Chapter #10

previous chapter (#9)                                                                  next chapter (#11)






  Here is part 10.  At this time, the preferences expressed for the
format of these stories are:

OLD (NARRATIVE) FORMAT:   20
NEW (PROSE) FORMAT:       10
EITHER OR BOTH FORMATS:    7

  I will be using prose for a bit, in order to give the different
characters' points of view on the events surrounding them.  The old
format will return soon (I promise  :)
  I need a name for this party.  The "Adventurers" is getting kind of
old.  I'll check and see what they did that I _can't_ remember, and
cross-reference it with what I _can_ remember, and try to come up
with some clever alias for the group.

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THE PARTY:

Alindyar, 3rd level drow elf mage (N)
Belphanior, 2nd/2nd/2nd level high elf fighter/mage/thief (CN)
Ged, 3rd/2nd level grey elf priest/mage (NG)
Halbarad, 3rd level human ranger (NG)
Mongo Thunderhead, 3rd level dwarf fighter (CG)
Peldor, 4th level human thief (N)
Peyote, 2nd/2nd level half-elf fighter/druid (N)
Rob, 3rd level human priest (LG)
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                    X.  The Keep (Belphanior's tale)



  Rays of sun intruded into the dark room as the sun rose, heralding
yet another day.  Belphanior rubbed the sleep from his eyes and belched
loudly.  He had stood the first watch last night, then slept for about
eight hours.  That was the nice thing about being an adventurer - you
didn't have to keep any schedule.  The party had slept from about two
hours after dusk until now - maybe ten hours, by the elf's estimation.
They usually rotated the watch every two hours, letting the magi and
priests skip watch.  Supposedly they had to rest and be clear-headed
in the morning.  Belphanior wondered why it was that _he_ didn't get
absolved of the responsibility of watch duty, since one of his many
trades was the weaving of magic.
  Come to think of it, he didn't mind that much.  It was probably for
the better, anyway - Ged and Alindyar might be all right for standing
watch occasionally, but in the long term, Belphanior would rather
have a warrior guarding the party.  Halbarad, Peyote, Mongo - those
were fine fighters, indeed.  The second thief (for Belphanior naturally
considered himself to be the main thief), Peldor, seemed to be able to
handle himself.  There was no way that the priest, Rob, would ever be
able to stand watch, not without Belphanior, at the least, worrying
about the bumbling fool falling asleep on duty, or something like that.
  The tall elf rose, swatting the dust off of his torn and beaten cloak.
He would have to get another cloak in the next town, that was for sure.
Peyote stood watch quietly, gazing out the window at things unknown.
The half-elf was an odd one, that was certain.  He talked in strange
dialects, and mostly to the trees and animals rather than his fellow
party members.  Belphanior knew that the druidic warrior could pull
his weight in a fight, though - their last few battles had proven
this beyond any doubt.  There was really no one in the party that the
warrior/mage/thief didn't like, though the incompetent priest, Rob,
and the faerie-elf mage/priest, Ged, came close.  The former was a
do-gooder and a moron, while the latter frowned on many of the things
that Belphanior liked to do - slitting the throats of stunned foes,
eating slain enemies, and the like.
  Peyote bade his companion well.  "Good morning to you, sir", he
exclaimed when he saw the elf stand up.  "Pretty boring night, if
you ask me...".  Belphanior hadn't, so he said nothing, acknowledging
his companion with but a nod.  He noticed that Peldor and Halbarad
were likewise in the process of waking up.  Mongo, the smelly dwarf,
snored loudly in a corner, his battleaxe grasped tightly in one hand.
Someone kicked him, and he stopped.  Alindyar was already up, and had
busied himself reading one of his books.  The drow was a strange
fellow, Belphanior mused to himself, but had done nothing to brand
himself like others of his race.  Actually, it would be kind of neat,
thought the elf, if the drow was evil-minded - might make things a
bit more interesting for the party.  Eating spiders - now that was
something that even Mongo might be loath to do.  Belphanior decided
then, on a whim, that it was time for the party to wake up, and so,
accordingly, he began rummaging through his pack for his trumpet...
  Within minutes, the room was astir with activity.  Most of the
adventurers were eating a cold breakfast, except for the dwarf.
Mongo had concocted a mixture of foods, and heated the whole mess
over a small firepot.  He was busy gobbling the stuff down; whatever
it was, it looked not unlike blended organs.  Belphanior sometimes
wondered about the meals that the dwarf prepared for the party.
Alindyar wasn't eating anything, having had breakfast hours before.
The rest seemed content with their cold rations and water.
  Soon, the eating was over, and the group began to pack up their
food and bedrolls.  Mongo found a loose stone in one wall, behind
which was a small space.  He crammed a sackful of coins from the
party's earlier conquests into this hole, as the loot was getting
too heavy to lug around.  Belphanior would have been happy to
relieve the load somewhat, but he didn't think that the party
would go for the idea.
  Today, the party was going to find a way into the massive keep
at the center of the castle's courtyard.  The structure was at
least sixty feet in diameter, and about fifty feet high.  The
adventurers approached the main door, on the ground floor of the
tower.  Belphanior had compunctions about leaving loose ends
behind; the plant-thing on the far side of the keep, the still-
wandering (though not seen in a while) grey ooze - these were
not things that should be forgotten about.  As far as any of the
party could tell, the plant couldn't just get up and walk around
the courtyard, but who knew the ways of monsters?  Belphanior
was far more worried about the ooze, for such a thing could find
a party in their sleep and consume a number of them before it
was found out.  The sullen elf wondered where the slimy thing
had gotten to by now.  Hopefully not too close to where they
were now, he thought.
  Peldor examined the large iron door on the eastern wall of the
keep.  "This door is locked", he pronounced with some clarity.
The thief's skillful hands probed the lock, with the help of a
number of small picks and probes.  Belphanior wondered if his
own prowess with thieves' picks and tools was equal to that of
Peldor.  The human looked up, disgusted.  "There are no traps
here, but this damn thing is barred from the _inside_, I think.
And it's pretty thick, too."  It seemed that the thief did not
care for locks that stopped him.
  Halbarad, as was his wont, spoke up suddenly.  "We could send
somebody up to the roof,"; he looked at Belphanior and Peldor
meaningfully then; "and then that person could lower down a
rope for the rest."  Ged agreed almost immediately.  "Sounds
like a good idea to me."  The plan _did_ make sense, after all;
the thieves were most suited for climbing of this sort, with
their training and equipment.  Belphanior looked around, then
replied, "Okay, okay.  I'll do it."  As the elf unpacked his
climbing hooks and rope, he noticed that Peldor was doing the
same.
  "I just couldn't let you go up there without me", the other
thief said.  He lowered his voice and spoke just to Belphanior.
"Besides, there might be treasure on the roof, and we wouldn't
want them" - with this he gestured disgustedly at the others -
"to get any of it, now would we?"  Belphanior could appreciate
the logic of this young human.  He couldn't help but like the
thief, and not only because they had an occupation in common.
Peldor was quick of tongue and wit, as well as sword and foot.
The elf would rather have his fellow thief at his back than
most of the others.  Maybe there _was_ honor among thieves
after all.
  With ropes secured at their belts and climbing hooks in
hand, the pair of thieves prepared to make the climb.  The
tower rose away from them at a steep angle, and seemed like
a mountain from the ground.  Belphanior explained to some of
his companions that he had much skill at climbing and rope
use, and was going up with Peldor to keep an eye on him.
The general party was not aware that the elf had thieving
skills, and he meant to keep it that way.  There was much
agreement among the other adventurers; Belphanior couldn't
believe that they were buying it.  Peldor even helped, by
scowling at the elven warrior after he made his excuse to
the party.
  Without further ado, the two began their climb.  Though it
looked formidable, the tower was made up of large blocks of
stone, arrayed in a simple pattern.  There were large gaps
between the stones, plenty of room for an enterprising thief
to get a finger or ten into.  Within minutes, the thieves
had scaled the fifty foot wall, and with a sigh of relief,
they climbed over the parapet and landed on the inside of
the wall.  The low wall, about five feet high, was of the
sort constructed to protect archers or sentries from arrows
fired at them, whether stray or intentional.
  In the center of the roof was a small octagonal building,
probably a rooftop level, Belphanior noted.  The small
structure was about thirty feet in diameter, leaving a ring
of bare rooftop between it and the parapet; this open area
was about twenty feet wide and circled the roof.  Before
the pair could investigate further, there was a sudden
scuttling sound, as a gigantic spider moved rapidly toward
them.  Its hairy body was fully three feet wide, and fangs
the size of daggers dripped venom onto the stone beneath
the beast as it approached.
  Immediately, the two split up, Peldor going to one side
and Belphanior to the other.  This was a standard defensive
move; the spider would have to choose one target, exposing
its backside to the other.  Belphanior couldn't help but
wonder if Alindyar, being a drow, could talk to spiders.
The thing chose Peldor as a target, for whatever reason, not
that Belphanior minded that much.  Peldor crouched low as
the spider moved toward him, his shortsword pointed toward
it.  As the monster lunged forward to bite him, the human
leaped high above its head, slashing below him with his
weapon as he did so.  At the same time, Belphanior dashed
over, behind the thing, and buried his own sword in its
rear flank.
  The giant spider, unused to such punishment, and bleeding
from two wounds now, ceased to move.  It twitched a bit,
and then died.  Its foul blood oozed forth slowly, rather
like molasses, and yellowish guts dripped forth for all
to see.  Neither of the thieves really cared much for the
sight, so they commenced a quick search of the rooftop.
Belphanior paused to look at the party far below, but they
seemed not to know what had happened on the rooftop.
  Momentarily, the elf was lowering his rope from the short
parapet.  He had secured it on one of the large squarish
stones of the ledge, and even now the half-elf, Peyote, was
climbing upwards.  The rope was knotted every few feet, for
the benefit of those in the party who were not thieves.
Peldor had found a handful of platinum coins and a few small
opals, and an old skeleton, inside some spiderwebs.  The
skeleton had nothing of value except a worn leather vest;
for some reason, Peldor had wanted the vest, and stuffed it
into his backpack.  Who could know the way humans' minds
worked?  Certainly not Belphanior.  He leaned wearily against
the parapet as the other party members climbed up to join
them.  Mongo seemed to have a difficult time hauling his
weight up the rope - eventually, the dwarf's plate armor had
to be removed and hauled up in pieces.

  Before too long, everyone was on the roof.  Inside of the
small octagonal building, which had four windows but only a
single door, was a spiral staircase leading downward.  After
pulling the long rope to the roof, to avoid others following
them, party advanced into the lower floors of the tower;
Mongo and Halbarad led the way, followed by Belphanior and
Peyote in the second rank.  The elf didn't really mind not
being in the front; he had recently learned that some of the
other members of the group were more suited for battle, with
their heavier armor and weapons.
  The stairs led to an oddly-shaped chamber, full of doors
and tapestries.  The spiralling steps continued down, but
the party, subject to the curiosity of all adventurers, did
not.  They opted to explore this floor of the tower first.
The room was lavish; Mongo took a fancy to some of the lighter
tapestries and mentioned the possibility of confiscating
them later.  A window, heavily barred, was also visible to
one side.  A door led to a small, window-less guardroom on
the north side of the level.  It had seemingly once been a
weapons room, for there were racks upon racks of various
armaments here.  A number of the items were of high quality,
and this chamber as well was marked as one to be revisited.
  Another door to the south of the room with the tapestries
held an ancient table and some equally ancient chairs, but
nothing else.  The final door from the tapestry room was
locked; Peldor remedied this situation shortly, and the
adventurers trundled into a huge room, which was basically
the entire eastern half of the floor.  In this well-adorned
bedroom, they found a bed, dresser, closet, water basin -
all dusty, rusty, or whatever signified a long period of
disuse.  There was nothing inside, under, or behind any of
the furniture here; it was as if the occupant had packed
away all of his smaller possessions and departed.  In one
dresser drawer was a scrap of parchment, which said quite
clearly in Common, "In the caves, all is not as it seems."
  Caves?  Mongo was ecstatic.  "Caves mean dungeons, and
dungeons mean monsters!", the dwarf babbled excitedly.
"And monsters mean treasure!", Peldor was quick to add.
Belphanior agreed with that sentiment wholeheartedly;
something had better happen soon to break the monotony.
Peyote checked the walls for secret portals but could find
none, so the party went back to the staircase and descended
another level.  This next floor was one large, circular
room; a pair of opposite windows were set into the western
and eastern walls.  These were both heavily barred.  Peldor
almost immediately noticed something odd about the chamber;
there were a great many small, pointed darts on the floor.
  Belphanior offered his opinion to the group.  "Maybe there
was a trap, long ago triggered, and the darts flew through
the room."  Halbarad countered, though.  "Then where are
their bodies?"  Peldor looked closely at the walls around
them.  "More importantly, are there more darts waiting here
for _us_?", the thief wondered aloud.  After a moment of
discussion, it was deemed best to just go down to the next
floor, skipping this room altogether.
  On the next level down (the ground floor, by Halbarad's
estimation - the ranger was good when it came to gauging
distances and directions), the staircase ceased to lead
further into the earth.  The main door of the keep was off
to the east, and had three heavy bars sealing it on this
side.  There were four other doors leading, presumably, to
other rooms - two to the north, and two to the south.  The
adventurers opted for the southernmost one; it was unlocked
and led into an abandoned guardroom.  Well, not quite
abandoned; six crumbling skeletons were strewn about the
room.  As the party entered the room, the bony remains
trembled, then climbed to their feet (or what was left of
their feet, anyway) and faced the group.
  Belphanior wondered about the nature of the forces that
could cause the dead to rise.  He often aspired to control
such forces himself - the topic of death was absolutely
fascinating to the high elf.  Unless, of course, it was
his OWN death.  Speaking of which, the skeletons were in
the process of shambling toward him and the others.  If
they had considered the party easy prey, though, they
had not reckoned with Ged.  The elven mage/priest strode
forth, brandishing his silver holy symbol.  "Foul things,
you no longer belong in this world.  Go!  I beseech you,
in the name of Boccob, begone!"  The elf sometimes got a
little carried away, but such was the adventuring life.
The way Belphanior understood it, faith was an important
part of such clerical activities.
  The skeletons wavered, but then turned and fled from
the room.  Halbarad looked at the exit, and proclaimed,
"We had better find somewhere for them to go.  Otherwise
they might find us again later..."  Mongo volunteered to
open the main door, hopefully encouraging the skeletons
to use it, and removing themselves as potential problems
for the adventurers.  Belphanior followed the dwarf out
of the chamber, and watched as he threw the triple bars
up and kicked the door open.  Who cared where the damn
skeletons went?  The dour elf simply wanted to find
some more interesting things than bleached bones and
dusty furniture.
  The skeletons, in their mindless and repelled state,
quickly fled the keep, and Mongo shut and barred the
main door again.  Ged looked around smugly, pleased at
his show of power.  Perhaps there was a use for the
benevolent elf after all, thought Belphanior.  The
party headed for the other door to the north, but were
somewhat disappointed, as it led to a study full of
sagging shelves and rotting books.  The room was not
only musty, but humid as well.  Mongo surmised that
there was a water leak somewhere, and condemned the
obviously inferior architecture of the room, and of
the keep in general.
  The first southern door the party took led to an
old guardroom.  The door was locked, and after Peldor
had picked the lock, the party found out why.  Twelve
rotting corpses rose from the slimy ground of the
chamber, moving to attack the party.  Ged, and Rob
after him, did their best to turn the things away,
but Ged was only able to repel seven of them, while
Rob failed altogether.  Belphanior wasted no time at
all, drawing the magical longsword that he had recently
bought from Peldor and charging the vile undead.  Now
this, while not much more exciting than skeletons, at
least would give the elf a chance to get in some melee
practice.
  Combat in general ensued...Belphanior slashed at
a zombie's head, splitting it almost in half, but the
moldering monster grinned at him through its split
mouth and groped for him.  Fortunately, Belphanior
was quick on his feet, as usual, and dodged aside as
the zombie stumbled by.  He spun about and chopped
at it again, this time severing its head altogether,
and it fell to the ground, dead as an undead can be.
  The elf gazed about, and saw that the others had
defeated the rest of the monsters.  Mongo and Peyote
seemed to be somewhat wounded, but the priests were
busy attending to them.  Various zombies were spread
across the room in various pieces - looked like some
of Mongo's handiwork, Belphanior mused silently.
  The adventurers were ready to move on in about ten
minutes.  The only thing of interest in the zombie's
lair was a potion bottle full of black fluid, which
Mongo tossed into his sack casually.  The last door
led into a huge room, basically empty except for an
intricately carved stone face in one corner.  When
the party approached, the graven face opened its eyes
and actually SPOKE!  Belphanior, and most everyone
else, were suprised at this, for they had never seen
a magic mouth before.  The drow mage didn't seem too
stunned, but that figured.  The mouth said aloud,

"TO PASS, ANSWER THIS:  You cannot see me, yet you
always know when I'm there.  I help make fire, but
also see rain.  I carry very little weight, yet my
power is quite great.  Who am I?"

...and the beady little stone eyes glared at the
group of adventurers.  They drew back and debated
for a bit.
  "Tar?", Rob said quietly to the others.  Ged all
but laughed aloud at this.  "No, you dolt!  Have
you no brain?  Shut up before you doom us all."
Belphanior's mind whirled.  Whatever could it be?
Forests?  No, they weren't light in weight.  Paper
maybe?  No, it had nothing to do with rain.  Then,
suddenly, he had it.  The riddle really wasn't that
difficult, as evidenced by Alindyar, Halbarad, and
Ged also arriving at the answer simultaneously.
Mongo just sat there, wondering why rock wouldn't
work.
  They briefly confirmed their answer, then the
ranger stepped forward, facing the mouth.  Stony
eyes still glared at him.  He proclaimed the single
word aloud.  "Air".  The mouth relaxed, though the
eyes did not, and spoke again.  "CORRECT.  LUNOK
WELCOMES YOU.  PASS."  With that, the mouth opened
even wider, revealing the top rungs of an iron
ladder going down.

  After another brief discussion, mostly about why
Mongo was hesitant to go inside anything's opened
mouth, the group decided of course to use the ladder
and see what lay below.  They climbed into the open
mouth, one by one, and went down, with Halbarad in
the lead, brandishing a bright lantern.




next time:  the dungeons (Mongo's tale)

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