The Realms: A World Apart


Chapter Twelve, Part Three

The conversations go on until lunch. They move to the tower and share food and drink. By the time they are finished eating, each person has made clear their intentions.  

Kafeera doesn’t appear to know anything about the group with whom she was trapped in the lamp, but is willing to join the other party if given a good enough reason. Saving the world grabs her attention, nothing else said does.

Bonehead sticks to his story and says the whole party he accompanied has changed since they were sucked into the green lamp. They walk and talk and even think differently now, he says. According to him, before the lamp they claimed to have recovered something powerful (The Cube SeLiem referred to, he assumes), but it was taken from them by bad people and they were going to get it back before the bad people had opportunity to use it for Evil purposes. He says this group is just not the same people. Since Blitzarrow will not claim him as his henchman, he will seek a replacement. He says it is not memory loss keeping the party from remembering things they did, they are just different people. He will go into the mansion, if someone will accept him as their follower.

Linus has slowly revealed he had visions similar to Orjulun and they concerned The Cube of Power (although he didn’t know what it was at the time) and another Undead War. He says High Priest Ifon uncovered a prophecy. Once translated he took it to mean someone close to Lord Darkoth would steal The Cube and give it to the minions of Terrorek Lord of Undead. That is why Linus’ party tried to steal “the key” to locating the hiding place of The Cube of Power, in the first place. He knows nothing about their success with that mision, although he did steal Lord Darkoth’s Dorian Map of Exploration, have an Item spell cast on it to turn it into cloth, and shoved it up his rear before they were caught. He refuses to enter the keep, until they “jump” again into more powerful versions of themselves (as he says they did before).

Eva spends most of her time pouring over the pages of notes she found in her backpack. She says it will take days to sort them all out, but according to the notes someone jumped into her body and continued their original mission from the point where they were caught by Lord Darkoth until now. She is able to validate several of Bonehead’s claims, based on the writings, too. If there are any specific questions, she offers to look through her notes for answers. She will not enter the keep, choosing to go wherever Linus goes.

Honey sits quietly and clutches her new staff. She will go wherever the rest of her group goes.

Reputa tells a story similar to what Linus tells, which means this group knows nothing of what they have been accused of, since it was done by other minds that jumped into their bodies, if they are to be believed.

Blitzarrow will stick with his group and does not want to fight something as powerful as a Troll, unless he becomes ‘special’ again.

Rastorn is willing to continue on the quest for The Cube and he doesn’t care who comes or goes. He has made it clear he thinks the group they were chasing should stay nearby (if they don’t enter the keep) and not go anywhere since they could be found by others and turned in.

Orjulun doubts the party from the lamp is powerful enough to last a day in the keep. He fears for their safety and has offered to stay with them to assist in their safe return to civilization. He will decide where to go once he hears what everyone else is doing. No matter what, he will not leave the party from the lamp alone with Rastorn.

Percy is itching to kill the Troll, but he (like Orjulun) is most concerned with the party from the lamp. He keeps saying it was their quest to find them and let them continue their quest, so he thinks they should stay nearby until they are needed, although (after a brief sparring match) he has said that they are all amateurs and not equipped to complete the quest. He will gladly take on the quest for The Cube and help save the world. During such a quest he will go where Melias, Arianna, and SeLiem think he is most needed.

Claire spends all her time listening and occasionally jotting down notes concerning the conversation. She will go wherever the party goes.

SeLiem eats and drinks and really doesn’t pay much attention to any of the conversation.

Arianna listens intently to everyone, but says very little. She does whatever she can to distract herself from her own overwhelming situation.

Melias is the one asking all the questions and keeping the conversations going, until Kafeera speaks to him directly.

Kafeera speaks to Melias in a milder tone and far more casually than when they first met, “I hope you didn’t get your ears in a knot, slim. I didn’t say I wasn’t grateful or nothing. Just as you said, what else you expect from greetings like that. Anyhow, let’s make it official. We’ll drink on it.” She hands him her wineskin, then turns to face Arianna. She thrusts her other hand out to shake Arianna’s hand, careful to be gentle. “You’re right, I have little pressing business at the moment.” She absentmindedly rubs the lightning bolt bracelet on her wrist as she speaks.  “I am curious to see what is locked up in there and it sounds like one humdinger of battle. As for, ol’ Pepper there,” she points at Rastorn, “no worries there. I’ve had hemorrhoids before, so I’m well aware of their flare-ups.” She chuckles a bit loudly at what she perceives to be a hilarious joke. “What I’m saying is I’ve not a clue as to your quest, miss, but I’d be glad to offer my halberd to your little entourage here in exploring this place, as blondey there put it so elegantly, I do owe ya. Sound good? Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all about paying my debts, but I won’t stand for no foolery. Clear?” 

Arianna shrugs and nods.

After taking a swig, Melias hands the skin back to Kafeera and says, “Thanks. It’s a pleasure to have you with us.” He looks at Bonehead and smiles. “You, too, if you want.  We have some great warriors who could mentor you well if you’d like to apprentice to them.  Maybe Percy, or Arianna or even Kafeera. But the choice is theirs, and yours. I’d welcome as much of a front line as we can muster. I’m not much of a fighter, after all.”

Bonehead glances around, unsure of who to approach.

Melias looks at the five they had come to rescue and is both pleased and disappointed at the same time. He and his group had met their goal and freed these people from their prison, but they didn’t seem to be at all what they should have been. Melias agrees with Percy’s earlier observation and tells him. “You’re right. I wouldn’t feel good about bringing them in and having them fall victim to what might be lurking inside the keep. It might be best if they wait outside in the tower until we come back from inside or if they were to suddenly regain their ‘special’ qualities.” Approaching the five with his hands clasped together behind his back, he says, “None of you are safe if you leave here and head back to The Realms. There is a huge bounty on your heads. It is best if you stick around until after we do what must be done. Then maybe we can get back to Fino and have him hide you all for your own safety. Since you cannot enter this keep for whatever it is you came for and expect to live through the event, we’ll have to go in on your behalf. Do you have any idea what you came here for? Do you have any notes on it at all? How about this air of special-ness? Do you have any clue on how it came about?  Could we prompt it to happen again?”

Arianna smiles at the idea of going in. She had never fought a Troll before. Plus, the idea of stretching her legs and actually doing something exciting sounded a lot more interesting than all this polite talk. She is curious to know what it was that this “special” group had come here for as well.

Eva listens to Melias’ questions and begins digging through the notes in her backpack again.  After a while, she pulls out several pieces of paper and a small notebook, scans them, then replies, “As close as I can tell, the people who inhabited our bodies – well, our bodies after they had jumped the first time – were looking for The Cube of Power. Among other mentions, there is a signed note from each of us saying that we agree to retrieve The Cube of Power and give it to High Priest Ifon of Goodmanville. That’s the Cleric Linus knows from growing up in Goodmanville. He gave Little Big Man – that’s Linus’ nickname – his medallion. Speaking of which, did any of you notice we each have the same necklace on? All five of us. It is sort of strange. Anyhow, according to other notes, there is a prophecy that says someone close to Lord Darkoth will steal The Cube of Power and hand it over to Terrorek, Lord of Undead.”

Bonehead steps into the conversation, “Listen, according to . . . well, whoever you were before you entered the lamp, you all felt like you were tricked by someone into unearthing The Cube and then set up to be considered criminals for doing it. You didn’t think Lord Darkoth was behind it all, because Terrorek is his greatest enemy and has been attacking Darkuth with his minions for the last hundred years. You did decide, however, that he was using your actions as leverage to keep from signing another 100 year non-aggression treaty and to make several good people and cities look bad. But, you could have been lying, I guess.”

Orjulun steps forward to speak. “I agree with you, Melias. Our original quest was to release these people so they could recover The Cube of Power, but now we will have to take on that quest for them. However, the first part of our quest is not yet finished. These people are not yet safe. Unless you really need me, I will volunteer to stay with them until you return. If their powers return to them, then I will go with them to try and find you. By then, I expect you to be back, though. It is only a two story building, after all. Maybe we were meant for this anyhow. After all, I had similar dreams to those of Linus.”

“As far as our ‘jumping’ goes, we don’t know what triggers it. But, I think we may have jumped several times, already,” Eva says. “Our first jump was back on the way to ASU, just after we first joined forces in Cultury. The second time would have been just after we were caught by Lord Darkoth, when Linus stole his map. That jump was different, though, because we didn’t just become more physically advanced versions of ourselves from an alternate reality, our actual minds were taken over by others who were ‘connected’ to us cosmically and they kept that control until we entered the lamp. Understand? Well, that’s how Onif said it worked. The being ‘special’, I mean.”

Percy listens intently, then says, “My head hurts, again,” and goes outside to relieve himself.

“Alright,” Rastorn says, as he stands and stretches, “it sounds like we have pretty much decided to split up. Some of us will go into the keep, where we can assume The Cube of Power is and recover it before nasty people start another Undead War. The others will stay out here and babysit The Chosen Ones, right? If that is the case – I’m going into the keep.”

Seeing Arianna and Melias and Claire are injured, both Reputa and Honeysuckle cast Cure Light Wounds on them, bringing them all to full health, as Melias steps into the middle of the room to speak.

“Orjulun, why don’t you stay here with Percy? He could use a more mystical advantage in this task of sitting tight. Who knows what kind of threat those furry little bastards out in the forest could be? At least we’re far enough away from the forest so no one has to worry about a tree coming down on their head. I think we should assume, also, that The Eight are still around somewhere, if not inside the building. They won’t recognize us, so maybe we can play ignorant if we bump up to them.” He rubs his forehead. He was getting a headache too. He starts wondering about the High Priest Ifon of Goodmanville, and asks Percy to re-read the Commune notes Percy had been thoughtful enough to keep, refreshing the questions and answers in his mind. Perhaps the information would help those from the wanted poster to recall something else of value.

As Percy silently reads the notes, Melias asks, “If you were looking for the Cube of Power, does that mean the cube is here or there’s something to help you get to The Cube in there or a key or a map or a riddle? What about those necklaces? Do you think they might be required for something inside the building or are they just a mark of status? Maybe something that is necessary for ‘jumping’?” When they all shake their heads, he says, “Orjulun, Rastorn, do these necklaces look at all familiar to either of you?”

“I’m going in. It makes no sense for me to stay out here, anyway.” Claire says. “It’s not like I’ll have any more to do.”

Kafeera waits patiently for everyone to decide their present fate. While waiting she takes inventory of her weapons and possessions once more being certain that all is still in place, considering the large number of hands about. 

SeLiem says, “I’m going to go into the keep. I must say all this adventuring is quite fun, although quite painful at times.”

Arianna looks at everyone present and says, “I assume I don’t have to actually say I’m going in, do I? Because I am, of course. A chance to take out a Troll and use my new blade all at the same time . . . what more could a girl ask for?” She grimaces slightly, then swallows hard. Looking down at her chest, she closes her eyes, then slowly raises her head again and takes a deep breath before opening them once more.

“Sure, I’ll stay out here. Anywhere that has armored Trolls, Beholders, and Nagas running around isn’t exactly safe enough for a group of beginners. However, if you can get that Troll to leave the building, I would love to Fireball him with my wand. You’d probably still get a couple swipes at him, too, Arianna, but there would be less of a chance of him healing from the fire wounds and almost no chance of anyone getting injured,” Orjulun says. “It may be my last chance for any action.”

“I will guard The Chosen Ones! Come, Bonehead, stay with me and I will instruct you in the art of war,” Percy booms.

Bonehead smiles wide, then tells Percy, as they head for the barn to spar, “Sure Mister Percy, but . . . could you give me a new nickname?”

“Keep them safe, Orjulun, the fate of the world may still depend on them,” Rastorn tells Orjulun, with a nod to Percy, as well.

Arianna leans in and whispers to Melias, “Before they went into the lamp, the party said they found out The Cube was not in Darkuth, but was being studied by minions of Lord Darkoth in a lab somewhere. They knew Copa and Anna Stetic were rumored to have an extensive lab somewhere around Taber’s Keep, so they decided to start here. They used a poem they obtained from Fino the Bard to find the keep. The necklaces are all Amulets of Protection Against Detection and Location that were lent to them by ‘a trusted friend’, so they would be safe until they recovered The Cube of Power. My sword just told me all of this. He – the voice is male – also said I should feel free to tell any of this to my party as we already heard much of this, but apparently didn’t keep our facts straight. Also, he said you may want to get some of the notes that Eva has. The person who inhabited her body had discovered all sorts of treasure maps and secrets of that sort that she may never have the ability to act on, unless she ‘jumps’ again. The sword advises waiting until we return with The Cube and Eva has learned to trust you and Orjulun and ‘that nice Percy fellow’. Yes, the two-handed sword Blitzarrow threw down, claiming it was too large is sentient and talks to me. It is a good sword with a special purpose to destroy evil and it – unlike The Chosen Ones – remembers much of what they went through.”

Arianna looks at Orjulun and says, “Wait, what do you mean ‘last chance’? I know you’re not coming into that mansion they call a keep, but you’re not leaving the group are you? I hope not.” Then she turned to address those assembled.

“I think the way we should handle the Troll is for those of us who are going into the keep to go in using the back door. Surprise the hell out of him and chase him out the front door where Orjulun can blast him with his wand. We can time it so when those outside the keep hear a signal they open the door for the Troll and he runs right out into those outside that are waiting on him. How’s that sound?” Arianna asks.

“Sounds good to me,” Claire says, averting her gaze from Ariann’s bosoms when she looks her way.

Kafeera raises her right eyebrow at Arianna’s plan of attack and remarks,”Now I don’t know much about this here Troll your speak of, but if you’re thinking it’s gonna run from us, why are we bothering with it in the first place?”

“I’m sure we can back it out the front door and basically trap the thing in the middle if nothing else. It’s watching the front door intently and rather patiently at that, so if we come bursting in through the back door it could possibly startle the beast causing him to move towards the front door where . . . ah, forget it, it was a silly plan,” Arianna concedes.

SeLiem speaks up. “I think just a few of us running in isn’t going to make that Troll run, either. I say we use the wand after we weaken him. Although weakening him will be no easy task.” He looks up and adds, “Hopefully our gods will guide us through this battle and no one will be harmed.”

“No, it makes sense to catch it from both sides,” Claire says, “That way, it has less of a chance of survival when both groups attack it. We just let the people out front deal with it when it stumbles out. Besides, don’t Trolls die when exposed to sunlight? It makes sense to force it out, either way.”

Arianna shrugs and leaves the tower.

Orjulun follows Arianna toward the keep. “I’m not planning on leaving the group. I just know I’ll miss the really good action inside the keep. That’s alright, though.” When they reach the front porch to the keep he stops and tells her, “Trolls are ferocious and will not stop attacking until dead. I really don’t think you can actually ‘scare’ a Troll, but I’ll be waiting here if it does come out.” He looks up at the ever present rain and says, “Actually, I’ll be waiting over there, on the porch to the servant’s quarters. Out of the rain. I have good range with this wand, I might as well take advantage of it.”

The group from the lamp line up against the side of the stables, staying close to the wall so the roof keeps the rain off their heads.

Rastorn chuckles at the question about Trolls dying in daylight, as he looks around, trying to decide where to go. Finally, he leans against the side of the keep, just out of the rain. “So who’s all going through the back door?” he shouts toward the approaching Melias, Claire, SeLiem, and Kafeera. “I hope the door’s not trapped.”

Arianna draws her sword and says, “I’ll go through the back. If there are traps I’m not too worried about them. If someone wants to quickly check, that’s fine too.”

Melias shakes his head, “It’s silly to go through the back door. We know this front door isn’t trapped anymore. We can assume if they went through the effort of trapping the front door, they’d do the same with the back. There’s no telling how many rooms we’d have to get through just to find the Troll from the back entrance. We should all just head in here and try to get around to it’s far side, pushing it toward the front door where our friends from outside can entrap it in a crossfire.” He locks eyes with Arianna. “I appreciate your enthusiasm, but it just seems too risky for me to head through the back door.”

“Well if you put it that way. I guess that makes sense. I wouldn’t want any of us to get trapped in a lantern again . . . or worse. So, let’s go visit a Troll through the front door,” Arianna says, then steps onto the porch.

Gripping his hammer, SeLiem follows. His armor makes a loud squeak when he climbs the first step, so he slows his pace to try and dampen the sound.

Melias slaps him on the shoulder and chuckles, “Don’t worry about the noise. I’m sure he knows we’re coming. Percy made sure of that.” 

Percy and Bonehead take positions to either side of the porch.

Swinging her sword around to check it’s weight and balance, Arianna smiles at the exchange between Melias and SeLiem and says, “If you like, SeLiem, I can shout at the top of my lungs. That’ll drone out the sound of your armor chinking.” To the rest of the group near the front door she says, “Or we can open the door and ask him nicely to come out and play. He must have some intellect, after all waiting patiently isn’t really in a Troll’s nature.” She looks at Claire and gives a warm, inviting smile. Arianna had noticed the looks the Bard gave her and although she still had the male ability to completely misunderstand hints, there was something in Claire’s glances that was hard to miss.

Claire returns the smile, then takes a position near the door, covering it with her crossbow. She can fairly quickly strip off her armor if she needs to cast anything, since most armor tends to hamper spell-casting. 

Rastorn shouts over to Orjulun, “I just thought of something! Do you have any more of those super-Identify scrolls? I may need them inside the keep?”

“Uh, yes, I guess I don’t see why not. Sure, I’ll give them to you,” Orjulun replies.

On her way to the door, Kafeera asks Percy, “Where did you see the Troll last? Right behind the door?”

Percy nods.

As Kafeera, SeLiem, and Melias reach the door, Arianna opens it. Kafeera cannot see past the first three feet, but everyone else has Elf blood and can see in the dark. They see the Troll run away from the door and hide in an adjacent room. Claire can also see in the dark, but is not able to get a clear shot.

“He ran away! That’s not a normal Troll. Trolls do not run away. But if someone had been turned into a Troll and a group of people came in to kill one, then I’d probably run away, too. I don’t think this is a normal Troll,” Arianna states. She walks into the room. “Besides, when Percy was in here by himself the Troll could have easily attacked him then, but didn’t.”

Kafeera mutters a curse at the darkness. She shrugs and remarks, “Guess I was wrong; they do run.” She waits for someone to supply a light source.

SeLiem says, “Everyone hold up. I have a way to help us with this battle.”

Everyone waits.

He starts rubbing Oil of Impact on his hammer. “This will make my hammer stronger when it strikes the Troll,” he tells them.

Coating the weapon seems to take a long time, but everyone waits, impatiently.

Then, he pulls out a lantern and lights the candle within. “This candle is magical. Everyone gather around the candle, it will make you feel more powerful as long as you are near it.”

Kafeera starts to whisper a question. “But, Arianna said we may not need to fight the Troll, why would you -”

Melias gently grabs her forearm and shakes his head, cutting her off mid-sentence.

While they wait, Claire turns her attention to Bonehead.”Hey,” she says, “I’m sure you don’t want to be schooled in the ‘art of war’, or whatever, by a man who keeps calling you ‘Bonehead’ all the time. Would you want to come with me? I’d enjoy the company and you’ll get much more experience than hanging around an over-optimistic pile of muscle like him. You’ll need a better name, though. You’re too intelligent for a name like ‘Bonehead’.” She thinks about it for a few seconds. “How about ‘Deathwish’? No one would want to annoy someone named Deathwish. And if you didn’t like it, you could always give yourself one. It’s not uncommon. Sound good to you?”

SeLiem sighs and hisses at Claire, “Can’t you discuss this after we fight the damn Troll!?”

Kafeera immediately looks at Melias, who once more shakes his head.

“I don’t think fighting the Troll is a good idea. He’s exhibiting unusual behavior. We should show him kindness and present him with a bunch of flowers. I think he’d like flowers,” Arianna states. Although her sword is still in her hand, she holds it loosely and by her side.

“Maybe not that pacifistic, Arianna,” Claire says, as she stares angrily at SeLiem. “Do you think it speaks Common? It does seem intelligent.”

Bonehead answers Claire, “Um, I don’t know . . . the name does sound strong.” He asks Percy, “What do you think I should do, sir?”

“Do? I think you should charge in and kill the Troll!” is Percy’s answer, as he charges onto the porch and into the keep, with his two-handed sword at the ready.

The Troll runs around a corner and into a third room, so Percy gives chase.

The first room is an entryway, with a broken mirror on the wall to the right and a painted-over painting hanging on the wall straight ahead next to a closet door. There is an open doorway next to the closet and to the left.

“Percy! Stop!” Arianna screams as she runs after him. Catching him, she jumps in between Percy and the Troll. Keeping her back to Percy while looking at the Troll she says, “Ah, Mister Troll, this is a bit of an odd situation. As you can see my friend wants to hack you to bits and normally I would, too, but I’m also intelligent enough to realize there’s something different about you.”

Claire turns her attention back to Bonehead/Deathwish for a moment. “Think of it this way,” she tells the henchman, “I offer not only a higher life expectancy and more prestige, but I have some minor medical skills. I know how to pull rotten teeth, for one thing. Think about it and get back to me.” She follows Percy, longsword drawn. As she passes the closet, she says, “Detect Traps, anyone?” When she reaches the stand-off with the Troll she yells, “Everyone hold on! Yelling at each other isn’t going to solve anything.” She looks at the Troll and asks, “Do you understand what I’m saying?”

Melias enters the entry room and sticks close to SeLiem, enjoying his generosity with the warm helping embrace of the lantern. He chuckles at Claire yelling for them to not yell, then pulls free his bow and notches an arrow. Listening to the others, he rolls his eyes at Percy’s ‘kill first and ask questions later’ approach. Still, if it looks like a Troll, smells like a Troll, and is around a pit of a bunch of dead armored Trolls, then it’s probably a Troll. He keeps quiet, permitting the others to head up the inquisition as he starts searching the room more carefully without straying from the SeLiem’s lantern. “What’s the range of that lantern’s enchantment, SeLiem?  Any idea?” he whispers. “These are the details you should share before using such items, don’t you think?”

The truth is, as with almost all magic items, the candle didn’t come with detailed instructions, so SeLiem does not know the exact area of effect. He guesses it protects anyone within the range of the candle’s light, but simply shrugs in response.

Frowning at SeLiem’s answer, Melias turns from him and examines the broken mirror, picking up a shard and checking it out for any signs of unusual reaction before pocketing it for future use. Next, he examines the painted-over painting hanging on the wall straight ahead, being mindful of the closet door. He rubs his finger across the paint discovering it is dry. Then he pulls the painting slightly away from the wall to look behind it.

In the next room the Troll slips through a concealed door and into the third, which is a long dining room with an extremely long table. It races out the side door, before they can reach it. 

Percy keeps pace with the others, but never lowers his weapon. 

SeLiem walked cautiously into the second room, which is a general living space, with soft furniture and more painted over paintings, but remains close to Melias. He has already forgotten he had coated his hammer in magical oil with a very limited potency duration.

Back in the first room, Melias has decided the painting was quite normal, except a long time ago someone had painted bizarre, darkly-colored, animal-like shapes over the original image of a nobleman and his horse. They had added to the original work and created something dark and unusual. He finds it strangely beautiful. 

Rastorn enters behind Melias and they can both hear the Troll and those chasing him running through the building. They are somewhere on the other side of the wall Melias is at.  

“Sounds like they are heading toward this doorway,” Rastorn comments, as he peaks out of the doorway by the closet. “There is a hallway here . . . I imagine they are on the other side of that door there.” He motions to the door across the hall from the doorway where he stands. 

The Troll bursts out of the door he had pointed at and charges at him! He runs into the living room and the Troll switches it’s attention to Melias. 

Melias readies himself for an attack.

Continued next week!

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