Re-entering the upper floor of the keep, Spivey tut-tutted at the state of the shrine, and flitted around in some apparent distress.
“We can’t afford the time now Spivey” said Dinald, “But we’ll set it aright after we’ve dealt with the bad guys here.” She saw the sense of this, and settled down on Ailukka’s shoulder.
Looking north through the Dining Room they found the entrance to another tower, and here they saw evidence of some old battle. This area seemed undisturbed by the Corbies, and dust lay heavy on the floor. It gave Rasha an uncomfortable feeling and he shivered.
Skeletons with broken weapons and armour, probably the garrison judging by their gear, lay shattered on the floor. Heavy blows had been dealt, and two sets of stairs led down. Checking some side rooms revealed the skeleton of a small child- skewered to the floor by a short Tian Blade much like Whispering Shrike.
“So the attackers used Tian weapons?” thought Ragnar. “Interesting.”
The group retreated to the darkened room they had first entered, and saw that this was another tower- this time with steps leading up and down. Cautiously they moved upwards.
Dinald opened a heavy wooden door to reveal a semicircular room lined with bookshelves. Although the majority of the books lay in disorganized piles on the floor, a large nest of grass, branches, and strips of was tucked into the northeastern corner of the room, while a wooden door sat in the wall to the northwest, slightly ajar. He moved over to the door, and opened it.
This opened out onto a small balcony looking over the river. Perched on the stone balustrade was a female figure-with large reddish feathered wings and long hair. Her feet however terminated in bird-like talons, though the overall effect was exotic, if somewhat disturbing. She held a longbow with a nocked arrow, and stared straight at Dinald. Neither moved.
“Well…” he smiled, baring his teeth and taking in her scant attire and obvious good points, “Helloo….” He held his hands out open, and moved cautiously forward.
The woman watched, and then took one hand off her bow. She reached slowly forward towards Dinald, and a she did so he noted a not unpleasant smell of something like cinnamon. He saw that her hand had very sharp looking nails, with some nervousness.
The hand was simply laid gently on Dinalds forehead however, and he almost started when he heard a clear voice-inside his head.
“I am Zaiobe. I have watched you from the tower. You will help me kill Kikonu. I can draw the Fool to me. With him dead your task will be all the easier.”
For once Dinald was speechless. As he looked at her something started moving in his trousers.
“Could this finally be it?” he thought to himself. “Could this actually be my first time ? (with a Girl anyway?)”
His reverie was interrupted by Reynald shaking his shoulder. He explained what had transpired, and nodding and smiling the two backed out indicating that they would discuss her offer with their friends.
“My enemy’s enemy is my friend” said Ragnar. “We should go along with this, while assuming we can’t trust her at all afterwards.”
Dinald went back out onto the balcony, and again Zaiobe touched him. He shivered as her voice spoke inside his head.
“We agree,…er, Miss. We are just going to check out the ground floor for enemies and then we will meet you outside in the courtyard.” Zaiobe nodded, and then jumped down off the tower, the sound of her wings beating.
Climbing back down the tower, the group decided to follow it down to the ground floor. Reynald cautiously padded down the narrow stairwell, and peered cautiously into a medium sized room exuding a terrific stench which reminded him of both rotten fish and excrement. His gorge rose, and he narrowly avoided vomiting.
The room had some glimmer of illumination as dawn peered in through a few high windows, and he saw two manlike reptilean shapes growling and gesticulating over what appeared to be the corpse of some giant bug spread out on a table. Several doors seemed to lead off the room, including one on the eastern side which he guessed led out into some sort of main hall of the castle. He crept back and reported his findings.
“This stairway is too narrow- better if we try to lure them up” suggested Ragnar. Reynald crept down again and peered out.
“Yoohoo! Are there any more at home like you?” he waved, before pelting back up the stairs. They waited swords drawn. Downstairs doors slammed and gutteral voices were heard.
“Um.. they’re getting reinforcements I think” said Rasha. Lets make ourselves scarce and approach them from ground level. They rapidly rushed across to the upper balcony of the old ballroom, and made their way down to the lower floor.
Cautiously opening the west door of the ballroom revealed a short corridor leading to a large hall: at the southwest this terminated in large double doors which led into the courtyard,while in the northeast sat an ornate throne- currently empty.
Rushing across to a western door Reynald and Dinald rushed in, the nauseating stench also greeting them as they entered into the eastern side of the room they had spotted the Troglodytes in. None were to be seen. Dinald noticed that an door in the western side was now open however, and as he looked round a large lizard-easily 9 feet long- rushed out and snapped at him. Yelping he jumped back, and he and Reynald jabbed at the thing, joined shortly by Ragnar and Rasha.
Fighting was made more difficult by the choking aroma, which increased in severity as a northern door opened and three of the Troglodytes rushed out.
Ungo felled the lizard, fortunately before it had managed to do much damage, and after a short and somewhat bloody combat, they decided they had had enough. Opening the front doors they stepped out into the main hall, gagging and retching.
Once they had recovered their senses they went back towards the ballroom, this time opening a door to the south revealing a short corridor. Opening a door on the eastern side of this Reynald revealed a largish room with old wooden cages surrounding it-possibly a former kennels. He was interrupted by a ferocious roar however, and this time saw another of the large brutish figures: this time with pendulous breasts and strange, freakish dog- like legs which lurched towards him.
He flung his back against a wall and defended himself as the creature swung a flail which narrowly missed his head; an iron clad fist smashed into his jaw however, stunning him momentarily. Another blow caught him again before Ragnar and Ungo managed to rush in and engage the thing from behind. Snarling and surrounded, the beast fought savagely but eventually fell under the hail of blows. Spivey tut tutted as she cast her healing magicks.
Beyond the ballroom was an additional short corridor ending in a door, and this time Dinald took the lead in opening it. He though his luck was in when he espied a small, beautiful, elfin like woman holding a sharp knife and some other tool. She appeared to be dissecting something on a crowded workbench.
looking round, he saw that it was impossible to tell what this room may have originally been used for, as the walls and floor were decorated with countless preserved animals and creatures, ranging from small birds and forest creatures to fearsome predators. Several of the displays however, looked uncomfortably fresh or humanoid in shape. The figure looked towards him and smiled winningly.
“Oh Goody! More playthings.” she said. Dinalds chest puffed up.
“I’m on a roll today” he thought. “Ah madame, what a pleasure to meet such a beautiful younf maiden as your…..Yowwww!” As he looked the figure seemingly vanished, and as a sharp stabbing pain appeared near his groin he saw that the figure had somehow appeared to his side, and had just withdraw a wicked looking stabbing sword from his thigh.
“Help! Mercy!” he shrieked, and limped back into the corridor, bleeding heavily. Ungo and Ragnar pushed forward, and the figure retreated backwards into the room. Near the rear, Rasha strained to get a view of the target.
“Ah’ll tak yer then Ah’ll F**k yer, ye wee bitch!” shrieked Ungo, hacking forward with C********r, catching the creature with a glancing blow. Once again she seemingly vanished, and he started smashing up the furniture in frustration.
Seemingly from nowhere she appeared again next to Dinald way back in the ballroom, and stabbed at him mercilessly. Once more she drew blood and Dinald backed away.
Rasha however had finally realised what they were fighting. “Quickling” he thought to himself, from his background knowledge regarding the Fey. He fired an arrow which hit her full in the chest, and crying with pain she once more vanished.
The combat however seemed to be over, and setting a wary guard the group once more succombed to Spivey’s ministering.
“I think it’s time to see if Kaiobe was lying to us” said Rasha. “Let’s try to finsih this while we still can”. The others agreed, and they moved out into the courtyard.
Rasha noticed Kaiobe waving at them from one of the western turrets. Nodding they concealed themselves in the Gatehouse and around the courtyards. Kaiobe nodded and then waited in full view on the parapet.
Ten minutes later Kikonu appeared, still apparently wearing his bright red mask. He looked up and spotted Kaiobe.
“My Dear, you have come to your senses at last I see. The old charm just too irrisistable eh?”
He saluted upwards. A pair of flaming arrows streaked down, one hitting him full in the chest.
“Wha…?!” he staggered backwards clutching the arrow. He lifted one hand in an overly dramatic gesture. “Infamy! Infamy! You’ve just got it I…….Gaaarkhh!!”Two further arrows streaked down, this time both finding their mark. The second of these hit him full in the throat with the point emerging several inches on the far side of his neck. Ragnar and the others rushed out, and Kikonu collapsed to the floor in a confusion of chopping axe and sword blades.
There was a rush of some foul stench and a horde of Troglodyte shapes emerged from the main hall, presumably having been told by Kikonu to follow him upwards. Once again waves of nausea washed over the group as they moved to engage these new foes. Rasha glanced up and saw that Kaiobe had raised her bow in the air in silent triumph, and appeared to be laughing. The two Troglodytes rushed at him and he was pushed back into the gatehouse, and forced to fight for his life.
For Dinald a jabbing pain in his back signalled the return of the Quickling, as he was additionally beset by one of the reptilean figures. Arrows streaked down from the turret killing one of the Trogs.
As they fought the nausea engendered by the stench of the creatures started to overtake each of the group. Thie problems were compounded when glancing up, Dinald saw Zaiobe grinning and sighting one of her arrows directly down at him.
“As if I don’t have enough problems right now” he thought, but making a good choice for once he grabbed the Quickling as she stabbed at him and pulled her towards him. He absently noted the points of small nipples tight against her dress, as he pulled her towards him.
Instantly however she jerked, and blood shot out of her mouth into his face, as one of Zaiobes arrows slammed into her from behind.
“Now that’s a shame " he briefly thought, and then a second arrow penetrated into his shoulder, and a wave of blackness washed over him.