The Tunnel Search

The thing that stuck out most in Craig’s mind was the dust. Every surface in the tunnel system seemed almost buried under a thick layer of the stuff. It made it easy to see that the passage wasn’t in use and probably hadn’t been for a while. The thick layer of dust also muffled the sound of their footfalls; Abeth had disappeared into the upper reaches of the tower, the sounds of his movements had vanished almost as quickly.

Craig placed his feet carefully as he moved through the hidden corridor. His trip was longer than Abeth’s, their assigned chamber was up a few floors in the tower; closer to the upper rooms the necromancers might be using than those beneath the ground. He resisted the urge toward haste, there was no telling how easy sound might travel in the confined space. There was no need to move recklessly, kick up a cloud of dust and end up coughing, sneezing and choking on it. Patience seemed the better instinct.

At this point there wasn’t a rush. Verify the necromancers’ existence, report back their location. Simple.

The quest combined with the enclosed space made his breathing seem deafening. Craig focused a small portion of concentration on maintaining an easy, gentle rhythm to it. He doubted it was all that loud but a little precaution could go a long way.

It was the same reason he had chosen not to light any of the torches he had passed on his journey. He didn’t want to take the chance that the smoke from the burning torches might be detected within the tower, no matter how slim a chance it might be. His head told him there was no danger but caution was needed to accomplish his goal so the flickering light from his single torch would be his only guide as he searched for the hidden doors he had been told were there.

Shan had been very exacting with her directions for finding the doors. In Shan’s opinion there was no need to check any floor they were allowed on normally. If they were anywhere in the lower tower it would be after the baths but before the archives. There were two floors of rooms prior to the archives which took up the final four floors.

The final floors you could get to through the tower’s main passage. There was an additional floor beneath the archives that was only accessible through the hidden corridor. If the floor was as undisturbed beneath the tower as it has been so far through his journey there would be no point in even considering checking the lowest level. He’d know soon enough.

The floors assigned as living quarters were all laid out the same. The main corridor circled around a central core, there was a sitting room set inside the centre of the circular corridor with five identical suites along the outside ring. The secret tunnel ran along the outside of the tower, a lot of sloping and stairs were employed to keep the tunnel system weaving around the outward looking balcony.

Each of the suites consisted of a large central chamber that broke off into eight bedrooms. A large balcony that opened above the tower grounds was attached to the main chamber, the sleeping chambers were evenly divided on either side of the short hallway that connected the living chamber to the balcony. Across from the balcony was the door that led to the public corridor and central sitting room. Each suite was connected to its neighbours through a tiny hall hidden on both ends by wall-like doors.

In theory, Craig would be able to enter one suite and quietly circle through the other four as he checked for occupation.

He stopped his walk down the tunnel, he had arrived at the first level of rooms. Or close to it as best as he could determine. It took a bit of time but he managed to find the door’s handle, it was remarkably camouflaged, barely a recess the size of a hand in the stone. The door was designed to open into the tunnel, it allowed for there to be no handle on the inside surface. The door’s weight would slowly close it if left unattended.

Craig replaced the unlit torch in a nearby sconce with his. He would need his hands free when he entered the chambers. There was no way to predict what he would be walking into. He loosened his sword in its sheath and stepped up to the door. He held his breath and listened for any hint of sound beyond the door. Everything seemed quiet.

He pulled on the door and felt it rotate open, the motion smooth and silent. He quickly slipped into the room, his hand dropped to his sword’s hilt. The room was dark but empty. Craig glided through the central room and moved toward the adjoining hall. He moved through the other suites one after another. There was no sign of any life on this floor.

The next floor would go faster, Craig thought. He had the layout down, the doors would be easy to find.

He returned to the hidden tunnel and retrieved his lit torch. He followed the passageway down one more level and prepared to repeat the process. The archives started on the floor beneath him. If these quarters were empty he would make a quick check of the archives before he headed to the lowest level.

He didn’t need to worry.

The bed chamber he entered into showed no sign of habitation. He was about to enter the suite’s common area when he heard the muffled sounds of movement beyond the door. He waited at the door and listened until the mumbling conversation reached his ears, too quiet to make out individual words or phrases but definitely had the rhythm of a conversation.

He opened the door a crack and peeked into the larger room. There were three men sitting together engaged in conversation. This was where the tower’s other living guests were homed. He closed the door and slipped back into the tunnel.

It was time to report back to the others.


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