Chapter Twelve, Part Two
As the green smoke clears, the party can take stock of each of those who had been trapped within the lamp.
A male Elf slightly over four and one half feet tall with light red hair and light green eyes. He wears inexpensive studded leather armor and has a cheaply constructed bow in one hand and a flight arrow in the other. On his back is a very expensive-looking two-handed sword.
A rather plump, brown-haired, male Hobbit with a dagger in his hand, wearing much nicer leather armor. He is the first to his feet and seems the most alert to danger. He has an ornate medallion in the shape of Capra’s symbol on a golden chain around his neck.
A pretty female Half-Elf woman in the leather armor. She is five and a half feet tall, has red hair, and green eyes. She is studying the ornate staff she carries.
A large manly-looking female Human in splint-mail with a mace in one hand and a shield in the other. She seems the most confused by their sudden appearance. Her tunic is embroidered with the symbol of Raim.
A Human female in robes. She carries a staff and is five and a half feet tall, with black hair and gray eyes. She has a symbol of Raim on her necklace and seems frightened.
A young man in chain armor, with a simple shield and longsword. He steps ahead of the Elf, as if protecting him.
An extremely large female Human. She is taller than Percy and carries a halberd that makes his two-handed sword look like a child’s toy. She wears a metal mask which covers one half of her face and neck and plate armor. She moves with much greater poise than any of the others.
The woman with the black hair takes Arianna’s hand and pulls herself to her feet.
Rastorn gives Melias a truly evil look, then drops his hands to his sides.
“I hate to say this, Melias, but I’ve never seen that giantess in my life and not in my dream,” Orjulun whispers, as he points to the large woman in plate armor.
Arianna looks at the large dark-skinned woman with plate armor and then asks the woman she helped up, “Do you know her?”
“She’s no member of The Eight I’ve ever heard of, although they did need to replace Memorex a while ago,” Rastorn says, with little enthusiasm. “I’m guessing she may not take kindly to being tied up, though, my Elven friend,” he says, looking her up and down.
Percy makes a snap decision, “She wears a mask! Only villains have something to hide! Throw down your weapon, madam, or we will be forced to come to blows!”
“Our quest is at an end. Now they can go forth and save the world from a second Undead War, as they were prophesied to do,” Orjulun says, with more gusto than is usual for him.
The woman with Arianna looks at the six foot nine inch tall Warrior woman and whispers, “No. I only know, him, him, her, and her.” As she speaks, she points to the Hobbit, the Elf with the two-handed sword on his back, the Half-Elf woman with the ornate staff, and the tall woman with the mace. “Who are you and . . . where are we?”
The woman with the halberd remains quiet and moves slowly back until her back is against the door of the mansion. She holds her halberd before her in a defensive pose.
The Elf smiles at Arianna and Melias, then speaks in Elvish. “Greetings, my brother and sister! It warms my heart to see others of The Nation building bridges with the more primitive races! I am called Blitzarrow. May I be granted the honor of learning your names?” He pulls the two-handed sword off his back and looks down at it with a look of discomfort and surprise as it lands on the porch, then walks to Melias and offers his hand.
“‘Primitive’?” Rastorn grumbles, in Elven.
The Half-Elf with the staff steps off the porch as she continues to study the ornate staff she carries. She seems hypnotized by it and looks at it in wonderment and as if for the first time.
The Hobbit moves away from the group and keeps looking around, as if he expects someone to attack him at any moment.
Melias speaks quietly in a voice that won’t carry much further than the wizard he confronts, though Evlen ears may pick up what he says. “Rastorn, my friend, now we discover what sort of mettle you’re made of. You can either cast off your greedy motivation and take a more noble path or you will have more than just me to deal with. I can’t say I’m surprised it came to this, but I was hoping your change of heart over the past days was something more substantial. It’s not too late for you to prove me wrong.” He steps to the side of the wizard and looks to the others now fresh from their prison. “I am Melias, sent here with my companions in an effort to rescue the mind-jumping criminals of the state so they can save the world from what will become the next war with the Undead. I don’t know who the extras are in this little collective, but so long as you aren’t opposing us, then everyone comes out a winner here.” He looks back to Rastorn and says, “Isn’t that right, Rastorn? Your wanted poster, please?” Melias looks to the Elf approaching him and says in Elven, “I will gladly make a proper greeting once I have confirmed who everyone is.” He looks at Percy and says, “Watch the staff gazer. I smell sorcery afoot. We can’t afford any cheap shots right now.”
Arianna looks at Blitzarrow and says in Elven, “I am Arianna and these are my companions: Melias, SeLiem, Percy, Orjulun, Rastorn and Claire.” She points to each member as she says their names. “We’ve traveled long and hard to find you. Can you tell us anything about this place, other than there’s a Troll lying in wait behind that door?”
Blitzarrow jumps at the word ‘Troll’ and turns to look at the door. “A Troll! Well, we won’t be opening that door any time soon, I can tell you.”
After staring at Melias for two breaths, Rastorn smiles graciously. “It seems they may not be the violent criminals we may have taken them for. Let us speak with them and learn their motives, before any harsh actions. Do you agree?” He hands the poster to Melias.
The drawings are accurate, except the expressions they wear on the poster are far more grim than those they wear in person. Melias can tell the female Arianna is speaking with is Eva, the Hobbit is Linus, the Elf is Blitzarrow, the female with the heavily carved wooden staff is Honeysuckle, and the smaller of the two tall women is Reputa, Priestess of Raim.
“Why in the world would you be looking for us?” Blitzarrow asks Arianna. “Oh, did you save us from Lord Darkoth! We were about to take an acid bath, last I remember!”
“By Altma, I think this might be a -” Honeysuckle shouts to Blitzarrow, cutting her announcement short when she notices all the strangers who would overhear her. She slides the staff behind her back and sheepishly glances around.
“Blitzarrow, my liege, you may wish to be more cautious with whom you speak. We do not know if this is some sort of trap,” the young man with the school-boy hair-cut whispers in Common to Blitzarrow.
“What did he call me? Who is this Human boy?” Blitzarrow asks Arianna as he pulls away from the young man.
“Could you please let us know what is going on?” Eva asks Melias. “I swear by the generous hand of Raim, we mean no harm.”
“Holy shit, Blitz, did you take a look at this sword – it’s probably worth a fortune!” Linus the Hobbit shouts, after he works his way back onto the porch and looks at the two-handed sword lying there.
“Linus – your language!” Reputa shouts at him.
“My dear Hobbit, I certainly would never use such an unruly weapon!” Blitarrow shouts over his shoulder, as he rolls his eyes and speaks Common for the first time since he appeared. “Feel free to trade it in for gold if you so desire, but I’m quite convinced you will find porting such a large item around to be somewhat beyond your abilities.” He flashes a quick smile at Melias and Arianna, then says, “Yes, as Eva has said, we are all at a bit of a loss.”
The Druidess and the Hobbit and the Cleric of Raim all walk to where Blitzarrow and Eva are conversing with Rastorn, Melias, and Arianna.
“Please, Blitzarrow, speak in the Common tongue, so we may all understand,” the Cleric asks the Elf.
Percy strolls to the two-handed sword on the porch. “Could I have your permission to unsheathe this fine sword, mister Blitzarrow sir?” he asks, in his usual full-bodied voice. When the Elf nods off-handedly, Percy unsheathes the sword and holds it aloft admiring the fine workmanship. He abruptly drops it! “It shocked me! How? Arianna – this weapon sent an electric shock up my arm when I held it!”
“Maybe it was your imagination. You’d better try it again. Hold on real tight this time,” Rastorn tells him.
Orjulun joins in beside Melias and listens intently to the conversation.
Still speaking in Elven, Arianna tells Blitzarrow, “It’s a long story, but the one who should tell it is either Melias or Claire. Melias seems to have the best grasp on what’s going on and Claire is a Bard. All I know is that due to something I’ve seemed to have lost my memories of the whole past day. So I’m not very useful in the telling of this tale.” She walks away and steps onto the porch and bends down to inspect the sword Percy had dropped. It looks too large for her to use even if it doesn’t shock her, but until she got approval she wasn’t going to touch it either. She looks back at the rest of the group.
The young man interrupts the conversation and pleads with Blitzarrow. “Why are you ignoring me? You accepted my offer to be your Henchman.”
“I have never had a henchman nor been a henchman, young man, and I may never have one. If you can show me the documentation proving what our relationship is and all proper credentials, I may reconsider, if not – please let the Elves have their reunion. Without legal proof, you have no claim to me,” Blitzarrow tells him, through a strained smile.
The giant-sized woman remains quiet and clutches her halberd. Nobody notices as she takes three small steps to the side, separating herself from the group.
On the porch, a voice speaks directly into Arianna’s mind. “Hi. My name is Iflander the Defender. That man was nice and all, so I didn’t totally fry him, but I really prefer people like you. Go ahead and pick me up. I don’t weigh what you might expect.”
With a moment of shock and a blink to show it, Arianna looks at the blade a little more carefully. She takes a slow breath and lifts it.
“Apologies for interrupting your reunion. I will no longer burden you with my presence,” the very tall woman says as she slowly backs away from the group.
“I don’t think so,” Rastorn tells her. “No one is leaving this area until we all get to know one another. Make yourself comfortable, this may take a while.”
Arianna continues to listen to the sword, as it speaks to him telepathically. “I have been in the hands of some of the greatest Warriors of all time and been in some of the most glorious battles. Battles for freedom and battles of Good over Evil! Although an Elf-like creature named Blitzarrow carried me for a short time, I was last carried into grand combat during the Undead Wars. Two different Heroes of The Realms wielded me during that time. One fell in battle with the Vampiress Convisia as he and other noble men and women fought beside Lord Darkoth and Elflord Nightwynd and the Dwarf Lord Avalanche during their successful mission to steal The Cube of Power from Terrorek, Lord of Undead. I will accept any hands that work for Good, but I crave a True Hero with strong belief in the power of the individual and of the strength of Good over Evil. Are you such a Hero?”
Arianna smiles and picks up the scabbard. In her mind she says, “Yes, I am that hero. I would be honored to wield you in combat over the forces of evil. I am Arianna. Pray tell, what powers do you have? I know a sword of your quality has special powers.” She is so focused on the sword, she does not hear the conversation between Rastorn and the large female Warrior.
With great authority, the woman tells Rastorn, “I meant only to be polite, good sir. It has been nearly a year since I’ve taken my last order.” Raising her voice slightly, she adds, “And, I mean my last order. So, unless you plan on cleaning my teeth with that toothpick, I’d write this off as experience and be done with me this instant.”
“Since we saved you, I feel it would be fair for you to tell your stories first, yes?” Rastorn asks. When no one seems to mind, he turns to face the other unknown person and says, “Young man, since a more honest answer would be derived from someone without the crutch of the story of five others, why don’t you speak first?”
“Gladly,” the young Fighter replies, “My real name has been changed. I am now to be called ‘Bonehead’, since that is the name my liege Blitzarrow has chosen for me.”
At this, Blitzarrow squints his eyes and makes a sour face.
The young man continues, “I was on a journey to locate a noble Warrior to study under. I am not without skills, but I have decided it is my destiny to be a loyal Henchman until death. My wish was answered when some strange magic brought me to the feet of Blitzarrow the Brave. I joined him there by the stables after he slew several gigantic spiders. I vowed to always follow him. After their strange card game was completed and the deck disappeared, I stood watch for them in the tower as they slept. Then, the next morning was cut short when a green light somehow imprisoned us as we reached the door to this mansion. That is all.”
Melias eyes the ‘henchman’ suspiciously and asks the group, “Does anyone remember the tale he tells?” He looks at the tall female and nods in agreement with Rastorn, “We do not mean to be rude, nor bossy, but, please, bear with us. There’s no telling how long you’ve been in there. It’s best for you to get reacquainted with what all is going on. And I mean everything. Perhaps once it’s all said and done, you might have a change of heart, like my friend Rastorn here has so recently.” He rolls up the wanted poster and hands it back to Rastorn for safe keeping.
“Percy, will you go and restrain that woman, before she leaves and brings the entire Eight to her aid?” Rastorn says, still paying more attention to the young man than to the female Warrior.
“Really, ma’am, please join us and we will all learn much, I am sure. Alone one can do little, but a group this size can move mountains. Once we know that trust is merited, that is,” Orjulun tells the tall woman, then smiles.
Back on the porch, the sword still speaks to Arianna. “I am not what I once was. After the Undead War I volunteered to be used in the construction of an Iron Golem that was created by the great minds of the day to guard The Cube of Power for eternity. An eternity that was cut short when that group came looking. The energy I used to power the Golem weakened my abilities. I can only speak telepathically now, although I retained both the Common and Elven tongues. I can no longer completely Heal my wielder, though I can heal even great wounds daily. One hundred years ago, I could Detect Evil, but now only the most powerful Evil is evident to me and only a few times a day. I can see invisible objects just as often, too. When desired, I can grant an unarmored man protection equal to banded armor, although doing so keeps me from improving that Fighter’s combat ability. I may have more powers, but my memory is weakened also. In my earlier comments I struggled to remember some of the names of those who wielded me.”
“Actually, young woman, why don’t you tell your tale next?” Orjulun suggests to the giant woman.
After re-adjusting her items, Arianna discovers she has weapons she doesn’t need. She lays before the assembled group two daggers, a battleaxe, a shortsword and a longsword. “If someone needs them, please take them. I need not these weapons and they only slow me down.” Then she turns toward Melias and whispers, “I have this sword to give unto you. It served me well, but I have acquired a new blade that only a true Warrior would use. You are in need of a better blade and The Battler is a very good one.” She hands The Battler to Melias. “At least, I think I might be keeping this new sword.”
In her mind, Arianna speaks to Iflander the two-handed sword, “If you belong to Blitzarrow, he is right here. He is having problems with his memory and I’m sure he’d want you back if he remembered.”
Iflander tells Arianna, “Surely that is the body – in an earlier state, anyhow – but not the mind. The Blitzarrow who carried me was not an Elf, nor was he a Dwarf, nor was he even from this reality. He was the combination of three separate beings from three different realities. This Elf before you who so unceremoniously dumped me on the porch, is indeed the Blitzarrow of this reality, wholly and completely for the first time in some time, I would say.”
In response to a questioning whisper from Melias, Orjulun whispers back, “Why would he concoct a story that could be so easily proved false? I suggest you ask him a question that would prove his story, though I don’t know what.”
“Thank you, Arianna,” Melias says, as he straps The Battler to his hip. He finds it hard to believe how angry he had been yesterday at the headstrong Elf and wonders how SeLiem felt about the whole ordeal. If he held a grudge, he hid his cards well. “I appreciate the gift. Here, take this back then,” he says handing the other long sword he gained from Arturus the day prior. “I won’t be needing it and someone else can benefit from your generosity.” He turns and nods the would-be henchman. “If you spent the night in the tower then you know what was at the bottom of the tower and how it died. Tell me about it.”
Bonehead looks to Blitzarrow, as if asking permission to answer. When he receives no such direction he decides to answer, “I think they called it a Dark Naga. It was a giant snake with a head more like a man. Before I came they had slain it, mostly with magical missiles and sharp weapons. They say it cast spells and they even recovered its spell book.”
The tall woman interrupts, “At first glance you wish to hogtie me, now I am to be patient and trusting. Sure. Why not? The next thing you know we’ll all be singing merrily down the road whilst shorty there is sticking his toothpick in our backs.” Eying Percy she says, “At least he has a brain.” She sighs loudly, then says, “You wanna chat? Fine. I was on my way from Teralee, a small keep in the hills outside Dumas, to the home of Lextaria the Hunter, looking for work. I heard the sound of battle and did not want to be cheated outta my fair share of the action. The next thing I know, I’m on a road that goes in circles and the only way out leads to this porch and some green smoke spell. Blasted Wizards! Satisfied? Or would you prefer my neighbor’s name along with that of his wife and two children?” She chuckles.
Although they deny knowing anything about a snake, Eva does find several spell books in her bag that she didn’t know she had. She also finds many pages of notes and other papers.
As the tall woman talks, Arianna graciously takes the blade back from Melias, not remembering having given it to him. Moving up to Blitz, so close that he could feel her breath blow across his neck and ear, she says, in a sultry whisper in the Elven tongue, “So, what’s a handsome Elf such as yourself doing with a motley crew such as this?”
Blitzarrow turns to face Arianna and whispers, “They may not be the best looking group around, but they are my friends. We’ve fought a Hill Giant together and broke into castle Darkoth. Not exactly a long history together, but enough to bond us. I was a stranger in a strange land when they asked me to join. You see that little Hobbit over there? He said he had dreams that told him that we should be together and everything High Priest Ifon, Onif the Diviner, and Fino the Bard said supports what Linus had said. I think the five – or six – of us will be togher a long time. Long by Human standards, anyway. My goal is to help man and Elf to reunite and this is a good start. They are . . . loyal friends.”
Arianna steps back from Blitz, obviously she didn’t need to pour on seduction to find out any information. But what bothered her was the way he seemed not at all interested in her either. She shakes her head and decides that is a good thing. Being a woman has advantages, but there are some things she was not willing to do. Just because he was female didn’t mean he was a woman. After all, he was still a man, just trapped in a woman’s body.
“Well, I say enough of this talk. We still have a Troll just on the other side of that door, several that are working their way back to functionality, and other things to fight, I’m sure. Now, with so large of a group I’m sure we can check this place out in no time and get the hell out of here. I don’t know about everyone else, but this place gives me the creeps,” Arianna says.
Waving off Arianna, Rastorn says, “Not yet, Arianna. I still have questions.” He steps toward the tall woman and says, “Amazing. A story we cannot easily prove false. I’d have never expected.”
“That means you are last, Eva. What is your group’s story?” Orjulun waves his hands as he speaks, trying to distract the woman from Rastorn’s usual rudeness, as he spoke.
“Well, I’m from Ouifiche, but I studied The Art in Cultury. That is, until Linus asked me to join him on a Quest that he didn’t even understand yet. He had visions-” Eva stops short, not certain how much she should share, then nods to Linus, who takes up where she left off.
“Dreams is more like it. Who doesn’t dream of adventure, especially one who seldom left his Hobbithole in Goodmanville? Anyhow, I picked up Honey in Farmopolis and the other three in Cultury. We traveled to ASU, after getting some advice in Cultury, then traveled to Darkuth with a Bard we met there, after we talked to a Cleric I knew and a Sage that Eva’s cousin knew. Before you know it, we were up to our necks in trouble and just when we thought it was over, we popped out here.” The Hobbit speaks with a clear voice and carefully planted inflection and gestures, drawing everyone in with what he says.
“Yes, that is it, more or less,” Blitzarrow tells Melias.
“Actually, I don’t think we can go anywhere yet. We have yet to hear your story,” Eva says to Arianna.
“I’d love to hear it from the Bard,” Linus says, with a smile.
“Wait, wait, wait. We are not going into a building that has a Troll in it,” Blitzarrow tells his mates. “In case you failed to notice, we are no longer ‘special’. Our time has run out – probably when we failed our first mission. Unless that changes soon, I vote we head back to ASU and tell Fino we failed to recover The Key.”
“Fino, I hate that guy,” Arianna says. “There is something wholly untrustworthy about him.”
SeLiem looks at the other party, “Some of you seem to have a bit of amnesia going on. Did any of you perhaps get close to the moss on that wall over there?”
They all shake their heads, except Bonehead who claims Blitzarrow had warned him about it when he first entered, saying that he had spotted it yesterday.
Blitzarrow clearly does not remember saying anything, since he doesn’t even remember ever meeting Bonehead.
“Do any of you happen to know where the Cube of Power is? You all seemed to be interested in it before, from what we all gathered.”
Kafeera and Bonehead never heard of a Cube of Power.
The others all agree it was hidden somewhere one hundred years ago and only Lord Darkoth has the key to where it is located.
“Lucky for me I was paroled last year and no longer required to prove anything to anyone any more,” the large woman says and heads for the stable. With her back against the wall she gets in a comfortable seated position and drinks generously from her waterskin. Not wanting to travel on in the rain and silently enjoying the bickering, she decides to hang out for a bit.
Claire stops gazing longingly at Arianna and saunters over to Linus. “Well, since you asked,” she says, a mischievous smirk on her face, “Here’s from where I came in.” She cites everything that occured while she was with the group, using every bit of energy to put on a good show, while leaving out the slanderous remarks, evil footnotes, and rude epithets that accompanied the actual version of her work-in-progress, but leaving all the good bits and vaguely editorial comments in.
“Fino sent us, though many of the others here were not aware of it,” Melias tells the other group. “It was something he tasked me with and the party trusted me enough to follow your path without question. Now we have found you and we are to set you free so you can do what you were fated to. But what is this about being special? And what’s with all the ‘mind-hopping’ we heard about? Regardless, you say you aren’t special anymore, we can’t give up. There is another Undead war lingering in the near future – the world counts on all of us at this point. I thought you all had The Cube of Power at one time not too long ago – but it was recovered by Lord Darkoth or someone. It couldn’t have been a hundred years ago. Perhaps you’ve forgotten that as well. The wall or perhaps the moss on the wall damages the mind. It happened to Percy and Art- er, Arianna. I suspect that’s why you don’t remember Bonehead joining your group.”
He walks to the large woman in the stable and says, “I don’t blame you for being upset with us. We were rather forceful and rude about it all. For that, I apologize. If you wish to leave, you are welcome to go. No matter if we did free you from what could have been an eternity in a prison no larger than a bucket, you owe us nothing and we wouldn’t dream of asking you to risk your life for the fate of the world. That’s something you would have to offer freely.” He pauses to sigh, and adds, “But, believe me when I say we have a very good reason for not trusting anything for being what it seems.”
“Good thing no one is being all that silent or else there’d really be some nervous folks around here.” Arianna says. She walks up to the large woman and extends a hand. “I’m Arianna. The old rude man is Rastorn. Ignore him, we all do. I’d be honored if you’d join us in our Quest, what else do you have to do?” She smiles. “What’s your name?”
The woman rubs her temples and replies, “Kafeera.”
Continued next week!
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