Moved by some odd impulse, Terzin reached into his pocket and pulled out the Contessa's coin. The shadow over him screamed and flew back. A bright light came from it, only for his eyes. He saw Harrick's clothes, empty, on the floor. There was a snake near his feet. Terzin reflexively danced two steps backward; his foot hit a hidden catch, and a door opened behind him.
Your cousin needs you, a voice told Robin. It didn't sound like something a nethermantic spirit would say. She headed for where she had last seen him, and managed not to run into anything until she reached Jared, who was in a pretty bad way. She grabbed hold of him and dragged him with her. Terzin latched onto Dubricus, who screamed.
"Over here, boy, it's me."
"What's going on?"
"Good question." He pushed Dubricus through the door, then Robin and Jared.
The snake was gone. The zombies were coming. The light was dying. No sign of Harrick.
Terzin went through the door and closed it. The light on the coin died.
"Follow my voice, form a ring, make sure we're all together."
"I've got my sword out," Robin warned. The four of them joined hands.
"I don't know what happened to Harrick," he told them.
No time for that now. They started walking carefully into the blackness.
"Wait a minute," Dubricus said. "We need something we can wrap some clothes around, I can light the clothes on fire... I'm an idiot. Give me your sword." Robin's blade lit up.
They followed the passage, which was of very rough stone, for a good distance before it made a turn. There was a body in the middle of the floor, not much more than a skeleton. It appeared to have been crushed. They backed away. Nothing happened.
Terzin ripped strips off his shirt and wrapped them around useless arrows, lit them from the burning sword and pitched them down the corridor to give some more light. The tunnel seemed to end thirty feet beyond the body.
"That can't be right, there must be a way out of here somewhere," Robin said.
They got a bit closer and noted that the body had already been looted. No point in getting too close to it, which they weren't inclined to do anyway. They moved to the end of the hall and found a relatively obvious "hidden" door with a switch at foot level. The battered party readied themselves.
It was another bedroom, relatively spartan. There were a couple of bookshelves, a bed and side table, a larger table with some sort of alchemical apparatus, and a cat curled up in the middle of the table. They lit the lantern before the spell on the sword could run out. There was one door, which did not have a doorknob. Well, that shouldn't be too much trouble, they had Jared.
The cat stoop up and looked at the intruders, stretched and yawned. They noticed that the cat was hairless. Yuck.
"The door's been warded," Dubricus said. "There's a wood elemental in it."
"Do you really want to put a secret door in a cell?" Terzin wondered.
"One would think that someone could leave rather easily."
"Well, it's hidden from this side...." Robin looked around.
The cat meowed, leaped off the bed, and prowled over toward Terzin.
"Definitely a wood elemental," Dubricus confirmed. "I should be able to tell it to open it up for us."
"Do it, let's get out of here," Terzin told him. He saw that the cat had some weird scars. It hissed at him and lashed out with a claw. He took a step back; it jumped up at him and he saw the scar running down its breastbone. The hideous truth occurred to him just before it landed on him.
It had been mummified. A tooth scratched him as its jaws bit through his cloak.
Dubricus turned and announced, "I've got the door open," did a double-take at the sight of the cat on Terzin.
"Somebody get this thing off me!"
Robin swung her shield at the cat and missed as it leaped away. Terzin stabbed at it, just to keep it at bay for a moment, and they all headed for the door to join Dubricus outside. Jared was a bit slow. The mummy cat leaped at him. A clawed foot raked through his chain mail before it leaped away again, defeating any attempt to counterattack. No one wanted to attack it; Jared just wanted to get out. They closed the door after him, heard a thump and a screech of denied rage from the other side as Dubricus resealed it.
"That's the most ridiculous thing that's happened to me all day," Terzin said. After everything they'd just survived, they'd almost been finished off by a dead cat.
This tunnel did not have the same stonework as the temple had. None of them had any idea where they were anymore.
"We have to get out of here," Robin stated redundantly. She moved forward to take point; Jared was close to losing consciousness after his prolonged brush with the thing in the deep crypt. They passed a couple of branches and a room.
Someone inside the room looked up. Terzin made eye contact with a fourteen-year-old girl. She saw someone she recognized.
"Dubricus! What the hell took you guys so long!?"
Robin charitably decided not to kill her.
"Arpad. We'd been told you'd been kidnapped."
"Can we go now? Please?" the girl demanded.
"I don't know, can you fight?" Terzin wanted to know. In their current condition, carrying deadweight was not an option.
"I have a knife." She produced it. "The guy who's been holding me...." She made a disgusted face. "How did you know to find me in here?"
"We didn't," Robin told. "Which way is the way out?"
"Is there anything between us and getting out?" Terzin asked.
The four exchanged a look. "Define?" Terzin said warily.
"That's the reason I haven't left yet. He has an owlbear guarding the door."
"At least it's not magical." Terzin was willing to settle for what he could get. "Do they check on you?" He was thinking about maybe just staying there for a bit, recovering a little.
"Well, Derek hasn't been back in a long time, so...."
"Derek?" Jared repeated.
"What does he look like?" Robin asked intently.
Arpad described their old acquaintance from Crapaud to a T.
"Son of a fucking bitch," she spat. "We cannot stop here, guys."
"There is something else," Arpad said. "He has a little... stone puppy."
"He summoned it, bound it a little while ago, he wanted me to learn how to do it. He thinks I'm his apprentice. I have to tell you, this is really icky."
"Could be worse," Robin told her.
"Does the stone puppy eat people?" her cousin asked.
"No, every once a while he just lobs some stuff up there and it seems happy."
Jared frowned. "What kind of stuff, and where?"
"Knives, forks, he gets bars of iron that he tosses up there. It's this... puppy. Kind of."
"Worse comes to worst, we sacrifice a sword," Terzin shrugged. This didn't sound that bad. They pulled themselves together and moved out. They came to a flight of stairs.
"Where's the puppy?"
"Right at the top of the stairs."
They found a spare knife for the "puppy" and climbed the long flight of stairs, prepared to run at any moment.
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