Neutralizing the Poison
Chapter Fourteen, Part Two
Melias lifts his hand to wave the others closer, then lowers it when he considers the spikes surrounding him. He reaches into the chest and pulls out two potions. One is marked ‘X-Heal’ and the other ‘Drink Me’. As he holds them up for the party to see, he describes the remaining contents.
“There is a soft, tube-shaped, leather canteen. I can see a clear bottle within. It holds some sort of lotion. There’s a scroll, three gems, about a hundred gold coins and an equal amount of copper.”
After tossing the potions to Arianna, he picks out an arrow with carvings of knights on it. He hands that to her, too.
Arianna reads the note tied to the arrow. “It says, ‘One of two’.”
Melias holds up a loose note he finds beneath the arrow. Arianna tells him it says, ‘Please put everything back as found, thank you’.
“No cube here,” Melias says, rubbing his new-found wounds. “I wonder where it could be?” He begins searching the walls for a secret door, not confident about the others’ abilities.
Arianna avoids the spikes to sneak a peek into the chest, while Kafeera leaves to pace the hallway. Rastorn follows Kafeera. “Let me know if you find anything else in and around that chest after the spikes lower.”
“Melias, maybe you should drink that healing potion, so I can save my spells for other purposes,” SeLiem suggests.
Melias turns toward him, then rests against the wall.
“I’m beat, I swear, I have no idea where they would go from here, but there has to be more. Maybe we have to drink that potion that says ‘Drink Me’ if we want answers.” Instead, he clenches his eyes shut and downs the ‘X-heal’ potion.
Arianna asks, “Need any help? I didn’t realize you were hurt so bad.”
SeLiem tells her, “If that potion is what we believe it to be, Melias will shortly be in good enough condition to continue.” He keeps an eye on Melias, to watch for signs of poisoning and to make sure he doesn’t take anything else from the chest for himself. What he sees is all of Melias’ wounds completely healing in less than a minute.
Melias and Arturus unload the chest together and once it is empty the spikes slowly lower. They call Kafeera and Rastorn back into the room.
“We should divy this up. I helped myself to the potion, so the rest of you can arm-wrestle for what’s left. Rastorn, you might want to take a look at that scroll. It could be useful,” says Melias. He tells Arianna, “Now that all those spikes and Skeletons are gone and I’m feeling better, let’s look for a secret door in the area we couldn’t get to before.”
Arianna says, “I’m glad to hear you are healthy again. I can’t have you dying on me or anything like that.” She smiles, then tells the party, “I want the arrow. Any objections? I hope not, because it’ll fall on deaf ears.” She takes the arrow. “Now, let’s find some doors.”
“This isn’t in any language of magic I’ve ever seen. It could be healer magic,” Rastorn says as he tosses the scroll to SeLiem. “Someone remind me later, when we’ve collected a little more treasure, to use my Identify scroll on these items.” He reads the note, laughs, and tosses it aside, then has second thoughts. “What if there is some kind of curse that takes effect if we don’t place everything back into the chest? I don’t think I’ll keep any of it. Help yourself, Claire.”
Melias and Arianna search the area in front, on either side, and behind the chest and find nothing. Most of the hall has been checked with similar results.
SeLiem looks at the scroll, then puts it in his pack and says, “Actually, I wouldn’t mind taking some of that gold. Fifty-fifty split, Claire? Also I’ll take that magic Potion.”
“Deathwish, could you grab that for us?” Claire asks sweetly. She offers her hand to SeLiem. “You got yourself a deal,” she says, as Deathwish obliges.
Kafeera returns to lightly searching the hallway.
“For crying out loud – I drank the flipping Potion. We’re not likely to return that. If there’s a Curse coming our way, we might as well earn it,” Melias says, as he stands arms akimbo scanning the room. He points at the chest, then walks back to it. Discovering a false bottom, he removes it and discovers a hidden ring, gold coin, and copper coin. He tries to slide the chest aside, but it does not budge in the least.
Iflander speaks in Ariann’s mind. “Do you think this is all that is down here?”
Arianna says, “That’s it? Why go through the trouble of a false bottom for a ring and coin or two? There has got to be more here. I mean, we haven’t found The Cube yet.”
Melias pockets the coins from the bottom of the chest and holds the ring to study it closely.
“Considering our recent luck with magic items, I’m almost scared to try on this ring. However, it could be the answer to our questions – like where do we go from here?”
Without thinking more about it, Melias fits the ring on his finger and shuts his eyes, half expecting it to cast some elaborate Curse and turn him into a goblin or something worse, like an annoying female Bard.
“Melias I wouldn’t do-” Arianna starts to warn too late.
SeLiem cringes. “Er, well, if Melias does come down with something, I can most probably remove the Curse. Lets just hope it ain’t a ring that spouts Fireballs at random.”
“Yeah, it’s my job to do the stupid stuff,” Claire says, as she takes the lotion. Bored, she leads Deathwish into the hallway.
Melias notices his fingers itch and mildly hurt. There is something oily on his hand. His hand feels numb and his stomach and head hurt. He vomits. Looking down at his hand, he notices the spots that touched the coins are red and the veins in his hand are green. Collapsing, he struggles for breath. He starts trembling and his eyes flicker.
“Damn it all!” SeLiem shouts, as he runs to Melias and looks at the infected spot. “This isn’t good. If this is poison . . . let’s hope not.” After chanting a spell to slow any poison on Melias’ infected fingers, he casts another spell to cure disease. Then he casts a spell to remove Curses.
The Slow Poison leaves Melias in the same painful state, but he doesn’t seem to be getting any worse. The other spells have no obvious effect.
Rastorn watches Melias closely, but in an unemotional, detached manner. “I think he’s been poisoned. It must be some sort of contact poison. Looking at his hands, I’d say it was the coins. We will need to remove them from his person and be certain to toss anything away that may have also been touched. If he is strong enough to do it himself, it would be better if he did it, so none of us risk contamination.” He looks Melias in the eyes and says, “The good news is, I don’t think he’s going to die as long as we can neutralize the poison somehow.”
Melias musters whatever strength he maintains to clear his pocket of the poisoned coins and toss them back into the chest.
Alerted by SeLiem’s shout, Kafeera returns to the room and is quickly briefed on the situation. She approaches Melias’ body and gently scoops him into her arms.
“I will take him to the others. Maybe they can help.”
She carries him out of the mansion to his other friends, hoping they can do something to ease his affliction.
Though his mind is foggy and he can barely make out the voices echoing throughout his head, he has a thought about the coins. It seems to him that two coins hidden beneath the treasure was a silly place to put poison, but then he was reminded of how effective it was by his muscle spasms. Like a side of beef, Melias helplessly allows himself to be carried away by the big barbarian woman. What a strange sight that must be. He smiles internally – since he is lacking any control of his face.
Outside, everyone is very concerned about Melias when Kafeera shows up with him.
Reputa pulls a scroll and says, “This is a scroll of Neutralize Poison that I found in my backpack. The problem with it – and a lot of the things that were left to us after we jumped – is that I am too lowly a Priestess to cast from it. My chance of failure would be too great. If there were a more skilled Cleric around they could cast from it, though.”
Inside, the group is growing restless with concern for Melias or over all the searching or both. Some walls have been checked twice with still no secrets revealed.
Claire asks Arianna, “You’re sure there’s a secret whatever-it-is somewhere around here?” She spreads a small amount of lotion on the wall, hoping it will reveal something.
Looking at Orjulun, Kafeera pleads,”Surely there is something one of you can do?” She mutters something about the purpose of Priests and everyone perishing, then slams her fist into the side of the tower and says, “If there is nothing we can do, perhaps they can.” She gestures back toward the mansion, then dashes back inside, still carrying Melias.
Disappointed by the lack of effect the lotion had on the wall, Claire frowns. When Kafeera returns, she gives her the case of lotion. “Here. Perhaps this might neutralize the poison.” Melias was an ass, but dammit, he was a necessary ass. Maybe he’d keep some of the coins for her to use on Rastorn if she helped.
The frantic look on Kafeera’s face makes Arianna feel as though Melias is really not in that much danger, although he doesn’t know why. He glances around the room and into the hallway. “I get the feeling we’re wasting our time, but would someone give me a hand in moving this chest? It’s about the only thing we haven’t done yet.”
“And here I was thinking I could be useless, lazy, and annoying again. Damn,” Claire says. “Sure, I’ll help.”
“Useless? Oh, of course not!” Arianna smiles back.
Contrary to Arianna’s beliefs, Melias does feel like he is dying. He wonders if he has done enough good in the world to counter the evil his family forced him into and worries soon he might find out.
SeLiem screams at Arianna and Claire as they attempt to push the chest, “Our companion is dying and you are concerned about a damn chest! What in the Nine Hells is the matter with you?”
He asks Kafeera to lay Melias on the floor then crouches next to him.
She hands him the scroll Reputa had given her.
“For your sake, this better work,” he says, before chanting the words written on the scroll.
With added help from Deathwish, Arianna is able to slide the chest aside. Below is a second false bottom with a note saying: ‘We got here first, now get out of here before we kill you’ and below that is a ladder leading down. Looking into the darkness, Arianna can see it enters into a small room with a single chest in the center of the floor. The chest is open and appears empty. When she looks back at the rest of the party, she sees Melias is feeling much better. She smiles. Somehow, she knew this was not his time to die.
At the finishing of the spell, Melias’ eyes focus on SeLiem bending over him. He blinks a few times and smacks his lips, then sits up grabbing his head from the sudden rush of blood.
“Thank you my healing friend. You’ve saved my life. I will not forget this debt I owe you.”
On the way to the lower room, Melias eyeballs the coins that had caused him such grief. He pauses, tears a piece of his shirt off, carefully picks up the coins, without touching them directly, and ties them up securely within the piece of cloth for later use.
Melias smiles at everyone as they search the room – especially Kafeera. He approaches her and whispers, “You have my utmost appreciation. Your concern for my health surpassed even that of all of my companions . . . not that they weren’t concerned. They were just not as eager to see me live as you seemed to be. For that, I thank you. You’ve gained my respect and trust.” He holds out a hand for her to shake and is caught off-guard by her weak grip and avoidance of eye-contact.
The lower room is searched and turns out to be exactly what it appeared: a small room with an empty chest in it. No secret doors are discovered and the chest holds no concealed doors or false bottoms.
Rastorn speaks up. “I think this makes some sense. This place used to host fake adventures for spoiled rich adolescents, right? So, it would make sense to have several treasures hidden, each one better than the last, to reward those who really put forth an effort. The harder they tried, the more they would be rewarded and those who gave little effort would get little in return. The last ones here must have ignored the easy treasures and went straight to the big ones. Those who showed any real promise would be the ones who were gifted or determined or smart enough to find a really well-hidden treasure. There obviously has to be something more down here since The Eight and Stetic the Transmuter went down here, but somehow we are still missing it. I think we need to check all our available resources. Let me review my spells more carefully, as you all mine all your own skills and belongings. Something is bound to occur to us.”
Melias steps to the middle of the room. “When I was in the secret tunnels all the way upstairs, I found some other materials that might have some bearing on all of this,” he admits, laying down spoils gained from there. Some masks, a couple rusty daggers, thieves picks, a gem, jewelry, some Potions. “I got sidetracked, else I would have brought it up earlier. It simply didn’t cross my mind that they were important. Still, I think they’re rather mundane. But, who’s to say what’s important in this crazy, mixed-up puzzle. Maybe we’re supposed to dress the part before we can get any farther?”
Noticing Rastorn flipping through the pages of his book, he asks, “Do you think now might be a good time to use that Identify scroll? Any of the items I have found along the way, including this ring on my finger, could be useful. What say we get rid of all the mystery of the items we’ve picked up along the way?”
Facing SeLiem, Melias questions, “Didn’t you once say something about having a Commune scroll or some such thing? Isn’t that what you use to question the gods directly? I remember Percy had one of those done and it answered a bunch of yes or no questions. If we pose our questions well, we might just find that quite useful in the situation we’re in. Don’t you think? Just a thought.”
He asks Claire, “Any stories come to mind about this place? Legends of old? Funny anecdotes? How about singing us a song to motivate us with optimism and lift our spirits and open our eyes?”
Claire takes off her chainmail and retrieves the case of lotion, sliding them both over to Rastorn. She starts playing her lyre and singing a rather lurid and dirty (although bright and cheerful) song involving, among other things, Rube Howges, a goat, and the dirty laundry of every priesthood in the city. It was a song she wrote to inspire the people of ASU to believe they might be able to keep things the way they were. Claire liked it a lot. She considered it one of her best. It also started a few scandals, although most of the Priests just became more discreet about their activities.
Arianna throws in the arrow she got then says, “What about that Potion that said, ‘Drink Me’? Could be that was a clue or something used to help the brats along their path to discovering the secrets of this place. A tool used to help the dumb kids so to speak.”
Rastorn likes Claire’s little ditty and hums along. Seeing that Melias is now much better, he directs a ‘glad you’re back’ hand salute at the Elf. He slides the arrow a little closer, so he can easily handle it during the spell. “What else?” he asks the other party members. A frown crosses his face and he looks at Melias again, then says, “Forget all your Potions. After what happened to Melias, I’ll not test another liquid or item not first handled by another.” He then holds out his hand, to accept the ring from Melias.
The entire party begins to feel much better about their chance of success and excited about the casting of the advanced Identify spell. Rastorn, Kafeera, and SeLiem almost smile.
Claire continues singing, getting louder on the part about SeLiem’s particular priesthood, as retribution for whining at her.
SeLiem mutters something that sounds like ‘pitch’ or ‘ditch’ under his breath. He asks Rastorn to at least take a look at the Drink Me potion and hands it to him. He then turns to face Melias and says, “Commune? I believe I can cast that with the scroll I have. Just give me a minute and I will be talking to god.”
To be continued . . .
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