The Realms: A World Apart

Cells Within Cells Part II

Chapter Fifteen, Part Two

While waiting for group acceptance or rejection of his idea to enter the next cell, Melias scans  the cell for anything useful or valuable and the walls for secret compartments or doors.

“Some of us are healed, so if anything attacks we can send them forward. At this point, I fully expect those bones to animate, but I say we should find out anyway,” Arianna says.

Kafeera wanders closer to the orb, looking for verification as to the fate of the wood she tossed onto it. She says to Rastorn, “I’m not sure what happens to things that touch the orb. Maybe I should take a closer look. My brother once-” She abruptly stops mid-sentence and picks up another scrap and at a closer range tosses it at the orb and again tries to determine it’s fate.  

Rastorn moves closer to Arianna. “Kafeera is in good shape, as am I, why don’t we have her go in first while I cover her with spells from the hall? I don’t want to put either of you at risk. Everyone is too valuable to this expedition,” he says, concern evident in his voice. “Right now she is experimenting with the orb, so it will take a little while. I’ll be with her, until you are ready.”

Kafeera’s larger piece of wood also disappears, but when she gazes inside, she thinks she sees it swirling around inside the orb .

“She’s quite amused with that thing,” Melias remarks out of the side of his mouth, “aren’t barbarians supposed to despise magic? Is she safe so close to it?” 

Rastorn believes Melias fears for the safety of the orb more than Kafeera’s health.

Glancing back into the cell with the skeletons, Melias sighs, “If we are going to camp here, I want to make sure all these cells are safe, at least free from more vermin. I don’t want anything to surprise us from within while we rest.” He pauses from his work on the lock to produce potions from his pack. “Ok, if we’re going to risk this, we should at least try to find out if we have any more healing available. I have four potions here. I think it’s probably been long enough for me since the last one that it’d be safe for me to drink another. But, I don’t think I can test all four. I need three volunteers.” He looks at Claire and Deathwish almost immediately and he shakes the vials their way. “Care to take a sip and guess the potion? It’s the rave of parlor games these days. Just a sip. no more. It may give us a hint as to what the properties of each potion is . . . or it could kill us.”

“Well, this could be a carefully-constructed ruse to get me away from your currently-female traveling companion . . . and I was never one for parlor games,” Claire says. She frowns and looks down, then back at Melias and says, “Okay, on one condition. If I don’t die, I get to keep it.” She looks at Deathwish and tells him, “Deathwish, I need someone to resuscitate me if I start to die, so you can’t do any of the testing.” 

Deathwish looks relieved.

“Oh Hell, give me one. What’s the odds of getting poisoned twice in one day,right?” Arianna says, reaching for a potion. When Melias hands one to her she does as instructed and takes just a sip. After swallowing, she says, “Claire, I think that’s the type of greed Melias was talking about. It’s his potion; he just needs help identifying them. It’s called being a team and helping each other out, not about collecting as much stuff as possible.”

Melias snatches his potion back from Claire. “Go find your own potions to test then.” He turns his back to her to speak with Arianna. “Thanks for explaining the obvious to someone who seems quite immune to it. The potions will go to whomever I feel will most benefit from it at the most opportune time.”

“I get to keep my potion right?” Arianna says with a wink. A moment later, her face froze in horror. “Oh by Kurosaw! I was flirting! Please, let’s get out of here and find someone to reverse this damn Curse!”

Rastorn refuses to sip any potions.

“So, it’s okay if I die for your benefit but not mine?” Cliare asks, dubious. “Fine. Whatever. I’ll die so you can get good things out of it.”

“Forget it, Claire,” Melias says. “You just don’t get it, do you? Every one of us is risking our life just by being here and we’re here for something bigger than ourselves. My priority is to make sure we succeed with our mission whether or not it means someone dies in the process. It’s sad, they’ll be missed and all, but that’s something we just have to deal with when the time comes. If any of these potions can be used in such a way as to help keep that from happening, then I intend on using it for just that purpose. The more talent we have in our group, the better our chances at success, after all.” He snarls, “If you’re so worried about yourself that you’d put yourself above everyone else, then what are you doing here?” He looks to the others and asks, “Any more volunteers?”

“It’s not that, actually. I’m more worried about not being there on the rare occasions I am useful. I’m not, however, against you, no matter how much you think I am. And according to the old stories and the color of the liquid, I’m ten percent sure that’s a love potion you just gave her.” Claire kept her tone even and her voice calm. “I never said I was worried about my own safety. That’s why I volunteered in the first place. And if I may just say one more thing before you all plunge yourselves into altered consciousness and death, I’m convinced the person who has the cube knows we’re here and is using it against us.”

Kafeera smiles at the orb. Having come to some obvious conclusion, she rejoins the group and says to Rastorm, “I believe it is a trap of sorts. It puts me in mind of the trap you all released me and The Chosen Ones from. I’ve no skill in the arcane arts, but let’s just say I spent quite a bit of time with some who are quite skilled.”

Melias holds a potion up and looks questioningly at Kafeera.

Nah, I’m not volunteering to swig that stuff.” Patting her wineskin she says,”I got all I’m drinking right here. So are we spending another night here?”

Melias would rather just test two and hold on to the others to test later than to risk Claire’s health unnecessarily. “Ok, Arianna,” he says, snubbing Claire once again. “It’s just you and me.  Remember, just a sip, and pray it’s not poison.” He unstops his vial and lifts it to his lips, then adds, “And I’ll pray it’s not a love potion.” He takes a sip of his potion and, like Arianna, attempts to discern what effect it has on him. 

Rastorn asks Melias to let him hold the small bottles from the crawl space. “I don’t want them to break if you drop dead. Besides, they look somewhat odd to me . . . “

Claire stares at the closed cell door, then sips from her own Potion of Gaseous Form. Rastorn grabs the bottom of Claire’s bottle, when she begins to pull it away from her lips, shouting, “No! You have to drink the entire drought all at once or the magic will not work!”

Melias waits for the potions from the hollow tree to take effect and mentally prepares to run various tests. Instantly, he feels physically better. He’s drunk enough healing potions in his day to identify this as one.

Arianna feels a sudden cramp in her stomach, but then nothing.

Rastorn answers Kaferra, “I think the plan is to clear out the rest of the cells, then to stay here somewhere. Later, we should see if there is a way to block off the stairs from this side. A hidden switch or something.” He looks at Arianna and Melias. “Melias, you’ve got a bit more color in your cheeks. Arianna, you look a little paler.”

Claire finishes the rest of the potion, her final words flow into a soft hiss as she changes into something akin to steam. She flows through the bars of the cell door and starts looking for anything useful.

Deathwish volunteers for the potion drinking, reasoning that it’s the right thing to do and knowing his mistress is changed into mist and thus unable to direct him otherwise.

“You know,” Arianna tells Melias, “I’m probably the only Elf in the world who’s beginning to hate magic. Everytime I experiment with it there are always negative effects. The girdle, potions, a really nice sword with an attitude – what next?” Shaking her head, she starts to walk around, touches the wall, places a hand on Melias’ shoulder, and continues to take random actions in an attempt to figure out the power of the potion.

Melias heard Rastorn’s suggestion and handed the two potions from the crawl space to him. He adds, “I found these accompanying what seemed to be thieving gear, so I look upon them as somewhat dubious in nature. Sure, hold on to them.”

Turning to face Deathwish, Melias says, “Your life is not mine to risk so hastefully. If you think your mistress won’t mind, I would appreciate your help.” He nods to Rastorn, who still holds the potions.

Holding up the potion he’d sipped, Melias tells everyone to take note of its color. “This potion is some sort of healing. It can benefit any of us, really. But in the event that I fall unconscious before we put it to use, I want everyone to know what it is.”

He stores the potion, then corrects Arianna. “I believe I nearly died from touching poisoned coins. And didn’t SeLiem nearly fall victim to the Mimic’s trap? Even if those aren’t considered magic, there was still the Ring of Levitation that turned the good-natured SeLiem into an arguing, disagreeable, old grump. And don’t forget the perimeter around the wall that wiped several of our company’s memories clean.”  

“What ring and wall are you talking about? Wait! Did I get affected by the wall? I don’t remember any wall that wiped out memories and I don’t remember SeLiem being argumentative! Son of a bitch! Add another thing to that list!” Arianna exclaimed, while jumping around still trying to figure out what the potion did – beside making her look foolish.

“This must be a jester’s potion,” she tells Melias.

“If it is, it certainly is working well,” Melias offers.

Arianna stops everything she is doing, places her hands on her hips, and preens, “Thanks.”

“Although I am not the best Cleric at times, if any illness comes over any of the party members I will try my best to assist,” SeLiem assures the group. He looks at Arianna. “You know, perhaps a group should sometimes go into an agreement before you or someone doesn’t use magical items right away. I turned that way because I was dumb enough to put on the ring. Melias picked up the two coins without thinking why someone would hide two simple coins. You put that belt on . . . and well, yea.” He pauses a moment, then continues, “Next time we find a magical object or an object merely out of place – let’s please make a group decision before touching it.” He smirks. “Arianna, the good thing is the potion you drank wasn’t as bad as it could have been. A little cramp is quite lucky when you find a potion in the middle of a dungeon. You could have burst into flames.”

“Deathwish,” Rastorn says, still holding the two small bottles, “I really think I’d rather see you die in battle helping us than just out of foolishness. Both of these bottles are the same, thick, sticky, tar-like substance. I don’t think it is a potion, but rather a contact poison. Something one would dip their dagger in before an assassination attempt. I think it is best that no one tries to drink this goo. Of course, the decision is yours . . . ” He stops talking when he sees Arianna turn white, vomit, and collapse on the floor holding her chest.  

“It was poison!” Rastorn shrieks. “Just poison with a longer onset! SeLiem is absolutely right.  Damn, Claire has the ointment, but she is insubstantial now! SeLiem? Help her quickly – we can’t afford to lose our most skilled Warrior!”

Melias stepped back instinctively as the vomit splashed across the floor. “Ew, watch where you step, folks.” He hands his healing potion over to Arianna. “I think you’ll be needing this. Kind of ironic, if you ask me.” He looks at the greasy black liquid in the vials that Rastorn was handing to Deathwish. Smiling, he considers how he might have severe problems with internal conflicts if he turns to the use of poison. But it certainly doesn’t seem a thing beyond Claire’s capabilities. He calls into the cell where the cloud formerly known as Claire was floating along corpses from some forgotten battle or imprisonment, “Claire, I’ve changed my mind. Feel free to have those potions. They’re all yours to do with as you see fit – as long as you don’t use them on me.”

Kafeera pulls her wine skin and has a drink as she studies the orb and ponders how she can knock it off it’s pedestal without touching it. Listening to the further insults and panicked cries of her companions, she wonders if the world stands a chance with this lot as its savior.  Then she wonders if the Undead bicker among themselves.

Assuming the potion will cure Arianna, Rastorn checks on Kafeera.

At this point, Arianna has decided the stone floor is a very comfortable place to lay down. She waves away the potion Melias offers her. “No, thank you. It was a healing potion for you, however it’ll probably just kill me. I’m not touching anything else down here. In fact any potion I come across I’m smashing.” 

Melias shrugged in response. “Your call, fair one. I’ll hold on to it. Maybe SeLiem can give you a hand then.” He moves closer to the cell where Claire is floating about inside – the one with the skeletons – and begins working at the lock with his tools.

Kafeera has another drink (or two or three) and is now even more curious about the orb. She picks up another piece of debris and tosses it at the base holding the orb. Nothing happens to the debris when it strikes the base, so she shrugs and touches it with the wooden end of her halberd. Then she asks Rastorn, “Do you think it’s magical too?” As she continues tinkering with the base she looks within the orb to see if there are any people inside as well, after all she fell victim to a similar trap at the entry to the keep.

Rastorn answers Kafeera, “I don’t want to waste a detection spell right now, but maybe after we find more items to detect on . . . ”  He studies it a little more and says, “My educated guess is it is not magical.”

Kafeera thinks she may see shadowy, vaguely Human figures floating around the misty interior of the orb. She also sees what looks like the sparkle of gold here and there.

Melias’ luck continues and he unlocks the skeleton cell.

Arianna feels ill and tired. She has trouble staying awake, even on the stone floor. “I’m . . . so, sozzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz . . .” It had been a long day anyway.

“Well that’ll help prevent any more dumb things for a while,” SeLiem comments, as he gets on his kness and starts praying to heal Arianna.

Claire would have rolled her eyes, if she had any. But they were free potions, and he was being a little conciliatory. “All right,” she sighed. Being a floating cloud of mist did that to you. She looked for a good place to come down and solidify. “There’s nothing in here except skeletons.” She attempts to solidify by force of will and discovers she cannot.

While watching Kafeera, Rastorn pulls out his wineskin and takes a gulp, too. 

Kafeera has almost emptied her skin and will soon have to revert to the two bottles she found in the wine cellar.  

Rastorn tells her, “There are still several more cells, perhaps we should continue with this tomorrow when the group has had time to heal. I’m not comfortable being split up like this, anyhow. We should head back to the rest of the group, don’t you think? Or maybe we should call them into here.” He looks around, “I just don’t want to set off a trap and have no one here to see what happened or how to reverse it.” The Necromancer begins slowly backing out of the cell.

Melias put away his tools once more, smiling with success. “Well, it’s nice to know all those underhanded things my brothers taught me have come in useful. Now this door is unlocked. There are, of course, five skeletons in there. SeLiem, do you think you could call upon your god again and turn the creatures back to their resting place if they should come alive? Do you think you could lend your hammer or mace to some of the fighters with edged weapons? They seem to work much better than a blade.” He saw Rastorn start backing away from Kafeera with a worried look on his face. “What’s the matter, Rastorn? Do you think we are perhaps biting off more than we can chew? What’s wrong with the orb? Kafeera didn’t talk about smashing it, did she?” he asked, remembering quite well that she did seem like a barbarian to him. He steps closer to the cell with the orb and tells Kafeera, “We are indeed interested in exploring this complete dungeon if necessary, but that orb just gives me a bad feeling. I would really appreciate it if you’d concentrate with the rest of us at verifying the rest of these cells are empty and safe so we can rest a bit before approaching the puzzle of the orb.”

Claire floats out and heads for the locked cells. She desperately wants to tell Melias he’s a loathsome, sanctimonious hypocrite, but her attention span doesn’t last that long, and there are more important things to do.

Under the advice of both Rastorn and Melias, Kafeera leaves the cell with the orb. As they leave she says to them both, “I think there are people inside that ball. Now, I know you two believe you are out to save the world and all, but maybe we could save a few others along the way?” Not giving them time to respond she heads out toward the remaining cells and continues, “but first we’ll secure the remaining cells.” Kafeera steps in front of the unlocked cell with the skeletons inside. Swinging the door open she heads in with her halberd in hand.

“People, huh? For all we know, it’s part of The Eight setting in wait for us to set them free so they can attack us. I’m not about to invite more trouble if I can avoid it. Perhaps if it’s one of the traps like the one which held you captive on the front porch it can wait until we’re done with what we came here for,” Melias suggests. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter to him. He has a sneaking suspicion that one way or another they’ll have to contend with the orb eventually.

Claire drifts into the cell in the middle of the south wall and a quick survey finds it empty, except broken benches.

Rastorn stays in front of the cell with the orb in it and keeps an eye on the orb and down the hall to the skeleton cell, apparently waiting for something to happen in either direction. “‘Bad feeling’ . . . yea,” he whispers to himself.

Ad Kafeera steps into the cell, all the skeletons stand up, short swords in hand, and move to attack her. They were all very cleverly hiding their weapons beneath them, below their remaining fleshy parts or clothing.

“Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz, eh, battle? Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz,” Arianna mumbles with a smile on her face.

“Deathwish! Protect Arianna!” Claire shouts, although she makes no sound on this Plane. To her surprise, he does as she had ordered.

Kafeera welcomes the battle and introduces her halberd to the nearest one’s skull. She makes it a point to smash the skeletons with the flat of the halberd rather than hacking at them.

SeLeim sighs, “I vote next time we meet up with skeletons around, we attack them before they get up.” He shoves his holy symbol at the Skeletons and demands they back away.

“Am I just talking for my health over here?” Melais asks SeLiem, who delayed joining him until the battle began. He fluidly moves alongside SeLiem and steals the hammer from his belt. Knowing the doorway is too narrow for more than one foe to fit within, he places his foot in front of SeLiem to block his forward motion. “Kafeera, back up to the doorway! Take them on one at a time!”

Kafeera blasts apart the nearest Skeleton and seconds later SeLiem steps up and obliterates all the other ones. They are all blasted to bits by the power of the holy man’s faith.

Melias laughs nervously, then tosses the hammer back to SeLiem, “Guess I won’t be needing this.” He nods his approval, “Good job you two.”

In the hall, Rastorn notices no one is looking and attempts to bend the bars of another cell, but ends up pulling a muscle in his back.

With that hazard put to rest, Melias starts working on the lock of the center cell door on the southern wall.

Claire floats lazily into the cell Rastorn was trying to break into, silently laughing.
Kafeera stands momentarily dumbfounded amongst the fallen Skeletons. Confusion gives way to anger that she did not get to obliterate them herself, but her anger is quickly replaced by awe. Amazed by the power of faith, she can’t help but stare at the Priest, Seliem. Regaining her composure, she looks about the cell for anything of interest. She finds nothing, except rusty short swords laying among the Skeleton dust and bone chips. Once the cell is secure she heads to the cell that Melias is currently unlocking. As she stands there waiting rather impatiently her mind continuously wanders back to the orb. She looks about for the floating Claire and says, “Hey green one, while you’re all wispy, care to take a closer look at the orb. Maybe you can see something we can’t? She smiles widely and continues,” I’ll never forget the time my brother cast that spell and slipped into-” Realizing she was thinking out loud, she shut her mouth tight and began to pace behind the kneeling Melias.

Try as he might, Melias is unable to open the lock.

Rastorn picks up some remaining bones from the Bone Bats and the Skeletons and places them in his pack, then begins searching the walls of the Skeleton cell.

Kafeera bounds forward and tries to bend apart the bars of the cell. She is unsuccessful.

Claire sails lazily over their heads and into the cell they can’t unlock. She finds nothing of value.

“Looks like another dead end,” Rastorn says.

Claire decides to take Kafeera’s advice and drifts into the cell with the orb. She puts one tendril – what would usually be a finger – into the orb.

Chuckling at Kafeera’s failed attempt, Melias attempts to bend the bars as well. It worked for Rastorn once, after all. Speaking of Rastorn, the Wizard was getting rather risky, it seemed to Melias anyway. “Rastorn, be careful over there. We don’t know if any of those things will reform and continue their assault.”

Seeing Claire accept her advice of further investigating the orb Kafeera returns once again to the cell holding the orb. She watches curiously as the fog envelops the orb.

Rastorn rushes out of the cell, on Melias’ advice. He moves back next to Kafeera.

Kafeera watches as the nearly invisible form of Claire is sucked into the orb the moment she touches it. Rushing forward, she sees nothing different inside the orb, although it would be difficult to see Claire in the mists of the orb. She is certain Claire is inside, though.

Rastorn shakes his head, “I’ve used Gaseous Form potions before. They usually last 40 to 45 minutes. She should be safe from harm until she solidifies in about . . . twenty-five minutes, or so.” 

Deathwish overhears the conversation and rushes into the room with the orb, “What? She’s in danger? Where is she? I am duty-bound. I must protect her!” he shouts.

Rastorn sticks his head out of the cell and says, “Uh, guys – we may need help here. Melias. SeLiem. Art . . . er, Arianna.”

To be continued . . .

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