The Realms: A World Apart

Rogue’s Gauntlet III

Rogue’s Gauntlet, Part Three

Kafeera can’t believe her ears. Here they are pinned in this rat hole just waiting to be picked off by some she-ghost and they want to argue over letting the dead rest. She urges those in front to move as quickly as possible.

“Don’t you think we should – I don’t know – continue crawling or get out of here, maybe?” Claire asks. She sighs. “Okay, go ahead SeLiem, lose favor with your god. I don’t care.” 

She stands and looks up at the opening. As she does, SeLiem moves around her and the others, heading back toward Deathwish.

“Favor with my god, Claire? You don’t know any part of my god. Not even the littles bit of him. Don’t go on damn assumptions. My god is Kubri The Loyal, not some guy named John The God Who Refuses Interrupting The Dead In Any Sort of Manner. These are dire situations and I refuse to lose any party members. One less member puts us at a disadvantage, and raises the risk of us getting killed in other encounters. I will not accept that, nor his death. He died so abruptly that I am sure he won’t sleep peacefully. Once I’ve cast it and told him to follow, we can hurry out of here.” He continues crawling back toward Deathwish.

“Kubri the molester of little boys, more like,” Claire mutters under her breath.

Through gritted teeth, SeLiem says, “Watch your tongue, Claire, there are no rules against fighting for my god,” as he readies his spell.

“It’s not a Lich! It’s something else . . . something new,” Rastorn comments, ignoring the other conversation. “All it has to do is peek the tiniest bit of its face through the wall to see where we are. Based on Kafeera’s reaction a little while ago, I’d say she saw it do just that.”

At the shaft, Rastorn stands, then ducks down to tell Claire, “Did you notice that the creature never came this far? It may have an area that it haunts and won’t leave.” As they turn to look back in that direction, the ghostly figure rises up behind SeLiem and points its finger at him.

Kafeera and Arianna pause, in case they have to travel back to protect SeLiem.

Melias continues pushing forth as fast as his magically slowed body can, while planning to return to searching every five feet for traps once he has put some distance between himself and the rest of the group. 

Rastorn continues, “Look at the way it is pointing. That isn’t a spell. It’s more like an innate ability. This isn’t a Lich. It’s some kind of uncatalogued Ghost that seems to be guarding this area like a watchdog. Hmmm, I’ll have to report this to the Sages, they pay gold for information like this. I think I’ll call it a ‘Watchghost’! ‘Rastorn’s Watchghosts’!”

The ‘Watchghost’ shoots SeLiem in the back with its ray. It hurts and delays his spell-casting, but SeLiem’s armor protects him against the slowing effect.

Rastorn snaps out of his conversation with himself and casts Magic Missile at the creature he just named, causing it to scream silently at him in what appears to be pain. Rastorn’s face turns white and he quickly turns and scoots back to the second shaft.  

At the shaft, Kafeera slips past Rastorn to see what is happening. She sees the Watchghost glaring at Rastorn, with it’s skeletal lower half hidden below the floor. Claire is in front of it, stabbing with a dagger. SeLiem is behind it. Deathwish lies beyond him. 

She screams loudly, trying to draw the Watchghost’s attention.

Claire stores her dagger, then scoots backwards readying her crossbow.

Before moving beneath the next shaft, Melias uses a small mirror from his backpack to make a quick visual check for anything that might drop on him.

The Watchghost turns and touches SeLiem midway through his Animate Dead spell, disrupting it. Unbeknownst to SeLiem, this is beneficial, because if he had animated Deathwish he would have forced out and blocked the man’s spirit from his body and made raising him from the dead nearly impossible.  

Claire, who somehow intuitively knew this on a subconscious level, smiles and backs up further, while shooting the creature with her crossbow.  

Rastorn lets fly another volley of Magic Missiles, injuring it further. 

Within his mirror, Melias sees the shaft leads up at an angle away from him, connecting with a space at the top – possibly another angled shaft.

Arianna positions herself under the second shaft, so her longbow can be used.

Standing in the first shaft, Rastorn steps aside to allow Arianna a clear shot. “Lay flat, Kafeera,” he warns. 

She obliges and Arianna shoots two arrows down the narrow, low tunnel, over Kafeera, past a kneeling Claire, and into the Watchghost. The arrows come so close to hitting Claire that her hair is blown as they pass. The Watchghost screams – this time, aloud – and says, in a whispery voice with a hint of the lilt it had in life, “Desstroy me if you can heroess, but know that my masster will gladly avenge me.”

“Oooo, it speaks! Tell me, creature of the grave, is your master one of the Priestly arts or a Wizard?” an excited Rastorn asks.  

“My masster is the great Mage-” the Watchghost begins to say, as it reaches for SeLiem, ending the sentence abruptly when Claire’s light crossbow bolt strikes it. The Watchghost loses all density and disperses into the air, like sand thrown into the wind. 

“Uhhh, you destroyed it! There was so much I could have learned!” Rastorn protests.

Claire and SeLiem drag Deathwish with them as they join the rest of the group.

In the second tunnel, Melias studies the first shaft with his mirror, trying to decide if he can climb it. It is fairly smooth, but he trusts his skill. There could be things in the shaft he cannot see, due to the lack of sufficient light for his mirror and the height of the shaft, but he doesn’t spot anything.

Kafeera is silently grateful she did not have to face the Watchghost in the cramped tunnel.

“You didn’t need to know, anyway. I think the answer was pretty obvious,” Claire tells Rastorn. “Besides, it would have killed you before you could study it.”

Once the whole group is together, Arianna puts away her bow and crawls around the corner to join Melias.

“What I find odd is that its master would avenge such an obviously low-maintenance creature,” Claire muses. 

“Nice shooting, by the way,” she tells Arianna.

SeLiem mutters, “We needed to not kill it. If it did have a great Wizard as a master, that isn’t good. I really don’t want another enemy.”

He looks at Deathwish’s corpse and says, “I might as well revive him. He won’t be able to do much though, unless someone has some healing potions handy.” He takes out his final scroll and prepares to  cast Raise Dead. 

“It doesn’t matter now, SeLiem,” Claire says simply, as she starts to climb up one of the shafts.

Before he casts the scroll, SeLiem looks at Claire and says, “What do you mean it doesn’t matter? If anyone suffers from the foolishness and downright stupidity of your doings and we wind up with a new and potentially great enemy, then I will make sure you pay the consequences for such. It’s these types of dumbass things that always place our whole party at risk. I’m sick of it. Sooner or later our luck will run out.”

As he strains to see what is in the shaft, Melias asks if anyone can hand him a torch.

Claire slides a torch down the passage, then retorts, “Oh, stupid in, say, the way I was helping to keep you alive? Yeah, I’ll remember not to do that next time. It was pretty stupid. Perhaps the next time I could just let you die. That’d be smart, wouldn’t it? Or, maybe, I could have just let it kill you when it popped up right between us, instead of trying to attack it and distracting it momentarily? We already had a powerful Wizard after us when this began, you idiot, and I have a strong feeling it’s the same one who sent that thing. You’re just angry because I did something about it instead of you.”

“I’ve got the spells to prevent dying from things like that. If I’d had a moment to cast Invisibility to Undead or Negative Energy Protection, everything would have been great,” SeLiem tells her. “There was no need to destroy it. I was going to survive. You were stupid enough to destroy it and make a new, more powerful, enemy for us. It was even talking to us by then. We didn’t have to attack it then. We could have gotten off just fine. Did you wait to figure that out? No!” He scoffs, “Besides, how in the Nine Hells do you know if it was the same damn Wizard who placed it here. I sure as heck don’t know that and I’m sure you don’t know, either. We can’t afford assumptions. We need facts.”

Fidgeting uncomfortably, Kafeera says to no one in particular, “Maybe it wasn’t just a ghost or just a guardian. Perhaps it was more important to its master.” She turns her head back in Rastorn’s direction, expecting him to elaborate on her suggestion.  

Unable to understand the argument between the apparently ungrateful Priest and multifaceted Bard, she wonders out loud, “Why did people travel these cramped corridors purposely?”

Continuing her argument with SeLiem, Claire says, “Hmmm. Almost all the things we’ve been attacked by were Undead. It evidently takes an idiot to figure out that the attacks might all be connected. Get your head out of your rear and look around you. There are bigger things at the moment than whining about how I killed something that’s master might retaliate against us. I reacted. Everyone else reacted. You tried to bring my retainer back to life. We all did what we thought had to be done. That’s all there is to it. There are things here bigger than your being petty – like getting out of here. I suggest we concentrate on that and leave the past alone.”

She half-seriously contemplates shooting SeLiem, but figures that would get everyone else mad at her. She decides she’ll find another way to get back at him.

Her attempt at climbing the shaft doesn’t work and she falls after ascending ten feet.

SeLiem successfully raises Deathwish from death, but he is very weak.

Melias scoots under the shaft to get a better view and sets off a magical trap. He “falls” up the shaft and hits hard at the top. He notices the top of the shaft is angled and if he drops (which he has yet to do, having landed on the ceiling) he will fall down the next shaft.

Rastorn waves both Kafeera and Claire off, unwilling to further the arguments.

Confused as to why he’s suddenly alive and so weak and unenergetic, Deathwish glances about. He was quite happy dead. Lots of beautiful women were feeding him grapes. He looks at Claire. “Why’d you have to go and do that?” he whines. “I was being fed grapes! I’ve never had grapes before!” He notices his missing gear and is further confused.

Claire points at SeLiem. “Tell him. I was all set to let you rest, but no, he had to pervert nature.”

Loading her bow, Arianna takes a bead on Deathwish’s chest. “Just say the word friend and I’ll send you back,” she says with a smile.

“Okay, fine, I’ll stay here,” Deathwish mutters, then scowls at SeLiem.

“Look, I was just kidding. I’m not out to really kill you,” Arianna says, “Plus, Seliem used our only spell to raise you from the dead.” She drops her bow, then considers the situation for a moment and changes her perspective. “You selfish little prick! Come to think of it, you are an ass. I’d be grateful to be brought back to help my companions finish their mission, but all you care about is damn grapes? You’re going to stay alive no matter what!”

A skilled tumbler, Melias is barely hurt by his upward fall, although the little bottles he found in the top floor of the keep all broke. He shrugs that off, glad none of his potions broke and that he didn’t land in a pit of Black Dragon acid. Due to the conversation in the original tunnel, nobody noticed what happened to him. He calls out, “Grab my rope!”

It is a good thing he tied rope around his waist before heading in to check the tunnel for traps. He had figured it would be handy to drag his carcass out of a pit, but this should work just as well. Then he spots the entire rope coiled on his chest. When Arianna used her bow, she had to leave the rope behind.

Staring coldly at Claire, SeLiem crawls beside her toward the sound of Melias’ voice. He takes a long breath to calm himself, then tells Deathwish, “There are reasons I brought you back Deathwish. Primarily, we need you. We need all the help we can get. The pleasures and displeasures of death must wait until another day. You haven’t made poor decisions in this party – like some members. You must realise death is sometimes a sanctuary, but sometimes there are more important things. I will aid your recovery next time we rest. Until then, you must stay mostly back in the party – or in the middle – while in this weakened state. Even a minor injury could re-kill you.”

As Melias repositions himself, to study the situation, he falls again. This time his tumbling does not aid him and he lands hard on the floor, further down from where he started.

Arianna peers down the second tunnel and sees Melias crawling further away than he was before. Seeing him in no danger, she turns back to the rest of the group in the first tunnel just as Melias falls back up again, missing his fall by a fraction of a second.

Melias had hit the floor hard and, with his head still spinning, was sucked back up again before he could rise to his knees. This time he lands at the top and hears a crash. There are vials of some sort attached to the top of this shaft and he’s broken them upon impact. He sees smoke and hears a sizzling sound beneath him. This time, he controlled his fall much better, but his body is not moving as quickly as usual due to the Watchghost’s magic.

Arianna glances back into the adjacent tunnel and is shocked to see Melias has disappeared.

There is a burning pain on Melias’ side as some of the acid from the broken vials burns its way through his cloak and armor. His cloak is being eaten away by acid and the smoke is choking him. As he pulls himself away from the acid as best he can, he scratches his ribs on the leather straps that the vials were hooked into to attach them to the ceiling. Maybe he just has the timing down, but somehow he can sense something is about to happen.

Back in the first tunnel, SeLiem has been whispering something to Deathwish that made him quite unhappy.

Deathwish frowns, and then tries to find a vein on his wrist. The only person who really needs him is Claire, he figures.

Claire looks angrily at the rest of the party. “If you’re going to drive my retainer to suicide, I’d appreciate if you paid him, thanks,” she says. “Unlike some people, I don’t have to think over every action to make sure it’s right.”

Melias grabs the leather loops that were bolted to the ceiling to hold the vials, just as the gravity reverses again. He is left hanging, barely able to hold on, thirty feet up.

He starts counting to himself to see how long the effects last, so he can try to estimate if he has enough time to climb during the reversed effect. If it doesn’t seem like the gravity switches back to normal until he travels the shaft, then he will start to climb down as carefully as he can. If gravity seems to be cycling regardless of where he is, he will relax his muscles on the opposite effect, then grab hold again in preparation for yet another cycle of reversed gravity, and will try climbing down as fast as he can before it switches again. He’ll use the counting to keep himself on track of when the gravity will be switching back so he can adjust his handhold as best as he can. If it doesn’t seem like he’ll have nearly enough time to climb down safely, he’ll remain where he is until someone from the party can save him. Silently, he curses Claire for drinking the Potion of Gaseous Form.

Rastorn, who is still unaware anything is going on with Melias, stops to check his belongings in the light of the shaft he stands under. “This is like a free Detect Magic spell, everyone. We should check our gear for any magic items we are unaware of, before this glowing effect ends.  I saw Claire find a magic gem. Don’t deny it, Bard! I saw you!” After quickly searching, he pulls out one of the rings from the chapel. “A magic ring! Look, a magic ring!”

Melias begins climbing down and is ten feet down when he can think clearly enough to realize the trap has a trigger at the bottom of each shaft. Once someone enters the area below the trap or steps on something there (he can’t be sure, although the mirror didn’t set it off), then the gravity reverses. The top of the shafts must be set on a delayed trigger. Once someone lands there, there is a slight delay before the reverse gravity effect ends. Based on his knowledge of traps, he thinks that gravity will not reverse until he reaches the area at the bottom of the shaft.

Arianna hears no reply from Melias and stares down the empty tunnel. There could be any number of traps on the floor, walls, or ceiling there, or Melias could have climbed one of the shafts. She knows Melias does own some Invisibility Dust, too.

Once near the bottom of the shaft, Melias prepares himself, breathes deeply, and does a leaping tumbling roll, pushing off the wall toward the next segment of hallway which he believes will be free of the trapped gravity effect. With great agility and skill, he lands between the third and fourth shafts.

With the rest of the group behind her, Arianna works her way into the second tunnel. Just before she reaches the area below the first shaft, she sees Melias swing down from a shaft further away.

Melias is a bit frazzled and sits down against the wall. He holds his hand up cautioning Arianna to stay back. “Trapped!” he warns in his slowed voice. “Run and jump past the shaft.”

As an example, he unties the rope about his waist and tosses it into the area below the last shaft he passed, hoping it would trigger the gravity effects from the weight of the rope.

His rope lands under the shaft, then springs up when the gravity reverses.  

Arianna is baffled by what he means by ‘jump’. After all, they are crawling through the tunnel.  Melias seems disoriented and is bloody and his clothes are still smoking.

“SeLiem!” Arianna shouts, “Melias needs help, fast!”

While waiting, she speaks to Melias in a calm, soothing voice. “How can we jump if we’re crawling? Physically, that’d be impossible, except maybe like a frog jump – but we wouldn’t clear a shaft that way. Anyway, rest and calm yourself, Seliem should be here, shortly.”

Rastorn is startled by Arianna screaming and frantically asks, “What? What happened to Melias? Are we in danger?”

Melias throws his head back and lays down, catching his breath and trying to endure the pain of all his scrapes and bruises. He isn’t sure how they can all get as far as he has gotten without suffering the same fate. Likewise, he is concerned about how they intend to get past all the other shafts along the way. He isn’t in the clear – he is in the middle.
Hearing a scream further down the tunnel, he looks in time to see a female Half-Elf in leather armor drop from the last shaft. She lands fairly well, so he assumes her to be a fairly skilled climber. She looks to be in poor health, though.

Melias rolls to his belly and slithers toward the next shaft, stopping shy of it to get a closer look at the Half-Elf ahead of him. “Are you alright?” he asks her, speaking in the slowed, drawn out way he has since being magically Slowed.

“No, Rastorn, no danger that I can tell. Somehow, Melias has managed to get himself injured pretty badly, though. I think he triggered a trap. Earlier I heard him shout to us, but I didn’t really hear what he said. Now, he is asking us to play leap-frog.” Arianna replies. “Hey, there is someone else in the tunnel up ahead of him!”

Leaning against Arianna, Kafeera suggests, “Shouldn’t we all be connected by ropes, in case we come across a pit trap?”

To be continued . . .

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