|| Asymmetry | Role-Playing | Earthdawn-ish | Chapter 2 ||
Nothing moved in the graveyard under the morning light. Nothing seemed to have been touched since their last visit; no new footprints, and the sarcophagus lay open as they had left it. At the bottom they went through the hidden door and into the compass room. Terzin scouted down the way they had tried last time and confirmed that no one had fixed the gargoyles. Six directions remained to explore. They fixed the statue in place and tried the central corridor.
After a short distance it ended in an ordinary-looking door. Terzin tied his rope to the latch and yanked it open from a distance. On the other side lay a bridge. At the far end stood six lizardmen around a brazier. Seeing the door open, they hissed among themselves and started throwing stones with slings. Now knowing roughly where they were, the group dove for cover. A stone hit Terzin, who fell but managed to kick the door shut on his way down.
The group retreated and assumed a defensive array. The lizards didn't seem interested in pursuit; they seemed to be present solely as guardians. After a few minutes the four returned to the compass room and picked the left corridor this time.
After about a hundred feet the corridor ended at a wall, with a door on the right about midway to the end, and another on the left at the very end. Both doors looked like they opened inward. They tried the closer door first. It was a room full of coffins. Ten of them, in an L-array along the back wall and one of the sides. Terzin being Terzin, he just had to check one out and see if there was anything in them that resembled loot. Moving stealthily, he approached the nearest coffin and looked it over. It looked pretty normal and plain, but it wasn't nailed shut. He used the tip of his knife to ease the lid up.
The person inside had been dead for long enough that it didn't smell much. He didn't get much chance to look around, since six of the seven coffins on the far wall banged open and the zombies inside them climbed out. Terzin retreated, and the others slammed the door shut. He ran past them to the end of the hall and opened it. The others hesitated an instant, and followed him as the zombies wrenched their door open.
In the other room, Terzin found what looked like a dining room, long, with a table running the length, a complicated centerpiece and seventeen chairs. There was another door in the far corner. He looked back out the door and waved frantically at the others to come help, planning on using the table to bar the door.
The zombies reached a point midway between the doors, and stopped. The retreating adventurers paused, watching them. Harrick used his Thorn Darts; the zombie staggered back, then resumed its position. After a few minutes of the intruders poking spears and using magic on them, one of the zombies fell motionless, and the remaining five retreated into the coffin room. When Harrick tried to drag the dead one farther down the hall, it refused to budge. It simply could not be moved.
Curiosity getting the better of his good sense, Terzin decided to take another look around the coffin room. He listened first and didn't hear anything. He opened the door and saw the coffins closed. He stepped inside, stealthily. The zombie behind the door slammed it shut behind, and the two that had been hanging from the ceiling dropped down next to him.
They're not supposed to plan! his mind shrieked. Two of the coffins were opening. One zombie leaned on the door to make sure no one could get in to save him, and the other two attacked him. Terzin nailed the one at the door through the eye with his knife. It drew its head back and took the knife with it, unfazed by the wound. He drew his sword, ducking their attempts to grab him. At least this batch didn't have hatchets.
The others saw the door slam shut and heard Terzin scream. Jared rammed his shoulder into the door; it didn't budge.
"Both of us?" Robin suggested; it was just wide enough for a try.
"Let me try." Harrick threw a thorn barrage, hoping to at least weaken the wood.
Surrounded by four zombies which were rapidly beating him to death, Terzin gave up all hope.
Jared and Robin made their try. He got a little ahead of her, slammed into it. The zombie opened the door before Robin could hit it, so that she stumbled through, off balance. The zombie slammed it shut again. Terzin looked bad; she drew her sword and prayed.
Outside, Jared gave it another try. The door finally gave. Harrick's thorns sprayed out again; the zombies ducked. Terzin bolted for the door with the last of his strength, and collapsed beyond the zombies' stopping point. Robin found herself facing three of them, wounded one. Another, moving with that unexpected speed, fastened its hands around her throat and squeezed. Hard. It wasn't a solid hold, and she wrenched away, but she could feel the damage it had done. Terzin had the right idea; she headed for the door. Harrick and Jared were saved by their armor from the two zombies attacking them.
Harrick backed out of the room, luring a zombie after him, spraying more thorns. Farther down the hall, Terzin had an arrow ready, Robin behind him, rubbing her sorely bruised throat. That left Jared with four zombies, one between him and the door. He found himself in much the same situation that Robin had been; two blows glanced off his armor, and another grabbed him by the throat. He pulled loose, shouldered the last zombie out of the way, and was out. Terzin shot the one that had followed Harrick, killing it at last. His dagger was still in its other eye; Harrick pulled the knife free and tossed it back to him. They retreated en masse. The other four zombies still in the room closed the door. No one suggested going back in.
That had not gone entirely as planned. Less than a half hour underground, and three of them had been badly wounded; both Robin and Jared found breathing unpleasantly painful. They went into the other room, with the table, and spent a few minutes catching their breath before examining the other door. They opened it with the rope trick again.
It looked like a kitchen, though it smelled badly of rancid food. Something rustled in the rubbish at the far end, scrambling to hide. Robin pulled a stone from her sling pouch and threw it.
"Ow! Please...!" The thing in the rubbish moved into the light.
It was Mortimer.
"What the hell are you doing here!?" Harrick demanded on the group's behalf. Of all the people they had never expected to see againat least, not alive.
"Bleeding! Ow." He seemed to realize what had happened. "You found me! I'm saved! Oh thank you thank you"
"How the hell did you get here?"
"Can I have something to eat? I haven't eaten in three days. And water...."
"Okay, okay." Terzin gave him his canteen, which he drank from with sloppy haste.
"I was out in the woods and I found someone leaving town, dressed in a cloak," Mortimer explained when they continued to press.
"Who?" Robin asked.
"I don't know, I don't know who it was, but I figured someone sneaking out of town? I gotta find out what that is, and they came in here, and I figured cool, so I followed them in, and then all the doors were open and I didn't know which way they went down, so I picked this one, and when I tried to leave after exploring a little bit the statue started shooting at me and the doors slammed shut, I was stuck in here! For a whole week! And the food's all rancid and...." He had obviously had a pretty rough time of it.
"Did you find any treasure?" Terzin asked, obviously feeling a bit recovered.
"What? No. There's a tunnel back in the pantry, the next room over, this little crawlspaceI don't think any of you could fit through itthat leads back out to another one of the corridors. I figured I could get through it to here, and there were all these zombies were guarding the corridor, I couldn't get past them, and I've been stuck here, I thought I was going to die, I'm so happy to see you guys!"
The rest of the story could wait until they all got out of there. Terzin wanted to check the pantry out first, though. He saw the crawlspace Mortimer had mentioned, saw a lot of junk that had been pulled from the shelves and now lay rotting on the floor. The only odd thing he noticed was a cookie jar on the top shelf, actually labeled "Cookies."
"Did you look in that jar?"
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Copyright © 2000 Brian Rogers et al