The Realms: A World Apart

Rogue’s Gauntlet X

Rogue’s Gauntlet, Part Ten

Melias sits dangling his legs off the edge of the pit as he ponders their predicament. He wonders what this Cube of Power they are so determined to get even does and if its power will prove too much of a temptation. Should they trust those who set them out on this dangerous task or should they risk something even more foolhardy and attempt to return The Cube to Lord Darkoth, from whom it was stolen? After all, the prophecy is to be fulfilled after The Cube is out of Lord Darkoth’s possession. That appears a simple way to put a damper on the Undead War prophecy. The only real question, in that event, would be the fate of those who so boldly tried to return The Cube to its rightful protector. Was Darkoth as Evil as they had assumed? If one were to judge him based on the disposition of his city, Darkuth, then perhaps.

He looks down at the pit of spikes and spits, watching his drop of spittle drop down to its demise below. When the magical owl flies over his head, Melias returns his thoughts to the present and considers the purpose of the teleporting trap Claire had entered. Was it truly random or just a means to assure the shaft is a one-way circuit? Rejoining the group, he tells Claire, “Come back up. That’s not the way.”

Sensing the gaze of the rest of the group on his back, he explains, “This whole dungeon has been laid in place to test our skills and lead us toward the end. If that teleporting trap threw you back up near the top, then it’s a safe bet it was meant to keep those up top – up top. We were not meant to go that way. There has to be another exit somewhere.”

He steps around the unresponsive Kafeera, who stands still with her eyes closed, as if in a trance.

“There might be a secret door,” he says, as he glances about. Holding his copper coin with the Light enchantment over his head, he peers at the illuminated walls. 

Arianna immediately begins to search, but stays out of the light, so it did not interfere with her Night Vision.

“Ah, but why did it drop me right over the pit, then?” Claire asks. “I think it’s an endless loop, maybe.” She climbs two feet higher. “Besides, it’s comfy down here.”

“Raven, did you find any new passages while you were separated from us?” Rastorn asks.

“Yes, I did. A couple, actually. The tunnel I ended up in on the other side of the fire led to another shaft with a tunnel opening on top and at the bottom. I tried to climb down to the one on the floor, but spikes started coming out of the wall, so I had to let myself drop. At the bottom was a tunnel with an impenetrable darkness. I waited a bit to see if any of you would show, then I crawled inside. I reached another pit, kind of like this one, with water running down below. The tunnel continued on the other side, so I threw my grappling hook across and jumped. I climbed into the dark tunnel again, until I was suddenly back in the cells. Some sort of Teleport trap, I assume. I had to go through the tunnel with the gravity traps again to get here. Maybe we could try the upper tunnel instead?”

While she spoke, Arianna and Melias completed their search, finding nothing. Melias again steps around Kafeera, to stand closer to Raven and Rastorn.

Kafeera was amazed to discover she could see through the owl’s eyes and watched as the creature swooped around the illusionary wall and down around the bottom of the pit. It spotted nothing of interest, except a few stray coins among the spikes below. She opens her eyes, ending their connection. Still in awe and barely above a whisper, she asks, “Uh, Rastorn, how do I get it to come back? Just tell it to?” 

He nods.

“We could head back,” Melias answers Raven. Then he whispers, “In fact, if someone saw us here as Claire suggested, then perhaps that would be an unexpected course of action which could give us the upper hand.” He sighs and returns to normal volume to remind them, “There is still the matter of that magical fire, though. Ah, but we do have that special wand now – don’t we? Things are looking up. Shall we start heading back?”

The party glances at one another, still deciding.

Looking at where the holes in the wall are, he asks quietly, “Can anyone conjure some sort of monster or something to the other side of those holes? You know, in case something is eavesdropping. It would serve them right.”

“I have a Stinking Cloud,” Rastorn says.

Raven whispers, “I guess the upper part of the shaft up to the tunnel is trapped as well, though, which means protruding spikes. Unless there’s some way of turning it off.”

“We’ll burn that bridge when we come to it,” Melias says. “We still have to cross over the pit of spikes again.” 

Kafeera commands, “Owl return to me!” 

The owl lands on Kafeera’s shoulder and she beams with joy.

She orders it to search the pit, but this time she chooses not to see through its eyes.

“Everyone, you know the drill. I’ll head across first with the rope to help with the safety line. Same plan, different direction,” Melias announces.

He leans in toward Rastorn and whispers, “Right before you head back, let that spell rip in there. Borrow Claire’s gem so you can get a good idea where those holes are. I’d hate to see that spell bounce back at you.”

He unties the rope from where it was anchored and starts climbing the rings back over the pit.

Claire begins climbing out of the pit. It was getting too boring, anyway.

Kafeera’s owl flies down past Claire and instantly appears above her. It doesn’t miss a beat and flies back down again – this time all the way down to the bottom where it glides between the water and the ceiling of the water tunnel. 

When Kafeera calls for it to return, it has little room to safely reverse course, so it continues until it finds an upward shaft. Once there, it flies up, swoops back around the way it came and begins its return trek. 

Closing her eyes, Kafeera concentrates and can see what the owl sees – that the water continues a short distance after the upward shaft, but ends in a metal grate and what looks like a swiftly moving waterfall just beyond.

Raven climbs back across the rings, where she and Melias will soon be joined by Claire.

Kafeera excitedly relays what the owl had seen.

Rastorn asks her, “So, that shaft does lead to another area?” He watches Claire swing to the opposite side, then whispers into Kafeera’s ear, “Look at them. All three of the acrobatic people rush across to find a new way even when this way may still lead us to The Cube. They’ve forced us to risk our lives crossing that pit a second time just because such travel is simple for them. Raven’s way may be a dead end and we’ll end up crossing a third time!” He looks Kafeera in the eyes and adds, “At least I know you are kind and will be considerate of this old man’s fragile nature.” Not certain she understands of whom he speaks, he says, “By ‘this old man’ – I mean me.”

She whispers back, “They just cannot understand not everyone is like them. I’ve encountered this a great deal. They don’t understand and they say I am dumb. Hah! Never fear, as I will not overlook you. They forget, without you they would lack their much needed intelligence. I’m not so blind I cannot see your importance. Sometimes we have to make sacrifices for that which we love and I’m sure that your frailty comes from that sacrifice. Those who do not sacrifice do not appreciate, my father would say.” Realizing she has gotten off topic, she says, “So, should we wait here and explore some more or follow them – again?”

SeLiem, Deathwish, and Arianna all cross the pit, while Rastorn and Kafeera have their secret conversation.

Rastorn whispers back, “We need them. Let’s go.”

Kafeera nods and waits for Rastorn to cross. Commanding the owl to keep a watchful eye as he does. She then commands it to fly over and wait for her there with the Mage while she crosses.

Once on the other side, Rastorn casts a Stinking Cloud in the holes, with the help of Claire’s gem.

The party travels back down, then assists each other in crossing the spikes and climbing back up the slide. It is difficult, but they work well as a team when they are bored, anxious, and a little on edge. Soon, they are climbing down a rope and into the second pit. Standing on the false floor there or hanging from the rope, they discuss their next move.

SeLiem and Arianna decide they will work together to lift the slab that separates them from the fire and the sections beyond. 

Rastorn asks if SeLiem has any more fire protection spells, as he waves Raven and her new wand ahead. When the door is lifted, Rastorn will make certain he is half-way up the shaft.

SeLiem nods, “I’ve got that spell, but only one of them. So, I assume you are getting it or someone else?”

“Then cast it on whoever else is strong,” Rastorn snaps, “Deathwish got the other set of strength gauntlets, so he’s likely the best candidate. I can teach him the command word for Raven’s new wand, too.” He looks to Raven, to see if she is willing to hand off the wand, which she had apparently reclaimed. 

SeLiem asks Raven, “May we?”

“Sure, after all, I gave it to Rastorn. I’m not the magery type.”

Grumbling, Deathwish takes a position next to Arianna.

“It wouldn’t budge when I tried before, but try if you want,” Arianna says, then slinks out of the area, not aware the plan was for them to work together.

SeLiem hands the wand to Deathwish and waits for Rastorn to teach Deathwish the command word before he casts his own spell. 

The grates are partially submerged, going from under the water to the top of the water-filled tunnel.  

Deathwish learns the command word and tries to lift the door. He surprisingly lifts it with little effort and is engulfed in flame. He uses the wand and the fire disperses instantly. Only sustaining minor burns, he crawls forward and is soon lifting the next door. A little further and he is looking down at the shaft where the spears stab out from the wall and deciding what to do.

Arianna rolls her eyes, “I should just go the hell home. It’s not like I do anything around here, anyway. I’m useless.”

“Nonsense,” Melias says. “We need some comic relief.”

When Arianna glances his way, Melias winks.

“Seriously, we need to address those spikes Raven mentioned,” Melias says, his tone serious once more. “Maybe with your enhanced strength, you and Deathwish might be able to snap them off when they are protruding?” He doubts it will be so easy, but attempts to appear optimistic.

Raven says, “We’ll have to go up, I already tried down and ended up back in the cells. Unless you want to try the water again?”

Deathwish hears the group talking and moving into position behind him and stops. He spins half-way around and sits on the edge at the end of the tunnel with his legs dangling over the pit. If someone needs to pass him, this will give them enough space.

Rastorn continues up the rope he was hanging from and tosses something into the pit, once everyone has entered the tunnel where the fire had been. Once he climbs back down, he hands the item forward and each person in turn moves it ahead of them. When it gets to Deathwish, he takes the item, Raven’s board, and lifts it into place. The board serves as a bridge to the upper section and Deathwish holds it steady as each person shimmys or crawls across. There is a fairly large area on the other side and each waits for the others to cross. Deathwish crosses last and leaves the board in place.

They stand in a ten by twenty space, with only one other exit (a hole in the floor at the far end which looks to have been carved out of the stone floor). The hole looks slick and curves back in the direction from which they came. It is, essentially, another slide.

A search for secret or canceled doors and a look through the Gem of Seeing reveal no other routes and they find nothing to anchor a rope onto. 

Rastorn asks, “Do we blindly slide down or will we use rope again? Somehow.” He makes a face and adds, “I’ll go . . . fourth.”  

“I can use my rope and go first – see where it leads,” Raven blurts, as she digs out her grappling hook.

“Wouldn’t dream of it. That thing looks fun,” Claire says, “Besides, it’s become my position to risk my own life and limb so all of you can feel secure.”

“Someone always has to be the martyr,” Arianna mouths.

“I don’t think the grappling hook is going to work, the ground is slick and the hook probably won’t be able to grab very well, but – that’s just my opinion,” she says, aloud, but not directing the comment to anyone. 

Arianna realizes she has been doing that a lot lately, either speaking aloud to no one in particular or staying back from the rest of the group all together. She wonders what her role is amongst the group now.  

“I agree with you. It’s too slippery for a grappling hook. I was thinking we do the same thing we did with the slide: tie the rope around someone’s waist and let them go down into the pit.”

“That could work. Who’s the lightest person and who’s the heaviest? Too bad Mister Almost a Paladin isn’t here, he’d make a great anchor,” Arianna suggests, “Alternatively, we could tie the lightest person to the rope and several of us could lower them down. However, the slick floor comes into play yet again.”

Deathwish flexes his muscles and asks for the grappling hook. Of course his impressive strength derives from the magical gauntlets and not from his own physique, but he primarily shows off for Claire. He asks Arianna to join him as an anchor, since both now have strength beyond all but a very few Humans. Before they can both properly prepare, Claire has already tied the other end around her midsection. 

She dives into the slide with a gleeful, “Weeee!”

Widely grinning, Claire shoots down the slide, swirling at breakneck speed. She holds her slack so she can continue the wild ride, then grips it tight when she spots light at the end of the tunnel. She peers ahead and sees the slides finishes at a small room and releases the excess when she sees the room is filled with gold and gems and other treasures. She closes her eyes gleefully, knowing she is about to land in a huge treasure trove.

Deathwish and Arianna are surprised when the rope goes completely slack. They quickly gather the rope and discover Claire is no longer at its end. All they retrieve is a tied-off empty loop.

“Well, did any of you feel her let go of the rope? Normally, I’d say she can’t just disappear, but here – anything is possible. It could be another Teleport trap,” suggests Raven.

“Idiot!” growls Kafeera. 

Pulling the owl statuette back from her pack, she again calls it forth. 

“Can you carefully fly down below and take a look for us?”

She looks to Rastorn for his approval, then releases the now living bird.

The owl flies down the twisting slide and sees a lit room at the bottom. The room is small and is filled with treasure, but Claire is nowhere to be found.

Kafeera breaks her connection with the owl and tells the party, “I cannot see her! There is light.”

With Kafeera’s eyes once more open, Arianna glares at her and says, “Call me an idiot again and you’ll be going down that chute head first. I didn’t hear you giving any ideas.”

Rastorn tells Arianna, “Kafeera can correct me if I am wrong, but I think she was calling Claire an idiot. Anyhow, she must have just slipped out of the rope, since the loop remains.” 

When Raven suggests a Teleport, SeLiem looks at her and points a finger to his head. “Ahhhh, smart girl. Copa – the Transmuter who helped build this place – was a master of Teleportation. That is also a likely explanation.” He looks at Melias and then Arianna, “So, what now?”

Kafeera closes her eyes again and can see the owl is approaching the end of the chute and the room it is about to land within contains a mound of treasure. The owl has very good sight, so she can see it in great detail.  

Suddenly, the owl tries to stop. It can’t and glides a short distance into the room, where it is surrounded by owls swooping at it!

To be continued next chapter . . .

To be continued . . .

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