Trumps of Winter

40 - The Soothsayer’s Fate

The pursuit of the Idiot's runecaster leads underground.

While they wait for the guide to be collected, the bogatyrs prepare to enter the sewers; Anfisa armors Kostya, while Gennadiy changes out of his fine clothing into something more expendable. They return to Huntmaster Koden in the Lazy Trout, where he gives them a pair of healing potions for the conflict. He tells them that if they want to bring Kostya through the sewers, they’ll need a larger entrance, and directs them to a guard post by a proper entry.

They head to the post and move into the sewers to meet their guide. Kazimeer conjures a cluster of small orbiting lights, which reflect in a pair of eyes low to the ground. A female goblin emerges, dressed in sewer-appropriate light armor with a long knife at her hip. She introduces herself as Reeki Slithergrub, and confirms that they’re the group “delivering the mayhem.” Reeki is immediately wary of the massive night bear, but she also recognizes Gennadiy and tells him she read his book.

“Ah!” says Gena. “Which one?”

Reeki’s eyes widen. “There are more?”

The goblin guides the bogatyrs to a section of sewer that Mika recognizes, and from there to Wotanfel’s audience room. As they draw near, they see the door to the room half-open, with a backlit figure looking out. The figure steps back, letting the door fall shut — but Anfisa and Kostya are already in motion. The two knock open the door before he can close it, charging into the room as Mika sends a lance into the guard’s shoulder.

The now-wounded guard — the same masked man who blocked Gennadiy outside the Honey-Apple’s cellar — brings his halberd to bear as the group pushes into the room. Along with the guard, a skinny woman in the garb of a Honey-Apple courtesan draws a pair of long knives and moves into battle. The guard calls out strange words as he attempts to fend off Anfisa and Kostya, and the cage-wrought brazier in the room explodes, a whirling fire elemental expanding out of the flame.

Anfisa cuts into the elemental with her enchanted swords, dimming its flame — but it retaliates with a cyclonic inferno strike to her chest that nearly ends her life. As the Volyar huntress staggers back, Mika flashes through old dreams from nights before, foretelling this moment. She calls on the power of Namaluk to heal the most grievous burns before Anfisa can fall.

Kazimeer sends sorcery through the doorway, and Kostya pulls the halberdier down and finishes him. Anfisa vents revenge on the elemental, dispersing it with another saber slice to its core. Gennadiy shouts “Where’s the dwarf?” as he smashes his shield into the knife-wielding woman’s skull, knocking her unconscious.

Gena secures the prisoner and calls to Reeki that the enemies are secured. He then moves to examine the rune-graven door while Anfisa tends to her wounds. Kazimeer joins Gena at the door, and recalling a book on dwarven rune magic, picks out the shield and clamor runes as the core of a magical trap. The book described using a compound word fusing the activated runes as the password, and Kazimeer correctly settles on brangedan, a dwarven word for falling down stairs.

The trap disarmed, they open the door and enter what is clearly Wotanfel’s quarters. The room shows signs of hasty departure, and the other exit has odd scuff marks around the frame, as if something large and stone had squeezed through it. Reeki finds a black hair on the bust standing near the bed; apparently the seer packed his wig along with a change of clothes.

The goblin heads back to notify the guards, and the bogatyrs pursue Wotanfel. They follow the passage, complete with continuing scuff marks, to a large cylindrical chamber with a walkway around a circular pit, with other sluices and passages converging on the chamber. A massive iron hatch 15 feet in diameter is set into one wall, itself marked with arcane runes around a central boss; the relief of a unicorn skull hints at the hatch’s creators. A lantern set on the floor illuminates Wotanfel, holding a sheaf of notes and incanting to the hatch. A pale-haired bugbear in thick bronze armor stands watch next to him.

Wotanfel glances over his shoulder as the bogatyrs spread out. “I will not be a prisoner!” he shouts, and hurls a runic bolt with his free hand that strikes Gennadiy. Anfisa and Kostya lunge around the left side of the pit, and Anfisa strikes the bugbear with one of the lignifying arrows given to her by Road-Warden Yosian. Roots sprout out from the massive goblin’s feet, burrowing into the stone and locking him in place.

Gena charges around the right side of the pit, and a stone fist swings out of the passage. An eight-foot stone construct, graven with dwarven runes, steps out to block his path. At the same time, an elven archer appears in an upper sluice, fifteen feet above the walkway, and looses an arrow at Anfisa as the rooted bugbear hurls a rock in frustration. Kazimeer and Mika stay back, peppering the enemies with spells.

Kostya stands and places his forepaws against the wall, and Anfisa runs up the ramp he’s formed and leaps into the sluice after the elf. Mika draws on the Lich Queen’s power and reaches out with a ghostly hand of death. Wotanfel staggers as the greater portion of his life is stolen from him, and he’s too weak to resist when Kazimeer pronounces a sleep spell. The seer collapses, unconscious, and the bugbear rocks back, kept on his feet by the roots and nothing more.

Gennadiy dashes past the golem, pulls out some rope, and starts binding the dwarf. The golem pursues him and smashes into him with a stone fist, but Gena persists. Kostya turns to the bugbear and pins him down while Anfisa makes short work of the archer.

The golem hammers Gennadiy again, and it’s all the bogatyr can do to stay conscious and keep binding Wotanfel. The dwarf snaps back awake, but his hands are already trussed. Mika throws another invocation at Wotanfel, but the seer writhes out of its way a moment before the spell is completed — his death foretold and averted. But it’s a trick that works only once. Kazimeer visits him with a pulse of psychic damage, and the dwarf falls unconscious again.

Anfisa leaps back down from the upper sluice and strikes at the golem. Kostya slams into the bugbear as it wakes, and the furious goblinkin throws aside its shield, grips its mace in two hands, and smashes the bear in return.

Before the golem can finish Gennadiy off, Mika sends one of the Queen’s Needles into the central rune still powering its battered stone form. While the stone is still frost-coated, Kazimeer strikes the same rune with a firebolt, blasting a hole through the golem’s torso. It crumbles apart, sending chunks of rune-graven rubble in all directions. The bugbear falls shortly after. The bogatyrs take up Wotanfel’s staff and his satchel of goods, lift their captive onto Kostya’s back, and return to the surface.

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