The Realms: A World Apart


Chapter Twelve, Part Seven

Rastorn eyes his companions, curious to see how they respond to the beastly appearance of the pleading monsters.

A large creature with three eyes stands and all the others follow suit. Approaching Kafeera, he tells SeLiem, “Yoba creckt. I’s Snarl th’ Survivroar. I’s stay ‘er since Master Copa firse build. We’s serves Master Copa an’ Mistress Anna many year. We’s here since Mistress Anna leave. Mistress Anna and Young Master Taber back now. We’s not own master, soon.” Lowering his head and his voice, he adds, “We’s not own master since green man come.”

Snarl fails to notice SeLiem stares blankly at him as he speaks. None are aware SeLiem’s consciousness has been hijacked by Kubri, god of Duty and Order. 

Kubri speaks to his loyal follower, 

“These abominations are also my children.
Keep them from harm, if ye can.
Now, hear me my Cleric and remember my words as if the very world depended on it! For it does!
All gods draw their power from worship. If most of those worshipers were to perish within a small measure of time, even we would be weakened enough for a powerful enemy to destroy or capture us.
Terrorek is such an enemy!
Failure in your quest carries with it the risk of my demise!
Wisdom will guide ye to parlay with lesser Evil so ye may live to defeat a far greater Evil.
When ye see my symbol, ye will know it is time!
Know also that ye should Commune with me when ye reach the dead end beyond the cells.”

The last word echoes in SeLiems ears as his mind and spirit returns to his body. He glances about and sees no one noticed anything had happened to him.

Placing her daggers back in their sheaths, Arianna holds her hand out for her sword. “Green Man? Umm, who exactly is the Green Man?” she asks Snarl, while doing her best to hide her disgust over how they look.

Before he can answer, Kafeera side-steps Rastorn, holds out her hand, and says, “Well met, Snarl, I’m Kafeera. You’ll have to excuse us, the Mage has a trigger finger. We mean you or your tribe no harm. We’re merely here to . . .” Her words fall short, because in truth she’s not sure what they are doing and why. She looks to the others, hoping one of them will fill the silence. Having family who are adept at magic, she has some guesses as to the origin of the beasts and is not surprised, but more curious as to their nature. Remembering her own disfigurement she whispers under her breath,”May the gods be merciful on the lot,” as Snarl tentatively shakes her hand.

“O . . . kay,” Claire says, overcoming her strong desire to have an inappropriate reaction to Snarl and friends. “Pleased to make your acquaintance,” she says, before distracting herself by imagining horrible things happening to Melias.

“Green man yos took outside,” Snarl answers Arianna. He looks to the others around him, “Chirp Chirp, yos may speaks for us if need.”

Kafeera looks down at his hand as she shakes it and sees it is not a hand, but a large pincher.  His left hand is gloved, but looks to be a proper hand. When Kafeera does not complete her comment, Snarl leans in, politely anticipating she will finish the thought.

After intently watching this exchange, Rastorn sighs, then walks down the hall past Melias and sits on the floor.

“The Troll?” Claire asks, “The one we took outside and . . .” Deathwish covers her mouth. 

“Left there?” he finishes for her.

“The Green Man is gone,” Melias states matter-of-factly, as he searches again for another secret door.

SeLiem’s eyelids flutter, he shakes his head, then he tries to comprehend what is being said. “Yes, gone is the best way to put it. The Troll’s your master or something, right? So, do you happen to know did he have cells or something he put you in if one of you misbehaved?”

The one called Chirp Chirp, a female with a nearly flat head and a beak like a bird, answers, “The Green Man was not our master. He kept us from being our own master. We could not walk or talk or eat or sleep as we did before the Ball of Eyes sent him in to kill us.” Chirp Chirp looks at SeLiem and says, “We are glad he is gone, but we will not be our own master now, because Mistress Anna and Young Master Taber are here. They will be our masters again once they come back upstairs.”

Rastorn jumps to his feet. “They’re downstairs? Quickly – how many men are with them? Did they have a magical cube with them?” He lowers his voice, then asks, “Can they hear us?”

Chirp Chirp is confused as to who to answer, but she answers SeLiem first. “Cells? There are no cells here.” Then she turns to face Rastorn and cowers slightly. “They are downstairs. Master Copa and Mistress Anna always went downstairs. They went into the room the young men and women who played the game went into all the time, but we have never gone into that room. It is forbidden.”

“I don’t care about what is forbidden for the likes of you. Tell me how many and about the cube!” Rastorn demands.

“Do you no longer wish to know whether they can hear you?” Chirp Chirp asks, innocently.

Spotting the disapproving looks of his companions out of the corner of his eye, Rastorn softens his tone. “Yes. I do not mean to sound so rude, but our business is urgent. Please tell me what I need to know.”

“Mistress Anna and Young Master Taber know everything, just as Master Copa and Master Taber did. The floor is strong and keeps sounds in well, but they control magic and know what we do at all times. They may even know what we think. They are our masters. There are many of them. At least one for every finger on my hands.” She looks around to her brethren and asks, “Did anyone see a cube?” 

They all shake their heads.

“It could have been in their bags, though, right?” Rastorn asks.

“We stayed hidden when they came. So did the Green Man. They went straight to the cellar, except one who stopped in the master bedroom for a short time. We only glimpsed them.  They could have had a cube in their bags. They had many, many bags and crates.” Chirp Chirp lowers her voice and asks, “Are you here looking for the king’s treasure, too. The games are long over, but many still come now and then. None return after they go downstairs.”

Growl motions for Melias to stop his search. “There are two doors left. The one to the left leads to our room. There is nothing for you there. The one to the right leads to Young Master Taber’s bedroom. That is where the Green Man lived.”

“Well, I guess we’re off to the bedroom then. There has to be something in there worth a damn,” Arianna says, as she stares at the creature holding the kitten. “You may want to feed that poor thing, he’s very hungry.”

Melias studies the left wall. “Nothing for us there, huh?” he questions as he feels along the wall, searching for the opening mechanism. “Or there’s something you’re supposed to lead us from. Forgive my mistrust, but we cannot afford to leave a stone unturned. So I’ll only be a moment in your room.” He pushes open their door.

Blocking his path, Kafeera says, “I’m afraid I cannot let you do that – at least not without their permission. After all, you would not take so kindly to someone invading your home. Now would you?”

Arianna stands next to Melias and says to Kafeera, “I suggest you let him pass. We have a mission that goes beyond politeness. If you don’t let him pass this will get quite ugly, I promise you.”

“Yes, we wouldn’t want that intent you talked about to become a sad and harsh reality, now would we?” Claire says, fingering her crossbow idly. “I, myself, have never had a true home, so people came barging through where I slept all the time. I really didn’t mind it, thank you.”

Melias ignores Kafeera’s threat, saying only, “I had a home once. I can almost remember how much I hated it.” He slips under her arm and spins into the secret chamber beyond.

The creatures make several animal-like sounds back and forth very quickly, then Chirp-Chirp says, “We do not want a battle to occur here where innocents may be injured. If you feel you must see our room would it be acceptable to allow only two of you to enter? If so, we would allow the very tall woman with the half mask and the Half-Elf holy man to enter, thus avoiding any conflict. If you do not find this acceptable, please allow us to retire to the security of our room during your battle, so we are not injured in the melee.” They all bow, waiting for a reply.

Iflander speaks telepathically to Arianna and she steps away so she can more easily focus on what the sword is saying. 

“I’ve seen creatures such as these before, Arturus. They are referred to as ‘Mongrel Men’.  Often slaves or servants, they are skilled pick-pockets and fighters. They are most often non-violent, but are dangerous if threatened. They are not Evil,” Iflander tells Arianna.

Melias pauses at the suggestion Chirp-Chirp made, then nods and steps back into the hallway. “Alright. Fine.” He looks at Kafeera and wonders whether she has some previous and perhaps devious relationship with them. When SeLiem walks past him, Melias urges him over and whispers in his ear, “Watch her. We don’t know anything about her. There could be a reason why she was so eager to keep us out of the room.”

“I don’t like this very much. SeLiem isn’t a fighter, what if she tries to take him down? Could she do it quick enough before we got in there? What if this is a trap. These Mongrel Men aren’t evil, but what if they’re following orders? You don’t have to be evil to lead someone to their death, just stupid,” Arianna replies in Elven.

SeLiem and Kafeera enter the room with their weapons ready. The door remains open and three of the Mongrel Men stand in the doorway blocking the view of those in the hallway.

The room is filled with fine bedding likely taken from the better rooms of the house and more creatures. The two party members see fine china and silverware, but no real treasure. The 

creatures inside cower together.

Turning toward the closest Mongrel Man, Melias asks, “So, where is this area you mention? Downstairs? I haven’t yet seen stairs heading down.” 

The Mongrel Man is shy and hesitates to answer.

Inside the room, SeLiem circles the room casually, looking for anything that seems out of place.

Kafeera refuses to touch that which belongs to the creatures. She simply stands guard keeping a close eye on Seliem, making certain he is respectful and seeing that no harm befalls him as well. While Seliem conducts his search, she apologizes to the Mongrel Men loud enough for those in the hall to hear. 

“I do apologize for rudeness. I’m sure they have reasons for behaving like animals, pardon the expression. If they were to have a home, which includes a family and children of their own and total strangers attempting to raid that home I’m certain they would sing a different tune. A tune quite similar to the one they sang moments ago when you momentarily invaded their persons.” 

Arianna looks at Melias and the others and rolls her eyes. She remembers complete strangers invading her home. It happened so often that it was a normal way of life. “By the gods, can we just throw her down a pit? This self righteous bullshit is really getting annoying. Plus, I recall someone else being quite rude shoving her way past everyone and threatening other party members. Can we ditch her already?” Arianna says in Elven.

Rastorn whispers in Elven, “She’s like Percy without the bravery. I say we just keep her at the head of the group.  If she wants to control things so much, let her lead from the front and take whatever any of the sweet, innocent monsters and people in this keep have to dish out to intruders. That’ll teach her.”

The creature Melias spoke to answers slowly, “The s-stairs ta-ta-to th-the w-wine cellllar are ha-hidden below the s-stairs lle-leading ta-to th-the r-rooms a-a-above.”

Another gives more detail, although his speech is riddled with strange animal-like sounds. “Chhh, Wa-wa, upstairs cha-cha, upstairs there be mon-ster. Mon-ster eat Hissss. Hissss family to cha-cha us. Cellar, chhh, cellar forbidden. ‘Get wine brrrrrr, get wine and come back or ten lashes.’ Deep cellar for game, wa-wa. Not for ser-vants.”

Melias nods, then whispers to Arianna and Rastorn, “I have to say, I’m tempted to agree. If she’s in front of us she won’t be so apt to keep her eyes on us and keep us from doing what we’re supposed to be doing here. I don’t want to just dismiss her outright. She can still fight better than most of us and we could use that here in the enemy’s stronghold.

“Ah yes, the area below the wine cellars,” he says outloud, looking back toward the secret stairway they uncovered earlier. “I think that’s where we should be heading. Should we clear the upper two levels first or head down first?”

He looks back at the Mongrel Man and asks, “What game is in the deep cellar? Can you tell me about the game?”

Again, the Mongrel Man pauses and glances around before answering.

Joining the whispering group, Claire whispers, “Yes, let’s put her in front. That way I don’t have to lose a bodyguard and I can let that comment about me acting like an animal slide. If I’m an animal, I’m a more intelligent one with a nicer pair of tits.” She reverts to Common and says louder, “So, should we keep searching?” to serve as a cover statement.

SeLiem and Kafeera return to the hallway.

Arianna nods to Claire and answers Melias, “I think we should make certain the first and second floor are clear before we head down. We don’t want anyone sneaking up on us from behind and allowing them to attack us from both sides at once. Also, there may be items hidden in these rooms that we could use. I already saw a treasure chest in one room and a lot of books in another.”

“What?” Rastorn whispers loudly. “We came here to get The Cube and we can guess that it is most likely downstairs. Why would we hesitate to go right to it?” He looks around at everyone, then adds, “They could – right now – be using it to start another Undead War while we wander around an empty manor house. I’ll follow the herd if you all think we should search these floors, but I reserve the right to say ‘I told you so’ if we are too late.”

Of the Mongrel Men, all except Chirp Chirp quietly return to their room, pointing out the final secret door before closing the door behind them. 

Melias considers their options, then tells Rastorn, “Yes, I understand your concern, and I understand Arianna’s concern as well. What say we take a vote then? First let’s search this bedroom they just opened up to, because they said someone did go in there. The cube could be hidden within – no one can argue that point. Then we’ll decide whether we clear the first two levels or head directly where we suspect it might be.”

He looks toward Kafeera. “Besides, we need to fill in our new member with our purpose for being here so she’ll know why we’re acting like ‘animals’.”

“Fine. As long as we are doing something. I voted to search both floors, as I said. To do otherwise would be stupid,” Arianna says, with a sideways glance at Rastorn. She walks through the secret door to the Troll’s room. Striding into the room, she made certain not to step into any of the large piles of manure. When she reaches the chest she stops and signals to Melias. Unsheathing her two-handed sword she steps into a battle stance facing the chest. “Any evil?” she says, speaking to Iflander, although the rest of the party does not realize it.

The chest has seven different locks on it. Most are on the many chains in which it is wrapped. Were they to keep people from getting in or to keep something in the chest from getting out?

Iflander: I can only detect major sources of Evil or large groupings of lesser Evils and only so often a day. Are you certain you would want me to Detect Evil on an inanimate object?

Rastorn followed several steps behind Arianna. He has a sour look on his face. “Oh, great. Good thing we are taking the time to find these piles of shit,” he says, deadpan. He looks away when Arianna turns to glare at him. Spotting piles of coins sitting in the middle of the floor, Rastorn scrambles to them.

“That other room I checked earlier was safe, too, if anyone wants to check it out,” Arianna announces. “Oh, but only if you can risk losing anything you own that is made of paper. There are Bookworms in there.”

Rastorn grips his backpack in fear. “I’m not going anywhere near there!”

Melias looks at the chest suspiciously. So meticulously chained in place, it seems dangerous, but maybe not. He taps it with his drawn short sword first before checking for traps.

Chirp Chirp tells the party the games which were played in the cellar were fantasy games.  Well-off young men and women would come every month and pretend to be detectives or adventurers seeking a king’s treasure. She remains near her room, after explaining this.

Remaining near the pile of treasure, Rastorn off-handedly tells Kafeera, “In short, Kafeera, we are searching for an Artifact we believe is in the hands of someone who will start another Undead War with it.” He looks toward Melias and asks, “Is that about all you wanted to tell her, Melias?”

Kafeera laughs heartily at Rastorns’ tale. She says,”Oh Pepper, you almost had me on that one.” She slaps him on the back in a friendly gesture, as one buddy might do to another when he’s told a good joke, accidently causing him to step in a heap of Troll dung and making her laugh all the harder. 

The chest does not move to attack him, so Melias searches it thoroughly for traps, finding two. He disarms the first, but the second and a third are triggered. One trap stabs him with a dull needle in the palm of his hand. The needle is not sharp enough to draw blood or break the skin. The other trap sprays him in the face with what he believes, after his initial fearful reaction, to be water. Convinced the traps did not poison him, he works on the locks, which he soon discovers are of varying quality. He opens the first six, but fails on the final, most complicated, lock. 

With a grin, Arianna chops that chain apart with her sword, then smirks at Melias and shrugs.

The chest is disarmed and unlocked.

All that remains is to open it.

As Melias was disarming traps, he told Kafeera, “Yeah, that sums it up, but I think it’s important you know we aren’t always so insistent nor rude – manners-wise. We have an important, driving goal that forces us to behave unusually – at the risk of seeming rude, or animalistic as you so elegantly put it.” Melias was working on the third trap by that time and got sprayed in the face. “Shitbuckets!” he shouts, sputtering and spitting. After wiping his face on his sleeves and sighing, he says, “You have every right to have seen us as overly intrusive and, to be blunt, we’re not going to change until we get a hold of that Cube of Power. It’s something you’re either going to have to accept or not. But, please don’t force our hands. If it comes between killing you to save the world or sparing you and cursing the world . . . well, I will have to dip my blade in your blood – as much as I don’t want to. If you’d like to take lead position in our group, you’re welcome to. If you’d like to part ways, we won’t keep you. But, please don’t try to keep us from our destiny.”

Deathwish blows into the shell and tries to play a tune. He fails miserably.

Claire abruptly races for the stairs.

Melias watches as the Bard runs off. “Now where the devil is she going?” he asks, then shrugs and returns his attention to the chest, muttering about people who charge off on their own in dangerous places.

Swallowing hard, her cheeks flushed, Kafeera says, “I can’t say I believe in what you say, good sir. However, my opinion is no more significant than that dung on Pepper’s boot. What I do believe to be important is you believe in what you say. So, by all means, I will not stand in your way, nor have I thus far. I simply ask that in my presence you do not make unjust sacrifices.  You good sir made me aware of my debt to you and I will repay that debt by supporting you and yours in this venture, but not at the cost of my own humanity. Besides, I have nothing better to do and you apparently could use all the help you can get. So, what do you say? I believe this to be fair. Do you?”

With the conversation ending in a peaceful compromise, Kafeera says, “If no one opposes I will check the room with the worms.” As she passes Seliem she says, “I appreciate what you did back there.”

“Well, if humanity is the best you can do, I suppose it’s alright with me,” Melias says.

Claire stops on the stairwell and waits for Deathwish. When he doesn’t come, she runs back to find him. “You do realize that bodyguards are supposed to, y’know, keep their mistresses from harm, right?” she asks him.

“I’m trying to be more like you. Is that what you would do?” he answers, then continues blowing into the shell.

“That’s a shell, not a conch. It can’t be used as a musical instrument,” Claire tells him.

“Yes, by all means, search all the other rooms,” Rastorn says, as he sits scraping poop off his boot.

Kafeera searches the library and discovers there are a lot of books, but most don’t have titles and none have any complete pages left. The best she can find is several scraps from a book titled “The Whole Half-Elf” and a chart glued onto the inside cover of another book. She does not see any worms. All four drawers of the desk are locked. She uses her hand-ax to pry open the drawers.

Melias pats Arianna on the shoulder. “Nice job. And only minor damage to the chest. Good show. And the way your hiney swings when you hack away at the chains? Top notch!” He laughs as he opens the chest and looks inside.

Claire takes the shell from Deathwish and studies it, searching for something useful or something to at least tell her if it is in any way special. She looks up.”Hey, Rastorn, you think you’d be able to detect magic on this? It might actually be worth something if the right spell is on it.”

The chest contains ten locked compartments. Melias cracks his knuckles.

In the library, Kafeera breaks open each of the desk drawers. Searching inside, she finds nothing valuable, except a scroll.

“Yes! It is magic! If you put it to your ear, you’ll hear the ocean! Actually, I’d prefer to wait until we have several items to detect on,” Rastorn answers.

Claire tosses the shell to deathwish, who holds it up to his ear, looks disappointed, and shakes his head. 

“Not a thing,” he says.

Claire rolls her eyes and slumps against the wall, singing a song about “clever, forced entry.”

“Now I have to wait for you to work on each of these little boxes?” Arianna asks. “Rastorn, will you keep an eye on Melias for me and yell if anything bad happens? I’m going to go to the creepy worm room and see how Kafeera is doing. I’ll be right back.” 

Rastorn agrees to stay, if only to avoid the Bookworm. He double checks his spell books and scrolls to make certain they were not infested with Bookworms. “Priest – you’d better stay out of that room, too. If those worms smell your scrolls or religious writings, they’ll gobble them up before you even know they are there. We can’t afford to lose any of our healing magics on this trip.”

Claire follows Arianna.

“It sounds like rain in this shell. Oh, when we finally sleep, well, do I do it, um, near you?” Deathwish asks her, as they travel to the library.

“Deathwish,” Claire replies, evenly, “You’re my retainer. Yes.”

Melias finds no traps on the small compartments within the chest, but is only able to pick the lock on half of them.

“If those remaining locks are giving you so much trouble, why don’t you just break them open?” Rastorn asks, as he impatiently leans over Melias’ shoulder. “Or you could just check the ones you have open and see if it is even worth the effort.”

As they walk to the library, Arianna turns and looks curiously at Deathwish. “Rain? Normally you can hear a dull roaring noise, like waves on the ocean. Let me listen.”

Arianna strolls around the library. “There’s nothing here. Let’s check out one of those remaining doors,” she suggests. 

Kafeera nods and says, “Fine.” Upon reaching the first unopened door, she places her ear against it. Holding her halberd in her off hand, she opens it. 

Without any forethought, Claire opens the second door.

Arianna listens to the shell. “It does sound like rain . . . “

Melias asks Rastorn, “Who puts so many locks on their chest? It’d be a pain in the ass to put anything away or get it out again. There has to be something worthy of all this time.” He opens each of the five unlocked drawers and in each discovers a single copper piece.  Each drawer is deep enough to go all the way to the bottom, so a false bottom is highly unlikely. The chest is bolted to the floor. Attempts to lift it show the bolts aren’t extremely tight. Perhaps they were loosened by the Troll or others. This does allow Melias to see under the chest enough to dismiss the notion that something is hidden beneath.

Rastorn looks over his shoulder and chuckles. With uncharacteristic concern, he suggests, “Well, this building was owned by a Master Thief and was used for make-believe adventures for snotty rich kids. I guess it makes some sense. Come on, let’s check the other rooms before someone gets themselves hurt.” Without waiting for an answer, the Mage walks out of the room. He stops in the hall and adds, “There is no way I’m going near that room with the Bookworm, but you’re probably the only one beside myself who is smart enough to spot any books of value, so could you look them over for me?” He smiles his awkward smile and waits for a reply.

Melias kicks the chest and follows Rastorn out, grumbling under his voice. At Rastorn’s request, Melias shakes his head. “Terribly sorry, but I can’t read, remember? None of those books would do me any good except to help start a fire. Of course, I could just toss them over to you. I still have that blank book in my backpack. Maybe I could lure the worm out in the open and we could kill it off quickly, sparing whatever books might still be in there?”

“You can’t read? Did I know that? I’ll just send someone else in there to log them for me. I can’t risk that. Even if we get one worm, there could be another one – or two – hiding in some of the books.”

Melias shrugs, then follows Rastorn.

Entering the room in the middle of the south wall of the hallway, Claire views a large room with a fireplace near the middle of the south wall. It appears to be a master bedroom and has a second set of doors on the same wall to her left. She detects a strange odor and, except for the Mongrel Men hall, it is the only room with its own light source: a short candle set atop a five foot tall candle stand. The stand is next to the other door and has strings tied from the stand to the door. The floor of the room is covered in plush rugs. Those near the other door are all heavily stained.

Kafeera opens the door closest to Claire, but from the opposite side. The strings pull the candle stand over and the candle lands on the greek oil-soaked rugs, bursting that entire half of the room into flame! Kafeera falls back from the flames and lands in the hallway and immediately starts manically patting out the small flames covering her. Claire watches it happen from within the room and soon realizes the fire is spreading to her side of the room. Her exit will soon be blocked by the flames. Deathwish runs through the door and pulls her into the hallway.

In the hallway, SeLiem, Rastorn, Arianna, and Melias all watch as a burned Kafeera collapses on the floor and Deathwish and Claire run out of the closer door. 

“Quickly, Bonehead, go get that water basin from the laundry room near the kitchen! We have to put this fire out!” Rastorn shouts.

Melias stands with his arms across his chest, observing the smoldering Kafeera and the others running about. Melias chuckles and speaks in Elven to Rastorn. “I can’t tell you how glad I am you suggested we let Kafeera take the lead.”

“That’s ‘Deathwish’, you idiot!” Deathwish yells, as he runs to the kitchen.

Claire shakes her head. “Yes, well, that certainly seemed to work out well enough . . . and here I was just barging into things.” She struggles to keep from laughing.

SeLeim casts Flame Walk and rushes into the burning room, yelling something about saving Claire.

“Oh, great, now our Cleric’s gone mad, too,” Claire mutters, while opening the final unopened door. 

Deathwish runs back in with a basin and a bag of flour. “Here – you can use these to put out the fire.” He stops to pick up the shell, after Arianna flings it aside.

Upon quenching the flames, Kafeera hastily moves away from the burning room, muttering, “What more do you ask of me?”

No one is sure to whom she is speaking.  

The room Claire enters is filled with garbage and smells horribly.

Deathwish dumps flour and water on the fire and Melias is able to use the heavy wall hangings and curtains from the living room to completely put out the fire. Rastorn, although he bitches about it, rolls up the rugs to smother them further. He goes outside to get Percy so he can drag the rugs out the front door and leave them in the rain.

“Euuuuuuurgh,” Claire exclaims, slamming the door to the third room. 

SeLiem, realizing he overreacted, stares blankly at her.

“Maybe we should call you Bonehead,” she quips.

“I think we need to regroup somewhere else here and go over what was found and not, discovered and learned and what not. It has gotten chaotic around here and I’m not sure who has done or checked what anymore,” Arianna says.

Melias nods to Arianna. “Yes, you could say that. Chaotic is a good way to describe it. So, which rooms have been checked?” He pulls out a piece of chalk and marks a big ‘X’ on each door they have thoroughly inspected and a big ‘O’ on the garbage room. “I’m not checking in there unless someone pays me.”

Having established the rooms that have been checked, Melias locates the next unchecked door and searches it for traps before opening it.

Arianna sighs and says, “I’ll check the garbage room. It’s my turn for the dirty work anyway. But, if I find anything I get first dibs on what I want.” She looks at Melias and says, “You said I had an unpleasant odor before – just wait.” She smiles.

She finds a golden chalice, a broken pearl necklace, and a silver pipe case with a broken tobacco pipe inside.

Melias spots a concealed door in the hallway. It leads to stairs. Locating a hidden trap door under the stairs, he also notes the top of the stairs leads to an open balcony.

“Well that was fun,” Arianna says as she dumps the junk on the floor.

“Dibs,” Claire says, snatching the semi-valuable junk. 

Deathwish rolls his eyes. Once Claire is finished, he grabs her by the back of her dress and gets her moving towards the next area. 

Chapter Thirteen starts next week!

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