"Or, maybe I just have a really good poker face," the healer said in response to Kumi's complaint about how he was not very much fun to tease. Of course, if he told the kitsune woman the kind of teasing that would be most effective, it was quite probable that he would wind up being slapped, or worse, for his trouble. No, it was best that the foxy woman figure that little mystery out all on her own. Safer too.
In rather short order after the trio had entered the catacombs the questions began to be voiced as to whether or not he knew where he was going and where he was leading them. The absolute truth of the matter was that the silver haired healer had no more clue than did either of the women where it was that they were going within the catacombs. They would get there when they got there, as the general saying went. At the same time, though, it was not as if they were simply bumbling along blindly.
"I don't precisely know where we are going," the man admitted, tapping another stone at an intersection so that a golden arrow would appear to indicate the way in which they had come. "But, we do have a guide, of sorts," he continued, holding aloft the lighted staff as he spoke. He then fell silent for a few seconds as Luna held a brief conversation with some rats that had creepily glowing red eyes. Based on her reaction, and her need to defend the small group from the rodents, the conversation did not end well.
"A word to the wise," the healer commented, his purple eyes narrowing on the last of the rats that was still clinging to what remained of its life. The vile, insane creature squeaked and twitched madly, but it seemed to have broken its back when it slammed into the shield created by Luna. While the front legs worked madly, the back legs remained eerily still.
"If you begin a battle, be prepared to finish it." The man raised his crozier and brought the butt of the ebony staff down on the rat's skull with the crushing force of finality. The creature twitched once, and then was still and silent. "If you cannot heal or turn the creature, it must be killed. It is inhumane to leave it here to suffer or be torn limb from limb by its comrades once we have departed."
"Now, as I was saying, we are not totally without a guide," he continued, moving past the scene of Luna's brief battle with the rats. "Even though I don't have any map to speak of." As he was talking they reached a four-way intersection in the catacomb's tunnel. Stepping into the middle of the intersection, the healer extended his staff down each of the possible ways that the party could travel in. The light from the staff grew noticeably brighter when waved in the direction of the right hand corridor.
"I happen to have a small relic from the Hospitalariae Order, a Star of Saint Janine," he said, shaking the staff slightly which set the small medallion affixed to it to swinging. The medallion itself consisted of four mother of pearl chevrons attached at their central point to form a sort of eight pointed star. In the large spaces between the arms of the star, at would have been the intermediate compass points, there were two golden lions and two golden unicorns. A unicorn occupied the northeast and southwest corner, while there was a lion at the northwest and southeast corners of the medallion.
"Are you familiar with the basic principle of magic, like calls to like," he asked, pushing on before the question was answered. "I've tied this medallion into the lighting spell on my crozier. The light will glow brighter the closer we come to our goal, and given that the light has been growing slowly brighter... there is definitely something connected to the Hospitalariae Order in these catacombs."
Before he could continue to explain the grand scheme a dull, dead moaning sound filled the intersection they were standing in from every direction except the one from which they had come. The moaning was accompanied by the sound of rusty, long disused, metal scraping along the paving stones that made up the walls, ceiling, and floor of the catacomb. Holding his staff aloft, Mack directed the light down the halls in every direction and, within a few seconds the owners of the voices and weapons came into view.
Zombies in rusted armor, half hanging from rotted flesh. Zombies dragging weapons that had not seen use for their intended purpose in who knew how long. Zombies that had, most clearly, been gnawed on by rats, if the occasional missing eye, ear, nose, toe, or finger was any kind of indicator. "I believe we've found the cause of the madness in the rats," the healer said in a calm tone, turning to face the zombies approaching from the corridor directly opposite of the way the group had come.
WC: 1881/1500 (Word Count met and exceeded)