Tales From a Thousand Worlds

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Rats in the City – Part Four

DPB_Rats in the City

Rats in the City

Part Four – Depths Unknown

The tunnel proved both tight and cramped, so much so that Blade could barely lift his head. He was forced to drag himself along with his elbows and push with his feet. The tunnel cut through the stone wall but then plunged into earth, which seemed odd to Blade, as they were at the same level as the bricked in door, and nor where they going downwards, at least not at first. Perhaps, he pondered, the lower level of the tower had become buried, which explained the door.

The earth had a damp feel to it, and all around hung the strong smell of rodents, causing him to hold his breath as much as he could, for to breathe in the stench unsettled his stomach. If there were rodents large enough to fit in the tunnels then he did not relish meeting any, not in those cramped confines with no means of defending himself.

“Keep moving,” Peregrine barked at him from behind. “I can hear some of them in the chamber back there and it appears they are following us into the tunnel.”

Blade attempted to increase the speed of his crawl, only to find the tunnel dropped abruptly down a steep decline. He almost tumbled down it, catching himself at the last moment. Forcing himself over the tight bend, he began to slide down, feeling the damp earth being rubbed into his once fine clothes and collecting in his boots. A sour look crossed his face. He did not doubt that the whole outfit was ruined, and it had cost a pretty coin to purchase, and not a few unpretty ones as well.

The slide came to a stop after a few metres, and he could see that they had come out into what looked like an old cellar, one supported by stone pillars and buttresses. Rising back up to his feet, he began brushing the dirt from his clothes as best he could, while the orb bobbled unsteadily along, showing him the full extent of the room. Peregrine slid to a halt behind him and clambered to her feet.

“Where are we?” she asked, looking out over the room.

“I do not exactly know,” Blade told her. “The cellar of some old building, I’d hazard, perhaps related to the tower we came in through. Possibly the forgotten room of a building that no exists no longer, given that the sprawl above is ramshackle and of wooden construction.”

The light of the orb cast flickering illumination, and in it they saw that the cellar was rather large, but by the mounds of refuse, and the overpowering smell, not entirely unoccupied. Beady little eyes reflected the bronzed light, and the scampering of feet and tiny squeaks announced that there were rats in it. Blade shuddered at the thought of the filthy creatures, and what exactly he had slid through.

Peregrine, unmindful of such matters, stomped off ahead. “Come, let us see if we can’t find another way out of this place.”

Blade followed after her, keeping close at hand. The experiences of the night were doing a reasonable job of sobering him up, but they also left him wanting to drink more to forget them.

Across the way, they found a set of worn steps that led up form the cellar. Peregrine peered up them, only to grunt. “Bricked in as well,” she announced, her eyes narrowing. She turned back towards the entrance hole. “They won’t be in a hurry to come through”, she said. “Then again, I won’t be in a hurry to climb out either.”

“They can always wait us out until we starve,” Peregrine pointed out.

“There is always roast rat,” Peregrine replied. She grinned but Blade could tell she was in part serious as well. He paled at the thought.

“Nothing to drink either,” he added.

“There is that,” she admitted. “Have a look a round and see if you can find us anything of use.”

Blade nodded and started out to explore the rest of the room. Rats scampered away at his approach, big rats, though not so large as they would fill the entrance tunnel. Great mounds of refuse filled the room, piled up against the walls, containing a mix of old bones, rotting cloth and all manner of other filth and detritus. Blade did not want to touch them or even think about them. About halfway around the circuit of the room, he stopped. There was another tunnel there, this one larger than the one they had come in through.

“I’ve found us a way out,” he called out. “Or at least a way further in.”

“Get going then,” Peregrine told him. She began to back away, across to where he stood. “We can’t stay here.”

Grumbling to himself, Blade ducked into it. This time at least he could crawl on hands and knees. Shuffling along, he heard Peregrine enter the tunnel behind him. Once more they plunged on into the unknown depths.


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