The Realms: A World Apart

Cells Within Cells Part III

Chapter Fifteen, Part Three

Melias steps back from the bars after grunting and struggling to try and bend them. 

“Huh, must have been some sort of magic trick then . . . ” 

He glances toward the commotion and rolls his eyes. 

“By the gods, I swear I am just talking to myself sometimes.” 

Approaching that cell, he asks, “Did you all miss when I said we should clear the cells and rest before we dick around with the orb? For crying out loud! Now we have to rescue the Green Bard from inside the orb which will probably take us into even more danger at half-preparedness. What were you thinking?” 

He throws up his hands and backs away from the cell. 

“Fine, Kafeera, since you want to lead so much. Please, be my guest. Lead our motley crew to rescue poor Claire.”  

He mutters to Arianna, “But if you ask me, we should just leave her until tomorrow. That’d teach her a thing or two about doing her own thing.”

Stepping closer to Rastorn, he asks, “How many offensive spells do you have prepared for today?”  

He asks SeLiem, “And how many spells can you ask of your god for the rest of the day?”

Kafeera responds, “Don’t get your loincloth in a bunch, Melias. I never said anything about leading. It’s obvious I don’t have enough smarts for something like that. In case you hadn’t noticed, we haven’t managed to get into any other cells just yet. I only made the suggestion; I did not twist her arm or anything. Can’t be helped if she isn’t all that bright, either. Like you said, why concern ourselves with it right now anyways; it’s not like she’s going anywhere. You get those cells open that you’re so worried about and I’ll clear ‘em for you. Then you can have a seat before worry makes your vision blurry.”

She whispers to Rastorn, “Don’t you have any magic to calm him down? It just can’t be healthy being high strung like that.”

Believing it is best to keep his mind occupied and off the lunatics, Melias sighs and heads for the cell door in the north-east corner to attempt and pick that lock.

“I’ve got four spells left. I think it may be best to rest before we go on any more rescue missions,” SeLiem shares.

Arianna sits up and rubs the sleep from her eyes. “Um, did I miss something? Who died, got poisoned, got captured, turned into a newt . . . what happened?”

Deathwish grants a quick recap of what happened, lying all the blame on Kafeera for giving his less-than-wise mistress a suggestion and expecting her to have so little curiosity she wouldn’t do it.

“Damn it! I thought we’d learn something from her touching it, but if she is in there she is invisible! For all we know, she was teleported to where The Cube of Power is! She could have been disintegrated – who can tell?” Rastorn complains.

Deathwish pushes his way to the orb and grabs it. His body turns two dimensional and mist-like as he is sucked inside.

“Damn it!” Rastorn shouts. “Alright, I have a lot of spells left of each level. I can – at least – find out if they are inside. I’ll cast a Clairaudience to hear within the orb. I’m not certain it will work, since it may be a different plane of existence. I hate wasting spells on shit like this! This takes a while to cast, too.”  

To SeLiem he says, “While I’m at it, why don’t you cast that Augury spell of your’s and find out what would happen if you – or someone else here – touched the orb? That would tell us what happened to Claire and her boy-toy.”

Melias quickly unlocks the next cell, although Rastorn’s shouting was a bit of a distraction.

Arianna stands and asks, “She touched the orb? Is there anything I can do? Is she alright?”

Inside the orb, the disembodied and shrunken Claire floats in the mist. She spots a pile of gold near the bottom and sees an enormous Kafeera peering into the orb, but cannot win her attention. She turns, as some of the mist takes form. A shadowy creature jumps her, but floats right through her. Several more appear, but they are also unable to touch her. Deathwish appears in the mist, searching and calling her name. The monsters turn their attention to him. Still in Gaseous Form from the potion she drank earlier, Claire’s warnings cannot be heard.

Outside the orb, Rastorn has completed his spell and is telling the party he hears Deathwish calling for Claire.

Claire is worried. She smacks her head. Of course, she can’t be heard. No vocal cords. She is afraid of what’ll happen when she solidifies.

The creatures disappear into the swirling mists again, as Deathwish approaches Claire. It is a struggle, but he can make out her face and can tell she is angry with him. The creatures reform and surround him.

“Don’t worry mistress, I will protect you from these evil creatures! All . . . six of them . . . “

In the cell, Rastorn is repeating what he hears, “Henchman: ‘Don’t worry, I will protect you from these . . . SIX CREATURES!'” He breaks the spell. “These two fools have gotten themselves killed. The lackey will be gang pummeled, while she’s in ghost-form and can only watch it happen, then she’ll solidify and . . . we can’t afford to lose this many soldiers right now. Suggestions?”

“Smash the orb? That’d be about my only suggestion. Either that or leave them up to their own woes, but I don’t think I could live with that.” Arianna has decided she should smash everything they come across from now on. Everything is either cursed, tainted, poisoned, or something else equally as foul.

Kafeera hefts one of the benches and says, “Clear the way! I’ll ram the bottom and hopefully it will smash when it hits the floor. I’d be ready to fight though, because if Claire and Death Wish are coming out, so are those other six creatures.” 

She stands waiting for the go ahead with the makeshift ram.

Rastorn questions, “Smash the orb? For all we know that could trap them in another plane or kill them . . . “

“Do you have a better idea? Because other than smashing it, there’s not much more we can do – considering we can’t even touch the damn thing,” Arianna interjects.

Melias calls from the cell door he is working on, “Well, I got another door unlocked. Anyone interested in searching inside?”  

He either didn’t hear the exchange going on in the other cell, or completely ignored it. More likely the latter, since he had his Elven hearing to benefit him.

Claire looks sympathetically at Deathwish, then floats up, trying to get out of the orb.

Kafeera strikes the stone base and the orb smashes onto the floor, filling the cell with an opaque black smog. The smoke quickly disperses, revealing a shivering and sickly Deathwish and a still gaseous Claire. Both of them seem fine and there are no monsters surrounding them, although Deathwish is sitting on a large pile of gold coins, which apparently transported with him and which he immediately begins to gather.

Rastorn turns to Arianna and says, “This – in no way – means we should smash every magic item we find down here.”

Arianna responds to Rastorn, “Oh yes it does! Everything we’ve come across seems to be vile and evil. Smashing it seems to be working just fine.”

“With the single exception of the Cube of Power, I’m with Arianna,” Melias shouts from his newly unlocked cell. “So, is anyone interested in checking this cell with me?” He reacts not at all when he sees Deathwish and Claire have returned.

Rastorn dramatically throws his hands up at Arianna and Melias’ comments, then begins helping Deathwish scoop up the gold. “It looks like about five-thousand gold here!” he says. 

Deathwish is not feeling well. Just before they left the orb, he thinks he may have been struck by one of the monsters and is having difficulty moving normally due to some new injury.  

Claire floats helplessly above him. 

Kafeera leads Arianna to join Melias at the cell in the north-east corner. In the hallway, the torch lights flicker more than before, creating eerie multiple shadows upon the floor and walls. When they enter the cell, the cell door closes behind them. Frozen hands from the grave attack Melias, siphoning the strength from his body. Shadows have surrounded and are attacking the three party members.

Arianna sighs and lifts Iflander. She tells Kafeera and Melias, “Wouldn’t it be nice to just go one place here and not get attacked by some stupid creature? Bats, Webs, Shadows – what else?”

She then attacks the Shadows and asks, “Should we use torches to fight these things? Maybe a light spell or a spell that would blast them with direct sunshine would be interesting. Whoever heard of the shadows fighting back when you shadowbox?”

Continuing to load the gold into bags and pouches, Deathwish explains his injury to SeLiem, ignoring the battle in the other cell.

Although they feel excessively heavy in his hands, Melias draws his short sword and long sword. 

“I’ve been afflicted by these things – but I’ll do what I can. We should put our backs together to avoid being attacked from behind!”  

He doubts the effectiveness of that strategy against something insubstantial, but decides they might as well put it to the test.

SeLiem ignores Deathwish and rushes closer to Melias to Turn Undead.

Kafeera swings her halberd as wide as possible, hoping to keep the shadowy fiends as far back from her and the others as possible. She says a bit too loudly to Arianna, “Oh now it wouldn’t be as much fun if things weren’t forever attempting to slay you – now would it?” She laughs her terribly loud laugh, obviously relieved Claire and Deathwish were freed and enjoying the battle.

She catches breath and says, “I ain’t no Mage, so do you got something up your sleeve? Get Pepper over here to blast ‘em with some light or somethin’.” 

Seeing Melias weakened, she offers, “I will cover you, if you need to get to the priest, just give me the word.”

Melias strikes the nearest Shadow with his shortsword, although it dodges his longsword.  

Arianna swings her two-handed sword, Iflander, but both she and Kafeera discover such large weapons are difficult to wield in a tight circle. 

Kafeera scores a strong direct hit, but her weapon passes harmlessly through the Undead creature.

Rastorn stays outside the cell and blasts the Shadow Melias struck with all three of his Magic Missiles. 

It shrieks and bursts into harmless smoke.

SeLiem moves in close to the Shadow nearest Melias and pulls his holy symbol, ordering the monsters to back away or return to their graves. The Turning works and the Shadows move back into the corner of the cell, cowering from the Cleric’s god-granted power.

Rastorn speaks up. “Might I suggest using distance or powerful melee attacks centered on one Shadow at a time? I can use my remaining Magic Missiles or other spells and the fighter-types could use any magical arrows or weapons. To keep from further injury, we would need to destroy each Shadow with a single volley. If they attack SeLiem, he’s as good as dead!”  

As his suggestion is considered, he smiles respectfully, “Ah, the great power of the Undead – don’t you all see why Undeath holds the curiosity of Necromancers in thrall? The mighty Kafeera cannot even touch them without magical aid!”

Melias slumps, relieved with the sudden break from threat. He looks at his longsword and then at Kafeera. He hands his sword to her, hilt first.  

“I think you’ll do better with this than I will. Use it in good health.”

He retrieves his bow and notches it with a magical arrow. Nodding his readiness, he says, “One at a time – agreed.” He targets the foe that attacked him.

Arianna sheathes Iflander and pulls her magical longsword. Watching where Melias and Kafeera make their stand, she moves into position herself. 

“Kafeera and I attack with our swords while you” she says, looking at Melias, “blast them with your bow? That’s our plan, correct?”

Iflander to Arianna, via their psychic connection: “What?! You are choosing that mindless hunk of metal over me? How insulting . . . “

“Magic Missiles ready and waiting. I’ll pick off any that survive your attacks,” Rastorn adds.  “But, be ready. If I think I’ll need only one or two missiles to destroy them, I’ll send the remainder to the next Shadow in line. Kafeera? Ready?”

“Let’s get on with this,” Melias says. He glares at Rastorn. “Once we’re finished, remind me to slap you in the back of the head for your comments on the grand power of Undead, Rastorn.”

Rastorn ignores the joke and asks, “Can any of you use a mace decently? It might be better than your blades or arrows.”

Kafeera is still stunned by her halberd slicing harmlessly through the incorporeal creature and stares at her halberd lying on the floor. When she looks up, she is again enthralled by SeLiem’s power to send the unholy lot scrambling in fear. Snapping back to reality, she grips Melias’ sword tighter and makes an awkward thrust back and forth.

“I shall make good use of it, indeed.”

One at a time, each Shadow is destroyed. The first four are banished by Kafeera and Arianna alone. The final Shadow takes more of an effort. Kafeera misses and Melias’ arrow misses as well. Rastorn blasts it with Magic Missiles, but it still survives. The Shadow attacks Arianna, but the fleet Warrior dodges, then obliterates the monster with a powerful backhand slice.

The battle is ended and the party slumps in mental and physical exhaustion.

“Now that was teamwork! Well done!” Rastorn cheers.

A gaseous Claire, still unable to have contact with the solid world, decides to float into the unsearched cell and look around.

Deathwish has completed his bagging of the gold from the orb cell and joins the rest of the group.

“Well, that was certainly a hoot,” Arianna says in a chipper voice, as she starts searching the cell.

Melias leans against the wall heavily, feeling excessively exhausted. “What in the world was that?” he asks SeLiem pointedly. “Do I need some sort of special healing to get my energy back? Because, let me tell you, this feels horrible.” 

He weakly pushes himself from the wall, shoulders his bow, and asks for his longsword back from Kafeera, before joining Arianna in her search.

Midway through his search of the cell, Melias feels his strength return, although he is still battle weary.  

Deathwish, also, feels better.  

Almost the entire group, however, is battered and bruised.

The party works together to search all the open cells more thoroughly, finding nothing of value or interest in any, except a poster in the unlocked middle/north cell which reads,

We are looking for adventurers who follow orders and enjoy killing 

The final cell to be opened and searched is in the middle of the south wall. Claire had solidified within that cell and is locked within. Melias is unable to pick the lock. Rastorn seems to be biting his lip a lot, as if there is something he wants to say, but is holding back.

Somehow, Claire appearing within the only locked cell does not surprise Melias in the least. He rolls his eyes and sighs.

“Maybe we can bend the bars from one cell to the other? We have the doors opened on either side of her,” Melias says, motioning to Claire. “Typically, more attention would be given to the bars toward freedom than those between cells. What do you think? Maybe if Kafeera and Arianna work together they can bend the bars and get her free. Deathwish might be able to lend a hand, now that he’s feeling better.”

Arianna nods in agreement and moves to a set of bars. 

“I have a potion of Frost Giant Strength but I really don’t want to use it unless it’s absolutely necessary,” she tells the group.

Silently to Iflander she says, “Can you grant me extra strength even though I’m not wielding you in combat at the moment? Sorry about using the other sword in combat against the shadows; there wasn’t enough room to wield one as mighty as you.” 

After a celebratory drink, Kafeera joins Arianna at the bars. After leaning her halberd against the nearest wall, she cracks her knuckles and says, “Let’s do this.” 

Deathwish joins them.

SeLiem says, “Why are you griping, Melias? You should be the least to worry about dying. Whenever a battle breaks loose most of the time you ignore the whole party and continue on with what you are doing. You, of all people, should be the least worried of dying.” He points at Deathwish. “Now, he can barely stand on two legs. Look at him. One more hit and he’s a goner. Besides, I can’t even cast any more healing spells. I’m fresh out. So, get off my back.”

Melias folds his arms across his chest and taps his foot. He looks about to say something, struggles a moment, thinking better than to say it, but then throws caution to the wind. 

“I was just curious. Besides, in the time it took you to show concern to my lack of strength, it has returned. Thanks for your speedy attentiveness to the party’s needs,” he says.

SeLiem replies, “Just because I don’t speak doesn’t mean I have not observed Melias. I know the party is in bad shape. I said we should rest a long while ago – before we were all down on our last arms and legs. Apparently we’d prefer to get into more battles before we do something as logical as that.”

Kafeera tips the wine bottle to take a swig, but it tastes horrible, so she doesn’t drink more than a sip. Without waiting for help from Arianna or Deathwish, she pulls the bars apart like they were made of bamboo. She turns to allow the others inside, but instead bends over in pain. She turns slightly green and gets very dizzy. Slowly, she slides down the bars to the floor.

Within the cell, Claire finds a secret door in the middle of the south wall.

Turning away from the Cleric, Melias heads through the bars Kafeera bent so easily, and pats her on the shoulder as he passes. 

“Good job. I knew you could do it. Say, you’re not looking so hot.”  

He glances back at SeLiem and chuckles, “Well, don’t worry, SeLiem will see to whatever pains you in an hour or two.” 

He steps into the cell, muttering something about how one could easily call himself ‘healer’ without any real substance to back it up.

“Good eye, Claire. Here, back away if you will. I’ll give it a quick check for traps. I wouldn’t want you to be hurt accidentally . . . if we can avoid it. We’d never know when you’d get it healed up. You might stand a better chance of healing naturally.”

Melias begins checking the secret door for any signs of traps.  

“Do you think maybe we should call it a night before exploring further?” he asks the group.

“Orc snot,” Kafeera mumbles, before crawling to the barred wall opposite the one she just opened. She is considering sitting this one out, although she is too curious to sit out of view of the secret door.

Claire looks around the assembled party. “I don’t speak for everyone, but I’ll need some offensive spells to keep going. I vote we stop.” She hopes Melias will decide to keep going simply because she says she wants to stop. 

Melias is running his hands across the stones of the wall as he says, without looking, to SeLiem, “It seems to me you like leaving us wounded as long as possible. Maybe that way we will feel more obligated to you . . . or more grateful.”

He looks to Arianna and nods his head, signalling he has discovered no traps on the hidden door.

“I think SeLiem is doing his best under the circumstances,” Rastorn says. “We’re all alive, aren’t we? However, the original plan was to clear out this whole area and we’ve done that. Maybe we should rest now. If we are attacked in the night, I still have quite a bit of fire power left. We’d still have to guard this secret door, though. It’s a tough decision. If this leads to even more rooms, we may find ourselves overwhelmed. It could also lead to a single room, possibly full of healing potions – who could know?”  

He looks at SeLiem. “Could you cast an Augury to see what would happen if we entered the secret door right now?”  

“What other spells or scrolls or magical items do we have available to use to guard us as we sleep or find out what is beyond this door? I have my Clairvoyance spell,” he says.

This cell seems slightly larger than the others. It has more benches inside and one more thing none of the other cells had: a table. 

Rastorn taps the table, saying, “This may have been the guard’s room.” 

He scans the back wall of the cell, then stares at a spot six and a half feet up and to the right of the secret door. After sliding a bench up to the wall, he steps onto it and on the tips of his toes feels the wall. 

“There’s a small space up here, hidden by the uneven stones below it.  I think it may be an air duct,” he whispers.

To the right of the secret door, but close to her eye level, Arianna notes a brick she is certain does not belong and points it out to the group.  

After Melias quickly checks it for traps, Arianna removes the brick and finds a small, squared space behind it. Within, she sees a stringless bow and a thin stick.

Arianna, going against everything she had just recently said about the place, inspects the bow, testing its weight and balance. She tests the bow as if a string were there, using the stick as if it were an arrow.

“Er, didn’t you say something about smashing every potentially magical object you came into contact with?” Claire asks.

Kafeera continues resting against the opposite cell. While resting she examines the other two bottles she had collected from the cellar, opening each and comparing their smell and texture. Pouring a few drops out, she compares them to the one that just kicked her guts out. She also takes a moment to mark the spoiled bottle for future reference.

“This door seems untrapped – as far as I can tell,” Melias says. “Right, well, it seems the general consensus is for rest and replenishment. So, rest we will do.”  

He moves the table closer to where the vent is and climbs on top of it, peeking into the space beyond the uneven stones.  

Arianna agrees with the idea to rest. If memory serves her, she had suggested that a while ago. She picks a corner to sit in and examine the new bow. 

“Anyone have an extra bow string?” 

No one reacts.

“Rastorn, could you tell me if this is magical? I’m sure we all have other things that need detecting anyway.”

Rastorn glances at Arianna, but does not seem to comprehend what she is saying, as his mind is focused on deciding how to guard the door.

Kafeera discovers each wine bottle holds something other than wine and all seem to be different substances. Each bottle holds only a small amount of liquid inside a smaller bottle built within the larger wine bottle. Each is a potion of some sort, disguised as wine. The first was obviously poison.

Arianna cannot get the finely-crafted bow to work without a string and the stick seems too crooked and dull to use as an arrow.  

Switching his focus to Arianna’s request, Rastorn looks around to the rest of the group. “I live to be of assistance. Set any items you want me to cast Detect Magic on . . . here.” He points to the table top.

Melias, still checking the vent, comments, “Maybe that dull stick is a magic wand. It sure doesn’t seem to be very useful as a missile weapon. Probably not even on a crossbow.”

The vent is nine inches wide and four inches high. Melias can see it continues forward twenty feet, then turns right.

With Melias’ last comment, Rastorn rushes to the stick. “Of course, it’s a wand! Get it on the table and we’ll see what school of magic it radiates.”

Out of frustration, Arianna unstrings her bow to use that string on the new one. She cannot find a way to get the string on the bow. It doesn’t have a notch for the string to attach on either end. She sets the wand next to her, unwilling to stand and walk to the table.

SeLiem, having no items to be identified, decides to follow Rastorn’s suggestion and cast Augury to see into the future and what will happen if they travel beyond the secret door.

His answer:

Disturb the restless Priests, join the restful congregation

To be continued . . .

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