Chapter Fourteen, Part Three
SeLiem successfully casts Commune from the scroll and begins asking questions quietly so only those very close could hear.
“Are there any more secret doors in the east?”
“If there are any, will the door be trapped?”
“Should we regroup with our party if we do find a secret door?”
Kafeera clears her throat, shifts her armor on her shoulders, then tells the fully-recovered Melias, “Thank the gods for Seliem . . . me, well, failing, again, though I did what I could . . . and well . . . I’m just glad you’re still with us. I believe we should do for others what you’d hope they’d do for you if’n the axe were in the other hand.” She turns her back on him before he can reply and sips from her wineskin.
While SeLiem is asking questions of Kurbri, god of duty, Rastorn casts Detect Magic. He slides most of what Melias gave him back, keeping only the ring and the bag of dust. Then he casts Onif’s Improved Identify from a scroll. “The armor is magical chainmail,” he says, tossing it to Claire, “and the lotion is a magical healing ointment. It has four doses left and if placed on a poisoned wound it detoxifies any poison or disease, but it can also be rubbed on injuries to heal someone, similar to a potion of basic healing.” He tosses the ointment back to Claire and picks up the arrow. “Arrow of Paladin Slaying,” he names it, as he nonchalantly hands it back to Arianna. He rubs the dust between his fingers and nods with eyes shut, then focuses on the ring. After placing the ring on his finger, he sits quietly for a full minute with his eyes closed. When he opens them again, he immediately removes the ring and hands it back to Melias. “It is a Ring of Wizardry. It doubles the number of First through Third Level spells a Mage can cast each day.” He stares at the ring, panting softly. Rastorn doesn’t touch the “Drink Me” potion, as he said he wouldn’t.
SeLiem had rushed through his initial questions without waiting for answers, which is not protocol. Nor is it protocol to ask incomplete questions which lack specificity. The spell still works, but he gets a horrible headache and the words ‘At the end of the cells’ echo through his head before answers to his questions flood through his mind.
Melias studies the ring and then Rastorn. He’d much rather give it to Orjulun, whom he trusts far more, however, he places the Ring of Wizardry in Rastorn’s palm. “Use it in good health. I’d like to see you use quite a few of those spells to obliterate my sister if you get the chance.” He lifts the bag of dust and says, “Did you miss this?”
Rastorn thanks Melias and bows his head respectfully. Pointing to the bag he says, “Sorry, I forgot to mention that it is Dust of Disappearance. The name tells it all.”
Melias smiles and tucks the bag away in an inside pocket of his leathers as he turns toward SeLiem and leans in to make suggestions.
“Ask if The Cube is still in the keep somewhere, as if we’re on the right track to find it. Ask if we should give The Cube to High Priest Ifon – that was his name, right? Ask if we need to do something special in order to go further in this cellar, like dress up or say a command word or something.”
Claire catches Rastorn’s eye as Melias steps away. “Thank you. That’s what I thought it was,” she says.
“I say someone drinks the ‘Drink Me’ potion. Hells, hand it here and I’ll do it,” Arianna announces.
“I’ll do it,” Claire says, reaching for the bottle. “Forty gold says I survive.”
Fast as a rattlesnake, Melias turns and snatches the bottle. Holding it behind his back, he addressed Claire and Arianna.
“Look, I know you two are apparently late for a date or something, but let’s just be patient while we’re talking to the gods,” he says, gesturing with his head toward SeLiem. “Once he’s done, feel free to poison yourself all you want.” He pauses, then adds, “You might want to take sips, anyway, because this could be several doses. Keep that in mind.”
“Yes, mother,” Claire mumbles. She really wanted forty gold to survive drinking from the potion. The worst two things that could happen, she believes, would be for her to a) turn into a man, which wouldn’t help her career at all, as most of it centered on her having certain body parts; or b) die. Which would be bad, yes, but at least she wouldn’t have to listen to SeLiem whine or Rastorn complain.
Arianna stares at Melias for a moment, then rolls her eyes and sighs. She turns and again glances around the room wondering where a hidden door could be and if behind that door was The Cube. If The Cube was there, were there any other mysterious trinkets to be found still or was everything useless or cursed? Still holding the Arrow of Paladin Slaying, she asks Rastorn, “To us this would be a cursed item, or one of a use that we’d rather not let fall into someone’s hands. What’s the best way to destroy this? If I snap it in half that’d be bad, right?”
“You could burn it. That always works,” Claire suggests.
“Burn it? That wouldn’t blow up or anything? I have heard destroying magic items was a dangerous thing to do. I don’t want to blow either of us up before we get a chance to know one another better.” She winks.
“Whatever you say,” Claire says, smiling. “You’re right, though. We wouldn’t want anything to happen just yet.”
Arianna looks back at Rastorn, who shrugs and answers, “I think it can be broken. Anything broken can be mended, though, so you may want to burn it. I wouldn’t do it here, just in case, though. You could fetch a good price for it in Darkuth, so why not just save it to sell later? Actually, a Paladin would pay a fortune just to make certain it was destroyed. By the Nine Hells, I bet Percy would even pay you a hefty amount of coin!” To Claire he says, “I’ll pay 40 gold to see you guzzle that entire potion! Sixty, if you split it with your henchman!”
Oblivious to the other conversations in the room, SeLiem nods slightly, his head feeling like a giant weight, and continues asking questions, but in a weaker voice.
“Is The Cube in the keep?”
“Should we give it to the High Priest, Ifon, I believe?”
Kafeera did not understand what a Commune was until that moment. She gazes intently at SeLiem as she rubs the half moon bracelet on her wrist and sits in quiet contemplation waiting for the Priest to finish his magic.
SeLiem continues to receive divine answers to his questions.
“The Cube is in the keep,” SeLiem tells them.
Melias hops and grips his fists tight in front of him, grinning. “Maybe we should ask if any of The Eight are still around the keep. How many questions does he get? We could ask if disposing of The Cube would be a good idea or if there is some means to destroy it. Come on everyone, I’m not the only one with a working brain here.”
They all stare at him, blankly.
“About the arrow, what if we just let Percy have it as part of the treasure split? I mean, I know he won’t have use for it, but he might actually be elevated in the noble ranks if he personally disposed of it,” Melias says. “Just a thought. Don’t really care either way. I don’t know any Paladins. Do Paladins have to be good? Is there any such thing as an evil Paladin?” He looks to the Green Bard to answer, figuring if there was an evil Paladin out there, Claire would have some story about it.
“There are a few. Or were, rather,” Claire says, “Most of them ‘saw the light’ and became the heads of the Paladin orders around today.”
This is not true, but she says it with conviction, since she was told this from what she considered a good source. In fact, there is only one order of Paladins – the Purple Paladins of Homeland.
She looks at Rastorn. “Eighty if Deathwish joins in.”
She turns back toward Melias. “There was one, however, that didn’t change. He hung around with a Necromancer and had a Bard following him. He killed a lot of Purple Paladins, which seems nigh-impossible, but altogether highly probable. They never mentioned names, which is just about normal. There was also a rumor the one in The Eight was evil. I believe that rumor, in particular.”
“Wait a moment,” Melias says, holding his hand up, “do you mean to say one of The Eight is an evil Paladin? Well, sheep shit . . . maybe we should be keeping that arrow handy then.” He looks at Arianna to see if she has changed her mind.
She gives the arrow a thoughtful look, then smiles at Claire and Melias.
“I’d love to shoot an evil Paladin with this. If I remember the legends, all it takes is even a scratch anywhere on the body for a slayer arrow to work, right?”
Claire fidgets, frowns, and rubs her chin, then answers, “Ask someone who knows about weapons.”
“Has Salami the swami found out how to get us out of here yet?” Rastorn asks Melias.
SeLeim is asking more questions.
“Is the evil Paladin, one of The Eight they speak of, in the keep?”
“No. He’s probably asking all the questions we already have answers to,” Claire tells Arianna, through a prolonged yawn.
“Feel free to offer some suggestions,” Melias says, tapping his foot. He holds his gaze on her as he leans close to SeLiem and says, “What about us? Can we trust everyone within our group to hold to the group cause? Ask that one.”
“Oh, I see where this is going. You’re going to set me up, Melias. Is that it? If the answer comes back ‘yes’, you’ll point to me and say it’s me, just to get rid of me.” She leans toward SeLiem, matching Melias’ pose, and says, “Ask if there’s a map leading to The Cube. All the old stories talk about having maps and such to Relics of great power.”
“Hey, fighting amongst ourselves isn’t going to solve anything. There’s obviously a secret door we missed. I honestly don’t remember any of us searching in the dinner hall. Could be there or where we first met the Troll. Maybe that painting that was destroyed was a clue at one time even,” Arianna says.
“You’re right. I disagree with you, but you’re right. I just hate that I’m always the distrusted one, or the one everyone always blames. Maybe you’re right about the paintings, too,” Claire says.
Arianna places a hand on Claire’s shoulder.
“I don’t think it’s about mistrust and if it is so many of us have been betrayed by those we called family that it takes a lot for some of us to trust others. Some take a longer time than others. We’ve only known you a short time.”
She whispers into Claire’s ear, “I think the actual trust part about our group is probably directed towards Rastorn. No one has trusted him since day one.”
Melias scoffs at Claire. “The hurt look really doesn’t suit you. Bards are not much more than colorful thieves. Your greediness since joining us is strong proof of that. Fino gave me no reason to trust you. He just included you in whether I wanted it or not. So, pardon me if I feel suspicious about it. I don’t know either of you well enough to have a warm and fuzzy feeling about it. Now that you have a bodyguard, I trust you even less.” He slaps the ‘Drink Me’ potion in Arianna’s palm and turns away.
SeLiem points to the western wall, so Melias starts tapping against it with the hilt of his sword, hoping to detect a hollow sound. “Where’s the dwarves when we need them? I bet they’d find a secret door in here,” he comments.
Arianna holds the potion in her hand, considering if it would kill her. She unstops the bottle and drinks a quarter of the contents.
SeLiem sighs a bit. He watches Arianna, expecting her to implode. When she doesn’t, he shrugs and continues to ask questions.
“Can we trust everyone within our group to hold to the group cause?
“Is there a map leading to The Cube that we can get soon?
“Are we on the right track to locate The Cube?”
He mutters to the party, “I can ask one more question. Make it good.”
Arianna couldn’t help but notice the odd flowery smell of the liquid and the metallic taste it left in her mouth. She feels dizzy, which isn’t odd with magic Potions. Even healing Potions have minor side effects.
SeLiem is answered.
Rastorn asks SeLiem, “Just how many questions do you get? You have asked twelve already.”
Arianna falls to her knees in absolute agony, spits a mouthful of blood onto the floor, and collapses while clutching her chest.
Rastorn looks at Melias and quips, “Damn, that would have been the best spent sixty gold ever.” He turns back toward SeLiem. “So, do you think you can skip right to the Neutralize Poison scroll this time, just in case this poison is a little faster acting?”
Kafeera leaps to her feet. “Fool! There are not enough ways to die around here?”
“Ah, the ointment!” Rastorn shouts. “I learned during my Identify that it can also be swallowed to neutralize poison. Just squeeze some into his mouth like you were trying to get the last drop out of a waterskin and follow it down with some water. You may have to set him in an upright position first. A quarter of what is left in the holder should suffice.”
Iflander speaks within Arianna’s mind. “Once the poison is neutralized, I will heal you from the damage done. I will always be here to assist you in your goodly tasks, unless your own unwise decisions and failure to utilize my complete array of powers continues. If I am forced to make a final decision on this topic and I judge you unworthy, I will find another to carry me or become your master. You could have had me Detect for Secret Doors when you first felt you may have missed some. This sort of negligence is unacceptable for the hero who wields me.”
Claire does as Rastorn suggests, putting Arianna in an upright position and squeezing the lotion into her mouth.
Deathwish slides Claire’s waterskin over at her request, and she washes the lotion down Arianna’s throat.
“Now, if you’ve got any comments, this would be the time to make them heard,” Claire says.
“Fuck you, Iflander,” Arianna says.
As everyone puzzles over Arianna’s statement, SeLiem stands and says, “I assume Arianna can still hear, so I’m going to tell you all what I got from my questions, the ones I didn’t already say aloud.” He clears his throat, “I asked if the evil Paladin was in the keep and it came up as a yes, so there is a chance we will meet up with him.” He grins, then pauses a moment to be sure Arianna will recover, then continues. “We can trust everyone to hold the cause. So, we need not worry about anyone backstabbing someone else. There are no maps to find The Cube. But, I’ve got good news. We are on the right track. So, there is probably a secret door we didn’t see west of the area we are currently at. Or at least not far.” He smiles, “Now, shall we start looking for the door or shall we wait and watch the time fly?”
To be continued . . .
Follow The Realms: A World Apart
Get new content delivered directly to your inbox.