jim’s hand left hand at the wrist. He bellowed, spurting blood in the darkness, falling into the water for a second time.
Meanwhile Yamato had risen and picked up Wizzy’s still unconscious body. He sensed Chi Chi mounting the ladder back to the Guild cavern and threw the elf in what he hoped was the direction of his employer. Jim was now reaching for his lantern with his remaining hand. And what of the hobbit? Paddon had decided he wanted nothing to do with this crew and was struggling to push the manhole cover back in place. His strength of 5 made this a slow process. Wizzy crashed into Chi Chi’s legs but she was strong enough to retain her grip on the iron ladder and she entreated Paddon to let her back up to safety.
The hobbit thought about it and decided she was the only other sane one so soon he and Chi Chi had closed the manhole with its snug-fitting cover. Being thrown some violently by Yamato had finished poor Wizzy off. His corpse sank under the oily water. Jim failed to locate his severed hand, instead fastening his fingers around the blade of the katar, taking another cut. At this, he threw his head back and began singing. Yamato ripped the ladder from the wall in frustration and then leapt away from a wheezing, rasping sound he heard behind him. He stumbled over Wizzy’s body and knocked Jim over. Reaching down for Jim’s lantern, he instead pulled up the dwarf’s hand, which he threw away in disgust.
The breathing was now in Jim’s ear. Yamato got to his feet and surged powerfully off into the pitch black sewer. Jim stopped singing and felt teeth puncture his neck before strong arms encircled him and he was carried off, helpless, into the tunnels.
To be continued.