(122-02-04) Spelunking
Summary: Further explorations of the catacombs leads to a worrying discovery.
Date: Date of play (04/02/122)
Related: Spelunking

The temporary pulley system is set up to deal with the slab. Gear has been assembled. The slab is opened and the group might descend the ladder through the temporary scaffold that holds the trap from below when closed.

Camillo is burdened with rope and lantern and other accoutrements of exploration, but he of course awaits orders before doing anything rash.

Ormund lets Camillo carry his lantern. But he doesn't want to go behind. He moves to begin climbing the ladder.

Leandro's got measuring equipment, a set of his own tools for surveying, light of his own. The making of the maps themselves can wait though, it's just a basic one he intends to do to begin with. He does let Ormund go first though.

Bryn, of course, is there too, carrying Leandro's extra supplies. This time, though, he carries them in a cloth pack that hangs from his shoulder, so his hands are free. Smiling, obviously excited to get back in the tunnels, he follows after Leandro.

Mice and insects skitter away from the light and movement. The lantern casts eerie shadows on the bones that line the walls. The inge and pegs that Leandro installed are easily visible as are parts of rusted metal and ancient stone that formed the damaged mechanism to move the trap. Below the air is dank, but no longer stale. The flags stretch down three curving corridors through the ossuary. To the southwest are scattered bits of broken bone and rubble. Chalk marks show the trail to where they found the pipes to the north East. The third corridor weds almost imperceptibly downward.

Camillo follows quietly behind Ormund, attending to his duty to light the way very seriously.

"Which path?" Leandro asks Ormund. "Your choice. That's the one we've been down." He indicates the North East one.

Ormund looks to Leandro questioningly, then nods. "I have seen that one," he says. "Though perhaps not to the end." He looks at the paths. "Here," he says. "I think we will go down /after/ we have seen what is higher up." He indicates the southeast.

"As you wish then," Leandro says. He makes a slight mark on the slate he's carrying and then saunters off that way, eyes alert for any symbols or traps.

Bryn pauses to look at a piece of broken bone he picks up from the floor, but then he places that back meticulously where he found it and hurries on after Leandro when the Maester starts to move.

There are many twisty side paths off all three main corridors. Discounting the flags, there are very few straight lines in this catacomb. The most southern corridor has been popular with rodents and insects over the centuries. Droppings, tiny bones and old carapaces with the meat long eaten away crunch under foot, along with larger fragments of human bones and rubble freed from their moorings by the shaking of the ancient mechanism. Odds are, some crucial bit of broken machinery is hidden in the walls or ceiling. Black rock is visible where the bones have fallen away. The Citadel code says nothing of what ancient traps may still be set in this maze of corridors.

Leandro did bring along a stick, for both measuring and poking at things, said stick goes first as he investigates. He's also making a note of the path they're taking.

Ormund follows quite near to Leandro, but not actually ahead of him.

Perhaps it helps to have seen where the pressure plates for traps were down the other corridor. There is no pattern to the placement, but a clever eye can spot differences in the way the rodent droppings fall. Whoever built and maintained the old defenses had skilled crafts people at their call, but so much time disused as paid it's toll in ways never intended. The catacombs have many branchings, and nothing is quite straight or level, likely designed to disorient intruders. There are random dead ends, and a section of tunnel has been blocked with rubble likely for most of a thousand years. After much wending that leads the group back surprisingly close to where they started, there is a sunken cavern, with cracked marble steps down, contrasting shockingly with the black basalt of the walls. Here the bones of the corridor are absent, and seven sepulchers in an ancient style are arrayed in a circle, with Hightower arms prominent, though three of the dead are women in some antique dress.

Camillo lets his betters deal with any traps that they encounter, provided they seem capable of it. He stays close, but keeps his mouth shut. Just like a good servant.

Leandro steps into the chamber and looks around the room. There's a glance upwards, at the roof to see if there's any way out in here. Then to the figures. "Relatives of yours."

Ormund may be good at looking like he's ahead, but he keeps his eye on Leandro to be sure of safety. The dressed corpses hold his attention for a moment, and he nods. "Do not disturb them," he says quietly.

Bryn looks at each of the sepulchers as he follows Leandro, taking them in so he can remember any details later. Finally, he turns his attention back to looking around for anything else in the cavern.

Leandro goes looking for any writing, symbols, or other clues to their identity that might be marked in here.

Camillo takes in the scene, but particularly at Ormund's instruction he is careful not to intrude too far.

Beautiful bas reliefs of long ago Hightower accomplishments were carved from the living rock, and being thousands of years younger than the ones in that other chamber, are still quite legible, despite the smoothing of hands of generations of hightowers who came here when the catacombs were in use. The ceiling is a marvel of the mosaic craft, glittering patterns pick out constellations, moon, sun, and stars, the individual stones set at angles the better to reflect lamplight. The star field in no longer quite accurate, the stars having subtly shifted since some ancient hands set them in place. The Sepulcre furthest from the entry is some long dead hightower with a massive beard and a powerful build, despite the signs of age in his face. He holds a scepter and a sword crossed above his heart. Three male stone coffins with warlike occupants lie to the right. Three women of various ages lie to his left (maiden, mother, crone), the arms, armour, and gowns made outlandish by the passing of time.

Ormund looks about, slowly walking from coffin to coffin. "This must be cleaned," he says, "And the rats will not do."

Bryn's attention is drawn to the carved stars, and he says, "We can figure out how old this chamber is, easily. Just have to compare that to old star charts, figure out how long ago the stars were like that."

Leandro gazes around, making note of things. He doesn't touch, he doesn't even linger overly long. "The other Maesters are going to kill to be able to see all this."

Camillo nods Ormund's words. "I can bring a crew here to see to things if you like, my lord," he proposes.

"The path here is full of traps," Leandro says to Camillo. "Even marked, do you think that wise? I could work on disabling."

Bryn steps up to look at some of the carvings and the detailwork. "Maester Leandro, This is older than the Seven! This is from before the Andals. It's been changed to try to match the Seven, but there's some things, some… motifs, from the First Men here."

Ormund nods. "Disable them," he says. "I do not think we need to fill our ossuaries with traps." He looks to Bryn now.

"We would be obliged if you would, Maester Leandro," Camillo says. "In the meantime, I can come down myself and see to preliminaries. I have a sharp eye, I believe." Hie eyes flick over when Bryn mentions that the motifs belong to the First Men.

Leandro nods. "As you wish." Of course he intends to do so without damaging any delicate mechanisms. But that's for later. He listens to Bryn and nods. "You've a good eye."

Bryn smiles happily at the praise, and then goes back to examining the work.

Leandro wanders over to examine an od fish-headed figurehead on a primitive boat.

Ormund stands staring, looking things over slowly. He shakes his head, seeming amazed.

It turns out there are traps in here. There is a rumble in the floor as flags fall away under Bryn and Lord Ormund.

"My Lord!" Camillo alerts, but by the time he is at Ormund's side, the Hightower lord has saved himself. "Forgive me," he says, for the close call.

Ormund jumps aside, startled. He looks outright angry about this, and glares at Leandro.

Bryn may now be the brainy kid, but he was once a street rat. Which means, he's learned to be fast. As soon as there's that rumble he's jumping, sack thrown aside as he dives into a roll, coming back up on his feet in a crouch in a safe place.

Leandro's not stepped on any traps of his own. Whether he's noticed them or not isn't obvious for he is rather absorbed with the decorations. Any angry glaring isn't noticed either, although he does turn around at the sound of rumbling. "Hmmm. Wonder why they trapped the room itself. There's no symbols on the floor. Maybe." He wanders off towards the door to see if there's a carving, or a lever there that might disable any internal traps, or to reset those current ones.

Ormund's slab falls through into an oubliettes with spikes, most of which crumble on impact. The flag cracks in half from the long fall. Bryn's flag gets stuck on damaged machinery and only depresses about two feet.

Ormund looks down at the crumbling spikes, then moves to examine Bryn's slab.

The entry to this room likely boasted double doors in some previous epoch, but is currently an archway decorated with ancient skulls, rib bones, and bits of spinal column. Sharp eyes peering close through the bones will not turn up any levers or the like, though they do turn up drill holes from when there were doors, and the means by which the bone columns were held together to last the centuries. This is not the way to disable traps, Alas!

Leandro has a further look around the room, examining the area around the entrance more thoroughly.

Camillo looks up at the ceiling, admiring the fine mosaic-work there.

Ormund nods. He looks to Leandro, "Can you find them all?" he asks.

Bryn steps back over to the slab that had fallen out from under him, sitting down and poking with his foot at the slab to test how stuck it is, leaning back so he doesn't fall in if it should fall. "There has to be a way for the people who knew this place to tell where the traps were. So they could show their kids where they were and their kids after that."

Leandro stops outside, beside some carvings, which he stares at, trying to figure something out.

The slab comes loose from what it is stuck on and lands in another spiked pit, this one also containing a mummified person, who's bones crunch with the impact.

Camillo winces slightly at the unexpected sound of crunching bones. He turns to look into the pit to confirm that the crunched thing is a long-dead person.

There is no way that that person would be alive now if she or he hadn't fallen. Odds are their grand children if any are long dead. That is a very old corpse.

"I think we should continue on," Leandro says. "We can return here another time. The purpose was to discover an alternative entrance." He then points to the carvings. "I believe those may disable the traps within but I will need to perform further calculations to discover in what order they must be pressed. I would rather not risk collapsing the whole room with a mistake, so lets continue on."

Ormund looks at Leandro irritably. "Can you find all of the traps?" he asks again, glancing in distaste down at the pit.

"Yes, of course I can" Leandro says. "But that will take time and these ancient mechanisms are unpredictable. If you just watched where you stood I wouldn't have to." He's sounding a little irritable himself now.

Bryn peeks down the pit a moment more, before standing up again and stepping to pick up his sack again, before stepping back towards Leandro. Ready to follow him onwards again.

Ormund raises his eyebrows at Leandro, coldly. "Let us continue," he says.

Camillo keeps his eyes on the ground while his betters quibble.

This tomb is a cul de sac, the group will have to back track to find new stuff.

Leandro just seems to think he's better. He saunters out of the room and does indeed backtrack in order to further investigate.

Ormund comes along, careful still, but a little impatient.

Hours pass, a number of chambers with less fancy tombs turn up, along with an obvious torture room with equipment gone to rust and dust and seven cells with the bars all crumbled. There are many more cul de sacs, and it is easy to get turned around because of the curving tunnels. The air grows moister, the bones more degraded, and the signs of rodent life more frequent. A man with surveying equipment might notice a subtle downward trend.

Camillo goes quietly, keeping the light out ahead of them.

Leandro continues onwards. He's keeping very precise notes as he plans out his map. He's also marking walls where need be with both charcoal and chalk that he's brought for that purpose. He will speak with Bryn, explaining what he's doing.

Bryn speaks up after a while, saying to Leandro, "We must be getting near the edge of the island. I can feel water in the air, it has to be coming from somewhere, and the animals too. Maybe there's something opening to the outside? If there wasn't, wouldn't there be fewer animals down here?" He doesn't sound sure, though.

Ormund nods to Bryn. "I would think so. The stone of the island is not entirely waterproof, but dragonglass is." He shakes his head, "There must be an opening, for the mice."

Indeed, about 15 minutes later, the ossuary has collapsed and the bones are eroded by water. There are high water marks, from occasional flooding, though not very high here. The corridor is nearly straight ahead, with no side tunnels now and the downward tilt is more obvious.

Leandro nods at Bryn. "Very good observations." He pushes onwards down the tunnel.

Ormund looks down the damp corridor with some suspicion. He continues, though.

The light of the lantern only goes so far, but soon, the smell of rotten meat and sewage is impossible not to notice. Dark water laps at the edge of the lantern's illumination.

Ormund stops, well enough away to keep his shoes from getting damp. "Well, then," he says.

Camillo stretches to shine the light as far as he can. "Perhaps it would be best to wait until traps are disabled and then take a group of laborers to investigate further."

Rotten meat? Sewage. Leandro pushes onwards. Being a maester isn't clean work anyway, healing in specific is particularly messy, and he's dealt with worse. Still when Ormund stops, he scowls. He searches around for a place to hang up a lantern and does so. "A splendid idea." There's sarcasm dripping in his voice. "We've only spent hours getting here in the first place." He starts placing down everything he has, papers and the like, which aren't waterproof, keeping them above the high tide mark.

In the light of the lantern a sort of log jam ca be seen where debris and rotting, waterlogged bodies fetched up in a rightward twist in the corrider ahead. Unlike the pit way back in the fancy tomb, these bodies are likely only a couple months old from the smell and look of them.

"This is poison," says Ormund dryly. "Do you plan to take a swim, Maester?"

Camillo goes quiet at Leandro's tone. But he doesn't hurry to strip down, himself. He simply looks at the bodies, wondering how they came to die and get clogged here.

Bryn wrinkles his nose at the smell, but otherwise makes no complaints. He, too, stops and looks up to Leandro. "He's right, maester. Anybody who goes into that could get very sick."

"Of course not," Leandro's voice is sharp. "But we've come this far, we might as well properly examine what obstacles the next group will come up against as opposed to just walking off without looking." With a second light he gets as close as he can, without touching water or bodies, and studies them. "Otherwise you may have wasted another day sending labourers down to deal with clearly plague stricken bodies. Which could have been a catastrophe."

"These are not my ancestors," says Ormund coldly. "These are people who died in the plague. There must be a sea-cave along the island, below the low-tide mark. We will flush them out from up here, not carry them up."

Camillo stays quiet.

Detritus floats in the water, including dead rats. Floaters that have been in the water this long look barely human, though the signs of the plague are clear enough. One could clamber over them if one really wanted to. The water here is nigh stagnant. Odds are this area only floods when a particularly high tide coincides with a storm. A slight breeze is detectable, carrying the scent of rot as well as the familiar scent of the sound to the spelunkers.

Ormund sniffs the air, his expression one of distaste. "This is not good," he says, as if to himself.

"No, not your ancestors," Leandro agrees. "Just your subjects." He's not, and was never going to go wading into a pool of dead bodies. "I would advise that you first send a group out to discover where the other end of this tunnel leads and what will happen to these bodies if flushed out."

"I intend to look as soon as I go above again," says Ormund. "But it may well be that flushing these bodies out is the easiest way to find out where they go if flushed out." He shakes his head, "There should not be any damned sea wind down here."

"What makes you say that?" Leandro asks.

"Do you suppose there's a cave undermining my keep, up where I could see it, and yet I never noticed?" says Ormund.

"I am sure stranger things have happened," Leandro says. "Still I would not have thought that generations of your family would have somehow missed a cave upon your island."

Bryn bites his lip, looking towards the deadly water again and says, "Maybe it was a recent collapse, maybe around the time of the plague, and it might just look like a dent in the earth from a distance."

Ormund sighs. "My sailors inspect the cliff-faces daily. Several times, in fact. Every so often some idiot tries to climb up. A recent collapse? This morning? I think someone might have noticed. Come, we'll come down here again when the tide comes in, and try to push these remains further down. Perhaps they'll wash away, some."

Leandro snorts as Ormund says 'we'. He does however start picking up his things again in order to make the return journey.

Ormund turns to head back up, watching the curves and turns.

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