Knights of the Couch - Part VIII - In the Shadow of the Colossus - Section 6

The group crossed through the main chamber once again, then headed underneath the arch to the fire room. Once more they opened a chakra disc lock and the door to the room swung open. This time the party was hit with a wave of sweltering heat.
They entered the room and found pretty much what they expected. They were on yet another small alcove. However, this one was only a few feet above a pit of bubbling lava. There was a ladder leading down from the alcove to a rocky ledge below.
Scattered amid the lava were a number of outcroppings of rock. Then all the way across the room was another alcove with another door. There was no apparent way to get to it as of yet.
It only took the party a few seconds to spot the two levers in the room. They were situated upon two rocky outcroppings. And, of course, there were two golems guarding the levers; one marching around each lever in the lava.
“Iron golems,” Aksel observed, “This is not going to be easy.”
“Why’s that?” Lloyd asked.
“You’ve obviously never faced an iron golem before,” the cleric responded. “Fire heals them.”
“Oh,” the warblade replied. “But do we really need to beat them? Won’t just a distraction do?”
“Sure,” Seth replied, “as long as you don’t get yourself killed doing it.”
“Well Lloyd is right,” Glorfindel spoke up. “You and Donnie will need to get at those levers. And my magic is really of no use against those golems. Well, except for slowing it down with electrical attacks.”
“I might also be able to help,” Elistra interjected.
They all turned to look at the seeress.
“I can summon an Astral Constuct,” she continued. “The fire won’t hurt it and it should be able to help keep at least one of the iron golem’s busy for awhile a short while.
“That could work!” the wizard replied. “Then I can provide Lloyd with some temporary immunity to fire.”
“And I can give him some heroic inspiration,” Elvisda chimed in.
“That could work,” Aksel said considering the plan. “Okay, let’s try it.”
Elistra began summoning her construct, while Elvisda and Glorfindel prepared Lloyd. When they were done, the seeress sent her construct out towards the farther golem while Lloyd began his approach to the one on this side of the pit.
Simultaneously Seth and Donnie began to circle around behind the combatants leaping out onto the rocky outcroppings.
“Just remember Lloyd, you don’t need to beat it!” Elvisda yelled.
“Be careful!” Alana cried. “All of you!”
Lloyd and Donnie both waved and Seth nodded his head.
Then Lloyd advanced on the iron golem. The other two companions continued their circuitous route towards the levers. Seth worked his way behind Lloyd’s golem while Donnie made his way across the pit towards the other lever.
Lloyd moved in close to the iron golem and then waited for Donatello to get in position. Elistra held her construct back until Seth had made his was behind the other golem. When everyone was in position, Glorfindel cast a spell on himself and flew out over Lloyd. When he was directly over the warblade, he cast another spell on Lloyd to increase his speed in battle. Then the wizard shouted “Go!”
Lloyd waded in across the lava to the iron golem. He got close enough to get its attention then backed out onto the nearest outcropping. The golem followed.
Simultaneously, Elistra’s construct attacked the iron golem on the other side of the lava pit. The huge combatants exchanged blows. It was obvious from the start that the construct could not really hurt the golem. Elistra slowly backed the construct away leading the golem away from the switch.
Lloyd had climbed up onto the rocky outcropping and awaited the golem. He had his adamantine bastard sword in both hands, choosing to fight with the one blade that could damage the golem. The second blade would not be able to damage the creature so he reasoned that this was his best chance of truly fighting it.
As the golem approached Lloyd mentally prepared himself. He assumed a defensive stance his father had called Roots of the Mountain. Lloyd could still picture the first time he learned this stance.

They were in the old barn the Stealle family had converted to a training area. Lloyd’s father had invited his oldest brother, Kratos, to their training session. Kratos had not followed the warblade path like Lord Stealle had, nor like Lloyd was now learning. Instead, Kratos had followed the path of the swordsage.
This was not at all surprising considering who his parents were. Although Lord Remington Stealle was the premier swordsman on the isle of Thac, his wife, Laura was almost equally adept in the arcane arts. She was so skilled in fact, that it was widely thought that she would be the first wizard from Penwick, ever, to join the Wizard’s Council. She had in fact, received an invitation to become a council member. But the Lady Stealle was also quite headstrong. She did the unthinkable and turned down the invitation to join the council.
The Penwick nobility were stunned by her decision. The Lady Stealle’s public excuse had been that she had a family to raise and more than enough work here helping Penwick to rebuild. But privately Lloyd remembered hearing his mother and father discussing her decision. His mother had told the Lord Stealle that she was not thrilled with the current membership of the council and felt that there was something not quite right about the business they were currently into.
But Lloyd’s brother, Kratos, had inherited his mother’s aptitude for the arcane arts as well as his father’s swordsmanship. Thus he had followed the path of the swordsage instead of the warblade. The choice suited him well and was not unheard of in the Stealle line. Lloyd’s great-grandfather, Mythos, had also been a swordsage. Now, Kratos was on shore leave from the navy where he was a Lieutenant and first mate on the Penwick battleship the Avenger.
Lord Remington Stealle stood in the middle of the training house. “This stance is called Roots of the Mountain,” he told Lloyd. The master warblade slowly set himself in position, lifting his katana in front of him and carefully concentrating. As Lloyd watched, it looked as if his father’s body had taken on an almost stone like appearance.
Then Remington called out to Kratos, “Attack me son!”
Kratos lifted his scimitar and rushed his father. As he attacked, Remington did not even bother to parry the blow. Krato’s scimitar headed straight for Remington’s exposed flank. Lloyd stared incredulously as his father did not move a muscle to defend himself. Time slowed as his brother’s weapon connected with his father’s side.
But instead of cutting through Lord Stealle’s exposed skin, the blade just bounced off! Lloyd stared in amazement. Kratos passed by his father and stopped. He turned and said, “You’ve still got it dad.”
“Thanks son,” Remington replied. Then he turned to Lloyd. “Care to try it?”
“Sure,” Lloyd replied, not really completely sure that he could do it. It turned out that it took him awhile to get the hang of that stance. However, after a few weeks and some nasty cuts, Lloyd had finally mastered the stance.

But Lloyd wasn’t facing a sword now. His opponent was a huge iron golem with fists of metal. The Roots of the Mountain stance would help absorb some of the damage he was about to take, but Lloyd was not going to just stand there and wait for a golem fist to connect with his side.
The golem was in range now and took its first swing at Lloyd. Luckily it was not a fast creature. Lloyd was able to easily dodge the first blow. But he was standing on an outcropping of rock with limited room for movement. So the iron golem’s second fist managed to catch the warblade in the side as he danced out of its way.
Oof, Lloyd thought. That thing hits hard! Won’t be able to take too many of those. Luckily his stance absorbed the blow. But he needed to be quicker. He spun back around and launched into an attack on the creature. He swung at the iron golem three times with his adamantine sword. All three attacks hit cutting into the creature’s tough hide. He had actually done some major damage to the golem!
Then a lightning bolt shot out of the air and connected with the golem. The monster visibly slowed down. Lloyd was easily able to dodge both of its swinging fists and move back out of range.
When the golem was done swinging at him, he launched into another set of attacks on the creature. Again he hit it all three times. And again all three strikes dealt a lot of damage to the creature. But Lloyd noticed something as he was attacking. The original wounds he had inflicted from his first three strikes were already closing up! The heat from the lava was healing the creature!
Damn! Lloyd thought to himself. It would take forever to kill this thing. Luckily he did not have to kill it though.
At that moment, Seth had snuck his way over to the lever the golem was supposed to be protecting. He gave Lloyd a thumbs up and then turned to see if Donnie was in position.
The acrobat was almost to the other lever. Elistra’s Astral construct was in an all out slug fest with the other iron golem. It had drawn the creature about twenty feet away from its lever, and had stopped to confront the thing. The two of them began trading blows.
The strength of those blows was staggering Donnie thought. If just one of those had hit him, he would have been a goner. As it was, the construct was losing fast. A few couple more hits from those iron fists, and it would break apart. Donnie put all other thoughts aside and leapt to the next outcropping. He was behind the golem now. One more jump and he would be to the lever.
Seth saw Donnie make the last leap. He was at the other lever now. The ninja stole a quick glance back at Lloyd. The warblade was actually damaging the iron golem pretty good! But he was taking a terrible beating in return. Glorfindel was hovering above the two and had already used two lightning spells to slow the creature. But now the golem had sped back up again. Seth watched as another iron fist pounded Lloyd. The big man’s knees actually shook from that blow. But somehow the warblade managed to stay on his feet and launch into another attack on the creature.
Seth was impressed. He would never say it out loud mind you, but Lloyd’s tenacity and sheer force of will was astonishing. But that wouldn’t hold him for much longer. One more strike from the golem and Lloyd was dead for sure. They needed to pull those switches now!
Seth looked back at Donnie and put up three fingers. Donatello did the same. Then they both dropped one finger, the next finger, and the last one. They both pulled their levers at the same exact time.
Three things happened all at once. Two sides of a metal bridge dropped from the ceiling making a walkway from the entrance alcove to the alcove across the pit. Elistra’s Astral Construct broke apart, ectoplasm flying in all directions, and a fire trap on Seth’s lever went off!
For some reason, the little ninja, usually so careful, had either forgotten to check for traps or missed it completely. That was so unlike Seth. The halfling leapt away and quickly launched himself off the burning platform towards another rocky outcropping.
Glo took this all in a couple of seconds then turned and screamed at Lloyd, “It’s done! Get out of there!” But Lloyd was having a hard time getting away from the golem. He had been staggered by the last blow from the creature and was not moving as well as he should. He needed to leap to another outcropping or risk being bogged down in the lava where the creature could reach him.
Then Glorfindel did what was probably one of the stupidest things in his life. The wizard flew down in front of the golem and touched it letting loose a spell of shocking grasp. The creature immediately slowed down, and Glorfindle began to fly away. But the golem swung at the elf and caught him with its huge fist before he could get out of range. It wasn’t pretty. The swing caught the wizard in the side and sent him flying towards the lava.
But the short respite had given Lloyd a chance to recover enough to act. He invoked his flying cloak and took off after the wizard. The blow from the golem had sent Glorfindel in an arc. He had reached the apex and was now hurtling down to the lava. Lloyd flew in a straight line just above the bubbling magma. He could feel the heat rising from it as he passed within inches of it. Glo was falling fast now, and was out cold. Lloyd had to reach him before he hit the molten rock.
He was almost there now. Just a few more feet…and…he caught the wizard just as his cloak brushed the surface. Lloyd landed them on the nearest rock and quickly pulled Glo’s cloak off before anything else caught fire.
The group on the alcove was cheering at this point. Then Aksel yelled to Lloyd, “Can you make it back?”
Lloyd felt his ribs. They were definitely cracked in more than one place. That golem had been brutal. But he lifted the wizard up, and launched up into the air. They floated slowly back to the alcove, some 40 feet away and landed carefully on the hard surface.
“That was some battle there buddy!” Elvisda said clapping the warblade on the shoulder.
Lloyd winced.
“Oops,” the bard said realizing what he had just done, “Sorry about that.”
Aksel was standing over Glorfindel who was still out cold. He looked over at the warblade and said, “Can you wait a minute? I’ve got to heal this idiot first.”
Elistra, who was also kneeling over the wizard said, “Hey! What he did was brave!”
Aksel just stared at her.
“Okay,” she rescinded, “maybe a bit stupid too. But it was still brave.”
Aksel declined to answer. He put his hand over the wizard and began to heal his side where the golem had hit him.
Meanwhile, Seth had made it back to the alcove. “What the heck was Glorfindel thinking?” Seth said.
“You’ll be able to ask him yourself in another couple of minutes,” Aksel answered. Then the cleric did a double take. The ninja was all singed and his cloak looked completely black. “What happened to you out there?”
“I don’t want to talk about it!” Seth said emphatically.
“But your cloak…” Aksel began.
“Is junk now!” the ninja said vehemently, ripping it off and throwing it to the ground. “Here, take it. It’s no good to me anymore.” He kicked it away. Then he turned and saw Lloyd and the anger left his face. “I’ll go and heal Lloyd up somewhat while you take care of Mr. Hero over there,” the ninja replied. Then he sat down next to the big man. Lloyd’s breathing was kind of labored at that point. Seth put his hands out and began healing him.
“You know, if you had had just a little more time, I think you could have beaten that thing,” a woman’s voice said. Lloyd looked up. It was Alana.
“Yeah, not bad big guy.” That was Ruka.
Lloyd grinned but then regretted it. His ribs still hurt.
Donnie finally made it back to join the others. “What the heck happened out there? One minute we’re pulling levers, the next all hell breaks loose?” He looked down at Lloyd and said, “You ok big guy?”
“Getting better,” Lloyd replied. The pressure had started to ease off his ribs.
Glorfindel began to stir. Finally the wizard opened his eyes. He saw Aksel and Elistra’s faces staring down at him. He tried to smile, but then throbbing waves of pain went through his side.
“Just lie still,” Aksel said. “You took one heck of a hit there. You’re lucky that thing didn’t break you in two.”
“Just what were you thinking?” Elistra asked.
“Guess…I didn’t,” Glo said and then stopped talking. That hurt too.
While Aksel and Seth continued to heal Lloyd and Glorfindel, Donnie, Alana, Ruka and Elvisda crossed over the bridge to the other alcove. The door there had another chakra lock on it. After some running back and forth for the other’s discs, they opened the door and went inside. They were inside a cave that went back a ways and split off into two tunnels.
They decided to stick together and explore each tunnel one at time. That turned out to be a good decision as there were some fire traps embedded into the walls. Donatello was able to find them and disable them before anyone got burned. When they made it to the end of the first tunnel, they found a podium once again with an eighth of a globe floating above it. After disarming yet another fire trap, Donnie retrieved the sphere piece and gave it to Elvisda.
The bard merged it with the other pieces. “One more piece and we’re done!” Elvisda said enthusiastically.
The last piece was at the end of the other tunnel. But there was a lava pool between them and the podium on the other side. Donnie tried to spider climb over put the walls were too hot.
Then Ruka changed to a hawk and flew over. She snatched the last piece and leaped out of the alcove changing in mid air as the entire alcove lit up with fire. The young girl barely escaped getting fried.
Donnie lectured her when she landed, but then ended up hugging her, glad she was safe. Alana joined in hugging the young girl.
“Well this ain’t akward at all,” Elvisda said under his breath.
“What was that?” Ruka said to the bard.
“Oh, umm, I was wondering if I could have the last piece now,” he recovered quickly.
The young girl walked up to him and stared in his face. “Nice try,” she said peevishly. Then she handed him the last piece and stormed away back down towards the tunnel entrance.
“Nice one Elvisda,” Alana said angrily rushing after the young girl.
Donnie looked at the bard and Elvisda just shrugged. “Sorry about that.”
Then Donatello started to laugh. Elvisda joined in. Then he took the last piece and connected it with the others. In his hands he now held a perfectly round golden sphere.
“Well, we got what we came for,” Donnie said.
“Now let’s see what it does,” the bard replied.

Knights of the Couch – Part VIII – In the Shadow of the Colossus – Section 7

Knights of the Couch - Part VIII - In the Shadow of the Colossus - Section 6

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