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THE HOUR AFTER MIDNIGHT
Chapter IV:The Rats In The Walls
Raffy & Pieter
Moving very slowly, the guard who did not have Raffy’s sword to his neck unlocked the smaller door within the gate, shaking his head.
“You don’t know how much trouble you’re in. Trust me, things’ll go easier for you if you drop this, lad.”
On the other side, the paved courtyard before the keep was visible, dusted with white patches of snow in the darkness. The black outline of the curtain wall rose all around it, the motley construction of the old keep itself gleaming at random intervals with the odd window that was lit from within...
"Elf's down in the old dungeon," said the guard under question. "Under the Lanthorn tower." Seeing his captor was not familiar with the castle layout, he nodded in the direction of the courtyard. "Little door on the left."
Manoeuvering their captives awkwardly through the narrow doorway, the two stepped out onto the other side - briskly frog-marching their captives across to the door in question, they hurried across the expanse of open space as quickly as they could, the falling snow cutting the night's visibility down to a blessed minimum.
The door itself was locked - reaching hesitantly to his belt, one of the captive guards produced a ring of keys, holding it out in the hope that one of the madmen would use it rather than him.
On the other side was a dark corridor with walls of bare stone - at its end, a spiral staircase wound both upwards and downwards, a thick, scarred wooden door with iron supports standing in the wall to its side. By the age of the timbers and the general architecture, this was clearly one of the older parts of the castle.
Stumbling over the threshold, the guard looked fearfully around - from just behind the doorway and to the left, there was a loud, startled snort, as of a man waking from sleep. A stool clattered against the stone floor, and a dark figure stood up, peering around the doorway with a bleary air.
"Hello?" said the door guard, peering at the guard on his side of the threshold and then out into the night. "Who's - Sigmar's blood!"
Follows along and will move past the startled guard if he doesn't cause trouble, free pistol trained on him.
"Do you have the keys to her cell? She has something we want," he whispers to the guard he holds. He hasn't yet stated they're actually freeing her, and intends to leave them some sense of hope that they won't.
In real life I quit my job and left my home to become a professional adventurer. The Great Adventure
Stepping back, the third guard's hand went to the pommel of his sword - stopping there as the barrel of Raffy's pistol swung round to bear.
"No cell keys here, mister," he said quietly, his face difficult to make out in the darkness. "Only a couple of sets of them." Glancing sideways at Raffy's captive, he muttered under his breath:
"Gods damn it, Rudi, you really are a useless excuse for a guard."
Looking back to Raffy, he stepped back again, putting his back against the wall. His hand did not move from the handle of his weapon.
Leaving the third guard standing in the gloom behind them, the two made their way to the staircase, herding their hostages behind them: from higher up in the tower, they could hear the faint echoes of voices stirred by the guard's call. They would not have long.
Down, down, feet pounding on stone steps that had been worn concave by countless feet: there were torches on the walls, but most of them were unlit, leaving the stairwell in darkness. Their hostages behaved for now, but Pieter had the feeling that had they been armed with something less instantaneously deadly than Raffy's guns, the guards would already have turned on them.
Coming to the bottom of the stair, they found themselves in a long stone hallway - through an archway on the left, Jagrun's old interrogation room was visible, its nightmarish ironmonger's-shop of jagged implements still dangling from their chains. Up ahead, the corridor turned sharply through ninety degrees - set into the wall at the corner, a large, arched pair of wooden double doors were visible, iron struts running out from their hinges to support their weight. A lit lantern hung on the wall beside them, shedding its yellow light through the gloom.
Raising his arm, one of the hostages pointed mutely at the doors...
”Whatever you say,” said the guard, with a fatalistic air. Shuffling forwards, he pushed the doors open.
On the other side was a poky strip of space between two walls pierced with barred cell doors: in its centre, two wooden chairs and a tiny, crude table rested. Standing in front of one of them, a man wearing the white ribbon of the Hounds was facing them, a loaded crossbow aimed in their direction: behind him was Lothar, simply staring. By the light of their lantern, Raffy could just make out the pale oval of Illiiya’s face looking back from the darkness of the cell which the chairs faced...
OOC: Together again! Consolidate spoilers.
Lothar & Illiiya
It had been perhaps an hour since the priest’s departure when Lothar found himself jolted from his dozing once more – his bleary brain laboriously parsing the stimulus that had startled him, he realised it had been a shout, from somewhere up above. The stone floors and walls of the dungeon had muffled it to almost nothing, but it had still just been audible.
The Hound had evidently heard it too – shooting Illiiya a wary glance, he stood up, picking up his crossbow. For a long minute, there was silence – then, footsteps became audible in the hallway outside, low voices coming closer from the direction of the north stairwell.
Footsteps approached, and there was a hammering on the doors that led to the cells, and then Pieter’s voice sounded out, calling Illiiya’s name:
“Illiiya! Can you hear me?”
The Hound raised his crossbow to aim it at the doors: the handle rattled, and they swung open. Beyond them, by the dim lamplight, four figures were visible: two unarmed men in the uniforms of the Guard, and behind them, the unmistakeable outlines of Raffy and Pieter. With Raffy’s blunderbuss and Jagrun’s pistols, they seemed to be holding the guards hostage...
OOC: Together again - how exciting. Consolidate spoilers from here on.