Bujilli slipped out through a gap in the stacked and piled debris they had tried to use to make this spot more defensible. He padded along as quietly as he could. Six steps past the jumbled bricks and beams he spotted the distinctive glimmer of freshly-expelled fungal spores.
Pale blue light swirled where things disturbed the otherwise placid cloud of faintly luminous spores. Some of the spores stuck to the chitinous carapaces of the things that were approaching from the direction of Bannerworth's enclave. Spiders. He counted six of the things as they passed through the flickering blue miasma exuded by the rapidly growing fungi. Dripping filaments formed dozens of sticky curtains that were increasingly tangled-up in the limbs of the approaching spiders.
Bujilli returned to the group. Leeja was scowling meaningfully at the Ignoble. Hedrard was staring at the space beyond their pitiful defenses as if she could sense the spiders out there. For all he knew, she could see them, somehow. He didn't really know all that much about the old hag, but he was glad to have her on his side.
"We need to get going--"
"How many did you see?" Hedrard stretched her shoulders with a series of bony clicks. She stood taller, straighter now. Frailty fell away from her like chaff from wheat in a mill. An old cold light twinkled in her eyes; it was not a pleasant thing to behold by any means.
"At least six. Very likely more than that."
"Six what? What's out there?" Demanded the Ignoble.
"Spiders. Very big spiders." Bigger than any he'd ever seen before. But he didn't feel it was prudent to elaborate any further.
"But spiders are quiet..."
"They're moving through the fungi growing in the passage. That seems to be slowing them down."
"We need to delay them. Otherwise they will simply run us down and you do not want to be taken prisoner by these things." Hedrard flexed her bony fingers, her nails looked longer, almost like Leejas' talons.
"I'm open to suggestions." Bujilli looked at Lemuel, Leeja, the Eloi and the Ignoble and back to Hedrard.
"I can cast Web..." Leeja offered.
"No. The passage is too wide, too high; they'll go around it." Bujilli knew she could extend the reach and the range of that spell, but it would cost her more energy than she could spare right now. She was still recovering from the draining attack of the Irrlicht.
"Get everyone moving. I'll buy us some time. Just let me know which way you're going--up or down--and I'll follow as soon as I am able."
Bujilli looked into her eyes. All argument evaporated instantly.
"Up. We'll look for a way to get back to the roof-tops and take our chances with the Synchronocitor. It got us here in the first place, I'm hoping it can get us out of here once it has recharged."
"Go then. I'll--"
Lemuel rushed past them both. The make-shift barrier collapsed as he pushed his way through it.
"Scheiss!" Hedrard made to follow then stopped herself; "Let's go. Lemuel thinks he can handle these spiders and he knows which way to go to catch up to us."
"Do we just leave him--"
"He made his choice. Let's not waste the young man's gallantry. It has been a long, long time since another young man put himself in harm's way on my account. I'd rather we made the most of it. So let's get going. He'll find us after he's dealt with these spiders."
"How? How will he find us?" screeched the Ignoble in a tone that was both accusatory and insulting at the same time.
"We share a bond of sorts. He'll be able to find us." If he survives. If he doesn't run into worse things trying to catch up to us. Bujilli didn't like leaving anyone behind, but this time the decision was made and they needed to make the best of it. "Let's go."
Leeja nodded. The Eloi Roof-runner went ahead of the group, one of Leeja's daggers held at the ready in their left hand.
Bujilli and Hedrard flanked the Ignoble and prodded the reluctant ex-prisoner along behind Leeja.
They didn't have far to go before they found a narrow stairwell that wound around the inner walls of a chimney-like shaft less than ten feet across. The door that has sealed-off this vertical passage was mostly charcoal and long since fallen into a heap.
The Ignoble screamed as they ran toward the exposed stairwell and hurled their Iron Mask down the center of the stairwell shaft.
Ka-Thunk! Klunk! klank-klank-klank-klank-klank-klank
The Iron Mask bounced from one wall to the next as it bounded and ricocheted its way down the stairs into the darkness below.
"Asshole!" Hissed Leeja. Her short sword poised to take the Ignoble's head.
"Like you said; 'we are in this together.' I just made sure you wouldn't feel quite so tempted to go down there looking for who knows what. You apparently have a means of escaping this place. I mean to make sure I get out of here. It's as simple as that."
"We don't know what's down there--"
"Wrong. I know. Guards and scavengers. If one of the scavengers finds my Iron Mask, they'll think that it was removed by one of the free-tribes or corridor-clans and tossed aside as a warning that this territory is now claimed." The Ignoble looked quite smug, obviously very pleased with their supposed cleverness.
"I'm not sure I buy your explanation, but there's nothing to be done for it now, so let's get going." Leeja slowly, reluctantly lowered her blade.
"Stop!" The Roof-runner came back down the stairs in a hurry.
"What did you--"
"Run! We can't go this way. They're not far behind me."
"We can discuss things later. Now might be a good time to use your spell, Leeja." Bujilli shoved the Ignoble forwards. Hedrard made sure they kept going with an occasional poke in the ribs with her talon-like nails.
Leeja cast her Web spell, making sure to seal-off the upper passage-way as quickly as she could before running to catch up to the others.
They followed the corridor that curved past the stairwell until it crossed another passage. The Eloi went right so they all went right.
It grew darker as they went along, so Bujilli cast Gloomlight to help them all see a little better. He set the glyph formed by the spell to stay roughly ten paces in front of the Roof-runner.
Left at the next passage. Right after that. Straight through the next. Then they emerged into a round chamber thirty or forty feet in diameter. At the center of this chamber was a ramp-way that curled like a ribbon up past the ceiling and down well below the floor.
The Roof-runner paused to make sure they were all following, then off they ran, up the ramp-way.
The ramp-way made about a dozen spirals before it terminated in a domed enclosure that might once have been some sort of protected garden. Dead leaves and dried-out stalks were all that was left of whatever once flourished in this place. The still air reeked of stale beer.
Six paths led away from the ramp-way. Each one was bordered by trellises and arches of dead plants. The floor was ankle-deep or deeper in spots with dried plant-matter.
"Can you get us out of here now?" Asked the Roof-runner.
Bujilli closed his eyes to consult with his Counsel. It was sluggish in responding. There was resistance to his inquiry, as if the very walls emanated some sort of stifling effect, only it wasn't like the sort of thing he had experienced elsewhere. It felt like his brain was packed in aspic, but he was able to access the Synchronocitor still floating along at his side slightly out of phase while it recharged. They had seven hours left to go before he could attempt to activate the device once again.
"Not yet. It'll be seven hours before I can try it."
"Then we'd best keep moving." The Roof-runner held out their right hand, palm outward and turned to face one after another of the paths available to them. They chose the third one for whatever reason and headed off in that direction. Everyone followed. The Ignoble seemed about to try something, but Hedrard dissuaded them with a good poke.
The third path split to encircle a pool filled with rusted chains and manacles. They kept going.
A set of stairs led down three flights to a large hallway. They were half-way down the stairs when the tribe of degenerates who had been trailing the Roof-runner caught-up with them...
What should Bujilli and company do next?