Kafeera’s owl attacks the closest of the encroaching owls. Slam! It flies into the mirror and is stunned into unconsciousness. Kafeera’s connection with the magical animal ends.
“Bat dung! The owl – I can’t see it anymore. Other owls were attacking it!” Kafeera snaps. She turns to face Arianna, who had just threatened her, shrugs, half-smiles and tells her, “I was referring to the Bard diving down the chute when I said, “idiot.” Don’t go gettin’ yer loincloth all in a bunch!”
Arianna flinches as if she’d been struck. “I’m sorry, Kafeera, I . . . uh . . . nevermind.”
Rastorn peers down the curving chute. “Hello!” he calls.
There is no reply.
“I don’t know. If Kafeera’s owl is down and Claire isn’t responding to our calls, then going down and seeing what happened as a group might be the only real choice. If we all go down together whatever could be down there would at least have to face a larger force,” Raven suggests.
“You’re right – splitting up is not a good idea,” Rastorn agrees. He can see Deathwish’s concern for Claire has him itching to follow, but he instead asks, “Melias, Do you wish to go first?” While Melias considers his answer, Rastorn turns toward Kafeera and reminds her, “Your owl is pretty much immortal. If it is damaged badly enough it will revert to its stone form. You’ll be able to pick it up when we get down there.”
Melias nods with a shrug of indifference. “Yeah, sure. Why not? But, I’m not sliding down that fast. Look what happened to that poor owl, attacked suddenly with no chance to defend itself. I’ll hold on to the end of this rope, and someone can lower me down. If it suddenly goes slack, you’ll know approximately where the teleporting is taking place. If not, I’ll be at the bottom and I’ll break out my weapons.”
As he is lowered down the extremely smooth hole by Deathwish and Arianna (both of whom wear strength-granting gauntlets), he sees the fun which could be had if it were at a safer locale and during less stressful times. The situation is dangerous, though, and he concentrates intently on the space before him every inch of the way. Ducking down for the last few feet of the slide, Melias can see what awaits him there – a huge pile of treasure. Gold glitters, gems sparkle, and ancient swords display artistry on their hilts and sheaths beyond what he has ever seen. But, this roguish hero is not as avaricious as the majority of his ilk and is not distracted by the prospect of personal gain. He carefully peeks into the space at the bottom. It is lit, although he sees no flames and it is slightly warmer and dryer than the rest of the dungeon thus far. Very inviting. Too inviting. Near the end of the slide, he steps onto an area with magically-enhanced slipperiness. He catches himself, but his toe still enters the space beyond the slide. Then he is somewhere else.
The rope goes slack. Deathwish and Arianna shoot startled glances at each other.
Rastorn guesses what has happened and rushes to rub black ash from his spell components onto the rope on a spot even with the floor, thus marking where the assumed Teleport takes place. He carefully measures the length of the rope, as they pull it back up and correlates that with the height of the next person to go, so they will have an estimate for the depth at which they should be wary.
“I had said I would go fourth, so I will be behind you, Raven. I suggest we test our two strong men, er woman and man and have them lower the rest of us at one time, so we can be there to protect one another,” he says.
Raven is lowered down into the hole, with Rastorn clutching the rope a short distance behind her.
As he is slowly lowered, Rastorn asks, “What about you, Kafeera? Are you coming down at the same time as us? SeLiem?”
Kafeera grabs the rope and follows behind.
“No,” SeLiem answers.
When she gets to the end, Raven looks back at Rastorn, who smiles and urges her forward with a nod of his head. She peeks into the room at the end of the slide and sees the mound of treasure. She is lowered a bit more and is teleported away.
Rastorn screams and tries to slow his descent, but all he does is cause himself to lose his grip on the rope and slide backwards into the room – where he, too, disappears.
Kafeera hears her friend scream and lets go of her rope pulling a weapon as she slides down. Just as the light at the end assaults her eyes, she falls into the Teleport trap.
Once slack, the rope is again pulled back up.
Noticing the black mark Rastorn placed on it, SeLiem wonders if he should have paid attention to the reason it was put there.
“I have to go down!” Deathwish shouts, as he dives head first into the hole.
Arianna and SeLiem look at one another, then at the chute, then back at one another.
“So, are we going down as well? Follow the crowd and all that,” Arianna asks.
SeLiem replies, “It’s risky . . . and could end up not in our favor, but splitting the party even for a while may be riskier, so we might as well.”
“I think we should stay together,” Arianna says. “However, if you want, I can lower you down, then follow.”
“Splitting into three groups isn’t a wise decision either. Yes, let’s go together,”
The two slide down the hole and soon find themselves teleported elsewhere. Alone.
Claire lands on her bottom on the stone floor of a different room. The room is brightly lit magically (no light source is visible) and each of the four walls is a mirror. She can see her reflection from many angles and repeat multiple times. Mirrors of this quality are rare and Claire never dreamed so many of this size could exist. She then notes they are not glass, but highly shined metal. Less expensive, but still impressive.
Spinning slowly in a circle to survey her surroundings, she sees no doors. The only thing in the room is four circular, metal plates built into the middle of the floor in a square pattern.
After the novelty of being able to see herself in so many different directions wears off, Claire decides to step onto one of the plates on the floor. Randomly, she chooses the upper left one in relation to the direction she is facing.
She is Teleported into another room similar to the last, although this one has only two plates on the floor and the mirror before her is much more clear than any of the others had been. The magical lighting is slightly dimmer in this room.
She frowns and touches the mirror in front of her. She hates mazes.
When her hand touches the mirror – the mirror touches her back. She is startled and confused as her reflection rakes her neck with a newly-formed clawed hand. What she had thought was a reflection was in fact a duplicate of her – a deadly duplicate.
Claire leaps backward and hops onto one of the Teleport pads.
The ‘twin’ claws at her once more, but catches only air – as she is whisked away.
Claire reappears in a different room and is instantly engulfed by an invisible net. She attempts to throw it off, but it magically wraps itself around her as she struggles. In seconds she is held fast.
She sees no doors or other ways out and wonders if it is her fate to slowly die here. Alone.
Try as she might, she cannot reach her Gem of Seeing. She can barely move.
She sighs. “I hate playing the damsel.”
After a long pause, she starts moving again and discovers if she squirms enough she may be able to position herself so one of her hands can be beneath her and she can possibly use it to roll herself around. It will be difficult and time-consuming, but – right now – time is all she has.
As she wriggles and writhes on the floor, inwardly she despairs because she has no audience and the act looks more than a little lewd to her.
She pauses when she hears the muffled sound of someone calling her name. She thinks it may be Deathwish, but the sound is only heard once and she cannot answer immediately because the rope is stuck in her mouth. She wiggles around some more and pokes the rope out of her mouth with her tongue. Once she can close and open her mouth freely, she prepares to shout for Deathwish, but stops when a duplicate of her Teleports into the room next to her. She is then dragged over to one of the Teleportation discs and reappears in a much different room. This room is long and narrow with three one foot holes in the wall that lead into a dark space. There is a table and chairs and bedding on the floor. The copy of herself gags her mouth, kicks her in the back, and heads for one of the discs on the floor. As it reaches the disc, she can see it change in appearance. As it disappears, it looks exactly like Melias.
“Nphhhggghh!” Claire screams after the Doppelganger.
Shortly, ‘Melias’ returns with an invisibly bound Rastorn dragging behind him. He dumps the Necromancer on the floor and kicks him in the back – hard, then threatens him. The Doppelganger then changes into the form of Rastorn, thumbs his nose at the real Rastorn and Teleports out of the room.
Rastorn rolls over and looks at Claire, “I don’t have any spells that take only verbal components. If I did . . . that imposter would be toast!”
Claire tries to say something, but she can’t get around the gag. She tries to wiggle her hand under the ropes to reach her dagger so she can cut herself free.
Rastorn tries to roll.
“If we can land on that Teleporter, we can go to another room. Hopefully we will end up in a room with one of our own and not that shape-shifter. At the very least, they will be delayed finding us. What do you say?”
“Nggph…lgkpk….thmss!” Claire yells into her gag.
Rastorn works hard to roll onto a Teleporter, but it will take time.
Claire is able to get a dagger free, but is not in any position to use it to cut the net.
Noticing this, Rastorn says, “I’ll roll over to you and you can cut me free.”
Keeping a tight grip on the dagger, Claire uses it to help her roll to Rastorn, as he rolls to her.
The entire process is slow and grueling.
Once Claire has cut enough of the netting around Rastorn that he can pull himself out of it, he throws the net on the floor and immediately casts a spell on himself.
Has he abandoned her?
She moves as best she can to scan the room.
Rastorn whispers, “I just cast Invisibility on myself, so I can surprise any unexpected visitors. I will cast the same spell on you once you are free. Remember: any violent action will make you visible again, so wait until you have a sure kill to attack. After we search this room, we will go hunting for our captors and the rest of the party, alright?”
When next she hears his voice, he is near the three holes in the wall.
“They watched us from here. These are the three holes overlooking that big pit with the spikes at the bottom and the rings hanging from the ceiling. That must be how they learned what we look like and our names.”
There is another long pause, making her feel uneasy. Rastorn had not yet cut her free or ungagged her, but she could hear him breathing, so he hadn’t left. He is breathing a little louder than normal and is much closer now. She lay still, bound and gagged for a few moments longer, then bucks around yelling into her gag! This moves Rastorn to action. He sits on her legs, placing his hand on her rump, and starts cutting her free.
Patting her like a child, he says “Calm down. I’ll have you out in no time.”
As Claire pulls the net off, he casts Invisibility on her.
Yanking out the gag, she says, “Thanks . . . finally. So, any plan on how to navigate the mirror maze?”
“None. I think this falls under your area of expertise. Choose randomly and let’s go! It looks like only one person can Teleport at once, so when you get to the other side take a step forward and I’ll find you. Don’t speak until we know the next locale is safe.”
She feels a hand lightly over her mouth and hears Rastorn whisper, “Shhh!” in her ear.
Someone else has Teleported into the room.
At least, it looks like Melias . . .
To be continued!
To be continued . . .
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