Pyrrho couldn’t get comfortable. The cell, of course, wasn’t built for comfort, but still the bed he’d remembered as a child had been more comfortable than this lumpy mess. Maybe he was just getting old. A distant thrum above his head implied the banquet was continuing unaffected by his plot. His father was probably back up there now, enjoying the limelight, celebrating his success in unlocking the Previous technology. Plotting his takeover of the rest of the lands. Designing his next set of experiments to get a handle of what the dark technology was truly capable of. Pyrrho shuddered, then briefly fidgeted to try and get the pain in his back to subside.
With discomfort, coupled with that ever present odd light from the walls, set to deny him any hope of sleep, Pyrrho replayed the events in his office back in his mind. He couldn’t decide whether his father had explained his plans to them in genuine expectation that they would willingly return to his service, or if it was more as a way to boast of his achievements, to rub their faces in what father saw as the error of his children’s ways. Perhaps it was just a simple case of megalomania as he had initially suspected.
The noise from above grew louder, the party must be picking up pace. Pyrrho sighed, thoughts now turned to his sister. Aesara had been led away by leering Drakhan in stunned silence. Knowing that the boy at the well who paid the price of her rage all those years ago had lived. More than that, knowing that he was her half brother. That would be too much to handle for even the most resolute warrior. Pyrrho wanted to be there for her now, a powerful sibling tie that he had thought broken all that time ago. He restlessly turned on the bed. The lump now digging into his side rather than back. Curious.
Pyrrho jumped off the bed and eyed the thin mattress suspiciously. Above him the raucous party began to bang and crash. Sounded like cutlery and pans banging together. The academics really can not handle their drink Pyrrho thought to himself. But his attention quickly returned to the bed, his hands pulling up the mattress. Nothing underneath on the hard ground. Made sense, too easy to check by the guards. But there was something sewn inside the mattress. Pyrrho began pulling at the seam, it took more effort than the slight man would care to admit, but after some exertion the seam popped and he could rip it open. He pulled out the rough wool stuffing, throwing it to the side. If the lump turned out to be nothing more than a dried pea then he’d be sleeping on the hard stone floor with not even the meagre comfort of an intact thin mattress. But it wasn’t a pea. It was a dagger.
It was his dagger.
He recognised the intricate design of the hilt, thin strips of leather wrapped in a tight pattern, the heel of the hilt studded in onyx. It had been with him for many years, until he had been forced to give it up at the Steed’s redoubt. Pyrrho frowned. No, not given up, rather given away. The frown turned into a smile.
Pyrrho was still sat among the innards of his mattress, knife in hand, a little while later when the footsteps began to approach. The bowels of the Previous dungeon-complex echoed sounds, and the approach of footsteps had been Pyrrho’s one advantage in his childhood. Gave him chance to feign sleep rather than risk another beating. More often gave him chance to hide whatever his latest construction designed to aide his escapes. This time it gave him the opportunity to conceal the knife in the waist of his trousers at the base of his back.
The lock in the door turned – no fancy Previous technology here, just retrofitted thick wooden construction. With the door swinging inwards, three Drakhan guards entered, all carrying knarled wooden cudgels. Time for a friendly beating thought Pyrrho sarcastically.
“What’s been goin’ on in ‘ere” the first asked surveying the torn mattress and wool strewn floor
“I was bored” Pyrrho replied
“Well we’re here to provide a bit ‘o entertainment” the second guard laughed at his own humour, slapping the cudgel into the palm of his other hand.
“Can’t wait” said Pyrrho, one hand slowly reaching behind him
“Time to get the show on the road then” said the third guard with a smile.
Pyrrho’s old friend aimed a vicious blow to the back of the head of the second guard, while Pyrrho leapt at the first. Front on attack was not Pyrrho’s preference, but the element of surprise was. Closing the Drakhan down quickly, he slipped inside the stunned man’s guard and slashed at his throat. The two Drakhan hit the floor almost simultaneously.
“Just like old times” Niv grinned
“Never thought I’d be this happy to see you again” Pyrrho reflected the broad smile “Big risk on your part though, saving little old me”
“Nah, this gig ain’t for me Pyrrho, way too much messed up stuff going on here. Time to split. Saving your sorry arse is just a bonus”
“Thought you liked messed up stuff”
“In the privacy of ma sleeping quarters maybe, but you should see the weird stuff that creep overlord gets up to”
“I am afraid that I can imagine it all too well” Pyrrho looked uneasy “ So how do we get out from here?”
“Out da front door” Niv had poked her head out of the door and into the corridor, checking.
“We never were a front door sort of an operation, Niv, you getting rusty?”
“Well Volk was never some renegade leader before either. What you been doin’ to im?” she turned back into the room, satisfied no more company was on the way she began searching the bodies on the cell floor for anything useful
“I don’t follow”
“That racket you can hear?” Niv cocked an ear to the ceiling, the commotion above was still clearly audible “that’s your man at arms leadin’ the rebellion”
“Rebellion?” Pyrrho listened. The cutlery and pans he thought he’d heard crashing together before could easily be swords and shields depending on the preconception you approached it with.
“Yeah, y’know that mercenary crew you turned up with? Well he’d been thrown in the slammer with them over in the west section. Locked up proper, armed Drakhan all around. Took ‘im less than a day to organise a mutiny. The Drakhan are having to draft in reinforcements from the main gate. So, like I said, we leave by the front door”
“We’re not leaving”
“Ah, you gonna start goin’ on about honour an’ that? Cos you know me Pyrrho, not my style. Much prefer stayin’ alive in disgrace than dyin’ a bloody hero” Niv looked up from her search of the second body, pocketing some coins as she did.
“Won’t be any living disgracefully unless we stop your overlord. I need to get to him”
“No way, he’s got his elite guard with ‘im all the bloody time. You don’t screw with those fella’s”
“What about his research, who guards that?”
Niv smiled “Your lookin’ at her?”
“None other, I lead one of the watches down there. Done pretty well for myself. Mind you, not like you ‘av to be super solider to progress through the idiot Drakhan”
“Take me to it”
“That is more difficult”
“Why?” Pyrrho urged
“We guard the outside, overlord and his boffin cronies go in through some fancy Previous door. It slides right out the ceiling. Well weird.”
“There’s got to be a way in. Back door maybe?”
“No, not even through the stores that run underneath the laboratory, I checked, always good to know the best hidey-holes, that’s me payin’ attention to your learnings right there” Niv looked pleased with herself.
“Yeah, its Elder kit mainly, the overlord is less interested in it now he has his Previous stuff to play with”
“What sort of kit?”
“Some writings, clothing, armour, no good weapons mind, as they’re over in the armoury”
“Anything else, anything we can use?”
“Don’t think so. There’s a lot of barrels down there gettin’ in the way”
“Barrels” a memory twigged deep in Pyrrho’s mind.
“Yeah, nothing good inside em though. I cracked one open a while back, hopin’ for a drop of booze. But na, just this black powder.”
Pyrrho smiled, the nugget of a memory sprouting into the warm glow of a devious plan. “Niv, there was a woman in the group we were captured with”
“Uh-huh, short, a bit dumpy?”
“A nice height and curved, but yes. Where is she being held?”
“Just down the hall, ready for interrogation, till Volk’s mischief interrupted”
“Good. And Aesara?”
“Big sis? She’s over the other side o’the complex, in the old cells”
Not great, but not insurmountable either “Ok” said Pyrrho, “First we go get Marcia, then you show us the stores, then I go get Aesara”
“You sure you don’t just wanna got out the front door?” a resigned Niv asked.
“We’ve never done it the easy way, no reason to start now” Pyrrho laughed. The two of them left the cell.
Marcia was waiting for them. Rather, more accurately, Marcia was waiting for them outside of her cell .
“About time Pyrrho. You getting sloppy in your old age or something? I’ve been waiting ages” Marcia greeted them
“What? How?” Pyrrho was again confused. He peaked into the cell, two Drakhan lay face down on the floor, snoring loudly.
“Security here is terrible. They’re all distracted by something going off over in the main section”
“I know. What did you do to these two?”
“Worked my charms as ever. That and a nice dose of your special brew that I smuggled in. So what’s the plan? Drakhan distracted, out the front door?”
“I like ‘er already” Niv gave Pyrrho a playful nudge
“And I am sure I would like you to, should your idiot of a companion ever care to introduce us” Marcia scolded
“Oh yes, Marcia, Niv. Niv, Marcia. Now can we get on with the plan please”
“What plan?” Marcia asked
“The plan that dun’t involve the front door” Niv complained.
“Stores. Boom. Aesara. Volk. Exit. Beer. Lots of beer” Pyrrho was getting more aware of the need to make progress while the Drakhan had their attention elsewhere.
“Sounds like fun” Marcia clapped her hands together.
“The last bit does, but if you gonna insist on the other bits, follow me” Niv set off at a trot down the corridor, leading the way to the stores.
It was like a rabbit warren. Occasionally Pyrrho would get sparks of memory from the certain way a corridor forked, or an odd looking door flashed by them as they maintained a brisk pace. All those years ago, this had been his domain, hours spent surveying the hallways and rooms during his frequent attempts at escape. Hours then spent in a windowless room being punished for trying to escape. He wanted to destroy it all.
Eventually they came to a wood and wrought iron double door. The guard post nearby was empty, all hands on deck above them as Volk’s insurrection refused to be put down. Niv produced a heavy looking key from inside her jacket and proceeded to open the doors. The room beyond them was cavernous. The eerie light from the Previous walls cast strange shadows among the racks of books and clothes stored there.
“Over here” Niv pushed on into the room, pointing towards the far corner.
They made their way through the narrow corridors created by the close packed rows of Elder materials. The racks then opened up into a wider space at the far side, filled with neatly arranged rows and columns of black powder filled barrels.
“Woah” exclaimed Marcia as they came to stand in the shadow of the mass of barrels.
“Indeed” said Pyrrho, as he ran a hand down a nearby wooden cask.
“What do we do with it all?” Marcia looked at him
“That’s where you come into it” replied Pyrrho “You’ve seen it being used close at hand, how do we make it do its thing?”
“Fire. But you don’t want to be close when the two substances meet”
“Can you set it up, get us a little time to get away, then bring it down?”
“I think so, but you sure this is how you want to do it?” Marcia looked unsure “You want to lose all the knowledge found here?”
“I don’t want to lose it. I just think it should be discovered more equitably. Not just the plaything of one man. One twisted man. Maybe if we all come at it more gradually then we won’t make the mistakes the Previous did”
“Ok. It will take me a little time to set up though. And a little help shifting these barrels around”
Pyrrho just looked at Niv
“Ahh, come on Pyrrho! I bust you out of jail and within ‘alf an hour you ‘av me riskin’ me neck in the middle of some Elder magics” Niv raised her arms in protest
Pyrrho kept on looking at Niv
“Oh altright. Geez. Ok”
“Excellent. I’ve got places to be” Pyrrho turned towards the exit
“Away from the boom” moaned Niv
“You going to get Aesara?” asked Marcia, look of concern on her face
“Common Pyrrho” said Niv “She’s all the way on the other side of the complex. Plus she can look after herself”
“She can” replied Pyrrho, his back to the two women “But I will not leave her to prove it alone. Not again” his head fell, then back up, look of determination in his eyes.
And also tears.