The Low Road
We chased a rumor to Guard Heorgar who stood watch over the dock side
of the gate between the harbor and Aspirant's Corner. The steady
halfling confirmed that it was possible to reach Stormreach proper via
the sewers. It was no easy task, he explained. Moreover, he was so
confident nobody could survive the treacherous path known as “The Low
Road” that he had a running wager with his counterpart on the opposite
side of the gate, Guard Healfdene.
One thing that really intrigued me about Heorgar's account of The Low
Road was his intimation that a successful adventurer might find
treasure or useful items along the path. Just the thought of some
long-forgotten tome containing arcane obscurities rotting away in a
sewer had me ready to face the danger. The problem would be convincing
my new traveling companion, a cleric named Shayalyn.
“C'mon. Let's check it out!” she prodded to my surprise. I wouldn't
have guessed for a moment that she could be spurred by greed. I had
barely reached the rusty grate by the time Shayalyn was already
descending the ladder into the sewer. Isn't
she a brave one?
Our boots sank down into a watery sludge. The stench was overwhelming—I
almost retched—and the vista was no better. Mold clung to the hewn
stone walls and ceiling, lending them an olive hue. Litter washed in by
the rain bobbed along in the incessant current of the water. Is the water really green, or is that the
reflection of the mold?
Fresh ocean water emptied into our dank chamber from nearby pipes ahead
on either side of us, the roar masking the sounds of our arrival. It
was clear we would get wet—and dirty.
“I don't like this,” I informed Shayalyn.
“Hmm,” the cleric acknowledged.
I took the lead, moving on down the slope awkwardly so I could maintain
my balance. Almost immediately, I spotted a kobold. The reptilian
creature was filthy with refuse, and I only barely got my shield up in
time to block the muck that flew from its body as it launched its first
Shayalyn was there at my right side in a flash, battering the kobold's
skull with her mace. With our enemy distracted, I was confident I could
lower my shield enough to make a few stabs with my rapier. Where the
cleric's blows were precise and brutal, mine were far more erratic and
glancing. Soon enough we had jabbed and bludgeoned the creature until
it moved no longer.
“You're not much of a fighter, are you?” Shayalyn cut straight to the
diplomat, are you?
I thought. Instead I replied, “My strength
lies not in combat, but in storytelling.” Unexpectedly, my confession
made me blush. Was it because a woman had proved my better in combat? I
had to shake the feeling.
Sheathing my rapier at my left hip, I produced my lute from my pack. I
strummed a few cords.
“Ralsu, there may be more kobolds down here!” the spunky woman
admonished, her fiery eyes almost as intense as her closely cropped
hair. Spunky? Oh no! I think she's
I ignored her and began telling of my journey to Stormreach and I
continued to make music with the lute. Instantly, she was caught in the
magic. We both were. I recounted harrowing adventures at sea, evading
pirates and surviving storms. I altered no detail, whether it depicted
me impressively or as a coward. I let the magic do its work and weaved
it into the air as I rubbed my fingers over the strings of the lute.
I had finished a full two seconds—an eternity—before we snapped out of
our trance. I felt as though my own army of paladins surrounded me. I
feared nothing. I could tell the woman felt that way, too, though she
We moved along the narrow passage and soon faced two kobolds. I
hypnotized the one in the rear while Shayalyn moved to confront the
other. The cleric's mace made quick work of the closest one; its body
slumped to the ground just as I reached her. We focused our attacks on
the one who stood motionless, hypnotized by my magic. Our first blows
broke the spells, but the kobold never got to raise its weapon against
Just beyond the two latest kobold corpses was a fork in the causeway.
The water flowed freely in both directions, and lever position in the
center of the wall at the juncture of the split made things all the
more confusing. I suggested we move right, my normal inclination for
any fork in the road.
We were greeted by a fourth kobold who fell easily to our combined
might once I hypnotized him. Behind him was a sealed door with no
visible markings or mechanisms. Sewage water flowed under to the door,
and only a very small layer of solid waste rested on the bottom of the
“This door's been opened recently,” Shayalyn observed.
“The kobold's back was to us,” I noted. “I think he was trying to find
a way through, too.”
We retraced our steps to the lever at the juncture, and I could resist
“Shall we try it? It may open the door.” I insisted.
“I don't know.”
I pulled the lever, and it moved smoothly.
A thunderous crash competed with the roaring of the incoming ocean
water as we heard a door along the left passage close. A chill wind
carrying the smell of decaying food and waste wafted from the right.
The door behind the fourth kobold's corpse was now open.
We crept cautiously into the chamber beyond. We were on a narrow ledge
that overlooked a cesspool. Rotten water poured in from several
directions. We traced the ledge but soon found that it stopped.
“I don't want to get my locks dirty,” I complained in a loud voice,
twirling several strands of hair that had escaped my ponytail during
“Ralsu, I think the other path will only lead to that ladder over
there,” she shouted to be heard over the draining water.
Not to be dissuaded, I stalked back the way we came—and found the door
had sealed itself again.
“I didn't even hear with all of the noise in here,” I moaned.
“Time to swim,” she offered with a wry smile.
I jumped first—trying to be a gentleman—and burst into laughter as I
noticed the water below only came up to my ankles.
“It was hard to judge the depth from up there,” I bellowed.
Shayalyn soon discovered that the water was deeper in the middle of the
room. She also spotted a metal gate through the murky depths below.
“Uh-uh! No way! There has to be another way!” I yelled, pointing to the
myriad ladders lining the walls of the circular room.
Shayalyn plunged into the disgusting water without a word. I could see
her struggling to open the gate below.
Then I saw her body go limp.
I had to do it. I had to dive in. Silently promising myself a hot and
relaxing bath later, I sank into the gritty depths. Debris bounced
around my body and looking through the water was like watching a water
goblet filled with breadcrumbs. Oh,
I wish these were breadcrumbs!
Somehow, I managed to haul the woman back to the circular room.
Somehow, I managed to clear enough muck from her face and mouth to blow
a puff of air down her throat. Somehow, she started to breath on her
Within moments, she was conscious, spouting a litany of nonsense.
Locking mechanisms. Ladders. Feces. I couldn't make sense of it.
I began to move about the huge chamber, seeking some other way out. I
climbed the northeast ladder and found a kobold sifting through crates.
It turned on me immediately, and I was forced to fight on my own. Once
it was dispatched, I found and pulled a lever. The current of the water
in the center of the room seemed to shift, but I could not tell how.
I moved to the northwest corner next after a brief visit to Shayalyn.
She was still confused. Another kobold and another lever later, I was
back at the cleric's side.
“I saw a ladder on the far side of the tunnel beyond that gate down
there,” she finally exhibited some coherency.
She reached up and held my arm for a while. A warm sensation suffused
my skin, and I felt the sting of my injuries from battling the kobolds
Three more ladders. Three more levers.
“The gate down here opened up!” Shayalyn cheered as I approached her
“You'll never make it through that tunnel in that heavy armor,” I told
her. “Maybe you should strip naked—“
“Yeah? And have you watching me? I think you should go,” she retorted.
I went. It was disgusting. It reminded me of the stories old mothers at
the Church of the Silver Flame where I was raised told about the
process of childbirth: later, you only know it was horrible and that
you somehow survived it.
I exploded from the filthy water into a chamber that looked nearly
identical to the first one we had entered in The Low Road. Gasping for
air, I peered around. I was on the down side of the current this time.
I trudged through the muck upstream and spotted a kobold. This one
looked more intelligent than
the others I'd faced. It wore an ornate
headdress and muttered to itself in their draconian language. A kobold
shaman. Just great!
I charged at the kobold and it immediate threw a purplish glob of magic
at me. I dodged to the left, desperately seeking to gain the same
ground level with my foe. My rapier struck first, and the creature
winced and began hopping like a wounded toad.
I backed it into a semi-circular room lined with crates. It hopped from
the crates to a brick-sized ledge on the wall and began muttering its
magical curses. Try as I might, I could not reach the shaman on that
thin ledge: it was out of reach of my weapon, and my body was too large
to fit on the ledge. A few magic missiles tore into my right shoulder
and pain coursed through my body. I raised my shield, but the next
bolts curled around into my left side. I hoped I would survive the
barrage until the shaman exhausted its magic.
After a few more magical darts tore into my flesh, the kobold stopped
casting. It stood still on the ledge, trying to melt into the
moss-caked stone of the wall. I calmly withdrew my bow from my backpack
and fired four arrows into the tiny being's torso. It fell from the
ledge onto a crate dead.
A quick jaunt down the northern passage delivered me to a rope that led
up to the surface of Stonereach. We'd done it! We'd survived The Low
Road. Guard Healfdene was so happy to have won his bet with Heorgar
that he got some of his men to retrieve Shayalyn from the sewer. Our
adventure enhanced our reputation with the Stormreach Guard for sure.
[Share the Journey!]