Guess it had to happen eventually, but somehow, in my silly little world of a brain, I never figured out how to deal with it before hand.
Sigh, and maybe face-palm at my shortsightedness.
For the first time in six years, the vote was tied. I had no plan for this, so you’ll forgive me if I go with writer’s choice on this one. Out of curiosity, let me know in the comments how you’d handle a tie.
Now, without further ado, let’s follow the smaller group of men.
Heart Beats Option Aa.Follow the Men
“Follow,” you say simply after considering your options.
The hair gel Stevano uses is not a common item, as far as you’re aware. The fact that one of the men is using it, then, is not a coincidence.
Jana sniffs once you’re all free of the vent and points the way for Markus to lead.
You fall into line and retrace your steps back to the cavern in which you entered the cave systems. Even here, the dry smell of the catacombs continues to permeate the air, but as Markus leads you down the second tunnel, the one leading to the river, that smell fades until it’s completely drowned out by the damp, chill scent of the river.
Your sense of the men’s footsteps, those faint vibrations, are also drowned out as you’re overwhelmed by the deep, pounding rhythm of a raging river.
At last, the tunnel opens up into a cavern so large that you have no sense of its far wall.
You do not need Markus’ gift of dark sight, however, to realize that there’s something wrong with the scene in front of you. Very wrong.
The river that runs through the middle of the cavern heads straight toward the Crimson Keep, your home and the seat of Maxim Artus, your employer. You’ve always been aware that the river feeding the Keep runs from the caverns and the ruins behind it.
What’s unusual are the shapes bobbing erratically on the surging water. Boats. Dozens of boats.
After a moment of stillness, Markus grunts. “No sign of the four men,” he tells you.
As there are multiple caves leading from this one, that does not entirely surprise you.
“Inspect the boats,” you instruct.
The three of you split up and approach the boats.
The one you make your way to is nothing fancy, but it’s sturdy enough to manage the torrent of the river. And it’s deep enough to hold up to ten men plus supplies. You know the supplies part simply because the boat’s loaded down.
An inspection of one of the bundles reveals mostly weapons. A sword with several long knives in one, a bow, carefully wrapped against the cave’s damp, in another. Other than that, there are kegs. You sniff around the edges and shudder, realizing the powder these kegs hold is enough to blow a hole the size of a house in the Keep wall.
The water enters the back of the Keep through several large, heavily barred grates. There’s almost no room between the Keep’s back wall and the caverns housing the river, so it’s mostly protected. No one’s ever dared ride the river to approach the Keep at that point. No one until now, it seems.
Jana rejoins you and, even in the darkness, her face shows white, ashen from what she’s realized. Her heart rate pounds a steady but fast beat that you can hear even over the roar of the water.
“This is much larger than Stevano,” you mutter.
“Much,” Markus agrees as he joins you too.
“We could warn the Keep,” Jana suggests.
“That would be cutting it close,” Markus says. “From everything here, it looks like the group’s about to launch within hours. This river will take them to the Keep much faster than we could move on foot.”
“Take a boat?” Jana asks.
“How would you get through the grate into the Keep?” you ask, searching for options.
“There’s almost always a guard stationed near the inside, we shout loud enough, they’ll hear, especially with the river carrying our voices.”
“That still leaves us stuck against the outside of the grates,” Markus objects.
“There are small locked doors,” you mutter, “under the water that the guards can open for us. Few know of them but sometimes the outside of the grate has to be cleaned of debris.”
Markus grunts, not voicing his disagreement, but obviously not thrilled with this plan.
“Other ideas?” you ask.
He nods toward the powder. “The leadership of these riffraff is probably back in the catacombs. Take the powder and blow up the tunnels, trapping them inside. We can then go get help to take them all in.”
“Do you know all the exits?” you ask.
Markus, after a moment, shakes his head.
“So dare the river,” you muse, “and warn the Keep, or bring down the tunnels and hope we get them all.”
Jana and Markus nod and wait for your decision.
Aa1: Warn the Keep?
Aa2: Blow up the Tunnels?
Leave a comment below with your vote. We’ll see how this adventure ends next week.
Until then, blessings,