Avalon 2.11: Deep Underground

            There are children underground, frightened children buried deep, with only ghouls to guard them and keep them company.  Outside there are fathers and travelers determined to set them free.  It would be a fool’s errand to enter that dark warren of underground passages and caverns blindly, but even underground the travelers have power and resources to help.

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            When the company of men arrived in the city of Abydos, they found most of the houses closed up and the people afraid to come out.  There were only a few priests who had the courage to face the group.  They stepped up to Decker because he was out front with Elder Stow, leading the way.  They bowed deeply to the Gott-Druk and called him “Elder” before they turned to speak to Captain Decker.

            “Nubian,” The priest called him.  “Now that you have driven out the army of Lord Seth, we are constrained to ask how we may serve you.”  Several of the priests looked to the dock on the river where three boats were headed out into the current.

            “A couple of RPGs would finish the job,” Decker said.

            “Lincoln,’ Elder Stow called.

            “Me?”  Lincoln stepped up, pushed in part by his wife, Alexis.

            “You are in charge after Lockhart,” Captain Decker reminded him.

            “Oh, yeah.”  Lincoln stepped up to the priest.  “We are only here for the children.  These men you see are their fathers.”

            “And maybe kill a few Ghouls in the process,” Captain Decker added.

            “You are priests?” Alexis asked.

            “We serve Osiris in the land of the dead,” the priest responded with a bow of his head.

            “Very good,” Lincoln said.  “Allow us to collect the children and we will be on our way.”

            The Priest bowed again.  “This way,” he said, and he took them to what looked like a solid wall in the ridge beside the city. 

            “The entrance is here,” Elder stow said, “Though it does not appear that way.”

            Roland stepped up and examined the wall.  He slipped his hand through it.  “An illusion.”

            “And probably guarded,” Decker said.  He stepped in front of the illusion and fired a whole clip into the cave before he, Lincoln and Roland ran in.  They found two green smudges on the floor that had once been ghouls.  Outside, Alexis took Boston’s hand for the additional magic and waved her wand over the entrance.  The illusion dissipated and the Priests looked as impressed as the men who followed.

            “Slow and careful,” Lincoln said.  “No point in staying quiet.”  He stared at Decker who did not flinch.  As far as he was concerned, he was doing his job of delivering everyone back to the twenty-first century, alive.  Lincoln continued and raised his voice.  “No running ahead.  There are probably traps.  There are eight more ghouls as well.”  He looked at Elder Stow.  “I don’t suppose you can pinpoint their position.” 

            Elder Stow shook his head, but he projected a holograph showing the inside of the caves in all their twists and turns.  “The children are captive here,” he pointed to a large chamber not far from the surface.  The map lit up yellow in that place.  “The obvious route is this.”  He lit up the direct route in green.  “My counsel is to leave men here to hold the entrance and journey this way.”  An orange route lit up that was a bit longer, but went around two chambers where he and Decker agreed there would likely be the most resistance.

            “Dungeons and Dragons,” Boston quipped.

            “Labyrinth,” Alexis countered.

            “That is the plan,” Lincoln agreed, and he and Decker spent the next few minutes dividing the men and finding places where they could hide.  The rest of the men followed the group down Elder’s Stow’s route.  They tried to keep quiet, but that was not really possible.  They did well at first, but half-way there was a flash of white light and another green smudge, which meant the ghouls knew the way they were headed.

            “Divide,” Lincoln looked quickly at Elder Stow’s map.  “The main body continue on here and expect resistance.  Captain Decker, take Alexis, Boston and Roland through this narrow cut-off.  With luck, you should reach the children with no trouble.”

            “Except for the guards where the children are,” Decker registered his protest, but agreed.  He asked Roland if he wanted to lead.  Roland shook his head.

            “I could lead you perfectly through a labyrinth of trees, but underground.”  He shrugged.

            “Alright.  Women in the middle,” and they literally squeezed through the narrow places.  Once they were in a position to look down on the children, they found three ghouls hovering around the children where they could not be easily taken out simultaneously without risking injury to a child.  Roland and Captain Decker appeared stymied until Alexis made a suggestion.

            “Why don’t we pull a ghoul?’ she asked.  The others did not understand until she grabbed Boston’s hand and had Roland take Boston’s other hand to add their magic once more to hers.  Suddenly there were sounds down the far corridor.  It was gunshots and the sound of men screaming. 

            The ghouls were all attracted to the sound.  They got up and all went to the door where they looked to take up defensive positions, but of course their backs were wide open to the room.  Dekcer opened up his weapon and sprayed the walls.  The children screamed.  The Ghouls screamed at a much higher pitch.  It sounded like steam escaping from a small break in a pipe, but soon there were three more green smudges on the ground where the Ghouls used to be.  When they tumbled through that last opening into the chamber that held the children, they were mobbed by crying kids.  Maybe they did not know who these people were, but they were human.

            “Nidjau?” Alexis called out and a boy, maybe four came toddling up.  “Your brother Emotep?”  The boy nodded and Alexis waded through the children to hug him.  “We came with him to save you,” she said, and he cried on her shoulder as she hugged him.

            Captain Decker backed away from one opening as Lincoln and Elder Stow came in.  They had heard the gunfire echoing through the corridors, but it was distant and they had no idea what was happening.  Alexis was worried, but when Lincoln came in he reached around Nidjau to hug his wife.

            Roland kept watch on the other opening, the one that lead deeper into the caves while Boston corralled the children.  She clapped her hands in good teacher fashion and yelled, “Children.  Follow your fathers.  You can hug when we get back to the surface.”  They began to move.  Of course, fathers and children sought each other out all the way back to the surface, but that was to be expected.  As long as their feet kept moving.

            “How many did you get?” Lincoln asked Decker once they were free of the cave.

            “Three,” Decker admitted.

            “And we got three with only three casualties.”  The men who were carrying the bodies back to the surface passed by.  The priests of Osiris who were still standing there, watching and waiting, took the dead for the proper rituals.  Lincoln finished his thought.  “That means there is still one more down there.”

            “Or out there,” Decker nodded. 

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Avalon 2.11:  Deeper Underground … Next Time

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