The Realms: A World Apart

Rogue’s Gauntlet V

Rogue’s Gauntlet, Part Five

Arianna steps back from the gift-giving wall, looking at her hands. The gauntlets magically placed on them look nice, but she thinks in this place it probably means she’s cursed. She is about to slip them off when she hears the dreaded name Rastorn whispers – ‘Evenliir’. Spinning on her heel, she looks Rastorn’s way, ready to cleave the bitch in half. Seeing that the woman suddenly appearing in front of Rastorn is not Evenliir, Arianna steps near the new Elven beauty. 

“Hi, I’m Artur-” she began, momentarily forgetting her predicament, “I’m Arianna, who might you be?”

The woman had hopped back when Arianna lunged at her, but relaxed when Arianna lowered her sword and introduced herself. She looks at the group in surprise. Her eyes dart to the opened doors and she looks back at the newcomers with a grin. The grin quickly fades, as she looks at them all staring at her again. She opens her mouth to say something, closes it, then opens it again. “What did you all do, just Teleport in or something?” She pauses for a moment, then adds, “I’m Sasha. Even split then?”

Eyeing the newcomer, Raven rises. While trying to figure out where the woman came from, she can’t push aside negative and sarcastic thoughts. Great, more Elves. She had wanted to take the fifth spot along the wall, but Rastorn was quicker. Would she have gotten a different result? She looks from the new Elf to the treasure. Their shares are likely to shrink again. Realising she couldn’t have opened the blocked doors on her own, as it took the hands of four or five people to release the trap, she’s ready to split her loot with the group, but Sasha is going to have to earn her trust and place in the group.

When Kafeera peeks through the little door that opened before her, she sees it leads to another tight tunnel, like the one before, maybe even smaller, but with a flickering light reflecting off the walls.

Rastorn moves to the center of the room and whispers to Melias, “Let’s find out if either of these are your beloved sister. She would radiate magic, if she were in disguise.”

He takes a step toward the opening that holds the treasure and says, “Let us see if there are any magical traps here or any magic items within this small horde.”  

After casting Detect Magic, he looks at the pile of treasure, then around the room, making sure to get a good look at the two new females, Raven and Sasha. 

“Ah, yes, I see all the bottles are magic, as is the statuette, and the lyre,” he announces, then continues, “The new gauntlets on your hands all radiate, too.”  

He shakes his head as he looks at Melias, before subtly studying the two women again.

Examining the treasure more closely, Raven suppresses a groan from the pain she feels each time she moves. She still feels faint, but is much better after having had some water and food. 

“If some of those are healing potions, I’d like one.” 

Subtly, she tries to estimate how much money is piled in the small vault.

“Let’s hope some of them are. Or the statuette is a mini healer. I think all of us could use some patching up,” Melias says. 

As he passes by Rastorn on his way to the newcomer, Melias smiles at him and pats him on the back with his magically gloved hand.  

“Hello Sasha, I’m Melias. How did you get here? Where did you come from? More importantly, are either of you associated with The Eight?”

Raven turns from her counting. “The Eight? The adventurers of Darkuth?” She laughs. “I don’t think I’m qualified.”

“Hi, Melias, it’s a pleasure to meet you. The Eight? No, I don’t think so,” Sasha says. She considers Melias’ other questions, as she smiles and glances around at the others. From her perspective, the party suddenly appeared in front of her and not the other way around and she feels she should be the one getting questions answered first.  

Kafeera doesn’t seem to be surprised by the appearance of another individual. She is, however, quite perturbed by the cramped crawlspace behind the door. She slumps down by the opening, then looks at Sasha and asks, “Might you have anything to drink? I’m not referring to water.” 

“No, sorry. I wish I had something to drink myself.”

With all the animosity floating about the group, Kafeera decides debating the fate of the present treasure is not worth the effort at the moment. She also decides to hold off mentioning her opinion.

“I’m not entirely thankless. Sanctimonious people who sit back and do nothing just get on my nerves, that’s all,” Claire remarks, returning to a previous argument. She fails to mention that sanctimonious people who steal all the women away get on her nerves also and since he was being so thankless about being found by her when he was paralyzed, she figured she’d let that comment slide. “Okay, fine. SeLiem, I apologize for calling you names.” 

She leans into the treasure vault and picks up the lyre. After all, she is the only one who can play a musical instrument and hers is getting impossible to tune.

Prompted by Claire’s return to arguing, Deathwish starts back up with Melias. “’Wasted’? Why? I was the only one dead. If anyone wasted anything, it was the Priest for using the spell on me to drag me back here to deal with all of you. Don’t blame me for that. And stop taking out your aggression on my mistress. You know she can’t really control what she says and does and you know she tries to be helpful, but all she gets is your rage at her no matter what.”

Arianna steps away from Melias and Deathwish and inspects her new gauntlets, quickly deciding to keep them on. Her attention turns to the many potion bottles. Like Raven, she also needs a healing potion but decides to wait until everyone has a chance to go through the treasure and identify what is included. Since she is unlikely to be helpful in that endeavor, she starts searching for secret doors.

His face flushed in anger, Melias steps close to Deathwish. 

“Suddenly you think you are my equal; is that it Bonehead? Remember, you are just a retainer. If you press your luck by angering the party and being ungrateful for the gifts endowed upon you – for sparing you an untimely death so you could make something more of your pitiful life, for instance – you are going to find yourself quickly on the opposite end of the life spectrum. You and your master can go take a long walk off a short pier. In fact, why don’t you two go your own way, since you both have a problem controlling your actions? This mission is far too important to be bungled by some impulsive assholes like yourselves.”

Without making eye contact with either of the three, SeLiem softly says, “Melias has some truth under his anger, Deathwish. You have potential. You can make something of yourself just as easily as we can. We could not afford to lose a member of the party. I only did what I thought was right. According to how the Raise Dead spell works . . . you obviously still had a few things you wanted to accomplish before you died. If you chose not to be raised, it would be so. I chose for the betterment of the group and I gave you another chance to go after whatever you wished . . .  in life . . . to fulfill.”

As he digs out the potions, Rastorn smirks at SeLiem stumbling over his phrasing.  

“Get set for more arguments,” he announces. “The symbol on all these bottles is the sigil of Merimont the Healer. He was famed as the most proficient creator of Potions of Extra Healing of this Age. I would assume they are all Extra Healing Potions.” 

After silence inhabits the room for half a minute, he adds, “I will accept none of this treasure, except the coins, if that will make splitting it easier.”

“I’ve got enough, thanks,” Claire says, leaving the rest of the treasure to be distributed. “Let Melias have all the potions.” She looks tired. Tired of people calling her things like ‘ungrateful little bitch’ and ‘useless whore’ and ‘impulsive asshole’, and continuing to berate her, even after she’d saved them. 

She pats her henchman on the shoulder and says, “Deathwish, let’s look to get out of here, before you continue to enrage him.” She’d like to add that Melias would happily kill two innocents (them) and call it an act of good.

“I forgot my place,” Deathwish tells Melias, in a low voice. “I never meant I was your equal.”

Walking hunkered down, thanks to what she feels is an increasingly annoyingly low ceiling, Kafeera approaches the treasure and the shiny figurine catches her eye. Squatting down, she says, “I want the owl statue. Unless someone has a problem with that?” She waits for objections.

SeLiem sighs and mutters to himself, so only a few might be able to hear. “If arguments such as this continue to exist, then our party will fall when it is . . . needed teamwork . . . the most.” 

This time, Melias smirks at SeLiem’s articulation struggles.

SeLiem says louder, “How much gold and how many potions, Rastorn?”

Rastorn looks at those involved in the various bickering. Normally, he’d find it amusing, but there was too much at stake to lose anyone now or let internal issues cause mistakes. He says, “Melias, I think there is a greater reason for everyone being here – especially Claire – so, please, refrain from making anyone feel unwanted. Please.”  

He tosses the little statuette to Kafeera and scoops up the small pile of coins. 

“It looks like . . . eight potions and about thirty, no thirty-two, electrum pieces. Kafeera is set, Claire is set, and – if I take the coins – I’m set. That leaves a potion each for Raven, the new Elf, and SeLiem. Melias, Arianna, and Deathwish should each get a potion, too. That leaves two potions. How about giving them to whomever is still injured after drinking their own potion?”  

It is at this point he spots tell-tale pockets in Sasha’s robe, revealing her vocation. He straightens and says, “I welcome another Mage to our ranks – even a stranger. I know Elves are all Enchanters and Enchantresses, but perhaps we can still teach spells to one another?”

“I’ll pass on the healing potions. Give it to one of the Fighters who experience battle more often than me,” SeLiem says. “Give the remaining two potions to those who are usually in the front and back in a line formation. The last one we’ll save until needed. If possible, I’d rather split the coins with you, Rastorn.”

“Fine,” Rastorn grumbles.

Sasha smiles and takes a potion. It seems to her that few in the group show any sign of trust in her, which suits her fine. Listening to the group and watching their interactions, she realizes she can scarcely trust any of them, either.

Arianna, disappointed over not finding any secret doors, sighs in defeat, and downs a potion. 

“So, what’s next? Four of us have these nifty new gloves. Yet, we don’t even know what they are. I think Rastorn or our new companion should see if they can find out anything about them. For all we know, they’re magical beacons for really big nasty things.”

Raven picks up one of the potions and uncorks it. Raising the vial a bit, she says, “Here’s to my health. I hope.” 

She drinks the whole thing, then looks at Sasha again. 

“I’m Raven. If you’re a Magic-User, did you just Teleport in here or were you trapped as well?” 

Sasha ponders Raven’s question. “You were trapped here?” A smile crosses her face, as if she just understood something. “Well, if I’m a Magic-User, I might’ve teleported here or possibly I was trapped or maybe some combination of the two.” She smiles.

Raven slowly shakes her head, unsure what Sasha means.

Arianna crawls into the next section of cramped tunnels, stopping when she hears conversations continuing.

Rastorn squats down at the little door, looks in, and says to Arianna, “I have another Onif’s Identify scroll to use, but we could use this room to test the gloves out, if you want to crawl back inside. It’s up to you.”

Melias let the matter with Deathwish and Claire drop. Though he likes to argue, he never did like to argue for long. This was why he never brought up the matter of Arianna shooting SeLiem after they both seemed to have forgotten the matter. It was best left in the haze of forgetfulness. He takes off his gloves and hands them to Rastorn, then drinks his potion, hoping Rastorn was right about it being a Potion of Extra Healing. As Rastorn works to identify the items, Melias moves next to Claire and speaks with her quietly.

“Rastorn’s right. It’s wrong of me to put you on the spot like that. I’ve done it far too many times, with everyone it seems at one time or another.” He sighs, then continues, “Look, I don’t like being bitchy all the time – really. But, we’re in this together. We have to stop being so self-serving, even if it goes against our very nature. I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to walk away from the whole mess of things myself. But, it’s bigger than you or me, this thing that we do. The very fate of the world and all we hold dear rely on our success in this mission, right? So, I know it’s probably not high on your list of things to do, but if you would please try to have some manners when dealing with the others in the party, I personally would appreciate it.”

“I can try, Claire says, barely inaudibly. Melias has always frightened her.

Raven leans back slightly and listens to the exchange. She had agreed to put up with the group’s eccentricities and bickering, but she hadn’t known it was this serious. Half of them seem ready to kill the other half. She decides to try to keep on everyone’s good side. The potion takes effect and her arm, shoulder, hip, and knee grow new skin, as the fractures and bruises heal completely. She’s still skin and bones, but feels much better. 

“Well, I think I’ll go check out that tunnel.” 

She crawls into the new tunnel, carefully checking for traps.

Kafeera looks at the owl statuette as she drinks her potion, pretending it’s ale, while she waits for everyone to vent their obvious frustrations. She’s in no hurry to return to the confines of the narrow tunnels.  

Claire is still barely audible. “Yeah, that new passage looks good,” she says, following Raven.

Kafeera notices carvings on the bottom of the owl statuette. She thinks it’s a word, but not in Common.

With the items lined up and prepared, Rastorn pulls out his scroll of Onif’s Improved Identify, but when he sees Claire enter the tunnel, he puts it away. 

“Alright, I guess I’ll hold off on using this. I thought people would want to know what they had, but I guess not.”  

Claire returns and hands her unidentified items to Rastorn, wordlessly, then avoiding the eyes of everyone as she scurries into a corner.

SeLiem smiles a very small smile, then tries to whisper something in Deathwish’s ear, but Deathwish doesn’t listen. He walks away, before SeLiem can say anything to him.

Removing her gauntlets, Arianna crawls out of the tunnel and hands them to Rastorn. 

“Just wait until I get my manhood back. All this confusion and the passive, yet aggressive, stuff will stop. Maybe I’ll once again feel like an important part of the group and not some by-stander. Arturus will be back and back in full swing. It’ll be good to be myself again,” Arianna says, without fully realizing she is saying it out loud. 

She walks to Melias and says, “You know, when we get out of this keep, I’m going to see if I can find someone to help me train in fighting the Undead. I’ve developed a hatred for them that is unsurpassed by any battle rage I’ve felt in my life.”

Raven crawls slowly down the tunnel, stopping every few feet to check for traps. She refrains from having anything identified, since she thinks she has no magical items she doesn’t already know about.

Pulling the scroll back out, Rastorn nods to Melias, then sets Melias’ gloves down on the floor of the treasure room. He organizes the items in a line, after asking what order the group decides. Since even this advanced version of an Identify spell has limits, he may not be able to learn the powers of the later magic items. 

In the tunnel, Raven has moved twenty feet, discovering no traps. Ahead, she can see a ten foot long smokeless flaming pit blocking the path. Holding out her palms, she can feel the heat, already. With the low ceiling, jumping the pit will be impossible. Beyond the pit is a downward vent and yet another at the end of the tunnel. She looks back and sees Sasha has crawled in behind her.

Melias nods to Arianna. “I’ve got a few new hatreds of my own to work through.” He glances toward the tunnel and asks the others within the room, “So what about that new girl, Sasha? Hey, I like a bit of mystery in a girl, sure, just like the next guy, but this really isn’t the time or place to hide secrets from the rest of us. We should find out what she’s doing here, if it isn’t against her will. She could be an ally with The Eight. And if so, we’re in some serious trouble.”

“I don’t think so. She’s too secretive,” Claire says, raising her voice a little above its previous volume, so that people could actually hear her. “Besides, The Eight wouldn’t hide their presence. They’re too powerful, so they wouldn’t have to pretend they were someone else. I’ve got a sneaking suspicion she might be that other hateful bitch you all talk about. The one worse than me.”

“Evenliir, that ‘hateful bitch’?” Arianna asks, to make sure Claire is referring to who she thinks. “I don’t know about hateful . . .” says with a slight look of fondness. “Evil – yes – but someone that good in be-” She doesn’t complete the thought. “Nevermind, hateful will work, too.”

Claire’s eyes light up and she giggles to herself. When she finally gains control of it, she sighs, “Sorry, I don’t know what came over me.”

Arianna liked Claire’s giggle and still thought she was very pretty. She steps back to get a better look at Claire’s body and thinks, too bad I cannot get that feeling for her that I’d normally have. Hopefully, when I have this sex changing Curse reversed and become normal again, she might have an interest. Hopefully.

“Neither are Evenliir, Rastorn checked,” Melias tells them. “I suppose there’s no reason to be suspicious – aside from the fact that we’re in the midst of a hateful dungeon with traps everywhere we turn and everything wanting to kill us, and this girl just suddenly appears and plays guessing games about her purpose. Yeah, you’re right, I’m sure there’s nothing to worry about.”

“Where is she, anyway?” Claire, who did not realize Melias was being sarcastic, asks. “Wasn’t Sasha here a moment ago?”

Raven backs slowly out of the tunnel, asking Sasha to back out as well. Once back in the room, she waves everyone into a circle and describes what she saw in the tunnel.

Continuing to ignore the tension in the room, chalking it all up to nerves, Kafeera keeps her eye on the ceramic owl and her axe as Rastorn casts his high level Identify spell on them, after he is finished listening to Raven.

The party retrieves their treasures, after Rastorn reveals the powers and purpose of almost everything in the row of magical items.

Raven looks wistfully at Melias’ and Claire’s gloves upon hearing what they are. Then she shrugs and leans against the wall. 

“I think the tunnel is trapfree from here to the flaming pit. At least I didn’t find any and didn’t trigger any. We’ll need to put out the flames to cross it, though, either with water, smothering it, or with magic, I guess. It might be a magical fire, of course, since it’s smokeless.”

“I’ll take the middle spot in the tunnel,” Rastorn says, as he pockets his ring again, without ever telling the party what he had learned about it.

“Thanks, Rastorn,” Melias says. “Gauntlets of Swimming and Climbing, huh? I could have used that in the shafts.”

Turning his attention now to the tunnel, and paying no attention to the fact there is a magical Ring of Protection left unclaimed, Melias asks Raven, “What do you mean by ‘smokeless’? Are you sure it isn’t an illusion? I don’t think we have anything to smother it with. Maybe there’s some sort of switch to turn it off?”

“I don’t think it’s an illusion, I could feel the heat from it many feet away. There could be a switch, I guess. I didn’t think to look for one. I can go back inside and search, while the rest of you try to come up with some other way of putting it out.” She starts crawling back into the tunnel.

Puzzled over what Rastorn told her about the Owl and envious of Death Wish and Claire’s gloves, she says to Rastorn, as she shakes the statuette slightly, “Uh, and what’s it supposed to do?”

“I could probably check for you,” Claire tells Raven. “My new magic gem would probably work on that. Very slowly, but still.”

Rastorn holds his hand up, with his palm facing Kafeera and peeks around her toward Raven, saying, “Raven, my dear, perhaps you should take Melias and Claire with you. Melias is excellent at disarming traps and Claire could be useful, too.” Then he sets his hand on Kafeera’s stooped shoulder and says, “Sorry, I just wanted to make sure our newest member is properly assisted. You were asking about the Serpentine Owl, I believe . . . well, if – in a commanding voice – you say the magic carved on the base, the statue, as I said, will turn into a real, live owl, that will do your bidding. Like having a servant or a henchman. It will even battle for you, if so directed, but instead of dying it will return to its original form and heal for a few days. Wonderous tool. Most people use them as scouts or extra combatants or pets.”

The party is not overly surprised when the Wizardess they freed quietly heads back the way they had come. Caught up in their own conversations, they have no time to even speak to her.

Arianna shrugs, “Easy come, easy go. I just wish I knew how the hell she got out of here.” She begins looking for secret doors on the wall where Sasha had first appeared.

Melias chuckles and says, “I’d love to see Sasha hit that shaft. Maybe we should forewarn her?”

Raven crawls back into the room and nods at Rastorn. “Sure, allright. The more the merrier.” 

She smiles at Melias and Claire and asks, “Who wants to go first?”

Melias shrugs and turns his attention to Raven instead of Sasha. “Yeah, I can disarm a trap or two, but smokeless fire? Seems to me it might be an illusion. If Claire’s gem will help determine that, then we’re good to go. Let’s see what we can see, so to speak.”

“I’ll go in whenever,” Claire says, “I’m not really concerned about order.” 

“Well, then I suggest Melias goes first, checking for traps. In case I missed any. Then Claire, so she can look at the fire through the crystal, if I understand correctly, then me, to . . . well, I’m not really sure what I’d do that I haven’t already, but I guess I can look for a switch? And, yes, I think it might be magical, or it would probably have gone out by now. A normal fire wouldn’t burn forever. Unless someone just lit it, which means we’re not alone.

Spotting Kafeera looking at the Ring of Protection, Rastorn picks it up, flips it in the air, catches it, then hands it to her, with a slight bow of his head.  

“Remember my generosity, young lady,” he says, with a wink. “You can quit calling me ‘Pepper’, too.”

To be continued . . .

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