When Varos had asked ‘have you heard anything about the tunnels under the Petersburg Bay’, the Marquis’ only answer – worryingly – had been ‘are you afraid of snakes?’
So helpful, the Marquis of Carabas is. And that leaves Varos at the entrance to the bay tunnels. It’s no secret that the Petersburg Bay used to be a city and it’s also no secret that some of the tunnels survived. Legends persist that there is a path from one end of the bay to the other but the official line – and the reality so far as anyone is willing to say – is that the tunnels are dank, dangerous, partly flooded and sometimes inhabited by things that despise the light of day.
So, you know, a pleasant place for a blind tailor. Perhaps he reached out for some assistance.
Any information that the Marquis de Carabas volunteered tended to be a toss-up in regards to usefulness, although even with such seemingly unhelpful tidbits as that, there’s always something to pay heed to. Varos has heard tales about the tunnels, but he’s never had specific reason to go roaming around them. Not until now.
Such a charming place, he thinks, even though most of the drearier and perhaps even disturbing details of his newfound surroundings are things he’s spared for his particular line of Sight. He can make out the outlines of where the walls are and where the floor should be, his other senses filling in what he might not be able to make out otherwise, like the water that spills over here and there, and the unpleasant smell of mold and who knows what else.
And the things that called this place home, they can provide a bit of color to his surroundings as well. What creatures see often have a different perspective than what sentients might, raw and unopinionated.
He would have come here alone, but he couldn’t deny that having an actual pair of eyes would be beneficial. He’s not going to force anyone to go to such a dangerous place, but he’d felt he could at least ask. Details are naturally kept at a minimum at best, and if the invitation was turned down, Varos wouldn’t have been disappointed.
Back in the sewers again, this area is not unknown or even unfamiliar to a winged blonde warrior. It wasn’t so long ago that Ardul and Hunter had been down here, looking for contraband bought in by the Harvesters. It didn’t smell any better then.
Sloshing through the liquid that has gathered on the floor on the sewer, the Valkyr’s wings are furled tightly against her back and her gleaming silver armour isn’t gleaming anymore. Her energy blade is still a cylinder hooked to her right hip but that doesn’t change the lethal air that surrounds her.
“What is it we are looking for again?” she asks the tailor.
The other member of that duo is the grey furred wolfen who is… not… pleasant. It’s not that he says anything. It’s that he smells wet. Wet wolfen. Knee deep in mold and sea water and who knows what else. And if Hunter is knee deep, Varos is probably… somewhat more.
They’ve been moving for, oh, thirty minutes. It’s a labyrinth in here and one can only hope that there’s no accompanying minotaur.
Was… that a shadow moving up ahead? When Hunter shines a light there isn’t anything but… all the same.
“Left or right?”
For this outing, he’s not playing the part of a clothier. The two in his company he’s not spoken to very many times before, but he’s heard of their ability, and having someone outside of the matters of Varos Jenek of Clothier Z seemed the more attractive choice.
“A contact point.” His voice is pitched slightly lower and bearing a bit of a filtered growl as it’s distorted just so through the matte black, featureless helmet that covers his head and face. He’s dressed in a lightly armored suit, the kind he favors for his extracurricular ‘outings’, a black tending more to green that better blends with shadows. And it seems down here there’s shadows a plenty.
True as the status of the tunnel or rather the dank water that nearly submerges him is disgusting, Varos has voiced no complaint. He knows that not all jobs can be neat and pretty. He does feel a little bad for Hunter, knowing that if it smells terrible to him, it’s tenfold for the Wolfen.
Not speaking up immediately, Varos listens, his senses already spread a little further than his usually preferred range. At least the faces he makes are hidden from view of the other two.
“…right,” he says, after a moment, starting forward again.
“Hunter. You will bathe before you enter our apartment tonight…” Ardul says lightly, nose wrinkling at the stench of the sewers. “As will I and clean my armour.” Those who know the winged woman know that she takes more care of that armour than she does herself.
The sides of her helmet are illuminated, shining beams of light out into the gloom. It’s not much, but it’s enough to show what’s directly in front of her and ensure she doesn’t trip on anything … bad.
At Varos’ direction to go right, she signals and takes point, sliding around the corner to make sure it’s clear. “Clear. When we get there, what’s the protocol? Do you want one of us to lead you in, or do you want to do that yourself?”
Hunter turns right. Behind them another shadow moves out of the corner of Ardul’s vision. Utterly silent and not visible when the light is turned on it. Whatever it is it looks big but it’s really hard to say one way or the other.
The path ahead is straight but comes to another T intersection about a hundred feet away.
“What does it look like and do you know how close we are?” He grunts and nods to Ardul. He smells foul and he knows it. His ears twitch at something though.
“Ripple in the water. Maybe movement. Maybe nothing.”
There’s a low chuckle from the smallest of the group. He certainly won’t argue against the need for a good bath after all this, but for now, he doesn’t allow himself to think that far ahead.
“I’ll do the initial check and have one of you sweep the area once we’re there,” he proposes, stopping as he senses movement again. “Well, we’re definitely not alone,” Varos confirms at Hunter’s report. “So far nothing has directly grabbed my attention…” Let’s hope it stays that way…
Falling silent again as they resume, he calls up the brief directions that had come to mind back when he and Megana had interrogated the smuggler. “It’s not so much far as well hidden. Our destination is some sort of side chamber- the way twists inwards towards it. It’s meant to be difficult to get to but not impossible.” Just depends on how serious someone might be for that reward, he assumes. “We’ll take a left up here.”
Ardul’s head turns as the movement catches her peripheral vision, frowning when there’s nothing there. “Something’s moving in the shadows… ” she speaks lowly, touching the cylinder on her belt. “Last time we were down here, there was a rather large serpent but I’d heard it had moved on when the Harvesters left.”
It’s possible she heard wrong, which is why she mentions it.
Hunter’s report has her even more on alert and she listens. Her eyesight and hearing are better than most but nowhere near as good as the Wolfen’s. “I’d say we’re not alone, be alert…”
As the next junction approaches, she slows, listening first before turning the corner.
As Varos steps forward the ground becomes unsteady and he suddenly becomes aware of vision. He’s being viewed from below on either side. The worrying part is that he’s being viewed from below from either side by the same being. Not multiple angles. Two eyes. Spaced far enough apart that Varos stands between them.
Hunter and Ardul can both see the ground beneath Varos shift and start to move. The wolfen steps back abruptly and his hand hovers over his weapon. Whatever it is, it isn’t small.
And there’s a hissing sound filling the tunnel now.
Varos forces his legs not to stiffen at the sudden movement beneath his feet. That he’s still standing in water makes it more challenging to keep his balance. “Speaking of large serpents,” he says almost too dryly. It’s strange being seen in two directions from one mind. That’s a disturbing testament to how big this thing is, and for all that it’s a bit horrifying to think about, Varos also finds himself a little intrigued. He tries to keep on the thing as long as it might allow him, but he’s already seeking out the most optimal place to relocate himself should this thing decide it doesn’t like its new hat.
“Varos!” Arduls wings flare, brushing the walls of the sewer as they do, and she takes a halting step towards the clothier. The cylinder is unclipped from her belt but not operated … she’s contemplating making a dash to grab the man.
The hissing changes that though and she turns slowly, drawing in a deep breath as she does and instantly regretting it. “Hello. Do you remember me and my partner?” she calls out. “You helped us before… I think.”
The thing is the broad head of a snake. One with vivid colored scales or rather scales that would be vividly colored were it not currently coated in mud and slime. Varos manages to balance on its nose a bit as it lifts its head and sort of peers cross eyed at him.
“Ssssssss. I do not like your ssssssssmell.” It says mostly to Varos. One eye swivels to look at Ardul. “You I remember. Why do you travel with thisssssss one?”
A garbled laugh emits from the black helmeted one. “I could say the same for many things in this place,” Varos replies, only partially glad that he hadn’t opted to bury a psyblade into the thing’s head right off the back.
Inwardly he winces at the dizzying shift of eyesight. He seeks out a clear spot (i.e. not occupied by Ardul or Hunter) before leaping off of the snake’s head to land with an unsettling slosh closer to his two current companions, not sure if it was better being cold on top of the judgmental snake or cold in stinky sludge water.
“I asked them to accompany me for a little tour. Are we intruding?”
At least it’s the same serpent, that’s something isn’t it? Ardul glances to Hunter to see what he’s doing. “We provide safe passage for him.” She answers honestly, shifting slightly as Varos jumps off its nose, making room for him near her. She can protect him better that way.
“Is it a problem that we do? We are seeking a meeting point, deep within the sewers. You helped us last time, perhaps you might this time as well…”
“Sssssssss.” The snake hisses and its tongue – which is the size of Hunter’s torso – flicks out near Varos, tasting the air near him. “You ssssssmell like the otherssssss. Indrudersssss. Sssssstalkers who hunt where they do not belong. Sssssssservants of the Bunyip.”
Hunter blinks. “The what?” The snake doesn’t answer, it’s an odd word though.
“Sssssss. What issssssss it you want?”
“Others?” Ardul got that much as she leans back, away from the flicking tongue. “What is it they hunt?” she asks before she blinks and frowns.
“Did you say, ‘Servants of the Bunyip’? What or who is that and why does it seem to bother you?”
Somehow Varos manages not to react to the thing, save to tense. He supposes trying to slice the snake’s tongue off would be in bad form. And it is being civil. Sort of. He feels like he’s being insulted, really.
At the odd word, his helmeted head tilts. He’s just as clueless as to the term. Must be snake-speak. With Ardul posing such questions, Varos feels no need to repeat them. He’s more curious to see what the snake has to say and what it might know of who else thinks to roam these tunnels.
“Have there been any…intruders, of late?”
“Too many.” The snake hisses. It tilts its head in an odd, animal way.
“The bunyip is a demon of sssssslime and water. There is one that livessssss down here. We do not get along.” That seems to be something that’s a bit of a given.
“There are… hunterssss. Criminalsssss. They sssssearch for me. They ssssearch for many things. They foul the waterssss and hide evidence of their missssssdeedsssss.”
Hunter quirks a brow. “And Varos smells like them?”
“Now, when you say a demon lives here, do you mean a literal one or a figurative one?” There’s a suggestion of a smirk in his tone. “I’ll admit, I’m on a bit of a hunt, but it’s not for you.” He ignores Hunter’s inquiry to the snake, continuing. “Someone has chosen space down here to conduct questionable business. I’m trying to figure out who and what that is.”
Ardul frowns as the serpent responds and glances at Hunter when he asks the question. “Does he smell like the same race, or something else?” she clarifies. It might be important. That he smells like Hunters and Criminals doesn’t get a flicker from the blonde.
“Why is it they search for you?” she adds another question. That there’s a demon that lives down here doesn’t seem surprise the Valkyr, she does wonder though she doesn’t voice it – how long they’ve both down here.
“They do not wish to be ssssssseeen in what they do.” The snake hisses to Ardul.
Varos gets a considering look that glances briefly to Hunter and then dismisses him as just a wet dog. Which is to be fair not inaccurate right now.
“What is it you ssssssseek? Thessssssse tunnelssss are my home. I know every ssssssingle one of them.”
Varos shrugs. “Fair enough.” He won’t try to correct that answer. Folding his arms, he continues to ignore the unpleasant dampness around him as he tilts his helmeted head up towards the snake.
“Someone’s put an interesting bounty out for me. I want to know who and why. The delivery for said bounty is located down here. I don’t suppose you’ve heard anyone mentioning the name of a ‘Von Nasher’ down here of late, have you?”
“Ah.” Ardul answers and casts Hunter a sympathetic look. “Don’t worry Hunter, you know I have a lovely lavender and vanilla shampoo for you to use.” She’s teasing, a bit. “I made sure to buy extra after the last time.”
She doesn’t want to derail the conversation from the questions and answers that Varos is providing but … “Where do they hide the evidence of their misdeeds?” Maybe there’s some loot here for them.
“All over the tunnelsssssss…” The Snake hisses. “But if you sssseeek the void wyrmsssss altar, it isssss around the corner. A sssssmall thing. Ssssssome place for an offering he sssssseeks.” The snake cuts its eyes over. “Look for yourssssselves if you like. I go for lesssss foul waters for a time.”
It will be back though, that’s for sure. This is its home.
“…..” Well, it’s an answer, although perhaps it’s simply the phrasing that unsettles Varos a bit. Nevertheless, he offers a nod in the snake’s direction. “Thank you,” he says, having no reason to detain a giant snake further.
Turning, he regards Ardul and Hunter. “Shall we, then?” He gestures where the snake had glanced, starting onward.
Well that answers some of the questions. ‘Von Nasher’ sounds like it’s a void wyrm. Ardul bows her head to the departing serpent “Thank you. Safe travels and clean water.” she tells it.
As Varos turns, the blonde takes up point again and starts around the corner. “It sounds like it’s not far and not very big.” she murmurs, the light from her helmet falling on the brackish water of the sewers. “I think I see it…”
It’s not much. A marking on a wall that could be mistaken for graffiti of some kind combined with some loose bricks that can be pushed back to reveal a hole. There’s magic here. A small circle likely done by a professional diabolist. What it does isn’t clear but odds are good it accepts the goods and authenticates them. What the reward is… isn’t clear.
Varos might be able to trigger the circle. But given its size that might just result in him getting a limb stuck. Or worse, teleported away.
“Well, it’s there. Definately not a rumor…” He pauses and looks up. “Those spikes above it look precarious.”
A precaution against treachery? Or something else? There are several metal spikes sort of precariously wedged into the crumbling roof of this part of the tunnel right above the dead drop.
Moving along behind Ardul as the winged woman takes the lead, Varos looks on through her eyes as they come into the area as the snake had directed them. He’s not quite sure what he’d been expecting, but he has an ever sinking feeling the more he sees of the space as he looks on through both the perspectives of the two accompanying him.
“Lovely,” he says, his tone sounding even flatter with the distortion as he makes to ‘look’ up towards the ceiling. “Well, someone definitely means business.”
Carefully he moves towards the marking that he’d seen. His fingers brush the wall as he feels where the bricks aren’t as tightly adjoined, and behind his featureless helmet, he’s frowning thoughtfully.
Ardul pauses a safe distance from the altar and looks at the spikes in the roof and then the altar again. “I suspect if you put something in that circle that shouldn’t be there, those spikes will reward the effort. What is it you were supposed to do here, deliver something?”
Looking to Hunter, the blonde chews her bottom lip. Magic. She’s still not comfortable with it and these types of things just make it worse.
As Varos watches a dark glow fills the small hole where the drop is.
Varos… A gutteral, croaky voice says. If you’re seeing this you’ve found my drop. Bravo. I suppose you weren’t quite so simple to deal with as all that. So I’ll make you a deal instead. Hand yourself into my agents in Fairbrook and I won’t decide to use maiden blood to power my spells instead. You do have two such lovely friends. Surely you can spare one. Pause. Think about it.
The voice and glow fade and Hunter huffs.
“He knew you might find it. Why do I suspect we’re being toyed with?” Still, there doesn’t seem to be anything left for it here. Perhaps they should trudge on out. Seems like a better option than sticking around to run into a bunyip cult.
He pulls his hand away from the wall the moment the space begins to glow. There’s a heavy silence from him as he listens to the message delivered, and just the slightest creak of leather from his gloves as he clenches his fingers into a fist.
Hunter certainly shares Varos’ sentiments on the matter. As the glow fades with the message’s final words, the helmeted sometimes-clothier remains standing before the wall, dangerously quiet for nearly a full minute after the Wolfen’s spoken his opinion.
Quite abruptly Varos turns around, starting back towards the way they’d entered. “We’re done here,” he says, his voice not quite a growl, but there’s the slightest edge to his clipped words, perhaps a hint of whatever the snake had earlier associated Varos to be.
Ardul frowns at the circle, the look making the planes of her face even harsher. “Indeed.” Is all she says to the other two. “Then let us go…”
Whatever Varos has himself mixed up in, the blonde is not happy. Though that’s not directed at the tailor. That’s directed at the circle and that voice. “I’ll take point.” And with that, she begins their trek back out to the surface.
Slogging through sewers, finding help in unexpected places, and a menacingly mysterious message. Varos, Ardul and Hunter take a tour of St. Petersburg Bay's sunken tunnels.
November 20, 2410
St. Petersburg Bay