Rise of the Thrall Lord
Knights of the Couch - Part VIII - In the Shadow of the Colossus - Section 3
They all piled onto the circle in the center of the pillar. It was a bit cramped with all nine of them, but they managed to fit. Alana had ended up between Elvisda and Donatello. She still seemed annoyed at the swashbuckler, however, and perhaps in an attempt to make him jealous, cozied up to the bard. Elvisda did not seem to mind a bit.
Donnie tried hard not to notice. Then he felt someone lean against him. He looked down and saw Ruka casually hanging onto his hip. He was about to say something when she looked up at him and said, “Don’t think I like this anymore than you do. There’s just no room to stand on this thing!”
Donatello had had it. “Is this thing ever going to move?” he asked annoyed for the first time since the group had met him.
“Did you see a control mechanism?” Seth shot back, “because I sure didn’t.”
“Maybe a vocal command?” Aksel postulated. “Glo, how do you say down in Dwarven?”
“Turzhr,” the wizard replied.
Suddenly, the platform gave a mild lurch and began slowly dropping down into the pillar.
“Well that was easy,” Donnie said in relief.
“Maybe a bit too easy,” Aksel replied. “Who knows what’s waiting for us at the bottom.”
“Should I get my swords out?” Lloyd asked from behind everyone.
“Not in these close quarters! Are you a friggin moron?” Seth exclaimed. Then he turned and saw a huge grin across the warblade’s face.
“Damn it Elvisda! You’re rubbing off on him!” the ninja grumbled.
“Yes, I am? Aren’t I?” the bard said with a smile. Then he went back to flirting with Alana.
The platform continued to slowly drop down the shaft inside the pillar. The tube was not dark, however. Every so many feet they came across a row of glowing tiles which lit their way down.
Part way down the shaft, calming music started to play. Everyone looked around and saw that Elvisda had taken out his lute.
Glo looked at the bard quizzically.
Elvisda saw the wizard’s gaze. “I don’t know why I got the sudden urge to play. It just somehow seemed like we needed soothing music on this ride.”
Glo raised an eyebrow but said nothing.
The bard continued to play the tranquil tune as they descended. Finally, after about five minutes, the top of an open doorway appeared at the bottom of the disc. The platform slowed and came to a complete stop in front of the door.
The companions looked out and saw a large room, similar in size to the first floor of the monolith. However, this chamber was lit by glowing tiles at various intervals. The group cautiously stepped out into the room, surveying the area for potential dangers. It turned out to be almost identical to the first floor, including an archway on each of the four walls of the chamber. The exception was that there were no stairs going up or down, and there was a strange looking dais right in front of the pillar.
“I wonder what this is for?” Donnie said curiously as he examined the raised platform.
“From the circular indentation, I’m guessing that it use to hold some kind of sphere,” Seth said as he examined it closely.
“Yeah, but where is it now?” Donnie replied as he continued searching the platform.
“Do you really want me to answer that?” Seth responded.
“No. Probably not,” Donnie said quickly.
The two companions searched the room, but found no traps, no secret doors, or anything else out of the ordinary; just the four doors under the archways on each wall.
Above each archway was a pictogram. The first picture was composed of a triple set of spirals. The second diagram was circle with three consecutive spirals over three wavy lines. The third symbol was a flat topped pyramid with a single spiral inside and extra lines across the base. And the last picture was of a single spiral at the bottom with three leave shaped objects extend out of it and upward.
“Well, I guess we should pick a door then,” Elvisda said. “Would you prefer what’s behind door number one, door number two, door number three, or door number four?”
“I’ll take door number four…no two…no three,” Donatello quipped.
“Very funny guys,” Aksel commented. “Seriously, these are probably the four elements. I mean, the one symbol is obviously fire.”
“The pyramid is probably earth then,” Glorfindel observed.
“That looks like a wave in the circle,” Seth concluded, “so the three spirals is probably air. I think we should go that way first. I mean, if it is air, and it’s some kind of puzzle, it’s probably the least dangerous of the four. Right?”
“We’ll see soon enough,” Aksel replied.
The companions headed towards the archway with the three spirals above it. They passed through a short corridor with a door at the end. The door was closed and locked. But there was a mechanism next to the door with seven chakra symbols on it. And next to each symbol was a circular indentation the same size as the discs they had found in the second floor of the monolith.
Seth touched the tattoo on his forehead and it disappeared, reappearing in his hand as the original disc. He took the chakra disc and inserted it into the indentation in the door mechanism. The symbol next to it lit up!
“Looks like these also function as keys,” Aksel observed. “Everyone give your discs to Seth.”
They all complied and the ninja inserted each disc one by one until every symbol lit up. Once all symbols were glowing, the door in front of them opened. The corridor was suddenly filled with a constant whooshing noise. The companions looked through the doorway and could see a large circular room beyond. Then they started to hear sporadic howling.
“What is that racket?” Glorfindel asked covering his ears.
“Sounds like wind,” Ruka answered.
They began to push forward, but Seth stopped them. “First things first,” the ninja said as he removed the discs from the lock. “We might need these again.” Then he handed the discs back to everyone.
When he was done, the group entered the room. They were in an alcove in a large circular shaped room. In the middle of the room was a circular platform. The platform was suspended in mid air. Floating between the alcove and the platform was a disk about 3 feet in diameter. Other disks could also be seen floating around the chamber. Some went back and forth from the center platform to other sides of the room, and others circled around the area.
The companions walked up to the railing and surveyed the rest of the room. As they looked down, they could not see a bottom to the chamber. All they could see were swirling mists below. Then the companions looked upwards and saw the same exact thing. The room seemed to have no real bottom or top.
The platform in the middle of the room had some kind of dais on it with at least one lever. Then on the left wall, the right wall and the wall across from them were three other alcoves. They could see a switch in each alcove. But to get to those alcoves, one would have to ride the disks and jump from one to the other. What’s more is the disks were not all that stable. The wind in the chamber would occasionally gust causing a disk to spin and even flip over.
“Did you say something about this room being the easiest?” Aksel asked Seth.
“I never said that,” the ninja replied.
“Actually, your exact words were it’s probably the least dangerous of the four” Elistra recited.
Seth looked at the seeress who smiled sweetly at the little ninja. “Thanks Elistra,” he said acidly.
“Anyway…care to check out the center platform?” Aksel asked Seth.
“Sure,” the ninja replied, “after all, how dangerous could it be?” he said shooting a look at the seeress.
“I don’t know,” Glorfindel responded, “those winds are pretty fast. I’d venture to say they’re traveling at least 70 miles an hour.”
“Try more like 90,” Ruka corrected him.
They all looked at the young girl.
“Take it from someone who flies all the time,” she added.
“Can’t argue with that,” Donatello chimed in.
The young girl smiled at the swashbuckler.
“Racking up them brownie points?” Elvisda kidded Donnie.
Donnie declined to answer.
Seth shook his head in exasperation. Then he leaped out onto the floating disk which had momentarily stopped in front of the alcove.
“Wait!” Glorfindel yelled, “You forgot to cast spider climb on yourself!”
Seth looked back at the wizard and cried, “No I didn’t! This isn’t so bad!”
The wizard stared at the little ninja as if he was crazy. He turned to Elvisda.
“His funeral,” the bard commented.
The wind was whipping around the chamber fiercely. However, the halfling managed to somehow stay on the disk. The disk moved back out into the chamber with Seth aboard. Then the wind gusts spun the disk around a few times with the ninja on it.
Glorfindel thought he heard the sound of the halfling’s voice cry out. He turned to Elvisda and Donatello and said, “Did you hear that too?”
“Oh, you mean Seth yelling Weeee! This is fun!” Elvisda replied.
“Yep, I heard it too,” Donatello agreed.
Glorfindel just shook his head.
The disk was almost to the center platform when a particularly fierce gust of wind caught it. The disk became so unbalanced that it completely flipped over! Somehow, Seth managed to scramble over the side and flip himself back on top of the thing!
The group just looked on in amazement.
“That was really really good,” Donnie commented. “I’d hate to have to pull that one off myself.”
“Don’t be getting any ideas,” Alana said.
“I wouldn’t dream of it my dear,” the acrobat replied innocently.
A few minutes later, the disc reached the center platform. Seth leaped over onto the larger platform and made his way to the dais. He examined the podium closely for a few minutes, then pulled the switch. The platform suddenly began to lift up on one side and lower on the other. The entire platform was turning over. Seth scrambled his way to the rising end of the large circle and grabbed on. As the entire platform turned over he launched himself back on top.
The group of adventurers collectively let out a sigh of relief when it was over. The bottom side of the platform, now on top, had another dais on it. This podium was similar to the one on the other side, switch and all.
Seth walked up to the podium and examined this one too. After a minute or so, he reached up and pulled the switch. The entire platform turned over once again. And once again the halfling scrambled his way over the side and to the new top.
“Well it’s official,” Donnie said when it was all over. “Seth has a death wish.”
“Ya think?” Elvisda replied.
“Well this is getting us nowhere fast,” Aksel commented. “We probably need to pull those switches over in the other alcoves.”
“I’ll go and try one,” Donnie said.
Ruka punched the elf in the arm.
“Ow!” Donnie cried, “What was that for?”
“You better be careful!” the young girl cried and she stormed off to the back of the alcove.
Alana looked at the elf and shook her head. Then she went back to comfort Ruka.
“What’d I do now?” Donnie asked.
“If you don’t know by now…” Elistra began then fell silent.
The elf gave the seeress one of his charming smiles, then invoked his spider climbing boots and went up the wall and out into the chamber. The wind was blowing in a clockwise direction so he headed first to the alcove on the left.
Seth stayed out on the center platform and watched Donnie’s progress from there.
The elf reached the left alcove, stopped for a moment and reached into his purse. Then he took out a coin and threw it into the alcove. It landed on the floor and then sparks started to fly. The entire floor of the alcove lit up with electricity. It was over in a few seconds but the discharge was so intense that the copper coin had melted.
“Guess I won’t be stepping in there,” Donnie muttered to himself. The elf slowly climbed in along the wall of the alcove and began searching. About five feet in on the left wall he found a trap box. He disabled the trap, then took out another coin and threw it on the floor. Nothing happened.
“Whew,” he exclaimed. Donnie stepped down off the wall onto the floor. Suddenly, the floor lifted up in front of him. The force was so great that even his spider climbing boots did not hold him. He went flying backwards out of the alcove. The wind grabbed him and started to spin him around in mid-air.
Ruka saw this and jumped forward. But Alana grabbed the girl. “You can’t get to him. The wind is too strong.”
Ruka jerked her arm free and said, “Oh yeah? Just watch me!”
“Wait!” Elvisda yelled. “Look!” he said pointing to the spinning elf. Donnie had been flying around end over end as the wind whipped him around the chamber. Suddenly, he curled himself into a ball. He was approaching one of the floating disks. As he passed under it, he shot out his hands and caught hold of the small platform. Then he flipped his legs up and firmly planted himself on top of the disk. It wobbled for a few seconds, but Donnie managed to balance himself until it stopped. Then he turned his head towards the group and waved, flashing one of his sparkling smiles.
“Nice maneuver!” Glorfindel yelled. Not that Donnie could hear him with the wind howling as it whipped by.
Ruka and Alana both breathed sighs of relief.
They watched as Donnie waited for another disk to approach. They he leaped over onto it, deftly landing without flipping it over. The disk was headed towards the center platform. When it got there, Donnie talked briefly with Seth then took the floating disk back to the first alcove where the group was waiting.
While Donnie was on his way back, Seth walked over to the right edge of the center platform. He waited till a disk approached then leapt onto it.
“What’s he doing?” Lloyd asked.
“I think he’s trying to make it to the right alcove by jumping across the disks,” Aksel observed.
They watched Seth leap from his current disk to another one. Then Donatello reached the alcove they were in.
Both Ruka and Alana rushed up, grabbed the acrobat and hugged him.
“Whoa!” Donatello exclaimed. “What’d I do?”
“Scared the heck out of us!” Alana exclaimed.
“Don’t you dare do that again!” Ruka admonished.
“Trust me,” the acrobat replied, “I don’t want to repeat that performance.”
Then he looked at both ladies and saw the concern in their faces. He said softly, “I’ll be more careful. I promise.”
“You better!” both women said simultaneously.
“Well played,” Elvisda commented quietly and he hit a note on his lute. Then he began to play a tune in earnest. He strummed the song to inspire confidence.
Donatello looked up at the bard and said, “Thanks. Guess I need to get back out there now.”
The ladies begrudgingly let go of him. He looked at them both and said, “I’ll be back.” Then he climbed up the wall and headed towards the alcove to the left once again.
Elvisda put an arm around each woman as they watched the acrobat climb away. “He’ll be fine. The song will help.”
Alana and Ruka both looked at the bard and gave him a smile, then went back to watching Donatello.
Meanwhile, Seth had reached the alcove to the right. He must have finally decided to cast a spell of spider climb on himself because he leaped over and stuck to the left wall of the alcove. Then he found the electric trap box and disabled it. Seth continued along the wall till he made it to the lever in back of the alcove. He climbed down, practically standing on the lever and pulled it.
The wind in the chamber started slowing down. It eventually cut down to about sixty miles per hour.
Seth smirked and climbed back onto the wall. Then he waited for the next disk and jumped to it. He was now headed to the alcove across the chamber from the group.
Meanwhile, Donnie had reached the left alcove once again. He carefully climbed around the wall until he reached the back. Donnie grabbed the lever while still standing on the wall and pulled it.
The wind slowed down to about 30 miles per hour.
Donatello saluted back at everyone and then also headed over to the last alcove. Seth had already made it over there and had disabled the electric trap. The ninja reached the back of the chamber and flipped the last switch.
The wind died down and stopped completely. The companions back at the entrance began to cheer.
Donnie reached the alcove. Seth was searching the wall in the back of the alcove.
“Find something?” the acrobat asked.
“Secret door,” the ninja replied. He hit a switch and a door in the back of the room slid open revealing another smaller room behind the alcove. There was another lever in the back of that room.
“How much you want to bet the floor is electric in there too?” Donnie said.
“Probably,” Seth replied. “I’ll check for traps if you get the switch.”
“Sure,” the acrobat replied. They both climbed their way along the walls into the back room. Seth found another trap box and disabled it. Then Donnie climbed down and flipped the last switch.
Outside in the main chamber, the middle platform disconnected from the walkway and lifted up about a foot above it.
“Interesting,” Seth said.
“I wonder what it does now?” Donnie remarked.
“Won’t know till we try it,” Seth answered.
“I’ll do it,” Donnie offered.
“Fine by me,” Seth replied.
The acrobat climbed back out to the alcove. He went halfway across the wall and then turned around facing out towards the wall.
“What are you doing?” Seth asked curiously.
“You’ll see,” Donnie replied mysteriously. Then he tensed his body, the jumped onto the floor facing outwards towards the chamber. The floor immediately lifted up sending the acrobat flying out into the main chamber.
The companions in the other end watched in horror.
“What the heck does he think he’s doing?!” Alana cried.
They continued watching as the acrobat did two flips in mid air and then landed on the platform in the middle of the chamber. The he stood up and bowed to the main party, then turned and bowed to Seth.
“Show off,” the ninja commented. Then, not to be outdone, Seth climbed out onto the alcove and also jumped onto the floor. He was also launched into the air out into the chamber.
“Not another one!” Aksel exclaimed.
Seth did three somersaults in mid-air and landed on the middle platform next to Donnie.
Donnie turned and clapped. “Very nice. Had to get in that third one I see.”
“Yep,” Seth said proudly.
“You two are crazy!” Glorfindel yelled from across the walkway.
“You just figuring that out now?” Donnie yelled back.
Then the acrobat and ninja went over to the switch on the dais and pulled it. The platform began to rise up. They pulled the switch a second time and the platform stopped and descended back to its original position about a foot above the walkway.
“Anyone want a ride?” Donnie yelled.
“I do!” Lloyd yelled.
“Guess I should go too,” Glorfindel said. “Someone has to keep them out of trouble.”
“I’m coming,” Ruka declared.
“Might as well,” Aksel said.
“I’m staying here,” Alana said eyeing the bottomless chamber below.
“Me too,” Elistra declared emphatically.
“I’ll stay and keep the ladies company,” Elvisda offered.
Lloyd flew Aksel over to the center platform. Glorfindel flew over on his own as did Ruka, shape changing into a hawk once again.
When everyone had made it, Seth pulled the switch and they rose up to the top of the chamber. The others watched as they disappeared out of sight into the mists above.
“Be safe,” Elistra said quietly.
Alana looked at the other woman and smiled.
“Glo and Aksel will watch out for them,” Elvisda said. “At least those two have some common sense.”
He put a reassuring arm around each lady’s shoulder. Alana snuggled into the bard’s side for comfort. Elistra grasped the bard’s hand with hers and patted it gently.
Then all three continued to watch the mists above for a sign of their companions return.