And now for Part 2!
Dreadful Tales: A Matter of Discretion Part 2
The swinging pendulum, now tied to the handle of Mr. Silver’s outstretched cane, led them deep into the bowels of Gloomhaven. Ancient stone vaults, built by hands that had long since rendered to dust, loomed above their heads. The Oculatron’s light cast strange, shifting shadows upon the crumbling bricks and thick columns. Rats scurried away from this invasion of their ancestral territory. Following the ever tugging pendulum, they worked their way deeper into the sewers, twisting and turning through narrow and hidden passages, guided only by the warlock’s magic. Brick and mortar walls gave way to rough-hewn stones and architecture that was both older and stranger the further they ventured.
Though they saw and heard no others where they travelled, the signs of others’ passings were evident to them both; discarded modern refuse, fresh tracks, both boot prints and drag marks in mud and waste. There was even torn fragments of clothing, still mostly clean, to be found where it was no doubt ripped from a passing body.
A winding stair carved into the rock itself led them to a passage made entirely of some black, glossy stone that neither had seen before. Mr. Silver’s breath condensed in the cold air, but Lady Brae’s was nearly invisible. Here and there they saw strange characters cut into the walls, by minds curious and alien, judging from the bizarre script.
“What is this?” she asked, her voice quiet and reverent, her fingertips hovering over the writing.
Shaking his head, Marcus placed his hand on hers and pushed it down, away from the markings. “Gloomhaven is built on the carcass of many ancient civilizations. Undoubtedly our quarry hides beneath ruins from before the Empire, possibly before even the Queen herself. What better place to perform his secret and illegal deeds? At least we’re out of the sewers.” He stopped to study the spidery script. “It’s not Alfar, nor Duergar. I must admit, I’ve never seen its like before.”
In the blue light of the Oculatron, the script seemed to move. Marcus blinked, and everything returned to normal. He opened his mouth to speak, when Lady Brae silenced him.
“Did you hear that?” she asked, craning her neck.
He turned from the writing and listened to the darkness. There was no sound but the dripping of distant water. Then he heard it, a faint echoing out of the darkness.
“What is that?” he whispered.
She glanced down the black tunnel. “A scream,” she said.
“Someone is screaming.”
They proceeded down the darkened tunnel, moving with as much alacrity and stealth as possible. Even in her heels, Lady Brae made little noise.
Turning a corner, Lady Brae raised her hand, motioning for Mr. Silver to stop. “We’re not alone,” she hissed, crouching down. Mr. Silver held the Oculatron higher, trying to see what she was talking about. Scraping, shuffling noises came out of the darkness, along with a hideous moaning that clawed its way down their spines. Terrible shapes shifted in the gloom just on the edge of the Oculatron’s light.
“What are they?” Mr. Silver asked.
“Wyghts!” Lady Brae gasped.
Pale, ambulatory corpses pierced the safety of the light. They wore filthy clothing, covering most of their white, desiccated flesh. Their hair hung in brittle clumps. Fingers ended in black, broken nails, as sharp as any razor. However, it was their faces that caused the most distress. Their lips curled back in a rictus of pain. Gums black with rot revealed sharp fangs that clattered and gnashed the air.
“Stand back, Lady, I’ll deal with these fiends.” The warlock strode forward, tracing a symbol in the air with his cane. As the wyghts gibbered and bounded towards them, the air burst into flame in the shape of the symbol. Howling in fear, the wyghts cowered back, trying to shield themselves from the flame’s bright light.
But some worked their way around the warding flame, and one reached out towards Lady Brae. She thrust with her parasol, stabbing the thing in the face with the sharp tip. It snarled and fell back, holding the ruin of its eye.
“That’s a start, Lady, but they’ll need more than sharp rebukes,” Mr. Silver said, sliding next to her and brandishing the flaming sigil at a nearby wyght.
“Oh, I’m terribly sorry, did you have a better idea?” she asked through grinding teeth.
“Surely they are no match for you?” he asked, backing them both away from the swarm of creatures that hissed and howled, snapping their chattering jaws at the burning light.
She sniffed. “You are impertinent, Mr. Silver. I am no animal. I would not lower myself to engage them in that way. It would be unseemly.”
Marcus spared a moment of concentration to glare at her. “While I’m sure my Lady’s principles are all that keep Gloomhaven on the straight and narrow, I’m afraid that these beasts are not so well-heeled. They’ll happily rip us apart.”
Raising her parasol, she said, “Let them try.”
Rolling his eyes, Marcus surged forward, pushing the flaming sigil into one of the wyghts as it tried to sneak past. It howled in agony as its dry skin and hair caught like parchment. The wyght flailed back, writhing in pain and spreading the fire to some of its compatriots. Panic spread, with the flame, and soon the mob was disintegrating. Burning wyghts fled in all directions.
The assault cost them, however, for the sigil was gone, its fire snuffed in the act of engulfing its target. Several wyghts, braver than the rest, did not flee, but saw this opportunity and surged towards the pair. They swarmed around them, lunging for them both.
Lady Brae tried to jab one with her parasol, only to have the savage brute knock the weapon from her grasp. Its clawed hand wrapped around her throat, tighter than any collar, and he slammed her against the black stone wall. Raising its other clawed hand, it hissed in glee. It swung the broken nails for her delicate face.