Chapter Thirteen, Part Two
“I just did that?” Claire says. “I’m a better shot than I thought.”
Deathwish screams incoherently as his sword hacks a wing off the closest bat.
Rastorn had cast Stinking Cloud in the area just inside the room. The spell creates nauseous fumes that force the other bats back.
“Now we just have ourselves a shooting gallery!” Rastorn exclaims, as he cocks his index finger as if it were a crossbow. He looks back at SeLiem and Kafeera. “Actually, why should I waste spells on these vermin . . . do either of you have missile weapons?” he asks, stepping away to allow them to see into the room.
SeLiem shrugs, shakes his head, and asks Kafeera if she has any distance weapons.
Melias, feeling quite useless in this situation, pushes forward down the dark tunnel. The passage continues to follow the inside wall, over the doorway and into the next room and beyond. He finds a small trap door leading into the room located in the south-west corner of the mansion. The door has a small slit, allowing him to see into the room.
“Melias, did you find anything else? They look like they’re handling things pretty well,” Claire asks, as she reloads. When she doesn’t get a response, she takes her eye from the hole in the wall and sees he is no longer within sight or earshot. She rolls her eyes and crawls after him. Now that she is useful, she is going to be useful, whether they like it or not.
In the other room, Arianna races to the cube and looks around it to see if there are any obvious traps. Finding none, she lets out an ear splitting whistle.
SeLiem and Kafeera hear her whistle clearly. Melias hears it slightly, but is unable to determine exactly where it is coming from or what it means. Everyone else is too busy or too close to the sound of Deathwish screaming and the bats flapping to hear much of anything.
SeLiem shouts to Rastorn and Deathwish, “Let’s take care of the bats later. Quick, get out. Close the door, Kafeera. I’ll get Melias and Claire to go see Arianna with me.” He darts to the next room and searches for Melias and Claire, unaware they are in the walls.
After opening the trap door as quietly as he can, Melias steps into the stillness of the latest room.
Feeling her will renewed by the sight of possible battle, Kafeera rushes to the door and shouts, “Make your mind up, Priest! Either you want them kabobed or penned?” She reaches around Deathwish and shuts the door.
Rastorn is disappointed he wasted a spell, but follows SeLiem to find Melias and Claire.
Claire enters the room behind Melias, who has already discovered it is uninhabited. SeLiem rushes in with Rastorn, Deathwish, and Kafeera behind him.
“Where’s Arianna?” Rastorn asks.
“Hey I think I found something really, really important here!” Arianna shouts. “I’m in a secret room I discovered!”
Melias sighs, then leads the others out of the room and backtracks to where he last saw Arianna, which was searching the north-east room. He heads through the secret door and into the room. How unlike . . . anyone in the group, really – waiting there, patiently . . . for backup. His eyes fall on the mysterious cube. “Well, well – if you ever want anything done right, just send in the Elves,” he says with a wink to her. “Alright, it seems we’ve found what we came for, but looks can be deceiving. I, for one, don’t think anything can be so easy. Not when it holds such a high price tag.” He asks Rastorn, “Do you have any of those magic detection spells left? I’m betting it’s got some sort of magical curse or something on it. Either that or it’s highly booby-trapped. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it turned out to be just a phoney cube to lure unsuspecting adventurers to their doom.”
“Exactly, hence why I wasn’t going to touch it. I figured the spell-casters would be best suited for this situation,” Arianna says, pushing out her chest and holding her arms akimbo.
“Yes, well, really good job,” Claire says, as she removes the bolt from her crossbow.
Kafeera peers into the room and says, “So that’s what all the fuss is about, huh? Grab it and let’s go. Now that you have the thing, where will you go now? Oh, before I forget again, I meant to give you this earlier. I figured it was something you could use.” She hands the scroll found earlier to Rastorn.
Rastorn accepts it graciously, but his eyes dart about, as he awaits an ambush.
Melias scratches his head. “You know, Kafeera, I don’t know. I suppose we should probably hide it somewhere where no one can find the damned thing.” He looks at Claire and asks, “You’re good with stories, right? Have you ever heard of a bottomless pit or an infinite void?”
“This is too easy,” he says. “SeLiem, do you have another Detect Traps spell?” He is almost certain SeLiem has another spell.
Rastorn steps slightly closer and studies the cube with the light of his lantern. “In fact, does anyone have any detection spells or spell-like powers of any kind? I’ll see what I can do.” Stepping back, he read the scroll Kafeera gave him. “This is a Protection Versus Acid scroll. Anyone who can read Common can use it, but if you’d like I can carry it and keep it safe. I have an empty scroll case here somewhere.” After popping the scroll into the protective scroll tube, Rastorn tells the party, “If you have any items you thought may have been magical, but that were never checked, hold them out or lay them down, so I may check them with this spell.” He begins casting Detect Magic.
Melias pulls out the fancy short sword they found under the table downstairs and the empty book he’d been carrying around since they rescued SeLiem from the caravan masacre. He figures the short sword is magical, but doesn’t have high hopes for the empty book.
Claire lays her crossbow down next to the sword.
When Rastorn is finished casting, he tells the group that the sword and crossbow are both slightly magical as are the potions he checked, but what everyone is most concerned with is the cube.
“Alright, there is a very weak Alteration magic emanating from the cube. Considering the power this thing has, I assumed it would radiate much more magic . . . but, maybe not. Artifacts may have ways of masking what they are or how powerful they are as part of their protective enchantments. Theoretically, something this magical, might be too powerful for a lowly spell like Detect Magic to get a true reading on.”
Melias and Arianna both sigh.
“Believe me, I want this to be The Cube of Power, but I can’t be certain,” Rastorn says, “Hiding it in plain sight seems unlikely, but one never knows. Either more spells need to be cast or someone has to pick it up and see what happens. Be warned though, Artifacts are powerful magic! The mere touch of it may disintegrate you or turn you into a frog or make you attack your own party. One never knows with the ancient magics.” He looks at Claire, “Are you going to snatch this item up, too, Bard?”
As she picks up her crossbow, Claire starts to say something in response, but Deathwish covers her mouth and interjects, “No, no, it’s more fitting it’s carried around by a disgusting, old necrophiliac without a decent insult in his repertoire. That way you can’t blame us for anything bad that happens to us while we have it.” He looks at Claire, “Besides, you most likely couldn’t use it, either.”
“Necromancer, not necrophiliac, dolt!” Rastorn shouts, through gritted teeth.
“Same thing in your case, really.” Claire tells Rastorn. “And you still don’t have a decent insult in your repertoire. Leave that sort of thing to qualified professionals.”
Ignoring Claire, Rastorn asks Deathwish, “You are supposed to be such a brave henchman, why don’t you grab the cube and present it to your lovely, green master?” He gathers the two potion bottles he had placed on the floor to detect magic on. “Actually, I’m getting weighted down a bit . . . does anyone want these two unidentified potions? I doubt we will ever have a chance to get them identified, so you may have to just take a chance and gulp them without knowing what will happen. Arianna found them in a tree out back. Claire? Anyone?”
“If you ask me,” Melias says, “the real cube is down in that cellar, the ‘game room’, somewhere. This has got to be a trap.” He asks Rastorn, “Can’t you summon some stupid monster to come pick up the thing? Then whatever bad magic is to be triggered will happen to them. Maybe a big, fat Orc or a greasy Goblin?”
“I have no such spells, but Orjulun may have picked some up in ASU. Should we have the henchman fetch him for us?”
Arianna stares at the cube and says, “Maybe one of us needs to man up and just grab the damn thing. For certain we just can’t spend the rest of our lives staring at it.” She steps closer to it.
Melias looks back and forth between Rastorn and Arianna, then nods to Rastorn. Again, he agrees with Rastorn! This day has been full of surprises. He snatches the two unidentified potions and proclaims, “You’re right. Maybe someone should go fetch Orjulun for this circumstance. We’ve waited this long – a few more minutes won’t hurt anything.” For the span of an Elf’s life, this adventure so far was just a drop in the bucket of time. A few minutes were like a blink of an eye. “So what do you say, Bonehead? Do you want to get Orjulun for us? We’d be ever so grateful.”
Before anyone can even think of protesting, Kafeera says, “No need for the boy to go, I’ll fetch Orjulun.”
SeLiem reminds her, “Don’t forget the password before going down the stairs, lest my spell takes effect upon you and not an assassin.” He looks back to find her out of sight, not even listening to a word he said. He shrugs. Hopefully it’ll teach her a lesson. An idea for handling the cube comes to him and he asks, “Does anyone have something they are willing to risk getting scorched? Perhaps something like a boot or a rag?”
“Deathwish, pass me your cloak, will you? You’re not going to need it for a bit, and this is more important,” Claire says. He grumbles and she tells him, “I’ll steal you a new one. Don’t bother complaining,” as she hands it to SeLiem.
Kafeera says ‘Unite’ as she runs down the stairs. Locating Orjulun and Percy outside debating religion on the porch to the Kobold’s lair, they stop when they see her.
“Uh-oh, what’s wrong?” Orjulun asks.
Inside the keep, SeLiem takes the cloak from Claire and tries to decide how best to use it.
“Melias, once SeLiem pulls the cube down, I suggest . . . well, come over here and I’ll tell you,” Rastorn says and waves Melias toward the far corner of the room.
He whispers, “I really don’t like that woman and I am a little concerned at how easily Bonehead took on her persona. It is like she has him under a spell to act just like her. Worse yet, he could be a Doppelganger or some other creature that takes on the personality of those around him. I’ll not have a repeat of what happened in the volcano. So you know, I’ll not be wasting any spells to protect a possible spy. Do you understand?”
Rastorn stepped away from Melias and asked, “So, are we waiting for Orjulun and Kafeera to return or is SeLiem going to pull it down using the cloak? I’m not an Elf, so I’m getting bored standing here looking at the damn thing!” He looks back at the cube and licks his thin lips, looking more anxious than bored.
“Yes, I know. They both seem rather overbearing. I’m hoping Fino had a reason for sending the green Bard with us. So far, she’s been nothing but a selfish and practically useless addition. I hate to say it, but if they aren’t going to help us meet our ends to save the world, you’re better off saving your firepower for someone who matters.”
He steps away from Rastorn, still nodding in agreement. “Yes, I’m rather certain that Bards are schooled in all sorts of interesting tales – specifically about heroes, villains, legendary places, and fantastic items of magic. But, perhaps Claire simply doesn’t know anything about the cube. I’m sure she’d have told us if something sparked her memory.” Looking at the upper portion of the inner wall, Melias scratches his chin thoughtfully. “You know, before you all go and do something we might regret . . . SeLiem, didn’t your church bestow you with all sorts of interesting and powerful spells on a scroll? Could anything be of use to us here? What about detecting traps? Are you incapable of casting that spell for us or simply saving the powers for later? You all think about this a little longer. I’ve got to check something out. I’ll be right back.”
Arianna searches the room, but finds nothing of value. Thinking back, she recalls that the master bedroom was never really searched well.
Rastorn says, “Melias, it is already dark outside. I doubt anyone is hoarding any useful spells or items this late in the day. Especially spells, since they can be renewed tomorrow. Give the Priest some credit.” Melias is out the door before the Necromancer even finishes his last sentence.
Melias works his way through the rest of the tunnel. It follows the wall between the room where he entered it and the room the rest of the group is in to where Arianna found the secret door. There, at the end, he finds a bundle. Carefully opening the bundle, he uncovers several small potion-like bottles filled with a thick liquid, two rusty daggers, leather straps, masks, robes, a small pouch with a strange powder inside, thief’s picks, forty gold pieces, a gem, and three nice pieces of jewelry.
Arianna leaves to search the master bedroom.
Claire follows, endeavoring to stay far away from Melias and Rastorn. She believes them to be even more unsavory than herself. “Deathwish,” she says, “as my bodyguard, I give you the right to pull me out of any dangerous situation that comes my way. You, having more common sense than I, are more than overqualified for the task.”
Downstairs, after a thorough search of the master bedroom, Claire comments, “Well, this was a waste of our time. Would you help me check that empty room, milady?”
Deathwish spots the Mongrel Man with three eyes sneaking a peek at them while they search the master bedroom. It goes back to its room once it sees what they are doing.
Rastorn stays in the room with the cube. He leans against the far wall and stares at it, waiting for Orjulun and Kafeera to return or SeLiem to attempt to take it.
“This is taking too long. Why don’t you just go ahead and grab the damn thing with that cloak. I’ll watch to make sure nothing happens.”
“You’re starting to sound like Arturus, figuring nothing bad will happen if you do anything. Now look at ‘her’,” SeLiem responds. Then he mutters to himself, quietly. “Yes, I do believe I have a Find Traps spell, but looks can be deceiving. The Cube of Power is of great power, so it’s possible it is a trap unto itself and whoever has it shouldn’t want anyone else to have it. Perhaps, they might have used very skillful traps, ones that might mislead or just still remain hidden from my spell. There’s only one way to find out, but we must never become fully reliant on our own skills and abilities.” He casts the Detect Traps spell and looks first at the walls, then the ceiling, the floor, and finally the cube. He sees no traps.
“Well, is it trapped?”
“No. No, it’s not. I still don’t trust it. Something isn’t right. No traps? Perhaps it’s cursed?” He pauses a moment, then covers his hand in the cloak, and touches the cube with the cloak-covered hand, then picks it up. He holds his hand upside down as if carrying a wine glass and uses the other to grab the ends of the cloak, and tie them together, creating a small sack.
Outside, Percy rushes at Kafeera and slams into her with his shoulder! The man’s strength is so great that he sends the huge woman flying. She lands almost fifteen feet away, then slides along the muddy ground for another five feet. As she looks up, she sees Percy in the air above her, his two-handed sword out, swinging it as he leaps!
Arianna, Claire, and Deathwish stand in the still smoldering master bedroom and scan to see what they may have missed. Simultaneously, all of their eyes stop on the one area none of them had checked – the fireplace.
Meanwhile, Melias makes his way back out of the tunnel, dropping into the room the cube was in. He had overheard SeLiem explaining that he didn’t see any traps, but couldn’t quite make out his latest comments. Turning toward the fireplace, he is just in time to see something surreal happen.
Rastorn walks toward SeLiem, excited by the prospect that the cube was not trapped and he could be present at such a momentous occasion. Still, he doesn’t want to be the one to take the risk of making first contact with the item.
SeLiem wraps his cloaked hand around the cube, trying to avoid any direct contact. However, the cube has other ideas! The cloak sticks to the cube as if it is glued to it and the fireplace itself reaches out and hugs SeLiem!
Rastorn freezes in terror, as the fireplace clubs SeLIem.
Outside, Kafeera is covered in blood and gore. The Giant Bat that was chasing her was cut completely in half by Percy’s six foot long sword. He lands straddling her and the two pieces of bat land on either side of her head. She sees Orjulun casting Magic Missiles at other Giant Bats and The Chosen attacking them with weapons.
Inside, Deathwish reaches inside the fireplace and finds a hidden compartment. Opening it, he pulls out a dagger with a gem-encrusted hilt. He holds it up to marvel at it in the light of his lantern, but then is jolted by the sound of battle on the second floor.
Chapter Thirteen continues next week!
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