Rogue’s Gauntlet VIII
Rogue’s Gauntlet, Part Eight
None of her companions are around to hear Raven scream as the spear pierces her upper arm. Her grip loosens and she imagines herself falling. She winces, then tightens her grip. Clinging to the wall with her left hand, she digs out the Potion of Extra Healing in her sack with her right. After emptying two thirds of it, she tries to calculate the distance to the bottom of the shaft. Perhaps it would be safer to let herself fall and try to land on her feet. She studies the distance between the holes, as the spears slowly retreat back into the wall. Given her agility and skills, Raven realizes the twenty foot drop would likely harm her little – certainly less than the spears. She believes she can trigger each spear one at a time beneath her and use them as a ladder as they move back into their holes. She will need to be quick and careful if she follows this plan. She wonders how the others are faring.
Melias retrieves his coin with Continual Light cast on it and flips it twice on his thumb, then flicks it mid-air with the index finger of his other hand, sending it down the slide, as Claire requested.
Claire watches the glowing coin bounce down the angled chute. It moves faster than expected, perhaps due to the slickness of the stone, but her eyes can follow it. At the bottom, she sees a pit of spikes, but the tunnel continues forward, possibly leading to another room or tunnel. The ceiling of the sliding tunnel has something else which catches her attention. A loop hangs down right before the end. A skilled acrobat, or someone simply lucky, could slide down and grab the ring at the last second to avoid landing on the spikes. Then again, if they are tall and sitting upright on their way down, the ring might decapitate them.
Rastorn asks to be pulled up even further and hollers to Kafeera, “The trap is gone, dear! The fire is gone and it is safe, but you must hurry before the Spider Climb wears off! You must come now!”
When he doesn’t hear a quick response, he yells, “This leads to a much more spacious area and I think Raven located a stash of whiskey!”
He hears her crawling toward him. “The fire,” he whispers.
She carefully approaches the first pit and peers into it. After checking that the Spider Climb spell is still activated, she rushes along the wall to the other side. When she reaches Rastorn she asks, “So, where is she?”
Rastorn seems genuinely happy to see Kafeera, then a bit nervous when he answers her, “Oh, Raven? She’s gotten herself trapped, but we are trying to reach her. If you heard me, I think she found a ‘stash with a key’. Then again, she was shouting through a wall, so we could have misheard her. Anyhow, let’s figure out if we are trying to get to her through the fire or down the slide.”
As soon as the potion takes full effect, Raven pushes off from the wall and drops. The spears jet out in succession above her as she falls, each one just barely missing her. The final spear is too high to hit her, when she stands after landing in a three-point stance.
Raven looks into the exit (now in front of her) and sees it is completely dark ten feet in. It is a magical Darkness her nightvision cannot penetrate.
“Alright, which is it? Do we continue to try to reach Raven through the door and the flames beyond them or do we figure out a way to safely negotiate the slide?” Rastorn asks the group.
Claire is feeling limber. “Unless anyone objects or wants to go instead, I’m going to take my chances with the slide. I figure that if I grab onto the ring there right before the spikes, I’ll be able to make it. Oh, and Melias, I’ll get your coin off the bottom.” She sits down on the edge and waits for any objections. Of course, she might not follow them, being Claire, but it is always good to hear a second opinion.
“Don’t worry about the coin, Claire, unless it can be retrieved easily. No sense in risking your neck over a shiny copper piece,” Melias remarks, as he peers down the tunnel to see the ring she mentioned. “It seemed like that coin picked up a lot of speed. What you’re suggesting might be more challenging than you expect. If you want to try, be careful.”
He calls Raven through the walls, hoping she can still hear him. “Raven, we are trying the slide! Meet you at the bottom, I hope!”
She hears none of this.
Kafeera looks puzzled. “Key? Dragoone Dung! Uh, I’m for the slide. Can’t we just fasten a rope up here somewhere? Better yet, can’t Rastorn magic up something to slow us down?” She shrugs. “Either way, I’m going down the slide.”
Knowing Claire well enough, Rastorn climbs out of the pit and pulls the rope from around his waist saying, “I don’t think I have any magic that would help. Someone, loop this over her before she slides – it is already anchored.”
The group is incredibly crowded in the small space between the last two shafts, but they easily hand the rope forward and toss it over the Bard.
Claire pushes off and slides down at breakneck speed. She quickly loses control of her descent and falls back, slamming her head. She misses the ring, but the group grabs the rope just in time. She groggily looks around and realizes she is dangling over the spikes.
Deathwish grabs the rope and yanks it with great strength. The rope leaps up in a wave that eventually pulls Claire past the slide and toward the ring. This time she grabs ahold of the ring and hangs on. She can see a slightly lower loop ahead. Kicking out her legs, she swings twice, then hooks her legs on the second loop.
Deathwish realizes she is no longer hanging from just her arms and gives her more slack.
Claire pulls with her legs and gracefully reaches the second loop with her hands. Pulling herself from an upside down position, she sits on the second loop and surveys the situation. The sharp spikes are beneath her and the floor they rise from ends just a short distance past her. The path forward continues upward, on an easily climbed angle. She stands on the loop and leans forward reaching for the rough ramp. Pulling herself onto the ramp, she finds it is easy to walk up, as long as she stays crouched and uses her hands if her balance fails. Further up, it becomes more steep, until it is nearly a straight vertical climb, but there is an exit at the top. She halts and contemplates what to do.
Raven contemplates the impenetrable darkness within the tunnel for a few moments, then decides to take a break. She sits down and eats some of the food Melias gave her. Perhaps the others will come through this tunnel. Retrieving the gems she found, she admires them while pondering whether she should try crawling into the darkness.
“Um, maybe we should try that door again?” Rastorn suggests.
“Sorry, Rastorn, I must be too weak to do it. It must be because I have boobs now, not testicles, because even with these Gauntlets of Ogre Power I now wear, I’m not strong enough,” Arianna says. “Let me know when there is something to slaughter, since that is apparently the only thing I am good for.”
Shaking his head, Melias looks at Arianna and says, “I know whoever opens that door is going to be engulfed in flames. Not really my idea of a good time. So, I think we should head down the slide and hope to meet up with Raven later.”
He shouts down to Claire, “Is it ok for someone else to give it a shot now? Are you out of the way?”
“It should be fine for someone else to go now,” Claire calls back. “I’m at the bottom of some sort of shaft! Watch the spikes, though!”
Handing the rope to Kafeera, Melias tells her, “Try to climb down hand over hand. I hope it works. When you get close to the ring, grab it. If you lose your grip on the rope, keep your head low – lest you lose it on the ring below.”
He picked her to go next, since he wants to keep her moving forward. If she stops, it might not be so easy to get her started again. He intends on following Kafeera, once she is out of the way.
Raven puts the gems back in her belt pouch and peers into the dark tunnel. She decides to wait a little longer to see if the others can reach her. It would be risky to try the darkness alone, there could be traps she can’t see and all sorts of nastiness. She shouts into the tunnel, hoping it connects to wherever the rest of the group is. “Hello! Can you hear me?”
Raven hears no reply, but she does hear an odd echo. She frowns, “Now that doesn’t sound too good.”
Kafeera takes the rope, anxious to be out, and starts down the slide, as instructed.
Claire climbs up to the top of the ramp and peeks over the ridge. There is only enough space on the top for her to stand, as the space opens up to a roughly twenty foot wide chasm with smooth walls, thirty feet across. The bottom is more than fifty feet down and is filled with tall, sharp-looking spikes. The ceiling is ten feet from the top of the ramp and she can see a dark tunnel on the opposite side. There are three metal rings hanging five feet apart on chains hooked to the ceiling. The obvious conclusion is Claire will have to swing from one ring to the next to get to the tunnel beyond. Of course, there could be other – less obvious – paths.
Several tests convince Raven the area beyond the darkness is not shaped like a normal hall, since it distorts her voice.
Kafeera makes it to the bottom of the slide, grabs the ring and pulls herself to the second ring. Her height makes up for her lack of dexterity. She climbs the ramp, but stops when she gets to the really steep section.
Melias follows and reaches her in extremely quick fashion.
Next, SeLiem goes down the slide and back up the ramp, where he joins Kafeera.
They watch Melias climb up to meet Claire.
Deathwish and Rastorn go next, without issue.
Arianna is last to go and by the time she gets caught up to everyone else, Melias and Claire have set up a rope to the top and are explaining what they discovered.
Rastorn asks, “So, do we just leave that other rope on the slide or is someone going back for it?”
“I think we should leave the rope be, Rastorn. After all, we may have to backtrack. It would be impossible to do so without the rope,” Melias answers. He looks at Claire and asks her, “What’s our next trick in this underground circus, Green Bard?”
“Hold on a moment,” Claire says, reaching into her pocket. Holding her Gem of Seeing to her eye, she looks through it at the scene beyond.
She tells him, “I want to make sure those rings are the only way across.”
In the mid-point of the gulf, on the wall to the right, she sees three small holes camouflaged by sections of wall that are illusions. Each hole is one foot square. Peering out the middle hole is a strange creature she’s never before encountered. It is off-white in color, with a very nondescript face.
Claire passes the gem to Melias and whispers to him, “We’re being spied upon. Take a look. Out in the middle.” Placing her hand on her chest, she feels her heartbeat quicken.
The wall must be very thin there, since Melias can see a room beyond the holes.
Raven whistles through the tunnel, then listens for an answer.
Raven hears her same whistle, but it echoes oddly – as if coming from below her.
“Damn,” Melias says, handing the gem back. “I didn’t see anything looking, but there could be anything in those rooms beyond the holes. I’ll bet they’re just waiting to pepper us with arrows, as we’re reaching from one rung to the next.”
He looks down the ramp, where Rastorn and SeLiem wait, and asks, “Don’t either of you have some sort of spell that can distract whomever or whatever is over there? We need to buy time as some of us head over.”
“I could toss a Stinking Cloud their way or wait with Magic Missiles,” Rastorn offers.
Arianna readies her new bow and smiles. Now that she doesn’t have to worry about wasting arrows, she can fire off her bow as often as needed. She climbs the ramp and tells them, “You go on, I’ve got this.” She mocks pulling the bowstring and aims at the far wall. As she does, a magical arrow appears notched on the bow and the wall seems far closer.
Raven crawls cautiously into the blackness, her fingers brushing lightly against the floor, walls and ceiling in front of her, searching for traps. She stops for a moment to draw her dagger, placing the blade between her teeth so she’ll be ready if anything unpleasant jumps at her.
Claire climbs up and makes a go at the first ring.
Raven feels her way through the darkness and discovers it only covers fifteen feet. The hallway continues on after that and there is a pit another ten feet beyond the Darkness. The pit is ten feet across and on the other side is another ten feet ending in more Darkness. Looking down the pit, she sees it leads down thirty feet and water travels swiftly along the bottom.
Claire jumps out to the first ring and grips it. Swinging her feet, she is able to reach the second ring. The third is grabbed fairly easily, too, but her arms are already tired and she realizes that if she falls, she will land in the midst of many, many sharp spikes. When she lands on solid ground again, she has to jerk herself into an upright position or risk falling backward into the pit. Standing on the ledge, she discovers she has little space left and the tunnel is shrouded in magical Darkness. She will be traveling blind if she continues, but there is no room for a second person if she stays put.
Raven looks across the pit, trying to figure a way to cross it. Glad she had recovered her grappling hook, she takes it and fastens it on the edge of the side she’s on. Carefully, she lowers herself down the rope, towards the water, hoping she can climb up the other side. Reaching the bottom, she notes the shaft ends about two feet above the water. The water is flowing very swiftly in the tunnel below. If she enters the water, it could pull her under the wall she climbed down and away from the direction she intends to go. Without entering the water, though, there is no way for her to easily see where the water leads and from where it originates.
Melias climbs down, allowing room for both Arianna and Rastorn up top.
He says, “Too bad I left that copper coin at the bottom of those spikes behind us. The Continual Light spell should negate the Darkness beside Claire. Can anyone reach it?”
Kafeera wipes her sweat beaded brow on her sleeved arm and asks, seemingly agitated and distracted, “Where’d you toss it?”
“It slid down the slide, landing in the pit of spikes behind you,” Melias says pointing. “Maybe I should try to climb down and get it?”
He steps closer and looks down into the spike pit.
“Incidentally, I didn’t mean anything I said earlier. You’re no coward. I’m sorry if I said something painful. I was just trying to motivate you, ya know?”
Without looking at Melias, Kafeera replies,”No, you were right. I am a coward. And if there should come a time that it is necessary, you may forge ahead without me – guilt free.”
Turning to look the Elf in the eye, she says, with her goofy grin and unmasked raised eyebrow, “Besides, we can’t have the dead roamin’ around up there drinkin’ up all my ale! I won’t stand for it!”
She laughs her loud silly laugh, not quite as heartily as it has been, but it is an honest effort and an obvious attempt to let Melias know there are no hard feelings.
In a more serious tone she adds, “So, you want me to grab you by yer ankles and lower ya down there after that coin?”
Melias had not thought of that option. Impressed, he nods and does a handstand, so she can grab his ankles.
Kafeera lowers Melias in among the spikes and he is able to snatch his glowing coin. A less agile person might not be able to so easily avoid injury, but Melias has skill beyond the norm. Coin in hand, Melias returns to the top of the ramp.
Raven mutters to herself, “Well then, girl, here to next? Up to get spiked or down to drown?”
She ponders for a moment, then climbs back up. On the ledge, she rolls up her grappling hook and tries to toss it over the pit, in an attempt to snag the other ledge so she can jump and hopefully hang on to the opposite wall, then climb up to the tunnel. After a few misses with the hook, her plan works and she is on the opposite ledge peering into the Darkness.
Melias holds the glowing coin and contemplates how best to get it to Claire.
Rastorn comments, “Well, they didn’t attack her. Maybe they are just observers?” Then he asks the obvious question, “Who’s next?”
After thanking Kafeera for her skillful Elf dunking, Melias turns and whips the coin into the darkened area beyond Claire. He doesn’t know how magic works, but he knows light eliminates darkness. All he had to do was get it within the area of effect.
Claire snatches the coin out of the air and takes half a step into the Darkness. As the Darkness is removed, she can see a pit two steps in. It goes way, way down and she can hear what sounds like water rushing at the bottom.
Raven crawls into the darkness once again, feeling her way with care. Soon, she feels the hall end at a wall. When she touches the wall, she is suddenly somewhere else. The Darkness is gone, so she surveys her new environment.
She is back within the final cell on the last level!
To be continued . . .
To be continued . . .
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