Cells Within Cells
Chapter Fifteen, Part One
The battle with the Bone Bats over, the party surveys their wounds.
Drumming his fingers, Rastorn leans on the door to the cell with the bars pried open.
“For once, we agree,” Claire says, rushing to stand next to him.
Kafeera shakes her head, baffled that Rastorn was able to bend metal when she couldn’t. After securing her halberd to her back, she pulls forth a hand axe. Looking it over with a slight frown she mutters, “I hate close quarters.”
Melias pulls Claire aside, clears his throat, and says, “You were a big help to me back there. Causing that creature to go blind not only saved my ass, but gave us the upper hand. Thank you.”
After a quick nod, he steps closer to the cell as others prepare to enter. Had they forgotten all the traps encountered up to this point? Well, no doubt they’d be reminded shortly. He steps back, content to wait until he is needed. After all, they aren’t here for an orb, they are here for a cube. While he waits on the party’s findings, he decides he will peer inside the other cells and check their doors for traps. He is particularly interested in the web. Who knows what treasure it conceals?
Arianna remains in the middle of the cell block, standing guard, while SeLiem stands next to her indecisive as to what action to take.
Kafeera stays near Rastorn, for she is fully convinced if there is something to fight he will surely be the one to ruffle it’s feathers.
Melias checks the next cell door and finds no traps.
Rastorn, Claire, Deathwish, and Kafeera search the cell Rastorn had opened and find nothing of interest, except the podium and the orb.
“This is definitely magical. There is a flicker of gold amongst the swirling blackness within the globe. Perhaps the cube was changed into a sphere. Claire, have you heard of any magical orbs? Anyone?” Rastorn says.
“Huh, no explosions,” Melias comments. “I expected at least one trap to be sprung when you entered that cell.” With a shrug, he returns to his work, searching for traps on the third cell door and picking the lock.
“If it is not what it seems to be, it would radiate illusionary magic, but I’m not sure I want to cast another Detect Magic just to find out,” Rastorn says, as he squats down to study the orb more closely.
Claire shakes her head. “I don’t remember anything about an orb related to Taber’s Keep.”
With no one in immediate danger, Arianna decides to peek into the other cells.
Melias opens the cage door at the far left corner – the one with all the webs. He figures the creature they killed earlier walked quite mysteriously on the walls and might have been some sort of spider-humanoid. Perhaps the webbing was created by the creature and therefore there should be no threat. Famous last words? He calls Arianna and Kafeera to back him up, as he enters the cage.
Arianna is more than willing to cover Melias’ rear and happily joins him. As she draws her weapon, it occurs to her why she is so willing to assist. She yells, “We have got to reverse this damn curse!”
Melias scrunches up his nose at Arianna’s outburst. “Are you looking at my ass? Gross!”
“Yes! I can’t help it! By Kurosaw, this curse needs to get reversed and fast! I have a Bard that I think is interested in me, but I have no interest in her that way and I want to gossip and oogle male asses . . . except Rastorn’s.” Arianna screams mock-hysterically and then shudders at the thought of Rastorn’s ass.
“I can’t believe you. You shitbrained sexist tease!” Claire says. “Were you male and I gave you that sort of attention, you’d probably roll right on to me in an instant!” She asks Deathwish, “Now do you see why I hate men?” She spits on the ground to punctuate her point.
Melias sighs and rolls his eyes, as he carefully treads into the nest of cobwebs. “Um, if you girls don’t mind, could you swat your rolling pins on each other’s head later? Sexual frustration really doesn’t have any place inside a spider nest.”
He turns and looks at Arianna. Pointing at her, he says, “I know, I’m the Elf picture of physical perfection, but focus on your task at hand. Maybe if you’re good, I’ll give you a good pounding tonight when it’s all said and done.” The thought turns his stomach, but it makes him giggle at the same time.
He points at the Green Bard and says, “Claire, I think I saw some gems on the beltline of that creature I fought. Nice and shiney.”
Pulling both his swords, he turns and practices the arching swing he will use to cut through the webs.
With everyone leaving the first dungeon cell, Rastorn takes one last look at the orb, then slowly walks out. “It’s probably a trap, anyhow . . . I swear I saw gold sparkling within the shadowy interior of the orb, though . . . “
Claire could not recall any stories of orbs within Taber’s Keep, but there are plenty of stories of various magical orbs, like the Sphere of Annihilation which was used in a deadly battle on the streets of Cultury over twenty winters ago, the Frost Globe of The North which King of the North uses to defend his snow castle, and the four Crystal Balls from Miragia which Lord Darkoth is said to now possess. The orb they found looks unlike any of those. She gently bites her knuckle as she considers returning to the first cell.
Arianna’s quick search revealed no real news. The other cells are empty, except some decomposed corpses in the final cell to the south. She decides the Bone Bats may have been living in that cell, as the top of the bars had been bent away and she sees no other place where they could have been hiding.
Closing in, Melias sees the dusty webs wave as he disturbs the air around them. Slicing the closest webs, he is shocked at what happens. He is shocked – literally. An electric shock pulses through his sword and into his body.
Claire doesn’t notice Melias’ reaction, even though she is looking at him. Her mind is elsewhere, drifting from the orb to Melias and Arianna’s comments. “No. I’m not leaving that easily,” she says. “See, if people hurt your feelings the last thing you want to do is what they suggest. I’m staying.” Arianna had led her on and now she is invested. There is no way she is leaving the two of them alone. ‘Give you a good pounding’ indeed!
Melias did not drop his swords. In fact, he found loosening his grip to be impossible after the powerful shock. He staggers out of the cell to regroup and come up with a better plan. “Aren’t webs flammable?” he asks, with a wisps of smoke exiting his mouth.
Suddenly able to process what she had just seen, Claire nods. “I don’t know if these are flammable, because you just got shocked and that means there’s some sort of anomalous construction or something, but usually that’s how people in the stories escape giant spiders.” She asks her lackey, “Deathwish, is there a torch somewhere?” When she turns back around, Arianna is staring at her.
“I didn’t lead you on. I know I want to be attracted to you over Melias. By Kurosaw, I am not attracted to men but the longer I remain a woman the more thoughts like that keep occuring. Apparently, I’m not a lesbian when I’m a woman – just when I’m a man,” Arianna says, before puzzling over her own words.
She turns back toward Melias and tells him, “What we need to clear away those webs is wood. I bet a torch or club could clear those webs without getting anyone shocked.”
“Wow,” Claire says, softer. “You’re incredibly confused. I’m sorry. I forgot.” She yells, “Anyone? Torch? Piece of wood? Something like that?”
“Thank you for understanding. I feel like crying now,” Arianna says with a trembling bottom lip.
Melias, still rubbing his new blackened sore from the scorching electricity that coursed through his sword to his palm and presumably out his left foot based on the way it is aching, rolls his eyes at the drama.
“With all due respect, Arianna, my heart belongs to another. So, perhaps that can help to curb any physical desires you may be feeling,” he says, hopeful his words end the conversation.
“I can call on godly might to cast Produce Flame. I think it ought to be large enough and it would burn any spiders there,” SeLiem says, “but, the bad news is that any scrolls or other flammable items in there would be lost. It’s your choice.”
“That’s a good backup. I think I’ve got something, though,” Claire says. “Remember that spear I gave you, Deathwish? I need you to hand it over with all speed.” When he does, she presents it to Melias. “Hold it near the spearhead and use the butt to clear away the cobwebs. It’s a wooden shaft, so you won’t have a repeat performance.”
“Like I said before, something wooden,” Arianna says, nodding.
Cradling his aching hand, Melias does not accept the weapon. “What the heck is wrong with your arms, lady? Do you think I’m your lackey, too? In case you didn’t notice, I’m near death here.” He turns to stare at SeLiem, who fails to get the hint.
“Give it here. I’ll do it. If I get blasted, maybe it’ll knock some sense into me,” Arianna tells Claire.
Kafeera had gladly joined Melias and was eager to help until there was mention of flames. With everyone crowding around Melias and the webs, she returns to the first cell and looks closely at the orb to see if she can see the gold Rastorn mentioned. She makes out golden flashes within the smokey blur inside] the globe.
Rastorn steps back to peer within the cell, watching the young woman.
As Claire considers handing the spear to Arianna, the webs attack. Five bolts of electricity shoot out from the webs. Two bolts barely miss Claire and Deathwish, but Melias, Arianna, and SeLiem are each struck.
“ARGGGGG! What the living Hell was that! How do you beat that and who put such a stupid creature down here!” Arianna shouts, as she snatches the spear from Claire and swings it like a sword at the webs. “Everyone stand back! If I remember right, it’s really bad for electricity and water to come into contact.” Holding the spear out defensively, she steps back and grabs her waterskin, points it at the webs, and squeezes it as hard as she can.
After dragging him out of the cell, Deathwish rubs ointment on Melias’ wounds.
Arianna discovers the water doesn’t so much spray as it pours out, but she does her best to soak the webs. It appears to have no effect.
The webs creep toward her, but she scrambles out of the cell.
Deathwish points a warning figure at Melias. “Don’t call me a lackey again,” he says.
Claire casts Acid Arrow at the web.
Arianna looks at Deathwish and says, “You’re really living up to your name. I suggest you drop the tone or I will personally put you back where we found you, only in pieces this time.” Her tone matched his threatening tone and the look in her eyes made it clear she wasn’t joking.
Because they are facing in opposite directions, Deathwish doesn’t see her threatening look, as he leaves Melias where he is to recuperate. “Well, I could have left him there. I’d just prefer if all of you would treat me like a human being, as I’m not your retainer,” he explains, in a calm tone.
“Doesn’t matter whose slave you are. Melias and I formed this group and I won’t tolerate threats to him whether I have boobs or balls. If you have a problem, then talk it out. We have better things to do than worry about a peon’s feelings.”
“Seriously, he was just talking. I’d have to give the order for him to do anything,” Claire says, as she steps further back. “Anyway, have you forgotten what the main problem is here? Concentrate on the fucking webs of doom! I’ll deal with my retainer.”
“Thank you, lady,” Deathwish calls.
“Shut your fucking hole. You were out of line and I’m cutting your pay for it,” Claire yells back. “That and I’m not going to show you any more of The Forbidden Book or anything else I’ve got written down until we go to Milkraft, which hopefully won’t happen.”
Arianna smiles, knowing Claire is right. She spins the spear several times, to indicate her need for space, then uses the wooden end to attack the web.
Melias checks his now healed injuries and offers Deathwish a quiet thank you, then asks him, “So Bonehead, is ‘peon’ better than ‘lackey’? I just want to get set straight on retainer etiquette.”
He looks to SeLiem and says, “That fire you were talking about . . . not a bad idea right about now, healer.” The sarcasm hung like a bag of lead weights on his last word.
Kafeera hears the commotion and is quick to grab her halberd and run toward the fray, obviously excited about the prospect of a possible battle.
SeLiem concentrates and attempts to set fire to the webs, He laughs, “Let’s hope these aren’t fire-immune webs.”
“The correct term is ‘servant’, but I’ll accept ‘stooge’ if you insist on something derogatory,” Deathwish says with a smirk on his face. “How’re you feeling?”
Rastorn follows Kafeera, staying directly behind the large Fighter, until she enters the cell – then he steps behind the wall and peeks in. “The acid seems to be working. I’ll cast one, too.”
Claire’s acid is working, but the web continues to move forward. There is enough acid on the web that it will continue to be dissolved for another minute and lose nearly half of its total mass.
SeLiem produces flame, but the fire has no effect on the webs.
The webs send out five more bolts of electricity. Claire and Arianna are each struck by one, but SeLiem is struck by three! The Cleric is knocked off his feet by the second bolt and hurled into Kafeera by the third.
Rastorn misses with his Acid Arrow. It strikes the back of the cell.
Arianna swings the butt of the spear and hits the rubbery web, causing one fifth of it to momentarily halt and reveal the web is not one mass, but five separate entities.
Claire casts another Acid Arrow.
Kafeera makes every attempt to not fall from the impact of the Cleric, holding her halberd out of the way so as to not injure him further. She quickly positions herself between Seliem and the webs.
SeLiem casts Cure Light Wounds on himself. “I jinxed myself,” he says as he pulls out his mace.
Kafeera’s attack is fierce. She hacks the closest web in half, diminishing its mass by a vast amount, however, now that it is split the two halves have become separate monsters.
The webs move at half the speed the party can manage and stop when they send out their electric bolts, so they are only half-way to the door. They block the back of the cell and are still difficult to see through, because of their thickness and the dust they have collected. Still, they seem intent on reaching and touching the party.
Cliare draws her longsword and is about to attack when she gets an idea. “Do we still have that poison that Arianna drank? The webs might be absorbent.” She charges into the cell and swipes at the nearest web. It is sliced in half by her blow, turning yet another web creature into two.
Rastorn points to the back of the cell. His Acid Arrow did actually strike a web and shrunk it to half its size.
There are now four small webs and three large ones – one of which is burning from the acid.
Melias inhales sharply and takes out his bow. As he holds his breath, he lets some arrows fly at the web-creatures, aiming for center mass and hoping for the best.
Stunned that her massive blow did not slay the creature, Kafeera stumbles backward and shouts, “What in the Abyss? This has got to be something a blasted Wizard concocted!” Shock quickly turns into frustration, which always leads to anger for her, so she forgoes the effort of thinking and continues doing what she does best – fighting.
Melias pulls his magic bow and shoots the two smallest webs, blasting them apart.
Arianna, seeing the damage being done with arrows, drops the spear and draws her bow. She pulls out her magical sheaf arrows and hands Melias two out of the four, then fires.
Deathwish slashes one of the smaller webs with his sword, damaging it, but also splitting it into two still smaller separate creeping webs.
Kafeera, Deathwish, and Claire press into the webs with hand-held weapons, as Melias and Arianna pull back to use their bows and aim high. Meanwhile, SeLiem and Rastorn have been pushed back into the hallway between the cells, where they can only use spells.
The webs attack. One of the smaller ones touches Claire and jolts her so hard she falls to her knees. Two others attempt the same, but she tumbles out of their reach and retreats to the hallway.
Kafeera focuses her attack on the largest web.
Melias smiles, as something he’s done has actually worked. It seems to have been a while since that has happened. He glances at the magical arrows Arianna had handed him, then looks quizzically at her. Once she starts shooting again, he places them in his quiver in exchange for two normal arrows and fires those at the two smallest webs. He doesn’t mind being their clean-up crew and he knows those magical arrows will be more useful later. The nagging voice in his head told him so.
Melias pegs and destroys two more tiny webs and Arianna hits two slightly larger ones.
Kafeera continues swinging and slices one large web in half and then another.
Deathwish quickly destroys the first two that were created when Kafeera struck.
Kafeera is electrocuted when she holds her sword too long against one of the webs she is attacking, but she shrugs it off.
There are now just two webs remaining, the two that were created with Kafeera’s last attack. They both blast Deathwish with a bolt of electricity, knocking him back a step.
Arianna fires another volley of arrows and says, “I say we rest here after these damn webs are destroyed. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I feel really terrible.”
Noticing how injured the SeLiem looks, Melias wonders who will heal the healer. “SeLiem – you fool – get back from that!” he exclaims, as he lets two more arrows fly toward the remaining webs.
SeLeim nods quickly and retreats to the back of the party. “Damn that wasn’t fun. I could try our last scroll, but the only useful spells would either be a ton of blades spinning in a cylindrical shape or a storm of fire.” He looks at the remaining webs and responds more wisely, “Or we’ll save the scroll.”
“SeLiem, if you don’t have any healing spells, maybe Deathwish still has some of that ointment? Or perhaps one of these several potions I have on me are of the healing sort? Whatever the case, just stay out of harm’s way. We don’t want to lose you,” Melias says.
Kafeera shakes off the spark and continues to hack at the remaining webs, still remaining between them and SeLiem. She shouts back to Seliem, “Do not waste your magic! Just get out of range of their lightning bolts. I think we almost have them destroyed.”
Rastorn listens to Kafeera and also saves his spells.
True to her assessment, the group quickly destroys the remaining webs.
Now that the threat has abided, Melias relaxes. After putting his bow away, he heads into the cell and continues his search, careful to give any web-like things extra berth as he sought out anything of value.
Arianna breathes a sigh of relief. “Out of all the damn things we’ve fought together, a bunch of damn webs practically wipes out the party. What in the Nine Hells is that about?” She follows Melias deeper into the chamber.
Claire uses a dose of the ointment and follows Arianna, not one to realize a cause is entirely lost.
Melias, Arianna, Claire, and Deathwish find nothing of value in the cell, just junk that had already been searched by others.
Once SeLiem has healed himself and there is no sign of an immediate threat, Kafeera returns to the cell containing the orb. She searches and locates a chunk of wood the size of her palm. Gathering it, she asks Rastorn, “Hey, Pepper, you got anything up yer sleave that could land this on top of that orb?”
Rastorn shrugs and stands in the hall with Kafeera, as she chucks the small piece of wood she found. It hits the orb on her first try and (with a small flash of light and a sizzling sound) disappears into the orb.
Rastorns looked at her. “Was that disintegrated or teleported? I can’t tell which. Either way, we can’t do too much now, since many of us are injured. I vote we camp in this cell. If we are attacked and that is a teleporter, we have that as a last resort.”
Sighing at remaining empty handed, Melias leaves the cell where the webs had crept and heads to the next cell door where several skeletons lay across the floor in a morbid, dismal array. He grimaces and shakes his head. “Do you think they’ll jump to life if we try to enter?” His hand had already gone to his familiar leather pouch to take up some of his lock-smith tools if the group feels ready for another try.
To be continued . . .
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