Three Irons

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18. Reckoning

The trio, led by Kannen, thundered down the dusty stairs into the basement. Black candles lined the far wall. Their lapping weakness illuminated a shelf cast ajar along the opposite side.

“They came down here earlier.” The Stranger sniffed the air near the cellar doors.

Kannen snatched up a candle and examined the shelf. “This way.” She nudged it aside with a knee, revealing an open wooden door and a catacomb beyond.

Footfalls trailed Kannen her as she inched into the subterranean tunnel. The light from her miniscule fire caught the jagged and rough edges of the hewn earth and stone. A protruding root here. A squirming insect there. It reeked of decayed flesh and bone.

Hiss…

A stray drop of melting snow on the surface found its way into the puddle of wax atop her candle. Kannen lowered her voice. “What is this place?”

“We knew of the catacombs under the monastery,” the Taverness said, pulling up alongside. “This one is new to me.”

They wove around bend and turn until other voices caught Kannen’s ears. “Steady.” She turned back to the others. “Hear that?”

They nodded.

Kannen inched an eye around the corner. Two figures dressed in hooded black cloaks stood chanting before a black stone altar. More dark candles surrounded their sacred ground. Archaic syllables reverberated off the old stone. A third much smaller cloaked figure marched to join them carrying a polished black chalice.

Kannen slid back with the others. “Three figures. Black robes. Some sort of ceremony.”

She leaned her eye back around the corner. The smallest figure lifted the chalice and spoke.

“Ancient ones!”

The Mayor!

“We drink from the Eternal Spring of the universe. From the blood of this sacred chalice, we condemn those that enslaved you!”

“She means to release their bondage.” It was the Stranger.

The Taverness shushed him while Kannen watched.

“We give ourselves so that you may be immortal once again!”

The figure tipped the brim of the cup to her lips and drank, then passed it to the others. They, too, lifted the chalice in homage before taking their own mouthful of the fluid. One by one, they dropped to their knees, choking. In moments, the robed figures fell over lifeless.

Kannen crept into the altar and knelt closer to the robed figures. “The Mayor, Innkeeper, and the Vicar.” She set two fingers under the Mayor’s nostrils. “Gone.”

As the Stranger and Taverness advanced toward her, the Vicar’s right arm lifted and twitched. Kannen stumbled back from his groggy mass.

“He’s not dead.” The Taverness had sunken wide eyes. The color sped from her cheeks.

Kannen shooed them all back around the near corner. She watched as the Vicar slowly got to his feet. His hand slipped inside an unseen pocket and drew out an empty vial which he shattered on the floor.

“Go,” Kannen barreled through her companions back from whence they came. “Go, now!”

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