|| Asymmetry | Role-Playing | Earthdawn-ish | Chapter 2 ||
"No I couldn't reach it. I tried throwing some things at it, but my aim isn't good."
Terzin tried to figure out if it could possibly be a trap. Finally he shrugged and lifted it down, opened it cautiously, with the opening toward a wall. Nothing happened. He turned it over, and a rain of copper poured onto the floor. About two hundred bits.
"Must've been the cook's retirement fund."
"That's a lot of money," Mortimer observed timidly. Harrick gave him some toad jerky.
"Let's fall back out of here to the camp," the orc suggested grimly.
"You guys have a camp? You're so prepared! How did you know to come here looking for me?"
"Wait 'til we're out."
"Mortimer, if your sound attracts the zombies, we're going to distract them by throwing you at them," Terzin said pleasantly.
Even that didn't shut him up. Jared's glare did, however.
They retreated carefully past the zombie door, hugging the wall the entire way. The undead did not come out. Mortimer started to say something. Jared looked at him again. They made their way out into the graveyard and ran for it, Harrick covering the rear. Nothing attacked them this time. The five of them made a beeline for the camp.
"Inasmuch as everyone back at town will be glad that we found you, I'm glad to see you," Terzin told him honestly once they were fairly certain of their safety.
"This is a legitimate reason to head back and restock," Harrick suggested.
"For one thing, the whole reason for our secrecy was so the agent doesn't find out. The agent apparently knows we're here, if he is the guy that you saw...."
"Agent? What's going on?" the rescued youth piped up.
"Shut up," Jared told him.
Harrick sighed. "Come on, you're scaring the kid."
"You mean the person I followed?" Mortimer asked.
"Probably, yes," Terzin told him.
They had a decent meal and rested up from their brief battle, talking about what to do next and ignoring Mortimer. Finding him like this meant it was time to change plans; they could hardly drag him down there with them for a third attempt. It was time to head back home. But first, they wanted to know exactly what had happened to him. Robin in particular was suspicious, not sure if this really was Mortimer. Certainly sounded like himannoyingbut you couldn't be too careful. He seemed happy for the meal and all the water they could give him; he hadn't been attacked by anything, but had spent several days in the dark on minimal food, and hadn't been all that well-constituted to begin with.
"So I was out past your family's house," he began, nodding at Robin and Terzin, "you know, in one of my spots, getting away from everybodyyou guys understand about getting away from everybody, right? And I saw someone moving through the woods. Tall, I think it was a man, but he was wearing a very heavy cloak, so I couldn't be sure. They were on this path that I hadn't noticed before, and I figured, someone sneaking out of townone of the grown-ups sneaking out of town?there's something going on. And time got weird on the path, like we were only traveling for a couple hours, I was following from tree to tree behind him, but I was really tired when we got to the town here, and I didn't know how far away I was."
"It only took you a couple hours to get here?" Robin asked.
He shrugged. "Could have been a couple different spells. Theoretically it's possible."
"It was night time," Mortimer went on. "I figured how far could the guy be going? It's a couple hours past dark, I know the woods real well, I figured I could get back home. And instead we were here. I didn't know about any townthis was a couple hours from town? Then I started thinking maybe it wasn't a couple hours, because I was so hungry and tired, but I didn't know why that was. Then he went in through that crypt, and I came this far, I figured I might as well find out what was going on. So I followed him down, but by the time I got down there, there was no sign of which way he went. So I just picked one."
He frowned, remembering. "Center left."
"What was down it?"
"I found a door I couldn't get open, and a carpentry shop, and another place that had metal fittings and stuff in it."
"He's got a whole bloody city down there," Robin muttered.
"No, someone was trying to make coffins. I know a little bit about what my dad does. And then I couldn't get out, because the statue was moving and started shooting at me as soon as it saw me, and then after a couple seconds the door closed. So I managed to find that little tunnel and I ended up in the kitchen, at least there was food there, I mean it was bad food, but... and it's beenhow long has it been?"
"About a week," Harrick informed him.
"I'm lucky to be alive!"
There was general agreement.
"We should be back in town in about three days... or do you think you could find that path again?" he asked.
"I think I could find it," the boy replied.
Although the magic might be something the man had done rather than something about the path itself, they decided to go look for itif nothing else it would be a clear road, better than tramping through the brushthough Terzin was worried about possible pursuit.
"Nothing's seemed interested in following us out of there yet," his cousin pointed out.
"You've been down there before? How long have you guys known about this place?" Mortimer asked.
"We got here a couple days ago," Harrick half-lied.
"You came looking for me?" He was obviously thrilled.
"Everyone was looking for you. Though there was a five, six-year-old toad we found that everyone pretty much assumed had eaten you."
Mortimer's eyes were wide. "A five year old toad?"
They all looked nonchalant, as if they killed toads that size on a daily basis.
"So what are we going to tell them when we get back?" Robin wondered.
"Well now we've got a good excuse," Terzin replied, hooking a thumb at the kid, who was busy stuffing his face with toad meat. "Hey, look, we found Mortimer! We can tell them the truth, really, that we went off to be adventurers, and the fact that we found Mortimer will gain us forgiveness."
"Big mitigating circumstance," Jared agreed.
"And we've proven we can do it now, so if we want to go out and do it again, they'll have a hard time saying, 'No, you're too young.'"
That garnered general agreement, and they went to check out Mortimer's road. It was late afternoon by the time they had packed up, but they decided not to wait for morning. Mortimer led them back toward the town, looking for landmarks.
After an hour, he said, "Here. I recognize that," and pointed to a stone set into the ground. It had the name Istaris carved on it. The group exchanged a shrug and began following the trail south. Every mile or so they passed another rock, carved with a stylized "I." Nothing strange seemed to be happening; it was just an ordinary path. When evening fell they made camp, including the usual low palisade to keep off the little dogs; Robin continued to keep a close eye on Mortimer, but he seemed normal, if appallingly ignorant about the kind of wildlife that might attack them, and irritatingly eager to earn the group's acceptance, certain as he was that only they in the entire village understood his sense of alienation.
Maybe that was true. It that didn't mean they wanted him hanging around them all the time.
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