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Archibald Drake and the Ausonian Stalker
Archibald Drake and the Ausonian Stalker
There was an unusual crowd in the bar-room of the Red Gashant. On the one hand, Ausonia's town guards were out in force looking for the murderer that had been preying upon the unwary of late. Fearing either the murderer or the attention of the guards, no small number of the regular custom had chosen to lay low for the evening. Pwill Hastang, the innkeep, hoped that the guard laid hands on the bastard soon or he'd be light on the pockets without even the excuse of Dreel One Eye's light fingers to blame it on.
On the other hand, tonight at least, he had another draw on the attention of Ausonia. Not strictly entertainment, but the little city was remote enough that the sight of a red man was still a call for attention.
Pwill had been careful to seat the red man at a table near the bar rather than a booth, so that he would be in clear sight from the rest of the room. Beneath the broad brim of his hat, the red man's strange blue eyes had narrowed and he glanced up at the rather taller Hwill. "Drawing in a crowd?" His voice was quiet and guttural. "Don't suppose I'll be paying for my supper then."
Pwill chuckled. The red man had a nerve or two, he reckoned. Then again, he'd heard that they were all half-crazed so it shouldn't come as a surprise. "Pay for your room and the supper's included," he offered.
They haggled a moment and the man paid a touch more than Hwill would normally be able to charge for a room. Brave but not the shrewdest of traders then. Well and good.
With his battered and travel-stained coat draped over the back of his chair and his hat and pack sat on the table's other chair, the red man was more fully revealed. He wasn't the first that Pwill had seen - Ausonia was isolated, but not that isolated - but he hadn't seen one with that particular shade of golden hair before, drawn back behind the nape of the red man's neck. Other than that, the man seemed a fairly typical example - half a head shorter than Pwill with those strangely small ears and pink skin.
"So where are you from?" he asked as he brought across the plate of food, noting that the other customers' ears were pricking up at the question. "An American perhaps? I had a visitor from America last year, said he was from the city of Vuginea."
"Virginia," the red man corrected him, "Is a state, not a city. And no. I'm not American. I am, by the grace of god, an Englishman."
"Ah, like the famous Burnaby of the Penelope," Pwill nodded. "You know him perhaps?"
The red man smiled. Smirked perhaps, it was hard to tell beneath his beard. "Of him, of course. But we've never met." He stabbed his fork into a cut of meat and lifted it to his mouth.
The door of the inn slammed open to reveal one of the town guards, wearing a cuirass and his sword half-drawn. "Hastang! Word is that you have a red man here, do you not?"
All eyes went to the red man, who paused and then started chewing on the meat, reaching for his cup with his other hand. He swallowed. "Always when I'm eating," he growled and gulped down some of the wine.
"Ah, well, it is as you can see," Pwill admitted, gesturing to the man, who was obviously trying to ignore them as he munched on a vegetable.
The guard pushed past Pwill towards the man. "What is your name?" he demanded brusquely.
The red man raised one finger commandingly and sipped from his cup again, rolling the mouthful of wine around his mouth for a moment as the guard's face grew ever more annoyed. "So, son," he said after he'd swallowed. "How can I help Ausonia's finest today?"
"You can begin," the guard hissed, "By telling me your name."
"Why certainly," he said, seemingly sincerely pleased. "I shall be only too pleased to do so. Take a seat, why don't you. There's no need to stand on ceremony, we're all friends here."
"What is your name!?" the guard half-shouted.
The red man paused and stared at him coldly. "Do not raise your voice at me, fellow," he ordered, such a hard edge entering his voice that the guard stepped back abruptly, reaching towards the hilt of his sword. The sense that he had lost control of the situation began to penetrate his head however and he slowly relaxed his arm, turning the movement into grasping the back of another chair and drawing it over to sit opposite the red man.
"There now," the red man declared, his attitude once again entirely companionable. "Isn't this so much more civilised? Now, you were asking about my name I believe." He smiled. "It is, of course, Archibald Drake. Is that the extent of the service that I may offer?"
The guard gathered his wits. "No," he assured Drake. "Prince Jharmook has summoned all red men in the city to the palace tomorrow morning."
Drake nodded amiably. "Nice of him to be so welcoming. But really, he needn't make such a fuss over me. I'm just a private citizen, you know."
"He's not summoning you to welcome you," the guard exclaimed incredulously. "He's summoning you because it's an offworlder that's been murdering decent folk in their beds!"
There was a slight pause as everyone's eyes went to Drake, who shrugged. "Well I can't say that I know anything about that - only arrived this evening as it happens - but I'll be sure to be along promptly in the morning. It's not as if I meet a prince every day, you know."
The palace of the Prince of Ausonia had been a fortress in the past and probably would be again in the future if the history of the planet named for a God of War was anything to judge by. The massive stone architecture reared up above Drake as he strode through the quiet morning activities of the city, his boots clicking on the cobbles beneath his feet.
The morning chill had been enough to persuade him to wrap a scarf around his neck and lower face before setting out so with his hands buried in his coat pockets, the only visible part of his skin was that around his eyes, generally hidden from the substantially taller Martian populace by the brim of his hat. It is therefore understandable that the guards were paying rather more attention to him as he approached them than they might otherwise have done.
"Who goes there?" the younger of the two guards enquired.
"Archibald Drake," Drake introduced himself. "Jharmook invited me to drop by," he added casually and then came to a halt as the guards crossed their pikes in front of him. "Do you mind not blocking the way? It would be terribly rude for me to be late."
The guards looked at each other and then squinted at him. "You're an Earthman then?" the elder of them asked. "I rather expected you to be taller."
Drake tilted his hat back on his head and lowered his scarf far enough to make his decidedly un-Martian features clearly visible. "Size is relative. Now am I going to be allowed in, or shall I have to wait until Jharmook comes to pick me up off his doorstep? It's not that I mind, you understand, but I've already gone out of my way to come here and if he's going to leave me out here in the cold..." He trailed off ominously and then smiled, allowing the tension to dissipate. "Well, I shall not be best pleased, I can tell you."
The guards exchanged worried looks and then raised their pikes. It wasn't as if they'd not been told that all the red men in the city were to attend upon the Prince that morning. And it wasn't really any of their business if one of them turned up earlier.
"Thank you, gentlemen," Drake said as he walked between them and into the palace.
When Prince Jharmook left his apartments high in the palace, his loins well and truly girded for the delicate task of bullying the Earthmen into dealing with the Stalker that plagued his city, he was surprised to see a red man - one of those he had summoned presumably - sitting at a small table across from the captain of his guards, apparently demonstrating some sort of game.
"Is there some social event that I was not advised of?" he asked somewhat irritably.
Captain Harth stood and bowed. "Your highness, you summoned the Earthmen to your court this morning. This Earthman, Archibald Drake, happened to arrive before you woke and awaits you."
Jhamook's face tightened. "Did he now?" he asked acridly. "I suppose that I should be glad you didn't present yourself in my bedchamber."
"Oh now that just wouldn't be done, your highness," Drake assured him, apparently oblivious to the Prince's ire. "One doesn't just intrude on a private residence like that you know."
"No doubt," Jharmook conceded grudgingly as he stalked towards the stairs, Harth and Drake following behind him. "And was there any particular reason that you sought me out at this early hour."
"Ah well, I seem to have quite forgotten what time I was supposed to be here and - well, dash it, just couldn't see myself keeping you waiting. Call it an exagerated respect for royalty, if you can imagine such a thing."
Despite himself a slight smile creased Jharmook's face, fortunately while he was facing away from the Earthman. "I suppose that I could stretch my imagination to such an outre concept," he conceded.
"And since he was evidently early Mister Drake was kind enough to teach me the basics of a human game," Harth observed. "Chis, I think you said it was called?" he confirmed to the red man.
"Ah, Chess," he repeated the name, shaping the unfamiliar word carefully. "Interesting little game. I'll have to teach you some of ours, should the chance arise."
"Should," Jharmook observed sardonically. "The chance arise."
Drake hummed to himself. "Dare I suggest that you suspect that the chance might not?" he asked curiously. "Deuced odd thing to say. Might almost think you're anticipating that I might suffer a mishap of some nature."
"A mishap?" the prince observed, his black robes flapping around him as he descended the stairs towards the level of the throneroom. "No. But perhaps a misfortune, Mister Drake. Perhaps a misfortune."
"You have undoubtedly heard," Jharmook declared from his throne, "of the series of murders that have been committed in the city. We have learned that the killer has taken shelter in the city's sewers and it is evident that it is from there that he has been striking all along. Unfortunately, the Ausonian Guard cannot follow him into the sewers, so I need operatives who can. I have selected you."
A mumble of disbelief came from the gathered offworlders. There were few of them, Ausonia being so remote - besides Drake were a stout American merchant by the name of Johnson and his wife; Jacobi, a threadbare-looking Italian missionary; and two sailors from a merchant sky kite that had docked the day before who'd introduced themselves as Smith and Jones despite the fact that their mediocre Koline was far more fluent than their English.
"As offworlders," continued the prince. "You can enter the sewers in relative safety. You can track the killer down and capture or kill him for me. He was badly wounded during his last attack, so he should cause you little worry. As long as you are careful, I expect that you will have little troble in completing the mission quickly and safely."
"Now see here," spluttered the merchant. "You can't just -"
Drake flicked his arm back to bat the man lightly on the upper chest, silencing him for a moment. "Now now, no need to speak so hastily man, hear his highness out."
"All very well for you, young sir, but I have a wife and a business to see to," the merchant declared hotly.
"Once you return with the villain or proof of his death, I will pay you one hundred pounds to compensate you for your time," Jharmook offered. "However, I will not take no for an answer. By entering Ausonia, you have placed yourselves under my law for the duration of your stay, and that law requires that you perform whatever service the prince might ask. Furthermore, the very fact that the villain can survive in the sewers indicates that he is from offworld as much as you are." He frowned. "And to my way of thinking you have a responsibility to police your own kind."
"But surely you cannot expect," protested the missionary, gesturing feebly towards Mrs. Johnson.
"As I have stated," snapped Jharmook, "when you return successfully from the mission, I will pay you well. Should you refuse, I will be forced to seize all your possessions in payment for the damages done by this madman, and then throw you in prison for vagrancy. What is your answer?"
"Easy, your highness," Drake said calmingly. "I'm sure that Father Jacobi was merely pointing out that Mr. Johnson may have quite reasonable concerns about including Mrs. Johnson on this expedition."
"Ah, yes of course," Johnson hastily, his red face having paled dramatically at Jharmook's threats. "I may not be as young as I used to be but I daresay I can manage this matter. You really cannot ask it of Madeline though."
"I see," Jharmook conceded suspiciously. "Very well, Mrs. Johnson need not accompany you. And what say the rest of you? Speak swiftly."
"Why can't your guards go down the sewers?" Jones piped up. "What's down there that you're sending us instead?"
It was Harth who answered the question. "The sewers are home to not only to scavenging creatures but to smaller creatures and plants whose mere presence is sufficient to cause great harm to Martian flesh. This was devised thousands of years since to reduce waste efficiently, but as a result to enter even the highest levels is certain death of any of my kind. Since the murderer survives down there, however, it must be that the sewers are less inimical to you and yours."
"How do you know that for sure?" Jacobi protested.
The expression that flickered across the face of the Prince was one of irritation. "We do not."
"I suppose that we shall have the opportunity to find out for ourselves then," Drake said heartily, clapping the missionary on the shoulder. "Would you mind terribly lending me a sword for this little expedition, your highness? I rather suspect that I'll need one down there if I'm to subdue this fellow, one way or another."
The sun was high in the sky as the little band gathered in front of the entrance to the sewers. Johnson had been able to provide three good lanterns from his trade goods and armed himself with a stout cudgel. Smith and Jones both displayed functional looking knives sheathed at their belts and Drake had strapped on a sword from the armoury of Jharmook's own guards, leaving his pack, coat and hat in the custody of Captain Harth.
Jacobi, for his part, was unarmed and accepted one of the lanterns to carry. The looks that went between Johnson and Smith as the sailor accepted the third lantern made it clear that they didn't expect the missionary to be be good for anything beyond carrying the lantern. Possibly, in extreme need, lighting it.
"Are there any other last minute errands to run?" asked the leader of the guards who'd been trailing after them as they made their preparations, more to ensure they did not try to flee the city than to provide assistance.
D for Drakensis

You're only young once, but immaturity is forever.
Re: Archibald Drake and the Ausonian Stalker
1889 fic! Sweet.
"An object at rest -- CANNOT BE STOPPED!!!!!"
Archibald Drake and the Ausonian Stalker
The entrance was well away from the populated parts of Ausonia, on one of the areas abandoned as the water ran out and populations shrank. The alley that they had followed was a dead end, but someone had pulled aside the rusting grate that covered an accessway and Drake stood beside it, enjoying the warm, moist air that rose from it even if the stench was, to put it mildly, unappealing. "I can't think of anything," he said, looking around. "Has anyone been down there yet?"
"Only the murderer," the guard told him.
"Oh the joy," quipped Drake. "Right, follow me down would you," he ordered Smith. "Might need a light in a hurry. Then Father Jacobi, Mister Johnson and you Jones. Feel free to hurry if you hear anyone trying to do me an injury."
Without any more ado, the Englishman scrambled onto the ladder leading down the access route. God only knew how old it was but other than being a trifle wider between the rungs than he would have preferred, the ladder was perfectly serviceable and he descended quickly. He was much less than his own height down the shaft when Smith joined him on the ladder, blocking out the sunlight.
Finally Drake realised that there was water only a short distance below his feet. "I'm almost at the bottom," he called and slowed slightly, probing for obstacles before each step. Finding none, he was shortly standing in fast moving water that was no more than knee depth and moved aside, rummaging in his waistcoat pocket for one of the safety matches that he had set aside, striking it against the stone wall of the sewer as Smith descended the last few steps.
The flaring light of the match barely illuminated a cylinderical passage, knee deep in water and sewage. Fortunately there was little enough waste from the sparsely inhabited district above them, but the smell of generations of effluent was enough to bring a grimace to the sailor's face as he held the lantern open for Drake to light the candle within.
"Which way do you think we should go, sir?" Smith asked as Jacobi arrived, his own lantern loose in his hand.
Drake gestured in the direction he believed that the bulk of the city lay in. "I can't see any trace of the scoundrel who passed this way," he said. "But if he's laired down this way then it's likely enough that he's picked a central point - he's surely ranged across enough of the Ausonia." He waited until Johnson and Jones had joined them before drawing his borrowed sword. "Right then gentlemen. Let's be on with it."
"We could be at this forever," Jacobi protested as he followed Drake away from the ladder. "These sewers are a maze, we could be lost down here forever."
"Stuff and nonsense," declared Johnson. "Look man, I brought chalk to mark our path. Mark arrows to point us back to this entrance and if we can't do more for now then we can at least find our way out alright."
"Good thinking," agreed Drake.
They had walked for only a few minutes, ignoring several smaller turn offs save for marking them with arrows, when Jones, having moved up to take the lead, paused. "Someone ahead," he muttered. "I can hear them."
They paused and Drake moved forwards, leaving the three lanterns to backlight the two of them. "How far ahead," he breathed so quietly that even Jones would be hard pressed to see him.
The question was answered abruptly as a filthy figure slouched into the tunnel a score or more paces ahead of them only to freeze for a moment in the lantern light. Drake's eyes locked onto those of the new arrival and then, with a cry of fear, the figure fled into the darkness.
"It must be him!" Johnson shouted and he pushed forwards, trying to give chase. His lantern swung somewhat wildly as he ran, sending shadows leaping crazily around the five of them. Drake also ran as best he could in the water. They halted at the end of the straight stretch of sewers, looking around. Another large sewer led away in one direction but others, smaller, radiated in all directions.
"Which direction did he go in?" Drake wondered.
"Left, I think," Johnson said and held the lantern to peer down a side passage. "I - ah!" With faster reflexes than the younger man would have credited him with, the merchant brought up his revolver and fired a round. Drake jerked around to see slimy back disappear under the water, which pinked as if by blood a moment later. The retort of the gun set their ears to ringing and Drake had to leap aside as a block in one of the walls cracked suddenly, dust raining down as the sewer settled the tiniest fraction lower.
"Don't do that!" he hissed. "You'll bring the whole place down on us."
"Sorry lad," Johnson apologised, lowering the weapon. "There was something down in the water."
"I saw it," Drake agreed. "Some sort of slug perhaps? Not who we're chasing."
"No, that was a man alright," Johnson said. "I couldn't get a good look at him but he had a suspicious look to him, the devil! I do business with poor Kiithauk Gneesh and the brute murdered his wife in her own bed!"
"He looked like Mister Darwin's missing step," Drake muttered. "Hunched over, hands practically in the water. Not someone I'd expect to see on a London street, never mind in a Martian city. No wonder he attacks at night."
"What happened, sir?" Jones asked as he and Smith splashed up to the pair. "We heard a gunshot."
Johnson filled him in tersely while Drake scanned the walls, looking for any trace of their prey. "Where's Jacobi?" he asked when Johnson was done.
Smith grimaced and gestured with his thumb back in the direction of the ladder. "Ran the minute we heard the shot," he explained.
Drake rolled his eyes. "Wretched fellow. Nothing we can do about it now though." He glanced around. "Well, let's stick to the larger passages for now. There can't be that many of this size under a city as small as Ausonia."
Contrary to their exciting first few minutes in the sewers, the next hour went quietly as they walked back and forth along the larger sewer passages. "It's something like a tree," Jones noted, using some of Johnson's chalk to mark out a crude map on one of the walls. "The main trunk is the largest pipe, running down to the canal. And then there are large pipes going off in all directions and littler ones linking them all together."
"Well we've just about covered all of the north and the west of the system," Drake observed. "The major passages anyway. If he's hiding out in there then it's one of the side passages." He tapped the part of the map that represented where they were at the moment, at the northernmost part of the 'trunk' sewer. "There are a couple more major pipes in the east, no, three of them. We'll check them both and if we don't find him by then I suppose we'll have to turn back and try to find some way of sweeping the -"
"There!" Johnson shouted suddenly and raised his revolver, aiming it down the trunk. "You there! Stop at once." He pulled the trigger and a flash of light stabbed down the sewer.
"You blasted fool!" Drake snapped as the impetuous merchant splashed off.
Johnson shook off the Englishman's restraining hand. "I saw him again. Going into one of those passages we haven't checked yet."
"Watch out for the -" Drake broke off as Johnson heedlessly plunged into a deeper patch of the sewer, vanishing beneath the water for a moment, along with his lantern. "Why do I even bother?" he sighed as Johnson bobbed to the surface.
"We've only one lantern left, sir," Smith pointed out, indicating his own. "Might be best to go back now and fetch another before we go further."
"Tell that to him," Drake sighed, indicating Johnson who was still waving for them to follow him.
He wasn't actually getting any further away though.
And then his head vanished beneath the sewage again.
"Bloody hell!" Drake shouted and ran towards the merchant. Jones was a half-step ahead of him, he noted. "Keep the lantern back," he shouted to Smith and then plunged into the deeper water after Jones.
Johnson reared up again, wrestling with something that the distant light of the lantern gave nightmarish appearance to - somewhat like a slug or snail the size of a large dog. "Help me!" he called and flinched as Jones yanked his knife free and buried it in the beast.
Drake slashed his sword through the water and felt it connect to something. Drawing back he stabbed and felt the sword lodge in something solid. A second blow and it stopped moving.He kicked past it and closed methodically towards Jones and Johnson. There was blood in the water around them and Jones pulled back suddenly with another of the beasts apparently wrapped around his arm. Drake's cut would have done little to credit him to a fencing master anywhere on earth, but it slashed a deep cut through what he took to be the head of the boneless creature and it fell away from Jones.
A third time Johnson fell out of sight and Drake yanked Jones back, wary of stabbing into the merchant himself if he struck blindly. "Ready..." he ordered, watching the water heave. "Ready..."
There was an explosion under the water and Jones cried out in pain. Drake had no time to look aside as Johnson surfaced again, face contorted in agony. With grave deliberation, Drake thrust. Thrust. Thrust again... and then all was calm and he caught hold of the older man by the collar, hauling him back towards the shallows.
"Oh god," the American whimpered. "Oh Made-line..."
Drake stopped pulling. The man was too light, too limp in his grip.
And then it became clear, for it was only half of Johnson that he was pulling on. The rest of him, the lower half, was now only connected to that which Drake held by an unravelling chord of intestine and remained in the water.
"He's dead, sir," Jones said, clutching at his arm.
"I know that!" Drake snapped. "What happened to you?"
Jones winced. "Shot." He nodded to where the revolver was still clutched in Johnson's hand. "Must have got a last shot off."
"Under water!? By god, that's a good gun," Drake snorted. "Sorry to snap at you there. How bad is it?"
"What's happened?" Smith called, standing gingerly clear of the deeper waters.
"Johnson's dead," Drake said solemnly. "Poor devil. What a rotten place to die."
"We should turn back," Smith muttered disconsolately.
Drake shooks his head. "He said he thought he saw our man up ahead. I'm going after him."
"There's only one lantern... sir," the sailor pointed out in a mutinous tone.
"Then you'd have a long, dark walk back to the ladder, should you turn back now," Drake pointed out.
Smith hesitated.
"It's nothing serious, sir," Jones said, looking up from where he'd been examining his arm. "I can go on."
Drake nodded and sheathed his sword. "You'll need a bandage on that then."
D for Drakensis

You're only young once, but immaturity is forever.
Re: Archibald Drake and the Ausonian Stalker
I think I have this adventure. I remember it being unpleasant.
By the way, for those who don't know, there are Space: 1889 audio dramas for sale at the Dr. Who North America website:, along with Judge Dredd, Sapphire & Steel, and Dr. Who.Ebony the Black Dragon
Senior Editor, Living Room Games
Ebony the Black Dragon

"Good night, and may the Good Lord take a Viking to you."
Re: Archibald Drake and the Ausonian Stalker
You're probably right about remembering it Ebony, this is fairly closely based off one of the scenarios.

"There's something up ahead," Smith hissed. In light of Jones' injury, the wounded sailor had taken over responsibility for their remaining lantern, leaving Smith to take point and, not coincidentally, keep him in plain view of both the other men.
Drake simply nodded, knowing that Smith, looking back over his shoulder at the two of them, would be able to see him clearly in the lantern late. Moving slowly to avoid unnecessary noise, he waded forwards towards the corner that the sailor had been looking around. As he approached he began to hear the distant noise of restless animals, although not any animal that he recognised.
At first glance it looked like just another minor sewer passage, fairly short and ending at a T-junction. It took moment for Drake to register that there must be a light source down the right hand passage of the T-junction, for Jones was still well short of the turning but the T-junction was clearly visible. "Well spotted," he whispered.
Smith glared and Drake beamed sunnily at him to reassure the sailor that yes, Drake was indeed being intentionally patronising.
Then he strode determinedly through the sewage towards the T-junction, ignoring the muttering from Smith that was definitely not in English.
Peeking around the corner, Drake spotted the source of the light immediately. Indeed, it was hard to miss for the platform filled the entire width of the sewer, standing on piles perhaps five feet high to keep its floor above the water level, a simple metal stair leading up to it. At the far end, a metal wall cut off the platform from the rest of the sewer. The source of the noise was now evident for lining both sides of the platform were cage after iron cage, each stocked with some kind of ape. No naturalist, Drake was nontheless able to recognise from descriptions and drawings that he was looking at chimpanzees and orangutans, apes that were native not at all to any portion of Mars. Each was along in its cage and Drake was hard pressed to estimate their number beyond a stunned guess of score upon score.
Jones muttered something in a slavic tongue as he and Smith caught up with Drake. "What the devil are those creatures?" he asked.
"Apes," Drake concluded. "Apes from Earth, at that. Not something that I had expected to find here." He shrugged and gestured at the animals. "I doubt that they're set here as guards, but I imagine that they'll serve the same purpose if we go up onto the platform."
"We could go under it," Smith suggested. "There's room enough."
"True," Drake mused and then shook his head sharply. "No. We came here to deal with a fugitive. There's no use to skulking around as if it is we ourselves that are criminals." With that decided he did not hesitate to step forwards and set his foot upon the first stair.
The moment that he did so, a chimp stirred itself to glare at him with almost human hatred. Then it bared it's fangs, longer and more bestial than Drake had ever imagined such a creature to possess and hurled itself recklessly against the bars towards him with a howl of utter rage. The noise caused Drake to hesitate before taking his next step and also to wake more of the apes, each of which followed unerringly the example of the first. At the far end of the two ranks of cages, he saw a door leading through the metal wall.
A clatter from behind him had the Englishman turning on his heel before the first alarmed cry from Jones. A grate had sprung into place across the sewer behind the two sailors, trapping the three of them. Jones, bless the man, had thrust one arm through the bars and was trying to lift it by main force while Smith was simply leaning against the wall of the sewer a disgusted look on his face.
"You'll not move it," Drake told the wiry sailor, ignoring the useless Smith. "Come up here, there's a door."
Jones turned and then cursed - at least that was what Drake thought he was doing, the words were not among those that he knew - pointing at the area beneath the platform. Drake looked down and saw fumes rising from the darkness. The smell was... he shook his head to dispell the dizziness and leapt down from the stairs, trying not to breath.
It was dark beneath the platform but he was able to see some sort of vent half-hidden under the stairs. The angle was bad but he kicked at the slats anyway, trying to force them closed. His boot glanced off without any effect. Again, with no more luck. His head was swimming and he slipped when he tried to kick a third time, catching himself on the stairs. The metal was slightly warm to his touch, not even enough chill to cut through the haze.
A moment later and Drake lay limply against the stairs.
D for Drakensis

You're only young once, but immaturity is forever.

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