Part XII: Tunnel Rats

Darkness is Bhintel‘s home. Well, maybe not anymore, but it certainly is the place she finds the most comfort. Deep below Gardmore, alone, is where she struggles within herself. Gendar had told her it would be hard to adjust, but she didn’t anticipate how hard. She still feels alone. It is no one’s fault but hers though, she understands that. The drow rogue feels alone with all these surface dwellers around her. It is hard for Bhintel to fit in, especially when she doesn’t even try. She is smart enough to stay away from the fey grove and the eladrin, but lately, she is avoiding everyone else too.

Part of her just wants to run back to the Underdark, to what she knows. Maybe that’s why Bhintel volunteered to guard the tunnel entrance beneath Gardmore. Maybe she wants to leave that option open. No. There will be no going back. That’s not an option anymore, Bhintel thinks to herself. I need to make this work.

The noise is subtle and barely there. The drow rogue has been waiting hours in the dark tunnels for this moment. She knew they’d come. For the last few days, she’s run into orcs in the tunnels. Guarding the tunnel entrance seemed too bland a task, and it didn’t take long for Bhintel to decide she’d patrol the tunnel instead. When that got tedious, she decided to move further down into the tunnels. And then further still. When Bhintel started to encounter orcs below Gardmore, she figured they were remnant bands of refuges from when the Winterguard won Gardmore back from them.

Dispatching wandering orcs moving in small packs was an easy task for the drow rogue. She almost feels sorry for them. She lost track of how many days she’s been down here playing cat and mouse with them. More like panther and rats, she chuckles silently to herself. I’m no cat, and they are not mice.

The noise comes again. Faint. Bhintel noticed a shift yesterday in the orcs. The ones she’s been encountering are no longer the pushovers she expects. These ones seem better trained. Almost like drow. But that thought is crazy, Bhintel thinks, maybe I’ve been down here too long? Wasn’t it just yesterday she heard the faint sound of someone calling her name?

The drow rogue is still as a statue as the orcs around the corner, moving patiently slow and silent. Orcs don’t tend to be so disciplined. This is uncharacteristic of them, for sure. They spy the body of the dead orc Bhintel left barely hidden in a subtle picture of a poor attempt to hide her latest victim. Still, they approach cautiously, drawing their blades.

Bhintel catches the scent of something very familiar. She almost shakes her head in defiance of what she senses, but manages to hold still so as not to give away her position. It can’t be what she thinks. She must be going mad, but there is no time to waste thoughts on that anymore, for when the orcs turn their backs to Bhintel, she makes her move.

Unlike the drow, the orcs still require some meagre light, which is why Bhintel placed the bait corpse by the faint glow of underground fungus. In a blink, the dim light around them suddenly becomes absolute darkness, and as this fact dawns on the first orc, his companion is already dead with Bhintel‘s dagger deep in his back. The remaining orc barely registers the death rattle of his partner when Bhintel plunges her danger into his throat.

The dead orc slumps to the tunnel floor, but before it can settle, Bhintel snatches up his blade and examines it closer. She’s not crazy. It’s poisoned. And not just any run of the mill poison, either: drow poison! The rogue crouches down, as she wonders to herself where a bunch of savages would get their hands on drow poison. She flips her victim over, gazing into its face, and freezes as her blood runs cold.

The orc’s face is covered in a giant tattoo. A stylized spider ringed in purple fire.

Damn, Bhintel thinks to herself. This is not good. All too suddenly she realizes she has lingered here too long. Drow in the tunnels? Damn! Bhintel explodes into motion, sprinting up the tunnels towards the surface, her dagger still dripping orc blood.

I’ve got to tell The Winter Guard!

Author: Neil