Dilly Dilly, silly silly.
Before he knew what was happening, Haryk found himself carrying one side of a ladder that smelled like the insides of a fish’s ass to a large hole in the center of the muddy cavern. Below, yells and shouts mixed with moans and agonized shrieks of anger. Other voices were calling desperately for help. There were tortured souls down there, but also fighting men and women, and they wanted out! In the middle of this macabre scene he stood and for a split second he remembered who he was before the beasts had found him. And it suddenly and permanently pressed upon him how his life would never be the same after this moment. It was hard to concentrate on who you had been before tentacle monsters wrapped themselves around you and stuck you in a wall of mud so you’d be eaten alive by larger fish creatures while you were trying to rescue people from more fish creatures that were now charging you. But he was trying.
The moment though was as fleeting as were the beasts now set loose on him and before he could remember who Haryk had been before his life became the inside of a fish’s muddy ass, he saw the beasts leave their meals and clamor towards him, pinwheeling around the hole. Down below, those wretched souls there continued to scream to be helped out. But all the fighter could do was let the ladder fall, and hope they’d make their way up. He stared down the charge of the creatures, their huge wide eyes bulging, their fangs glistening, and their maws red from the blood of their victims.
He was next. So he did the first thing that came to mind, he cocked an arrow and let it fly. “Dilly, dilly,” he whispered remembering a small joke from his childhood.
The arrow twanged, and struck it’s mark, sending the nearest of the monsters staggering. It’s body hurled backwards with the impact and the thing skidded until it came to a halt against the muddy wall. But there were plenty more, behind it. Areia, who had been on the other side of the ladder, withdrew her two daggers. “Save some for us, Silly Silly.”
Her elf ears missed little, even whispers in a dark sewer. She reminded herself to ask Haryk about his strange battle cry and leapt into the fray, blades slashing. Andril walked in from the tunnel from where he heard the fight begin and immediately regretted his torch. Dropping it he called forth a spell, and one of the creatures fell, asleep. Thrak had waited in the wings and wasn’t happy about it. He liked being up in the front, where he could take souvenirs, without the humans giving him a hard time once the fighting stopped and Celn decency was restored to the collective senses.
Mother’s Little Helpers
These creatures’ tunnels weren’t like his own. And they weren’t, right. Thrak Shak might have been different, and he was of course a beast. He knew that. But he was his own. These things were foul, abominations. Men corrupted. And their fingers didn’t taste right either. He stepped out, axe at the ready. The nearest enemy too far so he threw it and to his amazement the weapon whirled through the air in an arc. It struck another creature deeply, killing it. But instead of tinkering off into the dark, it whirled back around. Thrak reached out and snatched it out of the air. “Axssse sssomebody,” he hissed. “and sssome other body as well!”
They fought hard, side by side. Stepping forward, they pushed a wave of the beasts backwards, while the prisoners from the pit below climbed out one by one. The first to make it over the edge was a man late in his years, yet strong and lean. He had long bushy hair, and without any clothes, he looked like a Wildman, from the Trebian lands. But soon his unquestionable agility gave away his identity. It was Sir Ian. A noble, and one of the founders of the colony some years prior. He called to the others who quickly came up and fought by his side. As men fought beasts, and beasts fought men, some fell. One was a man known only in the colony as “Barkeep”. A proprietor of some respect amongst pirates and the soldiers alike. He spent his last few seconds using his bare fists to fight back the slimy devils. But he was quickly slashed and torn apart. And he slumped over, along with several others, who courageously tried to do battle with nothing more than fists.
Never bring a fist to a knife fight, thought Andril. He sent the last of his spells out into the darkness. A thin streak of icy frost struck one of the monsters and it toppled into the pit where it fell with a thunk.
The first wave of creatures had fallen, but the ghastly calls of others echoed from other tunnels. Finally, the last of the prisoners made his way up the ladder. Golden hair, and searing blues eyes took in all, through a face coated in caked blood and filth. It was none other than Fritz. The Lighted Commander of the Far Isles himself, and he was carrying a small boy, perhaps a native boy up the ladder. He laid the unconscious child down and was about to stand back up.
And that’s when they became flanked by a group of the creatures from behind the tunnel they had just used. These looked different than the others, and one even spoke in a guttural abomination of Celn common.
“Helllllloooooo Commmmmander,” it cried out. It’s long arms ended in thin dagger like talons. They waved below it’s protruding belly, lingering there in wait, side to side. There was something dangling above it’s fishy face as well like a small strand of hair, but lit from some glow. “We are soooo dryyyy, soooo very dry….. join us….. she wants youuuuuuuu…..”
There was nothing any of them could do. Commander Fritz was on the other side of the pit, alone. Thrak tried to toss his axe but it stuck in it’s sheath, he was still getting used to it. Andril was out of spells. Areia moved quickly but she knew she wouldn’t cover the distance in time.
They attacked the commander then, in their frenzied way, slashing and cutting him down. The largest, the one who had spoken lunged, it’s gaping mouth open, fangs out. An audience to his death, the others ran towards the frenzy but the creatures were too fast. Just then, just as Fritz would have surely been killed, the small island boy that he had carried awoke, and grabbed at the thing’s legs. The beast momentarily looked down at the boy. But while his huge glassy eyes turned they stopped when they saw Areia! “Ttthhheeee urrrchinnnsss!”
“Taryn’s tankard!” called out Areia! “It’s Lazlo Burgundy! Someone, kill this motherfu….”
“Dilly, dilly!” Cried Hark and remembering his odd battle cry, Areia ducked involuntarily and heard what she knew to be a lone arrow whiz through the cavern. She looked up, to see the talking creature’s bulgy eyes shrink, turning into the dark hues of Lazlo’s pupils. He wore a strange expression on his face, his eyes pointed upwards toward the arrow shaft stuck in the center of his forehead. Blood was squirting out both the front and back of his now human like head.
“Silly, silly,” whispered the rogue.
The death of Lazlo gave the other creatures just enough pause that the crowd of rescuers and rescuers came around the pit and struck all the rest down. Suddenly freed, Fritz looked up into Thrak’s, Areia’s and Andril’s face. Thrak extended his scaly arm and offered the commander a hand. There was suddenly a pause, and something that felt like silence, if it weren’t for the inhuman calls echoing around them from who knew where.
With Thrak’s help, Fritz stood.
As if this was simply a briefing room, they all stopped and turned towards him. There was about 20-25 of them left, about a dozen had fallen. If this were any other day, many might be saved with healing magic from the Silver Order. But now, their souls would go on. Perhaps the same number of the beasts were felled as well, but as their bodies were already changing back to those of humans, and elves, it was hard to estimate. Just as he spoke, a shriek from the tunnel before them was answered by another, but this one was answered from one behind them.
“It’s decision time Celns. Some of us are nobility, others commoners. Tonight, none of that matters. We are surrounded, and either we fight our way out with a single plan, or none of us will make it. Pirates, criminals, soon pardoned upon my honor. No cowardice, nor betrayal allowed. You are Celns tonight, or you are our enemy!!! Who will stand with me now?”
Several men said aye, but none without fear. Lord Ian walked to the fore tunnel and peeked outwards as though he were checking on something. He turned back to Fritz, “Perhaps a minute Commander, but no more.”
“Commander Fritz,” said Andril. “We will never escape. The entire town is down here tonight, and there is more.” He told him about the southern wall and the odd seaweed like matrix they had found there. “We must gather our strength or be killed where we now stand.”
“There is no time for that methinks,” said Fritz matter of factly. “We aim to fight our way to the heart of this mess. We’ll destroy whatever has changed these good people into beasts and,” he paused. He looked down at the many dead bodies, now turning back into people. “Whatever foul inhuman devilry this is, these people, even the most villainous, do not deserve this fate. Our true enemy is whatever or whomever has done this! We end this or it ends us!”
“No,” said Andril and Haryk at the same time and the mage continued, “we won’t. But we can hide and recover and organize a better plan. Come with us!”
“Upon my honor, if you are attempting to save your necks, I…” and he looked over at Sir Ian who nodded grimly.
“You know they offer our only hope Commander. We must trust to them.”
“Follow me!” Yelled Areia, waving her hands as though she were trying to be seen in a crowd at the fair. She ran back down the tunnel towards the secret entrance to what she thought of as Basel’s “stinky apartment”. The others ran behind her, many being carried by their friends or strangers. Pirates helped soldiers, soldiers helped pirates.
Haryk was about to turn when he saw the man known as Barkeep stir, there was life still left in the man. He picked him up and flung him over his shoulder, “Come on Barkeep, we’ll keep your tab open a bit longer shall we.”
“Any human mind if I have the leftoversss?” said Thrak. His lizard face tried to make an absurd smile, and he opened his sack. The others ran by him uncaring. A closer shriek from the darkness convinced him to close the sack and join them.
“Not much left anyway, really…” he thought, racing down the tunnel just as a fresh wave of creatures entered the cavern from which he had moments before been.