I enjoy a good fight as much as the next guy. Okay, maybe a lot more than the next guy. The point is I enjoy a good fight, but these skaven had me a bit spooked. First of all, there were all those stories. I doubted many, if any, of them were true, but I’d heard them all my life and that’s hard to ignore all the sudden like. Second, what if they bred like rats? We killed the swarm of normal rats that attacked us. But if we were swarmed by a pack of ten foot tall skaven we’d be toast, or rather cheese.
I mentally shook myself. This was not the time to worry about what might happen. For now we only faced one ogre sized skaven and three regular skaven. It could be a tough fight, but that was fine by me. The big guy stepped forward and the fighting began. The rest of the skaven stood back and watched. Their overconfidence would be the death of them.
The big guy was tough, I’ll give him that. And when he hit he hit hard. But we could hit hard too. He should never have tried to take us on his own. It wasn’t long into the fight before we’d disarmed him, quite literally. I’d ripped his right arm open with a well placed bite and Timon-Toenar had taken out his left arm with his two-hand sword. With Felix and Markus filling him with arrows and bullets, shortly thereafter he no longer had any need for arms.
The ogre’s rat buddies had been cheering him on at first, but that didn’t last long. Two of them rushed in to help and the third attacked us from range, but it was too late. The big guy had dropped and the four of us were more than ready to take on the three remaining skaven. As one of the rats dropped, the one in back tossed some kind of metal looking ball into the melee and a green gas spewed out of it. The skaven we were fighting panicked, but before he could do anything he collapsed. I was holding my breath and considered trying to fight on, but just then more skaven appeared behind the one that tossed the ball, including more of the ogre sized variety. The four of us looked at each other and quickly decided running was our best option. At least the gas would provide a temporary wall between us and the growing pack of skaven.
We ran down the passage in the direction we had originally headed. But it wasn’t long before the passage split in two directions. One branch led to what looked like sunlight. Curious, we headed that direction. I’ve seen a lot of strange and surprising things of late, but in many ways this was the most surprising of all. The passage led to a large chamber bathed in sunlight. In the center of the chamber grew a large tree. And around the walls of the chamber grew various types of plants inside planter boxes. Though an underground chamber full of plants and sunlight wasn’t what I expected to find on this trip, that’s not what was so surprising. What surprised me the most was how welcoming the chamber felt. It felt like I’d come home even though I’d never seen the place before.
I was so caught up in what I was feeling that I’d overlooked the chamber’s other living occupant. There was a young man in the room. He’d obviously been tending the plants when we showed up. He looked rather surprised to see us, not that I can blame him. We did make a rather unusual looking group. But we soon found out that our appearance wasn’t exactly what surprised him.
We assured him that we meant no harm, that we were only seeking shelter from the skaven who pursued us. He introduced himself as Taimon Felstyne and he welcomed us in. He wasn’t worried about us harming him, as those of evil intent would have been killed before they had gotten as far as we had. Given our appearance, he was rather surprised that we were still alive. He explained that this was a shrine to Taal, the God of Nature, and his wife Rhya, the Earth Mother.
Taimon had been tending the shrine for a very long time. There were living chambers beyond the garden and the tree provided one ripe apple each day. That single apple provided all the nourishment he needed. He had been expecting guests, which he couldn’t remember ever having before, because that day the tree have provided five ripe apples. He had just been surprised that we were the four he’d been expecting. He gave us each an apple.
I favor meat over fruit, but food was food so I took a bite. I’d never tasted such a succulent fruit. It was just as delicious as meat, but with a different flavor of course. The others seemed to be enjoying their apples just as much. Then the most amazing thing happened. The fruit healed us. The burns and singed hair I’d gotten from those fire spells the lizard men attacked me with vanished. I was whole and healthy once again. The scar that crossed Felix’s face, the one he’d had for years, faded away. Even the scar Markus had on his chest from being turned into a mutant healed and faded to invisibility. It was miraculous. And it was proof that Taal and Rhya approved of us even though we owed our loyalties to Malal. I’m not exactly the priestly type to fully appreciate such things, but that thought did make me feel good.
We took advantage of the quite and safety of the shrine to rest up a bit. During our conversations with Taimon he asked us the date. Upon hearing it he looked rather dazed. He hadn’t realized it, but he’d been tending the shrine for about two hundred years. His predecessor had started tending the shrine when the city above was being built. Taimon had felt a calling and it led him to the shrine. He took over the duties and his predecessor was free to live out his life as he saw fit. Though he’d been tending the shrine for two centuries he still looked to be a young man in his early twenties. When someone came to relieve him, Taimon would still have a full life ahead of him.
When it came time for us to continue on, we asked Taimon if there was anything we could do for him. He said he’d appreciate any books we came across. He’d been reading the same ones for two hundred years. If we fought the bad guys in a library I planned to bring him as many books as I could carry. Baring that, well, I’d have to see what I could come up with.
We continued on down the passageway and soon found dwarven carved steps. T&T and I both recognized them. And no, I wasn’t getting used to recognizing things I’d never seen before. We took the stairs up and eventually found ourselves in a very large and dark cavern. As we cautiously made our way across, Markus cried out and not very politely. Something had grabbed hold of his legs and was pulling him away from us. That something turned out to be a huge mutated spider creature with two heads. It had grabbed Markus with its webbing and was dragging him back for a meal. Markus put his guns to good use while T&T chopped at the webbing and Felix and I attacked the spider. The creature finally died when I ripped one of its legs out with my teeth and a chunk of its guts oozed out the hole.
We searched the creature’s nest and found the remains of some of its previous victims. We also found a breastplate that T&T made use of and a gold ring with unknown symbols etched into it.
We made it across the chamber without any further distractions and continued down the passageway. We eventually came to a door that T&T and I remembered being the last door “we” had been taken through after leaving the pit. So the door should lead us back into the pit.
At that point I began to question our objective. Markus wanted us to simply scout the area and then go back home. That would have been fine if we’d just sought out the cave entrance, but I felt we’d gone through too much not to take advantage of the situation if we could. I saw little point in fighting through everything again to go back home just to fight through everything twice more at a later date. But Markus didn’t seem to think we’d be up to the challenge ahead of us, which made me wonder what we were doing there in the first place.
Perhaps that wasn’t the best time or place to discuss such things, for as we did the door suddenly opened. A half man half goat mutant stood in the doorway. Before the rest of us could react T&T greeted him and called him Steve. The goat guy didn’t seem to be either surprised or upset that we were there. He simply called out to his mistress behind him that they had visitors. She replied that we must be there for the talent contest. We passed inside the door, though it looked like the last thing Markus wanted to do.
The room we found ourselves in was large. There were various bits of furniture throughout the room, including a desk along one wall and a couch directly in front of us. But all that was overshadowed by a large statue of Slaanesh that dominated the room. And most interesting was the rod it held in one of its hands, a rod topped with what appeared to be warpstone. And more interesting still, the shape of that stone looked to be the same shape as Markus’ former scar.
My attention was drawn away from the warpstone and all it implied when our host greeted us. The lady, and I expect that term applied to her very loosely, was extremely attractive. And considering the dress she almost wore I’m sure she was very aware of her assets. She was a mutant, but mostly still human looking. She had small, curved horns on her forehead and fin like appendages for ears which, along with her facial tattoos, gave her an aura of danger. The wicked knife she carried at her side only accentuated that aura. And in my opinion that aura of danger made her all the more alluring. It also made her very distracting. What happened next still isn’t all that clear to me.
I know T&T recognized her as one of the announcers for the pit fights. And I know she was acquainted with the guy we came after. But what exactly happened next is a bit hazy. At some point she must have realized we weren’t there to demonstrate our talents. By the time my mind could focus on something besides the Mistress’ assets she was trying to back her way out of the room. But Felix was obviously paying more attention than I was and beat her to the door, trapping her in the room.
Markus held a gun to her head and had her sit on the couch to interrogate her. She lay back onto the couch and I found my mind wondering again. Markus asked her about city officials who were a part of the Slaanesh cult. I had enough presence of mind to retrieved ink and parchment for her to write out a list of names for him. Damn, she even had a sexy way of writing.
I think Markus asked her something about Gareth Bryne turning people into mutants. She told him Gareth thought transforming humans was fun. I guess that wasn’t the answer Markus was looking for, as he pulled the trigger and blew her brains out. What a waste.
Felix ran to the other exits from the room and did his best to block them. T&T and I took down Steve. Then we quickly searched the room. Markus looked for more information from the desk. Felix and T&T searched the bodies. I went for the warpstone rod. Looting may not sound like the most honorable thing to do, but anything to make the bad guys weaker and us stronger is a good thing as far as I’m concerned.
Markus grabbed a bunch of papers from the desk, hoping they’d prove useful once we had a chance to read them. He also found a wand in one of the drawers. I carefully wrapped the warpstone up, making sure not to touch it. Felix and T&T got Steve’s spear and from the woman they took a dagger, wrist bands, a box with bottles of liquid and a small box with a ring.
We rushed out of the room before reinforcements could arrive and ran back down the tunnel. Before we’d gotten very far a dwarf in full plate armor stepped into view. He introduced himself as Master Architect Thorgrek. He claimed we were in danger, that a demon was summoned when the warpstone rod was removed. He offered to take us to his citadel for protection. We told him we were already headed for a place of safety. He replied that the shrine’s protections would not hold back a demon.
I am not an overly trusting individual when it comes to those outside of my village. Well, some people might argue that point. But even so I certainly wasn’t taking this dwarf at face value. Even if I were the trusting sort, he knew far too much about us, what we were doing and where we were going to give me a warm fuzzy feeling. On the other hand, if he was right about the demon I certainly didn’t want to bring something like that down upon Taimon. If this dwarf had someplace safer in mind and was willing to help us it would be wise to take him up on his offer. And should he be leading us into a trap… Well, we’d just have to keep our eyes open. When I looked at my friend’s faces I found we’d all come to a similar conclusion. So we followed the little tin man.
After following Thorgrek through numerous tunnels we emerged to an amazing site. Thorgrek had led us to what looked like an entire underground city.