The Warrens

Mara shook her head. “No way.” A chorus of groans and jeers erupted out of the other children.

“Go on!”


“Mara’s too scared!”

She furrowed her brow and crossed her arms. “I’m not going down there,” she said, “people don’t come back from the Warrens.”

“My cousin says he has a friend that went down there and she said it was fine!”

“It’s dangerous down there,” Mara said, “I won’t go. I heard there was wererats and ghosts and big slimes. I’m not going.”

One of the boys pushed forward through the circle. “But you lost!” he said, “You lost fair and square and the loser has to go into the Warrens! You agreed!”

The tiefling girl dropped her head and stared at the cobblestone street. Outside the alleyway, she could hear the bustle of foot traffic in the market square. “I don’t want to…” she mumbled.

“Tough!” said the boy, “you lost and those are the rules! You have to spend a night in the Warrens!”

Mara shrank back as the other children began yelling, emboldened by the boy.

“But I don’t even know how to get into the Warrens,” Mara said. It was difficult to make out what the children were saying but suddenly the crowd closed around her, and she felt small hands grasping at her wrists as her friends began pulling her down the maze of side streets.

A few moments later, the gang were gathered around a sewer grate, as two of the strongest tried to prise the iron bars off. Others were restraining Mara, and as the grate was lifted with a clang, she began to cry.

“Please. Please, I don’t want to go. Don’t make me go,” she said.


“Yeah, Scaredy-Cat Mara!”

“Scaredy-Cat Mara! Scaredy-Cat Mara!” came the chant, as the other children began to push her towards the open grate, and the blackness of the Warrens below. She dug her heels into the ground, but it was no use. The grate came closer and closer.

“Scaredy-Cat Mara! Scaredy-Cat Mara!”

As it loomed closer and closer, demanding all her attention, all her focus, Mara was sure she could hear all manner of terrible noises from below — the slippery slide of acidic slime, the skittering of wererats, the echoing snarls of rotbeasts.

“Please,” she whispered.

“Scaredy-Cat Mara! Scaredy-Cat Mara!”

The small hands became more forceful, pressing her down and into the grate. Her hands gripping the wet, rusty ladder, Mara took one last look at the children, pleading with them.

“Please, I don’t want to go.”

The sound of the bars slamming down on top of the opening felt as if it echoed for minutes, and in the dark, and the wet, and the cold, Mara was alone.

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