Rogue’s Gauntlet, Part One
As the party goes on about their business around him, Melias wonders how cramped his muscles will be when his paralysis ends.
The treasure is split as evenly as possible, but the two rings remain. Rastorn appraises them at 1,000 gold each, which makes either of them more than the entire rest of the take. He offers to carry them until more treasure is found, saying they can then be placed into that pot.
The party agrees, although Melias – had he a voice – would have dissented.
Since no one objects to her earlier claim, Kafeera adds the axe to her share of the treasure.
Remembering tales of evil magic from her brother, she thinks aloud, “Something perverse undoubtedly has occurred here, but destroyed or not – I fear we are too late. There must be another exit, unless whatever created those wretched creatures is still here and it must know of an exit. Unless it has been trapped down here as they were . . . and now . . . we are.”
Reacting to that revelation, she tests her new axe. She swings it about, wondering where the enemy might be hiding. If she is trapped, someone (or something) will pay for that inconvenience.
SeLiem checks the altar of the sacrificed victim to see if there might be another trap door in the floor.
Another hour goes by as everyone continues to search the room, with Arianna using her well-honed detection senses to check every part of the lower room and the church. Still no doors are found.
Rastorn, seeming very impatient, announces, “Time is running out. There has to be another door somewhere. Stetic and her cohorts went down here and never came back up, plus the Mongrel Men said they were carrying things with them and we’ve found nothing that hasn’t been down here a long time. Except that magic globe and stand. I’ll cast Detect Magic and search again. If anyone has any items they want checked, I suggest you set them out for me now. I’ll start in the sacrifice room, then go up the stairs, then through the rest of the temple.”
Rastorn’s search for a magical exit fails to discover anything.
Arianna puts the gems back and says, “I don’t know what I was thinking. We’ve always done an even split before. Must have something to do with pretty gems and having boobs,” she says with a smile.
Having failed to find any exit out of this room, Seliem slumps on a step near the altar and shakes his head, “This is all my fault,” he exclaims. “Why didn’t I listen?”
Sensing others looking toward him, he sighs and explains, “My god had told me explicitly that I was to cast that Commune spell once we reached the end of the cells. I guess, technically, that would be here. Maybe if I still had my Commune scroll we could find the way out.”
He falls silent for a few moments, then passes a prayer to the wind begging forgiveness and absolution and hoping it reaches his god’s ear from this horrible place.
He coughs as he feels the disease which was spread to him from the Undead they battled start to fester in his body. Standing, he says, “All those with disease, I suppose we should at least heal ourselves of that before we get much sicker. Unless you think we should wait until we are free from here? I would hate for someone to get reinfected and not have any spells left to cure them with.”
Kafeera shrugs at SeLiem, as she hands the axe to Rastorn so he can Detect Magic on it.
Noticing the Priest’s anguish over his possible error in the premature casting of his spell she walks to him and offers a few words of comfort. “Don’t lose faith just yet. I’m sure your lord understands your humanity. Besides, if there’s a way in – there has to be a way out.”
Rastorn looks at Kafeera’s ax. “Yes, it is magical. Highly magical. Well, not nearly as magical as Arianna’s big sword, but . . . very magical. Any other items anyone wants checked?”
He turns and approaches SeLiem. “Just a second . . . did you say your god told you to ‘cast Commune at the end of the cells’? Did this come in a dream or through prayer? Did your god use the specific words ‘at the end of the cells’? There could be some sort of double meaning or hidden message there. Any ideas, anyone?”
SeLiem shrugs. “You know, I can’t Commune with my god again, but I can speak with one of the deceased, if you think that will get us anywhere.”
“Then we should hold off on casting any Cure Disease spells,” Rastorn says. “I can identify the oldest or newest corpse. Do you want to speak with the one that has been dead longest or that died most recently?” he asks the Priest.
As SeLiem contemplates his answer, Rastorn reflects on recent events and adds, “I wonder if we have gone the wrong direction somehow. There was nothing in this area that required food or water – since most were Undead – so this might not be the way those with The Cube of Power went.” He pauses in thought, then continues, “There was that little guy Melias and Claire killed, but he could have just as well followed us here from the upper section, since he was behind us and in the hall leading to the cells.”
SeLiem nods and bites his lip. “I’m not sure which corpse to speak to, however you may be correct about the cells. After all, it’s clear we are no longer at the ‘end of the cells’. We are somewhat beyond that. Is your detecting magic spell still going? If so, maybe you could run up to the cells and see if anything glimmers, while I contemplate which corpse would be more informative.”
As SeLiem travels to the pews to examine the corpses he asks, “Rastorn, how new is the newest corpse?”
“I’d estimate those two are about two months old. The others are much older. One or two are years old.”
Anxious to test the axe, Kafeera follows Rastorn back to the cells. She runs her hands along the walls, pulling on the bars of each cell inside and out. As she reaches the cell with the orb, she examines it’s pedestal again, but learns nothing new.
Rastorn recasts Detect Magic and quickly surveys that area. He discovers no magic.
Frowning at Kafeera, Rastorn says, “There has got to be something we are missing somewhere, but we are at the end of the cells, right?”
SeLiem joins them and interrupts, asking, “What about the sacrificed corpse, Rastorn?”
Kafeera shakes her head in response to Rastorn. “End of the cells . . . nope, not a clue – unless there is another cell somewhere. Gods, can they never be direct? Then they have the nerve to go and get all bent out of shape when we misunderstand ‘em. If they’d just say what they mean in the first place, life would be so much simpler!”
Inspecting the ceilings of the cells she ponders aloud, “Maybe those two rooms with the dead are considered cells as well. Did you check out where that last corpse was laying? We all got sidetracked by Melias’ disappearing act. Do you have anything left to drink? All this thinking is giving me a headache.”
Melias’ eyes face the sacrificial victim on the altar. He wonders about the secret of the temple. Were all the bodies sitting peacefully in the pews victims first before finding their seat? He ponders to whom this temple was erected, and if the prayers to other gods might bring about unfavorable results. Perhaps they were directly linked to the sudden appearance of the monks, whose charge would be to slay the heretics within the unholy temple. The more he contemplates it, the more he wants to leave.
Rastorn appears and blocks his view of the sacrifice.
“This one died somewhere in the middle. Not the oldest, nor the latest kill,” Rastorn explains.
Arianna had discovered a stash of broken or desiccated items related to various other faiths, most prominently Capra, Kurosaw, and Tarantin. She leads the rest of the group to the pile.
Lifting a bent and bloodied metal amulet with the symbol of two beastly eyes surrounded by a monstrous outline, Rastorn looks it over, before tossing it to the floor. “There’s nothing here and we are losing precious time. SeLiem, did you decide which of these specimens you are going to converse with? Melias won’t be back for roughly two more hours and -” He pauses for a moment. “Wait a minute . . . the Bard said this place was constructed by a Transmuter and a Thief . . . maybe Melias would see something we all missed. Perhaps you should get him unparalyzed and see what he can find. He does seem to have a knack for finding secrets and solving puzzles.” He paces, then adds, “Do you think this room is the end of the cells that SeLiem’s god cryptically referred to or are we looking in the wrong place?” Exhaling loudly, he plops next to one of the corpses, leans his head on its shoulder, and taps his fingers.
Annoyed and thirsty, Kafeera does the only other thing she knows to do. Anything that is not held fast is either crushed, smashed, hacked, or slammed into a wall. She is careful to not strike anyone and she does it in an unusually calm purposeful fashion. She does not go berserk throwing things. She picks one item at a time and destroys it and continues her path of destruction throughout all three areas: cells, rows of dead, and sacrificial chamber.
Raising an eyebrow as she lifts a pew to slam into the altar, she says, “Perhaps this will get someone’s attention?”
Rastorn laughs at Kafeera’s outburst and urges her to break more things. He seems to really enjoy her destructive reaction. Finally, he offers her his last bit of wine.
Arianna decides to take up a guard position near Melias again and studies her new bow more closely then she had before.
Kafeera takes a brief moment out of her destructive task to gulp down Rastorn’s wine. With a wide smile she says, “Much obliged!”
Claire vomits. She and Deathwish had huddled in a corner for over an hour. He helps her up and walks her to a different spot.
SeLiem finally decides, “I think I’ll speak to one of the oldest of the corpses. Any objections?”
Melias doesn’t seem to have any objections.
Everyone nods their approval to SeLiem, who casts Speak With Dead on the oldest corpse. He can now speak with the long dead person, a female Human wearing leather armor under a rotted flowery gown.
Rastorn moves closely to the Cleric, fascinated by the spell (although only SeLiem can hear the replies of the corpse).
Arianna watches Seliem with a mild bit of morbid curiosity. She’s not sure what Melias can see or hear, but she keeps him informed as best as she can. “For Seliem, that has got to be creepy, hearing the voice of a dead woman in your head. Just staring at the rotted corpse would be creepy enough.”
Kafeera can’t help but wonder how the dead feel about being forced to speak with the living, forced to be reminded of what they left behind. A single tear glides down the unmasked side of her face. She does not seem to notice or care, for she does not wipe it away.
Having settled back in a slightly weaker state, Claire watches with interest, noticing Rastorn looking almost lustfully (to her perception) at the corpse.
Once the spell is prepared, SeLiem hesitates before casting and asks, “Rastorn, you are the Necromancer of the group. I just remembered this spell’s limit is one year. So, it seems I must pass on the oldest corpses and the youngest may not know as much as we need. That leads us back to the sacrificial corpse. I must make certain it has been a year or less since it died, but what you have told me before is too vague. I need you to give me a more accurate estimate before I attempt the spell.”
“That one is about eight months dead. The newest are the two I sat between and they are about a month or two dead, but none are less than a month,” Rastorn answers. “Hmmmm. Well, actually, that would be under normal circumstances – normal decay in underground environments. The Undead here could have conceivably sped their rotting to add to the . . . ambience of their temple. There are ways to do that and everything they would need is available. I don’t know if they have the intelligence to do that, though. I would surmise that they might, considering that they were able to decorate their temple thusly. I can’t be sure. You can always try and see what happens . . . or cast it on that fellow in the hall that the Bard and Melias killed. Assuming it speaks Common, that is.”
SeLiem tells the group, “I’m not certain what to ask. If anyone has a good question in mind, just shout it out and I’ll ask. I have four questions, then the spell will cease, so make them count. Open-ended questions are probably best. I’ll tell you what the responses were as soon as I know.”
He reads the scroll in front of the sacrificial victim, then asks his first question, “How did you come to be in your predicament here?” He knew the question probably wouldn’t help them out of the area, but it could lead to other questions and answers.
Claire looks like she’s watching Melias, but instead she’s watching Arianna. Melias and Arianna remind her of characters in an epic about a group of Warriors trying to reach their island home. She hopes it doesn’t have the same ending. In the epic, three of the Warriors died.
SeLiem gets his answer: “I was killed.”
Kafeera shrugs and says,”Why not just ask it where that cube is or if there’s any other doors down here?”
“I think we would have found it by now,” Claire remarks, then snuggles against Deathwish for warmth. “Ask about any areas we haven’t checked yet.”
Kafeera leaves the room and returns to the south/middle cell to search the area around the short set of stairs that led to the temple. She also rechecks the corpse of the creature Melias killed. Discovering nothing of interest, she returns to the corridor at the cells, where the stairs originally collapsed and trapped them in, and searches there as well. Disappointed after that search, she enters the gate separating the hall from the cell area and looks left and right to gaze into the first three cells as she passes them, then halts at the entrance to the one the temple is hidden within. Her eyes follow the ceiling and floor, looking for any clues. The light from the torches set in sconces in this section is bright enough for clear vision, but she uses her lantern to search more thoroughly. From her position in the middle of the hallway of cells, she aims her lantern and checks the smooth floor between the cells, the rough stone wall at the end of that hall, and the rough ceiling above. Spotting nothing out of the ordinary, she shines the lantern into the middle/southern cell and attempts to see the little air shaft the Elves had found prior to entering the temple. They said it was about seven feet up the wall and above the table Melias had moved to reach it, but she still can’t spot it. It is amazing to her how rough stonework like that can hide a hole so well. Well from Humans, anyway.
Arianna is quite tempted to join Kafeera, but she remains next to Melias, humming a little tune. She tries to determine if she’d be doing the same thing, guarding a defenseless friend, if she were still a man.
While Kafeera searches, SeLiem takes his time speaking to the corpse, finally saying, “Please tell us where to find a way out of this dungeon . . . a detailed description.”
SeLiem receives an answer: “You can find a way out at the end of a hall which connects to the dungeon cells outside this chapel. There is a set of stairs there that leads up to the false treasure room and the wine cellar.”
Kafeera returns and asks Arianna to use her ‘Elfy peepers’ to help her find the hidden vent.
“Sorry, Kafeera,” Arianna answers, “but a Half-Ellf will have to suffice. I’m not leaving Melias’ side until he can defend himself or at least until he’s vocal again.”
“I’ll watch over him, if you want to go look,” she offers.
Claire looks dejected. She stares at Arianna for a few moments, then stands and moves out of the lower chamber, muttering, “Tease.”
To be continued . . .
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