They may be called the Palace Guard, the City Guard, or the Patrol. Whatever the name, their purpose in any work of heroic fantasy is identical: it is, round about Chapter Three (or ten minutes into the film) to rush into the room, attack the hero one at a time, and be slaughtered. No one ever asks them if they want to.
This book is dedicated to those fine men.
― Terry Pratchett, Guards! Guards!
Field diary of Erik Gywntine, Aide-de-Camp to Lieutenant Marjorie Syndenstar.
3rd Quen’Pilar – 10th hour
We are being sent to the sewers.
It has been five days since the hot water failed. Three days ago the Plumbers Guild reported two of their members missing and formally requested the Watch to send down a search party. Naturally the Watch houses are pushing back and disputing which of them has jurisdiction to intervene – none of the house captains want to send their boys wading through shit. This could have gone on indefinitely while the city froze, but today one of the ambassadors from the Clovis Concord made a formal complaint to the thrones that their embassy staff have to fill the bath with a kettle. So this is suddenly political and the 5th has been called in. The Lieutenant has asked me to document the whole affair – if we find two drunk plumbers skiving off there’ll be hell to pay.
For this mission 5th Platoon consists of:
|LT M. Syndenstar.
|ADC E. Gywntine
|SGT. E. Finwe
|SGT. C. Tamina
|SGT. O. Gryffid
Supplies and equipment: Standard patrol kit plus plumber’s guild standard mask, noseplugs and glow pebbles.
4th Quen’Pilar 8th hour.
Entered the sewers via the Queen’s gate barracks access tunnel following the maps supplied by the guild. Limited visibility from the glow pebbles but not as cramped as I had imagined. The smell is atrocious but the noseplugs and masks block out the worst of it. Making steady progress so far.
4th Quen’Pilar 12th hour.
Spoke too soon. Trooper Gallas severely injured.
The platoon was descending a staircase with Gallas on point when the screaming started. A corrosive ooze was lurking on the roof and dropped onto his helmet. When he felt it land the poor lad made the mistake of looking up. Damn thing flowed onto his face. We scraped it off in time to save his life, but not his eyes.
Bandaged him up as best we could before sending him back to the surface with Troopers Nasryn and Terfel. The Lieutenant reassured him that the priests will be able to cure his sight but the entire platoon is shaken. Jumping at every puddle. We are switching from glow pebbles to standard torches – swamp gas is a risk, but the flames should keep away any more of the creatures hiding overhead. I fear we know what happened to our missing plumbers. Bad business.
4th Quen’Pilar 18th hour.
After sending our wounded back to the surface we pushed on towards the water supply network. Progress was slowed by the need to check every crack and shadow but no further oozes spotted. At times the torch smoke threatened to fill the narrow tunnels but we all felt better with real flames illuminating the dripping arches.
Until we found the bodies floating in the sewage. Sergeant Tamina was the first to recognise them. Gallas, Nasryn and Terfel.
Tamina ran to their side, straight into the trap. A fountain of corruption burst from each of the defiled bodies, contorting into demonic forms with voiceless mouths agape and hungry for flesh. They latched onto Tamina like leeches and dragged him beneath the filthy waters.
Our countercharge sent the corpse oozes into a thrashing frenzy. Trooper Oddo went down in front of me with one clinging to her face, fresh red blood pulsing through the horrible translucent slug body. I slashed at it while the others tried to prise it off, but my blade went straight through the foul thing with no effect. We had to burn it off before she sufficated. Oddo will live. Sergeant Tamina and Trooper Medwin not so lucky.
We have five dead, three of whom were sent back to the surface not twelve hours ago. We have improvised litters for the fallen and the entire platoon is going to retrace our steps to determine what enemy lurks in the darkness behind us. They will pay for this.
4th Quen’Pilar 22nd hour.
Route to the surface closed.
Grim mood as we overnight in the sewer complex. We made good time on the return, quickly passing the point where Trooper Gallas was attacked. Not far beyond that the tunnel closes into a dead end. Were it not for the fresh tracks that lead into and out of a cracked and slime encrusted wall we could believe that we had taken a wrong turn. Some witchcraft has sealed our escape route.
I shall not lie, I was close to panic at this point. I do not know if the others felt the same but the Lieutenant did not give us time to despair. The troopers were established into a defensive perimeter while the Sergeants consulted the maps to identify a fortifiable position for tonight. We are billeted in an immense vaulted cavern that must have once been used to store the stonework used to build the sewers. The remaining offcuts now serve as temporary cairns for our fallen. No more scouting parties to be sent out. We will move as one. If the enemy wishes to fight then they will face us all.
The biggest problem for tonight is how to stomach food and water laced with the sickly-sweet stench of this place.
5th Quen’Pilar 6th hour.
A grim night, but no sign of hostile activity. Moving out to see how much the sewer maps have been altered versus our maps.
5th Quen’Pilar 12th hour.
No further changes to the layout, but no obvious routes back to the surface. We will strike towards our original target in the heating centre as this offers the most potential exit routes.
Morale holding up well under the circumstances, but the stench and tension are draining. Sergeants keeping a close eye on the troopers. Calm before the storm.
5th Quen’Pilar 16th hour.
Trooper Dimniss missing.
We were passing through a short section of pipework that forced us to proceed in single file. Tense initial entry made by Trooper Myrva without incident. Once we had the pipe secure crossing was quick, Troopers Rotmur and Dimniss last to cross. Rotmur was in front, reports that Dimniss was following behind in constant communication. At the halfway point when Rotmur looked around he was alone.
As if he vanished into thin air. Worse than a direct attack. Entire platoon spent several hours searching but no sign of a struggle or a body. Can’t stay in this spot forever looking at the same empty pipe.
5th Quen’Pilar 23rd hour.
Still no sign of Trooper Dimniss. Snatching moments of fragmented sleep, knowing whatever took him is out there.
6th Quen’Pilar 2nd hour.
Woken by screams – friendly fire injury. Trooper Rotmur discharged crossbow at Trooper Assikor while both were on guard duty. Assikor struck in upper right arm, walking wounded. Trooper Rotmur reprimanded and relieved of crossbow.
Morale of the platoon as black as this shithole.
6th Quen’Pilar. Overnight – time unknown.
Major attack. Multiple casualties.
Forward troopers spotted movement ahead. Undead, armed and moving in combat formation. We formed into battlelines to meet them, only to be outflanked by gargantuan ooze coming through the wall on our right. Burned straight through the stones and ate our weapons and flesh as easily.
If the monster had any mind it would have wiped us all out. Luckily it stopped to consume the bodies of the first few unfortunates who fell underneath the torrent of acid. Gave us enough time to dispatch the undead and use their corpses to slow the corrosive advance of their erstwhile ally. Had to use all the remaining oil flasks to finish the thing off.
Trooper Assikor was killed in the attack. Several members of squad 1 surrounded Trooper Rotmur, shouting Assikor would be alive if Rotmur hadn’t shot him. Sergeants had to intervene to restore order.
I don’t know how much longer we can last like this.
Trooper Rotmur unaccounted for after second shift change.
No attacks since last entry.
More routes shown on our maps are sealed off or missing entirely. Forced to detour and double back through pipes for hours. Fresh water running low.
My father’s watch was damaged in the attack, time unknown. It is a small thing set against the deaths of so many but unable to measure the hours it adds to the sense of isolation.
I don’t want to die without seeing the sky again.
Our captor has proved me with a few minutes to finish this account.
Battered and bruised, hemmed in on every side by horrors we took the only available path and pushed on. In the filthy depths of the next chamber we learned what we were being herded towards. A monstrous troll squatted as lord of its own squalid little island, bloated on corruption and filth. We drew up in battle formation and the Lieutenant demanded it stand aside or be destroyed. The beast gibbered and tittered some doggerel about not turning but made no move to attack us. It claimed to know who had brought us down here but would not be drawn on the subject, devolving into vainglorious boasts and outlandish promises of a golden future. Realising that it was attempting to befuddle our minds with some foul sorcery we attacked it with blade and flame. To my shame it batted me aside like I was nothing in the first few seconds of the fight. When I regained consciousness I was in shackles.
Our captor has said much of his motivations, but this account will be destroyed if I record them here. He claims that he will write the history of his cause and my account is merely to serve as a curiosity from the final days of the old regime. I have completed this diary as per my orders from the late Lieutenant Marjorie Syndenstar and now I shall endeavour to meet my fate in a manner befitting a Glassblade.
To my dear sister and nephews I send all my love. Until we meet again.
I would like end by stating for the record that 5th Platoon did their duty to the last with courage and honour.