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

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Everything exploded almost immediately. From out of the passages ahead crawled...something. Blaize had no idea what it was, only that it was large, with a big mouth and lots of teeth. That's all he needed to know to say, with certainty, that it needed to die quickly.

Whipping out his dagger, Blaize began backing up carefully, making sure to keep the blade between himself and the monster. He thought about escaping, but that wouldn't do much good. The passage was too crowded, and even if he could get past everyone if that thing didn't get killed it'd probably get him before he could find a way out. No, he cursed bitterly under his breath, there was nothing to do but stay and try to kill this thing before it ate everyone.

A few gunshots rang out, almost deafening him in the cramped tunnels. Blaize shook his head a few times, but the ringing in his ears persisted. He could barely hear anything. Still, that didn't mean he could fight.

He focused back on the battle, ignoring his temporary deafness as well as he could. The creature was thrashing about, partly in pain, partly in anger. One of the shots had blown on of the thing's eyes off, but that hadn't done much to slow it. The only thing they had going for them, he realized, was numbers. The thing was scrambling about, looking for a target, they just had to keep it switching who it wanted to kill until they could bleed it out. Another shot from the guns would probably kill it if the bullet hit just right, if the gunners could aim. Blaize sighed, they were going to be here for a while then.

He bent down, grabbing some bits of stone and debris, anything that might do something if he threw it hard enough. When Blaize found a suitably heavy rock, he hefted it for a moment, tossing it lightly, let out a slow breath, and threw it straight at the wound of the beast's missing eye. "That oughta hurt beastie!" He shouted, backing up a bit after. This was going to get interesting.

Now this was something even worse than a rat.

It was a monster, an absolute monster. Skylar was gripped with fear, and all she could do was run and hide in an alcove. She was somewhat glad to see that others shared that view, and was somewhat disheartened. Running away wouldn't solve everything. The beast had been blinded, but Skylar wasn't particularly sure whether it had some other sort of sense - the flickering tongue gave her an idea, however, she wasn't particularly well versed in the anatomy of the beasts that lurked in the deep dark shadows of Kragenau. In short, she felt useless. Skylar didn't have any street smarts, or fancy Dragon Silver, or even a weapon at hand. Hell, she didn't even have a decent pair of clothes, unlike her neighbour.

First came crumbs, second came characters, chemicals came third, and the creature was the fourth part of the little setup. What sort of setup was this anyway? She wanted to ask the self-proclaimed Guide, but if she did so, she risked drawing attention to herself. Skylar didn't want the eye of the lizard upon her. Then again, the others seem to hold a different option on that. It was shot and stoned and shouted at. Did these people think they were monster-slayers? Dragon Silver... Dragon Silver... Those words were repeated on and on, again and again. Skylar was inclined to agree. So let the sewer be set alight by that magical substance! Regardless, there was nothing she could do to help. A little mouse like her could only scurry away from its bigger predators.

"Just... just do it." She whispered, a prayer more than anything else.

The animal fear surged through Ezrah's veins and for a brief moment he struggled against it, but that was not the way. In half a heartbeat teaching supplanted instinct and Ezrah ceased his struggle and let his body go clear and bright as his mind and heart flooded it with the vigors he'd need to survive this. He rode the fear, bucked with it, and watched the scene unfold before him, all the violence and chaos and shouting. He kept still, perfectly still, like balancing on knife points ready to bolt if no other path showed itself, but unwilling to draw the beast's attention. Motion and sound would do the trick, sure enough, especially if this creature haunted the dark places, Ezrah would give it neither in undue amounts. The flicker of its tongue brought to mind a snake, a snake had queerer methods for searching out prey. A problem, but not one Ezrah would fret over now, not with all these other warm bodies making such a fine ruckus. One of the girls produced a pistol and managed to do little else than stoke the beast's ire. Good, time now to-

Ezrah came hurtling from his reverie as Selena pulled him from his crouch and into a nearby alcove. Gods above and below, he'd nearly forgotten the girl was here. Would she complicate things? Could she keep quiet, fade into the background, mask and muffle her steps? It'd be a horrible risk to bring her a long... and still he couldn't simply leave her, not this broken, damaged girl full of woeful tales, not when she'd shared those tales willingly, not when she'd asked for aid he couldn't conjure. The two needs warred for a moment and tied a Ezrah's guts into a fine knot, and Selena spoke, "I-Is that the candle that makes the bright light. G-g-give it here, I have an idea!"

Was she mad?!? The intention was clear enough, blind the beast, that enough was plain. But what then? The thing survived pistol shot to the face, would light cause so much more pain? It would slow it, for a moment perhaps, and piss it off royally. Then the hunt would begin in earnest. Ezrah would not wait around for that, he would not waste this brief window the first ruse had bought him. He rummaged through his pack for another sea candle and pressed it into Selena's hand, holding it for a moment. He shook his head and whispered as he pulled away, "Fool's work, Selena, leave it to them. Come with me... now's for running...."

Ezrah held the young woman's gave for a lingering moment before his eyes flickered to the beast and the children, children who were now flinging stones and... and... flaming cards? It made no difference, they were making a lovely racket and stoking the monsters fury ever higher. He backed away, out of the alcove, slowly at first pulling his dirty cloak tight about himself, knowing it matched the dingy color of the sewer walls. Soft steps, light steps, ghost steps, more and more until the noises became echoes. He turned then and ran outright, letting the map in his mind serve as guide. If Selena followed, perhaps he'd hear her before the lizard did, perhaps he'd have enough time to double back and help her on... perhaps. For now, 'perhaps' was all he could spare her. His mind turned to what was left in his pack. One more candle, the warped rat ichor, a few other varied reagents and unguents, no explosives unfortunately. He'd expected many things in this venture, but nothing involving grenades... that'd be a lesson learned if he survived this. Not all bad news though.... He'd seen the liquid dripping from the lizard's maw, saw how it sizzled on the stones and ate through them, powerful acid indeed. He had the thing for that, two small pouches of white powder. That might just do the beastie in... might, but Ezrah had no intention of getting close enough to work that sort of sorcery. Still... some plan was better than none.

Kriggur's cries of pain emerged as strangled screeches, ans she thrashed wildly around the passage, searching for a single target for her wrath. She may have been made half blind, but her other senses were still acute and the pain only seemed to make her more wild. The trouble was, there were so many, and they crowded around her. An ambush predator is not used to dealing with so many targets.

That small advantage would not last forever though, as she rounded on the sound of retreating footfalls. Something she could recognise. With a furious hiss she opened her jaws and shot out her tongue at the running boy with lighting speed. The thick, sticky pad struck him clean on the ankle, sending him sprawling on the cold, wet stone. From there, she need only reel him in.

===========================================================================================================================

The Children stood almost dumbstruck as they observed their charges increasingly lame attempts to fell the beast. Well, at least they all had the small sense to attack at once...

"I say this lot are a hopeless case." declared the burgundy one. "Let Kriggur feast tonight."

"The answer is there, give them a moment." The Grey replied. "If they don't act in time, we will intervene."

"Why?"

"Because I don't make the rules, and neither do you!" he snapped. "If you want to go to commune and tell our master why all of his new hopefuls are dead, be my guest."

No... no..."

It was back and it had seen her. Maggy's blood ran cold as it slowly lumbered out of the dark, each step thudding against the ground and the glistening light reflecting off its distorted flesh. It saw her, it was looking for her she just knew it, it was looking for her.

Then it made a break for them "NO, NO!" and every thought in Maggy's head exploded as her animal instincts took over. Maggy sprang out of the way and scrambled for some kind of place of safety. The whole tunnel had erupted into action as the others all seemed to try and pull every damn trick they could think of right out of their arse. Though the fact that a few of them even tried to shoot and stab it served to show how woefully unprepared Maggy was. She ran and struggled to stay clear of the beast in a frantic attempt to survive. In the pale light of the torches it all seemed to blend together but Maggy at least managed to get close to clear of certain scaly death.

This could be her chance, she could get clear and run. Leave it to eat all it wanted and she could get back to ground level. But it was blocking the tunnel and Maggy couldn't go back the way she came. She could keep going forward, find this shroud lot but what if they were the ones that had sent it, what if they wanted her dead? Of course they did! That was the only thing that made sense. So what... stick with the group? There was safety in numbers, not that Maggy had ever experienced that.

But there was nothing else that she could work out right now. In her own little moment of madness Maggy picked up the nearest rock and hurled it at the monster's head with all her malnourished might. For all the fat lot of good it did.

'With the Trickster now a spilt second away from paying for his cowardice with his life, The Child in grey raised his hands towards the chaos, and murmuring some ancient incantation, slowly moved them apart.

At the point where the sticky flesh of Kriggur's tongue trapped Ezrah's heel (the acidic saliva burning through his clothes and smouldering the skin beneath), a tear made of the purest darkness opened up. In the shadowy depths of the sewers, it was hardly noticeable, especially with the far more prominent distractions in evidence; but this darkness was other-worldly, a black so rich it could drink the light from the stars themselves. The tear lasted for only a moment, but it was enough to break the seal, and Ezrah found himself scrambling away, whereas Kriggur was left confused, when she did not taste the morsel she had been expecting when she bit down...'

Selena couldn't believe what she was hearing. Ezrah was just going to... leave her? It was then that she remembered where it was she called home. The Drowned District. No one truly cared for others here. Her eyes remained on the gift he'd bestowed on her for the briefest of moments as mere seconds later Ezrah had been seemingly punished for his cowardice, "NO!" She shouted as the beast's tongue coiled around his ankle.

Frozen in terror, Selena would have been too late to act he had not... freed himself? Somehow the beast lost its grip, though she didn't udnerstand how.

Doesn't matter! Move, dammit!

Glancing back at the object in her hand, she stepped out of the alcove and called out to the girl across the way, waving the candle in the air, "I need a light!"

Sparrow pursed her lips as the cloaked one began to flee, her eyes piercing into his back. "Son of a bitch..." She muttered, anger rising in her throat. Maybe he was with the Shroud afterall, leading them all here to feed his pet. Right then she vowed to track the Shroud down, if only to kick the shit out of the little coward.

As the beast caught the little wanker, a smug smirk curled the corners of her mouth. Quickly snapping herself out of her self satisfaction, she started to move to aid the boy, when he suddenly seemed to free himself. The girl was perplexed for a moment, she wan't sure how he managed it. Her thoughts where interrupted when the Lashini woman called out for her to get a light.

"On it!"

Turning to the blonde girl, she smiled slightly "Get ready, owt could 'appen." She dashed over to where the white haired boy and magician were standing, both their attention on the beast, "Oi, pratt, give me the bloody torch you card throwin' toss pot!" Snatching it from the magician's grasp, she turned back to the Lashani woman, "Oi, Lashani, heads up!" Arching her arm back, she tossed the torch towards the woman, hitting the wall and landing by her feet.

Selena watched the girl move. For someone so young she was certainly leagues braver than Selena would ever be. She picked the torch off the ground and and in a panicked tone, shouted, "I... I have no idea!" Stepping into the middle of the tunnel she announced. "EVERYONE GET READY TO MOVE!" Closing her eyes, she held the flames against the candle. She could feel the light on her face and her hand began to burn almost immediately.

Terrified, she tossed the blazing flare down the tunnel, towards the beast and turned to run. She nearly tripped over herself as she pivoted on her heel, falling to one knee beside Ezrah after a few staggering steps. She grabbed hold of his sleeve, "Come on, we gotta move! NOW!"

Sparrow winced, shading her eyes with a hand as the Dragon Silver sparked to life, "WATCH YA EYES WANKERS!" She shouted as she pulled up her hood, aiming her gaze downwards as Lashani tossed the thing. Quickly moving in behind the woman as she fell, Sparrow grabbed her shoulder, pulling her to her feet, "Leave the coward, less'go." She said simply, using her other hand she beckoned the blonde girl. "Shift ya arse, we out!"

"EVERYONE GET READY TO MOVE!"

New prey. Kriggur head whipped around, and her jaws stretched open for the kill, but before she could sink her teeth into flesh, her remaining eye was filled with a light so searing bright it burned through all her remaining senses. She saw nothing else, heard nothing else, smelled nothing else. Her world was light, and light was pain.

Screaming shrilly, Kriggur thrashed and writhed about the passage, her head and tail crumbling brick as the slammed into the walls. Having been facing the full blast of the Dragon Silver, the light was now etched onto her mind. Shutting her eyelids and turning away did little to lessen her distress. Whimpering was not within her vocal range, but her hisses were strangely pathetic as she backed away, blind, from where she thought the source of the light was. Where still the glare did not dissipate, Kriggur dived once more beneath the water's filthy skin, hoping that the cold embrace would shield her.

================================================================

As the new hopefuls took their chance to run, the Child in grey turned to the others and nodded approvingly.

"The entrance to the catacombs is close, we should move on."

================================================================

As the group made it further into the tunnels, they slowed their pace. Some of them were visibly out of breath, others seemed hardly phased by the escape.

Sparrow pulled down her hood. "So..." She turned slowly, her arm outstretched, a dagger pointed at the cloaked one, standing near the rear of the group. "I dunno if you lot saw it, but this gutless fucker tried leavin' us for dead." Her expression hardened as she clenched her jaw. "No way 'e's with the fucking Shroud, nobody talks the way 'e does and is just an errand boy." She furrowed her brow for a second "An' neither am I." She said glancing at Blaize and Lashani. "Jus' wanted to make sure I wasn' gettin' screwed." She turned her attention back to the cloaked one.

"Certainly wan't gonna leave you to get et, like this cunt."

With the creature gone, at least for now, Will walked over to the boy, as well as the woman who'd lit up the dragon silver, and the blonde woman.

"An' neither am I."

A girl. I don't suppose it would be wise to admit to being a young girl in a city like this...

"Certainly wan't gonna leave you to get et, like this cunt."

"A girl after my own heart. And that was very resourceful, using the dragon silver to drive off the beast. Even if you had to be particularly persistent in acquiring it." He shot the man beside him a dirty look.

"My name is William Hunt," he said, doffing his tricorne hat to the two ladies. "First-- uh... former First Lieutenant in the Privateers." Realizing he was still holding the pistol, he stuck it roughly through his belt before offering his hand to shake. "Thank you for succeeding at a task I was only half successful with," he finished sardonically.

Giles spent his time watching the rest of the group flail around wildly, trying to take it down. It was just a fuckin lizard, WHY WAS THIS THING SO TOUGH! Next time Giles went anywhere, he'd have to remind himself to bring a real weapon. Or drugs. He wanted drugs again, this shit was fucked. Sewers to go meet up with a cult, what was the POINT? Why was he even fighting this thing, that girl with the acid burn.

Giles groaned as the little girl came around, demanding his rightfully snatched torch.

"Oi, pratt, give me the bloody torch you card throwin' toss pot!"

"Fuck you too, ya bird named fuck trophy!" She took his torch, throwing it either to or at the woman who reeked of prostitution, cute but he didn't see her at first... and the other one had his flowers.

"... Crap, locked meself in a corner on that one."

"EVERYONE GET READY TO MOVE!"

"What?" He poked his head out of the alcove, a non flaming card in his hand. He turned around to the little cunt who took his ammunition,

"WATCH YA EYES WANKERS!"

"Wha- AH FUCK ME EYES FUCK!" He covered his eyes with his sleeve, the afterimage like a sun under his eye lids. The whitest one was polite enough to point him where to run, and he did so with reluctance. He hoped the one girl with the roses did, too, he was kind of invested in that. And he kinda wanted the roses back at some point.

They ran for a while, Giles noticed he got tired far before they did. That was not good, but he kept his own pace well enough. Still closer to the back, but he kept his pride on him. He was practically born with the body of an olympic sprinter, but that didn't mean much with his amount of substance abuse. He almost doubled over as they all came to a stop, instead opting to straiten up and stare at the ceiling as the little girl talked.

"So... I dunno if you lot saw it, but this gutless fucker tried leavin' us for dead. No way 'e's with the fucking Shroud, nobody talks the way 'e does and is just an errand boy. An' neither am I. Jus' wanted to make sure I wasn' gettin' screwed."

"So, kid ran." Giles said to himself, quietly as he regained any sort of composure. He moved closer to the front of the group, looking at her dagger pressed against his throat. Cowards deserved their long lives of regret, he always felt. They beat it anyways, all that shit was in the past. They'da found another way to beat it anyways.

"Certainly wan't gonna leave you to get et, like this cunt."

'And now you're pointing a knife at him. Coward vs murderer.' Giles raised an eyebrow, he knew this would likely be some sort of cult bullshit, but he wasn't going to kill someone. He was worried such a young girl even thought it first. Fucken weirdo's around the sewers at this time of night.

"My name is William Hunt, First-- uh... former First Lieutenant in the Privateers."

'And the twat with the pistol. Good shot, at least.'

"Thank you for succeeding at a task I was only half successful with."

"And I'm Giles. Magician extraordinaire." He started, his false showman dialect returning, he shuffled his remaining cards, playing with them as he spoke. "Let's put the knife away, kid. Now is not the time for killing... I say we take his stuff. Won't be a problem any more at least, in case of any more, what was that, a test?"

Blaize jumped back, almost tripping over himself as the creature shot out it's dark tongue. It was appalling, and fascinating. This thing was something else entirely. Half a second after it shot out, the thing's tongue tensed. It caught prey. Blaize looked back to see what was on the other end of the line, and his face hardened.

One of the others, some boy Blaize never caught the name of, had fallen, brought down by the thing's tongue. And he had been trying to run. Blaize shot a dark glare at the boy, before looking over to the others. The monster was distracted momentarily, and it seemed that a plan was taking form. He had only a moment before he saw Selena lighting something in her hand. Everyone was turning away and covering their eyes, and Blaize quickly followed just as Selena shouted out.

"EVERYONE GET READY TO MOVE!" Followed a moment later by Sparrow.

"WATCH YA EYES WANKERS!" Even with eyes shut, Blaize could see the burst of light, thankful that he had followed suit and not been blinded. The thing gave a cry, and Blaize opened his eyes as soon as he dared, blinking away spots in his vision. Whatever had caused that light, he was happy for it. He stumbled toward the wall, leaning on it for a moment, before hearing everyone start off. Wasting no time, Blaize dashed after them, bringing up the rear, keeping his dagger at his out, just in case.

After a time, they slowed then stopped, catching their breath. Blaize took the opportunity to look around, making sure that nothing else was coming after them. More deep breaths followed, then the near-silence was broken, by Sparrow. "So... I dunno if you lot saw it, but this gutless fucker tried leavin' us for dead. No way 'e's with the fucking Shroud, nobody talks the way 'e does and is just an errand boy. An' neither am I. Jus' wanted to make sure I wasn' gettin' screwed."

"I saw." Blaize said. He'd been suspicious about Sparrow's involvement in the Shroud, and it looked like he was right, though he probably should have paid better attention to their other companions. "And I'm right pissed about that." He turned toward the cloaked boy, tapping his dagger against his thigh. "Now, what're we gonna do with you?"

Others were talking in the background, but Blaize didn't hear. Someone named Will from somewhere or other, another one spoke up. "And I'm Giles. Magician extraordinaire. Let's put the knife away, kid. Now is not the time for killing... I say we take his stuff. Won't be a problem any more at least, in case of any more, what was that, a test?"

Blaize looked back, Sparrow still had her own knife out, he gave a slight smile. "Sparrow, keep yer knife out. I think it's a great time fer killing. 'Specially killing cowards who left us'ta die." He turned toward the other man, Giles, "An' if this were a test, then this bloody cunt failed. Shoulda let him get 'imself et and run while it was distracted."

"Leave the coward, less'go."

Selena refused to do so, however, and helped Ezrah along as the group ran further down the tunnel. Upon stopping to catch their breath, the little girl produced a knife.

"Certainly wan't gonna leave you to get et, like this cunt."

Selena's eyes darted between hers and Ezrah's. She had a mad look about her. She'd really stab him without giving it a second thought...

"No, stop! There's no need---"

"Let's put the knife away, kid. Now is not the time for killing... I say we take his stuff. Won't be a problem any more at least, in case of any more, what was that, a test?"

Selena nodded, "Yes, please, what he said. Put the knife... wait, what? We're not taking his stuff!"

"Sparrow, keep yer knife out. I think it's a great time fer killing. 'Specially killing cowards who left us'ta die."

Selena's brow furrowed and she began to tremble. Was she afraid for Ezrah? Perhaps. Though, it was just as likely she was afraid of her own nature. Or at least, the futility of it.

Swallowing her fear, Selena jumped between Ezrah and the knife, holding her arms out at her sides, "Stop!"

"An' if this were a test, then this bloody cunt failed. Shoulda let him get 'imself et and run while it was distracted."

"Say what you will about the boy, but don't hurt him! I-I... I won't allow it! Just, just move along, okay? He won't bother you..." If she was lucky they'd heed her request, but this was the Drowned District. If they didn't know who she associated herself with... or simply didn't care, this could end very badly for her. "Protection" can only get you so far. It doesn't protect you from the crazy ones.

The beast had shrieked and dove back into the waters. Andra put her arm up just in time - the light was terrifically bright.

She heard the others running, so she ran with them. She ran for a short distance before it seemed that everyone was back together. The spots were still dancing in front of her eyes as she surveyed those around her and listened to their conversation.

"Certainly wan't gonna leave you to get et, like this cunt."

So, the Shroud member abandoned us. Meaning you've traipsed through the sewers for nothing of interest. What a wonderful day.

"Let's put the knife away, kid. Now is not the time for killing... I say we take his stuff. Won't be a problem any more at least, in case of any more, what was that, a test?"

Andra saw that the man who had taken her pistol still had it. She grabbed it off of him.

"Sparrow, keep yer knife out. I think it's a great time fer killing. 'Specially killing cowards who left us'ta die."

Shoot the bastard.

No.

Why not? He's a frigid, evil goat of a man. Kill him, he's dead weight.

Dead weight to who? The group? What group? Are we a group now?

"An' if this were a test, then this bloody cunt failed. Shoulda let him get 'imself et and run while it was distracted."

Sure. We're a group now. Now kill him.

You don't destroy dead weight, you leave it behind.

He left us to be eaten by the drowned and disfigured offspring of Denissa and Zapatos, with its mother's love for water and its father's appetite and bad smell. Justify why he shouldn't die.

Andra began to walk to the figure, who had another woman draped over him, begging for his life.

"Say what you will about the boy, but don't hurt him! I-I... I won't allow it! Just, just move along, okay? He won't bother you..."

Andra arrived at the two figures, and crouched down beside them.

Justify it.

She raised the gun.

JUSTIFY IT, YOU BITCH.

She turned the gun to the mob. "It doesn't seem fitting to me that we should simply kill the man who gave us the tools for our salvation," she rasped, her vocal cords frayed and fighting against her own brain.

But the words were out.

And the duelling voices shut up.

Andra was suddenly keenly aware that her gun had no ammo. Hopefully, no one else thought of that.

'OH HELL!'

Maggy almost flew away from the blinding light as she slammed her eyes shut and threw herself to the ground as all the screams of the other homeless (or whoever they were) were drowned out by the thrashing of the demon creature. The light even tried to scorch through her eyelids leaving blots on her vision when Maggy did open her eyes. It turned out she had landed just short of a puddle of the beast's deadly drool. The flowers she had been given... were not so lucky as they sizzled away into their doom.

After clearing that obstacle came running, lots of running. She more or less lagged behind the rest of the group as the various aches and pains as well as the fatigue of already doing this was beginning to take a toll. Then it was because Maggy realized they were going back in the direction she had come from, to the spiders and rats.

When Maggy did manage to catch up to the rest after they'd all stopped she found them throwing knives and threats around the place. Apparently one of them had been a dick and made a break for it. Maggy might have been tempted to try and move on but they were blocking the way and had easily proven that there was at least some safety in numbers. Maggy looked over the motley bunch, what the hell brought this kind of crew together? Either the shroud had tried to feed them to their pet demon or they were into reaching out to really weird mixtures.

And here they were saying they should cut a fucker for running from that thing! "Course 'e bloody ran. Who wouldn't run from that thing?" Maggy muttered quietly.

Hell she'd ran from it like mad... and lead it straight to them. But hopefully they wouldn't think of that. Still Maggy shrank back a little and avoided eye contact just to be sure.

The running stopped, the children slowed and came to rest, but the burning went on and on. That would need dealing with. It'd been Selena who'd dragged him along there at the end, when the beast had somehow lost its grip. The thought was a burning thing in itself, but the wound on Ezrah's leg was a real, physical thing, and he'd tend to it first. The voices around him were raised and angry, but Ezrah paid them no mind, none were within striking distance and the words were less than relevant. He peeled away what remained of the lower right leg of his pants and focused on the ruined flesh. He could still put weight on the ankle, that was good enough, meant the acid hadn't reached the muscle and tendon just yet. He pulled the powder he'd mixed for the beast, the powder he'd never gotten a chance to use, half parts marking lye, half parts surgeon's plaster. He sprinkled the mixture on the wound and winced as it fizzed and bubbled, producing a white gunk that spread through the acid that remained and hardened a moment later. The lye and acid made salt and water, salt to sting and clean the wound, water to mix with the surgeon's plaster, expand and form a bandage of sorts. The burning faded and Ezrah released the breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding. He'd need a firmer bandage though, in this dank, wet place full of disease. He had no bandages, but he could make due.

Ezrah shrugged off his cloak, then his coat, bundling both and setting them aside. A shadow fell across him then, and Ezrah looked up to see Selena standing over him, standing between him and a cluster of angry faces, some with knives drawn. Ahhh... well that explained the angry voices at least, did they think he'd led them to the beast? No... no that wasn't the turn of most of their words. They were mad because he'd left, because he'd ran? Strange, had they expected anything else? Some of these were Drowned born, gutter children, and yet it was these two who pulled blades and called him out? Had the Shroud set out to cull the distict's idiots by design? Ezrah tore a length of cloth from his shirt and used it as a makeshift bandage for his leg. He could scavenge for more clothes later, but he couldn't risk infection setting in.

"Say what you will about the boy, but don't hurt him! I-I... I won't allow it! Just, just move along, okay? He won't bother you...," Again the words didn't matter so much, but their source demanded attention. Why did she do this, why did she take such risk? He'd known kindness from Selena, and gave it in return, but this more than mere kindness. This was a sort of madness and while Ezrah felt the warmth in it, he wasn't sure it was a thing he could reciprocate. It was madness, and it was heavy, and the weight rode painfully on his shoulders.

One girl drew close, the sailor's pistol in hand, a pistol pointed at him. Ezrah's fingers tightened around the hilt of the blade in his boot, even as he remained crouched. So it would come to blood then? So be it, at least this sort of madness Ezrah knew well, could taste in the heat of his blood and the burning in his ears. Two shots fired at the monster, but never a third.... No more bullets or no time to reload? It made little difference... the way forward was clear.

"It doesn't seem fitting to me that we should simply kill the man who gave us the tools for our salvation." The girl and her gun turned away. Strange and stranger. But why should it come as a surprise, strange was the order of this day! A sudden epidemic of heroics, the abject failure of a perfectly sound plan, a giant fucking sewer lizard....

The lad rose to his feet, deft fingers drawing the boot knife from its sheath even as he stumbled slightly, still trying to find the proper balance. Ezrah started forward, pressing past the cover Selena provided with a firm but gentle hand. He stared down the knives and the children who clutched them, dark eyes alive with the flicker of the torchlight, full of a steady, low burning fury and the one madness that was all Ezrah's own. These were not giant fucking lizards, these were not things to fear, these were human shapes, so much meat and fat and blood and bone.

Ezrah's voice came out low, steady and clear, and while he never snarled, the words were full of the promise of sharp teeth, "Ain't nothin' bindin' twixt us. You... are... nothin'. I sang ta the lies bouncin' round in yer skull ta get the lot've ya movin', as bait. As fodder. For whatever the Shroud has waitin' fer them its called. Woulda worked too if the dice rolled different. Ya can thank Selena fer yer lives. But now that game's done and here's another, and know this.... if I thought it'd bring me a single breath or silver, I'd paint this place red with ya, taint the meat ya soul leaves behind and scatter it about fer that beastie ta choke on."

Ezrah pulled the neck of his shirt to the side, exposed the burned flesh there and chuckled as he turned away," Ain't somethin' ya get fer fairplay or heroics. Leave me be or come n'test my gods, yours are kinder, but mine 'ave claws. Or... keep dancin' pretty for the mad fucks that called ya to this hell, don't rightly care and it don't rightly matter, the way is forward...."

The youth limped back over to Selena and the girl with the pistol and some of the harshness bled from his features even as his footing grew more sure, "Miss... you've got better memory than most, and that's a kindness, here's two in turn. Never point an empty pistol, s'like ta get ya gutted. Leave this place, ain't nothin' good at the end of it, thought it were slavers first, not anymore, slaver don't risk product. S'a cult more'n like, a dark one at that."

By the time Ezrah made his way back to Selena, the anger had all but bled away entirely, leaving behind a deep, nearly unsettling intensity. He didn't speak for a long moment, just stared at her, eyes tracing her face as though searching for something. They lingered for a moment on a patch of raised flesh, a bruise on its way to mending. Ezrah's fingers ghosted across the memory of violence, tender but hesitant. He shook his head, "Don't be so quick to spend yer life, Selena. Not fer them, not fer me, and not fer some death cult. I nae think joy's at the end of these tunnels, and ya deserve such, hope ya find it."

Ezrah limped along the path laid out in his head. He'd never ventured this deep into the sewers, and more and more he had to lean upon the shapes from the parchment, hoping he'd find their physical mirrors. The way forward was clear enough now, and he knew what needed doing. That messenger was herald to some mad cult, that messenger who'd picked his face out even when it was disguised. Ezrah would find the one who knew, the one who'd chosen, and slip a knife into him, one way or another. Then he'd disappear. Of course, all this assumed the lot of children wouldn't nut up and jump him, that possibility existed, but Ezrah would deal with such when and if it manifested. The lot of them all at once... would probably do him in if they got into it, but it'd only take a few nicks to get the warped rat venom on his knife flowing, and then the screaming would start. Groups always broke to pieces when the screaming started....

"Well that was tepid."

"The Marked are always difficult to bend. However, for now at least, he seems capable."

"The little boy loves his toys and tricks, oh-ho! Poisons and poultices and all manner of things. He calls them his secrets, but he doesn't know. Oh, he doesn't know!"

"Yes, thank you Minerva. That's... very enlightening."

"There's potential in all of them, even the humblest, even if Brutus is blind to it in his hubris."

"I seem to recall more gratitude when I was dragging your sorry arse through the sewers."

"Enough, both of you! They are fauns on their first legs, but I see a stag in each of them, yes."

"Are you sure that's the correct metaphor?"

"Whatever it may be. The point is, we do no good dallying around here waiting for somebody's throat to get slit."

The potentials had reached the crossroads of Kriggur's lair, now empty. The dessicated corpse from earlier still hung stiff from the webbing. Squatting down, the Child in grey brushed the surface of the tributary with the tips of his fingers. The ripples travelled slowly across the water until the reached the centre, whereupon the stream opened up into a swirling, howling vortex. At the bottom was no discernible path, grate or trapdoor, but instead a portal made of liquid shadow.

The Catacombs awaited.

Sparrow narrowed her eyes as the sailor and the magician introduced themselves, her gaze never shifting from the cloaked one.

Not Drowned, neither of the two, you don't throw your name around for no good reason, don't give anyone the time of day unless they're paying you for it. Her eye twitched slightly as the Blaize kid stood beside her.

"Sparrow, keep yer knife out. I think it's a great time fer killing. 'Specially killing cowards who left us'ta die."

Well, at least there was someone else who was Drowned born.

Was the coward even paying attention? He seemed more concerned with his ankle. As more and fuss began to kick up, the Lashani women placed herself between Sparrow and the coward.

"Say what you will about the boy, but don't hurt him! I-I... I won't allow it! Just, just move along, okay? He won't bother you..."

Sparrow looked up at the women, the fear in her eyes was obvious. Why would she put herself out there? For a coward no less, what could she possibly see in the little cunt?

A twinge of reluctance sparked in Sparrow's eyes, she suddenly felt very uncomfortable, her resolve fading. She didn't like this woman being at the end of her knife, not one bit. Why was the whore doing this? The boy had tried to flee, to leave them all to their fate, why would someone want to defend someone like that? Sparrow opened her mouth slightly, as if she was about to speak, when the coward in question decided he actually wanted to be a part of the conversation.

Sparrow tried to keep up with the boy's odd dialect, but it just made her feel dumb, saying several words she didn't even understand. His tone was threatening enough, he might be a coward, but Sparrow didn't doubt he would lash out when cornered.

Trying to keep her confusion from her expression, she lowered her knife, slipping it back into her sleeve.

She was embarrassed. Embarrassed and stupid that she couldn't understand a thing the boy had said, embarrassed she couldn't think of retort worth saying.

Sparrow looked up at the Lashani women as the cloaked one started to walk ahead of them. Her gaze wavered slightly, then her expression hardened as she turned on her heel and began following the cloaked one.

Shroud or not, she'd keep an eye on him, his fancy words meant very little to her, but she'd remember them.

Just as she began to pick up her pace however, a strange sloshing sound emanated from the water beside her, was it the monster? No, it was too quiet for that. The torchlight glistened off the water in a strange fashion, like something was being sucked into the centre of a small hole, the water swirling around it.

"The 'ell is that?" She muttered

Will listened to the conversations around him, and the strange boy's warnings. The boy who'd supplied dragon silver seemed to look at them all with the confidence of a man who has decided he was in no discernible danger. Will shrugged inwardly. It was fine by him. He didn't intend to hurt anyone here, but if it came to it, he was one of the largest there, and had firsthand experience avoiding knife blows. And if it came to having to kill again, he supposed he'd do it even if the context was less honourable than when he'd previously taken lives. A man had once told him after all, there is a simple honour in poverty. Of survival and hard decisions.

Shrugging visibly now, he put forward to the group at large, "even if he was being particularly self absorbed about it, I suppose we were all trying to escape that thing in one way or another. I've likely not been... here so long as the rest of you, but do you mean to tell me that the rule of survival in the Drowned District is anything other than looking out for you and yours? Not that I'm defending him, I'm just curious. We are very little to each other, after all. Whether that will change remains to be seen. For now, we've each of us a choice to make: turn back, or move on. Personally, I think I'll see this through a bit further."

He turned to a few of them. "Kaim?" then the lady of the night, "m'lady?" the burned woman who'd supplied the pistol, "m'lady?" and finally the boy who was really a girl, "... Sparrow, was it?"

Before they could respond, a strange sound filled Will's ears. It reminded him oddly of the roar of the ocean. It was followed and overlaid by a slick rippling. For a moment, he thought the lizard might be resurfacing, and then he saw the play of the light on the water.

A whirlpool? No... there was darkness in the center. A strange darkness that almost seemed to glow. "Well... that's new."

Blaize kept his knife close. People were taking sides, it seemed, for some reason they seemed to be trying to defend the coward. He just silently glared at them. One of the women, he couldn't think of the name, grabbed for a gun and pointed it toward him, in the coward's defense. His knuckles went white, gripping the dagger, holding it still, his arm taut, ready to spring. If this came to blood, he'd be ready, it wouldn't be the first time he'd had to kill, it wouldn't be the first time he had to win a fight outnumbered. But the others were making it clear, they wanted to keep the peace. No bloodshed.

He turned back, glancing toward Sparrow who was lowering her own blade. Probably a smart move. No need to force a fight for blood unless you were sure you could win. Blaize didn't put his own knife away, but loosed his grip on the blade. Maybe this might not have to get too bad. Then the coward spoke.

"Ain't nothin' bindin' twixt us. You... are... nothin'. I sang ta the lies bouncin' round in yer skull ta get the lot've ya movin', as bait. As fodder. For whatever the Shroud has waitin' fer them its called. Woulda worked too if the dice rolled different. Ya can thank Selena fer yer lives. But now that game's done and here's another, and know this.... if I thought it'd bring me a single breath or silver, I'd paint this place red with ya, taint the meat ya soul leaves behind and scatter it about fer that beastie ta choke on."

Blaize stared at the man for a moment, dumbfounded. What had the man just said? He looked to everyone else to check that he wasn't the only one who had heard. Another spoke up.

"Even if he was being particularly self absorbed about it, I suppose we were all trying to escape that thing in one way or another. I've likely not been... here so long as the rest of you, but do you mean to tell me that the rule of survival in the Drowned District is anything other than looking out for you and yours? Not that I'm defending him, I'm just curious. We are very little to each other, after all. Whether that will change remains to be seen. For now, we've each of us a choice to make: turn back, or move on. Personally, I think I'll see this through a bit further." Said another one with a posh accent.

A slightly choked sound escaped the back of Blaize's throat. A single thought raced through his mind: Has the world gone barking MAD? A crippled man tries to leave them to a monster, then admits to his treachery and people aren't killing him? Worse, they were actually defending him?! It was...No, there was nothing that Blaize could think of that made this situation make the slightest bit of sense.

It was only Sparrow's exclamation that brought him out of his confusion. "The 'ell is that?" She said. Blaize looked to what she was talking about, and was greeted with...something. It was dark, he thought, dark and amorphous, until he realized that it wasn't dark, it was darkness. He instinctively took a half-step back. "Probably another Shroud thing." He muttered. Whether something was supposed to come out, or they were to go in remained to be seen. He just kept his eyes fixed on the darkness.

The supposed shroud member had been felled, collapsing to the floor in a graceless heap. The creature's tongue pulled taunt, dragging in her meal slowly, painfully. It was inevitable, they would all die here. Langston shut his eyes tightly, wishing not to see his own death or anyone else's. Andra was gone, now this boy, and then the rest of them. Why did he think there would be a different result? Death was always inevitable.

Two voices boomed through the tunnel

"GET READY TO MOVE"

"WATCH YA EYES WANKERS!"

Followed by a third,

"Wha- AH FUCK ME EYES FUCK!"

Langston had not only closed his eyes, but had covered them with both his hands. He pressed them against his face so tightly that he couldn't see the flash, his only signal to run was the sound of the panicked scurrying that surrounded him. He began to move towards the others when he noticed the knavish brute stumbling about the tunnel, bitching about his eyes. The fool can't even follow simple instructions and he was a jerk... but still, that was no reason to leave him behind. Langston let out a exasperated sigh and ran up behind the blinded magician. He lightly placed his hand on the struggling man's shoulder, turning him to face the direction he needed to run. His tone was urgent, "Everyone is going this way- please we have to hurry."

Langston stayed near him until he was capable of running on his own. When they finally reached the others Langston doubled over, trying to catch his breath. The crowd burst into another argument centered around the would be shroud member. He focused on his own breathing, refusing to get involved in another debate. Last time he spoke up he was hit and then had his torch stolen... It was best to just keep to himself, not that his input would have mattered anyway.

A familiar rasping voice rose above the rabble ,

"It doesn't seem fitting to me that we should simply kill the man who gave us the tools for our salvation,"

'Andra?!'

She was here, along with everyone else. A small relieved chuckle escaped Langston's lips, they had all survived- maybe all of this wasn't so hopeless after all. He rose to his full stature in order to properly address her, but his cheery smile was met with a stony fixed stare. He awkwardly stumbled back, more afraid of her expression than her pistol. Although she had been so friendly before, it appeared that something darker lurked behind her kind words and pained smiles. Perhaps all the tongues here were forked.

'She isn't going to shoot us, is she?'

He quickly dismissed the question, there was no point in fretting about it- if she wanted to shoot every one of them, then there was nothing he could do about it. He kept his head down waiting for whatever would come next.

He felt removed from the whole situation, watching as the other traveler's reflections shuddered and flickered on the surface of the water, becoming something more akin to shadows in the weakening light. Sudden movement and a chilling darkness enveloped the playful shades of his fellow initiates, consuming them wholly. Had the torch gone out? The flame had been growing weak, but not enough to completely die out. Langston quickly looked back at the group, the man who had used the pistol was introducing himself, the light reflecting mockingly off his leather tricone hat. And there it was, the torch was peering over this Will fellow's shoulder, held by a young woman.
A chill sank seep into his bones as he looked back at strange phenomenon. The unnatural darkness had expanded and begun to swirl closer to him.

"The 'ell is that?"

He stepped back, fear culling in his throat. He wanted to cry out for help, but his throat had become tight making it
difficult to even whisper.

"Well that's new."

Langston exhaled deeply, allowing a few words to escape."Uh... Excuse me sir, but wha- What should we do?"

Their attempt fruitful, Kaim had shielded his eyes in the nick of time to avoid the scorching light that came from the same powder that had served as a beacon not long before. Not long after the successful escape did the accusations of blame began to fly, with a few instances of introductions between the harsh tones and angry voices.

The cloaked one rose from bandaging his injury to a sea of evil eyes and pointed weapons. Knives, guns, glares. All were drawn and directed with malicious intent, those wielding them making no effort of hiding the fact they'd like nothing better to do then kill the boy where he stood.

One girl up to shield him, her intentions seemingly pure and motivated only by kindness, yet there was clearly a familiarity between the two. Kaim remembered how the woman was the first to call him by name, before the two retreated to exchange in hushed voices before the monster had attacked. Was she in on this too? Was he in the first place? Kaim was unsure. His morals were dubious at best, but his sheer terror coupled with the injury sustained in the incident seemed to convey that even if it was his plan to get them all killed, something had gone wrong.

Sure enough, his reasoning was verified as the man himself spoke out in the wake of the disaster and the accusatory tones. He admitted to all Kaim had thought of and more, showing blatant contempt for the group as answered their grievances with nary a care or remorse.

"...if I thought it'd bring me a single breath or silver, I'd paint this place red with ya, taint the meat ya soul leaves behind and scatter it about fer that beastie ta choke on."

With that he showed his true colours. He was no different from the men who would beat a person to death on their way home for merely the single coin in their pocket. He was drowned.

Mercy. That's what this woman was asking for this man, in spite of this confession. Mercy, for the person that had purposefully tried to lead them to their deaths, and then abandon them at the first sign of any possible danger to himself. A coward and a lech.

Kaim wished that he too had a weapon he could brandish menacingly, having nothing of his own, not even the rock that he had had when he tried to ambush Will in the tunnel. Even so, he looked at the man with thinly veiled anger even when those around him began to lower their pieces.

"...keep dancin' pretty for the mad fucks that called ya to this hell, don't rightly care and it don't rightly matter, the way is forward...."

He echoed the same words as when questioned before. Clearly he had lived surprisingly rough, though that was hardly a surprising sentiment. His action as he displayed the burn marks on his neck seemed to convey that they had a higher meaning, but it was mostly lost on Kaim, who was confused on how he should now feel. Ezrah's repeating of the concept of moving 'forward' must have been a kind of personal mantra, and it reminded himself of how his own habit of spurring himself to life in the mornings.

"For now, we've each of us a choice to make: turn back, or move on. Personally, I think I'll see this through a bit further. Kaim?" William spoke.

Just as Kaim was about to answer, the waters began to surge before their very eyes. Slowly at first, but then with growing intensity, the waves began to converge into a single point, as the formed a veritable maelstrom as seemingly dark as the abyss itself.

"The 'ell is that?"

"Your guess...is as good as mine." he answered, bewildered. "Anyone else feel that urge to jump though?" he blurted out thoughtlessly.

Wait...why did I just say that?

"Anyone else feel that urge to jump though?"

"Eh?" Skylar turned towards the new voice. Strange cults, false guides, a terrifying monster, bursts of light caused by the Dragon Silver, betrays, brandished weapons, it was simply too much. Back then, part of her wanted to yell out that there was no need for people to die. But, those who speak out bring the spotlight on themselves and in this particular situation, that wasn't a good thing. Especially here, within the bowels of the city. Skylar knew she wasn't a predator, that she was docile, helpless and easy prey. There were a few sheep among the wolves, however, they had already started to growl and bear their fangs. Was there only death at the end at this death race? No, the murky vortex awaited. Still, there was no need to be so hasty.

Skylar picked up a rock (or what she hoped was a rock.) and threw it into the portal of liquid shadow.

The rock was swallowed up by the darkness, with no sound to indicate that it had hit anything solid on the other side. The hopefuls leaned forward, waiting, listening. Five seconds passed, and then everyone jerked back as the rock was hurled back out of the vortex, landing at the feet of the one who threw it. It was still fully intact, with no sign of scorching or erosion.

Most people didn't seem immensely concerned that Andra had a gun pointed at them.

Typical drowned folk.

Langston looked agitated though, making Andra feel bad.

There was a sudden rush of wind, and Andra gingerly put her gun away at the behest of the "traitor" before going over to see what was going on.

"The 'ell is that?"

Well that's new.

Amidst the confused murmurs, a girl picked up a rock and tossed it into the strange portal in the water. It came launching back out, unblemished.

"...they threw it back."

Andra was torn. On the one hand, she didn't want to die, and she was likely the only one with something resembling a "normal life" back in the district. Plus, she didn't know who "they" were. But on the other hand...

Maybe they could fix you?

Maybe they'll spit-roast and eat you.

Maybe they'll leave you in the cold darkness for eternity.

Of course, maybe nothing will happen and I'll go back to fixing those blasted trousers.

Without really knowing why, Andra jumped.

"...they threw it back."

Sparrow raised an eyebrow, a perplexed look on her face. "What is that thing?" She muttered to herself. Was there something under the sewers? Something that needed, dare she say it, magic?

Then, for no discernible reason, the scarred woman jumped into the strange hole. Sparrow's mouth was agape slightly, as if she was about to speak, but words seemed to fail her. Stepping closer to the waters edge, she peered into the hole. Nothing. No noise, no screams, nothing. 'Why are you doing this? No good can come from this, you know it!' Sparrow needed to know, she needed to know just what the hell was going on, why they were all called to this strange place.

"Sod it."

For the first time in her life, Sparrow went against her better judgement, and took a leap of faith, plunging into the hole feet first.

Selena watched helplessly as the gathering crowd continued to point fingers at Ezrah. One of the girls had even pointed a gun at them. Selena didn't budge, however... she wouldn't let them kill him in cold blood.

"Ain't nothin' bindin' twixt us. You... are... nothin'. I sang ta the lies bouncin' round in yer skull ta get the lot've ya movin', as bait. As fodder. For whatever the Shroud has waitin' fer them its called. Woulda worked too if the dice rolled different. Ya can thank Selena fer yer lives. But now that game's done and here's another, and know this.... if I thought it'd bring me a single breath or silver, I'd paint this place red with ya, taint the meat ya soul leaves behind and scatter it about fer that beastie ta choke on."

Again, Ezrah had proven to Selena that she hadn't known him nearly as well as she thought. Had he said all these things to intimidate them or... was he serious? What kind of man was he?

"Don't be so quick to spend yer life, Selena. Not fer them, not fer me, and not fer some death cult. I nae think joy's at the end of these tunnels, and ya deserve such, hope ya find it."

Selena didn't quite know how to answer him. What could she say? She'd stuck out her neck for him... put her life on the line for him, TWICE, and she got little more than a lecture in return. Even if she did know what to say he wouldn't have stuck around long enough to hear her out, anyway. He'd brushed past her just as soon he'd finished giving her his warning.

Who does he think he is?!

As he left her side, Selena's eyes found their way to Sparrow who looked... defeated. Had his words truly intimidated the girl? To Selena, it sounded like little more than a spoiled child having a temper tantrum. Another had addressed her as the crowd began to move once more, but she was too distracted to tell who it was that called out to her.

Selena made her way across the tunnel and leaned against the stone wall. What was she doing down here, anyway? Had someone really just lured them down here to feed their pet? No, there had to be something else to it.

Lost in thought, it wasn't until the first girl lept into the abyss that she even realized the group had been investigating the strange phenomenon, "What in the---?!" Selena gasped. Did she really just... jump into a black... hole-thing? What was it, anyway? Wary as ever, Selena slowly approached the anomaly.

"Sod it."

"Wh-what? No, wait!" Selena shouted as she stumbled forward in an attempt to stop Sparrow. She was too late. Just as soon as she'd grabbed hold of Sparrow's arm, she tumbled head-over-heels into the twisting nether right behind her. If they appeared anywhere it'd be in a pile.

"Wh-what? No, wait!"

They'd jumped in. Ridiculous... the rock had come out fine, but they didn't seem to be. What was the strange portal? It was almost certainly dangerous, and while that was a very good reason not to go near it, Will couldn't bring himself to leave them to it. There was no sense being idiotic about it, though...

Had they all gone completely mad? They were doing far more than just testing the waters, they were plunging into straight into them with reckless abandon.

Langston looked at the towards the others, he had to do something. He couldn't just run and leave Andra behind- no he wouldn't do that, not again. Langston began to approach what was left of the group, stopping suddenly as felt a pull on the tail end of his coat. He reached down trying to release his coat, finding that it was trapped in a thick sticky substance, almost tangled in it. he began to trace his fingers across the length of webbing.
Well... this is odd, why didn't I notice this before?
He figured he must have backed into it when stumbling away from the hole.
"That's it, I'm going in. Someone's got to make sure they're okay," Will exclaimed. Taking a breath, he started to move towards the strange portal.

'Huh...how curious...I wonder how-'
Langston shook his head, angered by how easily he could become distracted. He jerked his coat from the web thread, leaving the web completely intact. Sturdy too- Damn it Langston, focus
"That's it, I'm going in. Someone's got to make sure they're okay," Will exclaimed. Taking a breath, he started to move towards the strange portal. "Wait, Will was it? Let's not be hasty. I... ermm, I believe I found something that could be used like a rope."

Will came skidding to a halt at the edge of the water, and turned to face the other man. Pausing to take the torch Selena had dropped, he moved to see what Langston was talking about. He raised an eyebrow at the viscous cordage the man had in his hands.

"I suppose it's better than nothing."
Langston and Will pulled down as much of the webbing as possible, quickly fashioning it into a makeshift rope. Langston handed it over to Will, not sure what to do next.

Fastening the cord tightly about his waist with a series of complex rigging knots, he offered the cord to Langston. "Hold on tight, and I might just survive this." Turning, he ran back to the water, removing his hat and holding it tight to prevent losing it. Leaping, he vanished into the shadowy portal.

Langston braced himself, leaning back and anticaipating the pull of Will's weight. Maybe this was a bad idea... would he be able to keep his footing or would he be pulled down into the blackened waters as well. Langston held his breath, waiting for the drop.

The Children vanished in swirls of smoke once again as the Sea Dog and his ally began adapting the spider's web for their own use. Where they emerged, the slick, rounded walls of the sewers were replaced with a vaulted corridor made of old, crumbling brickwork, dark brown in colour and stained darker by centuries of soot. The putrid stench was gone as well, replaced by a thick, musty smell, and such cold; a cold that seemingly could not be touched by the torches placed sconces at regular intervals along both walls. The terminus of the void hung in the air at the exact mid-point of the space, and the Children watched from the rafters as the Sea Dog re-emerged to join his more rash companions, all nursing themselves from having fallen face first upon the hard flagstones. Silently, they watched him take in his surroundings, and the condition of his comrades, before giving two sharp tugs on the sticky, silken strand.

===========================================================================================================================

In the Hall of Communion, the two children in Black and Blue waited side by side, in silence. Suddenly, with no forewarning or command from them, the space above the Conduit (it was never to be call a 'shrine', despite its resemblance to one, such a title would only imbibe it with sentiment beyond its intended purpose, a construct for which their Lord Mylaviss cared not) suddenly ripped apart in a swirl of black, navy and indigo. The two Children showed no hint of surprise, despite the immediacy of the change, as a man emerged from the darkness.

The word 'man' seemed insufficient, although he most certainly was one. He was old, with long, light grey beard and hair, but their was something about his eyes, and their misty colourlessness, that suggested that he was far, far older than he looked. Even so, he held his back straight, and walked briskly down the floating steps toward the pair, his robes of white billowing behind him. Even they were strange, those robes, for their colour was pure, without a hint of fade or tarnish, and yet they did not glow, reflecting the light of the torches on the walls and the chandelier above. Rather, like his eyes, which still moved and focussed responsively despite their complete cloudiness, the robes gave off an aura of being both present, and absent at the same time. The most unusual thing of all about the man though, was worn on his hip. The blade was a queer length, too long to be a stiletto, but stopping short of the reach of a rapier. However, it was straight-edged and delicately slim like both. Upon closer inspection, the blade hung their at his side with no aid of any kid of sheath of belt, as if it were a part of the man who wielded it. It was not made of steel or any other substance from Faldus, that much was plain. Like so much else, the blade appeared to be less solid, less real, the harder you tried to focus on it, the black colour becoming inky and shapeless, it's razor's edge blurring.

The Old Man embraced to too children kindly, and smiled.

"We should make this place ready. The new hopefuls should be hear soon, they have just entered the Catacombs. When they arrive, doubtless they will be eager, for rest, nourishment, and most importantly, knowledge, as you both once were."

Tugging on the rope so Langston would follow him through, Will lit his torch, which had been dimmed by the portal, from one of the torches bracketed on the walls. Glancing around as his bruised companions as he unfastened the web rope from his waist, he asked, "are you all okay?" There was no admonishment in his voice for their brash plunge into the portal. Just concern. Once the others are through, I think we should keep moving. I don't think lingering here would be a good idea." He glanced at the portal. "And I think turning back just became a lot more difficult."

The silken thread gradually pulled taunt. Langston exhaled deeply, relieved that he hadn't been dragged face first into the dark waters. After a short pause the rope slackened and then two sharp tugs came through from the other side. It appeared to be some sort of signal.

'I suppose he is telling us to follow? Well, what else could it mean... We probably should have discussed this a little more...'

The other travelers crept in closer, either curious about the nature of the water or about the condition of those who had already passed through. It was always difficult to know the intentions of the drowned. Langston hesitantly spoke up, responding to the question that everyone had thought but no one had asked, "Will made it down safely, I- uh... well, I believe he did at least. If anyone else plans to move forward, I can stay here and hold the rope. If-if you'd like."

Sparrow swore as the daft woman grabbed her arm, tumbling into the hole after her. What followed was a sequence of events she'd be very reluctant to repeat.

Sparrow hit the cobbles first, her ankle giving out almost instantly as she tumbled, banging her left elbow on the hard ground as she fell backwards. Gasping in shocked pain, she squeaked loudly as the Lashani woman landed on top of her. Crushing the air from her lungs, Sparrow reached out to quickly push the woman from off her, her palms land on the woman's behind.

"Get ya fat arse off me, ya slag!" She demanded, her voice cracking.

Darkness. All Selena could remember was darkness. Oh, and vertigo. A lot of vertigo. Before she knew it she'd appeared in a foreign space, sitting atop a small, writhing form, "OH!" She squeaked as a small hand grabbed a handful of her butt, before pushing her forward.

"Get ya fat arse off me, ya slag!"

Selena stumbled forward, catching herself on a nearby wall. Realizing the small girl had absorbed the brunt of the impact, Selena furrowed her brow and ran to her aid, "Gods, I am sorry, child! I didn't mean to hurt you! Are you okay?"

It was then that she noticed the rugged man, Will, from earlier.

"... And I think turning back just became a lot more difficult."

Glancing around, Selena looked to him, scratching her head, "Where do you think it brought us?"

Andra hit the floor quite hard. Completely not expecting it, she sprawled.

After a mere second of confusion, she realized that she had fallen from above, and more would follow. She rolled out othe way.

Seconds later, the small girl and the pretty lady hit the dirt.

"Get ya fat arse off me, ya slag!"

"Gods, I am sorry, child! I didn't mean to hurt you! Are you okay?"

Andra hurried over to the girl, who panted as she stood up. She looked OK, although her ribs may have taken some damage. Andra knew how to diagnose broken ribs, as they could cause a ton of issues in childbirth and it was important to know about them.

She gently pressed a few key parts of the girl's upper abdomen. The girl wasn't happy about it, although it had more to do with the action than any pain she was feeling.

"STOP TOUCHING ME."

"You'll be OK." Tough little bugger.

Suddenly, the sailor came through the portal... he was tied to a stretchy rope.

Brilliant.

"Are you all okay?"

Oh, I'd have ripped off a bunch of my skin if it wasn't already tough as armor, but other than that, we're TOTALLY fine.

"Once the others are through, I think we should keep moving. I don't think lingering here would be a good idea. And I think turning back just became a lot more difficult."

Andra felt a pang of guilt. If she hadn't jumped, maybe she wouldn't have inspired others to do so. Maybe they were all trapped now.

Hopefully not.

Blaize watched as several of the others already went through the portal. He looked about, nothing but sewer as far as the eye could see, there weren't any other ways, not that he had much choice. With a deep breath, he slid his knife back into his pocket, not taking any chances, and stepped through...

And immediately fell face-first onto the floor, followed by a sharp pain in his abdomen, where the hilt of his knife and part of his hand were driven by the fall. He grunted in pain, instinctively rolling over, and looking up. They weren't in the sewers anymore, that much was obvious. The stonework was different, it smelled better, and the portal, instead of standing on the ground, was now suspended in midair.

"What the 'ell was that fer?" He asked, to no one in particular. Blaize flexed his fingers, they weren't broken, but his hand was bruised. That wasn't good, but he could still use it. Looking about, Blaize noticed that the place looked old, and a bit disused. It looked like a good place for a gang, or cult, whatever, to operate out of. It also looked like it hadn't seen much use recently. "What's this, some kinda ex-comm or somethin'?"

Giles tried to think of logical explanations for this murky, black portal. It was likely alchemical in nature, perhaps something in the maps? A moment of thinking over the possibilities only served to hurt his poor, drug addled head. What especially wasn't helping were people throwing themselves into it. Who would be stupid enough to throw themselves into holes they knew nothing about?

Giles shrugged, not wanting to be left alone in the sewers with a pissed off lizard and not enough light to read his map effectively, he jumped in after the group. seemed most tumbled, but his mostly controlled leaping through the haze only ended with him landing on his chest, scraping his chin against the cobblestone. With a pretty nice view of the prostitutes arse, all things considered. Too bad there was a little kid there. And clothes. Giles rolled out of the way, lazily, stumbling to his feet after a moment.

"... Did anyone see what happened to those flowers, by the way?"

Why were they going into it, who would be mad enough to do something like that? It was enough to beggar Maggy's belief but in they went. This whole day was taking one mad turn after another and all she'd wanted was some more bread... maybe some meat... like ham or beef. Oh what she would have given for a joint of beef like the kind she could smell whenever she was outside the free houses. The very thought set her stomach to growling.

Then something in the shadows set to growling, making Maggy realise how very lonely things were getting on this end. Whatever that dark blot was and however much she may have mistrusted talk of witchcraft Maggy hated the idea of being left behind with the monsters that lived there even more. At least some of those others could handle themselves. So it came her turn to take plunge into the unknown and maybe a magical death. But at least if it killed her she would'nt have to worry about everything any more. There was a depressing look at her life right there.

But it didn't kill her! It just dumped her out awkwardly into another damn tunnel. It was beginning to feel like she'd been in these tunnels for bloody ever.

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