Cells Within Cells Part VI
Chapter Fifteen, Part Six
Rastorn closes his lantern, allowing only a thin ray to shine ahead to spotlight the area around the Bard and Warrior. Movement near them catches his attention, but it is only a friendly Cleric with his arms outstretched in a non-threatening, almost gracious, gesture. There is yet another monk behind him, also smiling and appearing glad to see them. Arianna and Claire move to cut down the two priests, who now look frightened and defenseless against their onslaught. Kayfeera, SeLiem, and Rastorn all see this and are stunned by their companion’s sudden unjustified bloodlust.
The lantern light temporarily disrupts Claire and Arianna’s Infravision. For a moment they also see two monks, but when the beam is moved again (as Rastorn scans away from them), they are again confronted by one – now two – Undead, who are within striking distance.
“What are you doing?” SeLiem shouts to Claire and Arianna, as he sprints toward them. “You can’t just go cutting up people because you’re spooked, you know? Leave those poor monks alone!”
The exchange catches Melias’ attention, though he doesn’t want it to. He’s far too worried about the Slithering Tracker dropping on his head if he lets his guard down. It seems to him that inside the keep if anything can go wrong – it will. He switches from sword to bow, notching an arrow to prepare for battle at a distance, while he scans the area Rastorn illuminates.
Arianna doesn’t look away from the Undead as she speaks to Seliem, “When the light shined on them, I too thought I saw normal monks. Come here and use your infravision, you’ll see what Claire and I do. Then maybe you can call down your god’s powers and make them go away.”
“Try Turning them, SeLiem. If they’re alive, it’ll have no effect,” Claire says, recalling the strategy having been used in a story she used to tell. It was one of her favorites and she’d spun it into a thirty-minute progressive piece that won her the favor of six different concubines.
SeLiem didn’t see the sense in her suggestion. Turning monks? What a crazy notion. But The Green Bardess is right. If they are alive, it won’t hurt them, although he may have to atone for it later. Pulling his holy symbol forth in plain and proud view, he calls upon his god and demands Undead in the area to disperse or be destroyed. The monks are not moving with any great sense of urgency, so SeLiem is able to step between them and Kafeera.
It does not work.
Rastorn, curious as always about Undead, shutters his lantern. “How about now? Are there monks up there or creatures of the undeath?” he asks.
SeLiem and Arianna and Claire can plainly see what stands before them is a growing horde of Undead. Worse yet, the creatures speed up and center their attacks on SeLiem.
Arianna fumbles with Iflander and her swing is blocked by a pillar. She silently curses her lack of experience with such a long weapon.
Claire stabs and plucks off a small chunk of bloodless flesh.
Surrounded by four of the creatures, SeLiem defends himself as best he can, but two of the monsters use their powerful boney fingers as claws and gouge the Priest, infecting him with a foul disease that immediately weakens him.
Claire is also weakened when she is raked.
Yet another of the creatures leaps out of hiding and attempts to land on Arianna’s back, but she senses the attack and dodges.
Rastorn reopens his lantern and lodges it in the soft shoulder of a corpse, so he has light shining toward the battle. He casts Magic Missile at one of them, destroying it, but another takes its place in the circle around SeLiem.
“These must be Huecuva – disgraced former Priests,” Claire informs the group. “They spread disease.” She struggles to remember anything else about them.
Deathwish slams his sword onto the shoulder of one of the four surrounding SeLiem, but it ignores the attack and is not at all injured by it.
Swinging her halberd at the heads of the Huecuva around SeLiem, Kafeera shouts, “Perhaps you should make haste, Priest, and strike at them from a distance.” She had expected her weapon to clear them away from him, but it bumps harmlessly off each.
“Kafeera!” Melias calls, as he slides his magic sword across the floor in her direction. He decides he would be more useful searching the altar for anything which might serve as a source for the Huecuva’s power.
Rastorn glances at the pews. The sitting corpses have not moved – yet.
With his sword now in Kafeera’s hands, Melias locates two small, half-sunken doors under the steps. They were blocked from sight by the walls at the end of the pews and would likely lead to a small chamber beneath the stairs, slightly lower than floor level.
Kafeera squeezes herself between the Huecuva and the Priest, hoping to afford him the time he needs to prepare something of blessed power to rid the area of the Undead vermin. Her halberd discarded and the magical sword once more in hand, she offers Melias a very brief nod of appreciation.
“So, we meet again. With luck I shall do you justice once more,” she tells the sword.
Seeing the battle tide looking unfavorable, she shouts back to SeLiem, “Hey, holy man, ain’t you got something up yer sleeve for this lot?”
Arianna calls out to Deathwish and tosses him her magical longsword. “I’ll want it back later, lad.”
The Huevuva slip past Kafeera and form a tight circle around SeLiem. His armor protects him from all but one of their attacks and he sustains only a minor scratch and no further infection.
Claire and Arianna are also attacked, but both are protected by their armor.
Rastorn moves forward and casts another Magic Missile, blasting away another of those attacking SeLiem.
“You need to heal the man who generally keeps me alive,” Arianna tells Iflander.
Drawing forth a scroll of Protection From Undead, SeLiem attempts to read and cast the magic contained within.
Claire casts Acid Arrow on the Huecuva attacking her.
Melias is motivated by the fear of the situation. Something needs to be done quickly before these monsters slay his whole party. He doesn’t bother checking for traps, pulling the doors open to that small chamber and whispering his own prayers of light over darkness. He ducks into the dark room beneath the stairs and immediately sees the other side of the second door. Both exterior doors lead to the same small, lower-level room. His attention is drawn to a raised area with what looks like a long-dead sacrificed Human body on top. The room smells strongly of decay and death, but there are no more creatures within, except a nearly invisible gelatinous monster which quickly moves up his leg, paralyzing him instantly. It begins to feast. He has found the Slithering Tracker he sought.
In the main chamber the party battles on furiously.
Deathwish hacks at one of the Undead foes, but misses horribly.
Kafeera strikes solidly on the back of another, but the monster continues to attack SeLiem.
Claire’s spell coated her advisary with acid, causing it to shriek in anger, but not immediately slaying it. As the acid continues to burn away at the skeletal figure, she can tell in another minute the acid will complete the task.
SeLiem is able to complete the incantation and is surrounded by a soft glow which repels his attackers.
Arianna uses this opportunity to tap SeLiem with Iflander, but the sword tells her, “I can only Heal my chosen champion.”
The three Huecuva turn away from SeLiem and attack whoever is nearest, but not close enough to SeLiem to be within the area of his protection spell.
One charges Deathwish.
Another jumps Kafeera.
The last runs at Rastorn.
The Huecuva Arianna was attacking, moves to Kafeera.
Arianna has SeLiem drink a Potion of Healing she had been saving.
Rastorn moves away from his attacker, by rushing through the pew and pushing corpses down behind him to block the way. He narrowly escapes its reach, although it continues to follow. Spinning around, he shoots it with four magical missiles, blasting it apart and throwing shards of bone in all directions, which he then takes a moment to collect. The larger pieces, at least.
Kafeera is clawed by one of the monsters on her and can feel the effect of its diseased fingers.
Deathwish is also struck, but does not become infected.
The Huecuva that was covered in acid crumbles to the floor.
“Deathwish! Get back!” Claire yells. “You aren’t strong enough to take it on!” She stays away from the creatures, doffs her armor, and starts playing a song of courage, strength, and vitality.
As ordered, Deathwish backs away from the battle.
Knowing the Huecuva will be repelled by his protection spell, thus preventing him from attacking directly, SeLiem searches his memory for useful spells. He remembers years ago when he watched as a Priest helped sway the outcome of a street fight between a ruffian and a shopkeeper simply by chanting and effecting his will.
“Everyone, come close to me if you can!” instructs SeLiem, as he tries to position himself within thirty feet of everyone else. He begins chanting loudly and lifts his holy symbol to his heart.
In the lower room, Melias feels the creature seep through his clothing and crawl up his leg. The sensation of the creature feeding isn’t painful. He deducts it must be a side effect of whatever caused the paralysis. He cannot move, but his mind is sent reeling. So, this is how it ends, to be drained of my fluids by some slithering goo-monster crawling up my leg before the decaying remains of some unidentified sacrificial victim in a dark space only feet away from my friends above. Pretty pathetic ending for a would-be-hero, he thinks, as he resigns himself to his fate.
As SeLiem chants and Claire sings, an inspired Kafeera hacks at her injured advisory with Melias’ long sword. The sword feels strange in her hands and using it doesn’t seem as natural as using her trusty halberd, but she is still able to strike down the fiend in one well-placed blow.
Arianna turns in time to see Deathwish moving back toward SeLiem’s protection and the monster attacking him following, so she hacks that one in the back, shattering its ungodly form into broken fragments of bone.
Claire, SeLiem, and Deathwish band together, waiting for Claire’s singing and SeLiem’s chanting to magically enhance their skills. Their magic seems too late, as only one Heckuva remains. It leaps at Kafeera, who deftly deflects its attack and slashes back, hacking away the rotted robes which cover it and breaking several rib bones. Arianna follows that up with an overhand chop with his legendary sword Iflander, bursting the Heckuva’s skull into powder.
Rastorn strolls into the former battlezone and begins gathering samples.
Scanning the room once more for any more foul surprises and seeing none, Kafeera raises the sword and says, “I do believe we’re getting better at this! However you are not mine to keep so I must return you to your rightful owner. Do not fret, for I’m sure it is not our last battle together.” Not seeing Melias in the immediate vicinity, she retrieves her halberd and asks, “Which way did the Elf go?”
SeLiem shakes his head and shrugs. Nobody had seen Melias sneak into the lower room.
“I think I may have caught something from those things,” SeLiem breaks his Chant to comment. “Is anyone else feeling under the weather? I can cure the disease, but maybe those infected should check the corpses lying around here more closely first before being cured.”
“Good idea, SeLiem,” Rastorn says, “These corpses may also carry disease, as might the various vermin skittering around here. We should hold off on any disease curing until we have completed our search of this area. It is good to see that someone else understands even the unmoving dead can still be of danger to the living. Death is so wondrous and complex . . . hey, where is Melias?”
The entire area is visible to the group, except for the platform at the top of the steps and the space beyond the two small doors below the stairs, which they are just now noticing.
“SeLiem’s Circle of Protection is still be active and moves with him, so those within strive to stay close.
“I’d like to check the top of those stairs before continuing to search the bodies,” Rastorn says. “We may wish to hold off on moving beyond those doors, though, since that may very well lead to a whole new level of trouble.”
He turns a full circle, once more searching for Melias. “Well, at the very least we need Melias to check for traps on those doors. Meeeliaas!”
When the Elf does not answer, he moves up the stairs, cautiously.
SeLiem inspects the fallen, crushed bodies of the skeletal monks, then moves to the pews to see if there is anything of value or otherwise noteworthy. He is concerned about Melias, but shrugs it off. The Elf always seemed to be quite self-sufficient.
Arianna leaves SeLiem’s protection to search the altar and Kafeera follows her.
“You’d think he’d know better than to scurry off like that. Just given a lady his weapon and gone without even a fond farewell,” Kafeera remarks, laughing. Her laughter ends, and she wrinkles her nose in disgust, when she notes Rastorn’s continued fascination with the dead.
Claire mutters, “Yeah, well, he’s . . . Melias.” She follows Arianna and Kafeera.
When they discover Melias’ body, Arianna yells, “Rastorn! Melias needs help!”
SeLiem pauses what he’s doing to investigate the commotion.
Kafeera is oblivious to the fact that Melias is in the same state she was the day before and stands back, allowing room for the Priest to work his magic. She has no idea what has befallen Melias.
“It’s the Slithering Tracker again! Let’s not let it get away this time. I can blast it with Magic Missiles without harming Melias, but what ideas do you all have?” Rastorn says, before getting distracted by the sacrifice.
“Dammit, Rastorn, don’t worry about an old corpse! Melias will be a fresh one soon. Blast it with your missle and we’ll try and attack it again, that’s all we can do,” Arianna urges.
Rastorn half listens to Arianna, then looks up from the body still somewhat distracted. “Hmmm? Oh, yes, if you are all ready. Hmmmm, you know, I never have studied an Elf corpse before. With their lighter frames and bones I wonder if their decomposition is any different than that of the other races . . . ”
Melias, paralyzed but conscious, thought, I’ll let you examine my foot up your arse, Rastorn.
Arianna casts Rastorn a hateful glare. “If he dies, Necromancer, then so do you.”
Rastorn casts Magic Missile at the creature, blasting bits of it into the air. The heavily injured Slithering Tracker dismounts Melias and searches for a place to hide.
The Slithering Tracker found itself slithering from attacks on all sides. As the weapons rain on it, only one path seems open: The Mage. It slides toward Rastorn, who takes his eyes off the corpse beside him just long enough to spot the ooze. With barely a thought, he grabs the jagged sacrificial dagger from the corpse’s chest and flings it to the floor, impaling the monster.
The Slithering Tracker flattens into a liquid substance and moves no more.
Rastorn side-steps the expanding puddle which was the Tracker and continues to poke at the corpse. “You’ll need to Remove Paralysis on Melias, SeLiem,” he unemotionally comments, looking up only to shrug at Arianna and add, “Trackers take an hour to kill their prey, he will be fine. I’m sure you’ll both live long enough for both to forget you ever had a prick and live happily ever after together. Now let me see what I can learn about our enemies through this juicy clue.”
Claire and Deathwish search the room and do not find another way out.
Rastorn looks to Kafeera, “You’re not going to tell us we have to destroy this church, ‘because it is an abomination’, are you? I traveled with someone you favor before who demanded we do that at every temple of ‘wickedness’. I bet Percy would say something stupid like that if he were here.”
Kafeera eyes a handaxe lying nearby and says, “If no one objects I sure could use that.” Obviously confused and offended by Rastorn’s comment, she responds defensively, “I would under no term want the only home of the Mongrel Men destroyed.”
SeLiem asks, “Rastorn, how long does this paralysis last if we don’t attend to it? I’ve used most of my spells for the day already in the past half hour. If we can avoid casting yet another one we might be better off – especially if it will just wear off on its own.”
“He will be paralyzed for more than a quarter of a day. It is up to you, but we could wait until we find a door out of this area, then reverse the effects of the poison,” Rastorn answers. “Of course, I assume we’ll find a way out hours before he’s back to normal. Then again, his would be another set of eyes to search with. Frankly, Melias is the best at finding secret doors and once he finds them he is the only one who is skilled at trap removal. I care not. Do as you wish. I am ill-trained at the detection of secret doors and so will spend my time researching these corpses. It appears they may have been former adventurers who were dressed up as parishioners. That may be a clue as to this particular Undead’s traits and purpose. It is my duty as a Necromancer to collect such information.”
He turns to speak to Kafeera. “I was referring to this mockery of a church down here, nothing that would affect the lovely creatures above.”
Claire and Deathwish and Kafeera do not find any secret doors in the entire temple room, even after two hours of searching and a lunch break. Arianna does not leave Melias’ side. SeLiem gathers treasure from the bodies in the pews, while Rastorn busies himself with collecting remains.
“So, what are we doing with this pile of treasure we found? If no one wants to claim any, I’m not about to leave it here for another to take. Not after we fought for it,” Rastorn says, as he picks up one of the gems and studies it in the light of his lantern.
Arianna shrugs and grabs a handful of gems. “If you need the axe. Kafeera, more power to you. I don’t think anyone will dispute it. After all, you’re the only one beside Red who uses axes.”
She stands over Melias, looking him over, then turns to face Seliem and Rastorn. “I’ll check for secret doors. I am an Elf, after all, and I have a better chance of spotting them than anyone else assembled here.”
SeLiem approaches Melias and looks him in the eye. With a smirk, he comments, “After his rude remarks last night, let’s just say this is a way to teach him some manners.”
Melias stares back, unable to comment.
“I would appreciate a fair cut,” SeLiem tells Rastorn, “After all, my own church will be looking for donations once we return to a village. It is my duty to see to their needs if I am able. Melias will probably want a fair cut, too, so let’s just cut the treasure up equally.”
To be continued in Chapter 16
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