Knights of the Couch - Part XIII - Assassin Season - Chapter 9
Chapter 9: An Evil Discovery
The party had stopped in the doorway of the temple underneath the keep in Garrotten. The flames on either side of the altar bathed the temple in red, giving the room an ominous look. And the demonic statue behind the altar added to the menacing nature of the place. It was nine feet tall with a humanoid upper half and a serpentine lower body. The torso and head was decidedly female with long flowing hair and barely covered breasts. But the statue also had six arms each holding a sword. And the head had pointed ears, slanted eyes and fangs.
“What is that thing?” Lloyd asked. “It’s a Marilith,” Aksel replied softly, “a very powerful demon from the plane of the Abyss.” The warblade was silent for a moment, staring at the statue as if he was measuring up an opponent in battle. Then he said, “How powerful?” Aksel turned to look up at the big man and replied, “VERY powerful.”
As the group stood there, they began to hear a low humming sound. Everyone looked around for the source. Elvisda, having the best ear for sound, cried out “It’s coming from the altar!” Aksel, now realizing the source warned, “It’s an evil compulsion. It is trying to control us!” The bard, on hearing this, took out his lute and began to play a counter spell. An angelic melody rose from his strings and wafted out into the room to meet the demonic spell. But the evil sound was too strong and began to drown out the bard’s song.
Then another lute joined in with Elvisda’s, adding harmony to his tune. Everyone turned and saw the kobold, Balmarrow, had taken out his instrument and begun to play. The two bards turned towards each other and threw themselves into the virtuous melody. Their combine efforts amplified the strength of the counter spell and began to push back on the demonic control until they finally held it at bay.
Then Aksel, freed from the pressure of the evil spell, began to conjure himself. Then he cast his spell and a circle of pure white light radiated out to surround the party. The buzzing noise abruptly stopped. Elvisda and Balmarrow both paused and listened. The humming noise did not return. “We should be ok now,” Aksel announced. “The magic circle will protect us. But we need to destroy that altar.”
Both Lloyd and Kara looked at each other and nodded. Both fighters strode forward into the temple, the warblade taking out his warhammer and the female warrior unsheathing a mace. The others followed close behind as the two walked up to the altar and began to hammer it with their weapons. In a matter of minutes, the altar was nothing but rubble.
As the two fighters stepped back with satisfied looks on their faces, a whirling reddish light suddenly appeared above where the altar had stood. Lloyd and Kara turned and watched the light expand until it was a full twenty feet wide! “It’s a portal!” Aksel cried. “We need to close it quickly!”
“The flames!” Seth yelled, “They’re burning higher!” Aksel looked where the fires still rose on either side of what used to be the altar. They were indeed burning higher. “We need to douse them!” the cleric shouted as he reached into his pack drawing out two flasks of holy water. Aksel walked over to the flame on the left and poured one flask on the fire. The flame visibly diminished. Then he used the second flask and it the fire weakened even more. “I need another one!” Aksel cried.
Luckily Elvisda had had the foresight to equip everyone in the KOTC with two flasks of holy water. The bard had decided this was a prudent precaution since their encounter with the vampires in Restenford. Seth reached into his pack and pulled out another flask of holy water. He handed it to Aksel who poured it on the flame. The fire finally went out.
Above the altar, the portal slowly contracted till it was only ten feet in diameter. But even so, shadows began to crop up inside the swirling light. “The other flame!” Aksel yelled. “Douse it! Quickly or we’re going to be facing demons!”
Glorfindel had been standing on the other side of the demolished altar. The wizard quickly reached into his pack, removed two flasks of holy water and dumped both of them on the second flame. At the same time, Elvisda pulled a third flask of holy water out of his pack. As the bard went towards the flame a horned foot popped out of the portal. Elvisda, seeing this, threw the flask at the fire. The glass smashed open and the contents poured over the flame putting it out.
As the last fire died, the portal contracted again. A chilling scream could be heard as the horned foot abruptly withdrew into the mass of swirling light. Then the portal collapsed in upon itself and completed disappeared.
“Whew, that was close!” Elvisda said wiping the sweat from his brow. “You can say that again,” Aksel agreed. “Nice throw by the way,” Glorfindel said patting the bard on the back. “Yeah,” Seth added, “Good thing you didn’t miss.” Elvisda shot the ninja a look. Then he laughed and answered, “You’re right. I panicked.” Aksel interjected, “Well at least we’re all safe. Now maybe Seth and Donnie can check and see if there are any hidden doors or compartments in this place.”
The ninja and the swashbuckler split up and began searching the temple. After a couple of minutes, Donnie found a camouflaged doorway behind the remains of the altar. He opened it and found a corridor leading back about ten feet. The swashbuckler carefully went down the passageway. As he reached the end it turned left and went another ten feet. At the end of that corridor was a large chest. Donatello scanned the passage carefully and discovered four traps; one with slashing blades, a second with spinning blades, a third that spewed poison gas and a fourth that shot out waves of force.
The swashbuckler beckoned to Seth. The ninja joined him at the end of the corridor and Donnie pointed out the traps he had found. The halfling carefully scanned the passageway as well, but did not discern any other traps. Seth and Donnie returned to the others to report what they found. “There’s no way I can disable those,” Donatello finished. “Seth will have to do it.”
“Well Seth,” Aksel asked, “Are you up to the challenge?” The ninja took a moment to reflect on it then replied, “Yeah. I can do this.” Elvisda spoke up and said, “Well, let’s see what we can do to better the odds for you.” The bard took out his lute and began to play the song of inspiration. When he was done, he reached into his bag and pulled out a potion. Handing it to the ninja he said, “It’s a potion of heroism.” Seth took the vial from the bard and replied, “Thanks.” Then he unstoppered the vial and drank the contents. “I can help too,” Aksel said. The little cleric began conjuring and then cast a spell on the ninja. A white shield briefly appeared in front of the halfing then disappeared. “That will partial transfer any wounds you receive to me instead.” The ninja raised an eyebrow at his friend, but then just nodded and said, “Thanks Aksel.” Finally Glorfindel stepped up and began to conjure. When he was done, the little ninja was covered with a fine layer of stone all over his body. Then the wizard stepped back.
“Okay then,” Seth said taking a deep breath. “It’s now or never.” He turned and walked down the corridor to where it turned. The others stood at the end of the passageway and watched. Then the ninja slowly made his way down the second corridor. Seth followed the first trap, which was the slashing blade back to its source with his eyes. He spied the trip mechanism and began working on it. In a few moments he had disabled it.
Next the ninja moved on to the spinning blades mechanism. He worked on the trigger and nearly had it when he lost hold of one of the springs. The trap suddenly went off and the halfling was caught in the whirling blades. Seth twisted and dodged but the blades still caught him. Luckily, the layer of stone on his body took the brunt of the damage. The ninja did a back flip out of the trap and ended up in the first corridor. “You ok?” Aksel called down the hall. “Fine,” Seth replied. “Just got a little scraped up. No big deal.”
The ninja moved back into the corridor and careful not to get to close to the spinning blades. He found the trigger for the poison trap, but couldn’t really reach it very well with the blades continually whirling by him. Seth did his best, but the trigger went off and poison gas started flowing into the hallway. Luckily he was still wearing his belt which negated the effects of the poison gas. But he stepped back into the other hall and yelled, “Better step back! I triggered the gas trap!” The others, hearing this, all moved back from the door way and into the center of the temple. The gas continued to linger in both corridors, but did not make it far into the main temple room.
Seth went back once more and found the trigger mechanism for the force trap. It was tricky, but he was finally able to disable the trap. The little ninja timed it carefully and made his way through the spinning blades with a few scrapes. He stood over the chest at the end of the hall. Carefully looking it over, Seth discovered a fire trap on the chest itself which would destroy the contents if he failed to disarm it. He began to tinker with it, but discovered it was very intricate. Whoever designed this trap really knew their stuff the little ninja thought. He decided not to chance it and backed out of the corridor, once again carefully navigating the still spinning blades.
When he came back out, Elvisda asked, “Did you get it open?” Seth shook his head and explained about the fire trap. They all thought for a moment then Aksel said, “I can try to dispel it. But it won’t last long.” Seth nodded, “That would work, but you’ll need to get close enough, and those blades are still spinning in there.” The little cleric thought about it for a moment and then replied, “I should be fine. I only need a couple of seconds to cast the spell. Then I’ll just heal myself.” The others looked at the cleric. “Are you sure you want to do this?” Glorfindel asked. “Do we have a choice?” Aksel countered. Everyone was silent for a few moments. Then the wizard replied, “No. I guess not.”
“Well then,” Aksel said. “Let’s do this.” The ninja and the cleric walked into the corridor. The poison gas had all dissipated by now. But the spinning blades were still whirling in front of the chest. Aksel steeled himself and walked slowly forward, beginning his incantation as he went. As he stepped into the blades he held his concentration. The blades began to cut into him, but the stoic little cleric stood his ground. The blades cut through his robes and he began to bleed. But the gnome just stood there, concentrating mightily on his spell. Then, finally, he cast it.
Aksel’s robes were all bloody now as he stepped back out of the blades. Seth went to grab his friend, but Lloyd was suddenly there, holding on to the cleric and steadying him. “I’m…fine,” Aksel said. “Get…the chest. Quickly.” Lloyd and Seth exchanged glances. Then the ninja said, “Take care of him,” and moved forward through the spinning blades once again. Lloyd gently escorted Aksel back out of the corridor. He helped him out to the center of the temple where the little cleric sat down. The gnome took a moment to catch his breath and then entered into meditation and began to heal himself.
Meanwhile, Seth stood over the chest. He took out his tools and worked on the lock until he finally was able to pop it open. He lifted the lid and peered inside. The chest had three boxes in it; one bronze, one silver and one gold. The little ninja quickly grabbed the boxes and stuffed them into his backpack. Then he made his way back through the blades and out into the temple.
As he rejoined the others, he sat down next to his cleric friend. Aksel, already looked better. Although his robes were still cut up and showed traces of blood, the bleeding had completely stopped. As Seth sat there staring at this friend, the gnome opened one eye and winked at the halfling. Seth smiled. “Well,” Aksel said quietly, “what did you find.”
Seth reached into his backpack and withdrew the three boxes laying them on the floor of the temple. As the other’s watched, the little ninja opened the bronze box. Inside lay a black crystal skull. As the stared at it, everyone in the party began to feel an evil presence. Then the magic circle Aksel had cast suddenly went out! “Quick! Close it!” the cleric cried.
Seth tried to close the box but it wouldn’t budge. Then Donnie knelt down and grabbed it, but it still wouldn’t move. Then Lloyd reached in and grabbed it as well. The box started to close. Finally, Kara reached down and together they were all able to slam the box shut! “Whew!” Donnie sighed. “Let’s not do that again!”
“Okay,” Seth said, “Let’s try the next one.” He reached for the silver box and opened it a crack. Inside was a scroll case. He opened it further and pulled the case out. It was very ornate with intricate designs on it. “Let me see that,” Elvisda said. He took the case and looked it over. “This design looks very familiar,” he mused. Then a look of recognition crossed his face. “I saw this same symbol in Princess Anya’s ship! It was on a plaque on her wall. I wonder what it is doing here on this case?” But no one had an answer for him. The bard, curious cracked open the case. Inside was a scroll with black lettering on it. As he stared at it the letters began to move making the bard dizzy. Elvisda quickly snapped the case shut. “What’s the matter?” Glorfindel asked him. The bard explained what he had seen. “Well then,” Aksel said, “best to leave that alone as well.”
“Okay then,” Seth said, “third time’s the charm.” He crossed his fingers then reached down and opened the gold box a crack. He peered in and a large smile appeared on his face. The ninja looked around excitedly then flung open the box. Inside lay a healthy, still beating heart!
The entire party cheered! Seth hugged Aksel. Lloyd hugged Andrella. Glorfindel and Elvisda hugged each other. Donnie hugged Kara. Then they all switched and hugged each other. Seth and Aksel started dancing around. Donnie and Kara joined in, as did Lloyd and Andrella. Elvisda took out his lute and began to play. Balmarrow joined in. Martan stood next to the bards and smiled. Elvisda stopped playing for a minute and put his hand on the archer’s shoulder. “We did it my boy! We did it!” Martan just grinned back. Then the bard went back to playing his lute while the others continued to dance for joy.