Shadows from the Sewers

The ruins of the ancient fort Marn along the city's western quadrant, including the Shanty Town market.
Locked
User avatar
Darrik
Citizen
Posts: 228
Joined: Sat Feb 16, 2013 8:18 am
Name: Darrik
Race: Dwarf

Shadows from the Sewers

Post by Darrik » Sat Apr 27, 2013 2:12 pm

-----Spring, 122PW-----


There's a saying among the Marn City Guard that 'There's no such thing as a slow day at work'. It had been especially true of late, with a noticeable increase in the number of petty misdemeanours the rank and file had to handle on a daily basis. There was a subtle tension in the air, an expectancy of something going amiss which set the teeth of veteran guards on edge.

None of which, apparently, bothered this day's despatch officer at the Guard's HQ.

Sergeant Jack Iron was in a playful mood. Which, Darrik thought, was never a positive sign. Frankly, the dwarf preferred Craig Staleheart's bellows to Jack's smirking wit. The bulky human sergeant was sitting at a desk piled with a clutter of paperwork. A caltrop placed on the in-tray was a subtle warning to the despatch office clerks.

Jack was wearing the kind of smile one might normally associate with a cat pondering a mouse in a bowl of cream. It wasn't a bad analogy, given their difference in size, Darrik mused. As the dwarf guard waited with stoic inscrutability for the sergeant to finish his private moment of 'gloating in advance', he practiced his own 'standing at attention and staring at the sergeant's pile of paperwork' routine, a subtle way of reminding the sergeant his fun wasn't going to last. It was an ongoing and subtle psychological contest between the two. Darrik wasn't sure what the score was, but he knew he wasn't ahead in points. Jack was a subtle and sneaky bastard and today's subtle hint of self-congratulatory glee told Darrik his sergeant was on the warpath. In his most expansive and jovial tone, sergeant Iron unleashed his first trebuchet "Darrik, my son, have I got good news for you."

Oh, he was a cunning bastard alright, Darrik thought. Never mind the dwarf was twice his blimmin' age. Jack called anyone shorter than his six feet of height 'son'. But putting that aside, 'good news' from Jack's mouth meant the exact damn opposite. Darrik responded with a snappy salute and "Glad to hear it, Sergeant" and waited for the sappers to bring down his fortress walls as Jack's grin somehow managed to stretch wider than before. "Darrik, I know you've been petitioning for a partner on your rounds in the old city, and praise be to the settlers, your prayers have not gone unanswered".

A pretty speech, the dwarf considered, from a man whose devotion to the precepts lasted to the extent his work required - no more and no less. A calculating bastard, was Jack, and the Dwarf wasn't about to go celebrating just yet. The salute held its position as Darrik replied "Praise be, Sergeant." Darrik's mind raced, his career as a butcher not having prepared him for the kind of mental gymnastics required to deal with a sneaky sonovabitch like Jack Iron. There had to be a catch - there was always a catch with Jack - but where was it? Darrik didn't have to ponder for very long though, as the sergeant wasn't holding the heavy cavalry in reserve today. With a beatific smile, like he'd just handed Darrik a large pot of gold and a free castle, Jack advised "We've found just the gnome for the job."

Well, shit. "A gnome. You're assigning me a gnome." Darrik eyeballed the sergeant as only dwarves can eyeball a man. Something about the race's robust bone structure and great big bushy beards and eyebrows gave dwarves an advantage in human-dwarf staring contests, even if they did get sore necks from having to look up in the match. "We don't even have a blimmin' gno..."

Jack forestalled him with a raised hand "Quit yer griping, Darrik. You were saying you needed a partner."

Darrik tried again "Yes sarge, however..."

Jack blithely talked over him "And you're always harping on about not showing prejudice to those who pull their weight."

Once more, with feeling, the dwarf responded "Yes, but..."

The sergeant, with an infuriatingly smug and contented smile, interjected "And the fact of the matter is, there's been some kerfuffle about gnomish rights of late, and some joker reckoned there was something in it, so this is how we're showing willing" Especially if showing willing now meant they could wash their hands of any more such gestures later.

Darrik, no fool, knew when to admit defeat. "...right"

In hindsight, the dwarf should have realised Jack hadn't finished the assault. As the dwarf prepared to ask another question, the sergeant said "Oh, an' the fella's in the other anteroom with my clerk. I reckon he heard the entire conversation, you know how sound carries out there, so don't bother introducing yourself."

This would be Toast's cue to make his entry. If the gnome failed to notice the subtle prompt then one of the despatch clerks, thick as thieves with Sergeant Jack Iron and his games, would nudge the gnome and shoo him towards the entrance to Jack's office while the sergeant continued "I'd like you to meet your civilian adjunct and specialist in sewer navigation, Fitzgerald Toastcruncher Fountainbloomer the Fourth." Jack didn't bat an eyelid as he spoke that name. Didn't twitch a muscle. Said it like it came as natural as 'Jack Iron'.

Darrik, not quite so prepared in advance for the horror which was the gnome's full name, raised a thick black pair of eyebrows in disbelief. Then the rest of the gnome's 'title' sunk in and the dwarf sagged a little. "Oh bugger me. The blimmin' sewers again? That's three times in one bloody month, sarge!"

The Sergeant's smile could get no wider, nor more saturated with smugness, as Toast enters and Jack says "Well, we are a little -short- on manpower at present time."
Last edited by Darrik on Sat Jul 06, 2013 11:00 am, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
Toast
Outsider
Posts: 46
Joined: Wed Apr 24, 2013 10:27 am
Name: Toast Fountainbloomer
Race: Gnome

Re: Shadows from the Sewers

Post by Toast » Sat Apr 27, 2013 9:24 pm

It had been a few days ago already that he had received a summons to join the City Guard on a sort of contracted basis for special skill assignments. Fitzgerald Toastcruncher Fountainbloomer the Fourth had no clue what exactly this entailed, it hadn’t been explained to him and it had never occurred to him to request details either.

Sitting with his back to the wall connecting the room he was currently in to Sergeant Jack Iron’s office, he now wished he had asked for details after all, because what he heard was sounding more and more like something he did not want to get involved in. This man, and he had only met him briefly earlier in the day, was not really to his liking, but apparently this ‘Darrik’ wasn’t a fan either, so they at least had something in common already. Of course, Iron being a highly ranked guard, neither his so-called new partner, nor Toast himself could say anything to him, or put him in his place with regards to his attitude.

The gnome listened in to the conversation, not because he was terribly interested in it but because there was no way around it. Acoustics in this place were horrible and he could hear every single word that was spoken. If this were his office, Toast would most definitely do something about the fact that practically anyone could eavesdrop on so-called private conversations. There were many other things he would have changed in this office. Maybe...

Before he could even begin sifting through the myriad of ideas coursing through his mind, the Sergeant’s words drifted through to him again and as if on cue, the clerk sitting with Toast waved for him to go inside. Taking a deep breath and steeling himself for the ordeal he would have to live through now, the gnome briefly knocked before stepping into Jack Iron’s office.

Neither Darrik’s nor the Sergeant’s comments were lost on him but he preferred to keep his mouth shut. Inwardly, he was indignant however at the dwarf’s annoyance of having to go into the sewers again. They weren’t all that bad. Why was everyone constantly bashing them? After all, it kept the city clean. ‘For that the sewers are good enough, but dear me if someone has to enter them.’ If Toast could have gotten away with it, he would have rolled his eyes at the dwarf and commented, but as it were, he kept his mouth tightly shut, merely showing a weak attempt of properly saluting to the Sergeant. He wouldn’t have minded having his sewage launcher backfire on this disagreeable man.

Turning his eyes away from Iron’s smug expression, he took in the dwarf’s appearance. So this was the infamous dwarf guard he had heard about. Not that he had heard a lot, but the news of a dwarf joining the ranks of the City Guard had made the rounds in Marn like a wildfire. It had been quite the gossip for a while. Now that he saw the focus of the rumours, he could see why people had kicked up such a fuss.
As far as dwarves went, he was rather tall – so maybe the rumours about his family having had an indiscretion somewhere along the line wasn’t so wrong after all. After all, every rumour contained a small grain of truth, even if a looking glass may be needed to find that tiny grain. Though that was pretty much where Toast’s knowledge of Darrik ended. The rumours hadn’t entailed much else, only the juicy bit.

Of course, what was more, both of them were in full guard uniform, which made him feel rather inadequate in his typical work clothes. He even had his faithful bag slung over his shoulder, but the tool-belt was safely stored within. If he had been wearing it, he would have looked even more out of place. When accompanied by guards into the sewers, it had generally been them to look a little overdressed, but in this scenario, it was a little different. Shining armour, imposing weapons; he could definitely see why some people worshipped the guards. They looked like the knights in shining armour straight out of a fairy tale.

How had he managed to land this job again? Oh yes, his skills and his knowledge of the sewers.
Why was it that he had agreed? Ah yes, because he thought he could make a difference and become famous. What a load of bullocks.
This may actually be the first time in his life that Toast was not quite so happy about his skills or that someone had noticed them. Or rather, he was unhappy that Sergeant Iron was the one whose attention had been caught.

If only someone would wipe that smug grin off that idiot’s face...

“May I enquire as to the exact terms of this mission, Sergeant?” Not wanting an awkward silence to stretch – though Iron most likely wouldn’t have let that happen anyway – Toast decided to bluntly ask, whether it was appropriate or not.

User avatar
Darrik
Citizen
Posts: 228
Joined: Sat Feb 16, 2013 8:18 am
Name: Darrik
Race: Dwarf

Re: Shadows from the Sewers

Post by Darrik » Sun Apr 28, 2013 1:52 am

Like somebody's affable uncle, the one mothers typically refer to as 'bad influences', Jack Iron responded warmly to Toast's enquiry "Of course you can, Fitzgerald. Nothing would please me more than to help you and Darrik in the unending task of cleaning up this city." Jack removed the caltrop menacing his in-tray, and retrieved the top four reports. "What we have here, gentlemen, is a worrisome trend of people down in old city being dragged into the old sewer system by rats of unusual size. You'd know the ones, Darrik. If I recall, you first reported them a while back, said they had the heads of orcs."

Darrik knew where this was headed. Knew that he'd be losing the greaves, pauldrons, sallet and gorget. Knew he'd be getting his little jar of glow-worms and wading boots. Well, he couldn't complain. The job needed doing, and fact was, dwarves and gnomes didn't have to hunch down in the sewers. "I call 'em Orcrats, sarge. Rolls off the tongue, like. So what, are the thugs down in old city losing their touch? Lettin' a rat kick their sorry arses?" In Darrik's experience, Jack's humour could be used to elicit more details.

True to form, Sergeant Iron had himself a good chuckle before responding "Wouldn't be an issue, if they were getting taken by a single rat, eh? But we are talking pack behaviour. And it isn't centralised to one part of old city." Jack affixes his smiling gaze to Toast. "And that, Fitzgerald, is where you get your chance to serve the magnificent city of Marn. You are going to help Darrik figure out where these critters are nesting. Now, Darrik is no novice to a good old-fashioned sewer crawl, but he does not have you and your family's experience or knowledge of the overall layout. There'll be a lot of tunnels to cover, and it could get hairy down there. You've got a head like a map, they tell me, and I hope it's true. Because a map is what we bloody well need."

Darrik interjected "How d'we know that there isn't more than one pack? We could have an infestation, and that'd take more than two people to safely handle, sarge, even on reconnaissance. You know that."

Sergeant Jack agreed "Fact is, gentlemen, that every report shows the pack being led by an albino. That suggests to me, very strongly, a single pack." Jack replaced the caltrop on his intray, "Now what we don't know, and what we are currently liaising with the battlemages in regards to: is whether there is any magic involved. Now, could be it's a natural albino, maybe a pack of rats has gone a bit crazy and is roaming far from its nest. Or maybe there's something else going on. We don't know, but to that end, I want you to start off careful. Have a chat with these witnesses, if you can find them. See if you can get specifics on where the damned rats re-entered the sewers on each occasion, and cross-reference with Fitzgerald's knowledge. Then, before you get in there and start carving up rats for the dinin' tables of the poor folk, report back here, in case we've received word from the battlemages." Jack rested the reports on the desk near Darrik. The dwarf dutifully policed them up whilst trying, and mostly succeeding, in keeping a look of disgust from his face at the mention of magic.

The sergeant, having engineered what might just be the highlight of his day, beamed brightly at Toast and Darrik. "That's the gist of your assignment. Any questions, gentlemen?"

User avatar
Toast
Outsider
Posts: 46
Joined: Wed Apr 24, 2013 10:27 am
Name: Toast Fountainbloomer
Race: Gnome

Re: Shadows from the Sewers

Post by Toast » Mon Apr 29, 2013 10:01 am

Listening intently, Toast began to wonder what kind of game the sergeant was playing. It was one thing to send a couple of guards and specialists into the sewers for specific errands that absolutely needed tending to but it was hardly a place to play hide and seek with a pack of mutated rats. Orcrats… as Darrik called them.

He had heard of the buggers, even seen some of them and barely escaped with his life. The suckers had managed to sniff him out of one of his hiding spots and it was really only through sheer luck – and his knowledge of the sewers – that he had managed to escape being ripped into pieces. They were vicious little things. Well… little… The word was to be used with caution.
Nevertheless, he hadn’t heard of them in the same conjunction and he was a bit surprised that the ones the two guards were talking about seemed so overly vicious as to actually grab certain people to drag them into the sewers. Now this was interesting. Already his mind was beginning to devise ideas for huge traps and other similar devices, but the Sergeant’s voice snapped his attention back to the present moment.

Hairy… Even Toast had to chuckle at this small joke, as much as he despised the fact that it had come from Jack Iron’s mouth. “I shall do my utmost best, Sir. My knowledge of the sewers will hopefully help get rid of these pests as quickly as possible.”

His words were overruled however by the dwarf voicing his opinion once again. Toast refrained from frowning. These were matters he preferred to have talked over with Darrik in private rather than make the Sergeant believe they were having trouble with the assignment given to them. It was nothing they wouldn’t be able to handle anyways. They were rats after all, and unless there was something particularly untoward happening inside those beasts, they would be dealt with in the manner all rats were dealt with. Traps and poisons, on a large scale. Ah the possibilities!

“An albino?” Toast couldn’t help but question as he listened to the Sergeant explain the matter in a little more detail after all. “But wouldn’t that mean they would be sensitive to sunlight?” He was no scientist, but that – he figured – was common knowledge. A magical albino would of course explain that problem but maybe Toast should work on ultra-sensitive flash tubes, just in case.

“No questions, no, Sir,” Toast immediately replied. His brain was working on overload and he did have a lot of questions of course, but he didn’t have any more questions that he wanted to ask the Sergeant. He hoped that Darrik would keep his own stream of seemingly endless questions and comments for when they could ponder over the reports by themselves and devise a battle plan. And if he could have been absolutely certain that the dwarf felt the same way, he would have left the office then and there, maybe even with a salute thrown in just for the sake of it since the guards seemed to insist upon such things.

User avatar
Darrik
Citizen
Posts: 228
Joined: Sat Feb 16, 2013 8:18 am
Name: Darrik
Race: Dwarf

Re: Shadows from the Sewers

Post by Darrik » Mon Apr 29, 2013 11:50 am

The question of albinos was something that Jack had little to add to, other than to say "Plenty of things don't make sense in this, son. That's why you two are getting your feet wet in the pungent waters of righteous duty and intrepid investigation."

At the sergeant's final query Darrik gave a terse shake of the head to indicate that, no, the dwarf guard had no further questions. Darrik had satisfied his curiosity on the main points - the rest, as the sergeant pointed out, was up to him and his new partner to figure out.

When it was clear no more questions were forthcoming, Sergeant Iron leaned back in his chair with an air of satisfaction "Right then lads, get to it, and good luck! Oh, and Darrik..."

Darrik offered a salute rather than give any words which might be used as wit's ammunition against him "...try and learn a sense of humour from your new partner, here. It's obvious he has a proper appreciation of wit." Jack paused for a beat "...unless laughing is some kind of dwarven cultural taboo of which I was previously and shamefully unaware."

Darrik held his salute for a respectful period, beard bristling blackly with the strain of an internal conflict, until the dwarf's love of trouble won out. There was a slightly mischievous glint to Darrik's eyes as he, without any other shift in facial expression, stated gravely "Right you are sir. First funny joke I hear, you have my personal promise that I shall laugh." With that satisfying riposte, the dwarf turned on his heel and tromped out without giving the sergeant a chance to respond. Darrik glanced at Toast and made a slight motion of his head to indicate 'Follow me'.

The dwarf guard held his tongue as they left the office, merely offering salutes by way of greeting to other guards, until the pair are outside of the fortress. Darrik waited until they were well out of the hearing range of other guards before he suddenly stopped, turned to the gnome, and stuck out his hand. "Right, well. That could have gone a damn sight better but, as usual, my sergeant managed to pull a fast one over me. Barely got me own back in that exchange. Anyway, Fitzgerald, my apologies for the rough start and my inadvertent rudeness" Darrik's tone was somewhat strained, the dwarf still recovering from what had been a damnably embarrassing meeting. "I think first order of the day should be to find somewhere to sit down, go through these reports, discuss the job in general, and get acquainted. You can choose the spot. By way of more formal introduction, I'm Darrik Meathandler."

User avatar
Toast
Outsider
Posts: 46
Joined: Wed Apr 24, 2013 10:27 am
Name: Toast Fountainbloomer
Race: Gnome

Re: Shadows from the Sewers

Post by Toast » Mon Apr 29, 2013 12:34 pm

Getting their feet wet? Toast almost snorted. If anyone was going to have anything wet in this room, it certainly wasn’t going to be Darrik or him. But he wasn’t going to even consider saying that out loud, nor was he going to laugh, especially because the dwarf could consider it inapprioriate or even insulting with regards to Iron’s subsequent words, which he himself had only been listening to with half an ear. The gnome rather hated admitting it, but the Sergeant seemed to be right. Darrik seemed a little stiff.

That was, until he replied. Toast’s cheeks strained painfully as he forced himself not to laugh. Making haste to salute and turn on the spot, not even needing Darrik’s prompt, the gnome sprinted into the anteroom. The worst part was that even here he couldn’t laugh yet due to the horrible acoustics of the structure, but the good thing was that Darrik did have a sense of humour after all. Thank goodness that he didn’t have to admit that Jack Iron had been right about something.

While he was following Darrik through the fortress, imitating the salutes though he wasn’t even required to since he wasn’t a real guard after all, Toast tried to push any unnecessary thoughts aside, including not so funny jokes and their responses. There were more important things to think about and by the time they reached the outside, the gnome was much calmer again, though his brain was working on overload – as per usual.

When Darrik suddenly stopped and stuck his hand out, Toast smiled as he slipped his own into the dwarf’s to shake it. “Ah, don’t worry about it. I think nobody stands a fair chance against Iron these days. After all, you can’t really speak freely as a lower ranking officer. We’ll pay him back in due time.” Nodding at Darrik’s formal introduction, he cracked a grin. “I’m fairly certain you wouldn’t want to hear my entire name again, but it’s nice to officially meet you. Call me, Toast.”

Again, he nodded and motioned for the dwarf to follow him. “Since we’re going to have to start in the historical district anyway, we may as well take up residence in one of the maintenance sheds until we have figured out where to start.”

Taking a few shortcuts here and there, Toast led Darrik to the desired location in practically no time at all. “So how big a rat are we talking here?” the gnome asked. “I bumped into a few a while back but they hadn’t seemed that overly large to me.” Then again, he was small, everything seemed large to him, thus why he hadn’t considered the rats to be so terribly big, but he wasn’t going to say that out loud. “Iron mentioned you were one of the first to report their existence?”

The shed, which was more an office reworked into a workstation was exploding with the many projects lying about, screws, machinery parts, plans, notes, oil bottles, grease stains… To an outsider it would most likely look as though an experiment had exploded and the debris left where it had fallen, but Toast could detect the subtle note of organised chaos amidst it all.

Carefully clearing away the things scattered about on the small desk, the gnome offered for Darrik to take a seat. “Now, let’s have a look at these reports, shall we?”

User avatar
Darrik
Citizen
Posts: 228
Joined: Sat Feb 16, 2013 8:18 am
Name: Darrik
Race: Dwarf

Re: Shadows from the Sewers

Post by Darrik » Mon Apr 29, 2013 1:37 pm

Darrik chuckled "That's a blimmin' relief, truth be told. 'Toast' it shall be and, without a doubt, it's a damn sight more palatable option." The dwarf trundled alongside Toast, the guard's tongue a lot looser outside of a more formal setting "Now, Ol' Jack ain't so bad a bloke. I reckon if I was a human, we'd have been best friends by now. Of course I'm not, so we aint - but at least his prejudice is veiled with humour. Truth be told, I steal some of his material to use on my drinking buddies down at the Drowned Hammer, where it goes down a treat. Humour's a funny thing, though. So much depends on the audience, and who's delivering it. But what I was getting at is this: don't let him get under your skin. Today he managed to obtain the complete element of surprise." Darrik shook his head ruefully "Another visit to the sewers, no problem. I'd normally expect it. His moment of insidious brilliance was introducing you first, in the way he did to get me proper flummoxed, and -then- dropping the stink-bomb of where we'd be working. Yes, Sergeant Iron outdid himself today. Probably made his damn month."

When the question of the rats was raised, Darrik took a moment to respond. "To be honest, Toast, I've only encountered one up close." The dwarf stroked his beard, remembering the incident "It was a while back, similar circumstances: people going missing down old city way, a couple of bodies found by those sods poor and desperate enough to go trawling the sewer flotsam for the odd salvageable trinket. No pack mentioned at the time, though, so it was just me got sent down."

Darrik grimaced, remembering the frantic fight in the dark, and the strange appearance of the warped abomination. "They're the size of a dog. Big, ugly things, like some deranged twist of magic took an orc's head and somehow melded it onto the body of a hugearse rat." The smell of the thing's visceral juices had rivalled the reek of the sewer "Their heads ain't as flexible as a real rat, and it's harder for th'bastards to latch onto you like a real rat could. But the thing seemed almost intelligent, you know? Like it was trying to say something but hadn't been put together quite right enough to actually speak."

The dwarf chuckled "Of course, if it had been trying to say something, it probably would not have been something a bloke would say in polite company. Especially not after I put a dent in its face with me buckler." Or after he'd gutted it with a kitchen knife. The memory of the damn thing's scream was something which still occasionally ripped through his skull on a night shift. "Never got to find out, but I would not wager against the damn things being able to use those ugly long-toed paws like hands." Darrik was quick to clarify "Not that they could stand upright, mind you. Joints wouldn't allow it. They'd have as much chance of standing up as a blimmin' pig"

When the pair reached the maintenance shed, Darrik added "T'be honest with you, Toast, at the time I reported discovering the blighter, I thought that there'd only been one, and that I'd killed the damn thing. Was pleased as punch with m'self right up until old Gladrags told me a month later he'd seen another of the disgusting critters." The dwarf tugged at his beard in remembered displeasure "Gladrags, by the by, is one of them flotsam sifters. I trade them food for gossip and occasionally the sot comes up with something useful. In fact, the old lush gets a bottle of dwarven stout, reliable as a payday, if their info helps me find my prey, so the ragpicker's got some damn good incentive to hunt me down proper useful tidbits. Comes in bloody handy, sometimes, especially as most o'them folk wouldn't give a dwarf nor guard the time of day - let alone both combined."

After entry, Darrik plonked himself down in the seat proffered by Toast. "We'll get to the reports in a moment, I reckon. Tell me a bit more about yourself, eh? I'm an easygoing fellow, truth be told, but I'd like to know what I can expect out of you if things get a bit blighty down there - keepin' in mind that I'm a City Guard, not a bodyguard. The most I got from Jack's shining example of an introduction is that you know the sewers better than most." The dwarf softened the sharp words with an easy smile. "By way of reciprocation, I'll answer any questions about me y'might have, and let you know what you can expect out of me in a tight spot." Darrik chuckled "And the sewers are about as tight a bloody spot as you can get in Marn. Jack's office notwithstanding."
Last edited by Darrik on Fri Jun 07, 2013 12:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
Toast
Outsider
Posts: 46
Joined: Wed Apr 24, 2013 10:27 am
Name: Toast Fountainbloomer
Race: Gnome

Re: Shadows from the Sewers

Post by Toast » Wed May 01, 2013 9:30 am

Toast listened to Darrik’s story intently, a frown creasing his forehead. It wasn’t the kind of rat he had ever encountered in the sewers, and that more than anything worried him. What else had there been going on down there without his knowledge or that of his family? Of course, they had heard rumours about large rats but like anything they had taken it with a pinch of salt and none of his family - that he was aware of at least - had ever encountered one of those things Darrik had named the orcrats. It was frightening to say the least. Less the fact that they existed but simply that it had completely escaped his attention.

“In all honesty, it wouldn’t surprise me either if they could use their claws like hands, especially if they’re dragging people away into the sewers. Of course, they could easily do that with their teeth but...” Toast shrugged. “This has just taken on a whole dimension of weird. To be quite frank, the rat reports I have come across have never so much as mentioned an orc head. Not any gnomes I know have encountered them nor have I myself. The latest encounter I’ve had with a large rat – by standards that is, since, well, in comparison to a small gnome everything seems a little larger and most people wouldn’t really take a gnome’s perception of size seriously anyway. That large rat almost wanted to rip off my foot, but it could twist and bend, move its head and jaws like a normal rat could. Either it was a sole giant rat, a one off, or we’re dealing with two various packs here. I’ve heard more reports about such enormous rats, especially since I didn’t manage to kill the one I encountered. I only just got out of the sewers and slammed a door in its face.”

Clearing his throat as he took a seat himself, opposite the dwarf, he considered his new partner for a few silent moments. “I am no coward, if that is what you are deducting from what I have just said, but I do not believe in useless confrontations and prefer to get out instead of taking up an enemy I cannot fight.” Sighing, he continued. “I was stupid then as well though, and went into the sewers with less weapons as part of a dare I should never have taken up. But that is a whole different matter. The truth of the thing is that those rats are a pest and that we need to take care of them. Aye, that is why the Sergeant has chosen me to be your partner, because I know the sewers like the inside of my pocket and I will be able to navigate us through even under duress. But you are right, that is not the only reason why we have been partnered up. Aside the size of course,” Toast grinned at Darrik. “Wait, let me show you.”

Picking up the backpack he had deposited next to his chair, he opened it, rummaged around briefly before randomly selecting a few items to put onto the table between them. “This is also the reason why I have been chosen to help the City Guard. “I have decent lighting” – at this he pointed to the flashy tubes he always carries around with him – “and I’m currently working on a way to build them into or onto goggles.” Next he pointed at his gun, which already from the outside didn’t look like a normal weapon. “Tranquiliser and poison darts. Could come in handy. And a couple of devices which launch a protective shield, though only for a few seconds, generally long enough to get the hell away, and only up until average size of a tunnel. Anything bigger than that and they’re a liability. But I’m working on that.”

Remembering what Jack Iron had said, he added: “Oh and, I’m a genius for waterproofing clothes, if I may say so myself. So Iron’s can shove that bit of his joke up where the sun doesn’t shine, because we are definitely not going to have our feet wet.” Pointing to the cupboards behind him, Toast explained: “I have a couple of extra boots lying around here. I suppose that we should be able to find a pair to fit you. So I guess, we both have our uses. Gladrags definitely sounds like a good investment. It really is no secret that people rarely ever talk freely when a guard is involved.”

Toast looked at Darrik for a while longer before speaking again. He wondered how much he could trust the guard with not backstabbing him later on when he had outlived his use. The dwarf may not seem the kind, especially since he, more than anyone, knew how rough life can be from time to time but that didn’t mean he was above his own profit when it came down to it. ‘I guess time will tell,’ the gnome mused to himself.

“Well then, you know a bit of my use. The other bit is that I believe in being prepared. I don’t want to go into a situation blind, I am bad at dealing with those sorts of situations, Iron’s office was borderline. But I guess for the tight spots, I have you now, my non-bodyguard.” Toast grinned again but he was only mocking himself. “Don’t worry, I’m not planning on needing a bodyguard. Equal partners, each with their own set of skills and usefulness. What say you? Personally, I don’t have any questions, not right now at least. I guess we shall see when the time is right. But if you have more, feel free to ask.”

Getting up from his seat again, he wandered through the office. “Now, where does this crazy nut keep his beverages again...” While he hunted down something to drink, he kept quiet, having spoken enough for the time being and definitely more than he was used to. After all, he wasn’t at the stage of crazy yet where he was talking to his inventions and tools. He enjoyed his moments of silence too much to wreck them. They were rare enough these days.

User avatar
Darrik
Citizen
Posts: 228
Joined: Sat Feb 16, 2013 8:18 am
Name: Darrik
Race: Dwarf

Re: Shadows from the Sewers

Post by Darrik » Wed May 01, 2013 10:50 am

Darrik tugged on his beard when his suspicions regarding the rarity of the orcrats were as good as confirmed. He'd not even heard of the damn things himself until one tried to rip his throat out. No wonder the officers had made a preliminary approach to the battlemages. The dwarf guard made a silent promise to himself to be bloody careful on this little outing. "It was a bloody shock, mate. Like y'self, it's normally proper rats I've come across. Not these un-natural abominations. The notion that there's more than one of the things is enough to sour the taste of beer in a dwarf's mouth."

As Toast collected his assortment of eccentric gnomish paraphernalia, Darrik pondered how he could do things different, now that he had a reliable guide. It would allow for longer searches, further away from the safe exits, that was one. Having someone to keep an eye on the way they'd come would certainly ease up on some of the 'Am I being followed' headgames. However, that was as far as Darrik got before the dwarf guard's attention was drawn to Toast's return, and the gnome's sundry gewgaws.

The flashy tubes got an approving nod from the guard "That'll come in a lot more handy than a poxy jar of glow-worms, an' no two ways about it." The darts, likewise immediately gained approval "The tranquilisers will serve a bloody treat if there is some sod masterminding those damn rats. At the very least, I wouldn't mind having the albino sedated and in the hands of someone able to figure out what the damn thing is."

Unfortunately, Darrik thought, that 'someone' would be a battlemage. Magic-toting bastards, even if they were serving Marn. The dwarf didn't stand for magic. Didn't sit for it either. And don't even ask about begging or rolling over, for that matter. Magic, in all its forms, was to be treated with suspicion. And it was with such suspicion that Darrik levelled a narrow-eyed stare at the shield launchers. "They aint... magic ...are they?" Darrik somehow managed to convey, through his enunciation of the word, that magic was something far worse than anything he'd ever had to scrape off a boot.

On the topic of boots, and waterproofing for that matter, Darrik commented "That'll be right handy down the track, though I've got me own clothes an' kit for sewer crawling on account of it bein' a bad idea to be wearin' full armour down there. You'll see me kit when the time comes for us to head down there." The dwarf chuckled "Of course, equipment'll only take us so far. A lot'll come down to caution, luck, and just how much our predecessors smile on us." Darrik runs a hand down his beard "Still, I'm glad t'know I won't need to babysit you. That would have been just the kind of prank I'd expect from Jack. Good to see he's still got some ethics in that regard: he may mess with me, but he won't mess with a mission. Partners it is."

Darrik didn't have any more questions to ask, and as the gnome didn't seem overly curious, he didn't volunteer anything at that stage. Instead, the dwarf flicked through the reports he'd been given. Toast would find, upon his return, the dwarf's brows furrowed. Darrik, having now a passing familiarity of the reports' contents, changed his mind about volunteering information.

"I suppose, Toast, that I should at least give you a brief rundown of who I am. Before I was a guard, I was a butcher. I mention this, so that you don't get weirded out by the knife and cleaver I'll be bringing with us. I'm pretty damn handy with a buckler, warpick, and butchering tools. I can go toe to toe with a big man and stand me ground. What I'm getting at is, I don't mind a fight getting up close and personal. Which..." Darrik tossed over the reports "...might be a factor." The dwarf tugged at his beard again, brooding over the third report's victim, a burly thug who'd just happened to be witnessed by a street urchin set upon by the pack "In a worse case scenario, if we find trouble we can't run from, we'll have find a corner or bottleneck where it's hard for them to tackle us mob-handed, then you get behind me and pray."

In truth, Darrik almost hoped the battlemages would come back and say that they were certain there was magical involvement to the whole nuisance affair. Maybe then he'd get put to more mundane work. Like street patrol. New partner or not, duty or not, the dwarf hated bloody sewers.

User avatar
Toast
Outsider
Posts: 46
Joined: Wed Apr 24, 2013 10:27 am
Name: Toast Fountainbloomer
Race: Gnome

Re: Shadows from the Sewers

Post by Toast » Wed May 01, 2013 9:07 pm

“I hope the tranquilisers aren’t going to fail however if there really should be magic involved. I’ve only ever used and tested them on normal beings; never on anything remotely magical.” Toast looked at the gun dubiously, wondering if he shouldn’t work on changing that. He would have to find a willing subject though since he couldn’t really go around shooting shifters at random just because he wanted to test his guards, and testing them on his favourite sister wasn’t going to help with anti-magic darts.

“No, they’re not magic,” Toast replied, ignoring Darrik’s display of his innate love for magic. Dwarves were weird that way but he wasn’t going to comment or condemn over it. “They’re mechanically engineered and are fuelled by a special mixture, the details of which I won’t get into now. Gnome techniques are a bit tough to explain even to other gnomes. Bottom line, no magic. It’s all mechanical.”

Toast continued rummaging through the cupboards until he finally came upon something they could drink after what seemed like an eternity. “There we go!” He put out cups along with the various kinds of tea he had just found and put the kettle to boil. While the water was heating, Toast picked up some of the reports Darrik had already gone through. “These are all random at best,” he commented, mirroring the dwarf’s furrowed brows as he leafed through the set. “There is no continuity whatsoever, at least from what I can see. Burly thug, skinny whore, lanky orphan... Well, there is on some level I guess. These all seem to be people who won’t be missed by anyone if they were to disappear forever. Have any of these been reported missing? They’ve all been witnessed by outsiders who have reported it, and I’m fairly certain that considering who reported these that there are far more cases that the City Guard isn’t even aware of. As we’ve already established, people don’t always willingly give information to the guards, especially when their own security could be compromised.”

Briefly interrupting his musings to take the kettle and pour water into their cups, he played with a tea bag for a while before looking at Darrik. “I really can’t make neither heads nor tails of this for the time being. It seems just so ... random. Or maybe that’s just the point. Random or appearing to be to throw anyone off course. What do you think they are doing with their victims? Are the rats eating them? There haven’t been any reports on dead bodies, from what I can see so far,” Toast murmured as he rifled through more of the reports strewn around on the desk in the meantime. “Or are they doing something else with them? If indeed there is some sort of intelligence behind those beasts, whether in their own heads or through someone else’s control, then there has to be a purpose. If we find that purpose, we may find a means to lure them out?”

The gnome’s brain was working on overload and scenarios kept playing through his mind; for a change, most of them hadn’t gone over into the technical details yet but rather were playing through the various reports, imagining how the abductions had happened, where the people had been dragged into the sewers and so forth. Fishing around in the papers he had so carefully placed aside earlier, he came up with a map of the sewers and a green marker. Missing many details, it was still a sort of basic map where they could at least pinpoint where the reports had come from. Marking the places with a cross, he worked his way through all the reports until he had finished his small drawing. “Now that is odd.”

User avatar
Darrik
Citizen
Posts: 228
Joined: Sat Feb 16, 2013 8:18 am
Name: Darrik
Race: Dwarf

Re: Shadows from the Sewers

Post by Darrik » Thu May 02, 2013 3:14 am

Darrik's relief at the absence of magic in his new partner's collection of gadgetry was immediate and profound. "Mechanical is how it should be, mate. I keep on saying we need t'find ways of dealing with mages that don't rely on other mages, but damn me if I can come up with an answer to the situation."

When Toast returned with tea Darrik marked out what smelled like a good strong black tea for his imminent refreshment. But after that, the dwarf guard's full attention was on the gnome. "You've got it in one, Toast. Random's the bit that don't make any damn sense to me, either. Here, pass me that one on th'whore. Somethin's jabbing at my memory." Darrik obtained the report and had a closer look at the details. "Hyacinth, Hyacinth... somethin' about it rings a bell."

Darrik hmmed and tsked for a moment, patting his beard thoughtfully, before he recalled what had stirred his memory "Oh yeah, that's the bint whose sleazebag pimp we put through some questioning. Mostly about some opium popping up in the areas his girls worked. Thing is..." Darrik tapped the report with a thick finger "...she don't work in the part of the city where she got taken. Certainly wouldn't live there, neither." The dwarf tugged at his beard "Probably don't mean anything, but somethin' t'keep in mind, at any rate. Her pimp certainly didn't report her missing, to answer your questions for one of these four. The other three? I'd assume not. Jack, for all he likes yanking my moustache, would not have left that kind of information out if it was available."

Darrik shook his head, put his focus back on the task at hand "You're right, though: there's two possibilities been raised so far about all this: Intelligent and murderous beasts, or beasts led by some rotten-to-the-core user of magic. Intelligent beasts, we'd have a more localised pattern, right? Why travel all over old city for the odd meal? I can tell you, the reason my and Henrik's butchery keeps running is because we always have the the local custom. Most people don't go travelling out of their way when it comes to mealtime. They take the easiest and closest option."

Darrik's expression was grim "So I say it ain't just beasts. And as you say, Toast, it then comes down t'working out these bastards' purpose. Where's the angle? Who bloody benefits? Why let there be witnesses? Why not wait until night time and dark alleys where no sod could make out what had happened beyond a scream and a blood trail?" Darrik's mind was also shifting cogs, as he stared at the report, slowly and methodically turning over all the available details. The dwarf was the kind of bloke who stubbornly refused to let a puzzle remain a puzzle if he could bloody well help it.

In amidst his own thought processes, Darrik had not noticed Toast's activity with the map, and found himself jolted out of his train of thought by the gnome's comment "Odd? What have you found, Toast?" Darrik pushed himself up from his seat and tromped over to examine what Toast was working on.

User avatar
Toast
Outsider
Posts: 46
Joined: Wed Apr 24, 2013 10:27 am
Name: Toast Fountainbloomer
Race: Gnome

Re: Shadows from the Sewers

Post by Toast » Thu May 02, 2013 10:10 am

“She didn’t work in that area?” Toast frowned some more at the revelation of this matter of the missing whore. The question of why people were abducted in the first place was bad enough but when a working woman was taken from a place she neither worked nor lived in, it begged the question as to how she got there. Or even why. Which in turn brought up a handful more questions. “Maybe clientele?” There were too many unanswered questions for the time being and he really did not like it.

Shaking his head, the gnome pondered over the reports and his map a little while longer before he replied to Darrik’s question. “You see these marks over here? Those are the main entries into the sewers, those that are known to the general public. These ones here,” he now pointed out the ones he had marked himself following the reports, “are entries known only to a few people. They’re not exactly secret as such, but they’re rarely ever used, though of course kept well maintained. And, they’re spread quite far away from each other, enforcing what seems like random ways of picking off people from the street.”

In connection to what Darrik had said about his butcher’s shop, he could only agree. “It would be localised if it were merely for the sake of a meal. That much is correct. However, what looks spread out from the outside, doesn’t look quite so random from the inside anymore. Do you see this line here?” Toast traced one of the sewer lines on the map. “This is the main line, the biggest of the tunnels in this part of town. However, it branches off into smaller tunnels, not all of which are on this map because it is too small scale for that kind of detail.” Looking up at Darrik, he gave the dwarf he meaningful look. “I guess I don’t have to explain to you that all of a sudden this doesn’t look quite as random anymore. Rats are small, they fit into anything, even if they do have large and atypical heads. There is a rather slim tunnel weaving its way through all these marked points. The same one, all the way through, but it branches off into practically every single other tunnel there is. For someone unfamiliar with the terrain, it would be like trying to find a way through a maze. For me of course it wouldn’t be. And apparently neither for these rats.”

In all honesty, Toast didn’t like where this was going. He made it sound like it was a gnome’s doing that these orcrats were on the loose and it was an aspect of his theory he did not like. Yet, he was not so stupid to think that gnomes could not go rogue. The whole magical aspect of the theory made it a little less likely however. Maybe stolen maps? But practically no map was as detailed as to show everything needed to know about the sewers. There was a reason why gnomes were valuable when it came to finding a way through the sewers.

“I guess with practice, and a fairly decent map, this wouldn’t be too hard to figure out. But the implications do worry me,” Toast admitted, figuring he didn’t need to voice all of his thoughts for Darrik to get his meaning. Latching onto a different idea popping up, the gnome inquired: “Do you think it possible for the infamous albino leader to be a shifter? It would explain a certain level of intelligence and the ability to not only perfectly memorise the sewer system but at the same time keep up the randomisation, which to the normal eye would look like just that: randomness without as much as a grain of planning.”

Sighing, Toast reverted back to Darrik’s earlier musings. “As far as the witnesses are concerned, they might have just been out of sight of the rats. I doubt a street urchin would reveal his presence to a pack of blood-crazed rats abducting someone. But of course, it begs the question if maybe some of these so-called witnesses were planted? If a mage is behind this, or someone else, and they have an ulterior motive, they would most definitely want some attention brought to this. What better way to do this than through having terrified witnesses bringing reports of horrifying abductions to the attention of the City Guard? What if half these reports are fabricated and not even real? It could be possible, couldn’t it?”

User avatar
Darrik
Citizen
Posts: 228
Joined: Sat Feb 16, 2013 8:18 am
Name: Darrik
Race: Dwarf

Re: Shadows from the Sewers

Post by Darrik » Thu May 02, 2013 10:40 am

Darrik tugged at his beard thoughtfully while Toast laid out his thoughts on the matter, though a grim look would mar the dwarf's countenance at the mention of shifters. When the gnome finished, Darrik said with a grin "Welcome to the world of the guards, where not a lot makes sense until you beat some sense out of it first. Now you raise some good points, and I'm with you in thinking there's a mind somewhere doin' the planning behind these crimes, but remember this: when it comes to speculation on limited facts, handy though it is as a way o'getting one's head around a difficult assignment, a guard needs t'keep in mind that it is just speculation. Our job is to find the truth behind all this. If we're not careful, we'll end up running rings around ourselves."

Darrik expounded on his theme, poking the map "Let's suppose, for a moment, that magic is involved." The intonation of 'magic' led one to believe the dwarf had just eaten something particularly foul. "We could come up with a new notion as to 'how' they might have arranged things every five seconds or less, and never run out of ideas." The dwarf guard pointed out the exits Toast had highlighted. "For now, I suggest we keep all the speculation in the back of our minds, and focus our initial efforts on figuring out where these bastard critters might be holing up. Maybe our questions might even be answered just by finding the damn spot."

Darrik grimaced with concentration, trying to keep a mental hold of the picture put together thus far "Now, if you was some twisty-headed magic user with some kind of weird vendetta and rat fetish, where would you base your operations? How many options are there? I reckon they'd need a space or two large enough to fit a person or a pack of them abominations comfortably. Not to mention the stash of bodies. It'd also need to be far enough from the exits to discourage the flotsam sifters from pokin' about. Now, admittedly, the sewers are big an' sprawling place. But anythin' to narrow down the number o'places we have to personally poke around in would be just blimmin' dandy."

Another thought occurred to the dwarf "However, I reckon we should take Jack up on the offer of 'asking some questions' of witnesses, see if they can still be found, and happen to be any shade of reliable. Truth be told, I reckon it'll be a dead end, but it will let us play for a bit of time, and hopefully get some more news out of HQ before we subject ourselves to the fun of traipsing through rat infested sewers." Darrik eyed the teapot "How's that tea coming along, Toast? I reckon we've talked long enough to warrant wetting the old throat." The dwarf grinned "I'll have mine black and bitter, just like me promotion prospects."

User avatar
Toast
Outsider
Posts: 46
Joined: Wed Apr 24, 2013 10:27 am
Name: Toast Fountainbloomer
Race: Gnome

Re: Shadows from the Sewers

Post by Toast » Thu May 02, 2013 12:08 pm

“What? Oh yeah… the tea. Sorry about that.” Toast grinned at the dwarf’s joke. “So glad I don’t have to worry about that kind of thing. Though I had hoped for a sort of bright future during which my genius would be proclaimed to the world.” Shaking his head at his own joke, he used the opportunity to slightly stretch his legs at the same time as take a break from staring at the map. He didn’t really need to get up from the chair to pick up the teapot but he suddenly felt the need for pacing about a little. Pouring the tea into the two cups he had removed from the cupboard, he handed one to Darrik, and kept the other for himself, taking a sip every now and then while letting things rush through his mind.

The dwarf was right. Speculation wasn’t going to get them anywhere and it would, in the end, only be unnecessarily confusing. If they didn’t focus on one or the other possibility too much, they wouldn’t clutter their minds or shut them off against future hints they might or might not receive. Somehow.

“Alright, alright,” Toast muttered, though speaking more to himself than to his new partner. The several minutes of pacing had done him good in trying to clear most of the whirling thoughts and questions out of his mind. Returning to the table to bend over the map, he picked up Darrik’s previous train of thought. Going over the map for a while in silence, he finally spoke up: “There are many niches strewn throughout the sewer system but generally, they’re all too small for an entire pack of rats, including possible prey. Three to fours rats might be able to hole up in some of them but no more than that if we’re taking into consideration the fact that they’re huge with orc heads which need to be accommodated as well. Gnomes can hide in them, but for humans, it’s already tough to find a niche big enough. So I think we can forget about those entirely.”

Once again taking up the pinpointing on the map, Toast indicated a few spots. “These are storerooms for the most part with extra parts in case something is amiss with one of the tunnels and its mechanics or if an exit needs repairing of some sort. Most of these are equipped for any kind of repair-work. They are large enough to fit quite a few bits of machinery and people in, so I assume that they would fit a pack of rats. How large a pack are we talking about anyway?”

Sighing, he continued, already certain that this was going to be a rather long-winded assignment. “There is of course also the possibility of using safe houses just outside of the sewers if the mastermind wanted to be completely safe nobody would stumble across the rat pack unless it was in action. I cannot be sure how many of the houses in the old district are still used or could be used for underground purposes. I know that the gnomes have three.” He indicated their positions, north, east and south of the distract, Darrik and Toast currently in the one located on the western edge.

“Maybe the witnesses will be our best help for now. Before we go inspect all those places that is. And even if you’re right and they’re not reliable, at least we’ll have that firmly established. Right?”

User avatar
Darrik
Citizen
Posts: 228
Joined: Sat Feb 16, 2013 8:18 am
Name: Darrik
Race: Dwarf

Re: Shadows from the Sewers

Post by Darrik » Wed May 08, 2013 10:17 am

Darrik took the cup carefully, added "Cheers, mate", and let Toast pace and think without interruption. In the absence of a pensive pint of ale, a thoughtful cup of tea would do for the dwarf's personal 'mulling things over' time.

Darrik's own thoughts were on the reports, the dwarf compiling the basic information in his head. There were points of variance among the stories, it was true, but enough similarities for there to be a resonance of truth between them. The dwarf looked up when Toast muttered, and began to pay attention when the gnome started talking. In regards to pack size, Darrik commented "Well, the reports don't agree, with one mentioning four, another mentioning six, and two saying five. But, who knows? Maybe two of them ran out of fingers to count."

When Toast mentioned the possibility of above-ground safehouses Darrik grimaced. He'd not thought of that, though it seemed obvious in hindsight. The dwarf's thinking had been set too square on the sewers because of where the rats took the victims, and evidently he'd not thought it through enough. On the bright side, it was nice to have someone with more than half an ounce of sense in them to talk to. "Y'make a good point. Ringleader isn't necessarily going t'bunk down with their rats. But they'd need some access to the rats, I reckon, t'give the orders. So we can at least narrow our aboveground search to areas where there's a sewer entrance not far from a likely spot belowground."

Darrik ran his hand down his beard again "I reckon so, Toast." He pushed his chair back from the table as he said "We start with the witnesses, an' Gladrags too." The dwarf downed the rest of his tea. "And I reckon we start with the nearest one." Darrik consulted the map and the reports "Which would be one lad named Tomas, whose mate Caleb was dragged off by the rats. Now, he's the one who only saw four, so that'll be interestin' t'start with. Apparently he earns food runnin' errands, but stays with his old man who mends fishnets and lines on the cheap in return for some of the catch." The dwarf stood and nodded to Toast "Ready to start y'workday with the smell of fish?"

Locked