'Children of The Shroud' - A Dark Fantasy RP (Interest/Recruitment - CLOSED AND STARTED)

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"We're getting close."

"Aye, that we are." She didn't know how close, but Blaize wasn't asking. "Keep ya wits 'bout yer, I haven't actually been past this point before." There, exonerating herself from any future complications was easy enough.

As they progressed further into the tunnel, the sounds of the District above began to fade, furrowing her brow, Sparrow picked up her pace. She didn't want down there any longer than she needed to.

The sound of running water was a consistent one, laced intermittently with the scurrying of rats.

At least, she hoped they were rats, gods help her if they were spiders.

Sparrow really disliked spiders.

Hellspawn, the lot of them.

Nobody noticed Giles, everyone was worried about some guy, likely the one who dropped the gods damned flare. He seemed to flounder for a bit before pointing them in a specific direction. Seems a bunch of people around his age-ish. Mostly younger. Weird group of people hanging around the fucking sewers at night, though that described any group doing that. They'd all gone mad, perhaps. Or maybe just Giles. If his mind snapped and made him go on a scavenger hunt, he'd be pretty disappointed in his mind, though.

He sighed, seemed they were clearing out, leaving into the tunnel. Almost in a group. Giles held his map up to the light, 'Dragon Silver' made for an excellent torch. On the bright side, he met the people who took it. Arseholes. They were following the map to adventure as well! Would they end up killing each other or.... What the actual fuck was Giles even doing here.

"Going with the flow, I guess." Giles shrugged, following after the group, lagging behind. He didn't know if he wanted to talk to someone, though. He heard something behind him as he turned to leave, though.

"-but then, the majority of those brought here are going with this man. A lot of them are young. Like yourself, even and I'd like to be able to keep an eye on them. Besides, for the moment, we outnumber our friend here. If he even is a Shroud member. I'm afraid I'm going to see this through. What about you?"

"... Wait, what's a Shroud member? I got a map and all that, but what the hell is even happening?" Giles finally burst out, not wanting to be kept in the dark.

Some believed, most did not, but all obeyed, and that was all that mattered. What did it matter if the lambs sniffed out a wolf if they marched merrily to the slaughter anyway. Ezrah chided himself for the thought. Slipping too far down the darkened road would do him no good now, he was in it to the finish. pessimism and regret were things for weaker creatures. Ezrah would deal with this reality, the now of things, and make his fortunes from whatever the Now brought him. The children plodded forward, one by one, most of them desperate creatures by the look of them, most of them underfed, even more of them ragged. To what lengths would they go for a scrap of bread and the promise of more to come? Who could tell? True desperation showed a man his limits, and sometimes helped him crawl pass them. Ezrah wondered at himself as the thought slithered through his mind. He'd held himself separate from these children as part of the sham, yes, but it came too easily to be just an act. He probed gently at the place within and found his suspicions confirmed, he didn't count himself among the hungry and the desperate. Ezrah hadn't gone to bed with an empty stomach for years, no mean feat in and of itself, but more than that, Ezrah couldn't recall the last day where his belly had dictated his schedule.

The hungry man makes his own magic, reaches beyond himself into a universe of chaos, of infinite possibility, and thus he could accomplish anything. Ezrah shuddered and wondered whether or not he'd lost the hunger that drove men forward. The thought put an aching sort of chill in him, a hollow place full of echoes and worries. The boy focused and silenced the inner murmurs before they grew too loud to bear, smothering them, shunting them aside to be dealt with at another time. For now, there was work to be done. Most of the rag tag group had shuffled into the tunnel, though one paused, one lingered....

"E-Ezrah? Ezrah, is that you?"

A brief thrill of fear shot up Ezrah's spine and danced along the base of his neck as his mind turned over the voice and conjured up a face. Dark eyes bore down on the figure who'd spoken, examined the young woman and found their fears confirmed. The woman seemed a bit wobbly on her feet, and the color of her face suggested she'd tasted the back of Demeter's hand rather recently, but there was no mistaking her identity. Ezrah did what he could to pitch his voice for her ears alone, offering the young harlot a harsh whisper as he pushed back the hood of his cloak," Maeverniss frigid cunt, Selena?! I'd call ya daft for wadin' into this mess iffin I tweren't stuck in the muck with ya...."

The fear in Ezrah coiled tight and hardened into a resolve of sorts. Keeping breath in his own lungs was a tried and true sort of game for Ezrah, but now he'd need to extend that particular skillset to encompass another because... because why? Who was Selena to him? Just another harlot? No... no she was no mere slattern. He knew her, had spoken with her and heard even the darkest parts of her tale. He'd tried to help her... and failed. She was owed, owed so much more than she'd received, from him, from the world. Their business had only ever been conducted in coin and barter, never a trade of flesh, but perhaps in some odd way he could name her a friend. He was bound to her through Risa and he found her conversation enjoyable, appreciated the glimpses into a world he could barely fathom. She was a treasure in her own way, she was a friend, and friends didn't let friends waltz into the maw of a trap if they spotted one. Besides, Selena was no starveling either, her situation was far from ideal, but she did have options... and she'd chosen this one. The Marked boy wondered what hungers drove her....

Ezrah beckoned the young woman be still for a moment, to allow the distance between them and the others grow for a bit. He reached into his pack and brought forth a little sack full of a fine powder, the Sea Candle's counter. He doused the small, furious flame in a few liberal shakes of the powder and darkness swallowed up the sewers once more. A stray thought floated through his head, warped enough to bring a rueful grin to his face. A proper counter for Dragon Silver, now there was a real magic, a substance that none could craft save the Marked, all other men left with not but dirt as a means of smothering the flame. Who would gasp in awe of this little magic though? Few and fewer, perhaps no one, this magic wasn't pretty and flashy after all. Ezrah shook the wry thought from his head and focused on more pressing matters. He'd kept his eyes from direct sight of the flame and they adjusted to the darkness easily enough. He started forward after the others, but kept his pace deliberate, cautious, black eyes scanning for the first horror to befall this lot even as he offered Selena another whisper, "Don't pull ahead, let 'em go first. Every bone in me says this is fool's work, but we're committed now. I conjure its slavers at the end of all this, who else picks out only the young and fresh. Two paces from the thick of them's good by my figure. Close enough to see the fist that hits 'em, far enough away to steal a breath, turn and run. If anythin' comes sneakin' from rearwise, I should hear it, the sound shouldn't get lost in the clutter of their steps.... Why'd you come along, anyway? Things sour with Demeter?"

'There's something out there, there's definitely something out there.'

Maggy was certain. There was no way it was just the sound of her own bare feet padding against the damp stone floor. It certainly wasn't the echoes of her own ragged breathing were bouncing off the wall and whirring around her ears, setting her nerves on edge and her heart aflutter like a bird in a cage of ribs. No, paranoia had never steered her wrong before, ironically it was the only thing she really trusted.

She was moving further into the catacombs now and the light was becoming almost nonexistent. Things like direction were meaningless so far down here in the depths. She'd lost track of how many turns she'd taken in these winding passages, all Maggy knew was that she had been heading down. Always down. Maggy's eyes may have started adapting to the dark but that would only help her so much, she needed a torch, a light, something to guide her way or she'd be stuck down here forever, left to go mad with the rats as she withered away into some warped cave creature that lived of rats and sewer water.

That thought alone was enough to send her into a nervous flurry of motion as Maggy groped her away along in the underground depths, cursing how unprepared she'd come. 'Stupid girl.' The dark was closing in now, Maggy could feel the walls surrounding her, binding her, crushing her.

WHAT WAS THAT? There was something moving out there! There had to be! She wasn't mad! She was never mad! It was there! It was watching her! She needed light, she needed a weapon!

Maggy clutched a larger rock tight in her fists. She wouldn't go quietly, she wouldn't let it take her. Maggy went low to the ground, spreading her feet out to shoulder widths apart as she braced herself against the seemingly empty blackness. All the while she scrabbled along the ground with her free hand, squinting with determination. There had to be something, a torch, some flint, anything to make a light.

'How the hell do you make a light!?'

Maggy couldn't remember the last time she'd felt so cold and so, completely, small.

Blaize blinked a few more times, sticking close to Sparrow. Damn the Shroud, and damn every light in this sewer. He thought. He could see well enough in the dark, but not when everyone and their damn mum lit the place up every five fucking minutes. Slowly, though, his eyes were readjusting. It wouldn't be too much longer now, not if he was reading the map right.

"Aye, that we are. Keep ya wits 'bout yer, I haven't actually been past this point before." Sparrow said.

He didn't doubt it, but didn't say anything. They needed to get to the Shroud soon. Putting another hand to the wall, Blaize tried to make out the path ahead. There wasn't much to see. Who the hell built these sewers? He mused to himself. From the map, it seemed that they went every which way with no semblance to them.

The odd rat scurried by, and more pawed their way through the waters, the sounds echoing off the not-quite-empty tunnels. Everything was covered in filth, the air stank, and his boots were now thoroughly waterlogged; but if that was the worst of this trip to whoever the Shroud were, that'd be fine. And that bothered him.

"Seems like we haven't met the 'teeth' the Shroud were talkin' 'bout earlier." He said, turning back and checking behind them, "We need ta be careful."

A dead end. Their long walk, stretching below the bowels of Kragenau had led them here. A cramped and low ceilinged hallway that terminated at, apparently, nothing. The masonry in this tunnel was ancient, hundreds upon hundreds of years old; and yet the stonework at the end was older still. This one, forgotten wall, all that remained of the First City, the cradle of a civilisation. Here stood some of the first stones laid in reverence of the God's, by their chosen (or rather, by those the chosen held in thrall), decades before the first Temple, centuries before the first Empire, and more than a millennia before the Chantry was even an idea, they are trampled over every day by descendants who have come to take their gifts for granted. Would even the God's, who's minds could see through time infinite, and know truths not even the most learned mortal could hope to comprehend, remember these stones, some of their finest work. How could they? If they knew what these stones now concealed, and if their power was any more to this world than influence over the servile and superstitious, then how could this wall still be permitted to stand? Perhaps their ignorance was willing, and like their followers they would rather bask in the vanity of grandeur than remember their first steps.

As one, the two men raised their bare hands in front of them, pressing their tattooed palms against the rough, dusty stones. The chamber was already pitch black, and yet somehow the darkness seemed to grow... thicker, as if the black was some foul substance being drawn from a wound. In response to the opaque air, the stones began to shift, either singing or bulging outwards as the flat of the wall morphed and twisted into the shape of a petrified skull. Through the empty cavities of its mouth, its eye-sockets, and the triangular hole that would have housed a nose, the skull drank the darkness away, until once again the two men in the passageway emerged from it.

"After you, brother." The hooded man said to his bald companion, and together they stepped through the open maw of the skull, crossing the threshold into the Sanctum.

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From the shadows, another robed figure watched as the lone urchin groped in far for some kind of guide or direction. This one had good instincts, knowing that danger lurked near. However, she was not yet capable of doing anything more than recognising the hackles on the back of her own neck. The Child could smell the fear on her, and it was not the coursing, spiced fear that sprung one into action. This fear was sour, rancid with the knowledge that it's owner did not know which direction, if any, meant her safety. While standing ready to assist, the Child hoped that he would not be called upon to act so soon. If he must do something, he would at first be subtle. From beneath his dark cowl the figure focussed his gaze of the frightened child. Focussed with a start that was other-worldly, that burrowed through flesh and bone into the tangled, heady pathways of conciousness itself. For a second, the urchin ceased to fret, experiencing the warm, lazy feeling as another's mind draped itself over her own, a feeling that she could not trace or understand, not while still uninitiated. Before he withdrew, the Child stopped to plant a single, short suggestion.

'Do not disturb the water.'

It was then that a sewer-dweller, emaciated, naked and pale, with eyes wide and milky, almost knocked the urchin flat on her face as he sprinted passed her, gibbering with terror.

"Come too far! No way back! Can't get out! Oh God's help m-ARRRGH!"

As qucikly as he had appeared out of the darkness, the man was now frozen mid-stride not five feet away from where the urchin had been standing, having collided with something sticky that stretched across the entire height and breadth of the sewer tunnel ahead. Recovering from the shock of his sudden halt, the man began to thrash wildly, attempting to extricate himself from the tendrils of silk that bound him. It was no use. The more he struggled the more he cocooned himself, and now something was stirring in the arches above.

The spider emerged slowly, in no rush to grapple with a prey that was already doing an admirable job of exhausting itself. As it's full span was revealed, stocky and shining black, the creature looked to be the size of a goat, despite how effortlessly it apparently suspended itself vertically upon its web. The man had been so busy trying to free himself from the surprise trap, he did not even see his death encroaching until it was almost on him, whereupon his shriek curdled blood.

"OH GOD'S NO!! PLEASE NOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHH!!!!"

His killer did not care for his protestations, as the enormous arachnid slowly, methodically, caught the man in its forelegs and drew him closer, rolling him upwards towards its head, before sinking its mandibles deep into his flesh. As he died, the man's wails became racked, choking sobs, and the flailing of his limbs turned to twitching spasms. The devourer did not remain undisturbed in it's meal, however. Form every direction, attracted by the screams and the stench of death and fear, they came swarming. Rats. Rats the size of dogs, dozens upon dozens of them, sniffing and squealing excitedly as they encircled the scene. In seconds this crossroads of tunnels became a sea of filthy, bedraggled fur, black, grey, brown and even a few dirty white, with glistening red eyes. Leaving the now half-dessicated corpse, the spider scuttled down to ground level to defend its catch. It was a valiant defence, but despite out-weighing them the spider stood no chance against so many, as they all rushed forward hungrily to join the feast. A couple of the rats died, but before long the huge spider was on its back, having its limbs torn off its still living body and devoured. The Child, still hidden in shadow, had begun to move in order to get the urchin out of the way of harm, but she had been as quick as him, darting up against the wall, and standing stock still as the horde charged passed her. Perhaps their would be ample opportunity to escape before the rats turned their attention towards her.

One what remained of the spider, and of the own fallen grew scarce, the rats began tearing into each other in their frenzy to get at the few scraps left, and one particular tussle sent tow rats tumbling over each-other, splashing into the rancid stream that ran down the centre of the tunnel.

'Run girl, run!'

Their was an almighty noise, as the well of sewage where the crossroads met exploded upward, splashing its contents over all who stood near. From the centre of this eruption, a figure, wet, scaly, and four-legged, rose with a low, angry hiss. The lizard was the size of a horse and cart combined, and almost filled the entire tunnel as it lumbered out of the water. The rats fled in terror from it, though a few were not fast enough. Again and again, in monstrously quick succession, a thick, gluey tongue shot out of the beasts mouth, yanking the smaller creatures clean of their feet and into the lizard's mouth, where she chomped down greedily. Saliva dripped from the monster's mouth to fall on the flagstones, that smoked and spat at the touch of it, as the acid burned through. It was just the three of them in the space now, and Kriggur's head was turning towards the girl.

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As the other group watched their charges finally begin to make progress deeper into the network of tunnels, the woman in Khaki green clapped her hands to her mouth, with a look in her wide eyes that was at once fear and delight.

"Ooooh, she's coming! I can feel her, and she's sooooooooooooo hungry!"

Splash.

Splash.

"Hrrrrrrrrrrnnnng!"

Andra froze in place. There was a truly awful sound up ahead. She couldn't make out what it was, but Andra suddenly felt an intense desire to be back in her bed at the tailor shop. Maybe she'd prefer to be under it.

Splash.

A sudden rise in the water level. No... waves. Small waves.

"Hrrrrrrrrrrrnnnnng!"

Andra quickly pulled her pistol from her boot. Thank Gilliajlia that I reloaded it...

"... Wait, what's a Shroud member? I got a map and all that, but what the hell is even happening?"

"The Shroud, to me, seems to be some sort of gang or group or cult. What they intend, I've no idea," Will replied. Then did a slight double take at the tunnel ahead of him. He fancied he'd heard some sort of squealing. Almost like cats dying. Was it his imagination?

He wasn't sure, but paused regardless to scoop up one of the pointier looking rocks that littered the ancient sewer floor. He really wished he still had his boarding knife. Or better yet, his sword and pistol.

"Maeverniss frigid cunt, Selena?! I'd call ya daft for wadin' into this mess iffin I tweren't stuck in the muck with ya...."

Grinning ear-to-ear, Selena almost stumbled as she came closer to him, "It really is you!" She stopped short in her approach as he did something with his hands she couldn't quite make out in the darkness. And then, the bright, blinding light was all but extinguished.

Ezrah turned down the tunnel the others had disappeared into, offering Selena a place by his side. Hesitating but for a moment, she followed.

"Don't pull ahead, let 'em go first. Every bone in me says this is fool's work, but we're committed now. I conjure its slavers at the end of all this, who else picks out only the young and fresh. Two paces from the thick of them's good by my figure. Close enough to see the fist that hits 'em, far enough away to steal a breath, turn and run. If anythin' comes sneakin' from rearwise, I should hear it, the sound shouldn't get lost in the clutter of their steps....

Selena nodded along, committing his words to memory. Despite her current condition, she was well aware of the potential danger they'd all found themselves in. Still, him spelling it out in such a way was sobering. Listening to his words had given her a renewed sense of clarity. Every step from them on was made with more understanding.

"Why'd you come along, anyway? Things sour with Demeter?"

Selena shrugged, "You could say that. I'm just tired, I suppose. This life... it's, well, I've been finding it harder and harder to get up in the morning lately. Booze just ain't a great motivator after a few hundred blackouts. A strange man approached me in the cover of night and offered me a way out. I figured I may as well see what he has to offer before I let myself whither away under Demeter's heel."

She offered Ezrah a weak smile, though he couldn't likely see it, "I'm glad I ran into you down here though. You're---" Selena's words trailed off as strange noises began to echo down the tunnel. "D-did you hear that?!"

'No, no. no NO!'

There had to be a way, there had to be a way out of here to safety. Maggy's mind was racing as she searched for possibilities. Maybe she should have just turned back, there was nothing for her here. This was all just some sick joke. How could she have been so stupid?! No doubt that hooded prat was having a good laugh about all this.

It was all piling up on top of her one piece at a time, Maggy's heart and hopes were about to sink under the weight of it all. Until she let out a sigh... and it was as if all that despair simply floated out of her onto the breeze. The dank sewers almost seemed warm and bright for a moment, the running stream was a tranquil little center piece in a dimly lit but cosy cave where adventure awaited. Maybe she could do this after all.

"-Oh God's help m-ARRRGH!"
"ARRRGH!"

Maggy nearly leaped out of her skin as a thing shaped like a man came charging by her, gibbering at the top of it's lungs. She raised her arms in an instinctive attempt to shield herself. Lucky for her it didn't seem to care about her as it went barreling past her, nearly knocking Maggy flat on her face. She staggered past, managing to keep her balance and rounded on her would be attacker.

Except they weren't trying to attacker, they were just flailing around. They really were mad. It was only as it got closer that Maggy could make the great big black shape that was closing in on the poor sod.

'Oh gods no.' Maggy couldn't even make a sound as she stared in horrified disbelief at it. It wasn't that the kill was gory, she couldn't see the blood though no doubt it was there. It was how cold it all was. he just kept screaming and screaming and screaming but it didn't care. The spider just kept going cold and calm as could be. Maggy had never seen the cruel impassiveness of nature, besides the sea that is but the sea was different. It didn't have a face, it wasn't like this.

The screams gargled off into nothing now but they'd gone on long enough to attract the rats. Just how big did the animals grow down below Kragenau? Quick as a cat Maggy pressed herself against the nearest wall and desperately searched for higher ground. All these terrors would only be distracted by one another for so long until they sniffed her out and started baying for her blood instead of each other's.

Whatever sick spirit was watching over Maggy right now it seemed it wasn't done yet. The rats were done with the spider and had started to turn on each other in their excitement, being the moment to moment creatures that they were. It was all Maggy could do to stay perfectly still, frozen to the spot with her breath caught in her chest. Their eyes were glinting in the darkness all around her like sea of tiny murderous stars. Maggy was sure this was her end until two of the rats went hurtling towards the stream and crashed beneath it's surface with an almighty splash.

'Don't disturb the water.' It seemed so obvious to her before but why?

Her answer came soon enough as a great scaled head rose up from the water and the rest of the beast lumbers slowly and surely to the shore. The calm that had come over her had done wonders for Maggy's focus. Everything seemed so much clearer now. She could pick up on all the little sounds and sights that pervaded the cave with wonderful clarity... and right now she really wished she couldn't.

The monster opened it's maw, scorching the rock under its claws. The rats followed their instincts and ran for their lives. Maggy wasn't so wise. Her mouth went dry and her hands colder and clammier than before. Some of the rats were too slow and the beast set about tearing them apart, its tongue darting through the air like quicksilver. The rats squeals were all cut short as razor sharp fangs sliced them apart and dark ichor sizzled their flesh. This was so much worse than the spider.

The stragglers were killed all too quickly until there was only the two of them left. The only sounds were the running water, Maggy's shallow breathing... and the sound of rock roasting in the monster's warping drool. Neither one seemed to move at all. Until the lizard's tongue flicked the air and its head slowly turned to face her. It was even worse than the spider, those eyes they were so empty and they were looking right through her.

'Run girl, run!'

And she did. Maggy ran faster than she ever had in her life. The tongue lashed out at her glancing her arm and burning her skin. Maggy cried out in pain but she didn't slow down, her whole being was given over to running, to surviving. The floor was slick under her heels and Maggy nearly slipped a few times but her momentum just turned her slips into stumbling sprints. The sewers twisted and turned until Maggy rounded a corner. The next thing she saw was small and hooded, that was all Maggy could take in before she collided with it, a victim of her own momentum. The two of them crashed to the ground and sprawled out like drunks. All Maggy could manage was a pathetic groan as she slowly righted herself and crawled to her feet.

Sparrow tilted her head slightly as she heard some strange and rather disturbing sounds in the distance. From the direction they were currently heading.

If she had learned anything, it's that it was usually a good idea to walk away from those kinds of sounds.

"Anyone else hearin' that?" She clenched her jaw, a worried look in her eyes. "What t'hell are we walkin' into?" She muttered to herself. They slowed as they approached a turning, the strange noises still in the distance, Sparrow could hear another sound, a pitter patter, it was growing louder.

"Are those footst-WAAGH!" White light flashed in front of her eyes as something collided into her, sending her small frame tumbling to the ground.

Sparrow quickly came back to her senses, shaking her head slightly, she got to her feet, the back of her clothing now damp with gods knows what, the small light of the torch glinting off the dagger in her hand.

"T'bloody hell are you?!" She exclaimed, looking down at what appeared to be a woman. A pretty ragged one at that.

Sklyar felt silent as she heard the sailor's words. Of course this was the only way forward, why didn't she realise that? Her head was in the clouds as always, perhaps fear clouded her mind? The occasional rat was enough to make her jump, let alone the talk of slavers... And what was that? The other seekers of The Shroud had noticed those noises as well. At least she could probably hide behind one of them like the coward she was if anything threatening came their way. Skylar hated the situation: her clothes were soggy, her skin was covered in goosebumps and the group seemed to be getting nowhere. Even if there was just one route forward. Skylar almost jumped back as something bumped into one of the people in the front. She tiptoed forward for a closer look. It was a woman, but was she a sewer hag or perhaps another seeker?

The small girl in the front had suddenly gone down, with a larger figure sprawling by her. Andra pointed the gun at the figure, fingers tightening... no! It was a young teenaged girl, clearly scared out of her mind. Andra relaxed, pulling the gun back towards herself, but leaving it pointed at the girl.

Everything was suspicious down here.

Andra flicked her eyes over to Langston, then back to the intruder. If anything bad happened, she was ready to knock the torch from his hand and run.

"T'bloody hell are you?!"

"Nnngh." Maggy groaned and grumbled as she staggered to her feet. She rubbed her head and leaned against the nearby wall, there was light again... that was something but there were people too. That was bad. With beasts at least you knew where you stood but people... they were shifty treacherous things.

But what could Maggy do? She tired, bruised and beaten. The adrenaline was fading and all the pain was sinking back in, along with the cold. Maggy winced, sucking in air through her teeth. She grasped at the burn on her arm as it flared up, sending pain through her arm. Maggy's eyes darted around this strange group. She didn't know if they could be trusted but right now she didn't have many options.

"Can't go back that way." She whispered to herself.

Pressing his way to the front at the sound and sight of the new arrival, Will crouched down in front of her. She was a ragged thing, nursing a burn on her arm. She looked scared out of her mind and appeared to be babbling to herself. "Can't go back that way."

Speaking gently, he put a hand on her shoulder. "What happened to you? What's back that way?"

"There lies the way forward, take it or leave."

Kaim was hardly satisfied with the robed man's cryptic answer, although the way that he had specifically addressed him was actually relatively clear compared to some of the messages he gave others.Everyone soon began to move forward of their own accord, although they were also partially spurred on by the cloaked man's assurance.

Some of the group were, much like Kaim himself, somewhat suspicious of the whole arrangement, with one girl in particular seeking out William's thoughts on the matter. She was a small, scrawny looking child; an obvious inhabitant of the drowned district, yet her smile was such that when she asked, it seemed to give the dingy tunnel they were in a glimmer of sweetness. The syntax of her speech was also strange, as it implied that she was older than she looked, as well her being rather above the usual street urchins from the Drowned District

Despite the sailor answering the query to the best of his ability, he bemoaned the situation itself.

"Unfortunately, the tunnel he's taking us to is the only way."

As Kaim was left behind as others pressed on into the unknown. He could have sworn that he had heard faint cries of anguish echoing through the labyrinthine tunnels. However the rest of the group seemed to separate as they each moved at their own pace, Will staying behind to study this 'Ezrah' further.

Suddenly there was a commotion at the front of the group, prompting many to move forward. Kaim himself was too far behind to have a clear look, but he did manage to glance at the woman responsible. She seemed bewildered to say the least.

Don't these people know that the Drowned District is full of hags like this one?

"The Shroud, to me, seems to be some sort of gang or group or cult. What they intend, I've no idea."

"... Oh gods, I'm signing up for a cult." Giles buried his face in his hands, rubbing his temples. The rest of the group seemed to hear something in the tunnel, if he strained enough he could too, but it was probably nothing. Or something very stupid, a test from this alleged 'cult.' The magician decided to at LEAST see if they had any fancy goodies he could take home, after all they did give him the best meal in weeks in PASSING. Seemed like a neat group.

He was torn from his thoughts by a woman, shrieking and running towards them. She ran into someone, and both got knocked flat on their arses Giles noted with a snicker. The newest comer made a noise, and looked around. She whispered something, and Giles charged forward.

"Can't go back that way."

"Excuse me, Madame." Giles said, stepping in front of the group to look at her. His eyes were mostly readjusted, and while not the hottest thing he'd ever seen, she was better looking than most around the group. A crushed and dirty bouquet of roses fell from his sleeve, and he offered it to her, "For you. Now, what are you running from in such a hurry? I assure you, I can take care of it."

"T'bloody hell are you?!"

Langston snapped out of his stupor,

'It's a child! It's only a child... What is it with me tonight? I suppose I will spend the whole night jumping at the approach of women and children. Splendid'

The girl's shrill wail had terrified Langston, causing him to stop dead in his tracks. He watched petrified, as the young girl came careening through the tunnel in and straight into a... little boy? This one a bit younger by the looks of it. Langston scanned over the group that had gathered near him, he hadn't noticed before, but a lot of these recruits were young- far younger than him at least.

'That makes sense. It's easier to indoctrinate children than adults... Now really isn't the time, is it?'

Langston pushed the thought from his mind, there were far more pressing matters to attend to and he couldn't afford to get lost in thought.

He took a few steps towards the group that had gathered near him, in an attempt to illuminate the area and give himself a better view of the situation. The other travelers were tightly huddled around the girl barking out questions in quick secession. Once again their questions hung in the dead air, lingering as they awaited reply. Langston directed his attention towards girl.

A small, pathetic looking creature. She rose to her feet still panting, her tiny frame shaking wildly as she attempted to catch her breath.

"Can't go back that way."

She winced suddenly, clearly in pain from the injury on her shoulder. Her eyes remained wide, filled with an almost primal terror as they darted from face to face- searching for something familiar, something safe. Langston felt a pang of sympathy, seeing his own fears mirrored in her eyes. He knew she just needed a second to herself, a chance to regain her composure.

"For you. Now, what are you running from in such a hurry? I assure you, I can take care of it."

The poor girl was still clearly in shock and this classless brute decides to shove mashed flora in her face? Who would be so insensitive? He just scared her more, if anything.

Bastard.

Langston stood at the edge of the crowd keeping a distance between him and the girl, his face was red with anger. He squared his shoulders and began speaking in a calm commanding tone. "Give her some space, she needs a moment to catch her breath."

He looked to Andra, addressing her softly, "Would you mind talking a look at her shoulder? She's been wounded."

There were echoes in the darkness, more, now, Blaize considered. Something was moving, quickly too. He eased his hand back to his dagger. Whatever was making that sound was coming toward them, somewhere on the path ahead. That wasn't good.

"I guess that's the Shroud's teeth." He said under his breath. Ahead, something ran into Sparrow, knocking the kid down. Blaize got out his own dagger, ready for whatever it was. Taking a moment to look at what just ran at them, he lowered his dagger somewhat. It was a woman, one in a clear state of shock and terror. Someone who was in the wrong place at the wrong time? Or was this another candidate for the Shroud.

Some others began fussing about the woman and what was wrong with her. Blaize couldn't care less, he'd heard enough. The woman said that the way ahead wasn't safe, and he thought that was good advice. The sound of movement ahead bolstered the suggestion to abandon this path. Whatever it was, he didn't fancy charging at it if there was another way around.

He began taking out his map once more, there had to be another way to the Shroud. Scanning over the map, he looked over to Sparrow, still brushing herself off from the collision with the new woman, "Got any ideas of where to go next?"

As everyone began to fuss over the sewer hag, Sparrow silently brushed herself down, slipping her dagger back into her sleeve. The woman was clearly distressed, whether that was from something that actually existed, or something in her head, was a another matter entirely.

This wasn't good, there was something down there, something she had no desire to see, let alone confront. Just what the hell was she doing?

'I could just turn around and leave, what's stopping me?' However, despite her anxiety, her curiosity demanded she find out just what the hell the Shroud were, and why they needed to hide in such a place.

"Got any ideas of where to go next?"

Crossing her arms across her chest, Sparrow stepped towards Blaize, looking down at his map. No good, only one way, it was down the tunnel the sewer hag had just came down.

"Looks like that's t'only way, I dunno 'bout you, but 'am not too thrilled t'meet whatever's down there."

It was all so strange, they were all paying her so much attention. Maggy didn't like it. It was bad. She'd most of her memorable life trying to avoid attention. That lead to horrible things like getting knifed, robbed or... or worse. But this was turning out to be that kind of night. After all Maggy was breaking every other basic rule of survival that she knew in the last few hours.

In a matter of hours she'd wandered into a derelict set of tunnels alone and unequipped and stirred up more trouble than she'd ever wanted to try and find in her whole life. This was one of those moments where you either had to laugh or cry, and frankly, Maggy had no idea what to do right now. That thing and its cold dead eyes. It looked like there was nothing behind them, no feeling or soul.

'No, no there has to be. It's just an animal that's all.'

"What happened to you? What's back that way?"

"It's a demon." Maggy whispered, trying not to cry.

All this just for some free food and from bloody religious maniacs at that. "For you. Now, what are you running from in such a hurry? I assure you, I can take care of it." AND THEN THERE WAS THIS! Were those flowers? Was he being a dashing rogue? Which part of the sewers was more more insane right now?

Maggy absentmindedly reached out and took the flowers. Simply because... that was what you did when someone offered you flowers. She even sniffed them as she tried, and failed, not to laugh. A small titter escaped her lips. All of this was so far from what she had expected of tonight.

"Give her some space, she needs a moment to catch her breath." Well that was something that sounded like sense at least. Maggy's arm still throbbed from the burn but at least the agony had faded away to simply the afflicted area. Clearly she'd been luckier than the rats, if only by a margin.

"I don't... I don't even..." Then it hit - 'That map lead me there. Those religious bastards.' "You here for the shroud?"

Andra shuffled forward, pulling the ever-shrinking roll of linen and the alcohol from her ever-lighter bag.

"This will -"

She stopped. Whatever had burned the girl wouldn't be stopped by alcohol. She sniffed... it was acid.

Shoot. Andra didn't know how to treat acid.

In her bag was a small vial of distilled, impurity-free water. It was something that you simply couldn't find in the Drowning District, she got it from her clients in other districts where it was plentiful. Andra didn't know how to treat the acrid awfulness that was still sizzling on the girl's exposed muscle, but she knew that water washed everything away.

"Here, dear. I don't know if this will hurt."

She uncorked the vial and poured it over the girl's arm. It seemed to work, and she doused the area with a tiny splash of alcohol and wrapped it liberally.

"You said there was a demon down there...?" Andra's voice was filled with incredulity, but she trailed off. The girl was staring at her with a touch of panic and revulsion.

Dammit.

Andra lowered her head to obscure the lower part of her face, only to catch a glimpse of her bust. Her dress hadn't been buttoned properly, and the awful mottling and scarring was clear for all to see.

Dammit again.

Looking away from the girl, who's arm was adequately bound, she announced to the others: "Whatever is down there has acid. Strong acid."

Ezrah cocked an eyebrow as Selena explained herself. Her situation was not particularly unfamiliar, many of the Drowned thought themselves trapped, locked into their place at the bottom of Kragenau's refuse pile by forces beyond their control. It was all so much bullshit as far as Ezrah was concerned, though he didn't waste his breath on debates over principles, not here, not now. The Marked knew the truth of things though, knew that the greatest honor a man could hope for was to Make or Unmake himself, to shape and determine his own way, his own course. If Demeter's attentions became less of a boon or more of a burden, it was the girl's responsibility to move the stone from her path, somehow, someway. Considering his last trade with Risa, Ezrah suspected Demeter might not be a factor for very much longer. The boy kept that information to himself as a matter of courtesy.

Something sounded from the darkness, a slurry of flesh against stone, a deep sonorous growling, the frantic squealing of rats and then... silence, abrupt and pregnant with the most acute sort of danger. Selena's words seemed to die in her throat and Ezrah kept silent, rising up slowly onto the balls of his feet as every muscle whispered to him and told him to flee. The lad snuffed the urge as best he could. He'd anticipated this hadn't he? Why else go through the trouble of this ruse? All the bait had been gathered together and set on the path ahead of himself, now Ezrah need only wait and see what rose to snap at it.

The boy's patience paid off as something fast and low to the ground hurtled out of the darkness and took the small boy child down. Ezrah hadn't asked the boy to go first, and he didn't mourn him, just squinted to make out the shape of the beast that had taken him down and thus perhaps avoid his fate. A moment passed, but Ezrah heard no tale tell tearing of flesh and snapping of bone, merely very human groans and mutterings. The others who surged forward were not screaming either, merely chattering away. So the darkness bore no beast, merely a frightened gutter child, a girl's form visible beneath the pale boy's torch. The children pressed about this new arrival, so eager to help, perhaps buoyed by the hope that the sewer's darkness was not so sinister as they'd feared. Yet Ezrah stayed back, less concerned for the girl child's health and more concerned about her warning and her babbling on about demons. Ezrah wasn't sure these dark places contained anything truly infernal or otherworldly, but he well knew a thing didn't need to be supernatural to be monstrous, and something had put the fear of the Gods in this street rat.

One girl moved to attend to a wound on the smaller one's arm. Ezrah noted the appearance of the flesh, raw red and angry, but without the blistering of a heat burn. Acid then, a powerful one at that to leave so ugly a wound. Lye in tenths powder, should lessen the sting and clean the wound, and Ezrah kept lye in tenths, lye in fifths and even a small portion of the Marking Powder, lye at its purest, but he was in no hurry to spend that coin. The attending girl confirmed his suspicions nearly before he'd thought to conjure them. His focus honed in on the young woman even as he shrank back all the more. How many Drowned knew enough of acids and the High Arts to name such a burn and name it true? She had her own bag, her own tools. What reagents lay within and, more importantly, had Ezrah sold any of them to her? Selena was a painful enough surprise, he didn't need another recognizing his face and weakening his ruse all the more, not this near to the pay off.

Ezrah sank to his haunches and froze, still as stone as the hair on the back of his neck rose, a memory of the hackles no human had any longer. Something was wrong, something was horribly, horribly wrong, and a body conditioned to survive amongst the Drowned knew it even if the mind was sluggish. Ezrah forgot about the wounded gutter girl and the one attending to her, forgot about the other searchers after the shroud, for a moment, even forgot about Selena. His senses strained, searching now, desperate to find the source of the fear that gnawed at his belly and groin. Ezrah waited one moment in silence, then another, and realization settled like a stone in the pit of his stomach. The silence, the silence of the living. The only noises in the tunnel were the rush of the water, the crackling of the pale youth's torch, and the voices of the children, stupid children led now as cattle to something... something horrible, something that caused the silence. Ezrah gripped Selena's wrist, fingers steely and probably none too tender, rigid with the terror that shone so bright in the pits of Ezrah's eyes. He turned to her slightly, voice a hoarse whisper, barely audible," I can't hear any rats... they're always here, but I can't hear them.... It comes."

"I can't hear any rats... they're always here, but I can't hear them.... It comes."

Looking around at the group at large, Will gestured with the sharp stone he'd picked up. "If it's big enough to get rid of those rats, we're dealing with something fairly massive."

For a moment, he glanced back the way the noises were coming from. Then he spoke again, with a clear ring of authority in his voice. "Everyone spread out. If we need to run, it won't do to be tripping over each other. Anyone with a knife or other such weapon, get it ready, but don't think of it as anything other than a last resort."

Kriggur's gait was slow and lumbering above water, but when nothing in these tunnels came close to her size and strength it hardly mattered. She had taken he time, first pursuing the girl, and then stalking ever closer to the multitude of new sounds and smells that were blundering around in her domain; but now, finally, she rounded the corner and peered down the passage at her prey. The light from the torch reflected of the slick walls, showing her scales to be more grey than green, and her dark eyes seemed to swallow the light entirely. However, she took on a brighter hue when she puffed out the deep red frills on her neck and spine in excitement Her teeth were black, row upon razor-sharp row and laced with bits of rat viscera caught between them. As she salivated, the strips of meat still caught between her teeth smouldered visibly, making acrid smoke culr upwards from her mouth as if she were a dragon of legend

In the shadows where the Children waited, another hooded figure joined them out of a puff of smoke, crouching next to the one in green, practically skipping as she hopped from one foot to the next, gnawing on her fingernails.

The beast's battle cry was one, low hiss, before she took the first plodding steps towards those who waited in her path. One, two, three steps, and then Kriggur slithered into the water, all of a sudden graceful. She knifed her way through the stagnant stream towards the motley band of surface dwellers with terrifying speed.

Sparrow heard something at first, like leather being dragged across the ground, or a large sack, while the sewer hag was being treated, the girl shuffled a few feet towards the bend, peering around it slowly. It was too dark to see anything in detail, not that she needed to in order to recognise the immense trouble they were about to be in.

"Bloody 'ell..." Sparrow whispered to herself, her eyes widened as the beast was touched by their dull torchlight. Taking a few steps back, her eyes never left the beast's as terror began to raise in her throat, it was nothing like she had ever seen before, this wasn't an animal, it was a monster.

"What in Maeverniss' frigid cunt is that?!"

Sparrow was rarely touched by panic, this was one of those times, her breathing grew shallow as it quickened, instantly regretting her decision to take the lead, she backed up slowly, until she bumped into someone, she daren't take her eyes off the beast to find out who. "What're we doin' people, what're we doin'?!" Her voice was quiet but, understandably, heavy with urgency.

As the beast took to the water, her heart leapt into her chest. She could run, she could easily outrun the majority of the group, and why wouldn't she?

'Because you're not Badger, that's why, you don't leave people for dead.'

Was it drawn to the light? Is that what led it here? No, why would something that lives in complete darkness be drawn to light? Unless...

"It's eyes, we need t'blind the bastard!"

What. What the hell.

The lizard creature was in the water. "What're we doin' people, what're we doin'?!"

Running, I hope!

Andra slowly began stepping backwards as the... thing... sped towards them.

"It's eyes, we need t'blind the bastard!"

Without even thinking, Andra pulled the gun from her boot and aimed. The creature rose from the water, exposing its enormous bulk... and face... and eyes. Andra took aim as the others dashed out of the way... squeeze the trigger... STOP SHAKING!... squeeze... squ- BLAM

The gun recoiled with immense force, more than Andra had ever remembered it having. It was because she was shaking, it amplified the effect.

She had missed. The bullet burrowed itself into the side creature's head, beyond the eye. It let out a positively mind-shattering howl and turned its head towards Andra. Andra stumbled backwards, fishing another precious bullet and package of gunpowder from her dress and desperately trying to reload the gun with her aching, quivering fingers. The creature extended its head towards her as she shoved the powder into the muzzle with manic speed and began to struggle to add the bullet. She wasn't going to make it.

The gunshot was deafening in the enclosed space, and Will turned to the source of the noise. Andra was fiddling shakily with the pistol, trying to reload. The huge creature was lunging towards her. Still moving backwards back up the tunnel with the others, Will grabbed Andra by the scruff of the neck and hauled her away from its maw. Leading her by the arm, he carried on moving, out of reach of the creature.

"Near miss! If you don't find it presumptuous, may I? I've had training with firearms." He tried to keep his voice relaxed, despite the fact they were running for their lives.

Andra handed the pistol and bullet to the sailor and continued scrambling back, cursing. Dammit, dammit, dammit, dammit! Why didn't you let literally anyone else have the pistol?

And what makes you think you'll get it back again!?

Andra turned, "comfortably" far from the creature, waiting to see if the sailor would get the eye. It would be one of the world's true wonders if guards weren't swarming the tunnels by the end of it all.

Gritting his teeth as he bowed his head, he thumbed the bullet in, and closed the chamber. Right...

He turned, having to backpedal furiously to stay ahead of the beast as it pounded down the tunnel after them. Cocking the pistol, he raised it, cursing the fact that running backwards was throwing his aim off. Just breath...

He breathed in... he aimed... he breathed out... he fired. The gun's muzzle flashed. There was an almighty fountain of blood as the creature's right eye exploded in a mess of gore. Sudden weightlessness as his backpedaling caught up with him and his worn boot heel skidded on a wet patch, and he landed on his back. The creature was attempting to rear in agony, hampered by the ceiling. Turning its ire on the source of its pain, its jaws opened wide as it snarled, coming at Will with fresh fury. Pushing himself away, the jaws barely missed him and he lashed out, kicking it in the snout as he scrambled to his feet and kept moving. "NO YOU FUCKING DON'T!"

Managing to catch up with the back of the group, he called out, "unless someone has a better idea, I hope you have more bullets!"

This lizard creature chased the group with extraordinary tenacity. Kaim could smell its breath as it approached them, stinking strongly of death as stalked its prey - them. The fact that they were able to notice it before it pounced was a miracle in and of itself, with members of the group quickly taking initiative as they thought up stratagems whilst directing evasive maneuvers.

A shot rang out in the dark as they sprinted away, as someone acted on the advice "t'blind the bastard".

*BANG*

Another shot fired, this time followed by a squelching sound a roar of fury. Kaim looked over his shoulder as he continued to run, seeing the blood spewing onto the floor as he realised the creature had just become a cyclops. Turning its attention directly to its aggressor, the reptile's maw sought out Will's flesh, but he was quick enough to land a surprise hit to the beast's snout, sending it staggering in shock at further pain (and probably annoyance).

As William scrambled to once more run alongside the group he cried "unless someone has a better idea, I hope you have more bullets!"

Kaim's breath grew ragged as the monster continued its pursuit. It wasn't necessarily out of pure exhaustion, as he had run for longer than this before, but more the sheer terror of the situation exasperating his already malnourished body. He wouldn't be able to keep this up for much longer however, and knew they had to bring down this beast sooner rather than later. He felt his wits begin to abandon him as he grew light headed from insufficient oxygen, his vision begninning to grow dark.

Wait... how did creature become attracted to us in the first place? It must have been that light...

A distinct thought emerged from the mess inside of Kaim's head, as he remembered back to what William had called the substance that had drew them together.

"..dragon silver..."

His eyes were drawn to the hooded figure that said they had represented "the Shroud", yet they were still running in fear like the rest of them. He had expected more of a representative of the organisation that had invited them, but now was not the time for idle pondering.

"Hey, you in the cloak! Got anymore of that flash-fire?"

"I can't hear any rats... they're always here, but I can't hear them.... It comes."

A chill ran up Selena's spine as Ezrah's words hung in the air. A brief moment of silence followed. A harrowing silence. One of the men upfront didn't seem all that frightened, however.

"If it's big enough to get rid of those rats, we're dealing with something fairly massive."

And so it was.

What followed was a blur of action. Screams, gunshots and a lot of splashing around in muck. Ezrah remained frozen as the second gunshot rang out as if waiting for something. Or perhaps he was scared? Selena wasn't sure which it was, but she knew she was scared out her wits herself and wasn't about to run into the darkness alone. Wide-eyed and trembling, her survival instincts kicked in causing her vision to sharpen as she frantically searched for a way out.

There!

She spotted a narrow passage cut into the masonry not too far from where they stood. It couldn't be more than a meter-wide. Confident the beast would pursue the men who had wounded it, she grabbed Ezrah's forearm and pulled him int the alley with her. She watched a man nearly lose his head as the beast passed them by.

"Hey, you in the cloak! Got anymore of that flash-fire?"

They were speaking of Ezrah. Selena peaked around the corner to see the enormous beast's tail lash about in the water before turning back to Ezrah. If that candle was what she thought it might be... A plan began to form in her mind. Her eyes found their way to his knife before she spoke, "I-Is that the candle that makes the bright light?" She muttered through panicked breaths. "G-g-give it here, I have an idea!"

"Give her some space, she needs a moment to catch her breath."

Giles mumbled something crass under his breath, smiling at the girl who giggled at his flowers. Everyone was worried about what injured her, he was too of course... he promised he'd stand in it's damned way. He was sometimes a man of his word, and he would gladly fuck up some acidic rodent of the night. Everyone began panicking, or something close at the mention of acid, the wound apparently scared them. Giles saw more grotesque things when he looked down in the morning! He got too close behind the brat, the second littlest girl and least adorable one kept backing up, bumping into him.

"What're we doin' people, what're we doin'?!"

"Maeverniss' frigid cunt, we fight the damned thing!" He said, his words almost immediately drowned out by the sound of a pistols discharge, the first volley of an attack on that stupid lizard thing that was swimming among the turds in the shitty water. He heard the sounds of a fumbling sailor landing on his arse through the ringing, the sounds of an angry lizard thing beginning it's charge. Giles scrambled to his feet, looking around and finding his target quickly. A deck of cards slid out from his sleeve, he gripped them tightly as he approached the one who pulled him off the wounded one, he held fire in his hand in a torch to light the path, but Giles saw a better use for it.

"Gimme that, ya little shit." He snatched it, puffing out his chest and trying his best to look heroic. He slid and scrambled to the beasts side, lighting a card in ablaze, between two fingers he pinched the cool side of his card, aiming over his shoulder he did his card throwing, he was okay at it but it was meant to distract here, hoping someone with a dagger charge this thing, stab the bad eye.

"HEY, YA CUNTY, SCALEY PRICK! FIGHT ME ONE ON ONE, I SWEAR ON ME MUM I'LL BASH YOUR FUCKIN HEAD IN!" He lit up another card, tossing it into the beasts side, and ducking into an alcove with his torch bearing, pale 'friend.'

"... I'm mostly sure that it can't get us in here." Giles mentioned, nonchalantly.

As the sailor shot at the beast, grabbing it's attention, Sparrow looked around for a means of escape. A blood curdling roar pierced her ears as she presumed the sailor had hit his mark, as the beast gained on them Sparrow noted an alcove on the side of the tunnel ahead, glancing to her side, she grabbed the arm of the blonde girl "In 'ere, quick!" pulling her into the alcove, pushing them both up against the inner wall as tight as possible as the beast rushed past them.

Without saying a word, Sparrow moved herself away from the girl, peering back out into the tunnel. It seemed the Lashani woman had the same idea, as she and the 'Shroud representative' were stood in an alcove on the opposite side of the tunnel.

Glancing to her side, she looked at the blonde girl, she was a bit shaken up, but seemed okay. Sparrow furrowed her brow before stepping out of the alcove slightly.

"You 'rate there?" She asked, as she peered after the beast. Was... that street magician flicking cards at the thing? "What t'bloody 'ell is he doin'?" She muttered, completely perplexed.

Shaking off her confusion, she looked back across the tunnel, Sparrow waved a hand to get the Lashani woman's attention "They can't outrun that thing, we need t'get it back down 'ere, I reckon t'magician's gonna get 'imself et, we need another plan." She paused for a moment, doubting she was the only one who came to the same conlusion. "I 'eard somethin' 'bout the flash-fire thingy? That the Dragon Silver? I reckon it ain't too fond of light, we should be able t'fuck it up good an' proper if we can draw it's attention."

Langston kept his back to the group as he watched Andra approach, unfurling her shrinking roll of gauze.

'Shit, I said all of that out loud... Why did I have to be so short with him? Am I going to turn around to find that cad's shiv sinking deep into my belly? I should have kept my damn mouth shut. Idiot.'

As Andra passed he fell in step her his mind still awhirl. He didn't want to get any closer to the scoundrel, but Andra would need good lighting in order treat the girl's injury.

"Here, dear. I don't know if this will hurt."

She poured a generous amount of water over the shallow gash and then proceeded to pull out her bottle of alcohol. Langston winced remembering its sting. He felt the soles of his feet burn anew, it was such a nasty chemical- and to think that people actually drink that? Does it not burn the throat, or the stomach? Langton's train of thought was suddenly interrupted

"I can't hear any rats... they're always here, but I can't hear them.... It comes."

Langston's attention was immediately drawn toward the dark passage ahead

"Everyone spread out. If we need to run, it won't do to be tripping over each other. Anyone with a knife or other such weapon, get it ready, but don't think of it as anything other than a last resort."

Langston drew his torch closer to him, it's crackling almost deafening in the thick silence. A low hiss cut through the darkness, ending the silence.

"What're we doin' people, what're we doin'?!"

This creature sped towards them, gliding effortlessly through the water. It's scales glistened, shining brighter and brighter as it neared its prey. The tunnel erupted into a choir of discordant sounds. The other initiates rushed past Langston, stumbling and crashing into one another. Langston wanted to move- he wanted to run but he couldn't, it was as if his feet were made of lead. He parted his dry lips, letting the word "Maralilth" escape before he shut his eyes. He stood still hoping that he would just disappear.

BOOM

Langston's eyes snapped open to see Andra standing a few feet in front of him holding a pistol above her head. She hit the beast, but the monstrosity did not slow. It lunged toward her, it's red frills bristling as it closed in on a kill. She panicked falling as she attempted to reload her pistol.

'DO SOMETHING'

Langston began to step forward, but the grizzled gentleman already had her on her feet and running back towards cross roads. Langston turned and raced alongside them deciding to follow their example. He kept his mind blank, now was a time for action not thought and this fellow seemed to know what he was doing. When the man slowed Langston slowed as well, letting the light show on the beast and guide his shot. The man raised the pistol, taking in a deep breath as the fiend edged in closer, lifting its maw out of the water.

'Why isn't he shooting it? DAMNIT FIRE Th-'

The gun discharged hitting the creature in the eye. When It reeled back from the shot Langston turned and began to run. He was running full tilt when two hands hit him straight in the chest, knocking the wind out of him. He doubled over, gasping for air as he was pulled into an alcove. The torch was pried from his grasp.

"Gimme that, ya little shit."

It was that damn scoundrel. Langston tried to straighten out, but he just couldn't get enough air. He didn't want to get killed, not by that lizard and certainly not by that bastard man. He took a deep breath and rose to his full stature... The man was gone?

'Gods be praised.'

Langston leaned against the wall, placing his hands over where the man had hit him. The pain radiated through the area, tingling maliciously throughout his chest. There was some yelling out in the tunnel followed by the pounding of feet, and then he was back. He scooted in towards Langston wielding the torch haphazardly.

"... I'm mostly sure that it can't get us in here."

Langston focused on the light as he spoke, hearing his but not listening. The man was uncomfortably close and just full of odor, he smelled of sewage and his sour breath reeked of booze. Langston suddenly perked up, surprised that it could be so simple. He pulled up his jacket and ripped off a part of his sleeve, rolling it into a think strand. Stumbling back into the tunnel he began to call for Andra, the boorish man following behind.

'Cloth, Alcohol, Fire.'

He looked down the passage seeing nothing but darkness. There was no response from Andra, guttural hisses and yells echoed back in response to his call. Langston choked back tears,

'Nothing? Is she dead?'

He remained standing in the tunnel listening as the beast roared and flailed about in the darkness. Even with a plan there was nothing he could do, there was never anything he could do but accept his fate.

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