The hall is narrow, and long—in the light cast by the torches it seems to extend indefinitely—but the walls are brick, not cages, and after the chaos of the cells above, the silence is both a blessing and a curse. A reprieve is welcome, but nothing in this accursed place would exist without purpose, and what horrors could possibly require a corridor so deep, so thick?
The party proceeds, deliberately at first, but as they go on, impatience overtakes caution, the featureless path becoming almost frustrating in its mystery. Eventually, a change, as the walls and ceiling begin to expand, continuing outward until they can no longer be seen by single torchlight. More questions— how big does it get? What could possibly be locked away requiring such a large prison cell? Then, somehow both gradually yet suddenly, something new and far more jarring, a soft crying.
The party is conflicted—a child’s cry is a primal thing, a nigh-undeniable call to action—but in such a place as this, nothing is to be trusted. A child could not possibly be here, and only bad things could come from anything that would mimic one . Some suggest turning back, but they cannot. They cannot simply ignore this—they have to know. And then they see it, appearing before them almost spectrally—a cage.
Something is in there, that much is certain, but the cage is barely lit by torchlight, they need to get closer to see. But now that the truth looms in front of them, unease takes hold once more. The corridor was deep, presumably for a purpose—how close is too close? Eventually one of the heroes steps forward, torch in hand, to investigate. As he gazes into the cell, the crying comes to a sudden stop, and his heart nearly follows. A small figure, made even tinier by contrast to the prison in which it dwells, seemingly innocuous in a night dress. A young girl.
The hero calls out to her, asks for her name, but gets nothing in response. He steps forward, tentatively. She does the same. A few more steps and he can see her features in the light of the flame. Her long hair disheveled, as though it had been wet and never quite dried. Her skin pale, untouched by sunlight. Her eyes dark, impossible to read. He attempts again to speak to her and, again, gets no response. He raises a hand up, attempting a gesture of peace. She continues to match his movements precisely. He turns briefly beckoning his allies closer then turns back. Something seems different, although it takes him a moment to realize what has changed. The bars are suddenly behind her.
This proves too much for the Rogue—nothing good can come of this—and he turns and runs back down the corridor, to the relative state they call safety in the Asylum. The rest of the party deliberates—something is clearly very wrong here—but is it not their purpose to try and help? Time itself seems to have slowed to a crawl, every step, agonizing eternity. The tension mounts as the weight of what is happening hangs heavy over those remaining. They are nearly within touching distance when it drops, and fear overwhelms curiosity. As a group, they turn and leave.
As soon as the cage is out of sight, the crying returns. This time it evokes no concern, only heightens the fear. They increase their speed and the crying abruptly ends, only to be replaced by footsteps. The party begins to run and the footsteps accelerate in kind. She seems to be catching up, although no one dares look back. They reach the door, and not a moment too soon, slamming it closed behind them. They take a moment to collect themselves; they look for the Rogue, but he is nowhere to be seen. Eventually they assume he’s headed back up toward the main floor and resolve to go that way as well, putting as much space between themselves and this floor as possible. The Druid takes one last look back toward the now-sealed door, and lets out a strangled gasp. Impossibly, yet undeniably, there she stands.
They square off again, the party and the girl. The heroes try to ready themselves for action, but nothing in their experience has prepared them for this. Uncertain and unwilling to move first, the Druid attempts once more to reason with the creature, assure it they mean no harm, and again the creature makes no indication it comprehends. She again moves forward slowly, deliberately, and this time, with no other options, the Druid resolves to stand his ground, to see what will happen. Time is again compressed, each second a lifetime of hyper-awareness. He can see her every hair, swinging with each step, her nightgown rippling with motion, her right-hand’s fingers twitching, as though scratching at something unseeable. In this state of focus, the shock is all the greater when she suddenly shoots forward, with impossible speed, arm outstretched in front of her, aiming straight for his chest.
The Ranger reaches out and grabs his unprotected ally, shielding him from the attack, but nothing can keep her from reaching her target, as her arm passes through his armored shoulder like butter, and pierces the Druid’s heart. Both men scream in pain, but the Ranger does not drop his charge, instead shifting his grip to cradle his mortally wounded friend. The girl backs up and appears to prepare for another attack, but nobody notices, as their focus turns to the injured.
The Druid’s breath is shallow and fast and he has become pale, every scratch, scar, and blemish heightened against his pallid complexion. The hole to his heart breaks the pattern of the yet-to-heal symbol-scar of the god Erythnul that taints his chest, and it almost seems fitting. He pulls his would-be-protector close as he draws his dying breath and whispers his final words.
And Kitty blinks as the world rushes back into focus, as if waking from a dream, contained entirely within a second. He wants to cry out, to warn them all what happened, but this is not the time, it is certainly not the place. The inmates are agitated—some are crying or shouting, many more are grabbing for anything they can hold—clothing, weapons, flesh. One has a torch now. Kitty has seen this before, he knows how it will play out, knows what must be done. They need to run.