Rise of the Thrall Lord
Knights of the Couch - Part VIII - In the Shadow of the Colossus
“The place is deserted,” Martin reported.
“We did an entire perimeter sweep,” Seth added, “and there’s no sign of the Serpent Cult.”
“We did find tracks leading up to the monolith,” Lloyd said. “Some of them were definitely serpents, but there were human tracks mixed in.”
“And we didn’t find any traps leading up to the entrance either,” Donatello finished.
“Then they must have all gone inside,” Aksel decided.
The company had stopped about 500 yards back from the Darkwoods Monolith and sent Martin, Lloyd, Donatello and Seth to scout ahead. The four of them had fanned out and stealthily covered the area surrounding the structure looking for any sign of the enemy and checking for traps that might have been set.
“So what’s our next move?” Elvisda asked.
“We go in,” Aksel replied.
“If I might suggest, perhaps it would be a good idea to leave the contingent of knights outside to guard the entrance?” the bard said.
“That’s an excellent idea,” the little cleric nodded in approval. He turned to Alana and said, “Is that ok with you?”
The lady knight and Sir Craven conferred for a few moments. Then Alana responded, “We agree with your strategy. Sir Craven and our two units will set up fortifications out here. But I am coming inside with you.”
“We wouldn’t have it any other way Dame Alana,” Elvisda said with a smile.
As the group got ready to move forward, Donatello tapped Elvisda on the shoulder. “Hey, what was that with Alana back there?”
“Oh nothing,” the bard smiled, “Just trying to be friendly.”
Donatello gave his companion a long hard look but said nothing.
The company rode up the rest of the path to the monolith. The woods were very thick and the foliage cut off their view of the sky. So when they entered the clearing around the structure, its enormity struck them all at once.
The monolith was very tall, probably around 250 feet high. It was approximately 100 feet wide on all four sides, and was made of a dark stone. The obelisk looked almost black. There were no openings or indentations anywhere on the building, but there were runes on one side.
The wizard Glorfindel dismounted and walked up to the structure. He peered up at the runes.
“Can you read them?” Elistra asked. She had followed close behind him.
“Yes, I believe I can,” the elf replied. “They look to be in old dwarven. If I am reading this right, it says speak the word Open in that language. Well then, let’s give it a try.” The wizard stood back and spoke loudly the word “Urrhar!” At first nothing happened, then after a few seconds the structure began to shake and a section of the wall started to pull back. It recessed into the wall and then seemed to slide sideways disappearing completely. When it was done, a large rectangular opening was left in the side of the obelisk.
“Nicely done!” Elvisda said slapping the wizard on the back.
The opening in the wall was very dark. Nothing could be seen of the inside beyond the entrance. The adventurers discussed strategy, Elvisda once again sketching out a good marching order. Seth would scout ahead. Next in line would be the fighters, Lloyd and Alana; then Glorfindle and Elvisda, followed by Aksel, Elistra and Ruka. Donatello would bring up the rear. Martin was going to stay outside with the rest of the knights and help keep watch around the area surrounding the monolith.
Glorfindle lit up the end of his staff and the adventurers entered the Darkwoods Monolith. As the companions made their way inside, they passed under a large archway. Once they had crossed through the archway, they stopped.
“What’s the matter?” Aksel asked in a hushed tone.
“This is a wide open area,” Seth replied, also keeping his voice down. “And I’m not sure how far it extends. I’m going to create some more light.” The little ninja could be seen conjuring in the low light of Glorfindel’s staff. When he was done, another light appeared at the front of the group.
“Well that didn’t help much,” Seth commented. “I still can’t see anything but stone floor in all directions.”
“Let me help,” Elvisda said. The bard also cast a spell and a group of dancing lights appeared over the party. More of the room was exposed, but they still could not see anything but the wall behind them and stone floor disappearing into the dark ten feet away. Then Elvisda waved his hand and the group of lights rose up into the air overhead. More of the room was illuminated. The bard continued until the lights were almost 50 feet into the air. The area was now bathed in a faint glow that radiated about 50 feet in all directions. They could still not see the ceiling, nor any other walls, but the outline of a huge pillar appeared in front of them at the edge of the circle of light.
“Just how large is this place?” Lloyd asked in amazement.
“Let’s find out,” Aksel replied. The little cleric also cast a spell of dancing lights and sent it past the pillar until a far wall was finally illuminated. The wall was approximately 100 feet away, clear on the other side of the monolith.
Elvisda and Aksel looked at each other and nodded their heads. Then each one cast the spell of dancing lights one more time and sent them left and right, respectively, until they dimly lit up the rest of the room.
When the lights stopped, the group surveyed the room. It was enormous. The first floor of the monolith was actually one huge room which ran the length and width of the entire structure. Then Elvisda sent one of the lights up until it reached the ceiling, which was approximately 70 feet up.
In the center of the room was a single huge pillar which had a stone staircase winding around it going upwards and disappearing into the ceiling above. The companions started across the room towards the pillar, Seth leading the way.
Donatello looked behind him and saw that there was a rune inscription above the archway they had just passed under. He whispered his finding to Aksel who in turn whispered it to Glorfindel.
“I’ll go check it out,” the wizard replied in a hushed tone. Then he turned and headed back towards the archway with Elistra following him.
As the rest of the group approached the pillar, they saw an opening in the floor where the stairs continued downward below ground level. They decided to wait in the middle while Seth and Donatello made their way around the room searching and exploring. When they were done they rejoined the others near the center pillar.
“There are large archways on all four walls,” Donatello reported. “Other than that, are no other doors, hidden or otherwise.”
“And each archway has another rune inscription above it,” Seth added. “I’m going to go tell Glo.” Then he turned and made his way back to the first archway where the wizard, was still deciphering the first inscription. The two companions had a brief discussion then Seth led the wizard and the seeress around to the four other archways. It took about twenty minutes before the three of them rejoined the rest of the group in the center of the room.
“All the inscriptions are in old Dwarven,” the wizard said softly. “If I had more time, I could figure out the exact wording, but here is a loose translation:
Lord Lareth is the Divine Master of all Constructs.
All hail he who is the sovereign ruler of all that has no rule.
He breathes life into that which never had.
He grants will to that which has none.
He binds the material of stone, metal and earth to his command.
The Lord Lareth speaks the true name of the earth and calls it his own.
Only by obtaining the holiest heights can one progress to the most glorious depths.
When Glorfindle finished, the group was quiet. Then Elvisda broke the silence. “Well, if there was any doubt, we are definitely in the right place.”
Everyone chuckled. Then the bard continued, “Seriously, Lareth was the name of the Thrall Golem Master.”
“Yes,” Aksel added, “it would take a master of stonework to build this monolith. That and these inscriptions pretty much confirm just who that master is, or should I say, was.”
“If the Thrall Masters are rising again,” Elvisda replied, “I think your first statement was more accurate.”
“Trust me, my friends,” Elistra interjected, “the Thrall Masters are on the rise once again. And the Serpent Cult is just one group that has fallen under their sway.”
“Either way,” Seth responded, “we shouldn’t let them get their hands on whatever is in here, whether it’s the golem master’s scrolls or something else entirely.”
The group all nodded in agreement.
“Well then,” Aksel said, “if we take the last part of that plaque literally, Only by obtaining the holiest heights can one progress to the most glorious depths, then it looks like we should go upstairs first.”
They all agreed.
The companions headed up the staircase in the same formation they had entered the monolith in. Seth led the way. The wound up the 70 some odd feet to the ceiling and then the stairwell was engulfed in stone as it continued to wind upward.
Suddenly Seth threw up a hand signaling them to halt. The ninja carefully scrutinized the stairwell ahead until he found a hidden trap. “Blades,” he turned and said, indicating the type of trap they just avoided. Then he turned back and disabled the controlling mechanism.
The companions continued their way up another thirty feet surrounded by solid rock until the stairwell opened up into another dark area on the next floor. The casters sent out lights once again to illuminate the room. It turned out to be circular, shaped like a hemisphere. Like the room on the first floor, there were no windows. The companions slowly made their way off the stairs while Seth scouted about. Donatello soon joined him.
The two companions continued their sweep of the room, occasionally stopping to compare notes. When they came back Seth said, “The way up to the next floor is blocked by a door. Neither one of us could open it. But we did find seven disks with strange symbols on them set about the room.”
“Neither of us have ever seen symbols like this before,” Donatello added.
“A puzzle then,” Glorfindle said, “Let’s take a look.”
“I’ll come too,” Elistra offered.
Seth led the wizard and the seeress to the first disk. Elvisda and Aksel followed.
“I’ve seen this symbol before,” Glo commented immediately. “My mother is a Psionicist and I believe I’ve come across these in one of her books.”
“It’s a chakra symbol,” Elistra told them.
“Yes,” the wizard replied, “I knew it looked familiar.”
“What’s a chakra?” Elvisda asked curiously.
“A chakra is spiritual energy point on the body,” the seeress answered.
“And if I remember right, there are seven major ones,” Glorfindle finished.
“That’s right,” Elistra confirmed.
“Well then it’s probably not a coincidence that there are seven disks around the room,” Seth said.
“Let’s see the others,” Glo decided.
They followed Seth around the room and examined each symbol confirming that all seven of them represented one of the seven major chakra points on the human body.
“So which one is which,” Elvisda asked, still curious.
“If I had my books, I could show you,” Elistra said.
“Maybe I can be of assistance,” Donatello offered, walking up and pulling out his easel and some paint brushes.
Glo and Aksel exchanged looks, then Aksel said, “Go ahead. This might be important.”
It only took a few minutes as the seeress explained the chakra point colors and locations to the artist. When Donatello was done, he shared the painting with his companions. “It’s a little rough,” the artist commented, “but I figured that time outweighs quality at this point.”
“If that’s rough, I’d like to see what you can do given some time,” Elistra commented.
“That could be arranged,” Donatello said, the quickly added, “with Glo’s permission of course.”
Alana and Ruka, however, both stared at Donnie with undisguised anger.
“Uh, oh,” Elvisda whispered to the artist, “you’re in trouble now.”
Then they all gathered around the painting as Elistra began to explain each point.
“There are seven major chakra points running up the body from the base of the spine to the crown of the head. The first one is the root chakra. It channels earth energies and provides us with physical power. The second one is the sacral chakra. It channels emotional and sexual energies.”
“That’s mine!” Elvisda declared.
Everyone laughed. Elistra smiled and continued, “As I was saying, the third is the solar chakra. It governs one’s sense of self and channels the power of the mind. The fourth is the heart chakra. It governs love and is the focus of healing power. The fifth is the throat chakra. It governs willpower and creativity, or artistic expression,” she paused and looked at Donatello.
“That would be my forte,” the artist replied.
The seeress continued. “The sixth is the brow chakra. It promotes true understanding of the world. It also is associated with authority. And, finally, the seventh is the crown chakra. This chakra promotes understanding of the entire universe. It magnifies ones wisdom. It also links the other six chakras together.”
“Thank you Elistra,” Glorfindel said turning to the others. “As Seth said before, seven chakras and seven discs; it must signify something.”
“I say we each pick up a disc,” Seth offered. “Lloyd, you go first.”
Lloyd just stared at the little ninja.
“There aren’t any traps,” Seth replied.
Lloyd looked at Donatello.
“He’s right. They aren’t trapped,” the swashbuckler confirmed.
“Okay,” Lloyd agreed. “I’ll pick up one. But I choose the red one. That’s the root chakra, right?”
“Yes,” Elistra replied.
Lloyd walked up to the red disc and looked down at it. Then he picked it up. The disc began to glow, then it disappeared from Lloyd’s hand. At the same time, a red glow appeared at the base of his spine. Then it faded.
“Lloyd, you okay?” Elvisda asked the big warblade.
“Yeah!” Lloyd replied enthusiastically. “I feel great! Like I’m stronger all of a sudden.”
“Cool,” the bard replied. “Me next. I choose the orange one.”
“Yeah, there’s a surprise,” Donatello quipped.
“You’re just jealous,” Elvisda shot back as he walked over and grabbed the orange disc. It also glowed then disappeared in the bard’s hand. Then an orange glow appeared just below his navel and faded away just like Lloyd’s.
“So how do you feel?” Donatello asked the bard.
“Sexy!” Elvisda replied, and he swiveled his hips like he usually did on stage.
Glo noticed that both Elistra and Alana were blushing. “I think these discs are actually enhancing the abilities associated with the specific chakra points they symbolize,” the wizard stated.
“That would be true if they were some kind of chakra tattoo,” Elistra answered. “I’d like to test out the next one if you don’t mind.”
“No need,” Elvisda replied. “He was looking down his pants and said, “Yep, there’s a tattoo down there. Wanna see?”
“Ummm, no thanks,” the seeress replied. “I’ll try it myself. She walked over to the third disc and picked it up. Same as before it glowed and vanished. Then a yellow glow appeared over her stomach then faded. She pulled aside her robe, and right where the yellow glow had disappeared there now was a yellow symbol on her stomach which looked just like the symbol on the disc.”
“Fascinating,” Glorfindle said coming closer and bending down to examine the tattoo. “So how do you feel?”
“Sure enough, I feel as if my mind has somehow expanded,” the seeress replied. “These are definitely functioning like chakra tattoos.”
“Well,” Glo said, “let me try the next one then.” He walked over and picked up the green one. After it disappeared and reappeared on his body the wizard said, “Yes, I can feel it. I feel refreshed, like Aksel just healed me.”
“My turn!” Donatello said vaulting over to the blue disc. After he picked it up he said, “I do feel more creative! I just had a brainstorm. I think I’ll write a book!”
“Me next I guess,” Seth said nonchalantly. He slowly walked over to the white disk and picked it up.
After it disappeared, Aksel asked him, “Well?”
“I am now your master!” Seth said darkly.
They all just stared at the little ninja. No one said anything for a long ten seconds.
Then Seth began to laugh. “You folks are too easy! I’m fine. Go ahead Aksel, pick up the last one.”
Aksel looked at Seth and said, “You idiot! You almost had me there for a second. Oh well, let’s get this over with.” The little cleric walked over to the last disc and picked it up. When it disappeared, Aksel’s hair turned briefly multicolored. Then it faded like the others.
They all gazed expectantly at the gnome.
Then Aksel said, “Well it must have worked.”
“In what way?” Glorfindle asked.
“Well,” Aksel paused, “I must have a better understanding of the universe because…I finally understand Seth!”
Suddenly a grating sound could be heard from above. They looked up as one and saw that the stairwell leading to the next floor was now unblocked.
“I guess that’s what we needed to do,” Donatello said. “Let me go first this time.”
“Sure,” Seth replied, “Knock yourself out…no seriously. Knock yourself out.”