Medievia Mudslinger

June 24th, 2002

The Dungeon of Terror - By Homncruse

Perhaps the Guildmaster knew it was a suicide mission, and did not want to risk losing a more promising individual. If I didn't come back, he would know something had happened to me, but maybe he believed in me and thought I was the best fit for the mission.

"Find out why the villagers have been disappearing," the Guildmaster had told me. "I need someone who knows how to move around without being seen, so travel to DeRah and find out what's been happening. The Mayor there and I go way back, and I owe him at least an attempt to help."

I can remember the sincere look on his face when he told me of this mission - after all the training he's given me, I owe him just as much as he owes the Mayor to at least try to help. Of course I wasn't informed of the coming rainfall, but there's no way the Guildmaster would have known either.

It was my theory that someone must be kidnapping these people, and somehow managing to keep both their presence and their prisoner's presence concealed. Why, though? What purpose or motive could this person have?

Getting to DeRah was easy. I walked around and spoke to some of the remaining villagers, but no one had seen anything particularly unusual happening. No one ever saw anything happening to the villagers, but the most common last seen place of the victims was right here on this street. I spent a few days in the same area, trying to see if I could catch this person in the act, but I'd had no such luck.

The rain started to get a little heavier, and I wouldn't be of much help if I caught a cold. I spied an old run-down abandoned house. Looking around, none of the villagers even noticed my presence. I knocked - no answer. The door opened slightly with the tiniest of effort. It didn't seem like anyone had been here in a while. Nearly everything was covered in so much dust and cobwebs that one would think new life forms could be found hidden inside. I laid down on what I assumed to be a couch. A little rickety, but it would hold my light weight.

I must've fallen asleep because the next thing I knew it was no longer raining. I hoped nothing had happened during my little nap.

Walking outside, I had the feeling I was not in the same place as before. The streets were different, there were no townspeople, and it had become surprisingly dark. Almost absent of all light entirely. How long had I been asleep?

Where was I? What had happened? One minute I was standing in the light of day; the next, I wasn't.

After thinking some more about what would be the best course of action, I decided to investigate a bit. Maybe the village always got this dark - maybe the townspeople had retired to their homes already. Perhaps, I thought, I should follow the road and head back to the entrance of the village and find my bearings.

Question was though, in which direction did I come from? No landmarks struck me as familiar, and I had always been horrible at directions. I couldn't navigate my way out of a burlap sack. Looking down the road, I noticed an area of wild growth, and if my memory served me properly, I remembered passing by some on my way in.

I must've wandered for quite a while, because I had no clue where I was now. Looking back, I didn't see the road; I was surrounded by bushes and cavernous tunnels. The darkness wasn't helping the situation any, either.

WHOOSH! I stepped into a trap of leaves. I must've fallen about twenty-five feet or so, the starlight in the night sky allowed me to still see the silhouette of the hole I fell through. Thankfully I was nimble enough to avoid serious injury, I had a few scathes on my hands and knees, but that was about it. As if I wasn't lost enough already, where was I now? An underground tunnel beneath the surface of DeRah?

Something tingled - there was either powerful magic at work or my nerves were on edge - perhaps both. Only time would tell.

Taking a quick scan of the area, I realized I had fallen into a makeshift cage inside some sort of underground building, standing in a rather skinny corridor. The bars of the cage were covered in marks and cuts where previous captives had unsuccessfully attempted to escape. I tried the cage door, but unsurprisingly it was locked. Examining the lock I noticed it was a simple one, easily pickable. I think I spent more time falling than I did picking the lock.

Near the end of the darkened hallway was a door. I could see some sort of inscription written into the surface, but it was too dark to read it well. I fumbled around for my ball of light and activated it. It was all I needed and I didn't want to draw any attention to myself. In the new light I noticed the word "Private" etched into the wood of the door. I reached out to grasp the doorknob; the dull metal was faintly warm. I turned it silently, glanced behind me, then walked forward, closing the door behind me.

It was darker than I had expected. Pitch black. With a shattering noise that echoed throughout the room, my ball cracked and I was plunged into the abysmal darkness. The light lasted long enough for me to see the outline of a door on the back wall of the barren room.

The tingling was back, stronger than before. I reached out a hand to the wall, decorated with spidery cracks and peeling walls. I began to move slowly forward, towards the door etched into the inky space before me. I approached cautiously and my hand brushed across the minute gap and scraped across a hinge. The lack of a keyhole and doorknob confused me, so I proceeded to push gently. It swung back easily and noiselessly.

A blast of dry heat gagged me. The entire place was built of stone, a stark contrast to the frail walls of the other room. The rocks were worn smooth and a few were carved with strange symbols. A staircase spiraled downwards, the heat emanating from it. I could hear a roaring, like flames engulfing an entire forest.

I did not want to attract any attention to myself, in case the noise was of another origin, so I snuck around as quietly as possible.

I shuddered involuntarily. A sickening moan invaded my ears and brought me back to my senses. My cloak brushed against the wall as I peered around the corner of the staircase. Another moan resonated from beneath the stairs. My heart fluttered painfully.

I looked behind me. My only means of escape was closed. I ran towards it, thrusting all my weight against it, but it refused to open. The wailing increased and I had to shove my fingers in my ears to stop myself from becoming deafened. It chilled me to think what could be happening down below. I had to find out why - why the poor soul was tormented to such an extent. I inhaled deeply, willing my heart to calm. I took a cautious step forward and the cries ceased abruptly. I knelt down on the first step, peering around the corner. A rush of heat pelted my face. I moved another step down.

When nothing happened, I reassured myself to prevent from making any obvious noises that would alert someone of my unauthorized presence. I moved again, now around the corner and facing the wind flow that brought with it the scent of fear. The heat increased and I began to sweat. From the intense heat or my terror, I did not know.

I tried to focus and count the steps on my way down. At around the three hundred mark I had lost count. By then I was barely conscious, supported only by the wall. I had left my cloak back a long time ago and carried only my dagger and shield. My shirt was soaked through with sweat and the heat was so intense I was on the verge of passing out.

I could barely see for my eyes were clouded. So when my foot brushed across empty space and a solid floor instead of another step, my brain barely had time to register and before I knew it I was sprawled on the stone floor, strangely icy cold compared to the stifling heat of the cavernous open room.

I tasted blood and reached up to feel my head. I had knocked it on the hard ground and it was bleeding a little.

I got to my feet shakily and grasping my dagger, despite the noise caused by the shutter, I scanned the area in my wonderment. The room was enormous. The walls spanned nearly twice the length of a full-sized arena and were similar in width. I wondered why I had been sent instead of the entire Trellorian Guard regiment.

I looked farther along the wall and polished metal glinted back at me. I stumbled along, barely keeping balance, my shoes scuffing along the floor. My eyes traveled slowly up. From ceiling to floor, the wall was decked in an infinite number of weapons.

My eyes hurriedly scanned them, some still dripping with fresh blood, others still shining with a never-been-used glow. I spat in the corner and dug out my dagger desperately.

Aside from the weapons, this room looked just like any other cellar I'd seen before. Covering the floor were broken crates and a whole mess of other debris, making it difficult to walk without tripping.

As I turned around to travel back up the stairs, something caught my eye. There was something about the table in the middle of the room that just seemed . . . out of place.

I walked over to the table and began to examine it. It looked like an ordinary table, but at the same time, it didn't. Why would a table be placed down in the middle of this cellar with nothing on it? I pressed down slightly on the table during my investigation and jumped back. The table continued to move downward by some mechanical means I didn't understand, exposing another small set of stairs.

I felt the tingling again as I walked down the staircase. The hair on my arms and the back of my neck stood on end.

The staircase lead down into a circular room covered in cages much like those one would use to contain a pet during travel. But there was something different about these cages - they didn't house animals, they housed people.

After being sure there was no one around to notice me, I crept out and waved my hand in front of one of the captives. He didn't blink at all, he just stared right pass me. I did the same to many prisoners and got the same response each time.

Why the captor bothered with the bars is beyond me - none of them had any life in their eyes and they all stared blankly right through me. Some sat and drooled while others simply stared into space. They were all silent and some were dead.

There was a stench in the air that made me choke. Some of these people had obviously been here a while without a cleansing.

Some sort of tubing ran from the top of every cage, with pulses of blackness traveling through them. I'd seen that effect before when a mage I had traveled with needed his mana recharged. He drew it from an ogre and sent it back at the beast to kill it.

A number of metal chains descended from the tubes and connected to some sort of circlet or crown on each prisoner's head. I then realized I had seen the same sort of stare before when that same mage had cast a charm spell on an enemy to aid us. Their faces and eyes looked exactly like this. The only benefit to these people being in this state is that they cannot draw any attention to me or cause a commotion.

I had figured out what was happening to these people - but who was doing it, and why? I continued.

I moved myself near the opposite end of the circular room, and at the end there was a sort of machine that the tubes all linked and flowed into. It was an intricate device - a very advanced one, nothing I'd seen before. At the bottom of the machine, it appeared as if the black energy somehow converted into something else, and a green liquid streamed into a funnel. Amazingly the machine ran completely silent, but I heard something else.

I heard a moan to my left and noticed a figure lying on the ground with the same circlet on her head. I dashed over to her and removed the circlet. She drew back.

"Hush," I whispered, "I won't let that person come near you again." I stopped myself momentarily. How had I known that this person, this person whom I was sent to see and investigate had done this?

"Strange." I thought. How did this woman escape her cage? Or did her captor release her? I needed to get her to the clerics in the City of Medievia - they'd know what to do. Hopefully her condition wouldn’t worsen in the short trip from DeRah to the City of Medievia.

"I'll get you out of here." I said to her. There was no one or nothing around other than the mute prisoners. I couldn't do anything about them, I was only one person, and it may have been too late for them. It wasn't too late for this one, I hoped, she hadn't been connected to the machinery yet. Perhaps the retrieval of this woman would be enough evidence to send in a guard regiment, if she survived.

She could not speak, but her eyes exposed all. The depths of her pain, suffering and fear stopped me in my tracks.

"You poor soul," I whispered, "How could anyone be so cruel?" She stared, no doubt unable to understand in her terrified state of mind. I glanced back over my shoulder, but there was not a sound - only the continuous roaring of a ferocious fire, crackling and all consuming somewhere farther in the depths of the dungeon. I moved cautiously, her arms and legs dangling uselessly. I walked back along the other side of the wall, where the sharp metallic items would not plague me with thoughts of death. My heart pounded with the anticipation of being caught. I kept my head up and alert. I could hear nothing apart from her labored breathing.

I picked up the pace, my adrenaline increasing. When nothing stopped me, I ran. The staircase loomed up before me. I turned to face the vast expanse of stone, metal, and blood and then dashed up the stairs. Fearing a capture of some kind, I reached my cloak in no time. I hastily threw it over her body, which jolted harshly as I bounded ever upwards. Gasping for breath, I reached the top of the stairs, bright pinpoints of light glowing and flashing before my eyes. I touched the door, and to my surprise it gave way. I stepped back hurriedly.

I held her close in my arms as I ran up the two sets of stairs, frantically searching for a way out. Halfway up the main staircase, she started singing in a beautiful voice. Had she gone crazy? Was it too late for her? I hope not.

I found her voice to be unbelievably soothing. As I neared the top of the staircase, all I could focus on was her voice. Everything else around me faded, and I set her down. She stood up and touched my face gently, still singing. I smiled back at her as she smiled at me, chanting the words of a spell.

She walked beside me as we proceeded back down the stairs into the cellar. She continued singing in her beautiful voice as I willingly put the circlet on my head. I even connected the tubes and crawled into the cage, sitting down quietly. Her smile never diminished and I trusted her.

Inside there was a piece of me screaming that there was something wrong, but I could not, nor did I want to act upon it.

"You have more?"

"I do," the sorceress said with a smile, "You'd best have a word with the thief Guildmaster, though. I think he's trying to bust down on our little smuggling operation we have going here."

"Is he?" Basalan asked with a surprise, "Smuggling is against the laws of the City of Medievia, but we need more green potions what with all these new adventurers traveling about." The sorceress cut him off.

"I know the problem, yet I have access to a decent source. Each batch is brewed lovingly by a group of monks in a distant monastery and I have another crate of them outside in a wagon. Usual price?"

Basalan nodded. It was for the good of the City after all. "Usual price," he acknowledged.


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