The Chronicles of 'Team B' - Chapter 9 - Seeking Support of Church and State
Armed with new information courtesy of Berke, the companions return to the Nart Quarter as the sun sinks in the west. Tonight, they will hold a vigil in the cemetery of the large Irii Church that dominates the Quarter, as it is here that all of Udyn's Gaalites are buried, and here that unclean creatures come in the dark hour. If they succeed in driving the darkness back, perhaps Hegumen Mitrofan, and the other Fathers will see fit to support their efforts to free Yuri's family, both materially and spiritually. As they arrive at the cemetery, the night watchman is just closing up the gate. He is frightened, and tells the group that undead nezhit' come up out of the ground at night, notwithstanding the fact that the cemetery is hallowed ground. They have already scared off some local adolescents who undertook to watch the graveyard, and caused a dog that had come with them to go rigid for hours after grabbing it with their claws. Agapia, Lokan and Yuri enter the cemetery, and begin to search for a place where the nezhit' might emerge from. There are some recent burials, but no signs of where such creatures may emerge from out of the ground. There is a a sacred spring at the center of the graveyard that Agapia knows about - it is dedicated to Saint Pachomii of Udyn - a Bahite who converted to the True Confession, and was martyred by the Kochmaki on that very spot. The spring erupts from a rock, and empties into a font that the faithful built around it. Lokan looks longingly at the coins they threw in the font to win the saint's favor, but Yuri shoots him a dirty look, and dissuades him from fishing any of them out of the sacred water. Figuring this for a strategic and defensible spot, Agapia and Lokan set up a triangular tripwire using rope, wire and grave markers around the font, and begin filling a waterskin and Agapia's small cauldron with holy water. Yuri uses the opportunity to slip out, back to the Noriki monastery, to retrieve his horse Vera, and to see if there is any sign of Alden. Vera is there, stabled by the Hegumen's people, but Alden seems to have gone out on the town with his friend Fedor, and has not yet returned. Yuri rides Vera back to the cemetery, and the trio begin their watch. Hours pass, but after the call for the nightly prayer from the minarets in the main city, which Agapia knows marks the midnight hour, the sound of a moving stone slab, buried somewhere under dirt, alerts the watchers that something is coming. Soon, two shapes dressed in rags approach the font, shambling and groaning. Their faces are deathly pale and covered with dirt and fresh blood, which is running down their chins. As they come closer, a groan goes up from somewhere behind the companions. The doughty men of action - Yuri and Lokan - have seen enough, and both head toward the gate, Yuri astride Vera. Little Agapia is left alone to face the two fiends, perhaps not realizing why she should fear them. She positions herself to squirt one of them with holy water, expecting this to drive them off. But in response, the creature emits a wheezy laugh through its groan, deliberately steps over the tripwire, dips its hand in the font, and sprays Agapia with the water. Then it grabs her cauldron, which she left undefended. Realizing that their friend is in trouble, Lokan masters his fear, and returns, succeeding in cracking one of the fiends painfully with his whip. Yuri rides back, too, but one of the creatures rips him with its claws, and he goes rigid. Only because he is an expert rider does he manage to remain mounted as Vera retreats once again. The other fiend claws at Agapia, and gets tangled in her thick fleece. It is then that Agapia sees that its talon glints in the moonlight, and that it is not a claw at all, but a dagger! She flings her own dagger at the creature, and buries it in its rags. At this point, both creatures turn and flee, no longer shambling, but running nimbly back in the direction they came from. They are able to outdistance even the similarly nimble Lokan, and disappear into the darkness. The stone slab grinds back into place. Yuri is still frozen on Vera, but he indicates through his teeth that his two companions should follow the creatures without him. It would be good to know where they went, and to learn why they came. Worst of all, they have borne away Agapia's knife and cauldron full of holy water. After struggling, Lokan finally succeeds in moving the stone slab. Underneath, he finds a set of stairs. Shrugging, he and Agapia descend into the darkness. At the bottom of the stone stairs, a tunnel leads away, turning right and left. Lokan pursues in the darkness, with Agapia lagging far behind. Agapia soon finds herself peering at two glowing, yellow eyes, but they soon move away. She tries to move forward, feeling the wall, but after a time, she feels Lokan's hand on her shoulder. After turning two corners, Lokan saw a light off in the distance, but it moved away very quickly, and he found that he could not catch up. He returned to Agapia, and the two now ascend back to the cemetery. After finding Yuri, they lead Vera back to the monastery. Lokan's ministrations to Yuri are in vain, and when they get back, they find an empty cell, lay Yuri down carefully, and collapse. The following morning Yuri is groggy, but finally mobile. Hegumen Mitrofan ministers to him, and he feels better, after which the hegumen questions the companions about their nightly escapades. The monk asks if Lokan remembers which direction the long tunnel was leading, and the vagabond answers that he is quite certain that it led east. That means that the tunnel and the grave robbers went back into the main city, and now, they will be hard to find. The companions entertain the notion of trying to seek them out, and to learn why they are stealing holy water, but the hegumen points out that if they get into a conflict with Bahites, he will be hard-pressed to support them. He surmises that now that they know the cemetery is guarded they won't be back, at least not right away. He will undertake a collection among the faithful to support the watchers. The companions decide that their time is best spend seeking out the emissary of the Grand Prince, to learn what, if anything, he knows about the captives. Agapia leads them to the mansion of Georgii Nikonov, a boyar and fur merchant who resides in the Nart Quarter. Once there, Yuri explains to armed guards that he has heard an emissary of Grand Prince Vasilii is staying in the mansion, that he himself hails from the village that was raided by the Kochmaki, and that he wishes to speak to the emissary about the raid and the captives. The guards convey the message, and tell Yuri and the others to wait until the emissary is ready to see them. While they wait at the bottom of the stair, a robed, turbaned and bearded man with a yellow armband that strikes Agapia's eye descends down the stair. He is Yaakov - a Fogarma physician, who was summoned here to attend to the emissary. The companions are then called up, to see his patient - pale, lying on a bench, with leeches on his arms and legs. His name is Zinovii Surikov, and he listens carefully to Yuri's tale, and his request to be granted the Grand Prince's protection so they can openly bear weapons and act on his behalf. Zinovii explains that he is actually in town to learn the truth of the matter behind the raid. He knows that subjects of the Prince Trofim of Ladeisk - Yuri's suzerain lord - probably suspect Vasilii's connivance in the raid, but he assures them that this is not the case. The physician returns to the mansion to remove the leeches. Zinovii orders the servants to bring food, while Yuri and Lokan entertain all those assembled with music. At the end, Zinovii tells them if they learn the true reasons behind the raid - from the slavers on the island, the raiders still camped outside town, or Udyn's rulers - he will know he can trust them, and will extend the Grand Prince's patronage to them. Yaakov expresses a desire to accompany them, for reasons that are as yet unclear.
One waterskin of holy water
- Grave robbers chased away from Irii Church cemetery
- Underground tunnel leading from the Nart Quarter to the main city discovered
- Relationship with the Grand Prince's emissary established