Escape Plan

Craig felt fairly certain they had explored the tunnels of the ruined tower as completely as anybody could. Their exploration might not have been one hundred percent complete but it had opened up an alternate way out. Under the tower, among the many chambers, there was a wide, seemingly forgotten, corridor that wormed under the ground and away from the tower.

Four people could fit comfortably side by side in the corridor. The corridor ran a relatively short way before it transformed into an equally wide staircase that led back to the surface. It had seemed to be that way, a journey up the stairs had quickly told a different story: a cave-in had blocked the way up to the surface.

Along with Thomas and Abeth, Craig had spent days digging out the rubble that blocked the stairway. It was a slow process, but they only needed to open up enough space for one person to get through. They could build supports as they went to keep their tunnels from collapsing in on themselves.

The stairs opened up within the ruins of the surrounding town, it was within the shadow of the walls that surrounded the tower grounds. Hidden behind half-broken buildings within the crust of a decayed warehouse, it would have allowed anyone housed in the underground rooms to come and go unnoticed. It would now provide an escape route from the tower. The archers that had stayed outside the walls were moved over to guard the now uncovered exit.

They were, as far as Craig was concerned, as prepared as they would ever be.

“The more time that passes, the more likely our hosts will discover the tunnels. We are in their homes, they could hear our activities at any moment. Catch us entering or exiting a hidden tunnel at any point. We shouldn’t delay much longer,” he voiced his opinion to Abeth as they returned from a visit with the archers. He kept his voice low, it was hard to judge how much sound carried in the recesses beneath the tower. There were times when you could hear distant footfalls as clear as a bell beside your ear and other times when it was a struggle to hear a voice right beside you. There seemed to be no consistency in how sound travelled in this underground.

“I agree,” Captain Abeth replied in equally hushed tones. They were all very careful about the level of noise they made while in the tunnels. There were no indications that the Lady or her minions, undead or living, knew of the tunnels’ existence but there was no reason to risk changing that.

“It’ll be nice to be away from the stench of decay,” Craig offered as they walked. “It has been too long since I’ve smelled anything else. Some clean fresh air will be a welcome change.”

Abeth gave a grunt that was noncommittal.

“I’ve seen where you come from,” Craig went on, “lush and green. Pure, clean running water. A veritable paradise. Surely there is something you miss. Something that calls you back.”

“I serve the Goddess,” Abeth replied. “I go where She pleases.”

“When she’s finished with you, come see me,” Craig shrugged. “There is always a place for a man of your skills and loyalty. Having you watching my back would be a comfort to myself and my family.”

They climbed the stairs hidden in the tower in silence. It was a trek they had taken many times. The route had been burned into their brains to the point that they could accomplish the journey in complete darkness.

Their return to their assigned quarters found their comrades waiting for them. Shan and Esther sat together on a couch, locked in a hushed conversation. Thomas stood on the balcony that overlooked the entry court of the tower’s grounds. Behind the large man the sky had begun to turn orange as the day drew to a close.

“I don’t know about the rest of you,” Craig offered as greeting, “but I am ready to leave. Just give the word, Shan.” He settled himself comfortably onto an empty sofa.

Abeth quietly leaned his back against the chamber’s door.

“I am ready to return to the forest as well,” the deep voice that belonged to Thomas came from the balcony. The large man had moved to the balcony’s doorway.

“I am tired of being called to meet with the Lady,” Shan spoke, “multiple times a day. I have learned all that I can from her rambling, bragging rants full of hate, spite, and anger. How soon can we do it?”

“Just give the word,” Craig replied.

“Let’s do this tonight,” Shan decided. “Remove the necromancers and get out of this wasteland.”

“Abeth and I will handle the necromancers,” Craig instructed. “We’ll meet you at the exit. Thomas, guide Esther and Shan to where the archers wait. We’ll meet you there once we are done. If we don’t arrive shortly after you… leave. Get home. Let people know what’s happening. Get patrols set up to keep new necromancers from making the journey here. Cutting off her supply of assistants has to be out priority.”

They all nodded their agreement.

“Let’s go,” Craig looked over to Abeth. The two men moved toward the chamber’s hidden door.


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