The Memoirs of Father Shiron

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Part 6 - Going Down

The party made their way up the main street retracing their route of the previous evening and in two shakes of a Parker pen were outside the ruins.  They spent time exploring the site which was not really that large.  The original building could not have been any bigger than a small size church and judging by the ramshackle remains it seemed to conform to recognised single story church type layouts.  With the march of time and weather most of the wooden beamed roof had long since fallen in and added to the rubble strewn around the floor.  Broken branches and leaves blown in by foul weather from the surrounding trees added to the ruined and forgotten effect.  The majority of the stone walls had also been reduced to a fraction of their former height with the exception of the area behind the altar.  Whether it had been built stronger than the rest of the church or had just fared better by chance, the walls still stood their full height and were covered by the only small remaining section of roof.
        The stone altar was weathered and unremarkable but the lectern, sheltered further under the roofed section had fared better and still had an open book upon it.  Presto tried to read the words on the brittle, faded parchment but they were totally indiscernible and when he tried to turn the page over it just disintegrated in this hand.  A few more crumbling pages latter revealed readable text written in the common tongue on more sturdy paper and showed the volume to be just an ordinary book of worship.
        As the party looked around, Shiron stood in the middle of the area between the altar and the lectern with an uneasy feeling building inside him.  This was a holy place and he was a cleric, trained in holy matters and sensitive to certain feelings and auras that others were not, in some ways similar to a dog's heightened sense of hearing and smell.  As soon as he had entered this part of the ruin he had noticed it; a strange air, an intangible atmosphere.  His left ear holding his holy symbol had given a twinge, a tingle, indicating a presence of some sort.  It made him feel cold and slightly uncomfortable.  It was a feeling he had never experienced before but he knew instinctively that it meant something was not right.  Feanar noticed the strange look on Shiron's face and came over.
        "What's up Shiron?  You look like something's bothering you."  Shiron paid no attention to Feanar and continued to stare into space.  "Shiron.  What's wrong?" asked Feanar again, this time grasping hold of Shiron's arm as he did so.  Shiron started and looked at Feanar in a distracted way as if he was totally unaware of his surroundings.
        "What.....?"
        "You were miles away Shiron, what's on your mind?"  continued Feanar.
        "There's something not right here,"  he answered in a hazy sort of way.  "I can feel the presence of something, something bad.  It's only faint but it's definitely here and seems to be centered around this area where I'm standing."
        Presto looked up from examining the book.  "I farted just now," he said with a boyish grin.  "It might be that."
        "For goodness sake Presto, don't be so bloody immature," retorted Feanar.  "If Shiron is catching some bad vibes then we must be on to something."  Turning back to Shiron he said, "Do you think this place is haunted?"
        Overhearing the conversation, Erendil came and joined them.  "If it is we're in trouble as ghosts are one of the more powerful undead creatures.  However I don't think the happenings described to us by Mr. Artois are the work of ghosts.  What do you think Shiron?"
        "It's definitely not a haunting.  Some other evil power has been or is at work here, I can feel it in my ear," he answered, rubbing his left ear lobe as he did so.
        "Let's concentrate our efforts in this area then," said Erendil adopting leader mode once again.
        They all looked around, more carefully this time, peeking, poking, prodding and probing everything.
        "I've had enough of this, we're getting nowhere.  There's nothing here!" exclaimed Dick shortly in a manner that suggested to everyone he was rapidly getting fed up.  Diligent, painstaking and patient searching was not his favourite activity as Dick was a direct physical action kind of guy.  Muttering to himself in annoyance, he rummaged in his pack for an apple and at the same time unsheathed his dagger so he could cut it up.  Concentrating on three things at once (muttering, an apple and a dagger) was obviously too much for Dick in his current state and he uncharacteristically fumbled his  dagger which dropped to the floor.  It hit the floor sturdy hilt first and Dick was in mid curse when Presto called for silence.
        "Did you hear that?  The floor sounds hollow.  Hit it again Dick."  Hitting things was much more to Dick's liking so he gladly bent down, picked up the dagger and dealt the floor a good solid blow with the hilt.  There was a faint but definite deep resounding noise like the sound of a church bell being rung far off in the distance.  Dick moved his attention to another bit of floor and banged hard again.  This time there was nothing but a dull knock on solid floor and the metallic ring of the dagger.  Presto got down on his hands and knees to peer closely at the floor with his keen elven eyes.
        "There's a fine crack here guys."  He traced the straight crack along until it turned at right angles and continued on in another perfectly straight line until it reached another perfect corner.  He continued tracing it with his finger until he was back at his starting point.  It made a perfect 3 feet square.  "I think we've got ourselves a secret trap door," he said standing up.
        "Excellent work you two," Erendil said, clapping both Dick and Presto on the back.  "Now we just need to find how to get it open."
        Noticing what appeared to be a small dent in the trap door near one edge, Falamir bent down to inspect it.  It was just about the size of the end of his finger so he naturally stuck his finger in it.  There was a small 'click' and a ring pull latch pivoted up next to it from a perfectly fitted recess in the stone door.  He looked up with a very pleased look on his face and said, "Err, would this be it by any chance?"
        "Well done lad", praised Dick whose mood was rapidly improving with the prospect of making some real progress.  "Stand back you lot, give me some room."  He bent down and gave the ring pull a heave.  The stone slab, half a foot thick, hinged upwards with a low grinding sound.  A rush of cold, dank and slightly salty air rushed out at them.  Shiron shivered, but not from the cold.  He looked down into blackness.  A steep flight of stone steps ran down into the darkness and disappeared from view.
        "It's coming from down there," he stated solemnly.
        "These have been used recently," observed Feanar, noticing that the steps were almost completely devoid of dust and dirt.  "This trap door is expertly crafted.  If it wasn't for Dick I doubt we would have found it."
        "Well you know my motto - 'If in doubt, hit it'," said Dick feeling quite pleased with himself.  "Are we going down then lads?"  They all looked at each other.
        "I'll stay here and keep guard," said Presto nervously, obviously not over keen to go down into such a cold, dark hole.
        "No, we must all stick together," said Erendil.  "As I said before, it causes problems if we split the party.  It also makes life hard for the DM, and if he's having a hard time then we get a hard time too."
        "The DM?" asked Falamir.  "Who's he?"
        "You'll find out soon enough," answered Erendil cryptically.
        "OK then, one in all in.  But I'm not going first, or last, and I want a torch," said Presto. 
        "Fine.  Break out the torches Dick."  Dick dug in his pack and produced a handful of oil impregnated cloth wrapped wooden torches along with a flint and steel.
        "Blimey that's a bit old fashioned innit?" exclaimed Falamir.  "Why don't you use battery ones?  I've got the latest Ever Ready high powered one with a fresh set of Duracells."
        "We like to hold with tradition and keep to the true theme of D&D," answered Erendil.  "But use your modern one if you like."
        "Thanks, I will."
        "So will I," added Shiron who also produced a very impressive shiny new Ever Ready torch from his pack.  Dick distributed the 'classic' torches round and lit them all.  They burned brightly with a smoky blue orange flame and gave off a slightly greasy smell along with a comforting amount of heat.
        "Everyone got a torch?  Good.  Down we go then gentlemen, after you Dick." said Erendil.  Dick turned to him.
        "Oh I see.  Not so keen to take the lead now it looks like it might be getting dangerous," he said with heavy scorn in his voice."
        "Nonsense," Erendil replied.  "I was just being courteous."
        "Yeah.  Right."
        "Also it makes good sense to have a big strong fighter at the front of the party, just in case.  And you are the biggest, strongest, most experienced fighter here after all Dick," he added with a smarmy smile.
        "Huh!" breathed Dick.  "Don't think flattery will get you anywhere.  Ok then let's  go."  Erendil didn't protest at Dick stealing his line as Dick began to descend the stairs, torch held out in front of him in an attempt to dispel the darkness waiting for him out of reach of the daylight filtering down through the trapdoor.  "Come on then you load of old women," he called as his head disappeared below floor level.
        They followed him down one at a time, Falamir picking up the rear and pulling the trapdoor shut as quietly as he could behind him.
        They descended for some twenty feet until Dick reached flat ground.  They all halted when they reached the bottom of the stairs and waited for their eyes to become accustomed to the dark.  It was cold, it was quiet and it was eerie.  When they could see as well as they were ever going to they set off down the only passage available; into darkness, into uncertainty and into December 8th.......       
                       

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Here endeth Part 6.
Don't miss the next episode 'Sounds of Silence'
It's here now.  Click on Next.

 

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Copyright John Angus Walker 1986, 2003.  All right reserved.