It was over in an instant. While Max was taking her time to strangle her quarry, the twins wasted not a moment. With a side eye look at one another, the pair were fast as cobras. With sharpened nails, and an unexpected finger strength, they each plunged their hands through the skin of the two remaining women's throats. With a twist and a pull, their fingers were withdrawn, and their victims crumpled, gurgling bubbles of blood as they drowned in their own life force. The women licked their fingers clean, and proceeded to walk over to the gate, and waited, without a single word uttered or glance at Max and Lavana.
When the final breath drew from the dead, the gate began to creak open, screeching in its rusted out nature, disappearing into the stone overhead. No voice accompanied it, and the twins shrugged at each other, disappearing down the tunnel, without even a concern in the world that Lavana and Max were at their backs. A few bits of candlelit darkness, the twins, one clothed, one nude, walked along, until they entered another chamber, similar in design and concept as the last one, large, stone, circular with a high ceiling and four heavy, wooden, reinforced doors in front of them, all exactly the same, all unlocked.
No instruction came from the mysterious voice.
The first door opened up into a long chamber, with a balcony offset into the wall, high above the ground, filled with several masked individuals sitting in complete silence and watch. At the far end, another gate. But between the entrance and exit, was something that, to many, might seem impossible. The pathway was obscured by what appeared to be a miniature sand storm. Wind was swirling heavily in the chamber, filled with sand and small stones.
One of the masked individuals raised a hand, and the exit gate raised, and a thwarthide walked out, carrying a heavy wooden club. It was shoved outward by an unseen person and the gate left open. The thwarthide, a being of lesser intelligence and intense hatred for all other creatures saw its challenger and began to charge toward it. But the moment it stepped into the sand cyclone, it began to screech in pain. The whipping stones and sand thudded against it, pricking eyes, cutting skin, heavily bruising the creature. It backed up out of it, and waited. But it could be seen that it still maintained the desire to crush whoever'd entered the chamber.
The second door opened up into a shorter chamber, once more with a balcony full of masked individuals. The gate on the opposite side was already open, but there was a rather obvious obstacle in the way. A pit stretched across the path, twenty feet across, with no visible bottom. The walls along the side of the pit and chamber were completely smoothed down, with no visible handholds. And the masked individuals simply waited.
The third door opened up into a chamber that spewed heat when it was opened, the air thick and stifling. And it was immediately evident why. This chamber had spouts of flame gushing out of the floor and walls at random intervals. Each burst came with a loud rushing noise, and was only switched off for a single trill. And the path to the open gate was a long one. But the flames gave extra light the other chambers didn't have, and the masked individuals could be seen a bit more clearly. And every single one of them wore an Elemental Flames pin.
The fourth and final door led to a series of steps, that descended downward. It was pitch black, but halfway down, the steps descended into water. And continued to descend until stopping at the beginning of the final path. A long path stretched out underwater, with a single light source on the right side of the room. That wall was made of what appeared to be glass, and the masked individuals sat there, watching from safety, accompanied by torch light on their side. And at the far end, another set of steps, with a petite, female mer that just slipped down them and into the water, guarding the exit.
The twins stepped off to the side from the doors, waiting for Lavana and Maxine to make the choice as the self appointed leaders.
Meanwhile, back on the surface, Sephira had just found herself in an unlocked storeroom on the second floor of a warehouse, having just broken through the window. The shattering glass did not go unnoticed, and Orric, the Flame on duty looked to the ceiling over top him. He'd heard the thud of Sephira's weight against the wood. He snapped his fingers, and the five teamsters that remained in the ground floor looked up at him. He held up two fingers, then pointed upstairs, followed by a finger pressed to his lips.
One of the laborers sighed, and carried his crate down into the basement. Two of them broke off from the work, and began the slow, reluctant climb. The one in front spoke to the other, "Probably a damn pantheon again, fuckin' pests. We 'ad two crash in last tentrial."
There was a knock on the door, just as the men reached the second floor landing, pausing at the sound, and at the orders from Councilwoman Kura to open up. Orric obliged, opening the door, though barring any entry. He recognized the councilwoman immediately, "Well met, Councilwoman. How can I help? We've not noticed any disturbance. I do hope it's nothing too bad."
He stepped out of the doorway into the street, intentionally leaving the door open to allow her to see in, to see the two teamsters on the ground floor moving around crates and sacks.
Orric had a bad feeling about the councilwoman's arrival, and suspected the broken glass upstairs was not what his coworkers thought it to be. And Orric had survived this long by relying on his gut. "Immortals its cold out tonight, how was the lantern lighting? I wish I'd had a chance to attend."
He looked down the alley, seeing another Element approaching. He figured he was coming to check out whatever the disturbance once, which he strongly suspected was pointed at his warehouse.
Nodding at the distant yet coming closer Element, "It's about damned time. That guy is always late to replace my watch, I swear. If you need anything Councilwoman, he can help you. I've got a wee babe at home and a particularly grumpy missus. If you'd excuse me."
He tipped his cap at her, and walked over to approaching man, who he stopped and talked to, pointing at Kura and the warehouse. Then he slipped into the crowd, and the newcomer approached Kura, "He said there was disturbance you were lookin' into?"
The teamsters, tired of waiting on their boss, opened the door to shoo the pantheon back out the window. So the look of surprise on the first man's face was quite obvious as he opened the door at the precise moment Sephira gave it a try, and saw her there, crouched, weapon in hand. It took several long trills before the man realized that she was an intruder, he backed up from here quickly, for he was unarmed, just a laborer, "Oi boss! Migh' wanna get up 'ere, some lady just broke in!"
After yelling the alarm, he looked at her, "Iunno who ya think ya are, but this is private property, ya can't just be bustin' in. Ya wait here til the guards get here. I 'ope ya enjoy the mines in Egilrun."
And that was the moment everything went a bit south. A distant shout, from down the steps inside the warehouse, "Oi, git back here ya bitch!"
This was followed by a howl of pain, coupled with a woman in tattered clothes sprinting up the steps, with wild eyes, searching for an exit, a piece of broken wood, bloodied now, in hand. She pointed it threateningly at the two teamsters on the ground level, "Git out me way ya fooks! I ain't goin' nowhere's wit' ya!"
The woman lunged at one of the teamsters who scrambled out the way, while the other ran over to a crate, where he grabbed a wooden club. "Don't let her escape! We need her!"
The woman sprinted toward the door that was opened to Kura, eager to get out of the hellhole. A fifth teamster came up the steps, clutching at his thigh that was bleeding, carrying a long dagger, seeing Kura in the door, and recognizing her. "Aw fook."
The woman in her wild escape, sprinted out the door, weapon in hand, and barreled right into Vega, who'd happened to be in the alley after having her own lovely encounter, tossing the pair of them head over heels in a mess of splayed limbs and red hair everywhere. An elbow was wildly thrown at Vega's face, and the woman scrambled to get up, her weapon dropped, as she began running toward the head of the alley, to get out and away from there.
Orric wove through the crowd, when for the briefest of moments, he could be seen by those around him to have stopped. He looked toward a building overlooking the docks, and nodded at a man that was standing there, looking down on all the people. With a returned nod, both men pulled a cloth from their pockets, and tied them around their noses and mouths. The man dipped behind the wall of the roof, and when he popped back up he had an armful of clay spheres. He cocked an arm back and threw the first one, right into the middle of the throng of people that were the remnants of the dispersing festivities.
When it struck the ground, it shattered like an egg, and those closest to it would remember hearing a sizzling sound as a liquid spilled out of them. The liquid almost immediately evaporated into a thick, noxious, yellow cloud. Within moments, those that inhaled the smoke crumpled to the ground like sacks of potatoes and women dumped to the ground in a dark hole. Several more were thrown, including a few into the alley where Kura and Vega were moments before, some onto the deck of the ship. And soon, the entire block was permeated with the toxin to render everyone unconscious. And for Vega, Kura, and shortly after, Sephira, the world grew black.
An indeterminate amount of time later, the three woman would find themselves, in a large stone chamber below ground. They were clothed, armed, and otherwise intact, aside from a splitting headache and the taste of honey in their mouths. Nor were they alone, nor unrestrained. Each of them would find a metal collar clamped around her neck, chained to the floor in front of the seat the woke up. And there were dozens of women in the balcony with them, all equally restrained.
Down below was a raised, stone dolmen in the middle of a dirt floor, with four masked men, each mask reminiscent of the four elements, earth, air, water, and fire. They stood, robed, waiting for something, each of them armed with a different, a mace for earth, a pair of daggers for air, a spear for water, and a sword for fire. Before them, four open gates. What, or who were they waiting for?
And during the wait, more robed men filed into the balconies, entering from a variety of staircases, all masked to one of the four elements, all with a matching weapon. They did not intermingle with the women, preferring to be segregated it seemed. They did not speak, did not react. They simply waited. Vega, Kura, and Sephira were all near enough to speak to one another. And as the effects of the gas wore off, they would find the ability to converse had returned as well.