Into the Tunnels

One of the benefits of growing up as a ward of the tower was that Shan was privy to more of the tower’s secrets than most of the Norasburg faithful. The life of a Guiding Light and that of her Illuminated was about sacrificing their every moment for the good of their community. The population’s needs were unending and demanding which often resulted in Shan being left to pursue her own education, to follow her own curiosities.

The biggest source of curiosity being how the Guiding Light and her Illuminated seemed able to appear anywhere within the tower seemingly out of thin air.

“I appear where the Goddess wills it,” Light Amoren had answered her demand to know back when she was a child. The older Illuminated, at the time, had kept their answer to a single word: “magic.” The younger among the Illuminated just ignored or shushed her. Shan had found none of the answers given to her to be acceptable; since her teachers could not be relied upon for answers she would need to work it out on her own.

It had made no sense to the young Shan for the Goddess to take a hands-on approach to the whereabouts of Her Guiding Lights, let alone the Illuminated. The Guiding Lights were meant to be a stand-in for Her so Her attention could be elsewhere, personally moving them about would seem to negate their usefulness.

“Magic” was the answer you gave children you wanted to quiet; it was a dismissive answer. At least she had thought so until recently. Events of the past few weeks had changed her mind on that point.

There was a more mundane answer to the mysterious appearances by the tower’s elite.

It wasn’t easy for Shan to get to the bottom of the mystery. Light Amoren had proven to be much harder to watch than the child Shan had expected; the elder lady had proven more sly and slippery than she seemed on the surface. The younger of the Illuminated were less careful in their activities; their arrogance made them sloppy.

It was through careful observation of these women that Shan was introduced to the corridors and stairways hidden within the tower’s walls. The access-way that allowed the Light to move quickly and quietly within the tower; the “magic,” the Goddess’ will, the secret.

Shan had spent months exploring the hidden labyrinth of corridors within the tower before she had been caught by the Light. The Light’s response was gentler than Shan had expected. The older lady had seemed more amused than angry; the consequences handed out for Shan’s use of the tunnel system was to assign some of her time for use as a messenger within the tower. Instead of being forbidden from using the tunnels she found herself encouraged to use them more.

The tunnels were attached to each floor of the tower from the Light’s personal chambers at the top of the structure down to the archives buried beneath the baths. They allowed the user to circumvent the public stairs and the near-endless interruptions that accompanied their use. The secret tunnels were wide enough for two side-by-side which allowed for much more private conversations than the main corridors did.

The most curious aspect of the tunnels, to Shan’s view, were the numerous rooms and chambers that could only be accessed through the tunnels, including an almost entire floor in the tower. Underneath the tower there were numerous empty rooms of varying sizes, most of which looked like they hadn’t been visited in decades.

“Most of the rooms, the floors,” Shan explained to her companions, “are hidden behind doors that can be almost invisible to the eye.”

They had decided to limit their excursion into the tunnels to only two of the group: Craig and Abeth. In case the Lady sent for them, they couldn’t leave the chamber empty, it would draw attention to the hidden tunnels. They were hopeful that the tower’s undead population were unaware of the existence of the tunnels. The Lady seemed focused on Shan so she might not notice if a few of the others were gone. Craig and Abeth were the best choice; both professional and experienced soldiers who could be trusted to respond to any situations that arose.

“We have no idea if they know of the tunnels,” Shan continued. “They have had centuries to explore the tower so there is a good chance they are aware of them. Although most of the faithful at Norasburg are unaware of their existence. Still, watch your backs.”

“We’ll be careful,” Craig responded. He lit a torch at the chamber’s fireplace and handed it to Abeth, he lit another for himself. “We’ll split up to make things a bit faster. Do you want the upper levels or the lower?”

“I’ll go up,” Captain Abeth answered.

Craig nodded.

“Don’t engage,” Shan led them into one of the sleeping quarters. “We need to know where the necromancers are but we don’t want to give up our edge.”

“We’ll be like shadows,” Craig agreed, “unless we have no other recourse.”

Shan nodded, leaned against the wall and opened it like a door. The air was stale, the dust on the floor was undisturbed.

“We might have gotten lucky,” Craig nodded and stepped into the wall.

“Watch your step,” Shan told Abeth, “it can be easy to get turned around. There are no markers in the tunnels.”

“I will, Illuminance,” Abeth nodded. “Your directions are very detailed and clear. I don’t expect any difficulties.”

“Good luck, Captain Abeth,” Shan said as he stepped into the tunnels. She closed the door quietly behind him.


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