The Realms: A World Apart

Rogue’s Gauntlet IX

Rogue’s Gauntlet, Part Nine


Raven’s fists unclench, as she notices the door to the cell is open. She steps out of the cell and looks for tell-tale signs that would prove these cells are not the same ones she and the party traveled through on their way to the Rogue’s Gauntlet. She sees no such clues. Yes, a table and other items have been moved around and the cells are open now and she had left them locked, but all of that was doubtlessly done by the party when they followed the same path as she. Walking back to the end of the cells, she looks up at the secret tunnel opening and wonders how she will traverse the gravity traps.

“Well, that’s inconvenient,” she sighs. “And fresh out of flight potions, too.”

She opens the sack of loot she had gotten from the small compartment earlier and digs through it. Smiling, she pulls the wand out of the bag and looks at it thoughtfully. After waving it about, she points it at a brick and says, “Fly!”

Either the brick does not hear her or it is being stubborn, for nothing happens.

“Yes, a Potion of Flying would be helpful,” she tells the brick, which continues to ignore her.

Such a potion would be helpful, just as the Potion of Extra-Healing she had recently downed had been.

The rest of the group doesn’t need a Potion of Extra-Healing, because at that moment SeLiem is healing those in need with various Priestly spells, as they prepare to cross the rings.

Melias leaps to the first ring. The dangerous act is child’s play to the agile Elf. 

Rastorn shouts to him, “Do you think you could string a rope with you, or something, because I – for one – am not strong nor dexterous enough to cross! I am not part monkey, as you two seem to be!”

The first ‘monkey’ to cross was Claire, who is now checking a pit on the other side. 

“Hello?” Claire calls, tentatively.

She hears her voice echo. 

This pit is the deepest yet – sixty feet, at the very least. She leans down and hears the gurgle of flowing water at the bottom.

“I’m thinking of jumping down into a pit! There’s water at the bottom, it sounds like,” Claire calls to Melias. “I can’t see the bottom, though!”

She checks the walls and sees they are not completely smooth. There are some natural foot and hand holds, but it will be difficult to climb down for any unskilled climber. The shaft, the ramp, and this pit she believes were carved out of the rock, but the wall with the three holes was man made. That may be a mystery to contemplate, but she shrugs it off and focuses on how she might safely descend the pit. 

Raven has her own mystery to solve. Pointing the wand in various directions, she waves it around, and says various Command Words she had heard used before. When that doesn’t work, she takes a closer look at it and notes an Elven word etched along its length. Unlearned in any written languages, she is at a loss.

……

“Weee, shooting arrows is fun!” Arianna cheers, as she sends a steady barrage of her endless supply of arrows at the man-made wall.

Kafeera queries, “Anyone got a rope? Let’s secure it to either side, so we can all cross more safely. I’m not in the mood to be skewered today.”

Melias holds his hand out for the end of a rope, and once he has it he secures it firmly between his teeth as he negotiates the rings.

As he closes in on her he asks, “You got a deathwish? Oh yeah, that’s right – you do. But I wouldn’t suggest jumping into that pit. That water at the bottom might only be a few inches deep, then what?”  

Once across, he stands holding the end of the rope and glancing about, asking, “Where should we tie this off? Didn’t you say you saw something in those holes looking at us?”

“What about climbing into the pit?” Claire asks, “Is that okay?”

He looks down the pit, admiring the smooth walls for a moment, then shrugs and says, “I hope you can climb well.” He steps onto the end of the rope, removes his gloves, and hands them to Claire. “If you’re going to be climbing that pit, you might want to put these to work for you. It’ll give you an edge.”

“What’s happening with the rope?” she asks.

“We’ve got to tie it to something or hold it tight while the others cross. It can serve as an anchor about their waist in case someone slips from the rings. It would be better to come swinging  down against the side of the pit than down against the spikes at the bottom. The people on the other side can hold the other end and try to lessen the impact against the side of the pit with tension from the far side of the rope.”

“Okay, I guess I can do this without the rope,” she replies, as she slides into a sitting position.

Melias spots a hook-shaped section of rock a foot into the final pit. The rope could be tied to it, but could still slip off – if jostled. 

Claire hands Melias her Gem of Seeing, then looks back down the pit and decides to wait for the rope and the rest of the party to reach them. She remembers her first act of public lewdness, after which her mother told her, “wait for a larger audience.”

..….

Raven returns to the point where she emerged in the cells, to see if it’s possible to get back to the dark tunnel. Discovering her Teleportation was a one way trip, she changes tactics. She searches for a long piece of wood and locates the seat of a bench, which she ties to her back. When she activates the gravity traps, she believes the plank will keep her from falling up the shafts. Soon, she is crawling through the tunnels and is back to the first gravity trap. The wood is just short enough to get around corners, but looking at the width of her board and the shaft she realizes her board is barely wide enough to catch both edges of the shaft and stop her fall. If she is swiftly swept upwards, the board will have to land perfectly each time.

……


“Alright, folks,” Melias says, waving them forward, “tie the rope on your end around your waist.  Make sure you leave a lot of slack behind you so the others can hold onto it. Then climb across the bars. If you slip, we’ve got you tied off so you won’t get hurt. Let’s get across this quickly.”

“Claire,” he says, looking over his shoulder, “care to give me a hand on this end? Just grab the rope and help me in case someone falls.”

Claire frowns, as if she was about to ask, “why would I do that?” then nods and grabs the rope.

Deathwish travels across first and has little trouble.  

Rastorn follows, bitching all the way.

That leaves SeLiem to go next, since Arianna and Kafeera want to go last.

SeLiem, muttering a few prayers to his god for protection, makes it safely across.

That leaves Arianna and Kafeera.

Arianna looks at Kafeera and says, “Well you’re next. I stated earlier I’d cover everyone . . . and that includes you.”

Kafeera crosses without argument nor complaint.  

On the other side, space is running out. With the addition of Kafeera, the group has to take care not to accidentally bump one another off the ledge.

Claire loops the rope over the hook on the pit and climbs down, as Melias puts his gloves back on.

……

Raven uses her dexterity and skills to cross each of the reverse gravity traps. At the first one, she discovers it is easier for her to put the board in place first, then slide along it, face up.  By the third trap, she has the technique down. She walks right through the treasure room without issue and reaches the first pit, which no longer has any fire at the bottom of it, very soon after that. She thinks through which route to take from there. The group hadn’t come after her, since she did not hear any attempts at crossing the fire, so she decides to go to the next pit and the slide, ready to face some new and exciting danger. She sets the board down and crawls across the first and second pit. When she gets to the slide, she discovers a rope is already hanging there and makes a controlled slide down to the ring. It would be impossible to fit the board through the bottom of the slide, so she leaves it at the top. She is making great time, as she climbs up the ramp to the doorway that leads to the large spiked pit.

Raven reaches the top of the ramp, just as Arianna has reached the opposite side of the pit. She jumps to the first ring, startling the rest of the group with her sudden appearance. 

“Raven . . . we were trying to reach you. Thank the Nine Gods you are still alive,” Rastorn tells her, as she easily swings to the second ring. He whispers to Claire, “Quickly, Claire, toss your Gem of Seeing up to me, so I can look at her and make certain she is indeed our lost fellow traveler!”

She, instead, climbs back up and hands it to him. 

As Rastorn verifies Raven’s identity, Deathwish prepares a spike to hammer into the hook-shaped outcropping, to further secure the top of the rope.

The gem returned to her, Claire works her way down, cursing once for every time Deathwish strikes the spike with his hammer.

Upon her arrival, Raven grins. “Well, if you were looking for me, you were going the wrong way. By the way, I’ve got a present for you.” She hands the wand to Rastorn.

Although embarrassed at the truth of her statement, he is still somewhat suspicious as he accepts the wand she offers, which he then holds up to Melias’ light rock to study. “That’s odd,” he says, “the inscription says the Elven word meaning ‘to make no longer burning’.” He hands it back to Raven and instructs her to point it toward the middle of the pit they had just crossed and to say the word when his Cantrip causes a tiny fire on the middle ring. 

Although she could not read it, Raven knew the word ‘Aniflambe’.  

Raven points the wand at the flame, uttering the Elven word.

A white, foamy material jets out of the tip of the wand and extinguishes the flame.

“Where was that when we had that pit of fire to contend with?” Melias asks. He pats Raven’s arm and says, “I am sorry we had to leave you behind like that. The mission at hand is too important to risk many of our lives to save one. If I am trapped in a situation that’s too risky to free me, then I hope you would all proceed with the quest. When weighing the value of my life against the prevention of another Undead War, well, there’s no comparison. I was, however, trying to be optimistic that you would find your way out and meet up with us up ahead.”

He points at the wall with the holes and advises Raven, “There are three holes there, about a foot diameter each, covered with some sort of Illusion. Claire said she saw someone therein and since they aren’t attacking us at this moment, I can only assume it was some sort of watch-guard. The path ahead is uncertain, but the dangers we shall face will probably be greater than what we’ve faced thus far.” 

Raven considers how useful the wand would have been when she was trapped behind fire and bemoans the fact she was never allowed to learn how to read. Pity I can’t read.

“Oh, well,” she says, “I found another way out and got teleported back to the cells. You should know, I didn’t really expect you to come to my rescue, after all, we just met. Anyhow, what’s this mission you’re talking about? I thought you were here for the treasure.”

Melias responds, “Prophesies, mostly. We have to obtain a cube of some sort to prevent what has been foreseen, which isn’t good. Have you ever heard of The Eight?”

“Of course I’ve heard of The Eight,” Raven answers, raising an eyebrow.

“I suspect The Eight are here somewhere and intend on stopping us from doing what we came here to do. So, you might want to be ready for that.”

Arianna says, “I can’t wait to meet The Eight, personally. Because, whether we win against them or lose, it’ll hopefully mean we’ll be out of this damn place. We’ll have what we came for and we can get back to open air and blue skies and find a town where we can have a real meal and for the love of Kurosaw – get a hot bath! I say we quit stalling, find these eight bastards and kill them and find our way out of here! Let’s go!” By the time her speech comes to an end, Arianna is shaking with excitement. 

“Here! Here! and a barrel of ale!” Kafeera shouts.

Below, Claire examines the water by the light of the coin from the half-way point, in case anything nasty lay in ambush beneath the surface. She recoils, when two arrows strike the water.

“If there’s anything in there, I’m sure we’re about to find out,” Arianna says, as she readies a third arrow and steps back.

When the water and her anger at Arianna settle, she continues her ascent, then abruptly disappears. 

She reappears twenty feet up from where she disappeared. While falling, she flails and once more grasps the rope, jerking her to a halt. The rope was unaffected by the seemingly random Teleport.

The group watches in silent shock, until SeLiem says, “Um, how can I phrase this? Is every part of this place in some way trapped?”

Raven softly answers SeLiem, “Yes, I think every part of this place is trapped.”

“Orc shit!” Kafeera mutters then continues, “What about the spike pit behind us? Can one of you scrawny Elves slip down there and take a look? Maybe we’re missin’ somethin’ there?” Pointing to her head, she turns to face Rastorn and asks, “Hey Pep- Rastorn – can this owl critter fly down there and look about and tell me what it sees?”

“Good idea, Kaf!” Rastorn answers.

Kafeera smiles and says, “I am gettin’ pretty good at dunkin’ you Elves, so who’s it gonna be this time? Though maybe just to be safe and a better reach, we should tie the rope to ya?” Then, with a furrowed brow, she continues, “Or were you referring to the owl? It could look at them holes there, too, if Claire’d tell ‘em where they’re at.”

“Claire’s already halfway down the pit for the second time, but perhaps Illusions don’t work for animals. I never studied the weaker arts like Illusion, so I’m not certain. I was referring to the idea about the owl, of course,” Rastorn answers. “It could certainly study the floor of both of these pits, though. Getting Teleported around won’t affect a flying creature as much as one of us. Just call it and tell it what to do.”

Claire is unsure if the Teleport was a one time trap, a recurring trap, or just a random occurrence. The question now was: should she climb down the same distance and risk not catching the rope if she is Teleported again? She pulls out a copper piece and tosses it down. It drops to the water without hindrance.

Kafeera takes the owl statuette out of her backpack. Holding it in front of her she says, “Uh . . . Aguilla?”

Rastorn interrupts, “No, no! You have to command the owl. Set it down and order it to come to life.”

Shrugging, Karfeera places the owl on the ground and says, “I order you to come to life!”

“Say it’s name in a commanding voice,” the Necromancer urges.

Kafeera clears her throat and in her most authoritative voice commands, “Aguilla!”

The Elves note the slight mispronunciation of the Elven word, yet it still works. The statuette glows softly, then grows into a full-sized, living owl. Rastorn’s eyes glitter as he anxiously directs the young Fighter to, “Tell it what to do.” 

Kafeera looks at the owl, her head tilting left then right as she examines it. She again clears her throat and says with notable uncertainty, “Uh, greetings, maybe you could use a stretch? Care to fly about and see what you can spy in those areas yonder?” She gestures toward the illusioned wall and pit with a slight nod of her head in their direction. Then she looks at Rastorn for confirmation of the appropriateness of her actions regarding the owl.

Rastorn smiles in response.

This chapter to be concluded next week

To be continued . . .

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