There are hundreds of men in the dungeons, and over a hundred more in the level above them. They are all chained down, kept for the return of the KoraKora in unbearably tight quarters. They stink. It appears that their waste is washed out daily with buckets of water, though it’s not nearly enough. Drains run along the floor and straight out into the waterfall beyond.
There is no way to get rid of that smell completely.
We had to break off into three directions to best avoid detection. Balthandar and I both found our way into the dungeon at separate ends of the fortress, but there appear to be a number of partitions with locked doors. The most challenging in the form of a solid, load-bearing wall that cuts the dungeon in two main sections.
There were few guards, none of which were awake – even in the barracks. This would seem to be the benefit of the smell, for none of the guards were within the dungeons themselves. Still, I doubt there is any concern among the captors of escape.
What proved most useful was Dionus’ discovery of the original plans for the construction of the fortress. They had been located in Zorga’s offices at the top of the central keep. Locked from the stairs, Dionus said with a smirk, but the windows were wide open.
They show two potential routes out of the fortress for the captives. The first and easiest is a side door in one of the pantries that leads out to the western shore of the reservoir. It comes out immediately under the northwestern tower to a path used for supply carts. There may be guards in the tower, but we should be able to deal with them. The other route leaves from the dungeon itself: the sewer that the drains run into.
According to the drawings, the sewer should have ledges on either side wide enough for a man to crawl. Balthandar’s main concern about that route was whether the water levels would be too high, and if the captives would have the strength to swim against its current. Failure to do so would lead to a drop that none of them would survive.
But for those in the eastern portion, there is no easier route out. For them to exit upward would lead into the barracks, and from there the inner courtyard. They have to go down to get out.
Balthandar said he was content with what we had accomplished. Dionus seemed almost giddy to be helping people for once instead of killing them. Granted there will be killing involved in the process, but I think he relishes that just as much. That was as far as we got before we started falling asleep.
We spent the day surrounded by servants again and unable to speak freely. Inifra came to us during the evening feast for the briefest of moments. “The rains are coming,” she said quietly. “Do it tomorrow, during the feast.” Then she continued on as if we didn’t exist.
Zorga made another speech, though this one was longer and had nothing to do with Inifra. He reminded his men of an upcoming raid, worked them up to a chanting fervor, and told them to gird themselves for a hard fight. No one had stood against him in all his years. He said that with a sideways glance to Inifra. No one could stand against him now.
I don’t understand the game that they’re playing, but it seems as though each is preparing to wrest the hearts of these men from the other at the earliest opportunity. To what end, only Zorga’s motive seems clear. I do not understand what Inifra could hope to gain by winning any of these bandits over.
Seeing her up there, being ignored by her as I sat below, I realize now that it was eating at me. In the moment I felt irritated. Restless.
I challenged our table of Zorga’s lieutenants to another game of daggers. I didn’t know how else to release my frustrations, but I wanted to beat someone at something. So I did. None of them volunteered until I started offering wagers of silver, though. That got their spirit up.
There are two games they play, one that resembles the dart games we play at home: throwing a dagger at the ring of a tree and scoring higher the closer you hit to the center. The other was more fun: breaking clay pots or skewering thick gourds tossed in the air.
I even played a round with a blindfold on, feeling as cocky as Starlark might have been at an archery competition. Winning didn’t make me feel any better though. The tightness in my chest just built, the lack of satisfaction growing with each victory. Each stupid, meaningless victory. Gods it was frustrating, and I don’t even know why.
I did make off with a nice pile of trinkets and jewels, however.
When we got back to our chambers, and Dionus was certain no one was listening through the walls, we began formulating a plan. He had hidden the drawings high on the wall behind a tapestry – it’s unbelievable how useful it can be having a Walker around.
Tomorrow, during the feast, Dionus and Balthandar are going to lead their own escapes through the two routes we have established. They are going to make themselves appear quite sick during the day, which should provide the perfect cover for their absence at the feast. Then they should be able to kill the guards and start breaking chains.
We haven’t seen them change guards during the feast. It seems that drawing guard duty means missing it in its entirety. Dionus and Balthandar will just have to wait for the guards’ food to be taken down and then there should be no interference at all. I will go to the feast to keep my eyes on Zorga and alert Inifra when the captives are safe.
Dionus will go to the western half of the dungeon and the men kept in the storage above that. He will lead them out through the pantries under the kitchens. Balthandar, being the strongest swimmer among us, will take the other half through the sewers. Once at the reservoir, they will lead the captives out and over the mountain path that we are able to see along the western ridge.
It all seems straightforward, and unless things change dramatically tomorrow we should have no difficulties in pulling it off. Dionus will kill any guards in the northwestern tower that he sees, and when the captives are safely away from the fortress he will send a wind into the central hall to alert me.
That’s when I hope that Inifra will enact whatever plan it is she is withholding from us. If she doesn’t, we might never leave that feast to join our companions.